Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 8th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone.
Two weeks ago, we discussed the gratitude of a child towards their mother, as in the example of the Venerable Sariputta, who demonstrated his great gratitude towards his mother by helping her achieve stream-entry before he passed into parinibbana.
Tonight, we will look at another aspect of the mother – child relationship: in this case, how it is better to not judge, but to let go and have kindness.
When we come to the monastery to practice, we are coming to learn about our own mind – this mind that is the hardest thing to understand. It’s harder than understanding other people, or understanding different aspects of the world. There are so many things in this world that it becomes confusing. We can’t even know it in its entirety. Even if we learn about it our whole lives, we still won’t be able to understand it all. Or even over the span of many lifetimes, our knowledge about the world still won’t reach completion.
And the minds of other people are even harder to understand than this world—even our loved ones, for instance, your own child – who you have carried in your womb, and cared for since they were young. Even they are hard to learn about, hard to understand. But, if we can learn about our own mind, then we will be able to understand clearly about the world and clearly about other people.
Today, I have a story I want to share with you, and for you to reflect on. There was one family – a mother who had a small child. This mother was still quite young herself. One day she saw her child holding 2 apples – one in her right hand and one in her left. The child looked very adorable. The mother was full of love and care towards her child, seeing her child delighted that she had 2 apples. The mother wanted to play around with her child, to test the child, to see whether she loved her mother. So, the mother asked, “Child, little child, can I have one apple?” She had the full expectation of a mother and father who had given everything for their child, that just asking for one apple, they would definitely give it to us. But, it wasn’t so. The daughter, hearing the mothers request, instead of giving her mother one apple, the child extended her right arm, put the apple in her mouth, and took a bite out of it. The mother began feeling uneasy. Even some anger was building up. She started to feel disappointed in her child, “Look, she has 2 apples and can’t even give me one apple.” The mother had the thought, “If I had 2 apples, I could give her both apples, even if I had to go without any. Even my own life I could give to her.”
After this, the daughter extended her left hand that was holding the other apple, and put it in her mouth and took a bite out of it. Now, the mother was feeling faint while standing up. She was completely disappointed. She thought, “This child is so young, and just having 2 apples she won’t give me any. Later in the future what will my child turn out like?” The emotions of worry, fear, and love all came up in that young mother. She felt very hurt, to the point she felt like she was going to collapse while standing up. But because she was the mother, she was strong and so could hold in her emotions – all the disappointment and suffering. Yet she was likely crying inside.
Now, the daughter extended one apple to her mother and said, “Mother, take this one, this one is sweeter than the other one.” Just that much, the mother’s heart was full of joy and happiness. She had the feeling that her emotions and thinking were wrong. Even this small child had mindfulness and wisdom, and she was too judgemental of her own child. She wasn’t able to keep her judging in check. The hurtful emotions had already entered her heart, which led to thoughts and ideas arising. But, being a mother who had love and care towards her child, she could hide her displeasure.
So, you have to contemplate – your own child, that you gave birth to, you looked after, there are some things you won’t understand deep down in their minds. And what about the others close to you – your co–workers, or your friends: will you know their minds well? Sometimes you will think bad of them, get offended, misunderstand them, about many things about the people around us, and maybe this arises a lot. So be very careful.
In the beginning, we have to have the virtue of khanti, patience, first and foremost. When we have khanti, then when we receive emotions that are unpleasant and damaging, and we create thoughts and ideas that are negative that see the world as bad and undesirable, we can keep control over our mind. The khanti, patience, doesn’t let the emotions and thoughts burst out to our speech and actions. We need to maintain our speech and actions well and keep them restrained. This is called having soracca – being peaceful, gentle and restrained, and looking after our actions and speech well.
When we have patience, then when we look at the world and other people, we do so with loving–kindness and compassion. The ones we look at may have some form of suffering in their hearts. So don’t look at them in a negative way, look at them with kindness and compassion. Then we won’t look at them in a negative way. If we look at them in a negative way, it may not be according to the truth of the matter, we may see wrongly. We can’t believe our thoughts and feelings because they arise from delusion and from a sense of self that the mind creates. So, we need to be careful, like this story of this young mother, trying to test her little daughter, and she ends up misunderstanding her. Then what of your friends, co–workers, and those in society, – we won’t really know them that well. Even if there are a lot of bad people in the world, we still need to hold the principle that our hearts must be full of kindness and compassion first. View people in a positive way first. Because there are still many other people that are our true friends, good people, that we can depend on when we are in times of difficulties. Even currently they may be helping us in our work and duties, and doing so wholeheartedly. They don’t do it pretending, or for the money. They don’t want things from us, they do so out of love or true friendship. We have to recognize their goodness.
Or those people who give in to us all the time. They don’t argue and conflict with us. It’s not that they don’t have mindfulness and wisdom, but they have the desire that where they come together with others – in work, society, and in the family – the important thing is to do so peacefully. That peace is able to arise only when the mind has Dhamma. The mind that tolerates others, even when they are in the right, they will still listen to the other party’s arguments. They may even ask for forgiveness when they are the ones who are right. Why? Because they want conflicts to end and for it to be peaceful. This is how in society – the family, at work, in the community – unity and love for one another arises. Why is that? Because of tolerance. The people with virtue make peace arise and disputes end because of them. Even if they are right in the matter, they can still ask for forgiveness without hesitation. Even when they give money to others to help them, they do so because they have love for their friends, not to make people love them. But it happens naturally, because those that give will be people who get back.
These people have a sense of sacrifice, and overcome any selfishness. Things to do with money they don’t see as important, but they see friendship and kindness and love as most important. So, when you are in society, don’t be too hasty to decide and judge other people. Think and reflect first. Have patience first. Have restraint over your mind, imbued with kindness and compassion. Be established in goodness, that is called having sila dhamma, this fundamental human morality. When this mind has sila dhamma, the mind is courageous. It is courageous to win over greed, hatred, and delusion in our hearts. This courage isn’t the type that is willing to hurt others’ hearts. That is someone who has no courage. The one with real courage is the one who is willing to be victorious over their own minds.
May you all practice and train your spiritual hearts. When you think positively and think in a good light, then that will clear away the negative thinking from the mind. This is right thought, thoughts that have benefit – not harming oneself and others. One that can do this has wisdom. Wisdom in the Buddhist sense. So, don’t decide and easily believe that our thoughts are correct. We have to contemplate thoroughly over it many times. Examine it in terms of causes and effects first. Because the things we think up and quickly speak on may be very wrong. These are qualities that we have to train in, we need khanti – patience, and soracca – peaceful in our actions and speech. Our minds are firmly established in kindness and compassion. All beings are born having suffering, and wish for happiness and to escape from all suffering. Have the courage to have sila dhamma. Thinking from a point of goodness and virtue. When we practice like this, our mind will have happiness in this world, and we will make the different social groups – in the world, our families – to be peaceful as well.
May you all grow in Dhamma.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Can you explain the phrase “The Dhamma protects those who uphold it”?
Luang Por Anan: Sila, Samadhi, and Panya each take care of the person who has them. These three qualities prevent unwholesome states from arising, decrease suffering, and lead to happiness.
Q: Recently a man parked his car and blocked my driveway. I called out to him a couple times “Hey, Sir! Please move your car, I cannot get my car out of my driveway.” He did not respond and kept walking away. So, I went to his house and asked again, and he ignored me again. Then someone else in the house did sign language to him, and he understood. Then I finally realized this man was deaf. It reminded me to not judge others based on initial reactions.
Luang Por Anan: That is correct. Very good.
Q: I feel lost in my mind while meditating sometimes.
Luang Por Anan: Usually the mind is very busy—we practice and gradually make it less busy, less restless. Use the breath or “Buddho”. Do your best not to get caught in the past or future, then calm will improve and peace of mind is built. If lost come back to your meditation object.
Q: I feel responsible for the workers under me, and they smoke. How can I help them stop smoking?
Luang Por Anan: It is difficult to stop this addiction. Remind the workers about their care for their family, friends, or children, and remind them that smoking leads to cancer then early death.
Smoking addicts can use stress as an excuse, like the older brother of a monk here. He said he had to smoke to reduce his stress. Then he found out he had lung damage that would lead to cancer, and he gradually quit smoking.
Q: How much should I practice as a layperson?
Luang Por Anan: This varies from person to person. Do lots of dana, but make sure you don’t hurt yourself by giving too much or make your life more difficult by giving away a lot. Also, sila is very important.
Q: Some asubha [the unattractive/not-beautiful, usually of or relating to the human body] images are arising in the mind, and I also contemplate death to reduce lust—is this a good way to practice?
Luang Por Anan: Asubha already addresses lust, so no need to add death reflection. Focus on seeing the body as it is, and knowing it will eventually die.
Q: What if we judge someone to be kind but in reality they are not kind?
Luang Por Anan: You need to be careful here, have mindfulness, and reflect wisely. There are many with ill will in the world; true goodness is rare.
Q: Do ghost and hell beings remember the family of their previous life?
Luang Por Anan: Lower realm beings suffer a lot, receiving the fruit of past kamma. Share merit with these beings. They can remember their past family.
There is the story of King Bimbisara, who, after proving a meal to the Buddha and the Sangha, did not dedicate merit. Then he heard scary sounds that night. The next morning, on being questioned about this, the Buddha said lower realm beings were making sounds and needing merits to be shared with them. After that the King again offered food and then dedicated the merits of this to the lower realm beings.
Q: Can you share stories from other realms of existence?
One story is when I was walking for alms at the front of Wat Marp Jan, a man dressed all in white carrying a large bag walked by. I asked him what he was doing, since it was 6am and unusually early to see someone at the front gate to the monastery. The man did not reply and kept walking. Even the dog saw him and followed him. Then he just vanished and the dog was looking around to try to see where he went. This I saw with my normal eyes. Maybe I will share more next week.