What follows is a rough transcript of a Dhamma talk. One can listen to the talk here.

Homage to the Blessed One, Noble One, the Rightly Self-Awakened One

During the Buddha’s time, even though the world was not developed, but it was very well developed in terms of the mind. Everyone lived with calmness of mind. And they were able to develop their minds to the highest level without difficulty. This was combined with the spiritual development (parami) that each of the monks and individuals had made in the past. It supported them to see and know the Dhamma easily. So even though they had to travel with difficulty, go far distances and through the wilderness, yet many saw and knew the Dhamma. But now, the world is much more developed. With the smartphone, it opens a new world. It makes the whole world connected. And there are positive and negative aspects to this. Like for us, even if you live far away from here, you are able to learn Dhamma every Friday. Or during the meditation retreat we can come together and can communicate the teachings to one another. When I was in Wat Nong Pah Pong (WPP) it was very difficult. Just to find a tape recorder to record Ven. Ajahn Chah’s teachings was difficult. To find the batteries to use for the recorder was also hard. It was very humid in WPP, so the batteries did not keep for long and would deteriorate. 

But these days you can learn the Dhamma, and there is all the technology (communications) to support it. But for the ones who don’t know and who are deluded, there are many dangers. They may get intoxicated and attached to the information online and social media. It may be entertainment, or that which leads one to the path of ruin. Overly engrossed in the sensual objects that lead to attraction and pleasure, and this makes one even more chaotic and muddled. There is no mindfulness or samadhi, concentration. This leads to bad physical health and very bad mental health. Though there may be many people that are coming together as a group, but it is far from the world around us. The human connection is continually disappearing. One overlooks those that they live close to in this world. Even though they live close physically, they are actually far away. They don’t speak or chat together. We can see that those catching the train or other form of transport need to take out their phones. Very few people will just sit there still and indifferently, making their mind peaceful. That may even look weird in this present day society. 

So sometimes those that are close together, are actually far away. Sometimes people eat together on the same table, but each person is looking at their own phones, each person is looking at their messages, looking at LINE, Whatsapp, Facebook and others. So we people have less and less human connection. And then the mind goes with the material development that makes things more convenient. But this convenience damages many things. It makes one deluded, attached and stuck. Getting caught, we cannot overcome it. We may have heard that one who does not want to have and does not want to be, wants to get or wants to have, this is what we call tanha, craving. Craving is the wanting to get and wanting to have, wanting to have and wanting to become, and not wanting to have and not wanting to become. The not wanting to have and not wanting to become is one type of tanha. But the wanting to have and wanting to be, on and on, the indulging in sensual objects and emotions is the cause that leads to upadana, attachment, and when attachment arises, then suffering arises.

So then do we have the time to practice Dhamma and train the mind? Those with real faith, like each and everyone of you in our group, the group of monks and laity, will. You have the faith  and the determination to learn Dhamma each Friday. We build merit and goodness regularly. But there are many who are lost and deluded. They are intoxicated with the sights and sounds in the online world. And though it is necessary to use this means of communication, which does have a lot of benefit, the ones who don’t know how to properly use it, will use it excessively. And what is lost is our time. It is wasted without benefit. Our time is getting less each moment. So if we contemplate this, it makes us feel weary. So may we have this mindfulness come up, have thoughts like this come up. 

Some people do merit and practice dana, giving often and I teach them to chant the virtues of the Buddha, beginning with, Itipiso 108 times, which takes about 20 to 25mins. One person said that they chant it 9 times, or 10 times, and they already feel tired and end up falling asleep. They wouldn’t be able to chant it 108 times. But another person who has faith in making merit and doing dana, who has a lot of faith, said that they waste a lot of time looking at messages and sending messages on LINE . I said, how about this then? Split it in half. You still do need to send Line messages out to your social groups, and so you don’t need to cut it off completely. But you do need to take one part of that time to (bhavana) meditate and to train the mind. Because when we have goodat is firm and at a good level, then it can protect our minds. We don’t know what will happen in the future to our body, and what will arise to our minds. Right now, we have good physical health, and we may be enjoying, delighting and may be lost in the strength of our body. But one day, our body may get some bad sickness, to the point we can’t assist ourselves. We may have to use a wheelchair, or be bed-ridden, and this will be troublesome for us. And it will be worse if our mind has never been trained before. Or those who are around us, like a husband who has never trained their mind, then he will have irritation come up if his wife falls ill and gets sick as he will need to look after everything. 

So we need to determine first, that we will train the mind and bhavana. And it’s not that we need to give the world up completely. You are still in the world so you can still watch movies, watch dramas. You can still enjoy, and have happiness in the family. The benefits from dana and sila, morality, the Buddha said, is happiness. But may you add a little bit more. That is, practicing bhavana. Because if we do not do this, our mind could get lost. We can forget ourselves and be careless. And we can see that many people in the world are attached and deluded in the social world. Or nowadays there is some new jargon coming up, like a person who is hungry for the spotlight. 

Do we know what a person who is hungry for the spotlight means? How is a person who is hungry for the spotlight different from other types of hunger? We already know someone who is hungry or thirsty. We feel sorry for one who is hungry, because they have pain and suffering in their body. Those who have, can share with those that don’t have. Then we can all live sufficiently in this world. And those who are thirsty, we give water. In the past, people would set up a jar of water in front of their house, and those walking from afar and thirsty could come, and pour some water to drink. But in the present this is probably difficult to do. Why? Because doing this may be a danger to people’s livelihood during the pandemic that has come up at this time, as there needs to be separate bowls or vessels for each person. We can understand this. 

So what is the hunger for the spotlight? This is something that is spoken by those in the online community. The online Thai community will understand the meaning of being hungry for the spotlight. It is a type of commenting and criticising of people on social media. They post comments that will go viral and spread around (มักโพสต์ข้อความที่สุ่มเสี่ยงที่จะโดนทัวร์ลง), whether it is sharing views or opinions on different topics, like politics, various subjects, or of daily life. What do they do it for? They want people to show interest in them. Want themselves to be accepted in society. Want to start a trend. Want to be famous. They want to have and want to become. Want to be known and recognised. They want to have a scene. Like an actor who needs to play a scene in a film. But people these days are like mini-actors. Wherever they go they need a scene to play. They need to take a selfie and put it on social media so that others will recognise them. They need to do some activity, and they must tell others of everything they do. It’s all like this nowadays. And people even put themselves in physical danger, with many people dying from taking selfies. Just because they want a beautiful photo. And they can lose their life, because of being deluded in their sense of self. Because they want others to accept them. And this is craving (tanha) arising, which underlies their behaviour (ซึ่งเป็นตัณหาขึ้นมาซ้อนขึ้นมาอีกระดับหนึ่งนั่นเอง). 

So this hunger for the spotlight is very dangerous. If it gets worse, one can have mental problems. Wanting to have, wanting to become, wanting themselves to be important (dtot dten), and wanting themselves to be recognised. They want many people to press like and to share their posts. But can this happen for everyone? Everyone wants to get and wants to be. This is normal for the mental defilement of craving (tanha). But the Buddha taught us to control it to an acceptable and moderate level. If we don’t know the moderate level, then we will just keep going. Getting more and more. Creating suffering and difficulties for us. And this will waste our time a lot. If we want to have and to become, and we want to be noticed, we won’t see its effect on our life outside of social media. Who are we forgetting? Are we forgetting our family and those who are close to us? We can forget them easily. And if it is like this for a long time, then the feeling to find the spotlight will control us. It will make our minds fall even more into the social world. The more that one posts, the more that one wants to get the spotlight, with no end.

So we should evaluate ourselves and see how much we are going into the social world. But I think that for us that are learning and practicing Dhamma, it is probably just a little. We already know moderation, and this is why we are interested in Dhamma. But it is not easy as most people will get attached to this development in the world. 

So the Buddha said the hairs on the cow are many, whereas there are just one pair of horns. Those that are interested in the Dhamma are like the horns of the cow. And those that practice Dhamma and will gain deep insight (sap sung) into the Dhamma are just a few people. Many people are deluded and lost. They are deluded in their photos and profile they have set up that shows their luxury and extravagance. Maybe they are showing off their brand name items. Their photos show their lifestyle and class, which may be different from reality . But those who are practicing Dhamma already, they are going to keep to themselves even more. They will be careful in these aspects, and won’t be too showy, or call too much interest from others. 

And there are some people who are very hungry for connections. They are hungry for those that will connect and communicate with us. They want to get many friends, and be someone popular. This is like every person who wants to be someone famous. And doing it like this, the mind will be chaotic and muddled. There will be no peace arising in the mind. So learning and practicing dhamma has a lot of benefits for us. If we do not do this, then our mind will indulge in sensual pleasures.  In the past, to enjoy sensual pleasures, one needed to go see a movie or drama outside of the house. But now, one can watch it anywhere. One can be entertained anywhere. It gets too much, until we have no time left. It is gone. Or before there would be criticism and blaming on a normal level. But now one can go on social media, and criticize and blame. One feels hungry to attack others and battle others. Battling others of the type that criticises others so that the whole world knows that they are arguing now. We have no happiness, and we argue, and we let the whole world know of it. 

This means that the world has developed by a lot, it’s gone very far indeed. If people go in there, they can get lost in the world. The meaning of a person lost in the world, is a person that is lost in sense impressions (arom). This is a very clever teaching of Ven. Ajahn Chah, that, a person lost in the world, is a person who is lost in sense impressions. A person who knows the world, is a person who knows sense impressions as they arise. If one is lost in sense impressions already, one can enter the online social world, and is hungry to share, hungry for the spotlight to the extent where they show-off overtly. Or some share personal information into social media, which they don’t filter or scrutinise the truth of it, and spread various misinformation, and this is very bad sila, morality. 

So those here practicing Dhamma, should contemplate and see the faults and dangers of wasting time without benefit. We should come back to learn Dhamma. Be established in sila and in Dhamma, and then we will meet with peace and happiness. So reflect on this. Sometimes we reflect on it, (-2:15) we watch shows and are entertained, but keep contemplating into impermanence. Those who post, will die. Those who read the posts, will also die. And Dhamma arises. Like Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Maha Moggalana Thera, before they ordained. They contemplated, and they watched entertainment and enjoyed each year. Doing it like this. But one year, they felt weary and dispassionate. They saw it as having no point, and giving no benefit. It would be better to find that which is of benefit. So they searched for Dhamma , until they attained to becoming Arahants. They were the left and right hand chief disciples of the Lord Buddha. But we don’t have the parami, spiritual development, like this. 

So at the minimum, we keep slowly understanding the Dhamma, bit by bit. When we can cut this off, then our heart will have some emptiness, and it will be Nibbana arising bit by bit in the heart. When we develop the mind (bhavana) like this, the mind becomes more radiant. When we chant a particular verse, we take up the teachings of the Buddha or the virtues of the Buddha to reflect on. Whether being the Knowing One, the Awakened One, the Radiant One. Or Sugato – the one well gone. How was the Buddha well gone, it was because he had finished with the mental defilements. Wherever he went it was good, with his Metta, kindness and compassion that was pure. And he went for the benefit and happiness of living beings, to all the humans and devas that would receive merit and goodness from the Buddha giving Dhamma teachings. 

So may you learn deeply into the Dhamma of the various virtues of the Buddha. Take it to think and reflect on, so that mindfulness and wisdom arises. Practice following the Buddha’s teachings, by giving up evil, cultivating the good, and purifying the mind. Don’t waste too much time with social media. May you try to restrain the mind and practice developing your meditation regularly. Train in it continuously like this. And ultimately, our minds will be peaceful and still. And when the mental power and strength of faith, of effort, of mindfulness and samadhi is ready, then wisdom will arise. One will be able to see vimutti, the liberation and freedom from suffering. One can see that there is no me, no mine.  Buddha-nature arises in the heart. An Arahant monk said a deep teaching that, “There is fire within the rocks. But if we do not strike the rocks together, the fire cannot arise. Each mind has Buddha-nature there already, but if we don’t search for it, then where will the Buddha-nature arise?” This is very sharp teaching which I retell often. So let us think about it, so that it will bring up our mindfulness. Let us contemplate it and build the Buddha within our hearts. And even if it is just bit by bit, it is still the path that we will meet with true happiness. May you grow in blessings.