Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – March 6th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: We come together to discuss and learn Dhamma as usual. We discuss and chant Dhamma tonight as we do every time we gather, and we contemplate. These are methods to reflect on the Dhamma and the virtues of the Buddha. We do this regularly, we make this a habit, and, after contemplating, we make the mind peaceful and still. This discussing Dhamma is a highest blessing.
Learning and studying Dhamma is not just sitting in meditation—we can chant, like we did today, chanting the Ratana Sutta that the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught the Ratana Sutta out of compassion for the residents of Vesali, who were suffering from a plague. The Licchavis, who lived in Vesali, adorned themselves to receive the Buddha. When the Buddha reached the front of the gate of the city of Vesali, due to the power of the Buddha and the Buddha’s parami, a great miracle arose. There was a great rain which poured down, the type that flooded the whole city and washed away all the corpses and all the disgusting things away to the Ganges River. The Buddha told Venerable Ananda to learn the Ratana Sutta, which we still chant to this day, which begins with, ‘Yaŋ kinci vittaŋ idha và huraŋ và …’ The Buddha sat in meditation and spread metta, until it became bright. Then the Buddha took blessed water and sprinkled it around the entire city until it was also bright. The next day, Vesali City reverted back to its original state, and the people had their normal lives and happiness back. This all came about from the power of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
The Bojjhanga Paritta, which we also chanted today, comes from the 7 Bojjhangas, or 7 Factors of Awakening, which are part of the 37 Wings to Awakening that the Buddha taught. The 7 are: investigation of Dhammas, rapture, effort and energy, mindfulness, tranquillity, samadhi or concentration, and equanimity. The noble disciple Venerable Maha-Moggallana was sick, and, when the Buddha taught him the 7 Factors of Awakening, then Maha-Moggallana contemplated this teaching and had rapture and happiness arise. He then recovered from his illness. Maha-Moggallana already had Dhamma in his heart and was able to recover.
Perhaps we do not have strength to that level, ourselves, so, we practice patient endurance, or khanti. We might have pain and feel tired so we need patient endurance with unpleasantness as well as with greed, aversion, and delusion. We sit with pain and aches and practice patient endurance—this is one of the highest blessings in one’s life. Let us now study about khanti in the Dhamma video together.
Welcome to all of you with faith in Dhamma. Today we learn Dhamma from the Mangala Sutta, the Buddha’s teachings about the blessings of one’s life. As we know, it begins with: 1. Not associating with fools; 2. Associating with the wise; and 3. Homage those worthy of homage. These are the highest blessings. These initial qualities are important. They are the correct steps to take. If we associate with fools, then the fools lead us to meet with incorrect things. This is wrong view from the very beginning, and it doesn’t lead to self-improvement. So don’t associate with fools on the outside, and also do not associate with the fools on the inside, that is, the mind that is like a fool. We associate with the wise, that is, the ones who have true knowing, those wise people that advise us on what is good and bad. The wise are those who advise us to give up evil, to cultivate the good, and to purify the mind, following the teachings the Buddha gave on the day of the Ovada Patimokkha. When we associate with wise people like this and give them homage, then they will advise us with things that are blessings to us.
Today I will also talk about a deeper Dhamma subject, that is, the Dhammas that make one beautiful, which is also contained in these highest blessings. This is, khanti, patient endurance or forbearance, and soracca, gentleness and composure.
Khanti is patient endurance or forbearance. This patient endurance makes the mind strong and firm. If it is compared to a warrior, then they would have a strong mind in terms of fighting. We can see these days in our world there is no large scale war that has arisen, but we can understand the warrior that has a strong mind. Instead, these days, there is the white gowned warrior, that is the doctors, nurses, other health-care personnel that are fighting a war with the Covid-19 virus. This war is an important war. There are many doctors, nurses, and medical personnel of different countries, especially the ones in China, who have lost their lives in this war. But the ones left must fight and endure in order to save the lives of those who are sick. Even though they love their spouse, children, and parents, they need to have the endurance to fight patiently, and they may even have to sacrifice their own life. This is forbearance.
This forbearance has 3 characteristics. Firstly, forbearance by refraining and holding back. When one has anger, then one bears it patiently. When one has tiredness and fatigue, one bears it patiently. This is the forbearance in terms of body and speech. If you endure a lot, then austerity (tapa) and power (teja) arise. This is a firm strength that arises more than that of an ordinary type.
The higher forbearance than this is bearing with the rough and bad words of another—we can turn them around to become our friend. One is swore at, criticised and told off, one is struck and hit. Whatever it is we bear it patiently. If one is a subordinate, one is able to endure until the boss has thoughts of metta, kindness, towards us.
The forbearance that is more difficult is for those who have power. They are the leader or boss, and they have forbearance towards their subordinates. This is really hard to do. This is because they are able to use their power, so they need to have a higher forbearance than an ordinary type. It’s not the same as the forbearance of the subordinate towards the leader, as the subordinate needs to do it so they can survive. Those that have power and parami over others need to have forbearance. They may meet people who criticise and curse them, and it would be easy for them to use their power to even take their life, but they don’t do it.
The Lord Buddha was the foremost in forbearance. He had the supreme spiritual perfections. In the life that he was cultivating sila parami, the perfection of virtue, he was born as a naga-King named Bhuridatta. He lived in the naga realm with happiness and ease, but he couldn’t undertake the 8 moral precepts there. So he went to undertake them in the human realm. He was caught by a snake charmer and was forced to perform all sorts of tricks. He also received all sorts of torture. But, the Buddha patiently endured it because he was cultivating sila parami, and it was on the level of paramattha parami, the ultimate level where he would rather sacrifice his own life rather than not to refrain. He wouldn’t harm others in terms of actions and speech, and likely in terms of the mind he also wouldn’t wish any harm on others. This was the Buddha practicing forbearance. Who could have forbearance to the Buddha’s level? It was 1 of 10 lifetimes where the Buddha practiced to cultivate the highest parami, for the attaining of Buddhahood—all done for us. This is the great and boundless compassion of the Buddha that is unequalled. This is forbearance.
The other quality that makes one beautiful is soracca. This translates as being gentle and composed in body, speech and mind. One makes the mind radiant and joyous. The body is composed because when one has patiently endured, then one doesn’t show any abnormal, harmful gestures. Those that have been insulted and slighted by others, and felt hurt by others, they don’t retaliate. They still smile and have radiant features. Their face is not sullen and sour because anger has arisen. They can patiently endure it. They can compose their bodily features and their speech well. How ever much pain they receive, they don’t moan about the pain they are in. They have a high level of forbearance.
There was 1 senior venerable monk who was known to be well-practiced and attained. He had great pain because he had stage 4 Cancer. I paid respects to him and asked, “Luang Pu, how are you doing?” He said, “I am fine”. He said he was fine. And, not long after this, he passed away. His words, “I am fine,” for him it meant that he was fine in terms of the mind. But his body was just following conditions. His speech was normal and he had great forbearance.
There was another senior monk, who was my teacher, named Luang Pu Bunnaa. Even though he was in great pain, he opened his eyes, looked at me, and his eyes were sparkling. He had metta and asked me, “Anan, have you eaten yet?” He was patiently enduring his pain, and his heart was full of the quality of metta. This is really rare and this was a true disciple of the Buddha. He was a direct disciple of LP Kaao Analayo, Wat Tam Kong Pean, along with LP Fan, LP Gongmaa, LP Chob, and many other revered teachers. So this means that to train in Dhamma, this makes our mind radiant and pleasant. It makes our body composed and restrained. When one has pain and suffering, one isn’t overwhelmed by it. One has high patient endurance.
Like doctors, nurses and medical personnel, in the present situation who are treating the patients who have the Covid-19 virus. They have a high patience. They fulfill their responsibilities. And there are even those that have given up their life for this. I anumodana all the goodness they have done, all of them that have sacrificed their lives for others. May you train and develop in these 2 qualities, khanti and soracca. If we have these 2 qualities then this will be a blessing in our life, and it is the walkway to nibbana. It is a step for us towards the ending of suffering.
Even if we haven’t ended all suffering, we will still have beauty arising in the present. Beautiful actions, beautiful speech, and a beautiful mind. When we train in this way, samadhi, meditative concentration, will arise. If we train in samadhi, and we sit meditation and feel tired and in pain, we have an itch on our body, sometimes it is cold or hot, if we don’t bear it patiently, then we won’t be able to meditate. But, if we bear it and endure it, then that is productive and a blessing. We patiently endure against pain, cold, heat – we don’t waver in the face of sense impingements. We have khanti. The Buddha praised someone like this as one who can attain to the ultimate virtues.
There were many disciples of the Buddha who practiced developing their meditation close to a chedi high up on a mountain in Thailand where the weather was frosty and very cold. They were cold and numb all over their bodies. I have sat meditation and had some numbness, but just until the feet and legs. They had numbness all over the body. But, they reflected on the suffering of being born. How difficult it was. Or they reflected that, once they died, the body would be as cold as a hell realm and dissolve. These were their meditation reflections. They had the patient endurance to keep meditating. And, in the end, they were able to attain to nibbana. We can see that this patient endurance is the excellent virtue of an ascetic. We all want to be a Dhamma practitioner, one who is on the path to sotapanna, stream-entry. This is one who see the drawbacks in vatta samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death. If one practices like this, then one will go deeper and head to nibbana.
The next virtue is to be easy to teach and advise. Those who are hard to teach and advise are in danger. The Venerable Radha Brahmin was easy to teach and advise. He was praised by the Buddha as being foremost of those who were easy to teach and advise. He listened to the teachings of Ven. Sariputta and did not hold onto his conceit that he was older and was of high learning. He received all the teachings that he was given. Ultimately, he attained to becoming one with the highest wisdom, he attained to becoming an arahant. His virtue of being easy to teach and advise was a great blessing.
There are examples of those who were hard to teach and advise . The Yakkha Nanda saw Ven. Sariputta enter deep concentration and wanted to show his yakkha friends that he was going to give this samana, ascetic, a blow on the head. The friends said that this samana was of great power and great might, he was extraordinary. The friends tried to dissuade him 3 times, but Nanda the Yakkha wouldn’t listen. He gave Ven. Sariputta’s head a strong blow with a big club. Ven. Sariputta was in no danger, he just had a bit of pain on his head. As for the Yakkha Nanda, he dropped to Avicci hell. This is one who is hard to teach and advise. He didn’t listen to his friends’ good teaching. He had good friends and associated with wise people, but he did not listen. He just listened to the foolish person inside his heart, and so this blameworthy conduct arose.
We can see in our present day society that this virus is spreading in many countries. It is able to spread because there are people who are hard to teach and advise. Sometimes there are places that have a higher risk to catch this virus. One may have to go there out of necessity, out of duty, or one has to earn a living there to support one’s family. If one doesn’t go there, then one’s life will be difficult. But, sometimes one is enticed and tempted to go there by the cheap costs in that country. One can get cheap air tickets. The ones who do business in that place try to entice us. Ultimately, one can’t restrain oneself and goes to those places that have a higher spread of the virus.
Then, when those people come back, they try to hide from the government that they have gone to that country and that they could potentially be infected with the Covid-19 virus. Instead, they should tell others to be careful around them in case others could get infected. They must tell others to be careful. This is sila, correct speech, practicing according to the law, and this is having metta and karuna. If they do this, then this is good, and that means they are easy to teach and advise. However, those that are hard to teach and advise, when they come back to their country, they hide information, and this is breaking sila. This is wrong in terms of Dhamma, because they lack metta. They have no metta in their heart.
They are ones who are hard to teach and advise. Why do they do this? Because they are scared of being quarantined for 14 days and losing their freedom. But, before they went, they didn’t think about this. They just thought about having fun. This isn’t people that don’t have money making other people troubled, but it’s the people who have money who are deluded and associate with the fools in their hearts. This causes many others to become troubled.
Some people would say that although they usually wouldn’t have a chance to travel like that, and though they could go now, still they will just go to visit the local beach. This is good. Just make the heart good and have virtue and sila. This is merit already. There is no need to see other countries. Especially during this difficult time, there is no need to make society more chaotic. Those who make society more troubled are people who are hard to teach and advise. It destroys one’s own benefit, it harms one’s family, and many others become troubled. This comes about because of craving. They want to save money, and they want to holiday in this situation that we are in. This is worth considering and being careful of.
We must look after ourselves—for us, for our family, for others around us, for our society, and for our country. This gives only benefit. This is restraint and forbearance. No matter how cheap tickets are, we won’t go. We have to patiently endure this feeling of wanting to go.
Patient endurance, gentle composure in body, speech and mind, making the mind radiant, and listening to Dhamma at the appropriate occasions—these are blessings of one’s life and are part of the 38 highest blessings that the Buddha taught. So practice these, and, when the blessings arise within us, then our minds will receive the highest benefit. Others around us will receive the highest benefits, as well. If we have many people practicing like this in whatever country, then that place will prosper, because those people respect the laws, they listen, and they are easy to teach and advise. I anumodana with all those in Thailand and around the world that are easy to teach and advise, because this will give you inner happiness and give happiness to society and your family. May you all grow in Dhamma and in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: What are the qualities of vitaka [initial application], and vicara [sustained application]?
Luang Por Anan: Vitaka and vicara are not thinking—vitaka is taking the breath as the object of the mind; putting mindfulness with the breath. Vicara is knowing: how is the breath? Long or short? What quality is it? If we have vitaka and vicara, then piti, or rapture, can arise. Vitaka and vicara lead to more mindfulness, which leads to rapture. One can also look at vitaka and vicara when using the recollection of the Buddha as one’s meditation. One thinks of the purity of the Buddha, brings up the special quality of purity, which enters deep in the heart, that there was no kilesa, defilement, there, and thinking of this gives rise to rapture. This is not the same as thinking normally, like thinking here and there, one feels sad, small-hearted, depressed, and so on. The thinking I am speaking about here is thinking in terms of kammathana (basis of action; the meditation object), thinking on one object, which then gives rise to peace and stillness.
2. Q: Can one apply vitaka and vicara in daily life like in work or study?
Luang Por Anan: Vitaka and vicara like this are for making the mind peaceful, having rapture and samadhi, and being with one object. Vitaka and vicara with study would not make for rapture and peace, but would lead to learning and understanding—this is not the same as using them for samadhi.
3. Q: Speaking in terms of Right Speech as a Noble Eightfold Path factor, is it wrong to recommend to another person not to associate with another individual who is a bad influence?
Luang Por Anan: This speech is not meant to harm another but to protect another person. Bad speech is speech that harms others. The speech you mention is from metta, advice for a friend, and has a good intention. Wrong speech is when one speaks harshly, speaks in a way that brings no benefit, speaks so that another person loses out, or is speech that comes from a mind of anger and hatred.
This speech is from metta and has dana and sila in it, as well. For example, another person has a cough and other symptoms, but they are wearing no mask to protect themselves, they are sneezing, and so on. One could tell one’s friend to watch out for that person with flu symptoms; maybe they have the coronavirus. This would be right speech. Would you tell your friend?
4. Q: Does the virus have life? If we use alcohol to kill the virus, is this demerit?
Luang Por Anan: Demerit is heat—it makes the mind hot. Suffering arises due to past demerit. If one does not use alcohol then gets sick, is this demerit? Or if one makes others sick, is this demerit? If it was bad to wash your hands, would you still do it?
In terms of not killing it should be a being with breath. Bacteria and viruses are not to that level, they are too small to be in the five precepts. If the mind feels like “I must kill the viruses” and feels aversion, then this is bad, this is wanting to destroy. One should change one’s thinking to being about protecting oneself and others. Make it a wholesome intention. We wish ourselves to be strong, happy, and well.
5. Q: We should not associate with the inner and outer fools. Can you explain the inner fool more, please?
Luang Por Anan: The outer fool gives bad advice, has bad behavior of body, speech, and mind, and they lead us to bad actions of body, speech, and mind, as well. Thoughts in the mind that want to do bad are the inner fool. This is kilesa, or defilement—greed, aversion, and delusion in the heart which destroys goodness in us. One must have lots of mindfulness with the inner fool. We have the inner fool already, and the inner fool leads us to the outer fools. Then the outer fool makes our inner fool come out more. Be with wise individuals, who help our inner fool to become less and help us control the inner fool—this is sila Dhamma, the Dhamma of virtue.