Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – March 2nd, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
Today is the 1st of March 2018, the day of the year we commemorate Magha Puja. This day falls on the full moon of the 3rd lunar month. We should all know that it is one of the holy days in the Buddhist calendar. On this day the Buddha gave the teaching that is considered the heart of the Buddhist religion. The essence of these teachings is to not do any evil, to cultivate the good, and to make the mind clean and pure.
So what does this mean, not to do any evil? These days technology is so advanced. And with this, it is even easier for people to engage in bad, unskillful or evil actions. If one isn’t happy with someone, then they can quickly go and send messages to harshly criticize them. This is breaking one’s sila or morality, specifically the precept of musavada, or wrong speech. Usually when there are unskillful thoughts in the mind, this is bad conduct in the mind, but in the past we wouldn’t let it out into our speech or actions. But these days when there are bad or unskillful thoughts in mind, we let it out into the world of social media. We let others receive and know about it. This is a mind that is hot and is unwholesome. We let it out in our actions, and if we record and send our voice – then it’s through our speech. So from the thoughts in the mind, it becomes unskillful conduct in our body, speech and mind. It happens really easily.
In this modern era, the Buddha still taught us to give up all that is bad and evil in terms of our body, speech and mind. In the past, there were many who had siladhamma, or a normal level of morality. For instance, King Bimbisara, the King of Rajagaha in the Buddha’s time, and 3 segments of his accompanying retinue attained to becoming sotapannas and 1 segment became firmly established in the Triple Gem. This is similar to what you chanted earlier taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, by chanting, Buddham Dhammam Sangham Saranam Gacchami, and dutiyampi and tatiyampi for the second and third time.
In the time of the Buddha, there were many of the population of the city of Rajagaha who were firmly established in sila dhamma, or virtue and truth. But in these days, though there are rapid advancements in technology, sila dhamma, this level of normal morality, has disappeared. The practice of getting rid of evil, cultivating the good, is even less.
But no matter how it is in the world, many of you have come today that are determined to practice getting rid of evil, cultivating the good and purifying the mind. Today this hall is full. There is no less than 400 people, probably 500 people here. Your intentions to get rid of evil, do good and purify the mind is something praiseworthy and for that I rejoice with you. When you sit meditation here together, and undertake the 5 moral precepts, then you have given up evil in terms of body and speech. In terms of the mind, you know the in and out breath, keeping control over the mind. Then the evil and unskillfulness is gotten rid of in body, speech and mind.
Our determination to keep the 5 moral precepts is in the area of merit. By avoiding evil, doing good, and training our mind to have Samadhi or concentration, our merits grow. And this training our mind is very important. Why? Because our minds can’t stay still. It thinks thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future. The old memories, they come up and we think over it. There are memories we like that arise, then we think and ponder over it, there are memories we don’t like, and we think and ponder over these. They arise in the present. Happiness and suffering arise in the present. But at this time now, we establish knowing with the in and out breath – when the breath comes in we internally recite Bud, when the breath goes out we internally recite Dho. Determine to maintain mindfulness with our breath.
Or before we develop mindfulness in this way we can think of goodness – specifically, the goodness that we have done in the past. It can be dana or our generous actions, or the sila, the morality, that we determined to keep, or the meditation that we have done – and by doing this, the feeling of rapture arises, fills and floods the mind. So we think of these things first as the object of the mind. Some people who practice generosity gain a lot of inner joy from this. And when they think of these generous actions at any time, then peace arises within. This is called merit that arises from bhavana or meditation.
You can recollect the morality you have determined to keep, and the mind feels fullness, the heart is full of peace and joy. This is meditation – the training to develop Samadhi – already. So, it can be the generosity that we did in the past or the 5 moral precepts we have undertaken – we think back and recollect it and it becomes our meditation object. We gain feelings of rapture – a feeling of fullness and joy – the hairs standing on end, the tears flowing uncontrollably, the body that feels very light all over. Sometimes the body is so light that the mind floats outside of the body. And sometimes we come back to the body and see this body as not attractive and not beautiful. The mind that goes out of the body is another type of body, it is beautiful like the body of a deva, or divine being. But it still comes back to the physical human body that is dirty, but we continue to use the human body, because we need to keep building goodness. This is possible and is the subject of Samadhi.
If we continue to train and the body and mind are light through building goodness – this is cultivating goodness to its fullest. When we do it more often – we just think of doing merit and we feel internally full and happy. Sometimes we have to quickly do these acts of goodness, because we feel the heart is full. The Samadhi that arises is like this.
So, we all should recollect our goodness in the beginning of the meditation and then establish the mind on our breath until the mind becomes still and peaceful. And where will wisdom arise? The wisdom arises at the place where we have mindfulness that knows that the mental proliferations are not us. We will see them as simply conventions. For example, we are building this Chedi here – it is 45m tall, and 16m wide, and with the verandah it is 28m wide in total. We may think that the chedi is big and really high. But if we compare with others, there are buildings that have been built higher than this. They construct some buildings which go to a height of 1km, 1000m. Ours is then really small. Or others make a chedi smaller than this one. So, if we don’t proliferate anymore, then this chedi isn’t small or big. If we want a chedi bigger than this, then this chedi is too small. But, if we want a chedi smaller than this one, then this chedi is now too big. It is the mind that proliferates that constructs the labels of big and small in the heart. When we see things as just right – all things are anicca, dukkha, anatta – impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self – it is all emptiness, there is no being, person, self, me or them. Here we see conventions, then the mind becomes liberated. This is the arising of wisdom.
So, in the day we need to have moments where we see things in this way. Sometimes we see things too positively and other times too negatively. We need to see things more in the middle until the mind gets empty. Wisdom arises. Here the mind becomes clean. It’s about building up wholesome qualities of dana, sila, samadhi, sati, and panya, or generosity, virtue, concentration, mindfulness, and wisdom. We are letting go of evil. Humans are all born having greed. But we do giving, and then we can give up evil or unskillfulness. And it isn’t that we give and we want to gain more heavenly results than we have done. We give 100 baht and want to get 1m baht. This doesn’t add up. It isn’t equal. We give, and we give up that attachment to that wealth. The mind is then at ease and has inner joy. This is merit that is full.
If it’s giving that has wanting to get something in return, then the merit is small. It becomes greed in giving, or foolish merit. The merit is too foolish. We have to give in order to give up this self. We share with others and do it with a heart of metta. We don’t harm ourselves, we don’t harm others, and we don’t give in order to look good. We are not giving to compete with others, but we are competing to give up this sense of self, this feeling of me and mine. This is called doing dana. Not just dana by giving money. It’s also giving through helping out like providing services to the monastery or for public benefit. All the sacrificing, this is all dana. When we do this often, then we don’t have the greed that wants to have the wealth of others as our own. We give up selfishness to one level.
We have sila or morality – like today you have sila and have undertaken to maintain sila. And, if someone comes to tell us off or criticize us – what will we do? Let’s say that we didn’t do what they blamed us for. We then have to endure it patiently. In the teaching on Magha Puja, the Buddha taught: khanti paramam tapo titikkha – that patient endurance is the greatest incinerator of the mental defilements. So try to endure and see what happens. We do something good and they say we didn’t do good – can we bear it? Can we endure it?
Our Buddha was the highest and the best, there is no-one as good as the Buddha, but he still had to receive criticism and blame by people. The Buddha gave them his metta, loving kindness. The Buddha didn’t receive that criticism and blame. When he didn’t receive it, then the person who gave it had to receive it back, that is the karma of that action. The Buddha said to one Brahmin who criticized the Buddha, “If one doesn’t receive a gift you give him, where will that gift go? The Brahmin answered, “Back to me.” “Now, you criticize and blame me, and if I don’t receive it, then this you also have to take it back.” The Brahmin was able to regain his mindfulness and thought of it in the right way. Even the Buddha who was a great person, a fully enlightened Buddha, had pure metta karuna with no bounds and no equal – still had to receive criticism.
When I was with Venerable Ajahn Chah, I had to hear people complain, “Ajahn Chah is an arahant – why does he have so much greed then, and want so much land?” At that time, Wat Nong Pa Pong had around 80 acres inside the monastery wall. And Ajahn Chah bought the surrounding villagers’ land and extended the monastery walls outside. The villagers just wanted to be close to Ajahn Chah. But Ajahn Chah foresaw that, in the future, the material development would encroach and the monastery wouldn’t be peaceful. So, he expanded the monastery first. He expanded the land outside the inner wall one more level, so that Wat Nong Pah Pong would be peaceful for much longer. But the villagers didn’t know, because, at that time not many people came in to the monastery.
So they criticized that “Ajahn Chah is an arahant, why does he have so much greed and want so much land.” But Ajahn Chah was unmoved. Because he knew what he was doing. But for us, if we receive criticism, can we put it down? If we can’t put it down then the mind is still averse. This is normal, but we need to endure it. The Buddha taught that patient endurance is the highest incinerator of the defilements. You can see the mind that is hot and we want to argue and complain back – we want to harm them back.
If we follow this, then there is unskillfulness arising for both sides. These days, can you see on the road, just a small incident, and someone takes out a knife or a gun and shoots the other. And someone has to die. It’s really dangerous on the road! There are people rushing, people speeding, people being selfish, people with mental defilements, people not giving in to anyone. There is no thinking of not doing any evil, no thinking that they will endure and be patient. So, we have to be very careful when we go out on the road. Being dhamma practitioners, if we meet anything bad and harmful – then we must have endurance and loving kindness. If they want to go ahead, then let them go first. They are suffering – they must have some type of suffering to make them rush like that. We maintain our mind with mindfulness well established. It’s the training.
Sometimes if we have anger come up, then endure and bear it. Why? So that we will train our minds to reach nibbana. The Buddha said that nibbana is the highest of all. When we let go of evil, do good, and purify the mind, we want to go to nibbana. So then, in the beginning, we need to patiently endure first. Try it! When we do this every day, every month, every year – then we are at ease. When there is 1 person who is peaceful on the road, then it can be peaceful, because we have sila dhamma.
Like here, you gather together, 500 people, and we are peaceful in body and speech. Can you see? It is not noisy. It’s quiet. This is peaceful in body, speech and mind. It’s like we are truly paying homage on this holy day. The Buddha gave the Ovada Patimokkha sermon to 1,250 monks who were all arahants, who came together without any prior notice. And this occasion didn’t arise easily at all. In our Buddha’s time this only occurred once. On this day the Buddha gave the principles of the Buddha’s teachings. So we give our homage to this and recollect them. I Anumodana and rejoice with you all. May you be determined today that you will give up all evil, cultivate the good and purify the mind. And that you will have the utmost patient endurance. This is giving homage to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. May this determination of yours be the cause for you to all gain nibbana. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Do we need mindfulness to know if we are doing bad or not?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. If we do not have mindfulness, we will keep doing bad.
Q: Is it okay to travel around to relax and learn new things as a layperson?
Luang Por Anan: As a layperson on the 5 precepts this is okay, you can relax and learn.
Q: How can I overcome guilt? Should I confess what I did wrong even if it will make my friends or family not like me so much?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, you should confess and put down the guilt.
Q: In the south of Thailand Muslims offered things to some monks, and the monks were kind to the Muslims. Is this a good way to help resolve the conflict in the south?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, if there is metta from both sides of the conflict then people can live happily. In Singapore, people from many religions live peacefully together.
Q: How can executioners and other people giving out harsh punishments, how can they find peace in themselves?
Luang Por Anan: If they can they should change their job. If they can’t then they can make their intention good while executing, like thinking that they are helping society, or thinking that the person being killed is just receiving the results of their kamma. They should not act out of anger, but they should keep their minds in the middle. In Thailand executioners ask for forgiveness first.