Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – March 22nd, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Samadhi, which means concentration or the mind that is gathered together, helps us to study the Dhamma. Without concentration it is difficult to have success. It takes effort to bring the mind to the present moment every Friday to study the Dhamma. We try to not get lost in the past or future.
Welcome to all of you from your centres. Last week, I talked about meditation and developing samadhi, known as concentration or a collected mind. Usually when we meditate, we close our eyes, and gather our mindfulness to one specific point – such as the in and out breath. Let us first talk about what the benefits of meditation are, because there are a lot of benefits. Concentration can help the mind to have radiance and become more subtle. It helps to reduce stress. It reduces anger and aggression. Concentration gathers the mind together and makes it strong.
When the mind has the peace that comes from concentration, then there is also the quality of metta, or loving kindness, too. If we have concentration to the level of having rapture arise, then any anger will cease. Hatred, ill-will, and harmful thoughts cease. We are able to forgive others.
We should train to have concentration often. It will have great results. When we are in our social groups, like monks living in the same monastery, working in the same company, or in the same family, sometimes we feel angry and we just can’t forgive or let others have their way. If we let them have their way, we feel we will die. We just can’t let them. This is our ego and views, and the sense of self is very strong. We see others as wrong and we are right. We just can’t give in to them. So if we can’t let them have their way, then what to do? We train to have concentration. Because, when we have no concentration, we will think a lot in the way that gives rise to anger, ill will, and hatred, and we can’t forgive others . We try to repeat: ‘May I be well, may I be free from hostility’. We try to meditate and repeat this, but sometimes the mind just won’t accept it. It won’t lower its hatred and anger. But we try to practice with it a lot. We train the mind a lot. We first decide we won’t hold on to the past and future. We just can’t handle all the bad thoughts like this. So we try to put them down first. Make the mind be still and peaceful in the present moment.
We do this by knowing the in and out breath. Or we can know the in breath at the 3 points. When the breath enters at the nose we count 1, as the breath goes down to the heart , then we count 2, when it goes down to the abdomen, then we count 3. When the out-breath starts at the abdomen, then we count 1. And when the breath goes up to the heart, we count 2. When the breath goes to the tip of the nose we count 3. We do this until the mind is skilled in this. Then we will see the great benefits of concentration.
What are the benefits? Our mind will have less anger and ill will. When the mind it is with the meditation object, then it doesn’t think of other things. When we put effort into doing this, then the mind grows cool. The body becomes lighter. Better thoughts arise. Why are we angry at them? Why do we despise them? Why do we have harmful thoughts towards them? Each person who is born wants to have happiness. They don’t want any suffering at all. We have thoughts that are imbued with more lovingkindness. For example: Isn’t it better to have harmony? All of us being born must grow old, get sick, and die. All of us are the same. We don’t live forever in this world. Each person who does bad, unskilful things, does so because they have badness controlling their mind. So we begin to have the wisdom to contemplate in a way that we can make our minds cool. We must be able to forgive others, because we are Dhamma practitioners. We must try to practice. Try to train and polish our mind. Training like this, we can conquer anger and ill-will. But, sometimes, when we meet the same thing that usually makes us angry, then anger arises again. But never mind. We just try afterwards to reduce that anger, the ill-will, and the bad thoughts.
There are other benefits of concentration, as well, that have to do with one’s work and duties, in one’s studies, or when one has to plan, and all types of thoughts. If we do concentration often, then when we contemplate our work with that concentration , then our work will go really well. Sometimes we may gain knowledge of how to progress with our work in the best way. When we develop this quality of mindfulness and concentration often, then it will help to improve our status as a person. When our mind has coolness, then others around us can see from our behaviours and actions, and our speech has softness and meaning. And, in the end, they will think that this person has wisdom and is someone worthy of associating with and seeking out. They will want to speak and be with them, and to be friends.
Concentration leads to good health and can help to reduce and overcome many illnesses. This concentration will help one’s face to be bright and to look younger than one’s actual age. This is partly because they have mindfulness to know the in and out breath, and then the oxygen helps to cleanse the blood in the body. It also has good results in the brain. It is a good medicine. When concentration is well-established, then anger reduces. Those that get angry and jealous a lot tend to age quicker. But if concentration improves, then we will see their face look more happy and bright.
When we do acts of goodness, this helps concentration to arise. Such as when we chant and give alms, then concentration can arise. At the time we listen to dhamma, discuss dhamma, investigate dhamma, concentration is with us at that time. This is building goodness and is merit. So concentration will give lots of benefit. When we see the many benefits that the concentration we have developed gives us, in the world and in the Dhamma, then we gain good health of our mind and good health of the body. And then this has a good effect on our daily life. Our virtue is good and we act in good ways. And if the whole family practices meditation together, then that family will have happiness.
And this isn’t just practicing one time. Like when people get married and they look for the most auspicious day and time. This is especially so for the Thai people. They look for the best day and time. On that day, it may be good, and each person there is good and speaks and acts well. But what about after that ? If later they speak in bad ways, their actions are bad, and the mind has no concentration, then there is just anger, troubles and chaos. This happens when people only believe in finding auspicious times, but they don’t look at their own mind. A good time and occasion is about having good actions, good speech, good thoughts. Basically, one’s good practice is what is important.
So it is concentration that allows the quality of lovingkindness to arise in each person’s mind. Then within the family or in that nation, the people will have happiness. There will be only good results. And, on a higher level, this concentration will lead to understanding the Dhamma of the Buddha. We will know what the Buddha taught.
May you be intent to practice concentration as best you can. Even if you have work and duties, try to establish mindfulness so that you have concentration. Mindfulness, or sati, is this quality of recollection. Sampajanya means clearly understanding oneself and one’s situation or environment. What do we know of oneself? We know what we are doing right now. If we are eating, then we know if we are eating too much, is this food bad for oneself, does this food have benefit, or does it have drawbacks? If we are sleeping, then are we sleeping too much, is it the right amount ? Or if we are exercising, is it too much?, is it good for oneself? This is called sampajanna, we know ourself clearly, in all the work and duties that we are doing. Then we will be able to succeed well in them. Concentration and mindful, clear knowing are the tools that help us in our Dhamma practice so that wisdom arises. It helps us to have insight about all the thoughts and feelings that arise. Understand that whatever arises is uncertain and is impermanent.
We have had many happy feelings arise, but they are gone now. We have had many types of suffering arise, but they have all arisen and passed away already. We have the mindfulness and wisdom know the arising and passing away in this present moment. And then we can have letting go in this present moment. This is our path to overcome suffering in the present moment. There is no need to think to what level we have attained, to stream entry (sotapanna) or to full enlightenment (arahantship). But we just have a lot of mindfulness and clear comprehension, have firm and well-established concentration in the mind, and have wisdom to know things as they arise. So we do this a lot, and we teach the mind often. This will lead to wisdom and lead you all to meet with true happiness. Be well.
Questions and Answers:
1. Why do we get a new Pali name when we ordain? In Lord Buddha’s time they did not do this.
Luang Por Anan: As time went on the ordination ceremony became more complicated. At the start the Buddha just said “Ehi, Bhikkhu”; later, the aspiring monk just took the three refuges. Nowadays, we have many people who want to be monks from all over the world, and many people have different languages, so we all use Pali and get a new name.
2. When I listen to monks give talks, some talk about concentration, and some talk about the power of the mind. What is this power of the mind, or phalang of mind?
Luang Por Anan: This power of mind is an energy or strength in the mind. Concentration gives the mind power. Like Luang Pu Tongrat, the teacher of Luang Pu Chah. A thief stole things from the monastery and people told Luang Pu Tongrat about this. He asked for a glass of water, looked at it, then poured the water on the ground. Later the people found the thief moving his body like he was trying to swim, but he was on the dry ground. The thief thought he was in a large body of water and was stuck trying to swim for many hours. When you have power of mind you can do things like this. It is best to use the power of the mind to contemplate for wisdom to become free from suffering.
3. When I meditate and rapture and bliss arise, sometimes it feels like my body will explode. I think ‘Let it explode’. After this thought the body stops expanding. Why does this thought happen?
Luang Por Anan: These thoughts are an obstruction to concentration. Keep practicing. In the beginning one cannot control thoughts. But if you determine to be mindful at one point, such as the breath, and keep going with this practice, you can reach the point where thoughts do not enter. Then you can use this concentration to cultivate wisdom.
4. On alms round I saw some pictures and felt happy. Is this merit?
Luang Por Anan: This depends on the image. If a beautiful image makes you happy, then this is normal. But if rapture and joy arise, which turns into concentration, then this is training the mind.
5. People of other religions have faith to worship the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. Do they make the same merit as Buddhists?
Luang Por Anan: People of other religions can feel happy to worship out of faith, but a Buddhist would make more merit if they recollect with faith the full awakening of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree.
6. Does a thought arising stop the body from vanishing in meditation?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. The mind is peaceful but still thinking. One can know thoughts, and separate the mind from the thoughts. But, in the beginning, with less wisdom and concentration, the mind follows thoughts.
7. Anger and irritation happen. How do I stop anger and irritation from happening?
Luang Por Anan: Make the heart have lovingkindness first. When you wake up, decide to not let anger arise that day and to forgive others. Also Luang Pu Chah would teach to put a clock in front of oneself and see how long the anger lasts. Just know that anger is present and think of something that cools the mind down. Like thinking: “May I be well and happy.” This can cool down and balance the mind. The mind can be so fast, we become angry before we can stop it. We don’t want this anger, but try to remember that it will not last. If we want the anger to go away this just creates more suffering. Just know that the anger is there.
8. A friend says that they cannot meditate – they either fall asleep or think a lot. Will they be able to gain concentration in this lifetime?
Luang Por Anan: If sleepy, then do walking meditation. If still sleepy, walk backwards. If one is also thinking a lot, then one can chant and walk at the same time. Concentration will have to arise, either a little or a lot, if we keep trying and never give up.
9. Should I contemplate when I practice? Sometimes insights arise on their own without trying to contemplate.
Luang Por Anan: There are two ways to do this. One way is to contemplate when the mind is calm. For example, one can investigate the changing nature of things when the mind is quiet. The second way is to make the mind peaceful, then insight arises on its own. Like if you watch leaves falling when the mind is calm, then you can have the spontaneous insight that life ends at all ages: young, middle aged, and old, just like leaves fall when green, yellow, or brown.
10. I have a tendency to feel fear. I sometimes wake up feeling panic and fear. Why is this? How do I overcome it?
Luang Por Anan: Fear is natural. Contemplate this: if one has a sense of self, then fear can arise. Determine to be mindful of fear. Fear comes from delusion and specifically from a fear of dying. You can think “I will have to die sometime anyway.” Keep training in mindfulness and concentration, then you can start to control the fear and someday overcome the fear with wisdom.
11. What is the best way to show appreciation to parents and grandparents?
Luang Por Anan: Be grateful and help them to grow in Dhamma.