Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – June 23rd, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone at your centers.
In the Buddha’s time, there was a female disciple of the Buddha called Lady Mallika. She was married to general Bandula under King Pasenadi of the city of Savatthi. She had great mindfulness. Even when she lost her beloved husband and 32 sons all at the same time, her mind didn’t waver, didn’t suffer.
She was one who understood and fully knew the Dhamma—this truth of arising, staying, and passing away. She truly understood the Buddha’s teaching even though she wasn’t ordained. She really knew the Dhamma and was a monastic in her heart. There’s an outer form, the conventional form of a monastic ordaining in the robes, but this was the monastic born within one’s heart and that is beyond conventions—beyond female or male. She truly understood the Dhamma.
We’ll show a video telling of this woman in the Buddha’s time, who lost everything and had the mindfulness to know arising, staying, and passing away—truly knowing the Dhamma.
Sitting meditation is the training of the mind to have firmness or concentration. Sati means mindfulness or recollection, and sampajanya means clear comprehension, which is the wisdom element. When you have mindfulness, that brings wisdom up, as well. Mindfulness is important for our daily life. Sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, practice to have mindfulness.
But, these days, we need to be careful because when we are sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, our sati isn’t present a lot of the time. These days technology has grown very quickly. We’ve likely seen some people using mobile phones walking across the road, looking down at their feet, or clutching their phones while they are supervising their work, which has led to many accidents. If we hold a phone in one hand, then it’s like we have lost the use of a hand. Usually when we walk we have to look left and right, watch out for cars and dangers.
We try to be careful and cautious. But when we look at our phones, our mindfulness is with that, and we lack any caution. This is a big danger with a technologically advanced society.
Ven. Ajahn Chah has said that when the world develops, darkness develops. How much ever the world develops, then darkness develops similarly. All this technology progresses rapidly, but our mindfulness and Dhamma disappears quickly. So we don’t see the Dhamma.
What is Dhamma? It’s just nature. So you are learning about nature. Seeing nature according to truth. If we see nature according to truth then we say that we see Dhamma. Dhamma is nature. And it’s always here, it’s always been here. There is arising, staying, and then passing away. This is something normal. But when we say its normal, it isn’t something just for play. Rather, it’s something that’s extremely deep. If we don’t wholeheartedly practice, learn and develop the Dhamma, then it’s really difficult to be able to see the Dhamma or the truth of nature.
Why is this? Because our inner eye, or the eye of wisdom, is still dark and can’t see clearly yet. If the inner eye of wisdom arises then we will be able to see the truth. For example, if one is blind then they can’t see any light and colors. But if they are able to treat their blindness and can see again, then they’ll be able to see lights and colors again, according to the way it is.
Our hearts are the same. If we train the minds through morality, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom, then we will be able to see the deep nature according to the way it is – that is, it arises, stays and passes away. This is seeing the Dhamma, seeing the true Buddha. There are the monastics who are ordained superficially as an outwardly form, but if one sees the Dhamma, then one becomes a true monastic. Even if one is a layperson, one is able to become a Noble One, or a true monastic. Let us try to train in this.
Two weeks ago on the 2nd of June for our Dhamma video conference, someone talked about the ordained Christian monks of the Roman Catholic Church in Portugal, who around 300 years ago, lived and practiced strictly like the forest monks in Thailand. But now these Christian monks have disappeared. All of us want Buddhism and the practice of the forest monks to stay until the full 5,000 years as predicted. But everything is under the law of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self.
I’ve thought about this, read a bit and want to talk about this. 300 years ago in Thailand is in line with the reign of King Narai of the Ayutthaya period. The Kingdom was prosperous in every way – trade and government. Buddhism was flourishing. And it was the time of Somdet Luang Pu Tuat – who was the Sangharaja of Thai forest monks. The final story in the biography of Luang Pu Tuat tells of one novice who was holding a flower and asking all the monks what type of flower it was. No one knew. It was said that whoever knew the answer would become Matreiya Buddha in the future. He asked Luang Pu Tuat, who answered that it was a dtoarop flower from Tavatingsa heaven. The novice knew he was an incarnation of the coming Buddha, Matreiya. After that no-one saw either the novice or Luang Pu Tuat again. This is brief story from the biography of Luang Pu Tuat.
Somdet Luang Pu Tuat was living in the reign of King Narai of Ayutthaya. We can assume that there were likely to have been many Noble Beings, many Arahants, and many monks who were strict in the monastic discipline. Around this time there were Portuguese trading inside Thailand, who were also trying to spread Christianity. The Catholic priests here may have taken the knowledge and practices of Buddhist monks back to Portugal. This is just a theory for us to think about and see if it’s possible.
Luang Pu Tuat lived during the span of 11 Kings of the Ayutthaya Period. So what do you think supports the flourishing of Buddhism? It relies on all of us – laywomen and laymen, monks and nuns. These 4 pillars need to be strong. The laypeople need to protect Buddhism from dangers, so that Buddhism will prosper for the 5,000 year period that has been foretold. We see that the Buddha taught the truth of arising, staying, and decline – always. The Buddhist religion arises, stays and will later decline. The Dispensation of Matreiya Buddha will stay for a very long time, but will eventually decline and disappear. This is normal.
Before, the Portuguese Empire was prosperous. The Ottoman Empire was prosperous. The Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan Empire was very prosperous. The Portuguese Empire spread far to the South of Thailand, down the Strait of Malacca to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. But it is all impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self all the same. Portuguese Empire disappears, then the Spanish empire comes in immediately. After the Spanish, then it continues and declines. There is World War and then there is the independence of these countries from being colonies of the European countries. It follows the principles of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self.
Take the example of Wat Marp Jan, which is located 10km away from the sea. But under the ground here, you will still find sea shells. So in the past it was under water. But now its dry earth. Other places in the world are similar. Before it was under water, and now it’s above water. Some used to be above water and now are under water. It all changes and revolves like this constantly. There is no certainty or permanence. So you need to train and contemplate the impermanence and the change of nature. Get to understand it.
The nature inside as well – that is our own bodies – that it arises, stays and changes – according to nature. Like the waters from the mountains and hills come down and flow to the sea and oceans. But if you wish it to go the opposite way, then you will suffer, because its impossible. The compounded material things such as trees, mountains, or other things humans create, they all fall under the truth of arising, staying and passing away. This is normal. If you learn about this clearly, then you will understand Dhamma. The body arises, stays and passes away. So you have to learn, believe and accept this point of truth.
Venerable Anya Kondanya, gained the eye of Dhamma, because he saw clearly into what the Buddha taught in his first sermon, that “whatever is of the nature to arise is of the nature to cease.” He was the first disciple to see into the Dhamma.
In the Buddha’s time, it wasn’t just monks and nuns that had high attainments of Dhamma. There were even many laypeople that had noble attainments. Like Anathapindaka and Lady Visakha, the chief lay disciples of the Buddha that we know of well.
But there were also other women then who understood into Dhamma clearly. There was Lady Mallika, who was the daughter of the King Malla of Kushinara. She married General Bandhula, who was a friend of King Passendi of Kosala, in the city of Savatthi, who had learnt arts and strategy together. General Bandhula, after being tricked by the King of Malla, moved his family to Kosala and became the Commander in Chief of King Passendi. General Bandhula and Mallika were married for many years, but still had no son. Because of this Mallika, decided to leave and to go back home to Kushinara. She went to go take leave of the Buddha first. The Buddha told her that if this was the reason for her leaving, then there is no need to go back. When she heard this from the Buddha, she was overjoyed because it would mean she would be able to have a son. Later, when she became pregnant, she had the craving to drink and bathe in the auspicious royal lake of the Licchavis, of the Vajji Confederacy, in the city of Vesali.
General Bandhula, went out with his chariot and his great bow, and led Mallika to Vesali. He cut open the iron netting that was protecting the sacred lake. Mallika bathed, drank the water, and, when she had finished, they went back in the chariot.
The Vajjian princes were enraged, and followed in pursuit. General Bandhula who was extremely skilled at the bow and arrow, told Mallika to tell him when all the chariots were in a straight line. General Bandhula then shot his arrow and it pierced all of the 500 vajjian princes through their armour. All of them died. He took her back to Savatthi, where Mallika gave birth to twin sons. In total, she gave birth 16 twin sons. They were all skilled and wise, and each had a company of 1,000 under them. The other officials became jealous. All these 32 sons were honest, unlike the officials. King Pasenadi was tricked by a plot of the officials and was scared that the sons would seize his throne. So he made up a plan to kill them – he told them to go out to quell an uprising at the border. When they went out, the sons and General Bandhula were all executed.
On that day, Lady Mallika was giving alms to Ven. Moggalana, Ven. Sariputa, and 500 monks in her house. One of the maids broke one of the pots of food. Ven. Sariputta told Lady Mallika that “What has the nature of breaking up has broken up. Don’t let it dwell in your mind.” Lady Mallika, showed them the letter of the news of the death of her family. She said, “This is the letter that my husband with my 32 sons have been killed. Even that news did not dwell in my mind, how would this pot breaking up dwell in my mind?” This is the amazing Dhamma.
Lady Mallika had great faith to offer alms every day, and her mind was excellent as well. She could see into the truth. Even when she lost her beloved husband and 32 sons, her mind did not falter. She knew it was the karma of her husband and sons. She believed in this fully. Or she might of known of this karma herself. With her mind not wavering like this, then her samadhi must have been very well established. She had to have a lot of wisdom, until she could have the mindfulness to look over the heart to this level. There is no need to doubt of the level of her Noble attainment.
We see how laypeople in the Buddha’s time practiced Dhamma and had wisdom. Even the women who saw clearly into the Dhamma. King Passendi sent a spy to check on Lady Mallika, and they found her telling the daughters in law that this was their husbands karma, and for them not to suffer over it. For them to accept the truth, and for all of them to go back to Kushinara. Lady Mallika also went back to Kushinara.
Later on, after the Buddha’s Parinibbana – when the procession left Kushinara to take the Buddha to the Makutbandana chedi, where the Buddha would be cremated, Lady Mallika met the procession and took off the mahalata gown and offered it to the Buddha’s body. This Mahalata gown is like a great gown – extremely valuable and extremely heavy. No one else could wear it. There were two women in the Budhda’s time who had great strength – Lady Visakha and Lady Mallika. After offering this gown, Lady Mallika paid her respects to the Buddha’s body and there was a great brightness that arose from it. This is the biography of her from the Suttas.
She had great mindfulness and firm samadhi, and wisdom arose. She was firm in understanding the truth and knew the law of karma. Her mind wouldn’t waver. She saw the truth of arising, staying, and passing away clearly. That is, she saw the Dhamma.
So may you all follow in this practice and develop yourself spiritually. This life, maybe you can see the Dhamma, or maybe in the next life. But it all comes from your building of spiritual development in the past. Lady Mallika did not just build her spiritual perfections in that life, but she would have built it in many past lives. Until this life where she had strength of mindfulness and firm samadhi that was complete, and this was the cause for wisdom to arise. She could overcome craving and attachments and see Dhamma clearly.
Take this as a teaching to remind ourselves that whatever we gain—our possessions and wealth—when we separate from them and we suffer, then contemplate this as something natural and normal. All things fall under power of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self. If we see this truth—then we see the Dhamma. This point of Dhamma is important.
May you keep practicing the Dhamma. You can see in the world that all the different empires – of Portugal, Spain, Ottoman, Genghis Khan – they all declined. All those that were prosperous eventually declined. The different cities in India that were prosperous in the past – they all declined. It’s all impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self. Develop your spiritual merits. Don’t be heedless. You have a good chance in this life to build and learn Dhamma. May you all grow and prosper in the world and in the Dhamma.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: This week, I talked about Lady Malika, and next week I’ll talk about the Bhikkhuni Pattachara to give you that story.
So you can see from the video and the story of lady Mallika – she lost everything – the beloved husband and beloved children and sons, 32 sons all at the same time and she was able to accept this because she knew the truth. And you can see that if she lost wealth or possessions she should easily be able to accept that. And so what about all of you? If you have things like this arise would you be able to accept it how would you respond and feel?
Q: If my wife and daughters will die today I can accept that I will I will be able to accept at least the kamma but then whether I can maintain my mindfulness that is another question. I don’t think I’ll be able to maintain for quite long and sadness will arise but I think that the kamma will help me to overcome that sadness eventually. One question then: Lady Mallika – she said that that was her family’s kamma, was does that mean? That she didn’t have any sadness arise at all in her?
Luang Por Anan: Lady Mallika had a very firm mind, a lot of strength of mind, of mindfulness. She could see this arising, staying, and passing away as something that was normal and so her heart would be to the noble attainment of sotapanna at the minimum but the level of her spiritual development is likely to have been to the level of an arahant that she had that amount of strength of mind of mindfulness and wisdom.
Q: I have my own personal experience of losing my mother. I suffered. When I was first seventeen years old or so when I went into college which is my first time living away from home there was so much homesickness, so much suffering that I was crying every day. The whole entire building, everyone could hear me cry. I already felt the kind of suffering from the situation and I started to question myself why at that time I don’t have the knowledge, so I was just in so much suffering. But many years later, about three years ago, my mother passed away at that time. When she passed away I was kind of not hopeful I can see that my feeling was not as intense as before I had the Dharma knowledge. But having said that it took me some some counseling sessions, a couple of counseling sessions, to relieve the emotions trapped inside after my mother’s passing. So from here I can really understand the suffering caused by losing people.
Luang Por Anan: That you are able to bring up the mindfulness or bring back your mindfulness that’s something that’s very praise worthy and I rejoice that you are able to do that.
Q: Hello Than Ajahn. I try to be mindful in my daily life, I put my attention to my body and my breath, but the problem is when I put my attention to my breath it becomes more heavy and heavy and heavy and until I cannot solve the problem.
Luang Por Anan: I see. So you are bringing up mindfulness on the breath but you’re also controlling the breath at that time and so it’s not left to its natural normal breath. So you can try to count the breath in pairs one with the in-breath, one with the out breath, and continue on like that and just breathe normally and naturally or you can use the meditation word Buddho in your your heart, internally, in order to bring up mindfulness.
Q: In the Pali Sutta like the Dhammapada there are so many stories about lay people attaining a high level of enlightenment. For example, a person like Citta who has attained Anagami even as a lay person and also there are stories of even children 7 years old you know attaining Arahantship as well. In fact there was a story about a child who ordained – when they were cutting off his hair and he was given some object at that stage he was even able to attain Arahantship. So it’s very amazing so under such circumstances for example the child how is it possible that a child can attain such a high level of enlightenment having not practiced meditation?
Luang Por Anan: In the example that you talked about, that type of person, their parami is full already and so they would have built a lot of parami or spiritual perfections in many lifetimes already until, in that life, that last life, they were born into their parami being already full. And so in in that life they would have gained faith and then when they establish their mind they would quickly be able to get to that level. They would had already built their mind so when they would just contemplate or investigate something and they would see the Dhamma and be able to attain all the way up to becoming an arahant.
Q: I also was thinking about the same thing is because of their past life the parami that they built up otherwise is seems to be impossible.
Luang Por Anan: Okay so you can compare it to as if we were very skilled in driving a car and then we stopped driving and we stopped for a very long time but then if we go back to trying to drive it will be very quick until we were skilled to the same level that we used to be able to drive that car. You can even see now that some children they are born and they quickly pick up many languages and this is likely to have been causes that they’ve built up in the past that they were able to gain this skill of many languages very quickly.
Q: I separated from my boyfriend of many months now, but I feel a lot of suffering. What can empower me or what advice is there in order to help me? How can I be more like Lady Mallika?
Luang Por Anan: A long time ago Lady Mallika was likely to have faced situations like this as well, these experiences like this where she lost a beloved ones, and she was likely to have suffered a great deal over it, as well. But, in this life, she had a lot of parami and perfections that she was able to have that level of mindfulness and wisdom to face that situation, that loss, so as to reduce suffering pain and suffering. We have to begin to learn about it – we learn that suffering arises because we have craving and attachment and that we have wrong view and so we keep bringing up our mindfulness with these painful emotions.
This suffering has a reason and this is our practicing of Dhamma. So we try to see suffering and begin to look at it and investigate it – so what is this suffering? Does it last a long time? Is it always like that, is it arising staying and passing away? We begin to learn like this and we also have used the qualities of endurance, having this patient endurance with these painful feelings to give you more strength in your practice in dealing with these painful experiences and suffering. You keep practicing in this way and it’s as if you’re training your mind and your mind will gradually build up more and more strength until you’re able to to let go of that pain and overcome that pain. And when you are able to let go and the mind will be free and at ease.
Does anyone in the other centers have experiences like this, you have a way to overcome?
Q: Yes, I have. It takes time to overcome, but you can use Dhamma. I have listened to Ajahn Anan’s talks regularly, and that helped me overcome my suffering.
Q: The last time I broke up with my girlfriend the next day I was on the flight to Marp Jan. So that’s how I overcame it. And now it’s been it’s been a quick five years since I last broke up with my ex-girlfriend. So yeah I suggest you make a trip to Marp Jan.
Luang Por Anan: You found a refuge for the heart, that’s good. It is not just lay people who have suffered this way. Kruba J, have you ever had something like this before?
Kruba J: For all the English speakers I told the story of in my past the girlfriends that I have had, at the time of breaking up or the decision to break up, which was my decision of the time, for all women that I have once been with, I saw that being with women or having a partner caused me a lot more suffering than caused me happiness. As being with a woman or being with a partner, one is worried about what they’re doing or there’s your partner worrying about you and wanting to know what you’re doing, where you are, if you being with someone else, if you’re going to go with someone else and it causes our own hearts a lot of suffering, a lot of unnecessary suffering. So through seeing that having a partner, or taking on someone else’s suffering, let alone our own suffering, it’s not the right path for this life, for anyone’s life, you know. What we’re looking for in this life is to find real happiness within our hearts, it’s not to create more suffering. So my feeling was if I want to move forward in this life, if I want to find real happiness, I have to let go of what’s making the heart heavy and what causes suffering so through that decision I chose to leave all the partnerships which was not many, those three if I put a number on it. I saw that it’s not the right way for this life – I need to do the best I can to overcome suffering and make this life worthwhile.
Luang Por Anan: So overall with everyone, everyone is going to face suffering of this type like you faced already, and so the way you overcome it is through your mindfulness and wisdom and that level is determined by your parami, how much you develop yourself spiritually in the heart. So may you keep going on with the practice so that you overcome your suffering and your hardships.
Translator: Ajahn Anan asked Ajahn Somchai, who’s vice abbot of Marp Jan and been ordained 41 years, maybe since he was 20, if he had ever had suffering or experiences of this type, and he said no. Ajahn Anan said, “Sadhu Sadhu.”
Luang Por Anan: Have a safe journey home.