Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – July 6th, 2018
Note: One can read this talk here.
L uang Por Anan: There are these four distortions of mind: seeing the impermanent as permanent, the stressful as satisfying, the not-self as self, and the not-beautiful as beautiful.
I want to speak about the practice of training the mind following the path taught by the revered founder of the Thai Forest Tradition, Venerable Ajahn Mun. He was one who practiced sincerely and wholeheartedly.
If we study the biography of Luang Pu Mun, he went wandering to practice in Sarika Cave. He practiced meditation there until he achieved noble attainment. And he met with one giant spirit, who guarded this cave. The spirit was very tall and large, and had a steel club that threatened to pound him into the ground. But Luang Pu Mun didn’t have any fear. No fear at all. Because he had Dhamma in his heart. And he taught Dhamma to the giant spirit with wrong view, to have right view arise and to believe in the law of karma. This giant spirit boasted that he had power and authority over others, and that he could get rid of all those staying this cave. It so happened that there had been 4 monks who had meditated in this cave who had died in this cave.
Luang Pu Mun himself became very sick to the point blood was coming out of his stool. Luang Pu Mun thought that he would be the 5th to die here. But with his determination, his mind entered samadhi and contemplated the bodily elements and all the sickness disappeared. And Luang Pu Mun could teach the giant spirit to reduce his ego and pride, to accept karma, and to not to do any more evil. And it so happened – that the giant spirit was actually a high level celestial being, and it took in Luang Pu Mun, highly respected him and protected Luang Pu Mun so he would be safe from dangers.
Here we can see that it isn’t that we die and there is nothing, but instead we die and follow our karma. Doing good karma, one is born in a good destination. Doing bad karma, the result is being born in a bad destination. Like the giant spirit who lived in this cave. Luang Pu Mun could teach them to reduce their ego and pride, to reduce the part that didn’t want to obey, the part that thought he was the best out of all beings. See its not that after death there is nothing. It’s not that dying as a human, one will be born as human always. Its not like that.
So we need to build goodness. Build our mind and heart to be better that before. Because we aren’t just born in this life, we are born in a great many lifetimes! It’s uncountable. But when we are born, then we think that we will live forever. But the Buddha taught us that all conditioned things – whether material or mental are impermanent.
It’s not that there is no self, it is that it is not-self.
If there is no self at all, then it enters the field that there is nothing at all – it is annihilated. But the Buddha taught that materiality and mentality is not permanent, and is not-self. It is conditions coming together, arising, persisting and ceasing. Whatever thing it is, it has the nature to arise, persist and cease. These things are not us, not ours, and are not-self. But the wrong view of ours that we call distortions in the mind, we have a lot of. So what are these distortions of view? This bodily heap and mind is not permanent, yet we understand it as permanent. This body and mind is suffering. It is not lasting. It must change. But we understand it as happiness. This body and mind is not-self, but we understand it as a self.
When we sit meditation here today, we feel at ease . But the Buddha said this bodily heap is suffering. When we sit here a long time, the discomfort, pain and weariness of the body arises. What is the thing that hides this dukkha or suffering? It is the change in posture that hides the suffering, when we sit a long time and feel discomfort and pain, we change posture to walk, lie down, or go stand, and the discomfort and pain is gone. When we then walk a long time, again we get tired and have discomfort, and then we sit again. And then that pain that is suffering is gone. Or we think sleeping is really good. But if we sleep a long time in that one posture, it is suffering again. We need to turn over to lie on our left side, then to the right side. Or longer than this, we need to change our posture to sitting. Can we see that this body is a heap of suffering. It cannot last and must break down.
When the breath ceases, or the heart stops beating, the body stops working – and we will be able to see impermanence arise. But the impermanence that arises in the present is here already – this arising, persisting and ceasing – arising persisting, ceasing. If we sat here and we didn’t breathe for 5 minutes, we would all fall and die right here. This impermanence, we don’t see.
The body and mind are the coming together of elements according to nature, that is all.
When our mind has greed, hatred and delusion, then we must have mindfulness to train the mind, to teach the mind, and to see the feelings – the various feelings that arise in the mind – as impermanent. Not us, not them. If we think it is us, we are deluded already.
When we see people walking here and there, we see that they are impermanent, not lasting, not certain. We see ourselves and see us as not permanent, not lasting, and uncertain.
Contemplate throughout our daily life. Sometimes we see the beauty of us or them, and then we contemplate again, is the body really beautiful? Why do we do this? Because of the distortions of the mind, it sees wrongly that the unbeautiful is beautiful. Like this body that isn’t beautiful at all – we understand it as beautiful – this is a distortion of the mind. When we can contemplate our own body or the bodies of others as not beautiful, then our mind becomes more beautiful and more radiant, because it sees according to wisdom.
And the mind that has peace and stillness, may then see aspects of nature like trees, mountains, or leaves that fall. We may see leaves that fall to the ground and we can contemplate them as dhamma. It may be an old leaf, a yellow leaf, a brown leaf, light green leaf that falls down. And this we can compare to the lives of humans. Some die in the mother’s womb. Some die as a child. Some as a teenager. Some in middle age, some in old age. It is not certain. Wisdom arises and we see impermanence.
We practice in whatever surroundings we live in. We are always with our body and mind, so practice to see impermanence more and more often. Do this continuously each day and the mind will progress and get better. May you all meet with success in the world and in the Dhamma. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: How long should we contemplate fallen leaves or other things?
Luang Por Anan: Do not think about how long to contemplate. Just contemplate when you see the fallen leaf – see your life as impermanent, as well. Contemplate inside.
Luang Pu Mun taught the big spirit to change its wrong views into right views. This is a great ability that came from the great power and skill of Luang Pu Mun. Not everyone can do this. Spirits have strong delusion and attachments, even stronger than humans do. They are very difficult to teach. Humans are hard to teach, as well, but then after death, if reborn as a spirit, then they are even harder to teach as spirits. We should practice well in this life while we have the chance.
Q: Did the spirit killed the four previous monks who had died in the cave?
Luang Por Anan: Those monks had old illnesses arise and kill them. Other monks had frightening visions that made them leave that cave.
Q: How do we overcome fear?
Luang Por Anan: Chant. Like the metta sutta, the ‘Group Protection’ Paritta chant, especially the ‘Appamano Buddho…’ verse, which means ‘limitless are the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.’ Think of the Buddha. Feel peaceful and feel confident that you could die for the sake of the Dhamma. Resolve that you are not there to hurt or harm anything, but only to practice Dhamma. Fear can vanish with good practice.
Q: How do we arouse spiritual urgency?
Luang Por Anan: This takes time. Keep practicing no matter what, no matter how you feel. If lazy, then practice. If energetic, then practice. Practice a lot and practice consistently.
Q: Every posture is suffering, like you said in the talk. How do we contemplate this with wisdom? Sometimes this contemplation depresses me.
Luang Por Anan: If you feel depressed this means your contemplation is wrong. You should feel freshness and fullness of heart when contemplating dukkha. Depression means you feel aversion. Liking is also wrong. Aim for the middle way.
Q: Is killing or releasing a bigger animal more demerit and merit than killing or releasing a small animal?
Luang Por Anan: What is the feeling in the heart when doing these things? One can’t compare big versus small animals, because the feeling in the heart matters, too. If one feels more when killing a cat versus an ant, for instance, this means more kilesa is required to kill the cat. Also, a big animal like a cow has more merit than a small bug. Like humans, killing humans would be against the law as well as against the Dhamma.
Q: What about killing a mosquito out of compassion to give it a better rebirth?
Luang Por Anan: Here is a question for you: if a big person swings his arms and hits a little person and kills the little person, how would the little person feel? When people in the world with much more power and influence than us alter or interfere with our lives, and we don’t have the power to fight back, then how do we feel?
Its about the intention to harm. Harming little things leads to harming bigger and bigger things. Like when a country harms the economy or welfare of another country, this is large scale harm. Each individual needs to develop lovingkindness then we can all live together with happiness and peace. Lovingkindness is a protection for the world.