Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – April 13th, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
Welcome to all of you from all your centers. We continue on the topic about the sermon that the Buddha gave about the highest blessing. We have learnt already about the first 2 highest blessings, that is, 1. Not to associate with fools, and 2. To associate with the wise. Now we will learn the 3rd highest blessing that the Buddha taught, that is, “to venerate those worthy of veneration.”
We should understand about giving worship and honour on particularly important days in the calendar. For us Buddhists, we have the custom to show our veneration on important Buddhist holy days. For example, the important Buddhist holy days such as Magha Puja and Asalha Puja.
Other religions tend to have similar ways of respect and worship. But for Buddhists, we will have worship and veneration to the Triple Gem, the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, as the most important object of veneration.
The Buddha, who is the highest and most excellent, who is imbued with boundless compassion with no equal. The Buddha who has completely purified his mind, cut off all the mental defilements completely, the Buddha who has great love and compassion to all beings, the Buddha who has great wisdom, where no-one could go against the Buddha’s wisdom, and he was able to be victorious against ignorance, craving and attachment. But even the Buddha had the highest respect and veneration for the Dhamma. If one of his fully enlightened arahant disciples was giving a Dhamma sermon, and the Buddha was walking past, the Buddha would stop out of respect for the Dhamma that that arahant disciple was giving.
Knowing this, we should respect and venerate the Dhamma, following the example of the Lord Buddha.
This Puja or veneration you can separate into 4 characteristics.
Sakara – this means a proper form of veneration, or a proper object of veneration that one uses to show one’s veneration.
Next is having a feeling of respect, love, and care for that object.
Reverence to them, by determining the particular goodness and virtues of others, and respecting them for those qualities.
Bowing, giving anjali, that is holding one’s hand palm to palm, giving praise and admiration to them.
The important aspect of the veneration is how much our minds have faith and confidence. For example, we have faith and confidence in the Triple Gem, then we express this through taking refuge in the Triple Gem. We may venerate it through giving up our life to it, we have the Triple Gem direct us in how we will lead our life.
The monks who were Venerable Ajahn Chah’s disciples had a heart of veneration and faith in Venerable Ajahn Chah. They had veneration for the Dhamma that Ajahn Chah gave to us, because it had made a great impression on us, helped to change us from being fools, to one’s with some wisdom, little by little. This Dhamma he taught, gave us a path for our hearts to get free from all suffering.
We also have to be careful in our veneration. For instance, giving honour to someone who is a fool, someone who has miccha ditthi, or wrong views. Or venerating objects that are strange, such as a termite mound that may be considered holy, that is not appropriate. Or using inappropriate objects of worship, such as killing animals. This is not appropriate and is bad conduct. Or conducting veneration through wrong means such as torturing ourselves through sleeping on thorns, or to be begging too much by asking things from deities. These things we can’t do. There has even been a case recently, or someone taking drugs, and then believing that they will venerate God through pulling out both of their eyes. This is wrong view and is a way of a fool with no sila or morality, as is a person who takes drugs.
We have to show veneration in ways that do no harm to ourselves.
For a monk, they need to have sila that is right, good samadhi or concentration, and be imbued with wisdom, the wisdom that takes the heart to the other side, to see the Dhamma, or to cross over the other shore to nibbana.
Venerable Ajahn Chah, our great teacher, said as well that when we venerate, we venerate the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as the highest, there is nothing higher than this. Or we can venerate the Bodhisattvas, who are considered wise individuals, who have overcome defilements, who have gained the higher jhanas. So, we venerate the Bodhisattvas, those who have metta karuna which have no equal, as they are individuals we should worship. When our mind show veneration in this way, it will have rapture, joy, and fullness – and then merit and goodness arises with us.
The Buddha said that even after he passes away into parinibbana, if we venerate his bodily relics then that is merit. Or if we go to pilgrimage to the 4 holy sites of the Buddha – the place where the Buddha was born, became enlightened, gave the first sermon, and passed away into parinibbana. Or venerating the Buddha’s requisites, or the Maha Bodhi tree where the Buddha was enlightened, if we give our homage to all of these, then this will be a lot of merit and goodness for us. Or we can give homage to a Dhamma chedi, that is the teachings of the Buddha. Or we can pay homage to the Buddha’s image – a Buddha statue, a Buddha’s footprint, or to an image of an arahant disciple of the Buddha. Doing so will give us much benefit. We will gain benefit in the present – we gain happiness, the devas praise and bless us, and after death then mind goes up to heaven. If the mind has parami, spiritual development – then we will see the Dhamma – and can go to nibbana.
There is one example of venerating one worthy of veneration. In the Buddha’s time there was one venerable monk, Phra Sudha Bindiya Thera. In a previous era, he was born as Sumana during the dispensation of the Buddha Siddharta. This man had no chance to make merit while the Buddha was alive, but after the Buddha passed away, he gave 1 lump of lime mortar to help build the chedi that they would enshrine the bodily relics of that Buddha. By the fruits of this merit, he was born in the deva heavenly realms and the human realm for a really long time. And finally, he was born in one wealthy family in our Buddha’s time, he gained faith in the Buddha, ordained as a monk then in no long time, became an arahant. His name was Phra Sudha Bindiya Thera. He had lots of merit that he made just by donating one lump of lime mortar to help build the chedi as an offering to the Buddha. He gained a lot of merit from this action because his mind had great faith in the Buddha. He didn’t go down to the lower realms, only to the heavenly realms. And the merit made him born as a great king – endowed with the 7 divine treasures, 13 times in total. And when he became an arahant in the last life he attained the 4 analytical knowledges, the 8 liberations, and all the psychic powers, including seeing clearly into the Buddha’s teachings. And it is not just humans who pay homage to the Buddha and gain great merit.
There is 1 story of an owl, whose mind had faith in the Buddha. He would fly to send the Buddha off on alms round and would welcome the Buddha on the way back from alms. One day the owl flew down from the mountain to go pay homage to the Buddha. It was evening and the Buddha was surrounded by his disciples. The Buddha said to Ven. Ananda, that this owl has faith in me and the Sangha. For this he will be born in the deva and human realms for 100,000 kalpas then in the end will be born as a Pacceka Buddha, named Somanasa.
So, the highest object of veneration is the Buddha, a Pacceka Buddha, the Dhamma, an Arahant, A Bodhisattva, who has full parami, or those Bodhisattvas building parami, who have high virtue and other qualities. So, may you try to practice this veneration and then you will have prosperity, and it will be the highest blessing in our life. We need to choose who we venerate and honour. If we honour a fool then we will become a fool too. So be very careful, otherwise we will lose out as well. Be very careful!! So that should be enough for today’s topic. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Does one have to have Dhamma to know who is a fool and who is not?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. One needs Dhamma and wisdom to know what is a fool like and what is a wise person like.
In the past have any of you known fools or wise people?
Q: I think those without virtue and the five precepts and fools, and those with virtue and the five precepts are wise. Is this true?
Luang Por Anan: Yes.
Q: One day, one friend wanted fried chicken and eventually convinced another friend that they should eat friend chicken, too. This makes me think about friends that invite one to go out drinking instead of coming to listen to Dhamma.
If we meet a fool, should we have metta and compassion for them?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, have metta, but also know what is the right time to help them. You can help them to know what is good and what is bad. If you cannot help, you need equanimity and to feel okay with not being able to help.
Q: I feel some focus in meditation and do not feel the breath. Then my head moves by itself and sometimes other parts of my body. This started about two years ago. Then it started happening while I sleep, and I do not sleep well.
Luang Por Anan: Sometimes this happens. It means mindfulness is very weak. You should open your eyes when this happens. Also do not use your breath to focus on – use a mantra or do chanting. Focus on the chanting. Can you do walking meditation?
Q: My coworkers are fools but I must work with them. What should I do?
Luang Por Anan: There are fools everywhere. If they try to pull you to do bad or stupid things, you have to resist. You need awareness and wisdom here. Be strong in your wisdom.
Q: If one says that a certain monk is an arahant, is this wrong?
Luang Por Anan: Really we do not know if a monk is an arahant or not. It is better to watch oneself and to observe and see what goodness is there within ourselves.
Once someone asked Luang Pu Chah if he was an arahant or not. Luang Pu Chah said: “Why are you interested in another person’s bag of rice? Be more interested in your own bag of rice.”
Q: How can I know who is a good abbot or a good teacher for me?
Luang Por Anan: Luang Pu Chah taught that a good abbot should be able to help solve one’s Dhamma problems, to lead in Dhamma, and to help one progress in Dhamma.