Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – February 28th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all. I hope you all are well. Today I wish to discuss an important and fundamental teaching—to do good, refrain from wrong, and purify the mind. On Magha Puja, the Lord Buddha gave this teaching; this occurs only once in a Buddha’s dispensation. The Buddha taught to not do bad, such as undertaking the five moral precepts. The Buddha taught to do good and to practice mental cultivation, to make the mind pure, such as through meditation. We make the determinations, like we have, to not steal, to help others, to be generous, to have self-sacrifice, to help those in need, and to give. In difficult times we help others through body, speech, and mind. This comes from lovingkindness. We have the jewel and refuge of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha—these most important refuges which are above all else, the best refuges of all refuges in the deva or human worlds.
When we have faith in this way, then we practice following the teachings of the Buddha, such as doing goodness. The Buddha taught to give and have self-sacrifice, so we practice even if we only have a little, then we give that. There is no need to wait until one is wealthy to give. This is up to our mindfulness and wisdom how much to help others. Even if we have little external wealth, then we can have faith as our wealth. Faith is an important wealth. If one has small external wealth but a strong faith in the heart, then one makes a gift, and before, during, and after, one feels faith and has a heart of goodness, then this gift becomes of great value and is a good act. This act would have more value than a large gift given with small faith and perhaps a desire for fame, as well. A smaller gift given with high faith is more valuable; it has a big value and merit. Today let us study together more on this topic in the Dhamma video.
Welcome and blessings to all the faithful here. Today we learn Dhamma as we usually do. Today I want to talk about the Dhamma topic of self-sacrifice and doing dana or generosity, and specifically about helping and sacrificing for fellow human-beings.
We know that in this present day there is the Covid-19 virus spreading. To combat the virus, this requires co-operation and sacrifice. Each person needs to be honest. People must disclose whether they are sick with the virus and to find treatment for it, in order to control the illness. There needs to be a lot of effort in order to maintain the lives of the general public. This giving is important. Giving honesty and sincerity. Those with wealth have a sense of self-sacrifice. Those that give will be loved by their friends. Giving is a Dhamma quality that helps people to have consideration for each other. When we have goodness, in terms of bodily actions, speech, and thoughts, then these three ways of acting are imbued with metta, loving kindness; we have a beautiful mind, and those that receive this will have happiness and be at ease. These givers are loved and favoured by others. We can see that the gifts of material things and objects that we give, or nice and pleasing speech become embedded in the hearts of those that receive it.
At this time, which is a critical time in terms of the spread of the virus Covid-19, we can look at how the American billionaire Bill Gates is reacting to this. We all know how rich Bill Gates is in the present day world. There was one occasion when someone asked Bill Gates,
“Is there anyone richer than you in this world?”
Bill Gates answered, “Yes. In this world, I am very rich. But there are people who are richer than me. Let me share with you a story.
“During the time when I was not rich or famous like these days, I was at the New York airport when I saw a newspaper vendor. I wanted to buy a newspaper but found that I didn’t have enough change to pay for it. I told him I didn’t have enough for the paper and if I could read it and return it to you? The vendor said, ‘I will give it to you for free.’ I accepted the newspaper and left.
“Coincidentally, 2-3 months later, I landed at the same airport and again I didn’t have enough change to buy a newspaper. The same vendor was still selling newspapers and again he offered to give me the newspaper for free. I refused and said that I cannot accept it because I don’t have enough change today. He said ‘You can take it, I am giving it to you for free. I am sharing this from my profit. I won’t be at a loss.’ So I took the newspaper like last time. 19 years later I became famous and known by people. Suddenly I remembered that vendor who had given me the newspaper for free twice. I began searching for him and after about 1 ½ months I found him. I went to meet him and asked the vendor, ‘Do you know me?’
“He said, ‘Yes, you are Bill Gates. I remember you.’
I asked him again if he remembered me,
The vendor said, ‘I remember you. I met you twice. I gave you two free newspapers.’
Then I said, ‘I would like to repay the help you gave me at those times. Whatever you want in your life, tell me, I shall fulfill it.’
The vendor said, ’I never thought that what I did back then would make you come back to repay me.’
“I asked, ‘Why?’”
He said, “’I helped you when I was a poor newspaper vendor. And you are trying to help me now that you are the richest man in the world. How can your help be the same as mine?’”
“That day I realized that the newspaper vendor is richer than me, because he didn’t wait to become rich to help someone.”
Human beings need to understand that the true rich people are the ones with a rich heart—more than the amount of money or gold one has, or even if one is one of the wealthiest in the world. A good heart is what makes one a beautiful person. They are the most beautiful people in the world. It’s not how beautiful one looks. Humans have to understand that the true wealth is not in having lots of money, but it’s the good heart that makes one wealthy. Having kindness and compassion is what makes someone rich. Having a good character and beautiful mannerisms is what makes one the most beautiful in the world. Regardless of how one looks.
A billionaire like Bill Gates doesn’t just become financially rich and does nothing to help with the Covid-19 virus. He helped to donate a lot of his money. He donated $10 million to help front-line medical teams in China and in Africa, including $5m towards an international co-operative to develop a treatment and vaccine. He also increased his donation to $100m to combat the spread of the coronavirus. So Bill Gates has donated $100m.
We can see that he is rich already, but he doesn’t just keep that wealth for himself. Money that is just kept doesn’t give one happiness. However, one who is smart will know how to use wealth for their benefit. During the time when the world is in trouble, one who uses that wealth to help, share, search, prevent, and find medicine to treat the illness, then that person is one who is considerate and has a truly rich heart. If a rich person keeps, saves, and doesn’t use their wealth, then their wealth doesn’t bring much benefit. And, at the end of one’s life, it is gone.
And Bill Gates, along with his wife, Melinda Gates, who run a foundation, have donated a great amount of money so that China can combat the outbreak of the virus. China’s leader, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to thank the US billionaire Bill Gates, the founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who is generous, kind, and supportive and who has donated to fight against the epidemic virus Covid-19 that has started from China.
President Xi Jinping wrote in the letter, saying “I am very grateful for the benevolence of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, and, in the letter, he expressed his concern and encouragement to the Chinese people at this important time. The Chinese leader wrote that he would mobilise all resources throughout the country and implement measures like never before in order to stop and alleviate the spread of the virus and to treat infected patients. These special measures are showing concrete results.
We can see how one person can know the suffering of another, of another country, and have a sacrificial heart. If there are people helping like this, then we will be able to fight the spread of the virus and develop a vaccine to prevent the virus Covid-19.
The people who have received help are very grateful. In times of difficulties and crisis, if one still has friends that extend their kindness and compassion to each other, then our world will still be worth living in. We will live in a world where there are still people that give and where the receivers show appreciation. They become friends with each other. When different people cooperate like this, then they will be able to overcome obstacles and difficulties, like the spreading of the Covid-19 virus.
In this age, there are people who still sacrifice like this. So, giving is very important.
When we have wealth, we can donate and sacrifice some to help others. If we just keep it, then we may cause ourselves problems. At this time, there is a lack of face-masks available in the marketplace, so people raise the prices to take advantage of the people who are suffering. Some people steal tissues. Some people are so scared that they even keep their face-masks in the safe. How did the world get to this point?
If everyone in the world shares and has sacrifice for one another, then we will be able to live well. We have to help each other. Help each other build goodness. Those that have, share with others. Those that don’t have, they refrain from stealing or taking from others who do have. Help one another to search, develop ideas, help others by sharing information, and help to look after one’s health—have self-sacrifice and sharing like this. Then we will be able to live in this world happily. When we are healthy and strong, then we have a good opportunity to practice Dhamma fully.
I wish to give you all blessings. May you all be safe. May all the Sangha be safe from all dangers and from all sicknesses. May you have good health and be free from the Covid-19 virus or any other diseases. By the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, may all dangers be overcome. May all sicknesses disappear,. May you be free from any dangers when travelling. May you have success in life, in work and duties, and in your Dhamma practice.
May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Sometimes it is difficult to develop true compassion or loving-kindness. I feel that I cannot connect with the person or the situation. How do I develop the Brahmaviharas, the divine abodes, better?
Luang Por Anan: In the beginning, think of oneself first. Make oneself happy, give metta to oneself, give oxygen to oneself first. This is not harming anyone. Repeat, “May I be free from suffering; May I be happy.” Understand how oneself and others want happiness just the same. If one feels good strength and energy, then think of loved ones like children, parents, or friends; don’t think of enemies yet as it can be too difficult to give them metta at that stage.
Q: But I feel that it is difficult to really feel what the other person feels.
Luang Por Anan: Give metta to oneself first. Think of the friends in your weekly Dhamma group who love each other, give each other good advice, practice together, and share Dhamma together—these are all examples of metta for one another.
2. Q: In the Buddha’s time, is there an example of a poor person with great faith who received great results from giving?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, there is. There was a very poor man, who had trouble even just getting one meal. He ate the leftovers at the monastery. But he had wisdom. His name was Dukkhata—even his name meant suffering, as his life was hard. At that time, people would invite the Sangha to eat at their home, whether 3, 5, or 10 monks at a time. Dukkhata thought that he ought to make merit and invite a monk to eat as his home for one meal even though he was so poor. He had great faith and invited a monk to eat at his home even before he had a plan of how he would obtain food to offer.
Dukkhata worked as a laborer for a wealthy man. One day, his employer noticed how Dukkhata was working extra hard—Dukkhata seemed so vigorous and happy, so the employer asked why this was. Dukkhata explained that it was because of the impending meal invitation, so the employer gave Dukkhata extra money that day. Dukkhata bought food, some rice and fish, to offer. However, on the day of the meal offering, the monk in charge of sending monks to houses forgot to send a monk to Dukkhata’s house. Dukkhata was very sad, and the organizing monk found out about his mistake. Then, the organizer said to him that there is just one monk left who had not been assigned to go eat at anyone’s house—the Lord Buddha himself. Dukkhata went to go pay his respects to the Buddha, who, at that time, was surrounded by the king and many others. Dukkhata invited Lord Buddha to the meal, and the Buddha gave his bowl to Dukkhata for him to take.
All the wealthy people in town wanted to make merit with the Buddha and wanted the invitation. They said to Dukkhata, “What are you going to give? Give us the Buddha’s bowl and we will give you [the equivalent of] $1 million….$5 million…$10 million…” and even the king offered $100 million. But Dukkhata said “No” to them all. He was filled with great joy and rapture carrying the Buddha’s bowl and planning to offer a meal to the Lord Buddha. He reflected that he was poor in his present life, with even a name that meant suffering, but he would not be poor in his future life. The king thought to himself, “What is Dukkhata going to offer?” He inspected Dukkhata’s house and found heavenly aromas coming from his house, such that not even the palace kitchen could compete. In the texts it says that given the great merits of the Buddha, Indra, king of the devas, and other devas came to help with the offering—they wanted to make merit, as well. Dukkhata was poor in terms of external wealth, but rich in faith.
3. Q: I suffer from depression. I take a medication.
Luang Por Anan: I recommend talking to the doctor who prescribed you the medication. Also, you can chant softly, in a relaxing way; chant in your heart. Make the mind relaxed and peaceful.
4. Q: When we share merits, we chant to share with ‘all virtuous leaders of the world’, but I cannot think of many leaders with virtue. Who are these virtuous leaders?
Luang Por Anan: This means people with better qualities than us—maybe they think better than we do, are high-minded, or it can be people who have done good and helped us or others. A high minded person could be poor and not famous, this is not necessarily a famous leader. Such as the Bodhisattvas, they could be in a position in society that is not high, not wealthy, but they have a high mind to help others with their goodness—they have parami and goodness.
In India the government discovered a lot of gold. In the Buddha’s time Anathapindika gave his wealth away then found wealth in the ground and became rich again. Bill and Melinda Gates did merit in past lives, and, in this life, they are doing merit again. They have met with success and have enough mindfulness and wisdom to keep doing merit and helping others. An example of people with goodness, such as we mention in the chant, are some people in Singapore that gave money to help fight the virus. Also, the president of Singapore gave part of his monthly wage to fight the virus and to pay more to health workers. This is a heart with quality and a high mind. We can recollect their goodness, and even if they are not in our country, we can spread them metta.
5. Q: How important is metta in our lives?
Luang Por Anan: If there is no metta, then people would not follow the five precepts. Then people would harm each other, and the situation would be crazy—people would hurt others and themselves, such as through lying, stealing, and so on. It would be all bad with more kilesas, more suffering, and more heat in the heart. Metta makes the world safe and okay—when one has metta, one does not want to harm others. We have the four requisites. If no one had metta, then no one would share, then would anyone want to give anything to us? Would monastics be able to live? This is an example. With no metta no one would give or help.