Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – October 11th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Welcome. Today is the last day of the annual monastic rains retreat. We have been learning Dhamma all throughout this rains retreat. Today we will learn about harmony and unity. Harmony is something of great importance. Whatever we do together, we need to have harmony and unity. Let us now learn together.
“Homage to the Worthy One, the Blessed One, the Rightly Self-awakened One”
Welcome and blessings in the Dhamma to all the monks, novices, and to all the faithful.
Today we learn about the Dhamma topic of harmony and unity. The harmony of a group leads to happiness. Following this, the Buddha instituted a special meeting at the end of the rains retreat. Usually, on the 14th or 15th day of the lunar month, it is the observance day for the monks in different monasteries where they gather to listen to the 227 rules of the Patimokkha. This practice of the monks supports the restraint of body, speech and mind. It is undertaken for the purpose of developing sati and samadhi, eventually leading to wisdom and liberation according to the individual’s spiritual strength and development.
At the end of the rains-retreat that falls on the 15th day of the 11th lunar month, which is on the 13th of October this year, the monks come together to listen to the Pavarana or invitation chant. This is called the Maha Pavarana, or Great Invitation, day. The Buddha had the monks residing in the same vicinity come together so that they would have a mind of metta for each other and so that their actions by way of body, speech and mind would be kind and good to each other. Each monk makes the invitation to the other monks, that “If I did anything that you saw that was inappropriate, not correct, then you may speak to me about it”. Even if it is a more senior monk or a more junior monk, they ask for permission to receive criticism on the basis of the Dhamma Vinaya. These actions are for the purpose of growth and prosperity in the Dhamma practice of the Buddha Sasana.
There is a background story to this ceremony. Once, there were monks who stayed together in the rains retreat, and each of the monks was worried that they would get into disputes and arguments with each other about different things. They worried that they wouldn’t be able to live happily through the retreat. So they set the rule that all of them in the monastery would not talk at all. When they finished the rains retreat, they went to visit and pay respects to the Buddha. The Buddha asked them about their practice during the rains retreat. The monks told them how they practiced. The Buddha said
“All of you practicing in silence like a mute and not speaking, is bad and has no benefit. It is not appropriate to behave in this way. This is the behaviour of animals, like goats, sheep, chickens or cows that stay together but don’t ask about each others’ well-being and hardships.”
The Buddha taught the monks that this type of behaviour was not appropriate for an individual’s development. So the Buddha established the rule in the Vinaya that has been passed on up until this day, that after the monks’ 3 months rains retreat, they should gather together for Pavarana, making the invitation to each other, instead of the usual Patimokkha group recitation. They are able to reprimand each other with kindness and compassion, wishing well for each other. For those who were reprimanded, they should have a forgiving mind and right view. They should listen to those who reprimand them with kindness and compassion. If what they have said is true, then one should change and improve oneself. But if it is not true, then both sides can bring out these issues, advise accordingly, and improve. It is not for the purpose of wishing harm towards one another, but it is for mutual benefit. So, each monk makes the invitation to each other and this leads to harmony and purity in the Dhamma – Vinaya.
To the laity in the centres who come to learn and practice Dhamma here regularly, for myself, if I have done any fault in any thing, then may you have the kindness to help me by telling me about it, so that I can improve in those things that are not good so that they can be better. This will lead our group to grow and prosper and for each centre to have more happiness when we come to learn and practice Dhamma. Sometimes there may be some bad feelings, and we are afraid to say so, but this is normal. May we have metta and kindness for each other, so that we have no ill-feelings towards each other. This will lead to the prosperity of our Dhamma practice because the harmony of a group leads to its happiness.
The Buddha taught 7 Dhamma principles that lead to harmony and only to growth. They lead to unity and strength. The Buddha said:
1. When we have many people, we should meet frequently so that we can consult one another about different things.
2. Meet in harmony, leave in harmony, and carry on the business of the meeting in harmony with self-sacrifice and metta.
3. Not making new rules or abolishing existing rules. This is not removing or adding or breaking those rules, without having mutually agreed to it.
4. Honour, respect, and listen to the elders in that meeting.
5. Don’t abduct women, but give them honour and protection.
6. Respect and venerate the important monuments and places, give offerings and hold ceremonies in those places according to the appropriate traditions.
7. Have provisions for the protection and maintenance of virtuous monks with pure Dhamma.
These 7 Dhamma principles for harmony, which were practiced by the Vajjian Kings led to the harmony and strength of the country of Vajji. Even when King Ajatasattu wanted to overtake the country, he couldn’t. King Ajatasattu sent the Brahmin Vassakara to ask the Buddha on what basis did the Vajjis have such strength? The Buddha said the King of the Vajjis practices these 7 Dhamma principles of growth and prosperity, and so the Vajjians have strength and happiness.
King Ajatasattu knew that he had to break the harmony of the Kings of the Vajji country to invade them. He made a plan where he had the Brahmin Vassakara beaten to make it look like the Brahmin did something very wrong in order to deceive the Vajjian Kings. Then Brahmin Vassakara who had much knowledge and intelligence fled from Magadha Country to the Vajji country. The Kings of Vajji gave the Brahmin Vassakara an important role.
They were fooled by the plan of King Ajatasattu. The Kings knew that Vassakara had knowledge and skills, so they got him to teach their children and lineage. Vassakara misled them, and, in the end, the Kings of Vajji broke their harmony. They did not hold meetings, and this was the cause that weakened the Vajji country. This took just 3 years, and, in the end, their harmony was destroyed. Brahmin Vassakara gave the signal to King Ajatasattu, who invaded and took over the Vajji country easily. We can see that the breaking of harmony led to the destruction of the Vajjian Kings.
The Buddha said that harmony leads to happiness. The breaking of harmony leads to all things to be destroyed. Even the government, the strong authority of the Kings of Vajji could be destroyed. All of the centres here, we come together to practice Dhamma. There may be times where some bad feelings come up. It is normal that as humans, when we come together, we rely on each other, and sometimes there are these bad feelings that come up because we still have greed, hatred and delusion. However, if we have problems, we should not go to the extent of arguing and trying to win over each other, because this will lead to conflict within the group.
Therefore, we need to establish harmony as an important principle. Have forgiveness towards one another. This will lead to growth in our Dhamma practice and the development of the mind. Sometimes, Luang Por Chah would teach that even if we have anger coming up, we shouldn’t have ill-will. When we have ego and conceit coming up, try to lower it and put it down. This is because the most important thing is for the mind to have peace and happiness. He said that, although it is true that those other things are important, letting go is much more important.
So may all of you practice according to the Buddha’s teachings, because the harmony of the group leads to its happiness and prosperity. We establish harmony on the outside and inside. On the inside, having virtue, concentration, and wisdom. This is the path for our minds to prosper in the Dhamma. May you all have growth in Dhamma practice, and may you have a mind of kindness and forgiveness towards each other. May you all grow in Dhamma and in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: If an employee does not get along with the boss at work and we are in the middle of it, what should we do?
Luang Por Anan: This is natural. People have different views and positions at work, like boss and employee. First, recognize this. Everyone has their own reasons for their behavior, then, when you add in attachment to views with a sense of self, the situation gets more complicated and chaotic. We may be in the middle of a dispute. But, if one is an employee, one may not have a lot of power to change the situation. Try to have a heart of metta and compassion that is willing to help both sides. We try to not make things worse than they already are.
We may be able to see that the boss and employee cannot get along. Each should know their position. The employee should speak politely to the boss. Still, each should try to have metta and compassion for one another in order to accomplish work together.
2. Q: Where did Maha Kassapa attain parinibbana?
Luang Por Anan: If one talks about an outer location of attaining parinibbana, that is one thing; the real nibbana is in the heart. Regarding Maha Kassapa, the important thing to talk about is his practice and for us to practice following in his footsteps. In the suttas it is written that Maha Kassapa attained parinibbana near Rajigir near Kokusampada Mountain. Now that we know this, the important thing is to practice by applying the way Maha Kassapa practiced to our own lives. Such as living in the forest, eating once a day, wearing discarded cloth or corpse coverings as one’s triple robe, and just having three robes.
3. Q: Sometimes when a parent passes away, the child receives a sign that the parent is unable to move on due to some obstacles or unfulfilled wishes of the late parent. As the child, to what extent should we help the parent to move on? Some also say that it is up to an individual’s karma.
Luang Por Anan: This is a very good thought. This is gratitude to the parent—knowing what they have done for you, knowing their virtues, and wishing to repay that debt. Do acts of goodness – keep sila, do meditation, do chanting, do goodness of all types, then dedicate or determine that merit to the parent, wishing that the parent can overcome their suffering, grow in happiness, and receive all the goodness that one is determining to them.
There is a story of this kind of event. Someone in Rayong, Thailand, had a daughter marry then go to live in France. The mother in Rayong dedicated merit and gave metta all the time to her son in law’s father. She did this for the whole rains retreat. The son in law had a dream of his father, who had died, and his father said that he must rush to the monastery. The son in law told his wife, the daughter, this, and the daughter told her mother. The mother said that every time she did merit, she dedicated it to the father of her son in law. This tells us that those who have passed away are able to receive merit dedicated to them.
4. Q: Can you explain the seven points of harmony in more detail please?
Luang Por Anan: In terms of the seven points of harmony that lead to growth and prosperity, we can see these for ourselves. When we live in groups, problems arise, so we should have meetings frequently in order to resolve these problems. Organizations come together to do just this. They should come to meetings on time and leave on time, and this is an aspect of harmony. Then, during the meeting, different points will be discussed, people should agree on what to do, and, afterwards, people will follow what has been agreed upon and not do otherwise. This is a cause for harmony. We can see in meetings that many people come together. There are often problems or arguments arise. Each person thinks that they are right and have a good idea. So there needs to be a leader of the group and meeting. Each person should respect the leader. Once everyone has agreed on a certain point, then people should accept that point. This is also out of respect for the leader. We should give importance and respect to women, as well. The next point is respecting places that should be respected – doing the proper ceremonies and traditional activities. Those with power in that place or society, they should respect and revere those with virtue and goodness.
For example, Wat Nong Pah Pong has over 400 branch monasteries. On the 16th of June, the monks come to meet together, following the practices that Luang Pu Chah laid down. Some monks don’t agree with each other, each has their own reason, and they cannot reach a consensus. They then ask the leader of the meeting what to do, then agree to follow that decision. The meetings start and end all together. The elders and leaders are respected. The place is respected. These are some of the reasons that have led the Wat Nong Pah Pong community to be strong in this way from the beginning until now.
5. Q: As monks, we interact with those of other religions often. How should we behave towards the members and leaders of other religions?
Luang Por Anan: Every religion wants people to be good and have good hearts. All religions have some degree of cultivating metta and compassion, and teaching for our hearts to be good and kind. Therefore, all monastics, religious leaders, and other religious members are those who sacrifice for the good of others, have some renunciation, try to help others have happiness, be free from suffering, and have varying levels of virtue. Meeting with other religious leaders or members, one should do so with metta and goodness. One can be respectful as is proper according to their status and or sila, and to your position.
6. Q: There are many children here at our center. During chanting time, some children feel sleepy and go to sleep. Then, when meditation or chanting is done, the children become very active. Can you explain if this type of sleepiness is different than the type of sleepiness when the children go to bed?
Luang Por Anan: Ask the monks first – monks are sometimes sleepy during morning chanting, as well. It is not to do with being a child or not. Maybe the mind is not very interested in the chanting, then sleepiness will come. If one is interested in the chanting and understands the meaning of the chants, then the mind will be very interested and mindful, then not sleepy. The children are likely not very experienced with chanting and do not understand the chant, so feel sleepy. If you play some music while the children sit there, the children will not be sleepy. You could try chanting in a musical way to keep the children awake, or have the children chant very loudly. This is normal for the children to be sleepy. Were you sleepy at another center?
Luang Por Anan: Sleepy, then chant. Try to be mindful. Not sleepy, then chant. This is a principle of practice.
7. Q: Regarding the story about the passed away father receiving merit, was it that the father was in a realm where he could receive merit, or is one able to receive merit in every realm?
Luang Por Anan: There is a realm where beings are able to receive merit shared with them. If someone is born in a realm where there is a lot of suffering, then that being cannot receive merits shared with them. The merit does not make it; the mind is experiencing too much suffering. If the being is already born as a human, the merit will not make it.
If the mind has not yet been reborn, and is waiting for rebirth, then that mind is able to receive merits shared with it.
The important thing is to not have to wait for anyone to share merits with us. Do a lot of merit in the current life. This is important. Build merit not just through giving, but through cultivating morality, sila, as well, and helping others, like those in need.
8. Q: If one’s relative has passed away, what is the best way to share merit with them? Should one do a retreat at a temple? What is recommended?
Luang Por Anan: Do merit. Do merit with the Sangha, help those in need, help children study, and/or help society. Keep virtue and sila, do chanting, and do meditation. Then ask all merit gathered in all these ways to be dedicated and shared with the one who has passed away. One can also offer food, cloth like the triple robe, offer an alms bowl, and/or offerings towards a dwelling or kuti. We can do these various types of merit.
9. Q: When I bow to a Buddha statue, I bow three times, and I think to pay homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. When I bow to senior monks three times, what should I recollect in my mind?
Luang Por Anan: The way of practice is the same. You bow on the outside to the senior monk and recollect the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. You can recollect the Buddha, the pure one, who taught to respect the elder monks, the Buddha’s teachings, the Dhamma, and recollect the Sangha, those venerable teachers who have practiced well.