Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – August 9th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: If one is peaceful, then it is easy to see the Dhamma, whether one is an adult or a child. But an adult with no samadhi, or concentration, is just an adult on the outside; they are not yet an adult on the inside. Even children can have samadhi.
The nature of mind is to think and proliferate without stopping. We must train our minds. We must practice stillness by watching our in and out breaths, for example. Then the energy of peace arises in the mind if one is able to be with one object. When there is no peace or calm, then one cannot understand the Dhamma. Have mindfulness and clear comprehension in all postures. Chant a lot or contemplate one aspect of the chanting a lot to make the mind peaceful.
Welcome to all the lay people from your centres and welcome to all the monks and novices. Today we learn about the Dhamma topic of self-sacrifice. The Buddha said this quality of self -sacrifice is something good for getting rid of the mental defilements and the sense of self. When we stay together in a group, each person needs to have this sense of self-sacrifice and metta, the love and compassion to help one another. When the Sangha stay together, they have the framework of the teacher-disciple relationship. The novices and monks have to take dependence on the Venerable teacher. The teacher has a duty to look after the monks and novices in terms of the 4 material requisites of robes, food, shelter and medicines. And the teacher also gives Dhamma to the student if they come to consult on various aspects of Dhamma. Or, if the disciple has a problem in their meditation practice, the teacher will try to help them reduce the problem from something heavy to something light, or help them so that they may be able to overcome all their problems altogether. The disciple has the duty in return to have care for their teacher and to help out in different ways according to the monastic duties that the teacher gives for them to do. And when the young novice ordains, they should have care and develop a bond to the senior monks. And the senior monks need to have kindness and compassion towards the novice as well.
Back in the time at Wat Nong Pah Pong, Ven. Ajahn Chah would give talks and teach on not being selfish and on the drawbacks of not having self-sacrifice for the greater good. In Wat Nong Pah Pong, the monks would keep the practice that after the food is received from alms round, it is gathered together and shared out. Luang Pu Chah would often emphasise on the sharing of food – to share it so that it reaches the novices at the end of the line, too. Don’t just share it only for those in the front of the line. May you think that if you were a novice and you didn’t get any food, how would you feel?
The monks have to not be selfish and to share the food with the others at the back of the line. Once in the time of Luang Pu Chah, there were about 9 monks and novices in total. And they had received 9 portions of some special food. Luang Pu Chah took 1 portion, and each monk took a portion each. But when it got to the end of the line, the novice didn’t get one. Before the food was formally offered to the most senior monk, Luang Pu Chah, the novice had already known how many portions there were and that he would get one portion for sure. Later, the novice said the monk was selfish to take 2 portions and that the novice didn’t get one. After many days, the novice lost faith and didn’t wash that senior monk’s bowl. Luang Pu Chah saw the change in the novice, that he had no more metta to the monks. He said the monks were selfish.
Luang Pu Chah wanted to teach the monks. So he said, “Alright then, the food that is gathered here, we will first offer it to the novice and let him choose first, and then let them choose from the back all the way to the front of the line. But because of the faith and respect the monks had to Luang Pu Chah, they wouldn’t dare take any, and it was all passed on to Luang Pu Chah. Luang Pu Chah ate this way for many days. He said, “This arose because of me, it’s not yours. You are all stupid. You get it and you don’t share it. This food is given from what the laity have thrown away to us, that they have given up. The lay people can share and sacrifice to us. But you are stupid. You don’t know how to share with others.” He taught like this, and since that day, they never forgot it, even after such a long time.
The monks gained this understanding, and the food was portioned out so it would get to the small novices. This virtue of sharing with others is the cause for us to have consideration for others, whenever we act through body, speech, and mind. We will have regard for one another. And we will also then keep the same standard of monastic practices and duties. Although sometimes we may have different views, we don’t argue with others, trying to be right and proving others wrong, to win over others. Then living together, we have a similar level of sila. This is the virtue that makes us considerate of one another. And even as a layperson we can use this virtue. Because each of us needs to have kindness and compassion towards each other. We have metta, love, respect and self-sacrifice towards each other. Then we will be able to live together well.
And this monastic practice of gathering whatever is given together and sharing it out according to need, is maintained in all the branch monasteries of Wat Nong Pah Pong. Whatever quantity the lay people give,whether it is pepsi, coke, or coffee, it is gathered together. During the communal gatherings, Luang Pu Chah would share it out, each person getting a bottle. In this way it is fair. If there was ice coffee, he would give it out. When there was just a little, he would give out a little bit each, if there was a lot, he could give out a lot each. Sometimes there was not even half a cup of coffee for each monk. But we were happy, because Luang Pu Chah would take the same portion, and he would also give it out by himself. Even if we could go somewhere else where we could get more, but here Luang Pu Chah was giving it out himself. So we had joy and delight in the kindness and compassion of Luang Pu Chah, and we willingly received his teachings on self-sacrifice and tried to practice them. This was to support one another. It is also dana parami and a necessary spiritual quality. It’s a quality for friends to stay together without conflict. If we don’t have this quality, then friends can argue and have conflicts and disagreements to the point where they break the harmony between them. This is one subject that Luang Pu Chah would teach often on. About having harmony and the breaking of harmony.
Luang Pu Chah said that the minds of people are full of craving and attachment, they have ego and conceit, and this is very dangerous. He gave the example that there were two lay men who would take the 8 moral precepts each lunar observance day at Wat Nong Pah Pong. They had kept the 8 precepts like this for more than 20 years. One day, these 2 laymen were eating lunch together. There was one bowl of chili between them. One man liked lemon, and the other man didn’t like lemon. The one that liked the lemon squeezed the lemon into the bowl of chili. The other person who didn’t like lemon argued with the other over this. In the end, the love and harmony of these two people, came to an end, over just putting lemon into that bowl of chili. And after that they didn’t talk to each other anymore. They had no harmony and no love for each other after that. Luang Pu Chah said, “Take a look, the mental defilements, this ego and conceit , it can make two people break harmony to this extent.”
He gave this example for the monks so that they would understand that sometimes when staying together all through the 3 month rains-retreat – there may be some arguments, disputes and differing opinions. But Luang Pu Chah said, “don’t argue so seriously to the extent that you have ego and conceit arise, that you have a strong sense of self arise, and one doesn’t listen to the opinions and views of others anymore. However it is, put down one’s ego and conceit first and have harmony together. This is so that we can continue to walk and practice Dhamma together.” This is something good and has love, harmony and care for each other. These qualities will lead to harmony and growth in the Dhamma practice of the monks who spend the rains-retreat together. This is an important teaching of the Buddha, that one should have loving-kindness and compassion for each other. This is a fundamental virtue for being considerate to one another.
And there is one more story. It’s a short cartoon about our floating dreams. The actors are the famous Disney characters, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. And the scene of the cartoon is the floating market, which is an important tourist spot in Thailand. So let us learn together about how our floating dreams are. Let us look at when there is no harmony, what problems will arise. And when there is harmony, what benefits arise. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: Having samadhi, or concentration, leads to wisdom, which leads to seeing the truth of reality. Having harmony helps to let go of the sense of self. This harmony is of great benefit. Having a foundation of harmony helps one to grow in the Dhamma, to understand the Dhamma bit by bit. This training of morality, concentration, and wisdom, has a foundation of harmony.
1. Q: If I am jealous of another person who gets more fruit than me, but I do not do anything, then what is the result of this karma?
Luang Por Anan: The results is sadness in the present. Be mindful of that feeling of jealousness. Contemplate: If I have a lot then others could feel bad about this. Know the mind is in a bad state. Have mindfulness. There must be a cause for the other to have more. If we want more ourselves, then we have to do more good karma. We wouldn’t want others to be jealous of us, so we should let go of jealous thoughts. If you want good, then do good. Be diligent as a student, be good, and get goodness in the future.
2. Q: How do we motivate ourselves to meditate?
Luang Por Anan: See the drawbacks of the mind that has no concentration and wisdom—you will suffer and not be able to help yourself. Also, reflect on the benefits of a peaceful mind. Not having concentration or wisdom is suffering, and having concentration and wisdom is less suffering. Also reflect that life is uncertain—use the opportunity you have while you can.
3. Q: We had a strict retreat. We are trying to continue but it is hard to have mindfulness continuously.
Luang Por Anan: This is difficult at the beginning, and this is normal. Practice every day. One day it becomes easier, there is more concentration and wisdom and less suffering. This relies on a foundation of patience and endurance.
4. Q: I suffer when my friends do better in school than me or my relatives have more things than me.
Luang Por Anan: Ask: what is the cause of getting better grades? Studying hard and enduring difficulties. Don’t just be jealous—put in the causes and conditions to improve your own life. Play games and fool around with friends less often. Be diligent. If you are determined, then you can succeed.
This is the same as in meditation. When someone gets concentration, what are the causes? Look at one’s own causes like effort and determination. If one is determined, then one can succeed. This is true in school or in meditation. One needs effort and to apply ones mind to one’s goal with wisdom and judgement. If one puts in the causes, then one can succeed.
5. Q: Why did the Buddha choose to be a renunciant and not a Universal Monarch?
Luang Por Anan: Because the Buddha saw that being a king was suffering, but the path of a renunciant and Buddhahood brings an end to suffering. The Buddha had wisdom.