Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – October 13th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Today is one year since King Rama IX died. Many people around Thailand are doing good things and dedicating the goodness to the King. When the King was enthroned, he determined to lead the country with the Buddha’s Dhamma as his guide for the long term benefit of all Thai people. He did this and we see the goodness of his efforts.
The King practiced Dhamma. He did generous acts and kept good morality like good speech. He was honest and did his duties as King well. His actions showed respect for all kinds of people in his kingdom with lovingkindness for his people. He was well loved by Thai people.
He showed bravery and energy in helping Thai people, like when he traveled through the countryside. One of his principles was to never harm anyone through his speech or actions. This was one of his great virtues.
Even though he has died a year ago now he is still missed dearly. The King was a Bodhisattva – on the path to being a Bodhisattva. We dedicate the goodness of our merits to him. Though this is a small offering, we still do this.
Video: Kathina Talk 2017 Wat Marp Jan
Before you make this offering of Kathina cloth, may you all sit meditation first.
Today those who have faith have come to offer Kathina cloth in Wat Marp Jan. You come in harmony and with strong intent. This faith that you have is a conviction and confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. This faith is a wealth. It’s called a Noble Wealth. It’s the highest type of wealth. If there is flooding, it can’t take away your faith. If there is a big fire, or other natural disasters, our faith will still be firm. There is nothing that can destroy our faith. When we have faith and confidence, we have a strong intention to offer this Kathina cloth as homage to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. We do so in a similar way to the way the Buddha built his parami or spiritual perfections in the past.
In one of his past lives when the Buddha was practicing as a Bodhisattva, he was a poor Brahmin. Between he and his wife they had only one garment that displayed their status of a Brahmin, the highest caste. So, they had to share this one cloth between them, and go in turns to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. When the husband went to listen to the Dhamma, the wife would stay home. And when the wife went to listen to the Dhamma, the husband would stay home. Now, it was the time the Bodhisattva went to listen to the Dhamma during a Kathina ceremony, and he wore that one cloth that showed “I am this status of Brahmin, a high status, higher than others.” Though in reality, he was poor.
He had strong faith and he wanted to offer Kathina cloth as well. He pondered on this since sunset until 10pm and couldn’t bring himself to offer his one cloth. He listened to Dhamma and contemplated on the teachings and had much joy arise. At 10pm, he still couldn’t make the offering. It was something that was incredibly difficult to do. He had many concerns come up in his mind. If he gave up this cloth, then he and his wife wouldn’t be able to go out of the house. Others wouldn’t know that they were Brahmins. Others may think they were of a low caste and insult and abuse them. They couldn’t bear this hardship. It’s like they had to swap their life and very own existence of a Brahmin away in order to gain the life and development of goodness.
He struggled with this but in the end, he could give up and make an offering with that cloth. He shouted “I have conquered.” And his victory call reached even the King who was at the ceremony. What did he conquer? He conquered his own greed and stinginess that was deep in his heart, that is very difficult to conquer. If it was wealth and money, he could give it up easily. But this was giving up his high status of a Brahmin. He had to give up all his worth. But the Buddha in that life succeeded in conquering it. The king was delighted in the Bodhisattva’s act and rewarded him with much beautiful cloth. But all that he received he gave it all to the Buddha of that era. He only kept a pair of cloth, for him and his wife. He had already given away his only cloth, and the mind was left with no greed, so even when he received a lot of cloth, he didn’t desire it. This is a great spiritual development that our Buddha had built in the past. And he did actions like this over an uncountable number of lifetimes. These helped him build his parami to its completion.
Now in this last life that the Buddha was fully enlightened, he allowed the faithful laypeople to gather together in harmony to offer Kathina cloth. And the monks here that receive the cloth need to also have harmony in their practices as spiritual seekers. Different monks will undertake strict austerities: there are 20 monks who don’t sleep at night, others who have taken a vow of not speaking, some who only eat what they get begging for alms in the village. And this is in addition to the other common ascetic practices of eating in one sitting as well as practicing strictly in line with the teachings and discipline as set down by the Lord Buddha. These are all kept for the purpose of developing mindfulness, for Samadhi to be firm, and to contemplate in order to develop wisdom, this all–round knowing or knowing that is complete. This is a mind heading to emptiness. The mind that can have emptiness, will be lokuttara, be above and beyond the world.
This offering of Kathina cloth you are doing today supports those that are on the path to go beyond the world – going to the Dhamma and to Nibbana. When we support in this way, then we are also on the current heading towards nibbana, too. This current is made by all the merit, all wholesome and good actions that we have done.
Do you notice, I don’t announce how much is offered – that this person gives this much or that much. You come together and you sit all the same. When we do it this way, your actions become more meritorious than normal. This is because our actions come from a mind that is radiant. The money that we donate has been gained purely. We didn’t steal or gain through corruption, or cheat or rob. This money is pure. And the intention we have in our hearts is for us to get rid of greed from within. The Buddha taught us to give up greed. Today we have succeeded in giving up greed. We have given up everything. We have put down our duties, work, and comforts. There are many who have helped the work of setting up and organising the Kathina, so that everyone can gain benefit. The ones who set up food stalls freely and happily give out to those who come. The givers will receive happiness and joy.
There are many who have come from far away. Some monks have come all the way from the North in Chiang Mai and Ubon Rachathani. Some from Salaburi, Canchanaburi, Sukothai, Pitsunalok, and Nakohon Rachismima. Why have they come? To Anumodana and rejoice with the goodness of the laypeople that have come together in harmony with strong intentions to offer the Kathina cloth in homage to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The Buddha said that one gains great benefit by offering Kathina cloth. This is because it is giving up of a sense of self, and it’s a harmonious and unifying act. You can all hold onto that this life you have been a sponsor of a Kathina. Everyone here. Whoever has strong faith and more financial means can support more. And those with strong faith, but with less financial means support according to your capacity. And this is all for the purpose of great Buddhist monument – a chedi that will enshrine the Buddha’s relics.
This year the development of the chedi has progressed a lot and by the end of the year the exterior of the top Chinese section will be finished. Next year, you will see the decorating of the interior and the stairs should be finished. In the next few years, it should be finished. Then you will be able to celebrate the completion of the chedi. Many of you have given and supported since the very beginning, since the placing of the foundational posts. All the way supporting every year in the Kathina, till this one now, again coming together wholeheartedly.
And today on this occasion, it’s as if the devas are opening up the skies. It has rained each day, except for today. And now the sun is shining the strongest.
Anumodana with all of you that build goodness, following the Buddha’s example. When we have a foundation of sila or moral conduct, then we develop ourselves spiritually following the Buddha’s footsteps, and our mind follows the way to nibbana.
By practicing our chanting and meditation consistently, we keep building our merits bit by bit. We determine to establish the mind in Samadhi. And we are constantly practicing mindfulness in every posture – whether walking, sitting, standing or lying down – by keeping Buddho in mind.
If we have a lot of distracted thinking, we can try pressing our tongue on the roof of our mouth. We should then see thoughts decrease and possibly disappear. If we press hard, then there may be no thoughts. We then press just slightly and develop mindfulness with the in and out breath. Our mind becomes more peaceful, and this is more merit.
We are born into this world and have everything, but when we have dana and sila, then we gain more happiness and peace. And when we develop inner peace and wisdom through our meditation, then we gain great benefit. This is the path the Buddha taught, for us to develop the inner Buddha.
Today we have developed the inner Buddha bit by bit – becoming awakened and joyous in our hearts. This is how we follow the Buddha.
Whether we are at home or in the monastery, we can often recollect that in this one life we have been a sponsor of a Kathina. Everyone is a combined sponsor. Whether one has a lot or a little, you all come together in harmony and as one. And when you Anumodana and rejoice at everyone else’s actions, then our merit grows. We have 1000 people here, and by rejoicing with everyone, our merit grows greater. We also Anumodana with all those that have come together to offer Kathina cloth all around Thailand and around the world.
When we gain more merit then our minds become like a deva, too. We’ve developed to have a human body and mind, but now our mind develops from a human to a deva. And then when we develop our knowing to be in step with things as they arise, then our minds develop to become an inner monk or high–minded. And laypeople can develop this state too.
If we reflect on our goodness and this brings us joy, then we should think of our goodness every day. From today till next year, we can think of this great merit of offering Kathina cloth. Today you have made this offering of Kathina cloth. Does your mind feel joyous? You can listen to chanting, or chanting along as well, and as we listen we feel joyous.
You can reflect and recollect in these ways as a method to make the mind peaceful, which improves our merit and goodness.
By the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, by the parami of all the Bodhisattvas, may all of you who with great faith in the Buddha and his teachings, and with a mind established in the Sangha, may you all gain happiness and prosperity in this life and the next and know and see the Dhamma. May you overcome all obstacles. And if you are born again, may you be enlightened quickly. If have much spiritual merit, then may you succeed in gaining enlightenment in this very life.
Questions and Answers:
Q: As a layperson, is it possible to become enlightened?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, as long as one is mindful in all activities, including when one is working during the day. One should always try to keep watch over one’s mind and learn to let go of bad mind states. One should do good things and practice mindfulness. If one has enough parami one can become an arahant.
Q: Some traditions say one should move slowly in order to be mindful. But it is difficult to move slowly when going about daily activities. Is moving slowly necessary?
Luang Por Anan: Moving slowly can support the rest of one’s practice. Moving slowly can help to be mindful in all postures. The mindfulness you build when moving slowly can help during other times. The main thing is to be mindful all the time.
Q: How should one practice mindfulness of Dhammas as a layperson?
Luang Por Anan: Mindfulness of Dhamma includes all things, whether good, bad, or in between – the five hindrances, four Noble Truths, and other qualities, like faith. To do this, one sees all things as Dhamma, which requires a refined state of mind. If one can’t see things this way, it indicates that one’s mind does not yet have enough wisdom or refinement. If this is the case one should be mindful of coarser objects like bodily sensations.