Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – February 14th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: Today we will talk about metta and karuna, or lovingkindness and compassion. Lovingkindness is a quality that makes the mind peaceful.
When we have metta and love for one another, then peace arises in the heart. Metta increases inner peace and coolness of the heart. The nature of the heart is to have delusion, anger, and greed, which cover over the mind all the time. Metta helps the heart to be cooler. Normally, with delusion, one thinks of oneself first, but metta helps one to think of others like family and friends first. If one thinks like this with a mind of metta, then one attains peacefulness easily.
Metta is shared to oneself first, then shared to loved ones like parents, one’s spouse, children, friends, and so on. Develop thoughts of metta, then peace develops easily.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday about love, or metta. For us every day should be a metta or lovingkindness day. As soon as we wake up, we can start having metta for ourselves, having kind thoughts towards ourselves, then having kind thoughts to all beings. Have lovingkindness and compassion every day.
What is lovingkindness like? What is sacrifice and giving like? Let us study together.
Today we come together to learn Dhamma as we regularly do. Dhamma is something that when one learns it and takes it to practice, this will lead to inner peace and happiness. One who practices Dhamma gains happiness first, then so does one’s family, then the people around oneself, and then society and one’s country have happiness. On the other hand, one may have no Dhamma, one may have only selfishness, no sila, no morality, and maybe one keeps none of the 5 moral precepts at all. If one doesn’t have any of the moral precepts, then that person will bring trouble to themselves in their mind and then cause trouble and confusion to others around them. If the people around them also have no sila, no morality, then ultimately there will be danger to people in society.
We often see this in the news. Like ‘adinadana’, the precept about stealing, cheating others, and not being sincere to others. One takes the wealth of others and makes it their own. Or one tries to cheat and swindle when doing business and trade—doing it to the extent that it causes harm and makes other people suffer. This is seeing in terms of maximising one’s own benefit. In the end, the ones who have been cheated, they suffer, they are angry, and they have ill-will and want to harm others back. Those that have done the cheating may get harmed or even lose their life. This has happened a lot in the past. Sometimes there are those who are not involved in the situation but end up getting harmed in the revenge on those few who have been doing the cheating. We see this often, around the world, and recently with the sad incident that happened in Thailand. This was because of those without sila dhamma, who cheat others in business. They make suffering for others. So sila – keeping the 5 moral precepts, and even just looking at the precept not to steal and cheat others, not taking the wealth of others to be one’s own – keeping these precepts leads to peace and happiness.
The Buddha taught us to know to sacrifice for others benefit. I anumodana with you all here, who have this sense of sacrifice for others, who do dana regularly, maintain sila, who do chanting and meditation. This will lead to peace and happiness for oneself, one’s family, and those close to us.
We have already been born into this world that contains more deluded people than those that have wisdom. The Buddha has said that the Buddha wishes to kindly teach the few. Like the two horns of the cow compared to the many hairs on it. The people with greed, hatred, and delusion in this world are many, and the people who know and will understand the Dhamma are few.
But as we have already been born in this world, we spread a mind of lovingkindness to these people—one day they will likely have sila dhamma and have goodness. Some people’s minds have goodness, but it may only develop in the future, and then they may succeed in gaining nibbana in a future life. But in the present, they have greed, aversion, and delusion in this way. Even for us in different past lives, we have likely been like that, having had strong greed, aversion, and delusion. This is possible. But in this life we have a good chance to practice Dhamma, and this will lead to the arising of inner peace and coolness, while the ones who lack dhamma will have a mind that is dry and deserted.
There was one person from Holland who came to the monastery, and they said that they felt like their present life was dry and missing something. They felt like they had no happiness. The mind had no happiness at all. I said, “Oh, you just lack goodness, you lack Dhamma in your heart.” It’s like the trees in a drought—the trees are dry because they lack water. It is similar to a tree standing upright but close to death, like it has no life, the leaves have all fallen. This is like the mind of a person that is dry and that has no goodness. One can feel that life doesn’t really have much value. When we become aware of this, then we come and search for the way out. When we can meet with goodness, meet with Dhamma, and then practice Dhamma, then this will moisten and freshen up our minds. Just like when it rains, the ground becomes moist, then the trees and grass become green. The rivers and dams become full. Underneath the ground, the soil is fertile. It can support growing crops and food for humans. Humans get food and water, which are important resources to sustain life.
If we people become too dry, this is the mind not having sila. If one receives the result of some bad karma, the mind may subsequently have wrong view. Instead of forgiving, or instead of thinking of other ways to fairly deal with the situation, instead, one acts through the mental defilements. Such a person may harm others and even take the lives of many people. Or if they have really wrong views, they may even take the lives of those who have inner purity. This is because of very firm wrong views.
The Buddha said that associating with fools is not good. We must associate with wise people. To associate with fools is not auspicious, and it makes our own minds become fools, as well. If we associate with those people who cheat, who take advantage of people for their own benefit—then that is no good. This brings us down, too. Anger, hatred, ill-will, and revenge arise. This makes one deluded. If one associates with the fools in one’s own mind, that is, one acts in bad ways that are against sila dhamma, then it causes even more chaos.
Sila dhamma needs to come back for the world to have happiness. If sila dhamma doesn’t come back, then the world will be destroyed.
When we live together with others in the world, then when we have things, we share them with others. This is important. Luang Pu Chah in Wat Nong Pah Pong laid down an important monastic practice. He said that when we have any offerings or donations coming in, then gather it all together communally, and then share it out. There is no one who keeps things for themselves, whether it is monetary donations, food, useful objects, or any of the requisites. Whether they are gained from a house invitation or offered in the monastery, then gather it together communally. Then there is someone who is responsible for organizing and sharing things out according to suitability. Then there is peace and coolness, there is no arguing and fighting, and there is not so much greed in keeping things. There is no selfishness. If you have a lot, then share it out. Only use things according to what is the appropriate amount.
We can see in this world that when things are normal, when there is no disputing, then humans can share. But, in times of mass sickness and suffering, like the coronavirus spreading, then there start to be disputes, there is a lack of items for medical protection, alcohol, and so on. There is the arising of disputes and contention because one does and thinks of oneself first. This thinking of oneself first is normal and isn’t against sila, but sometimes it becomes excessive. Businesses try to gain excessive profits—more than what is appropriate. They may hold things back in order to get more profit. They may get personal happiness, but it is gained from the suffering and worry of others. Yet, humans with selfishness aren’t interested to know. They don’t think clearly about it, only thinking of themselves. Ones like this think of how they can get the most from the situation, and they think this will be good. But it isn’t good, because the mind has been eaten up by greed. Then one is not completely human.
So if you have anything, then share it with others. We have metta for ourselves, and keep for ourselves, which is not wrong. But, when we have more, then we share with others. For those in business and sales, it’s not that they try to keep things to push up prices so they can gain great profit. This is not right. This is the selfishness of humans, the selfishness in their minds, and this destroys one’s own happiness and goodness, which destroys the happiness of others, too. But, some at these times, they don’t raise their prices. They can see that they are helping the suffering of others. So they sell at the same price, and they don’t desire more profit than that. Even if the customer says that they should raise their prices a little more, because they must have other expenses coming up, and the shopkeeper may agree, but they still don’t raise their prices to the point where it makes others suffer. This virtue is praiseworthy.
Or in situations like we are experiencing, all the prices for goods like fresh food rise. But the shop owners see that people who come to eat and buy from them are long term customers. The shopkeeper is doing this type of business to have enough profit on which to live. The customer says to the shop owner that they can raise the food prices by, say, 5 Thai baht. But the shop owner says that if they maintain the original prices they can still survive. Then the customer eats from them and stays loyal to them. What the shop owner doesn’t get is more money, but what they get are the good feelings from their customers who come to eat and buy from them. And this feeling is long-lasting.
These shop owners sometimes close the shop for one or 2 days in order to go to the monastery to make and offer food for the monks. But when they come back to business, the place is full of customers as normal; the people don’t go anywhere. This is because the customers recognise the virtue, goodness, and purity of the owners’ minds that have metta.
So they help and support them. They are fully willing to pay for things at the store. This is long lasting.
The owners can lead a life that is pleasant, and they have a way to earn a living that is sustainable. This is from not wanting to have much profit. This is having sacrifice and sharing in a tough economic time. It is in these times that our goodness makes our minds fresh and uplifted. When we recollect these good deeds, then we have happiness in the mind.
So we can see that the world is chaotic. But this is normal. Even before this there has been chaos. Coming to this present day, it is even more chaotic, because the general level of sila of people is diminishing. In the future, there will be even fewer people with sila, and the world will get even more chaotic. So strive to build goodness. Make the mind bright. Have a mind of metta and compassion to others. I anumodana, rejoice, to all of you in your centres and especially the monastics, monks and novices, who have renounced in order to ordain, to practice bhavana, mental cultivation, and to seek a refuge for oneself—which, when they gain that, they will be a refuge for others, as well.
Especially to the many senior monks who lead the Dhamma practice in your large monastery, who have to sacrifice for their disciples a lot. I extend this anumodana to those who support them and the place, as well. I anumodana to all of those in the centres who have minds that wish to help and support, who do dana regularly, who chant and practice and see the drawbacks of the chaos in the world and in one’s mind. Strive to build goodness and merit. May you be safe from sicknesses and be in good health so that you can build a lot of goodness with your life. May you have success with all things in the world and in the Dhamma. May you grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: If I know someone is about to break sila (virtue), I judge them, I feel attached to my own viewpoint, and I also want to help this person. I feel lovingkindness and compassion, but I also feel aversion. How should I act? When should I speak or not?
Luang Por Anan: Look at the situation. Is the time appropriate to speak? How close are you to the other person? Look at the suitability of the timing, who you are speaking to, and try to find a skillful means like using a simile or comparison—not speaking straight to the issue, as this may be too much. Try speaking indirectly. Try a little bit at a time; only speak a little bit. Maybe one cannot change the issue all at once. You have compassion, which is good. Keep trying, as these things can take time.
There is a story of when our Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, was a Bodhisattva in a past life. The Bodhisattva had a friend who had great faith in the Buddha of that age. The friend realized the stage of enlightenment of non-returning, or anagami. The friend tried in many ways to get the Bodhisattva to go see the Buddha, but the Bodhisattva would not go. The friend, who cared greatly for the Bodhisattva, tried and tried to get him to go, then finally grabbed the Bodhisattva by his top-knot, which was considered very rude and inappropriate, especially for someone in a higher caste than oneself. The Bodhisattva reflected that this must be a very important issue for his friend to behave in such a way. Subsequently, the Bodhisattva went to see the Buddha, the Bodhisattva gained faith, and then he ordained as a monk. The friend couldn’t ordain as he had to care for his parents. So one must see—maybe one has to use great strength to change someone else’s mind successfully. This depends on the person and the situation. Try many times and see how it goes. In the end, you may need to practice equanimity. May you succeed.
2. Q: Who should one have metta towards—one who harms others or one who harms themselves? How can one give metta to these two types of people and how should one advise them?
Luang Por Anan: Give lovingkindness to oneself first, then metta to loved ones, then, if one has sufficient energy and strength, one can give metta to those with problems like this.
In terms of advice, one can teach the drawbacks of harming oneself and others. Harming of self or others comes from wrong view and increases suffering for oneself and others. The right path is to forgive oneself and others and do metta. Practice to see the benefits of not harming and the drawbacks of harming. Ill will towards self and others is suffering for oneself and others.
3. Q: A cruise ship wanted to dock in Thailand, and Thailand said no. Is this against lovingkindness?
Luang Por Somchai: If the people on board might have the virus, then the intention it to protect. If one accepts the passengers in one’s country then one must have a protection plan in place against the virus. One must quarantine people with the virus. If the virus spreads it could damage international relations. Practice metta to oneself and the public first. This is my view.
Luang Por Anan: There can be many views amongst the population of a country in regards to this. One can ask, does the country have the facilities to receive the ship? In the past, cruise ships were always welcome. Now, it is different. If some house robbers were on a long journey, and two or three of them asked to stay at your house, would you let them?
Luang Por Anan: This is because one isn’t sure one can make oneself safe. Have metta to oneself first, give oxygen to oneself first. Make sure one is strong first before trying to help others. Like in Japan, there are hundreds of sick people on the cruise ship. Other countries see this and maybe see that their facilities are not sufficient to take on a cruise ship. Countries must take care of public safety first—this is important. The ship in question never planned to go to Thailand in the first place. Thailand didn’t act against metta; this is metta to oneself first. It is not wrong. It is taking care of the Thai public first.
Q: Now with the orange alert people are scared. I feel sad especially for the health care workers. 500 of them in China got the virus.
Luang Por Anan: Yes, this is sad. Take care of others and oneself also. All people have self-love; all have love for self, family, and friends, but these workers have the job to help those in trouble. They have a spirit of self sacrifice even at the risk of their own safety. This is a high level of sacrifice and not easy. Their minds have a high level of wanting to benefit others. I rejoice and give my anumodana to the goodness that they do. May they be free from sickness and able to help others.
Q: Fewer tourists come here now. People are trying to make the area safe and preparing for the tourists to come back later.
Luang Por Anan: May viruses go away; may all be happy. May we study metta today, may we not harm others, may we not steal, may illness disappear, and may we try to help others. May we develop metta and karuna to all beings, and, if others suffer, then may we help them. May we try to help locally and far away. May we know our own ability. Like with the cruise ship, one could give food and water but not receive them. If the metta is too much then one can bring in upekkha, or equanimity. May we have metta and may all be free from suffering. Doing too much can be bad—if it is too much beyond our strength to help then one must practice equanimity; metta is one of 4 brahmaviharas, so one can include the fourth, which is equanimity.