Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – May 11th, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
Merit arises from giving offerings, keeping morality, listening to Dhamma, chanting the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The merit comes from getting rid of the mind that is unclean. Merit is cleanliness. Or it’s the karma of a white type. If it is demerit, or badness, it is karma of a dark type.
In the span of one day, the mind will think of good thoughts, have thoughts of loving kindness. But sometimes the mind also thinks bad thoughts. If we have mindfulness to watch the mind, we see that it thinks all types of thoughts.
Yet we want to have only good, we don’t want bad. But we still can’t yet restrain the mind to think only good thoughts. And if we have a wanting for the mind to always think good thoughts, then the heart suffers.
This is because we don’t want to have bad things in the heart. All people don’t want bad things, they only want to have good things.
So we look in the present day society and sometimes we possess things that aren’t good for us anymore. What do we do with them? We think it’s better to go take it to the monastery. Sometimes we may have had a cat as a pet, and we can’t afford to look after it ourselves anymore, but we are scared that the cat won’t have anything to eat or may die. We see that the monastery has plentiful food, so we abandon the cat in the monastery. In the past, I have paid respects to Luang Pu Sii, who was 126 years old. Luang Pu Sii used to walk tudong all over the country, even walked till Burma. He used to look after cats out of kindness. He would eat one mouthful of food himself, then he would feed the cat to eat a bit of food. His cats numbered to 100. Everyone would praise Luang Pu saying that he loved cats. So they would release more and more cats for Luang Pu. He said, “I feel bad for the cats. They release them here, then I look after them.” They see that Luang Pu loves and has kindness for cats, so they release more and more cats. They release cats, then dogs, and then other things that they felt were no good. Like Buddha statues that were damaged or not complete, maybe the hand on it broken, or the Buddha’s head had a defect, or else they would take their old spirit houses, and they would then put it at a monastery. This is actually quite widespread. But our monastery there isn’t that much of it, but it’s quite widespread in other monasteries.
Anything that is not good, that they don’t like, they give it to others, then they feel at ease. But here we look at the mind. If the mind is no good, then can we get the bad out of it? We ask our spiritual hearts. Anything that is no good – any bad thoughts, we let it out and throw it away. Like the bones of a chicken or a fish. We eat the flesh, but the bones we don’t eat and we throw them away. We shouldn’t worry about the bones.
These days it’s not just giving the things that aren’t good to the monastery, now its monkeys. They look after the monkey at home, and aren’t able to handle it anymore, and then abandon it in the monastery. At the moment, there is one monkey, which has penetrated into our monastery. It’s a monkey that was domesticated, because it is very familiar with people. This one is quite domesticated, and it goes around to the kitchen, takes food, fruits, then goes to the monk’s huts and then laypeople’s accommodation.
Sometimes if someone is trying to catch a monkey, you put a fruit inside a coconut shell. When the monkey comes to take the fruit, it grabs the fruit in its hand, it can’t pull it out, but it doesn’t let the fruit go. The monkey has put his hand through the small hole, but when it grabs the fruit the hole is too small to get the fruit out. We are trying to use this method as well in the monastery to catch this monkey. Here, just 1 monkey loose in the monastery, even with all the monks trying to catch the monkey it is not easy. Because the monkey is smart and fast. Its hands are sticky, because attachments are very sticky. Here our heart is like a monkey.
How can we catch the heart? We have to train in a meditation object. Watching the in-breath and out-breath with a lot of mindfulness well-established. The mind that is like a monkey – that thinks here and there, thinks of this and that, thinks of good and bad things, things of the past and future. But if we have no meditation object to restrain the mind, then it won’t stay still. Like now we restrain the mind and the inner monkey can be a little more peaceful. But we finish chanting and meditation, we leave the hall, and we let go of our mindfulness, and the inner monkey comes out again. It thinks of all sorts of things. If we don’t restrain the mind then the whole day it’s like that.
We need to establish mindfulness well. Have Buddho Dhamma Sangho in the mind. After we finish eating – whether it was delicious or what not – it enters this body – that is the rice enters the mouth – and then it leaves the body. The beautiful food loses its value. When the food gathers together in the stomach – it gathers in one place – it loses its value all the same. Seeing this way is closer to being a monk.
So, this merit you need to maintain. How do you maintain it? Use mindfulness and wisdom to look after our mind.
Venerable Ajahn Chah would compare bad things to a tiger we have trapped in a cage, if we don’t give it food or water, then it will lose its strength. Greed, hatred and delusion is in the heart, if we don’t feed them anymore, then it will lose its strength by itself. We will be able to restrain it. This is important.
Sometimes you see clearly, sometimes you don’t. We call this growing our mindfulness and our wisdom more each day. In this way, we are cultivating the mind a lot. Our merit grows more and more each day. Our lifespan diminishes every day, but our merit is growing. This is important. Nibbana is in our heart. It’s not anywhere else. So, this heart has a great value, much more than any money, wealth or anything external. We have met the Buddha’s teaching already, which has great value. This spiritual heart, if we develop it, we will be able to purify it, we can free it from suffering. And even if it’s just temporary, we will still experience great happiness, and have inner joy and rapture in the mind. May you be determined to practice the Dhamma and may you all grow in Dhamma and blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Is the monkey in the heart or the mind? How do I calm down the monkey?
Luang Por Anan: The heart means the mind that is in the middle, the spiritual heart, the still mind. When the heart moves with thinking then we call it the mind. So, the monkey is in the thoughts that move the mind. To calm the monkey, we have awareness of the breath, recollect the Buddha, and we can know that the mind and its thoughts are two different things. This makes the mind still.
Q: When meditating the knowing and the breath combined into one thing. Is this okay?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. Just know if the mind is peaceful or not and this will tell you if the practice is correct or not.
Q: People sometimes take home nicer food than they brought to donate.
Luang Por Anan: The problem of greed is all over the world. People with less spiritual development are like this. The Buddha taught to get rid of bad within ourselves first.
Sometimes, if we have two things, we want to keep the nicer one and give away the less nice item. Like in Chiang Mai a woman had two flasks, and she wanted to keep the nicer one for herself. But after listening to a Dhamma talk she decided to give away the nicer one and felt better.
Q: Sometimes I have expectations then feel upset when my hopes are not met. What should I do?
Luang Por Anan: One must be careful here. Have mindfulness. Maybe you hate yourself if you fail to meet your expectations and suffer from this. One should not do that.