Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 15th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone at their centers.
Welcome to everyone from all your centres. This Friday I want to talk about the determination of the mind. The mind that builds goodness through practicing generosity, morality, and mental development or meditation. And the mind that has firm faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha. Then when we make determinations, or adittana parami, that thing we determine for will succeed. Let me share with you a true story of this. In Wat Marp Jan, we are building a chedi. It’s a chedi that has the architectural style of 3 countries. The bottom part is of the Thai style, the middle of the Sri Lankan style, and the top is of the Chinese style. The building of the Sri Lankan and the Chinese parts has an important meaning. It stands for Theravada and Mahayana. When people talk of these two traditions they mostly talk of the differences between them. But, in reality both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions are one in unity. They are not separate at all. If we talk only of the differences and of their separation, then our hearts become low and depressed. So, I made the resolution to build the chedi for the purpose of the unity of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions as one, for the hope that the Buddhist religion will remain strong. In the same way like a bird, that has their left and right wing. If both wings are strong then the bird will be able to get wherever they want to go and quickly too. To build a chedi in the Theravada style in Thailand is no problem. But to build one of the architecture like China, to make it in line and correct with the Chinese style and tradition, there are only very few experienced artisans. And we also didn’t know where these skilled artisans were.
Myself and a group of monks and laypeople, all who were helping with building this chedi, went to go visit Vihara Xian, a Chinese Temple, and to take a look at the work there. Vihara Xian is located in the Chonburi district, next to Wat Nyanasamvararam, the monastery that Somdet Sangharaja Nyanasamvara built. We went to learn of the Chinese art style for the building of the chedi. Why? Because it was at that time our monastery was about to start the construction of the Chinese part of the chedi. But, what would we do? The layperson who was helping to build the chedi also didn’t know what to do. There was no insight as to what to do. The way to proceed was all blocked, there was no way to go. She had asked for the parami, or the spiritual merits, of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara at the Waterloo Temple in Singapore. She goes regularly to this place. On this occasion, she knelt and determined her mind to ask for the Bodhisattva to help and show the way for this chedi to succeed and for a way how it could work out well. It was a selfless determination. She went many times and even had tears flowing many times as well. I, myself, also made the determination in Wat Marp Jan in the Maha Vihara of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. I asked for the Bodhisattva to give their metta, or loving kindness. I didn’t know what to do, and how to continue building.
Until something amazing happened. It was this time my group went to Vihara Xian, that they were repainting at that time. I asked them who was the artist responsible for the work. The staff there said that they called him Master Builder. I got his number and contacted him. I asked him if he could come and have a look as I am about to build the Chinese section of the chedi. He promised that if he had time he would come take a look. Two days later, the Master Builder whose name is Architect [replaced for privacy], had the feeling that he had to come for sure. He had to come to see the Wat Marp Jan chedi for sure. His wife was worried that he would take on even more work, and tried to dissuade him. However, it didn’t work, even when she tried to convince him by arguing loudly, but she still couldn’t stop Architect, because he had a deep feeling that he had to come.
And when he came to Wat Marp Jan, there was something remarkable that happened. It so happened that this Master Builder knew one of my lay disciples more than 50 years ago and lost contact. How was this possible? This year, she is 66 years old, and when she met Architect, she was about 12 years old. When they began talking, they found out they knew each other. At first, they couldn’t remember each other. But soon after talking they could remember. When they were young, Architect had an uncle who ordained as a Chinese monk. They would both go to visit the home of the mother and father of my disciple. The two families were very close and well–acquainted. They had affection and respect for each other. Now, in the monastery, the faith that he had increased greatly. Why? Because of this familiarity between him and my lay disciple. It was like they were relatives. Here, they knew each other like relatives already back then, and then meeting again in the path of doing good acts. He came and didn’t expect anything, and in the end Architect and his wife helped out with everything.
This was an amazing occurrence, that must have been due to the parami of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and all his retinue, that entered and stirred their hearts, to make Architect and his wife to come to the monastery to build their parami further. It must have been in the past that they had built parami together. Architect and his wife helped with everything, and provided many good recommendations as well. They sent workers here to help with the building. And they recommended the building supply store for the materials that we needed, which was well–priced and of good quality. They helped the building with their strength of body and heart, and they didn’t even want any monetary compensation for it – not even 1 Thai Baht. It was purely from the heart! This is an action that is worth rejoicing and very praise worthy. It’s something amazing.
In the beginning, I was worried that we really didn’t know how to proceed and didn’t know who would come to help us build the Chinese section. Even if we could find a builder, would they be skilled enough? Most builders aren’t that responsible. But both of them, the Master Builder and his wife, came to help from the strength and power of the determinations made and from the parami of the Bodhisattva, that gave their metta, so that when we met with this obstacle, we could clear it and overcome it. Even when there is a big obstacle, one can still pass. This is important. May you all have firm confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha – in virtue and goodness – in generosity, morality, and mental development. There are also many examples in the time of the Buddha to do with determinations, that I will tell you in future sessions.
One is when the Buddha was born as a quail in one of his past lives as a Bodhisattva building parami. He was newly born and couldn’t yet fly or walk. There was a huge forest fire approaching and his mother and father had flown away to escape. But by the power of his additana parami, he made a determination and the huge forest fire could be extinguished in the blink of an eye. This is the parami of our Buddha in his past life as a Bodhisattva. So be resolute in your goodness – in merit and wholesome actions. This merit will be our refuge in this life and the next. So, may you all know that building goodness and additana parami, that even though humans may not recognise it, but the devas will know. It can help to overcome all obstacles – so that you will have prosperity and success. May you grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: It is especially important to keep the 4th precept, right speech, with regard to determinations. Also cultivate the heart of lovingkindness. Then, if we have sufficient parami, our determinations can succeed.
Q: When babies cry are they experiencing the stressfulness of having a human body?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, they are, and they cry to try to get help with that dukkha.
Q: When having the intention to build parami, it seems this leads one to encounter more difficulties in life, perhaps so the difficulties will help one to build parami. Is this accurate?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, when building parami one must meet with many obstacles. It is not easy. To build lots of parami one encounters lots of difficulties. The Buddha himself encountered many difficulties on his path.
Q: Praying to many gods to have many connections to help one on the path, is this a good strategy?
Luang Por Anan: One has to build one’s own goodness, one can’t just ask for help. Reflect on the good qualities of the beings one is praying to and determine to follow in their footsteps of practicing goodness.
Q: Is it good to ask for help from ‘bad’ beings like ghosts?
Luang Por Anan: If you ask for help from monks, the monks will teach you the path to make the mind like a good monk, or a deva can help; if you ask a ghost, they can help you but they will then ask for you to come be a ghost with them and be their friend—do you want this?
As the discourse on the highest blessings teaches us, associating only with the wise, avoiding the unwise, respecting those worthy of respect—these are some of the highest blessings.
Q: If one determines to donate one’s organs after one dies will one have an incomplete ghost or spirit body after death?
Luang Por Anan: Deciding to donate one’s body is an act of the mind—if one is then reborn as a deva one will have an even better or more beautiful body thanks to that determination. The Buddha gave up parts of his body many times as a bodhisatta. 6 monks already have decided to become organ donors since you asked this question. You definitely get a better body after death.
Q: If the body is taken without one deciding to have given it, does one make merit?
Luang Por Anan: If one is dead one would not necessarily know one’s body is taken so one would not make merit; if one does know then one does make merit.
Q: If one intends to donate organs but they are not taken does one make merit?
Luang Por Anan: Merit is in the intention so yet, one has made merit already.
There is a story in the suttas of a person filled with faith and joy, going to offer flowers to a monk. This person died on the way, and was born as a deva due to their intention to donate flowers.
Q: The bodhisatta floated a plate upriver and this indicated he would realize his determination; can people aspiring to be enlightened disciples of a Buddha do the same?
Luang Por Anan: One can have prophetic nimittas (mental signs) indicating future attainment. Luang Pu Mun had nimittas like this. If no nimittas arise build more parami first.
Q: How to contemplate anicca effectively?
Luang Por Anan: One needs more mental strength to really contemplate impermanence in each moment. So, build sati and samadhi, then contemplate anicca.
Q: To develop the determination parami one needs khanti (patient endurance) as well, yes?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. For instance, if one determines to sit for one hour, but then painful feelings arise in the body, one needs patient endurance to bear those painful feelings.
Q: Is preventing someone’s organ donation bad kamma?
Luang Por Anan: If coming from worried thoughts, then yes, it is bad, these are low thoughts leading to more suffering.
Q: How can we help dogs build parami?
Luang Por Anan: The dog may already have parami and we can help them have the chance to further develop that parami.
A dog here named Chocolate used to come listen to Dhamma talks I would give. He would come lie in the hall and listen every time. Once, the talk was played from an older recording. When Chocolate saw I wasn’t there giving the talk live, he left the hall. Sometimes humans would not come listen to the talk, but Chocolate would.
So, put on Dhamma talks for pets and they can gain some joy and rapture from that.