Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – August 3rd, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
We should have lots of mindfulness—really pay attention a lot, be present, and be aware.
To give an example, mindfulness is like a dam that is built to store a great mass of water. If the dam is not strong, then the dam will have leaks, the walls will break, fall and collapse. And an incredible amount of water will spill out, and sweep houses, people, and animals with it to the water and ocean. Lots of lives will be lost.
The mind without mindfulness gets destroyed by the flood of thoughts, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and sights and our reactions to them.
The Four Noble Truths are about suffering, the cause of suffering, the ending of suffering, and the path of practice leading to the end of suffering.
And the practice that is easy and not difficult, is to have mindfulness and clearly know the conditions of the present moment.
Look after the mind well with mindfulness. If we can look after the minds well, we will escape the trap of the defilements. That is, we can escape suffering.
If we can look after the mind well, then these mental defilements won’t be able to do anything to our spiritual hearts.
The mind that is not going to liking or disliking, and is in the center, this is the path that will lead to the true Dhamma.
The easy and shortest way to practice, is for us to contemplate that there are many things that we hold as important in our life, but we need to learn that letting go of them is more important. If we can’t do anything about these important things in our life, then we need to let go. Accept the truth that arises.
In the beginning of the practice, we practice the merit that is made from generosity until that merit is complete. And then we build the merit that comes from determining to keep the 5 moral precepts to its completion. And greater than that, is the merit that comes from meditation or mental cultivation. It has the most significant type of merit. Because the person who gives donations, they could still do so with money that has been stolen, or cheated and obtained off others unlawfully. So they can’t compare with someone who has sila, or morality. But someone with virtue, still has the moods and emotions that have a lot of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ still. They have anger, dislike, love, and hate. But they can endure it. They cage up the mental defilements, in the mind and don’t act on them. They can see the heat of the mental defilements. Most of us, we are all making merit. We give alms, listen to dhamma, sit meditation, and develop the mind. That’s all building merit. But we need to have wisdom to maintain our merit. That is we need to have the knowing and clear seeing that there is no ‘me’ or ‘mine’ in reality. It only exists in a conventional sense. When we have this sense of me and mine like this, then the feelings that arises in the mind always distinguishes between me and them and this leads to the arising of pride, the arising of ego, the arising of a self and the arising of a ‘me’. We need to have mindfulness and wisdom in order to fix these feelings that arises in the mind.
This is the important foundation of the special austere practices that the monks undertake in the 3 months rains retreat. Like not sleeping, eating only in the bowl, in one vessel. Or practicing not speaking for 1 month or 3 months, or not sleeping on the weekly lunar observance nights. These austere practices are for the building of the strength of the mind that will fight the mental defilements that arise in the heart.
When we have mindfulness throughout the day while we are doing work and other activities, the foundation of our minds must be good. We need to have metta, loving-kindness. We want others to have happiness, we want ourselves to have happiness. We think to help others if they are in suffering, according to our ability and strength of mind. We train the mind to be ones that have a mind that rejoices in the good fortune of others with tender sympathy. When others have goodness, then we rejoice with them and we don’t let the mind be jealous. Or if others are suffering from greed, hatred and delusion, we don’t add on to increase their suffering. Because the mental defilements that are in our minds, like to pull people down – it likes to have jealousy, and lacks in loving kindness and compassion. When our hearts are imbued with the 4 divine abidings of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, then our virtue is maintained well.
So build mindfulness. Build a dam and the wall, that will protect against the sense impressions, moods, and emotions that enter the mind. Keep improving at it. When our mindfulness is strong, then we come close to the Buddha. That is, the knowing according to reality. This is the Buddha within the heart. We will then have the understanding that all material and mental phenomena is impermanent, unsatisfactory and non-self that this feeling of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is not existent. Why get angry, why hate, why love, why have prejudice, why fear? What is there to fear? Do we have a sense of self ? When we have a lot of fear it’s because we have a lot of delusion and we have little mindfulness. If our mindfulness has a lot of strength, then delusion, fear, and greed diminishes. This is the fight within our minds and hearts. The fight between the Noble spiritual path factors and the mental defilements.
If the mental defilements have more power, then it will damage the noble spiritual path, and the mind will have suffering. But if the noble spiritual path has more power than the mental defilements, then suffering reduces, that is called the freedom from suffering, or what is able to end suffering. So this nibbana – the coolness or extinguishing – arises in the heart. This is if the heart has wisdom – that knows clearly and according to truth.
Know when anger has arisen – and we endure it – we don’t speak or talk to them, we don’t look at their face, we don’t stare – because the anger will shoot out from our eyes. We must be restrained then. Have good restraint. Train this way often, and it will keep control over greed, anger and delusion.
We should know that birth and death is here. When there is birth, then there is death. When there is ignorance and craving, then we have suffering. If we walk the Noble Eightfold Path, we will see that we don’t get born and we don’t die. That is nibbana little by little that arises in the heart. So train in this way often. Have nibbana in the heart often, where the mind doesn’t get born and doesn’t die. That is, when the mind lets go of the moods, emotions and sense-impressions.
May you be determined to practice throughout this 3 month rains retreat and may you all grow in the dhamma. May you have the mindfulness that is strong like the dam wall that can protect against the all the sense-impressions and mental-impressions. So that the mind will be safe and free from all suffering. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: What is the reason people can understand the Dhamma during their first Dhamma talk? This is because of past spiritual virtues and past practice people have done.
Q: I think being in the present moment is very important. Being mindful of the breath also is important and can help the body relax. I was talking with my son just this morning about this topic.
Luang Por Anan: Yes. See everything come and go in the present moment, be with the breath, and have strong and continuous mindfulness.
Q: The present moment is a true refuge.
Luang Por Anan: Yes, with constant attention one can see the truth of reality.
Q: Is the goal to see anger come and go without reacting, or is to have no anger at all? Also if wise people do not associate with fools then how will fools ever see the Dhamma?
Luang Por Anan: Fools can try to be with the wise then the fools can improve. Also the wise can teach the fools without following their bad behavior.
When moods like anger arise just try to put them down. Then try to make the moods not arise at all. If mindfulness is weak then one must endure moods.
Luang Pu Chah taught that moods and defilements arise in the awareness of the arahant but do not affect the heart. Like drawing on water, the moods are there, but it is like they are not there. This is for you to contemplate.
Q: Someone says if he does not play the game with his friends then they will lose out on being with someone who has encountered the Dhamma.
Luang Por Anan: One must be careful here and ask oneself – “Do I have the strength to help my friends?” Sometimes the bad friends can drag us down with them. This could be his excuse to get his friends to not criticize him.
Luang Por Anan: When playing one can reflect: “Is this a good use of my time? Is there a better way to use my time?” Maybe one could play the game less.
Q: My father was sick with a feeding tube. He is dead now. I feel guilty and heavy hearted about this.
Luang Por Anan: Your intention was good – you wanted to care for your father. The father is like the arahant of the house. You did your best. Sometimes it is time for people to die no matter how good the doctors and people helping are. Do not be sad. It is not bad kamma. Forgive yourself.
Q: If a father is an arahant in the house, what is the mother?
Luang Por Anan: The mother is also the arahant. They are both like the arahants of the house.
Q: What should we do when loved ones get sick and die?
Luang Por Anan: It is natural for loved ones to die and get sick. Those helping them should make their minds and hearts bright and strong in order to help effectively.