Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – November 10th, 2017
“Those who have metta and compassion in their hearts are close to nibbana.”
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone.
We have not met for many weeks. I went to many Kathina ceremonies. The Kathina ceremonies help monks to live in harmony. The monks and lay people rejoice in the merits made from the good practice during the rains retreat.
During the one–month period after the end of the rains–retreat, the Buddha gave an allowance for all the faithful laypeople to offer Kathina cloth to a monastery that had 5 or more monks spending the entire rains–retreat there. Each monastery was allowed to receive this Kathina cloth only once during that period. The Loy Krathong Festival, which falls on the full moon a month after the end of the rains retreat signals the end of the Kathina season. After this only offering of forest cloth was allowed.
The merit that you have made during this Kathina season allowed by the Buddha has its origins when 30 monks who were forced to stop short of visiting the Buddha due to the start of the rains–retreat. They practiced with contentment and seclusion, and, at the end of the rains retreat, they resumed their journey with their old and worn robes to Jetavana monastery to hear the Dhamma from the Buddha. All 30 monks attained to arahantship due to the fullness of their spiritual development.
In the Buddha’s time, he taught the Dhamma and those listening were able to easily attain to sotapanna or stream entry, the first level of enlightenment. Why was it that they attained to sotapanna so easily? This was just because they had built up their merit and spiritual development in the past. Even for laypeople, like King Bimbisara’s many attendants who listened to the Dhamma, many of them became sotapannas. Sotapannas are those that have right view according to the truth. They don’t need to have developed a lot of jhana, but they need to have wisdom and insight in order to change their wrong views to right view. So, listening to the Dhamma has a lot of benefit. The things that we don’t understand, we get to understand. The things that we understand, we get to know clearer. Our wisdom grows by steps, until it can change our wrong views to right views. The changing of our views like this, that our views are right and true, this is a sotapanna – they are just ones who have entered the current of Dhamma.
Having been born in this world, and when it reaches our birthday, we may develop various good thoughts and this can change our wrong views to gradually being right view. If we are focused on the experiences from our past, then we become stuck in the past. Whenever we bring up those thoughts of the past, it is dukkha, or suffering. And we can’t do anything to overcome them, too. They may be things from the past that are buried deeply in our hearts. But later, we meditate and practice Dhamma, we listen to Dhamma, and we keep the 5 or 8 moral precepts. We may have the feeling that for our birthday this year we want to change our lives and give up our attachments to those things that are from the past that we have aversion to. We will put them down and won’t think of them anymore because they cause us suffering. We will look forward in our lives, and there isn’t much time left in this life.
We re–establish our determination and mindfulness that we will put down the past and won’t proliferate about the future. We will stay in the present moment. Staying in the present, we will understand the Dhamma. We will see the arising and passing away of the body, or of our moods and emotions. These moods and emotions, that make us feel happy and sad throughout our lives, where are they? They simply arise, they stay for a while and then they pass away. They don’t stay forever. But when we think of them again, then they arise again in the present. The Buddha taught us that to think of the past like this is suffering. Don’t think of it. Proliferating of the future is also suffering. Don’t think of it. Put down both the past and the future. And look at the truth of all feelings that arise, persist and pass away. There isn’t anymore than this. There is just this much. But that we don’t yet understand clearly, because our minds are not firmly established and wisdom hasn’t arisen. So, the listening of Dhamma is to improve our mindfulness, improving the mind step by step. The Buddha’s disciples listened to the Dhamma and contemplated on these teachings, and many became sotapannas. They achieved to even greater states of awakening until many became arahants. This was from their accumulated store of merit and complete spiritual development.
Being born into this life, having a human body and human mind is incredibly difficult. And all of you have come into contact with the teachings of the Buddha and are still healthy enough to practice. If we use these to practice Dhamma and contemplate the things that are conventions, we will understand the truth, and our minds will be liberated and go beyond conventions. Our views will change and the heart will accept the truth, that means to become a sotapanna.
Like the story of Digha Nakha Brahmin, the long nailed, who was the nephew of Venerable Sariputta, the right hand chief disciple of the Buddha. This Brahmin went to Vulture’s Peak in order to find a place where no one had died before. He knew he was about to die but wanted to find a pure place where no one had died. He met the Buddha and they shared their views. The Brahmin said he was looking for a place where no one had died before. The Buddha told him, “Did you know that you’ve died here many times over?” The Brahmin was sad that he had lived and died many times over. And when he was asked about his views, the Brahmin who was quite intellectual, had the view that whatever was happiness, that was what he wanted, and whatever was suffering, he didn’t want. This is what most people in the world hold as their view.
The Buddha said to the Brahmin, “This view of yours is something that you don’t want. Because having this view is suffering.” The Brahmin asked the Buddha, “Why?” He thought it was a very good view, whatever was happiness he wanted, so he got happiness. And whatever was suffering he didn’t want, so he wouldn’t receive suffering. Right? The Buddha asked him: then what about old age, sickness, and death, do you want them? The Brahmin answered, “No, I don’t want them.” The Buddha asked, “Well if you don’t want them, will you receive them?” He would have to receive them. When you receive old age, sickness and death, will you have happiness or suffering? It would be suffering. The Brahmin understood, that if he didn’t accept the truth then he would suffer. So, he accepted and realized the truth that old age, sickness and death are normal and we have to accept it as normal. When the Brahmin accepted this truth, he attained to sotapanna. His view changed irreversibly and he understood. He had joy and rapture in the Dhamma. Anything that arose, he accepted. Being born, old age comes as well. Sickness has to follow too. You can’t escape it. When it comes time, it has to decay. The 4 great elements are like this. Those who can accept this are sotapannas. They understand the Dhamma. They don’t go against the truth. This came from listening to the Dhamma and contemplating it. His mind had wisdom arise and could see the truth. So, listening to the Dhamma is very important.
All of you have a chance to listen and practice the Dhamma. All that is left is the knowing and seeing of the dhamma. And it can arise in everyone, not just for the monks. If laypeople are diligent in practice, meditate, have a lot of mindfulness during the day and while working, this is the method of contemplating in order to develop calm. We may find it difficult to use the method of a meditation mantra like “Buddho Buddho.” So, you may contemplate frequently. When we have moods and emotions of liking or disliking that arise in the heart, then contemplate these as being impermanent. They aren’t stable or real or certain. They change naturally. They arise, stay, and pass away. Practicing like this, wisdom arises, which leads to the gradual arising of samadhi. Then proliferations of the past and future gradually reduce.
When we think of the future, we should think that we will die, so why think so much about it? If we think of the past, then we should ask ourselves why do we think so much about the past? It is gone, and we can’t do anything about it. Why should we have desire or aversion over it? Establish mindfulness in the present moment. Do this often and our hearts will be imbued with metta, loving kindness. When we have metta, then nibbana isn’t far away. And when we see other people in the world who have suffering, we try to help each other. Those who have metta and compassion in their hearts are close to nibbana. The ones who have hearts of metta and compassion like this, it won’t be long left for them. When wisdom and insight arises, they will be able to see the Dhamma.
Throughout our lives, we have to receive much sense–contact, but if we have a lot of wisdom, this will help us to see the Dhamma quickly. There is no need to escape sense impingements. At times, we stay in a secluded and quiet place to make the mind peaceful. This could be a monastery or a quiet meditation room in our house. But in whatever place we are, our minds are firm and dedicated to the practice. We make determinations as to how many hours of meditation we will do a day. We try to practice and meditate consistently. Even if we have many responsibilities, we always have the highest goal in mind – that is to develop the empty and pure mind. Even if we can’t do that much meditation each day, we do a small amount each day without fail, and this way we can develop nibbana little by little. We are consistently getting a taste of nibbana. In the end, we develop the eye of Dhamma, see clearly, and it wasn’t difficult. I believe that if you are truly determined, then you all will attain to this. This is if our practice follows the correct way and we don’t get lost along the way. Practice correctly in developing sila, samadhi, and panya.
We should contemplate this body of ours. Where did this body come from? This body needs to eat, if we don’t the body can’t survive. If we have no breath, if the body has no oxygen, then the body can’t survive, too. If there is a lack of oxygen, then cancer arises. Think about it. If the fire element is too low, or we don’t add water element, we can’t survive. So, ask yourselves: can we really control this body? We don’t want to grow old and sick, but the body changes depending on causes and conditions. Now is the cold season, and there are more people catching the flu. There are more sick people, and this just follows causes and conditions. The mind has no control over it. We just try to look after this body and try to make it last as long as it can, so that we can build goodness. If we contemplate in this way then we will understand the body is just the body, there is no being, person, self, them or us. There isn’t. There is no self in the body. This is seeing the Dhamma. Contemplate like this each day, and in no long time we will be able to accept the truth. We can accept nature — the nature of sankharas – compounded phenomena.
Like the water coming from a high place going down and eventually going to the ocean. If we want the water to go the other way, then we will always suffer. Like the body – we want it to be always healthy, but it isn’t possible. It follows causes and condition, it decays and eventually passes away. So, contemplate like this. Whatever life that we have left, it is a chance and time for us to build goodness, to do dana or generosity according to our means, build our sila, and be firm with a heart filled with loving–kindness and compassion. This is the food for our spiritual heart. This is how we develop the heart. The heart that has freshness needs to have goodness and merit. This is important. Be determined to practice.
Even after the end of the rains–retreat and the kathina season, we still develop merit and goodness throughout the year. The more that we can firmly establish our mindfulness and wisdom, this is the culmination of our development of merit and goodness. This is what the Buddha wanted us to practice, and we follow this as our offering to the Buddha. May you all be determined in this. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: How are things at all the centers?
Q: A big fire came near to Abhayagiri monastery [In California, USA], but the fire did not go past the ridge into the monastery. When the firefighters saw the ridge line where the fire turned around and how the fire would not go further and turned back, the hairs on their body stood on end.
Luang Por Anan: This is the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha protecting the land of the monastery. It is like the story of a past life of the Buddha. When he was a baby quail his parents were gone and a fire approached. He made a vow of truth that made the fire come no closer to him and he was saved.
Q: If a retired person sells chicken or other animals just to have enough money to get by, is this bad kamma?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, it is bad. Animals will die and suffer as a result of one’s selling of them. One can use one’s intelligence to find a different way of making money.
Q: A big company in Thailand, sells animals and makes a lot of money. How is this possible?
Luang Por Anan: It is possible to make money when doing bad things. Merit and goodness is different than wealth. Buddhism is about making the mind clean and pure. You should see what is the state of mind like when engaging in a job like selling animals or other jobs that harm others—is the mind peaceful? 5 occupations the Buddha said to avoid are trade in alcohol and drugs, poisons, weapons, humans, and animals.
Sometimes companies that sell animals have a virus go through and kill the animals. Then the employee may have a child that resembles an animal that died, like a chicken. This is the animal coming to be reborn as a human. This happens sometimes.
Q: When emptying my mind and following the natural breath, sometimes my body moves around. How should I deal with this?
Luang Por Anan: This experience comes out of a mind that is peaceful. If the body moves or feels very big or small, just be aware. No need to have fear or surprise.
Luang Por Anan: Here is a question for you all: Are old age, sickness and death really suffering? Does the suffering come from inside or outside?
Dukkha means that things cannot last, they cannot persist. For example, we cannot be in the same posture all the time—sitting, or even lying down, eventually we have to move. We crave for things to last, for our bodies not to get old, sick, and die, or for our loved ones to stay. But this cannot be.
The mind with craving craves for the body to be healthy. The arahant, the enlightened being, does not have this craving. An arahant can have body pain but not mental pain, no suffering in the mind.
Q: If an animal disease jumps to humans and the animals have to be killed, what should the society do, since killing is bad kamma?
Luang Por Anan: The ones with no duty to kill should send metta to those who do have the duty to kill. The ones with the duty to kill the animals should set their minds on the intention of helping others, like a soldier killing to protect his fellow citizens so they can live in safety and happiness. This can be like the mind state of a Bodhisattva.