Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – February 21st, 2020
L uang Por Anan: Today we will study about faith, belief, and confidence. But first, let us study about a story of the present day. Covid-19 is a virus going around lately that is disturbing and harming human lives a lot. It is spreading a lot. Fear has been growing in human minds with regard to this virus.
In Thailand no one has died from this virus, but there is a lot of fear in people, which is causing chaos. People are afraid to die from this virus, but the disease of heedlessness kills even more, such as drinking alcohol, going to drive, then dying on the road. The virus is slow in comparison to other causes of death. Road accidents, such as those from drunk driving, kill 3,287 people per day worldwide, and 61 people per day in Thailand alone. This means that 3,172 people have died from this cause alone in Thailand in this year already. Some die young.
People are more afraid of the virus, but deaths from heedlessness are even more common. There are deaths from cancer, like from smoking or drinking, deaths from eating too much salty or sweet food, and people don’t see the downsides of these behaviors. But people see the downsides of this virus. People have no refuge, and this is too much for their strength of heart. People do not know what to do.
If people have faith to follow the leaders of their country regarding this virus, then things can go well. One needs faith in the virtue of one’s leaders. And we can look at how faith arises. One must use wisdom to build faith at first. Faith is low at the beginning, then one uses wisdom to contemplate—what are the benefit of the teachings? This helps one to build goodness and faith increases. Only later does one understand completely.
A man during the Buddha’s time, Sigala, had faith in his father and followed what his father said; it was only later that Sigala understood the meaning of his father’s advice. Let us learn about this story now in the Dhamma video.
Welcome to all the monks and novices and blessings to all the laity who have faith.
Saddha, or faith, is very important. We can see that if we make merit, offer alms, pay respects to the Buddha, keep the moral precepts, or sit meditation—all this comes down to having saddha—having faith and confidence and in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. But this faith doesn’t just arise only in this life. We need to have built a sufficient level of merit and spiritual development in order to have faith to the level of being determined to practice Dhamma.
In this day and age, the physical body of the Buddha is not here any more; the Buddha has attained to parinibbana already. There are just the relics of the Buddha left. But, the Dhamma of the Buddha is still here. Those who practice following it and who see and attain to Dhamma exist but are very difficult to find.
For us, we have faith and we learn the Dhamma of the Buddha. We can see that in the Buddha’s time there was the Rightly Self-Awakened Buddha, the chief disciples, Venerable Sariputta, foremost in wisdom, and Ven. Moggallana, foremost in psychic abilities, and there were the other 80 great disciples of the Buddha, who were excellent and foremost disciples in various categories. There were also many who attained to becoming arahants. There were many laypeople, as well, who attained to sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami, the first, second, and third stages of awakening.
There were also many people who did not come to pay respects to the Buddha. They didn’t go listen to the Dhamma from the Buddha. There were even many of those who we could say were enemies of the Buddha, such as those other ascetics of different beliefs outside of the Buddha Sasana, or Devadatta, for instance. For those without a mind of faith, no matter how much their parents advised them, they wouldn’t go to the monastery.
I have one story I want to share with you about the young Sigala, who was the child of a wealthy man, who had wealth to 40 crores, or 400 million. His father was a sotapanna, as well. He had great faith in the Buddha. He tried to pull his son to go to pay his respects to the Buddha and to the great arahant disciples of the Buddha. But the son didn’t want to go, because he thought that if he went to go to see the Buddha and the Sangha he would have to bow, and, if he bowed, he would get a sore back and sore waist. And kneeling meant his knees would be sore. This likely means that he was a very elegant child of a wealthy man who loved himself a lot. He probably was infatuated with his good looks. The son said that if he went to go to bow to the monks, all his fine clothing would get dirty because he had to sit on the ground. So he didn’t want to go, it was a waste of time.
If he went there often and got familiar with the Sangha, then he would go to the monastery often and have to offer things they needed, and that would mean he would waste his money. His money would diminish. So when he thought about it like this, he thought it was better not to go. He thought, why should he bother giving away his wealth to the Sangha?
He had thoughts like this even at a time when the Buddha was still alive and giving teachings and the great Sangha was around. However, the young Sigala was firm in his thoughts. No matter how nice and convincingly his parents spoke to him, he wouldn’t go. This situation couldn’t compare to the present day, where there is no Buddha, no chief disciples, no great disciples, and there are many people who don’t go to the monastery. It wouldn’t be just the son not going to the monastery, but even the parents may not go, as well.
In this instance, the parents went to the monastery, and the father was a sotapanna, but the son wouldn’t go. The father felt at his wits end. But, he used a higher level of wisdom, and so when the father was close to death he called his son to come to him. He said to his son, “Come here, I will give you your inheritance. The important inheritance I will give you is a ritual to do. Worship the 6 directions – up, down, left, right, front, back. Worship all 6 directions in the morning. In the morning, wash your face, brush your teeth, dress properly, then worship the 6 directions. If you do this, you will gain prosperity and wealth.” This the son could do. Waking up early in the morning, the weather was good. This is like yogis waking early in the morning. Young Sigala was likely a diligent youth and woke up early. Doing this he wouldn’t waste any money. He would just worship the top, bottom, left , right, front, back directions. The father thought that if his son worshipped in this way, then, one day, if he had merit and spiritual development, he would meet the Buddha, or a disciple of the Buddha, and then his son would be taught the real meaning of what he had been told to do.
The young Sigala was very diligent at doing this and did it well. It was like practicing yoga. He could worship to the top, bottom, left, right, front, and back easily. He didn’t waste any money. He didn’t have to get his clothes dirty. He didn’t have to get a sore back or sore waist. It was easy. He could do this anywhere, and so he did it regularly.
Then, one day, Sigala entered the net of the Buddha’s compassion. The Buddha saw that Sigala had spiritual development, so the Buddha went to go teach the young Sigala. The Buddha taught him about the 6 directions. Sigala understood that the 6 directions his father had taught him to worship had a deeper meaning. He saw the Dhamma and became a sotapanna, or stream-enterer, the first level of enlightenment.
Sigala’s mother, Sigalamata, also had faith in the Buddha sasana. The Buddha gave the teaching to Sigala and Sigala had taken refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Sigalamata, who had attained to sotapanna and had faith, when she knew that her son had faith as well, then she had no more worries and went to ordain as a bhikkhuni.
As a bhikkhuni, Sigalamata had great spiritual development and great faith. She had practiced for a very long time already, since the era of the Buddha Padumuttara. After she ordained, whilst she was still standing, she heard the Buddha giving a talk on faith and she attained to become an arahant. This was a bhikkhuni arahant. This is not an easy thing, and not something trivial, too. She was a woman—and it’s not that women are inferior to men. In terms of faith—women have a lot already. But, in terms of wisdom, it may differ. Sometimes women have more wisdom than men in terms of Dhamma practice. For example, Sigalamata listened to the Buddha’s talk just once, and, on this first occasion, became a sotapanna. Then she went to ordain as a bhikkhuni and became an arahant.
The bhikkhuni Sigalamata had great faith. When she went into the vihara wanting to go listen to the Buddha give the Dhamma, she was still standing and saw the Buddha. The Buddha knew she was there and that she had a still mind, her faith was at a good level, and then the Buddha gave a talk about the foundations of faith. Sigalamata understood and attained to arahantship. The Buddha established her as being foremost out of all the bhikkhunis in gaining liberation through faith.
We should understand that this does not arise all at once. The faith of the bhikkhuni Sigalamata, she had built her spiritual accumulations since the era of Buddha Padumuttara. In our era, she was born into the family of a minister who had great wealth and power. When she grew up, she went to listen to the Dhamma of the Buddha with her father. She had great faith. And she went to ordain as a bhikkhuni since that era. She was determined to practice, respected the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and would go to listen to the Dhamma of the Buddha regularly. She had a lot of merit to meet the Buddha Padumuttara. She practiced meditation and developed her mind. Sadhu Sadhu!
She saw the Fully Enlightened Buddha Padumuttara establish one bhikkhuni as being the foremost in gaining liberation through faith – saddha vimutti. Sigalamata was determined to realize this same position.
The Buddha Padumuttara saw that she had great unwavering faith in the Tathagata, had beautiful sila, virtue, that is praised by the Noble Sangha. She had faith in the Sangha. She had Right View. And the wise say that this type of individual is one who has no troubles and their life is not fruitless. Those with wisdom, when they recollect the teachings of all the Buddhas, they have faith and sila, and they see the Dhamma often. Buddha Padumuttara forecast that in the future era of Buddha Gotama she would succeed in her aspiration. In this era, Sigalamata really did succeed. As the Buddha foretells, so it will be, it won’t be any other way.
All of us here have faith and confidence. We must maintain our faith. Sometimes our faith may fall a bit, or sometimes it may be low. Then think of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, think of the practice, think of the teachings of the Buddha, think of the noble disciples of the Buddha, and in this way we can re-establish our faith. It is normal for it to be like this. There are some people who completely lose their faith, and they fall from the path. This is someone with little spiritual development. Those with higher spiritual development can re-establish their faith. Ultimately their faith will be firm, like the arahant bhikkhuni Sigalamata. She had unwavering faith for the period of 100,000 aeons ever since receiving the prediction from the Buddha. Her faith never wavered.
This is really amazing. The mind is not male or female. But virtue depends on one’s mind. One with a mind that sees and attains the Dhamma, attaining to be an arahant, being a noble disciple of the Buddha, this is one with strong faith, who is very spiritually developed, and who has practiced Dhamma. It’s not dependent on whether one is male or female. It’s in the mind. Whether one is a monastic, whether male or female, when you have faith already, then may you be determined to practice Dhamma.
If our faith drops, then think of arahant bhikkhuni Sigalamata, and this can raise our faith. Our faith grows bit by bit, like drops of water falling into an open vessel. If there is no leakage, then it will get full. One day our faith will be unwavering and firm. This is called aacaara saddha – unwavering faith. Like arahant bhikkhuni Sigalamata. So let us anumodana with the Venerable Arahant Theri – one who had unwavering faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
If we practice like this, then we will have views that are correct. We will have a firm mind, and we will be heedful. If we are heedful, we have unwavering faith firm in the Lord Buddha, we have beautiful sila that is praised by the Noble Sangha, faith in the Sangha, and we have correct view—then the wise say that this is one who is one free of troubles, and one whose life is not fruitless. By a life that is not fruitless, this means that it grows and prospers. If a life is barren and fruitless, then it has no growth or development. It is gone. All gone. Have wisdom. Think of the teachings of the Buddha. Have strong faith and confidence, and see the Dhamma. May you succeed in being established in faith and confidence. In this way, you will see the Dhamma often. May you be determined to practice Dhamma. May you all have success and have firm faith and confidence. May you all grow in Dhamma and in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: I have trouble recollecting the virtues of the Buddha in order to build faith, but when I talk Dhamma or study suttas with my Dhamma friends, then I feel faith. Seeing a Buddha image, it is harder for me to feel faith.
Luang Por Anan: This is correct—one has faith in the Dhamma, talks on Dhamma, listens to Dhamma, contemplates Dhamma, or reads suttas, and faith arises. Looking at a Buddha image is one way to make the mind peaceful; this is Buddhanusati, the recollection of the Buddha. For you it is the wisdom way, through understanding. So do this a lot—give rise to more faith through wisdom.
2. Q: Is it important to have a Buddha statue in our meditation center? Must the statue be in the meditation posture?
Luang Por Anan: If one has faith in the Dhamma then one can use an image of a Dhamma wheel instead. If one has a Buddha image one can use any mudra or posture one likes—this is up to you and up to your faith.
3. Q: How important is it to develop faith in the Buddha? I have difficulty developing faith with a statue.
Luang Por Anan: After bowing to a Buddha image, recollect the qualities of the Buddha—such as that he knew the truth for himself. No one taught him, and there was no one else capable of knowing the Dhamma themselves; he is the pure one, the awakened one, he sacrificed his life and body parts over many lifetimes, he sacrificed many lifetimes to build his spiritual virtues, he has great purity, awakened through his own efforts, has great compassion, built parami over many lives until attaining Buddhahood. One can reflect on these great virtues, like the three great virtues of great purity, great compassion, and great wisdom, and build faith like that.
4. Q: If I sit opposite a teacher, it is easier for me to feel the Dhamma. Should I feel the same kind of deep feeling with a Buddha statue?
Luang Por Anan: This is possible. A Buddha statue can have a special energy. The spiritual power, or parami, of the Buddha can be in the statue. With faith in the Buddha, then this feeling can go deep and be profound.
5. Q: My “Plan A” is to realize arahantship, or full awakening. I have a “Plan B” which is to go to Tavatingsa heaven, the heaven of the 33 gods. Is this a good backup plan?
Luang Por Anan: There is no need to have a backup plan—if one’s parami is not enough, then one could be reborn as a Brahma, then a deva, and so on. Be determined to practice first and do one’s best.
6. Q: If I want to be reborn in Tavatingsa heaven, then what should I do to get there?
Luang Por Anan: Make a determination: “May I overcome suffering. If not, then may all this parami bring me to Tavatingsa heaven.” And, if there is not enough parami for Tavatingsa heaven, then one would go to a realm lower than that.
7. Q: A teenager cannot forgive the teachers who, in the past, hit him with a stick as a punishment. He feels that the teachers had a bad intention. The punishment was for small things like misspelling a word.
Luang Por Anan: To feel angry is natural. One must forgive. After he grows up and does some meditation, then feels peaceful, slowly he can understand this situation and learn to forgive. Reflecting on this later he can learn to put it down eventually. I also got hit as a child when the situation was not my fault. I felt angry. But I understand now that the teacher didn’t know—the teacher was a teacher of knowledge, not one who had given up the kilesas, the obstructions of the mind. I understand now that the teacher makes mistakes also, since they have kilesas. Now I remember something I have not thought of in a long time, that a teacher punished some students by making them put fruit peels from the trash into their mouth and made them keep it in their mouths. These days teachers probably would not get away with that.
8. Q: Can we share alms food with others?
Luang Por Anan: In the Vinaya there is story of one monk from a wealthy family, whose parents, after he ordained, fell into poverty. He took his alms food and gave them some first every day, since they had no one else to care for them. Some monks complained about this, but Lord Buddha said that this was a good display of gratitude. Otherwise, alms food can be shared with other monks, and, after the monks have eaten, the food can be given to others, such as humans or animals.
9. Q: What is the difference between a radiant or bright mind and a faithful mind?
Luang Por Anan: A bright mind is a mind that sees anicca, dukkha, and anatta (impermanence, stress, and not-self); samadhi arises, rapture arises, and this is from wisdom. This radiance and brightness arises from Dhamma insight.
The faithful mind is similar—if one is tired, distracted, angry, greedy, doubting, and so on, in other words, the five hindrances, then the faithful mind can clear these away. Dullness disappears or diminishes. Right view makes the mind clear like murky water going through a filter then coming out clear. Faith clears the mind and brings up right view and insight.