Monk 1: Excuse me, Tahn Ajahn, yesterday I was doing work with K. Boss, and I had a question about the 4 holy sites of pilgrimage. Is it necessary to go there to pay homage at the actual sites? And if one doesn’t have any opportunity to go, then what should one do?
Ajahn Anan: If we ask, is it necessary? This is up to our situation. 1. We have the faith already. 2. Do we have the money and funds? As monks, our lives are supported by pindapata (alms). If there are lay people who have given us a pavarana, an invitation, they have faith and they invite us. We are fit to go, our health is good. We have the opportunity. Then it is possible that we do go to travel to the important places of the Lord Buddha.
If we ask, is it really necessary? In regards to Dhamma practice, the Kruba Ajahns, the great teachers of the era of Ven. Ajahn Mun, they had practised and many attained to becoming arahants. And most of those monks didn’t go to the holy sites. So the importance is with Dhamma practice. If we practice according to the teachings of the Buddha, then we’ll be able to see and attain to Dhamma. Here Ven. Ajahn Chah has said something about this. He said, “Can’t the Buddha be born in Thailand? I thought then, how was it possible that the Buddha was born in Thailand? There was only one Buddha. He was born, attained enlightenment, passed away into parinibbana, and taught Dhamma in India and Nepal. But Ajahn Chah asked, “Isn’t it that the Buddha will attain enlightenment in Thailand? This is being ‘Buddha’, that is, being a Savaka Buddha, a noble disciple of the Buddha, which is up to our own practice. If we can practise following the Buddha, then we can reach the state of ‘Buddha’ (Awakened). We can be in Thailand, we could be in Malaysia, we could be in America, in the UK, or in any country in the world, the Buddha can arise. This is important. But if we are prepared in all ways, then we can take the opportunity to go once. We have gained the faith already, then we use it to do our utmost homage through our practice (patipada puja). This is the important point.
Monk 2: I have the doubt arise that after offering the cremation fire to the Buddha after his passing, how many major relics of the Buddha were there? And what are the benefits of giving puja, homage, to the relics?
Ajahn Anan: We can’t count how many pieces there were, because after the cremation, there was a white cloth, the last cloth, that covered all of the Buddha’s relics. It was all gathered into this white cloth. All the bodily bone relics of the Buddha. Here, Dona Brahmin separated them out for the big countries, the ones who had power at that time. He separated them out for their puja.
And to give puja to relics have great benefits. Because we puja and homage the relics, for the purpose of recollecting the noble virtues: the metta, loving-kindness, the great compassion (maha karuna), the wisdom, and the great purity of the Buddha. This is merit and goodness. And the benefit is that one will gain all good things in all ways. Having happiness in this life, and happiness in the next life. But greater than this is not that we just recollect the merit, but we practise as well. The important thing is to use it to practice.
And another thing is that some people go to puja the relics, and they have happiness. But if the relics fall or it disappears , they have suffering coming up. Here we have to be careful as well. Because when the merit arises, we feel pleased. And after that, if the relics grow in number, we are pleased and feel happy. But we think, “Will any of the relics fall?” And one day, if some of the relics disappear, the number reduces, we will have suffering. “Is it because we don’t practise well?” We have thoughts like this arise. So we need to be careful of this. We should know that to recollect the relics is in the field of merit and goodness. But we should take Dhamma practice as the important foundation.
Monk 3: Excuse me, may I ask why was the Buddha’s parinibbana in Kusinara? And why did the Buddha parinibbana at the age of 80 years old?
Ajahn Anan: Here, the cause was during the time when the Buddha was building parami, his spiritual perfections, there was one individual who came and troubled the people. It ate a lot of the food of the people at that time. Soldiers were sent to go handle the individual, but they couldn’t. That person was so skilled. And the Buddha as a Bodhisattva had to go take care of it himself. And the Bodhisattva was able to catch the one causing trouble. They say it was as quick as a yakkha. It probably had a big body, with great strength. But the Buddha was able to catch and execute the yakkha. So it lost its life, and the result of that was that the age of the Buddha was left at just 80 years old. But the Bodhisattva had to do it at that time to save the lives of the people. It was an act of self-sacrifice at that time.
And the Buddha went to Kusinara, which though it is true that it was a small town, but in a previous era it was a big city. It had a King, of which the Buddha had been the King there once. It was a very big and flourishing city. But with deterioration and decay, it was now just a small town.
But the important thing is that the Buddha had metta and compassion to walk to teach the son of a goldsmith, named Cunda, to become a sotapanna. And the Buddha went to teach the last disciple, the ascetic who became the Ven. arahant Subaddha. He had made a determination to be the last arahant monk. So the Buddha walked the journey, which was something no one else could do. The Buddha travelled having bloody diarrhea (dysentery). Where would he have the strength to travel? But the Buddha had effort and resolution, along with the parami of the Buddha, so he could do it. If it was any other person, they would have died along the way. It would not be possible to walk that distance. The Buddha was sick with bloody diarrhea, so where would he have the strength to walk?
Monk 4: Excuse me, the first brahmin who met the Buddha after he attained enlightenment, why did he not believe that the Buddha had no teacher?
Ajahn Anan: We have to understand first, that at that era, or in any era, we people are like children, in that all the different types of knowledges, we don’t come knowing any of it at all. We are children, and require our parents to teach us. We depend on this or that person to teach us. Right? We depend on a teacher to teach us a subject, on and on. There is no-one who has that knowledge all by themselves, who have come up with that knowledge themselves. This is difficult to do. And this is in regards to worldly knowledge. The knowledge in terms of dhamma needed a big centre, that had a renowned teacher. Teaching in regards to samadhi, teaching about bhavana, developing the mind. But the Buddha, was the only one who knew by himself, who strived by himself to know, of which there had never been anything like this in this world. Someone who practised and knew for himself. Never in this world was there someone who could do this. The Buddha was the first individual. He was the most developed and most supreme. The Buddha had knowledge of everything, in all aspects. He was the most supreme, and so he had the capability to be enlightened by himself. And to tell others, no one would believe it. But in this case, this was the cause that later this brahmin came to pay respects to the Buddha and listened to the Buddha teach, and attained to being an arahant. The Buddha wanted that person to see the Buddha, which was a skilful method of teaching, and later he would come to the Buddha.
Monk 5: Excuse me, Luang Por. I chant praises to the Buddha, chant Itipiso, and I have faith and feel happy and joyful. When I contemplate satta deva manusanam, I know that Buddha is the teacher who teaches devas and humans. But is there a deeper meaning to this?
Ajahn Anan: The deeper meaning is that the Buddha is an individual who was able to teach the humans, and who could also teach the devas. How to teach humans, which method, using which aspect of Dhamma, at what time, the Buddha knew all of this. So he was able to teach that human until they attained to sotapanna, or sakadagami, or noble attainments. Or teaching the devas who came, the Buddha knew how to teach that deva, by knowing what aspect of Dhamma was needed to teach that deva, until that deva could gain noble virtue. Or those who had a lot of views and conceit (ditthi mana), who did not believe, the Buddha was able to punish those views and conceit until they were dropped. And then the Buddha could teach them Dhamma.
Here, no-one had this skill to the same level of the Buddha. There was no-one who could teach and instruct all the devas and humans. And this came from the merit and parami that the Buddha had built in all ways and in all aspects.
So we all have merit already, so may we recollect and chant this. Chant a lot. And not just chant only. Think of it virtue by virtue. When we have finished chanting. We are peaceful. Then take up one of the virtues, satta deva manusanam, what does it mean? Buddho, what does it mean? Bhagava, what does it mean? Think and contemplate it. Then we gain deeper feelings in the heart, more and more, in each of the virtues of the Buddha.
Chant a lot ok?
Do Itipiso 108 repetitions, many times a day.
After finishing chanting, and it is peaceful, then contemplate. Because then it is easy to have rapture and joy arise. It is easy to gain merit.
This is puja to the Buddha, giving homage to the Buddha through our practice.
Be determined all of you.
Jacob , do you chant?
I do chant.
After chanting, is it peaceful?
Sometimes it’s peaceful.
Then chant a lot. If there is a lot of thinking and proliferation, then you need to chant a lot.
May you all be determined.