Welcome to the monks and novices and blessings to all the laity coming together to learn about Dhamma.

When we practise Dhamma, at times we may test out ourselves dealing with sense objects. Like monks may go to practise Dhamma, putting up their umbrellas and mosquito nets in the deep forest, or in a secluded place. And after meditating, they may have fear arise. The fear of things they can’t see. The fear that there will be things coming to harm their mind and harm their body. Or some monks are scared and terrified of snakes, elephants and tigers, which just comes down to being scared of death. And when they go to stay in places which have these types of dangers, they are determined to practise Dhamma. They think of the kammaṭṭhāna, meditation objects, that the great teachers taught them to meditate on, and the Buddha said that if we have fear and dread arise, then we should recollect him, the Tathāgata. So may we think of the Buddha, and then we will have rapture and bliss arise easily. The fear will diminish if we are determined to meditate and have mindfulness with the word such as ‘Buddho’.

If we have faith and confidence in the Triple Gem, that is Budho, Dhammo, Sangho, then we will truly enter into the Triple Gem. And even being an unattained human being, we have to practise properly as well. When we have solidity in the Triple Gem without doubt and wavering, then we are not put off by some of the Sangha members who don’t bring up faith and confidence in us, because they aren’t included in the Triple Gem, as they are the conventional Sangha. So the deep rooted faith we have in the Triple Gem, we should make it to be full in our hearts, because the Buddha was one with the mind of purity and radiance. The Dhamma is the teaching of the Buddha that he has taught well. There is no one who can dispute and argue against the Buddha’s teachings. The Sangha that is included in the Triple Gem is the Ariya—Noble Sangha, those who have perfect and complete faith and confidence in the Triple Gem. Ones who are beyond worries and concern. The Buddha said that whoever has this supreme refuge, this highest refuge, by this refuge, one will make an end of all Dukkha, suffering. It is that which reduces the renewed births and deaths, cycling around in Samsara. And it also makes suffering cease in the present as well. That is why the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha is the supreme and highest refuge.

And the Triple Gem isn’t something to be taken playfully. The one who truly enters into it must be someone who understands clearly. They have wisdom and can see into Aniccam, Dukkham, Anatta, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self. One who has faith like this, is someone who is determined to listen to Dhamma or discussing Dhamma. We recite the verses of chanting and Dhamma, and investigate into Dhamma. And we practise Samatha, tranquillity, and Vipassana, insight meditation, like you do here. This is called making the mind peaceful. We have mindfulness with the in- and out-breath, according to time and opportunity. But those who have faith may do it more continually. They are able to make their minds peaceful and this leads to the arising of wisdom, which can overcome the mental defilements. But if our place isn’t appropriate, this may make us disrupted and agitated. If we may be able to find one quiet spot in the house, and then we may be able to have peace and calm come up. So when we have this supreme refuge like this, then this is the building up of our wisdom.

If there may be fear of wild or other animals, fear of spirits or for some people, they are of the level of having homage for other things ‘greater’ than the Triple Gem. There may be many who worship tree spirits or deities as their refuge. But when venerable Ajahn Chah first built Wat Nong Pah Pong, the villagers mainly worshiped spirits as their refuge. But after listening to Ajahn Chah’s teachings, they gained faith, and so they determined to practise the five precepts and they took refuge in the Triple Gem. They had made the certain decision that if they had to die, then so be it. But let me die with faith in the Triple Gem. There were many experiences, many things that happened, like stones falling, hitting this lay person’s roof. And it made a loud racket. But this one layman decided right there and then to take firm refuge in the Triple Gem, and there was nothing that could harm or endanger him. And he was someone who kept the five precepts from that day onwards.

So when we practise staying in the forest, or in the wilderness, there may be fear coming up. Then we may think of the Buddha. The Buddha had trained himself already before becoming the Buddha. When the Bodhisattva had fear come up, in whatever posture he was in, he would stay in that posture. If he had fear when he was walking, the Bodhisattva would not stand, sit or lie down. He would walk until the fear disappeared. If he had fear when he was standing, then he would stand until the fear disappeared. If he had fear when he was sitting, then he would sit until the fear disappeared. In the same way, when fear came up when he was lying down, then he would not sit, stand or walk. But would stay lying down until the fear disappeared. So we can see the Buddha had trained and practised himself in the best way, and this sutta was given by the Buddha when he was in Jetavana monastery, where the Buddha retold when he was practising as a Bodhisattva before becoming awakened. He stayed in the forest, in the wilderness. And the Bodhisattva had his body, speech and mind that was clean and pure. The raga, sensual craving, and the five hindrances that obstruct samadhi, concentration, was stilled and calmed. So the Bodhisattva likely had no fear from staying in the forest.

What we people are afraid of most, is death. This is because we have liking and pleasure in this world. We have pleasure in forms, sounds, odours, tastes, touches and mental objects. So whoever has pleasure, be it a monk or a lay person, then they will have fear come up as normal, because they don’t want to be separated or be parted from the things they love and possess. And especially in this era, there is fear. It may not be the fear of tree spirits and deities like in the past, but it is fear of the harmful virus infecting us, and we don’t even know when it entered our bodies. No matter how careful they are, there are still people who get infected with the virus, Covid-19. And many people have lost their lives from it. So may we establish our mindfulness well. Firstly, it is related to kamma. If we have the kamma, then how much ever we try to avoid it, we may still die from it.

I want to share with you a story of one family of five people, who got infected with Covid-19. The wife liked to go outside of the home, and no matter how much they told her not to go out, she wouldn’t listen. Ultimately, she got Covid-19 and spread it to the people in the home. Later, this wife died in that house. The husband was also infected, all the in-laws caught it as well. Many people were infected by it. The ones remaining had to move to get treated in the hospital. It ended up that many people did recover from it, only having minor flu symptoms, and got better. But there was one person, one of the workers, who was very good at his work and was skilled, he also recovered and went back home. That night, he bathed and no one had noticed until the next morning, when they found him lying on the floor, dead in the bathroom. He had slipped in the bathroom. So we can see that he had come back, recovered from Covid-19, but slipped over in the bathroom and died for whatever reason, we don’t know. Maybe he had slipped, or maybe he had taken a cold shower and made the illness come back up.

So life is uncertain. They are infected with Covid-19, they think they would die from it, but they can recover, yet slip in the bathroom and die. So being scared of dying too much damages the mind. There is excessive stress on the mind and too much anxiety arises in the mind. This is not good. So may we establish our mindfulness well. If we have fear coming up, then may we chant and meditate a lot. Establish our mindfulness and contemplate that this is natural and normal in life. When we are born, we must have ageing, sickness and death. We know that it is like this, but this knowledge hasn’t entered the mind deeply. This knowledge is still just on the surface, on the outside, so we need to train and develop our minds to have this supreme refuge, the highest refuge. If we go for refuge in the jewel of the Buddha, the jewel of the Dhamma, the jewel of the Sangha, we will be able to be free from all suffering. So may you be determined to truly enter the Triple Gem in our meditation and in our Dhamma practice. May you all grow in blessings.