Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – April 12th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: This is the time of Songkran, or New Year, in Thailand, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. Traditionally one sprinkles water and gathers together as a family, like Chinese New Year for Chinese people. We will talk about family today.
Last week we learned that for the mind to have happiness in life, it must have the 4 divine abidings of metta, or loving kindness, karuna, or compassion, mudita, or appreciate joy, and upekkha, or equanimity. When the mind has these 4 divine abidings to a good level, then the 5 moral precepts can be maintained with ease. This is because, with the four divine abidings, we are happy when others do well, and when others make mistakes out of delusion, we don’t punish them for it and we have equanimity. We wait for the time when we can help them according to our ability.
There are many types and expressions of equanimity. But, equanimity is not where we don’t do anything or where we aren’t interested in anything. That is called having ears, but acting deaf or having eyes but acting blind. This would be acting as if one doesn’t know and doesn’t see. It isn’t like that. When we gather together in groups, then we have to help each other out. We have metta and karuna to each other. This is important. But though we may have some metta and karuna arising in our mind, the life of a lay person that is married and has a family isn’t a life that is smooth all the time.
And today we will learn from a Zen story. There was one woman who was telling her problems to one Zen master. She said that many years ago when she was a young woman, she married a man that was about 10 years older than her. Back then, the husband looked so impressive. But after being together for many years , he changed. There was none of that excitement left, none of that interest left, like before in the past. It was gone. That image she had seen 10 years ago had disappeared. She asked the Zen master, what is the reason that it turned out like this? Was it because getting married is the graveyard of love?
The Zen master told her “Don’t think too much about it. Come, follow me.”
The Zen master led her to walk in front of the mountain and asked, “How do you find this mountain?”
“It is very high and beautiful” she said.
“Then, follow me up this mountain.”
All the way up, they didn’t speak and just kept walking, walking, walking. Because where they were walking was steep, the woman began to get tired . She had no more strength left. The walking track was very rough. She was getting tired and started complaining, in the way that she usually liked to complain. When they reached the top of mountain, the Zen master said that this mountain that you saw back then, it isn’t beautiful at all. On the path there are just rocks, and the plants here are not beautiful.
“That other mountain over there looks much more beautiful”, she said to the Zen master.
The Zen monk laughed and said “You have come here now and can see the truth of what this mountain is like. Before you were in love together, and that was like when you saw the mountain from far away. Your eyes had just praise and admiration. But when you were married, that is like walking up the mountain. And what you saw is just the normal, ordinariness of what was already there in each other. But you hadn’t seen this normal and ordinariness before. You only saw the good points of each other, and had praise and admiration for each other. Like walking up this mountain here, when you reach the top of it, what you see is only the other mountains. You don’t see this original mountain that you have climbed.
In reality, the mountain never changed, it was just your mind that had changed. Because your mind had changed, then what you paid attention to changed with it. When you had no more praise for each other, then the love lessened. And then when the mountains get bigger, the more you will blame and complain, and then the more harm this will cause. Why? Because when you only see the mountain that is beautiful, then you will never look at the inner mountain. In other words, what is your own mind like? So why complain so much? Wouldn’t it be better to walk together … see together … look inwardly … see oneself … have patience together … work at overcoming your problems and difficulties together. Isn’t this better? This is better than complaining, which only does damage. This is the truth that you meet after you get married. The longer you are married – then you need to have even more patience than before. This is the teaching.
Here you can see that when you climb up this mountain, if you get discouraged, if you aren’t truly intent and sincere, then you can’t reach the mountain-top. You have to have a sincere intention that you want to truly learn about your own suffering. Like here, you followed me up to the top of the mountain, and even though you had suffering and difficulties, you had the sincere and firm intention to get to the top of the mountain – and I did not even say a word to you. Even if you do complain and grumble, but you have patient-endurance and you can struggle, then you still can get to the top of the mountain. In this way you have Dhamma to restrain this mind. You have khanti, patient-endurance, and you have self-sacrifice of your time. So this is an important Dhamma teaching for lay people who live together as husband and wife. They need to have truthfulness, sincerity to each other, and patience against all the harmful moods and emotions that come up. And when, sometimes, their patience isn’t enough, then they need to firmly restrain the mind even more. They need to self-sacrifice and help each other. With these important Dhamma qualities then laypeople can lead a family life together. So may you use these Dhamma principles in your lay life. Please be careful what you pay attention to. Don’t just look only on the outside of oneself, but look inwardly, see yourself and your own mind. In this way you will gain success in your lives.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: I live with my parents. I see my mother lying to my father. I’m not sure if I should intervene and say that my mother is lying.
Luang Por Anan: Look for a good time and opportunity. Sometimes one speaks the truth but the listener gets more sad or angry or upset. One may say what is true but problems increase instead of decrease.
2. Q: Why do married couples today argue over small things and get divorced so often? In the old days they did not do this so much. They had more patience and endurance.
Luang Por Anan: Let us ask your mother. She is from the old days.
Mother: I don’t know. Many things are different between the old days and today. Its because the way older generations were taught and the traditions they kept. Modern people don’t see the traditions as much. Also in the old days people had more children, nowadays there are fewer children and children get spoiled. But I think children these days can still be good.
Luang Por Anan: What do you do when you fight?
Mother: After fighting I try to come to an understanding. Nowadays people don’t have the patience to come to peace after a fight. Parents spoil the children from a young age and the children grow up with very little patience endurance.
Luang Por Anan: The word for ’world’ and ‘darkness’ is the same in Pali: “loka”. As the world develops, then darkness develops. In the past when people travelled they used a lot of patience, for example. They travelled by foot. Or when sending something in the post office it took time. Now it is faster. The more the world develops, the less patience people have. Now when people meet with a mood they have little patience, because they have not practiced patience very much. The Buddha taught that patient endurance is very important. Modern people having less patience is an important cause that leads to how families are now with many families splitting up.
3. Q: Modern people have little patience – how can we practice to increase this quality of patient endurance?
Luang Por Anan: See the drawbacks of not having patient endurance. Be intent to train and develop the mind. An example is asking yourself how much you use your phone. Before, people used phones just when needed. Nowadays phones are easier and more complex, and people use them more. Do you use your phone more than you need? Talk too much? Use it too much? This can lead to the mind being busy and distracted, receiving too many moods and impressions. You can try to reduce the amount of time you use your phone.
Sit or walk for a longer time than you are used to. This can increase patience.
If you have mindfulness and wisdom, then you can understand the world and overcome problems that arise. Like climbing the mountain – the woman had enough determination to climb the mountain and reach the top. So one needs to be intent to overcome one’s problems and make enough effort to do so.
4. Q: My mother and father live separately often due to my father’s work. My mother feels unhappy, sad, and lonely often. How can she overcome these problems?
Luang Por Anan: She can reflect that the father is away in order to get money to support the family. One can advise her to practice. She can listen to Dhamma, read Dhamma, do chanting, and meditate. She can feel at ease in her doing of goodness. If she can’t do these things, she can come give food to the monks in the morning or come to visit the monastery. The monk should visit and care for the mother more since it is a child’s duty to look after their parents when in need.
5. Q: What if there is a husband and wife and there are problems coming from the in-laws not liking the spouse? Like the husband’s family not liking the wife.
Luang Por Anan: Before marriage was there this problem?
Q: No, after marriage the problem arose.
Luang Por Anan: We should ask where our problems come from. Sometimes we think others cause our problems, but we don’t look to see if there is any problem coming from ourselves. So, first, look at yourself. Then, if you see the problem is not from you, then you can look for external ways to overcome the problem. If he is still having problems he can come here, then the Zen master will lead him up the mountain. Maybe one mountain will not be enough, maybe you will go up many mountains before finding the answer.
6. Q: If one’s husband is not interested in Dhamma, then how can the wife help him to grow in virtue, meditation, and Dhamma?
Luang Por Anan: These things can take time. Use mindfulness and wisdom to look for the right time to mention Dhamma, maybe mentioning just a little bit at a time. In the beginning, practice Dhamma yourself. Your mind will be cooler and more in line with Dhamma, then others around you will feel the benefit of your practice. Then you will be an example to others. When the time is right then you may see a chance to help others in Dhamma. This can take a long time sometimes.
7. Q: A few mornings ago, I was meditating and feeling calm. I felt that wisdom is also not self – wisdom is not owned by a self, because wisdom arises from conditions. Is this true?
Luang Por Anan: Yes.
8. Q: Regarding patient endurance, what happens if the husband likes to be a ‘playboy’? How is the wife supposed to endure this?
Luang Por Anan: If you ask me this question, I answer that one must forgive first. Patiently endure. One already chose the partner as the best person. Try to see them as the best partner, then you can keep going as a couple. Perhaps one must endure for the sake of one’s children. Once a woman came to Wat Nong Pah Pong to stay, perhaps for a long time, because her husband was a ‘playboy’ and she was sick of that. Luang Pu Chah gave her a small kuti to stay in. After 7 days she felt more forgiveness and saw that she had faults, too, like being too critical. After 15 days she wanted to go back home. Luang Pu Chah said: “Can you see? Its just like this.”
9. Q: Many young people who will train as monastics will join Skype next Friday. Do you have any advice for them?
Luang Por Anan: You can tell the children: This is a good opportunity for those with faith to learn Dhamma, how to conduct oneself rightly, how to train the mind, and build goodness. I ask you to be intent to do good and follow your teacher’s instructions. You can learn many good things. You can grow in mindfulness and wisdom to succeed in your lives. This is a great opportunity in life. While you are at the center, try to speak less to help develop your mind more.
10. Q: In India, especially south India, we have fewer people coming to ordain. How can I encourage people to come be monks or give their children to be monks? I encourage people to offer robes to get merit in order to come be monks later.
Luang Por Anan: You should encourage their faith first, to have faith in the monks. Then when people suffer, they will seek a way out of that suffering, like coming to the monastery and maybe ordaining. Laying the foundation, like with the children’s Dhamma camp, is very good. If someone has the right inner and outer causes later, they will come ordain again. Thailand also has this problem about fewer people ordaining. In the past, in Northeast Thailand, people ordained for 4-5 years, then switched off with a sibling, who would ordain once the other sibling disrobed. Now people there ordain just 1 year or 4 months. People used to ordain for 3-4 months for the rains retreat in central Thailand, nowadays people ordain for just one month or 15 days. As the world develops, people have less time to ordain. People are more busy, work is more competitive, and people have less time off of work.