Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – December 28th, 2018
L uang Por Anan: This is the last Skype session of this calendar year. We have been building goodness all year. Some come every week to Skype to listen to Dhamma. May you all be blessed with the power of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and the Bodhisattvas. May everyone have success, health, and growth in Dhamma practice.
Welcome to all of you from your centres. Today is Friday the 28th of December 2018 and it is the last Dhamma session for the year. We have been learning the Dhamma all throughout this year, we have been practicing dana, generosity, having a good intention to keep sila, morality, and practicing bhavana, developing the mind, and listening to the Dhamma. All of this is merit.
Last week I talked about The Venerable Great Elder Sivali, who was one of the great disciples of the Buddha, foremost in receiving gifts out of all the disciples. This was due to having done dana and made merit in his past lives. And now we look at one exemplary woman in the Buddha’s time, who we all have heard of, Lady Visakha. She was born having beauty, together with being the foremost in building goodness. She possessed the 5 beautiful feminine features. But in reality, Lady Visakha didn’t aspire to this. Instead she wanted to make merit and do goodness within the dispensation of the Buddha. She had the state of mind that wanted her heart to have cleanliness and purity, that which we call nibbana. She saw the happiness in the present, she made merit and also gained the results of that merit.
So when we gain the result of merit in the present, we experience the happiness in this present life already. Then we proceed to make more merit and this will come back to us as nibbana when our parami, or spiritual potential, is full. There was once in a past life, when Lady Visakha would go listen to Dhamma at various monasteries. On the way to going to listen to Dhamma at one particular monastery, Lady Visakha met with a Buddha statue that was built out in the open and was fully in the sun. That Buddha statue was cracked and the gold was peeling off. It didn’t look beautiful at all. Lady Visakha paid homage to that Buddha Statue and was determined to do an act of homage towards the Buddha. She made a vow of truth that when she got back after listening to Dhamma, she would hire an artisan to restore this Buddha statue, to make it worthy of being a representation of the fully-enlightened Buddha and to make it look magnificent. She paid homage to the Buddha statue and reflected on the virtues of the Buddha. When she got home, she hired an artisan to go restore and fix the Buddha statue to make it look even more beautiful than its original state. When it was restored, it was painted very beautifully. When one gazed at it, it was pleasing to the eye and to the heart. And then she had the artisan construct a roof to cover the Buddha statue. This caused Lady Visakha to possess the 5 beautiful feminine features.
This is paying homage to the Buddha, and that veneration to the Buddha has great might and power. So we can take Lady Visakha as our foundation in the building of our parami. Lady Visakha was an excellent female lay disciple and one cannot fault her at all for being only good on the exterior because she possessed mindfulness and wisdom, as well.
In one era of the past Buddha Padumuttara (pah-doo-moo-tah-rah), the Buddha Padumuttara was bestowing on one woman the status of being the foremost in offering dana out of all the female lay disciples. Lady Visakha of that era did great goodness and had the desire to gain that status as well. She then went along the cycle of birth and death in the human and deva forms for a very long time. And then later in the era of the past Buddha Kassapa (kah-sah-pah), Lady Visakha was born in the royal palace of the King named Kiki (kee-kee) of the City of Benares (beh-nah-rays). She was one of the princesses out of 7.
And coming to the time of our Buddha, all 7 of these princesses were reborn as great female disciples of the Buddha. They had all built spiritual goodness together for a long time. They all became arahants, fully enlightened, except for Lady Visakha, who realized stream-entry.
During this present era, Lady Visakha was born as the child of a wealthy man. When she left home to go stay at her husband’s home, the father gave a gift of lots of wealth and servants. Even the cows and buffaloes that were in the stall broke out and to follow Lady Visakha on her journey. And this was the merit from an offering of food. There was once in the era of the Buddha Kassapa, when Lady Visakha of that era, offered alms food often to the monks and novices. There was once when they said they had had enough to eat, and Lady Visakha then said that this food was delicious and that they should eat it, and then she offered more. The merit of that offering of more resulted in the cows and buffaloes breaking free to follow Lady Visakha even through they were tied up and kept in the stalls and stopped by the people.
We are all held to be the descendants of Lady Visakha and the wealthy Anathapindika (ah-nah-tah-pin-dee-kah), the best lay man in terms of giving gifts to the Sangha, in that we do dana and make merit, and are determined to keep sila. And this dana and sila will support and bless us with happiness.
Even for someone to keep the 5 moral precepts for just 1 day and 1 night, it has great benefit. But we all keep the 5 moral precepts regularly. And what are the results and benefits of keeping the 5 precepts ? The results of keeping the 5 moral precepts are even more than those from giving. Giving itself has great results, but sila has even greater results.
Like the 1st precept of not killing living beings. A fraction of the merit gives results that if being born as a human, one will be of good health, free from sickness, and have a long life, no enemy comes to harm us giving us injury, and to not have various accidents that end life prematurely.
And the 2nd moral precept of not stealing the possessions of others to be our own. Even the fraction of the merit from this, leads us to be born as human – and be born in a rich family as well. And one’s livelihood goes in a good way. One’s business will be prosperous and have wealth. We may see some people being born into good families and being rich in this life, this is because they have never stole from anyone. Their own wealth they even use to donate and to give. Here, the result is that they have wealth and that wealth is maintained well, and it is maintained by our goodness.
And the 3rd moral precept, that one doesn’t commit adultery with another’s partner, then one is born in this world, and the merit from keeping this precept is that one gains good luck in (love) relationships, and is likely to meet with a partner that is considered one’s true love and they are sincere to oneself. They won’t be heart broken. They will have children who are easy to teach, not badly behaved, won’t be taken by others, and the children will be appropriate to continue one’s status and lineage. This is the 3rd precept.
And the 4th moral precept, to not lie. The fraction of the merit from keeping this precept well, is being born as a human, one will have a beautiful voice, be worth listening to, and speak with reason and logic and have quick wit and intelligence in communications. In whatever dialogue, people will listen, believe one, and one can teach children or disciples with instruction well. This is the 4th precept.
The 5th moral precept of not drinking alcohol and intoxicants. The result of the fraction of that merit is to be born as a human and to have a good brain, have intelligence, think clearly, and whatever one learns one does so skillfully. One recalls easily, won’t be deranged or confused, won’t have mental problems, and won’t be stupid.
The results and benefits of the 5 moral precepts are great.
And each lunar observance day, or on the weekends, we all keep sila often. We regularly give dana. We listen to Dhamma and practice Dhamma regularly. How great is the merit that we have made!? We have been talking about just one fraction of the merit we have made – just the small fraction of the merit from sila can have those great results. But we do it regularly throughout this life, this whole year and for many years even before when we started these Dhamma video sessions we were practicing it.
And we have been doing this Dhamma video session for many years now, and we all will continue to do these video sessions and keep building goodness. And in the new year celebration you chant and meditate, listen to the blessing (paritta) chanting, and our minds are bright and joyous in doing goodness. And when our minds are doing goodness, they are free from greed, anger, and delusion. We keep creating and building on this goodness and merit. This supports us building the highest and most excellent spiritual virtues, and will ultimately lead to wisdom arising. Our minds will have radiance and be luminous and purity can then arise.
The excellent results that we have been building all through the year will bring us happiness in this life and the next life. And today is close to the end of year, where each year we chant over the new year. And this chanting and listening to the auspicious chants gives great results. One great result is that our lifespan extends, and we can do more in life.
So all of you that have done these great actions, in this period close to the end of year, may all the bad things disappear and stay far away from us. May any sickness that we have disappear. May all the bad things go away from our life and our family. May all the good, new things come into our life, all through new year 2019. May you have happiness, and gain all your aspirations. May you have good health, long life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence, and accomplish all your good wishes.
Questions and Answers:
Q: How many types of dana (giving) did Lady Visakha do, and who was her husband?
Luang Por Anan: She did every type of giving – she built a monastery, made monk huts, and offered cloth, among other types of giving. There is a story where one of her servants went to a Buddhist monastery. All the monks were bathing naked in the rain. The servant thought the monks were not Buddhist, but from a naked ascetic sect. After this Lady Visakha offered bathing cloths to the monks regularly. Her husband’s name was Punnavaddhana. Punnavaddhana was the son of a merchant. He did not want to marry, but if he did have to marry he told his parents he would only marry a woman with the 5 types of female beauty. The parents sent Brahmins around the country to find such a young woman – they eventually found Lady Visakha.
Q: If we do our best not to break sila, but we do not formerly take the precepts from a monk, do we still get benefit?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. Getting precepts from the monk allows the monk to explain what the precepts mean, but following the precepts in your actions is what is important.
The precepts are for actions of body and speech, so actions of mind do not break precepts.
Q: What are the benefits of the 8 precepts?
Luang Por Anan: We have more time to meditate, our body feels lighter from not eating after noon, we have more mental energy to succeed in practice, and have more energy to be happy in our hearts.
May you all have good luck, wealth, strength, happiness, wisdom, and build goodness all the new year.