Q and A with Lay Disciples 2021
Answers by Ajahn Anan Akincano
Q: Please might you explain the difference between samadhi and jhana?
A: Samadhi means the firmly established mind. Samma samadhi, Right Samadhi, is the mind firmly established for the the sake of contemplating in order to understand the Dhamma.
Jhana is happiness of mind derived from peace and one pointedness. The first jhana has five factors of applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness, and one-pointedness. The second jhana has rapture, happiness, and one pointedness, the third jhana happiness and one-pointedness, and the fourth jhana one-pointedness. These are states of deeper samadhi.
When one exits the jhana, then one goes to upacara samadhi, neighborhood concentration. This is the proper state of Right Samadhi within which one can contemplate to understand the 4 Noble Truths, to contemplate everything as anicca, dukkha, and anatta.
The path we are walking on now is that of contemplating in order to give rise to samadhi a little bit at a time, to give rise to Right Samadhi bit by bit.
It is possible to enter upacara samadhi; as one’s samadhi improves then one enters upacara samadhi. Sometimes one may enter the first jhana, then after one exits the jhana, one can contemplate to see the body clearly, to see that all rupa and nama are anatta.
Do not worry about this. Do one’s practice in the present moment. Contemplate anicca, dukkha, and anatta to give rise to emptiness bit by bit. The mind can then gather in samadhi that is good and stable and its possible to enter jhana and be peaceful in jhana.
However, one wants the paths and fruits of nibbana. The faster way to reach the paths and fruits is to use upacara samadhi to contemplate and see the Dhamma. Ascetics and hermits go into jhana first, but using upacara samadhi is a faster way. At first one has khanika samadhi, momentary concentration, and this gathers and accumulates a little bit at a time. Then upacara samadhi arises, which is close to jhana. This is correct samadhi. Jhana is peacefulness only. Usually those with jhana go higher and higher in terms of concentration but do not contemplate. Practicing by contemplating first as I have described above one also can enter jhana just the same, but upon exiting the jhana then one has Right Samadhi.
Q: Does anapanasati leads into samadhi as well as into jhana?
A: Yes. We speak of the 1st jhana, with its five jhana factors, as part of the anapanasati practice. One practices mindfulness and contemplates rupa, the body within the body —this happens in upacara samadhi.
With khanika samadhi one sees but not very clearly. With upacara samadhi one can contemplate and see clearly. With the strength and energy of the first jhana, upon exiting the jhana, then one can contemplate with even more enrgy. One uses both sati and samadhi. Peacefulness only is jhana. With less peacefulness one contemplates and brings up wisdom, one uses both peacefulness and wisdom.
Q: What is the reason, that lets one enter samadhi or jhana?
A: Do not think about jhana, this is too much, too high. Think about samadhi. Have mindfulness and use samadhi to contemplate. Practice not liking or disliking, letting go, contemplating anicca, dukkha, and anatta, and contenplating emptiness. Then samadhi arises bit by bit to various degrees.
In the beginning, the mind is not at the level of jhana, but the mind can gather together and is capable of seeing the Dhamma. The mind gathers to one point, one has wisdom, and one sees the Dhamma at this point—this is without using jhana.
-You are caring for the Buddhasasana and helping the monastics obtain the four requisites so that they may have the time and opportunity to seek the truth that the Buddha taught. As a layperson, it is more difficult as one has less time available to seek after the Dhamma. You help the monastics to obtain whatever it is that they need, which helps make it possible for the paths and fruits of Nibbana to arise. And you do this with a mind that lets go. The benefit of this is that it helps your mind to realize emptiness more quickly. I anumodana with your practice of dana that you do with wisdom – this wisdom which is important. May this merit help you to realize vimutti, freedom.
-Giving in the present is giving with wisdom, as well. You help others according to your strength and ability. In the world, we meet with those who are poor and we help as we are able.
-Where there is faith, one gives and helps there. Contemplate with wisdom.
Q: You mention in your message, that the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha brings prosperity in the Dhamma, to see the light of Dhamma and to understand emptiness and later you write about partaking of the purity of the Buddha by realizing emptiness. It looks, as if the Triple Gem would take fully care of us if we just follow their guidance, their clear teachings and if we whole heartedly surrender ourselves, based on proper Dana-, Sila- and Dhamma Practice. It sounds like an invitation to immerse freely into emptiness one day, if the causes and conditions are perfectly fitting. If there is a partaking of the purity of a Buddha by realizing emptiness, in my understanding it means, that then all these beings become Buddhas.
A: Yes, this is correct. Follow the teachings and this is the highest homage. Cultivate high wisdom to understand the teachings, and take the Triple Gem as one’s refuge. Follow the teachings and then one’s heart can be Buddha. This is correct. One’s practice of dana and sila helps one’s mind to be still and peaceful more easily. This dana helps to cut out and put down the sense of self. One sacrifices for others, and one has the 5 precepts as a firm and balanced foundation. Use wisdom to recollect often and bring the mind to stillness and emptiness. Contemplate all things as empty, which is Buddha.
Q: It is said, that the Buddhasasana will end in 2436 years. Does this mean, that the Dhammakaya of the Buddha will disappear?
A: In the future you mention, material development continues to increase and inner qualities decrease. People’s interest in Buddhism declines. The delusion of humans increases; people are lost. As the Buddhasasana declines, good people who die go to the deva worlds. Those who are born have no sila.
At the end of the 5,000 year period of the Buddhasasana, the relics of Lord Buddha gather together at Bodh Gaya. Then the Dhammakaya forms one last body that gives teachings to the devas (no humans present). After this, the relics disappear and the Dhammakaya disappears. After this, no one knows about the Buddhasasana.
People will not have sila and it will be all chaotic and disturbed in the world. We can see in the present that some people are not interested in Buddhism, have no religion, and so on – in the future the whole world will be filled with this kind of people. These are people who do not believe in rebirth, devas, merit and demerit, or Nibbana – everyone will be like this. Children could be born without parents using science and technology. Perhaps they were just ordered, made, and raised in a scientific facility. Then children could feel unloved, without mother or father, and without anything in the world. Machinery may replace parts of the human body – people will become lower. People will kill and destroy each other a lot. Humans will be as if animals. The Buddhasasana will be all gone.
Q: And regarding the word Dhammakaya, can you give a deeper explanation?
A: The Dhammakaya is the parami that takes care of us in the present. The Buddha can be described with three bodies – the physical body, the citta that is in Nibbana, and the Dhammakaya. In the sense of the Dhammakaya, this is the Buddha still here, the parami that takes care of all of us, which is something that some meditators can see.
Q: Certain places like the Ruwanwaheli Stupa or the tooth relic temple in Sri Lanka seem to have a very special powerful radiance and it seems that the Dhamma flows there in a special way. It is like a heap of Dhamma-energy which is present. Can you explain a bit more about this point?
A: These are places with parami, where devas come and take care of the location. People come with minds of faith to these places. The parami of the Buddha has been
called down, determined, to these places already. People with faith come, the parami is there, and when people bow and pay homage at these sites, piti and samadhi arise more easily, such as in the two places you mention. These are blessed and auspicious
places. One can connect with the parami of the Buddha at these sites. Even if you do not go there in person, you can recollect such places. Recollect the relics and goodness there, such as recollecting the Ruwanwelisaya Chedi or the Temple of the Tooth, one can feel rapture arise. This is Buddhanusati.
The relics of the Buddha have a special energy in them, a radiance. The Buddha is nature; Buddha relics have the energy already and no additional adhitthana is required.
On important days one can see these rainbows – one sees them in Thailand for instance during chedi or Uposatha ceremonies, among other occasions. The meaning here is that your group has faith in the Buddhasasana and can prosper in your Dhamma practice.
When calling on the parami of the Buddha, one recollects the purity, compassion, and great wisdom of the Buddha, and rapture can arise in the mind.
Yes, anywhere where people have faith the parami of the Buddha can come. For instance, you recollect the Buddha, and the Buddha is giving you lovingkindness already. It is up to your mind how much you feel this happening. If your mind is peaceful the feeling is more.
Rainbows also occur naturally of course but on special holidays or occasions they can arise, as well.
Determined here means to make the mind firm, to set one’s heart on a specific goal – one needs effort and khanti, patient endurance, to do this. For example, one determines to sit in meditation every day. Then one needs effort, khanti, and firm application of mind to accomplish this goal.
The parami of the Buddha is lokuttara, above the world; it is an energy that is lokuttara, it is pure, and it is there at these sites all the time.
Even if one is not at the holy site or special place, one can recollect it. When one recollects it, it is as if one is there already. If one travels there in person, this may give rise to annoyance and aversion of various types as one encounters the difficulties of physical travel. If one sits in meditation and recollects the place, one can feel full in one’s heart and at ease. Travel is more difficult. Such places can help give rise to peacefulness more easily and help one go to Nibbana more easily. One recollects the goodness of the Buddha and one feels full and happy. For instance, one could recollect Bodh Gaya, how the Buddha awakened there, one recollects what the Buddha awakened to, then one practices to follow the same path to awakening, as well.
Regarding how, out of the Dhammakaya bodies may get formed to give teachings to beings: Yes (these bodies being astral or heavenly bodies).
Anumodana. These are very good questions. May they help you in your understanding of Dhamma practice. May you see the Dhamma in this life.
We see the important anniversary day of Visakha Puja is coming up, which is an important day in the Buddhasasana. The Lord Buddha has great brightness and gave teachings to benefit humans, devas, and Brahmas – to benefit all beings. We get this benefit, we do goodness, we practice sila, and together this supports our practice of paying homage through bhavana. This is a benefit that you receive having made merit with Wat Marp Jan constantly. Another benefit is that the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha brings you prosperity in the Dhamma, to see the light of Dhamma, to understand emptiness.
We celebrate this upcoming important holiday and we respect the Lord Buddha. May all of this bring success to you in partaking of the purity of the Buddha by realizing emptiness – realizing the brightness of the Buddha in your own heart by seeing the Dhamma. May you have strong and balanced health.
Q: What about sports players and athletes getting samadhi? Can this samadhi give rise to spontaneous insight?
A: The samadhi is not stable enough, it’s too focused on outer goals and filled with a sense of self that wants to accomplish objectives. The samadhi keeps wavering or moving and has a sense of self mixed in. However, if one gets samadhi like this and then directs that samadhi to contemplation then this could work, but one would likely need someone to teach one how to contemplate.