What follows is a rough transcript of a Dhamma talk. One can listen to the talk here.
Monk A: Ajahn, excuse me, I just thought about something. It is coming close to Visakha Puja soon. When the Buddha was born, he walked 7 steps. 7 steps, Ajahn! A normal person won’t be able to walk at all. Do you believe this, Ajahn? What do you think about this?
Monk N: That is a good question. I believe that the Buddha could walk 7 steps, because he had built his great paramitas, perfections. It was his last life. But if we talk about scientific proof, it’s probably hard to verify. But in the present day, there are children who are gifted. At a young age, they can speak many languages, or they are skilled in various ways. These are possible.
Monk B: I believe it. But I think I can’t say to anyone else. Because what if they ask, is that really true? Do you have proof? We have no proof to show them.
Monk A: That’s right.
Monk B: If we say this and they don’t believe us.
Today, Tahn Ajahn is going to teach Dhamma. Let us go to him.
Monk A: I think we should go ask this to Tahn Ajahn. He may have an answer for us.
Monk N: This is a good question to bring up.
Monk A: Okay, let’s go.
Monk A: Excuse me. Before I was talking to the other monks, and I’ve had this question for a long time. When the Buddha was born, he walked 7 steps. 7 steps, Tahn Ajahn! An ordinary person can’t do that. Is it true that the Buddha walked 7 steps?
Tahn Ajahn: Here we have to understand that the Buddha was a normal human. But a human that had a high level of mindfulness and wisdom. He had the highest level of parami in the world. He was one who was developed, supreme, and who was skilled, having mindfulness and wisdom already. He was the most developed in the world. The most supreme in the world. The most excellent in the world. The body of the Bodhisattva was in his mother’s womb for 10 months. But this doubt you brought up, it may not have any scientific proof, which needs evidence and a basis in logic and reason. This is like compared to a person asking whether the Buddha could spread the Buddha sasana to all the 7 kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent. This was a Dhamma that really happened. This was the underlying determination in walking 7 steps. In this way then there is no need to argue between the current scientific way of thinking, and the way of the science of the mind, because they can come together in terms of Dhamma.
Monk M: Excuse me, I heard that before the Bodhisattva renounced, he saw a sick man, old man, a dead person, and a samana. But before that, the Bodhisattva knew that his mother had lost her life and he probably had seen his father getting older. Did the Bodhisattva have suffering then?
Tahn Ajahn: This is an interesting question. Because people may have had a father or mother, relatives or good friends passing away from them when they are children. Like the Bodhisattva Siddhartha, whose mother passed away. He had to have a special love and missed his mother. So after passing away from him, the Bodhisattva must have felt loss and separation. And they shouldn’t have had to separate. Because the Bodhisattva was a Prince who had everything. But however it was, the Bodhisattva had his royal Aunt, Mahapajapati gotami who looked after him and who loved him constantly like his mother. But his feeling of separation from his mother would have been in his heart. And he would have seen his father getting older as well. Until he went to visit the people of the city who had suffering because of old age, sickness and death. And then after seeing a renunciation who was determined to practise, then the Buddha was interested to search and find the way out of all suffering, for the benefit of all humanity.
Monk J: Excuse me. The Buddha taught about birth and death, birth and death, that we humans have to die and be reborn. My mother and father don’t believe in this. But I see that it is important. Does Tahn Ajahn have any advice on how to teach them, for Westerners who don’t really believe this?
Tahn Ajahn: Being born and dying, born and dying. To be born and then to die is suffering, right? Whenever clinging and attachment arises, then suffering arises then, right? So each day, the mind is being born and dying, born and dying already. There is attachment arising. When the eye sees a form, there is sometimes liking, sometimes disliking. Sometimes attraction, sometimes aversion. In one day, we are born and die many times over. This is more important here, to solve our suffering that arises in the present moment. If we know the path that the Buddha taught – that is sila, samadhi and panya, morality, concentration, wisdom – then that is the path that can solve our suffering in our mind.
Even if we don’t believe in the cycling through death and rebirth, in the cycle of samsara, it doesn’t matter. Take the present moment. The birth and death in this present moment. The suffering in the present moment. If we know, and we can let go of our attachment, then we will be free from suffering in this present moment.
Monk A: Excuse me, it is close to Visakha Puja, that the Buddha was enlightened. And the Buddha taught about Iddhapaccayata, which is a profound and a difficult to understand Dhamma teaching. And even though I am a monk, I still don’t understand this Dhamma. May Tahn Ajahn explain this easily, for us who don’t understand it?
Tahn Ajahn: In this Dhamma of Paticcasamupadda, that is, all dhammas or phenomena arise in dependence upon other phenomena. This Dependent Arising, it is only the wisdom insight of the Buddha that could contemplate and could see it in detail, that, ‘if this arises, if this exists, that exists’; with avijja, ignorance, then there is tanha, craving. With tanha, then there is upadana, clinging. When there is upadana, there is becoming, birth and suffering. The Buddha could see this with clarity and detail. Because the mind of the Buddha was extremely refined, in terms of samadhi and wisdom. But when putting it into our practice, we won’t have the mindfulness and wisdom to see clearly and separate them out. Can we see that if we have something hot, like a piece of steel, that is smouldering all over, where can we touch it that is cool? Is there Tahn Icaro? It’s red hot. If you touch the top is it hot? (Hot) If you touch the bottom is it hot? (Hot) If you touch this part is it hot? (Hot) Wherever you touch, it is hot everywhere. This is upadana, attachment. So upadana to what? In an easy way, it’s upadana to rupa and nama. What we can see easily and clearly is the rupa, the body. When we are born as a child, we already have upadana. When we like or don’t like something, we make a noise or action to let our parents know what is happening with us, to help us. And when we get older, we have upadana, we study and we are worried about failing the exam. We fear all sorts of things. Asian people may fear ghosts or spirits, because it’s been put into their heads. But Westerners may not fear this, because it’s something that can’t be seen so why would one be scared of it? But they may fear the crazy people that come to hurt, shoot, and kill. That we can see happening often in the present day society. They are scared of this.
And the people nowadays, what are they scared of? They fear the Covid-19 virus. They fear the vaccine. When there is no vaccine, they want a vaccine. When there is a vaccine, then they want another brand. This is just tanha, craving. And then what? Then they are afraid of the side-effects of the vaccine. In conclusion, this is all the fear of death, fear of separation. It is only the Dhamma of the Buddha that can overcome separation, that can overcome the mind to have mindfulness and wisdom. This is the path we walk to open the door of the inner Buddha – that is the path of sila, samadhi and panna.
In the beginning we have dana, giving, first. Right? Then we practise Dhamma and can see the truth. In terms of the mind, we should look. Have mindfulness. Sometimes we have feelings of happiness, sometimes of suffering. The way of liking and the way of disliking, leads to the arising of becoming and birth in the present moment. Here, we should have mindfulness to know this in time. But it’s not that we will know it straight away. We gradually know and head this way. Bit by bit. It’s like eating one mouthful of food for someone who has not eaten for a long time. Like there are some monks who have fasted for 15 days or even 49 days. If you eat one mouthful of food, will you feel full? We are practising too. We sit meditation 1 hour a day, for a month or a year, and how much mindfulness and wisdom this brings we can’t say. This is up to one’s spiritual accumulations. But we have to follow the path that the Buddha has taught. The most supreme path of sila, samadhi, panna. Do it. This is the path that will lead our minds out of suffering, truly. So may we do this. Don’t be heedless as well.
So what will you do to puja, homage the Buddha on the full moon day of the Visakha coming up? How will you pay homage? Tahn Icaro, what will you do?
Monk I: Itipiso 108x
Monk N: I will try to recollect the virtues of the Buddha, and take some of the practices of the Buddha as my example, like his self-sacrifice, his effort, his patient endurance.
Tahn Ajahn: Yes, recollecting the virtues of the Buddha, is the easiest way to have rapture arise. If we are one of full faith, then it’s easy. What about the Westerners here, what will you do?
Monk M: I like to develop metta like the Buddha taught. Like bowing to the Buddha statue, bowing to the Kruba Ajahn.
Monk J: That day I think I will put in more effort than usual. Determined to do more meditation, have more endurance.
Tahn Ajahn: This is good. If we think that this Visakha Puja day we are going to be more determined, but then we should also think that after Visakha Puja has passed we will also be more determined like this. And do even more than this. Bit by bit, until our effort is good and our determination is at a good level. This is like walking step by step to the path to true liberation from suffering. May you all be determined. Practise Dhamma fully. All of us and all the laity.