Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – January 18th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: In northeast Thailand, we had the annual Luang Pu Chah memorial, where about 1,000 monks and 5,000 laypeople attended. Let us learn more about this festival in the video.
Welcome to all of you from your centres. This year is 101 years since Venerable Ajahn Chah’s birth. Ajahn Chah passed away in 1992. He has passed away for many years now, but the monastic ways of practice and the goodness of one of the true disciples of the Buddha are still here. His virtue is still here. The great virtue of the Sangha is limitless. Even though Ajahn Chah has passed away already, his spiritual virtues still lead his disciples – the monks and laity – to whole heartedly unite and revere Ajahn Chah. When it comes to the time of Ajahn Chah’s Memorial Day, all the branch monasteries – in Thailand and around the world – are determined that they will come and pay their respects to Ajahn Chah and will remember his goodness and show their gratitude towards him. This includes all the laity that had received Dhamma from Ajahn Chah directly, or those that had learnt from Dhamma books or recorded talks. This Dhamma is the Dhamma that leads to the Deathless and one gains deep inspiration from this Dhamma. On the Memorial Day, people travel from all over Thailand and the world to gather together. This is the power of unity that is hard to find in the present day.
This year there was the faithful laity to the number of 5000 and 1000 monks. It is an image that when one sees it, it makes one happy and joyful in the heart. Seeing that each person has reverence and love for LP Chah, and recollects the Dhamma that Ajahn Chah taught and instructed.
And we can go back even further and recollect the Buddha who had given up and sacrificed everything, in every way. He had the courage to renounce his Sakyan clan and was intent to practice. He learned with the renowned teachers of that time in the field of concentration, and even undertook austere practices and tortured his body. And then the Buddha searched by himself – and was willing to sacrifice his life until he attained to becoming the fully-enlightened Buddha. He had great determination. This is the limitless virtue of the Buddha.
And it’s not that the Buddha sacrificed just this one life, but he sacrificed countless lifetimes. And who did he do this for? He did this for all the living beings that are going around the never-ending cycle of birth and death that is full of pain and suffering. He perfected the 10 spiritual paramis, with the determination to lead all living beings out of suffering. We can witness that each and every Bodhisattva -bow-dee-saht-vah- that determines to attain to becoming a Buddha, has the great intention to free all living beings from suffering. Whether they have received a certain prediction that they will become a Buddha in the future or not, the virtue of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas is limitless. Our Buddha, when he was a Bodhisattva, had received a certain prediction of becoming a Buddha, and then he practiced to build his parami to free all of us from suffering. This was so that the Dhamma could arise. And the virtue of the Dhamma is limitless.
When there is the Dhamma already, then the Sangha arises, arising successively until the arising of great teachers like Venerable Ajahn Mun and LP Chah.
In the year 1976, when I ordained, there were only 19-20 branch monasteries. Today there are 400 branch monasteries – the direct ones, the branches of branch monasteries, and the branches of them. It is amazing that however much this expands, the monastic and lay disciples still come together once a year, and this creates great strength and solidarity. Even though each of the branch monasteries may not practice in exactly the same way, but all of them have the single mind that reveres LP Chah and his ways of practice. For example, this year, although many lay people came, they all came with peacefulness. They listened to Dhamma in silence. In the time of LP Chah, there were about 1000 people coming to listen to Dhamma and they did so silently. And in the present day the laypeople number to 5000, but there is still that same silence. Each person comes with the intention to practice and to meditate, to keep the 5 moral precepts, and to eat 2 meals. And even many eating just 1 meal. And they practice sincerely.
The monks lead the sitting and walking meditation, they lead the chanting and Dhamma practice. Practicing without stopping. And for the monks that come there is sitting meditation at 1pm in the uposotha -ooh-poe-sah-tah- Hall, and then there is a talk on the practices of monks and on the Dhamma practice during the times when LP Chah was alive. The senior monks will share what the training was like when LP Chah was still alive. They lead the sitting meditation for 1 hr and then teach Dhamma for 1 hr. It’s like this each day. This is for the purpose of passing on the monastic observances and ways of practice that they had learnt to give to the later generations of monks that didn’t have a chance to practice and learn directly with LP Chah. This is so that they will understand and know the ways of practice, and to further pass down these practices to future generations. Because the senior disciples of Ajahn Chah pass away according to their natural bodily conditions, and then the next generation will try to teach and instruct in their place.
This is so that the monks will uphold the right monastic practices and stay in the boundaries of sila. And when one practices well then one can really contact LP Chah through the Dhamma. From listening to the monastic ways of practice and the Dhamma teachings, they practice until Dhamma arises in the heart. Then they themselves continue to teach others. This is called building relatives – relatives in the Dhamma.
LP Chah once said that even many trucks full of goods would not be enough for one person’s desires. Now there is food given out freely from food-stalls by the faithful laity, who have done it every year since LP Chah has passed away. Even many tens or even 100 trucks wouldn’t be able to carry all the offerings brought to Wat Nong Pah Pong. See this here is the disciples following the Dhamma that LP Chah had taught to sacrifice through giving. This all arises from the parami of Ajahn Chah, where the hearts of the monks and laity have learned to be generous. This is being related through material requisites. But LP Chah didn’t want to have this. He wanted us to practice Dhamma – to build the Dhamma in the heart.
Ajahn Chah had once established a foundation to offer food to the monks and novices, but later he shut it down. The alms bowl is the foundation of the Buddha that he has given to the monks and novices. Ajahn Chah wanted us to practice the monastic observances, of which going for alms is a daily observance. If one maintains the monastic observances until one can do them well, then everything will arise by itself. And it really was like he said.
Here may we understand that everything that arises in Wat Pah Pong, or in the branch monasteries that one may stay at, whether a little or a lot of prosperity, comes from the limitless virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The virtue of LP Chah is limitless. The laity that have metta, compassion, self sacrifice, and Dhamma in their hearts will have the faith to make offerings to the monks. I pay homage to all that arises – to the Dhamma that arises and all the requisites that arise in the branches of Wat Pah Pong, especially in Wat Marp Jan – and the branches of it, that all this comes from the virtue of the Buddha Dhamma, all the Bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara, and the virtue of the Sangha, and the metta and compassion of the great venerable teachers that teach the Dhamma. It doesn’t arise from our own goodness. If we didn’t have a father and mother, if there was no Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, then there wouldn’t be us. All the things that arise can arise because of their virtue.
Today you can see that on the 16th Jan, all people practice Dhamma to repay their debt to their great teacher. Many people practice, and they have joy and happiness in their heart. But we can think on a deeper level, that how does all this happen? It is because we are supported by the shade of the Buddha, who was the one who built it all by himself, who had given up everything. It’s like he planted a great Bodhi tree of Dhamma. And we all come under its support, under this Bodhi tree of Dhamma. We are just 1 person coming to be supported under this Bodhi tree of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and Bodhisattvas. So, I ask you to reflect a lot on the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in your hearts. Chant and meditate. This is the limitlessness of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha in one’s heart. Have inspiration in the heart and reflect on their virtue, and then determine to practice – sitting and walking meditation, determine to maintain sila. Here, we will have happiness and prosperity. Because we know about gratitude and repaying that debt.
When we come to a place of practice, then come to practice sincerely. I anumodana with all of you that come together in Wat Pah Pong, or in the many branch monasteries to practice as well, many who conducted pujas and practiced going without sleep. This year the branch monastery, Wat Marp Jan did so as well. This is comes from thinking of LP Chah and then wishing to pay homage to LP Chah. Even if one doesn’t go to Wat Pah Pong, because we are in Singapore or overseas, or have other important duties, and we can’t come, then we puja and practice at home or in the centres or at the monastery. This is recollecting LP Chah’s virtue. We may then receive peace and happiness in our hearts. May you all have spiritual growth in the heart, holding the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as our highest refuge, and having gratitude towards the Buddha and to one of the great disciples of the Buddha, LP Chah. So on the occasion of this Memorial Day, may any faults through body, speech or mind towards the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, towards LP Chah, may we ask forgiveness from him, forgiveness from the Buddha, forgiveness from the Dhamma, and forgiveness from the Sangha. And may we be determined to further our practice. Then next year we hope that we have the strength of body, and we are determined that we won’t let the kilesas -mental obstacles- pull us away. We determine to put time aside to come together for the LP Chah Memorial day, or, if we can’t come, then we will practice somewhere on that day. We practice each year on this day – and we don’t forget. May you be determined in this way. May you all have long life. May you have good health. And may you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: What advice would you give to new generations who did not get to meet LP Chah?
Luang Por Anan: A lot of people came to the LP Chah memorial. Even many children. Some came just for all the free food. But later maybe they grow faith in LP Chah because they see so many thousands of people come and think “Why do so many people come to honor LP Chah even many years after his death?” In this way their faith grows. More and more foreigners come every year. We can compare this to an old frog under the shade of a lotus flower. The frog gets no true benefit. But the flying insect comes and goes straight for the pollen, getting the real benefit, the good stuff. Some only spend a short time with a great teacher but get great benefit right away. Other can stay a long time and benefit only a little. Even for monks this can be true. Like in Malayisa, you have wisdom – you got the good things.
Q: My mother used to be a Christian. Now she is like a 1 year old due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She had a good life with virtue and generosity. Can I help her?
Luang Por Anan: Can she still understand what is said?
Luang Por Anan: Can she see images?
Luang Por Anan: Show her photos of good things she did in her life, people she helped, things that give her good feelings – like photos of Jesus or other inspiring Christian images.
Q: Why do so many people come to the LP Chah memorial? Other famous teachers do not have so many people come to memorial festivals.
Luang Por Anan: This is the parami of LP Chah and a miracle of the Dhamma. Once LP Chah said that most disciples of great teachers split up and go their separate ways after the great teacher dies. He said he had already thought about how to fix this. I didn’t ask him what solution he had found. I felt shy to ask. LP Chah had many disciples spreading the Dhamma and they all have LP Chah in their heart. The festival is difficult and expensive to accomplish. Have you been?
Q: Many times. I feel like it is miraculous. I feel more peaceful when I am at the festival, maybe due to faith?
Luang Por Anan: The spiritual perfection of virtue has a pure energy, with faith, the energy of the monks and laity coming together, the lovingkindness of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, all these things come together to make a peaceful atmosphere.
How is it for you, Ajahn Pra?
A. Pra: A monk helped me set up my umbrella tent when I first got there as a novice. Later I found out he was a very senior monk. Sitting in the stupa felt very peaceful like the Indian holy sites.
Q: What is the importance of a teacher in our lives?
Luang Por Anan: Respect the teacher like a parent or teacher, recollecting them as a disciple of the Buddha, and a giver of the Dhamma. The teacher helps with getting disciples the four requisites. The teacher has lovingkindness to give Dhamma, which is very important. The teacher gives us thoughts to raise the level of our mind and gives us talks as a form of generosity.
Like making sure the last novice in line eats food. Practice respect first, not just respecting senior monks. One should listen to little novices if they have Dhamma in their hearts. Junior monks can have focus and wisdom. Don’t think seniority gives you higher status. Its vinaya (monk’s discipline) to respect seniority, but don’t take advantage of it. Get more humble as you get more senior.
Dhamma reached those who listened to LP Chah. Dhamma is the highest gift. LP Chah could be still, fierce, polite, and so on. Overall, he led disciples to the end of suffering.