Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – July 26th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Now we are in the midst of the traditional three month rains retreat, where the monks and novices determine to spend these three months in the same place. Some monks and novices determine to do certain practices, like only eating what they receive on alms round or not lying down during the lunar observance nights. This is for the purpose of training one’s mind to be content with little and develop in peacefulness. Determination is one of the ten paramis, which is paired with truthfulness parami. When one makes a firm determination, one should follow through and do it. Let us now learn about these two paramis together.
Welcome to all of you from your centres. Today we learn on the Dhamma topic of sacca parami, the spiritual perfection of truthfulness. What does this pali word, sacca, mean? Sacca means truthfulness or sincerity. This means that one has sincerity and responsibility in all one’s duties and work. One does not avoid work that comes to oneself. One has the determination to do all the things that come to one fully according to one’s ability. If it’s Dhamma practice then one practices sincerely. One does all the daily observances and practices proficiently.
For the monks, they do their morning chanting, evening chanting, and all their other daily observances of a monk like going on alms round and helping with the work of the monastery. They do all these proficiently and properly. Having this determination means having truth and sincerity. And having this virtue, one will be a very good person.
In regards to the virtue of sacca, truthfulness, there are 5 parts to consider:
1. Truthfulness in regards to one’s responsibilities. A mother and father, children, wife, or husband all have duties towards each other. They need to act following appropriate principles of proper conduct. Whatever responsibilities one has, one accomplishes them fully and appropriately.
2. Truthfulness in regards to one’s work. When one is determined to do a certain type of work, then they do that work fully. If they haven’t finished it, they don’t stop. They work with their full ability in order to gain success in it. Sometimes there are various obstacles to their work, but when they have set the determination to do that work already, then they do
so with their full ability and try their best no matter what the obstacles in order to succeed.
3. Truthfulness in regards to one’s speech. When one speaks, one must act accordingly. Have speech that is in line with one’s heart.
4. Truthfulness in regards to people. One isn’t hypocritical, pretending to be one way but really being another. Whoever one is associated with, then one is a true friend to that person. One has true sincerity to that person, whether in times of happiness or in times of suffering.
5. Truthfulness in regards to goodness. One is firmly intent to do good. Not doing bad of any type. Not being involved in any of the paths that lead to decline. One thinks of only doing good. One does good, whether other people know about it or not. Sometimes one may have thoughts to go in a bad way, but with one’s firm sincerity to goodness, then one won’t do it. One has patience and tries to head only to the good. This is truthfulness in regards to siladhamma, a basic level of morality. So these are the 5 aspects of sacca, truthfulness.
And a related parami is additana, the spiritual perfection of determination. This is the determination in doing the right thing. Like a determination to do good. How are we to have determination to do good? The supreme example is the Buddha, who had the resolve to become a Buddha, intent in helping free all living beings from suffering and to help them overcome their mental defilements. The Buddha built his parami until he succeeded. There is the additana parami of the ordinary type, then of the higher type where it requires one to sacrifice one’s body parts, and of the highest type where it requires the sacrifice of one’s life. The Buddha could do all these perfectly in regards to sacca parami and additana parami.
We can notice that if we are determined to do something and we can succeed in doing it, then we gain both sacca and additana parami. For example, say we are determined to give alms food tomorrow, and then it rains and storms. But we try to overcome that obstacle and are able to give alms food. We say it and we really do it. Or we make the determination that we will be intent in doing good. We will be firm in sila and Dhamma. And we are resolute to accomplish that. Like the Buddha, in his past life, he was a King named Nemiraat. He made a determination to ordain as a renunciant in order to maintain the royal tradition, and he was able to succeed. He had sacca parami and additana parami. And this is something that is extremely difficult to do. These paramis are necessary for those individuals who aim to achieve the highest – becoming a Buddha, a Pacceka Buddha, or independent Buddha, and, to a lesser extent, a savaka, a noble disciple of a Buddha.
So we need to build parami first. To all the Dhamma practitioners, whether you are a lay person or monastic, be firm in sacca parami and additana parami. And then you will meet with success.
Like a monk who determines to stay to practice in a cremation ground. They have to overcome obstacles from fear of spirits and ghosts, or if in the forest, the fear of tigers and elephants. But they make a vow of truthfulness (sacca) that they won’t retreat from where they are staying under their glot, an umbrella and mosquito net tent. When they have put up their glot, they won’t retreat from it. They follow their vow of truthfulness. How many ever days or months they have vowed to stay for, they won’t retreat from their vow of truthfulness. Even if one has fear, they still must enter their glot, for that period whether 15 days or more than a month. They keep this even if there is someone who has died and they take that corpse to be cremated or buried in front of them. Even if you are so scared, you still have to go there. This is willingness to sacrifice one’s life. Even if you have to die, then you would rather die in order to keep that vow of truthfulness. This is the practice of sacca.
When you have made the determination (additana parami) already, you have made the vow of truthfulness (sacca) already, then you must do it. Then you will have the strength to fight against all obstacles and can overcome them. So we need to understand that sacca or additana parami is not just wishing for things. The additana parami in Buddhism needs to take into account karma—causes and results. When we make a determination, this is building goodness. The goodness that we have and the power of the merit that we have is the cause to help the strength of our determination so that we can succeed in whatever we aspire to. It isn’t that we wish to become a millionaire or billionaire, but we are lazy and are not diligent. If we have no parami, then we won’t succeed. If we want to determine to have good samadhi, meditative concentration, but we don’t meditate, then we can’t do it! We need viriya, effort and diligence in Dhamma practice. Or for all the laypeople, for a child they need determination to study in school. When they are an adult, then they need determination to do their work. In this way, having sacca parami and additana parami, you will all succeed in many things.
All the people born in the world, whether a monk or layperson, must follow the law of karma. One does good, and one gets good results. One does bad, and one gets bad results. No one has the power to overcome the results of karma that one has done. But additana, determination, is building the power of one’s mind to be strong to set a goal, locking that goal in so that we will succeed in that. This sets the compass of one’s life, so that it is straight. So, if we have enough strength of determination, then we will be able to succeed. Our minds need to build parami – build dana, giving, build sila, morality, build bhavana, mental development, build goodness, then our determinations will succeed. The success of our determination, depends on 4 factors:
1. The power of the mind that is pure and clean. This plays an important role in the building of merit, from giving, to virtue, to meditation. One does goodness a lot, and in the right way. In a way that doesn’t harm oneself or others. When good acts are done correctly, then the mind is pure and bright. The merit and parami that one has done in the past, connects and continues with our new merit that we do and this helps our determination to succeed.
2. In regards to the goal of the determination (additana), one must determine for good things that will give benefit to ourselves and others. It must be correct and in line with Dhamma. Then the determination will succeed in having good results arise from it. But the determination that is full of mental defilements and selfishness, will be hard to accomplish and it will be hard for it to give good results. The determinations that stops others’ progress, stops benefit going to others, or desires others to have bad things, this is not a determination, but a curse. And it is definitely something one shouldn’t do, because it has no good results to oneself or others.
3. An important aspect is that we should not make determinations that are beyond our merit and parami. For example, if we have low merit and we make a determination to win the lottery, in Thailand it is 2 or 3 digits and overseas it may be 4 digits. We make a determination that we will get the jackpot and wish to gain great wealth from it. Like some of the lucky others we see. But we can’t. It’s like a person who has 10 Thai baht and wants to open up a big shop. It’s not possible. If they want to really have it then they need to do the right causes for it. If their merit is not enough, then they should try to quickly build merit first. But it’s normal that one who is troubled and in difficult situations, they want things quick. They want the success of their wish quickly. This can be possible if our merit is enough and it can reach our determination. So may you build your merit and parami.
Whatever we can’t succeed in, then build sila parami, do chanting, and do meditation. Chant the virtues of the Buddha, beginning with “Itipiso”, 108 times, many times in a day. Then we will be able to succeed in our determinations, that is, if our merit and parami is sufficient.
4. And the 4th aspect to additana, is that one must do the causes appropriate for whatever one has aspired to achieve. Many people make a determination already and get no results, not even small results from it. The reason for that is because they set their goal and they don’t put the effort in to lay down the causes that are appropriate to get that result.
For instance, they want to be rich and wealthy, but they don’t put the effort into their livelihood and don’t work fully. How will they get rich then? One will only be able to achieve it if one has a lot of old merit that is still supporting oneself. But it’s difficult to succeed in this way. So build goodness and parami. If we want to gain samadhi, we want mindfulness, we want the paths and fruits of nibbana, then, when we have made the determination to gain these, determine to lay down the causes, as well. Be determined to practice. If one is a monk, then they should determine to practice fully. If one is a layperson, then they determine to practice fully, too, and to have mindfulness all the same. Then they will gain results from Dhamma practice. So, knowing this, be determined to follow through on your vows of truth or determinations.
And we can take a look at the examples in this 3 month rains retreat, how are the monks and laity who have sacca determining that they will practice all through the rains-retreat? There are monks that have made determinations to stay 3 months here and eat only the food they get on alms, to eat strictly one meal, to eat only from one bowl, practicing without sleep on the weekly lunar observance days, or noble silence, except to the teacher. They determine to do the monastic routine and practices for the purpose of having more proficient mindfulness. Or some monks may make the determination to chant “Itipiso” 108 times, 9 times in one day. This is promoting one’s merit and parami. So let us learn from these examples and continue learning Dhamma. May you all grow in Dhamma and in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: If one does bad karma, does it affect one’s family, as well? Like breaking the five precepts?
Luang Por Anan: If one does bad deeds and it causes a bad situation, it may have an effect on one’s family. Like the family may be afraid of oneself, or, if one goes to jail, for instance, this affects the family. Determine to uphold the five precepts, then you and your family can have happiness.
2. Q: Previously, Luang Por Anan recommended to not determine something that is beyond one’s parami or ability. What are the bad effects that may come from this?
Luang Por Anan: One would suffer if one fails in their determination. One could criticize and blame oneself. If one with little meditation experience determines to sit 5 hours, but they can’t yet sit 15 minutes, this is likely beyond their ability. So know one’s own strength and parami, and know what one should determine.
3. Q: If, in a past life, one has karmic debtors, and their hatred lingers, when do they let go of that hatred? Does it depend on their karma?
Luang Por Anan: This can take time. It is up to them whether they forgive and let go or not. Like Devadatta, he had a grudge against the Buddha in many lifetimes. Whatever lifetime they met, Devadatta wished to harm the Buddha. The Buddha spread metta, but Devadatta was still vengeful. Eventually Devadatta expressed faith in the Buddha before Devadatta was swallowed by the earth. This letting go of vengefulness depends on many causes and conditions.
In terms of this question, keep your mind in the present with lovingkindness to oneself and others. Whether one has karmic debtors from the past or not, determine to not have hatred towards others in the present and have lovingkindness.
4. Q: Is there a way to define what is unconditional? A friend asked if Buddhists are atheists, and I said no, because Buddhists can believe in various deities. But in terms of believing in an eternal “God”, then, unless God had an unconditional nature, then God would not be able to escape the fleeting nature of things, due to impermanence—things come and go. There is no such thing as eternal. The only eternal thing I can think of is nibbana. I’m not sure if this is the correct way of explaining, and, also, my friend asked me, what does it mean to be unconditional? I couldn’t find anything in the suttas so I would like to seek Luang Por’s advice.
Luang Por Anan: You explained correctly, but can they understand? About devas, Brahmas, impermanence, and nibbana, that which is beyond change, would they understand? When I was with Luang Pu Chah, there were three Christian nuns who came to Wat Nong Pah Pong. Luang Pu Chah talked about God and Buddha and how they were the same thing. He spoke like this. They had faith in Dhamma and paid respects to Luang Pu Chah. Dhamma is also the same thing; Dhamma does not change.
5. Q: Usually in Christianity, God is described as a figure, which would mean it has form. As I understand it, all form is subject to change and is impermanent. If God is eternal, is it possible for him to still have a form? Can they coexist?
Luang Por Anan: Material or mental conditions all have to change, are stressful, and are not-self. In Hinduism, the Brahma god is the highest and does not change. This is the mind that has high concentration and a high level of goodness. But this is still subject to change. This mind that has these qualities still changes. Only the mind that is completely purified and free from attachments, like the Buddha and the arahants, does not change. They are free from the cycle of birth and death and samsara. If the mind still has attachment to name and form, body and mind, then there must be change there.
To think of it in this way, it is hard to understand. It is more useful to look at one’s present state of mind, and keep one’s mind in a good and wholesome state.
Do goodness in the present moment and avoid unwholesomeness. This will lead to happiness. Whatever religion one practices, keep the mind in a good state. This will lead to happiness, and this is the way to realize true happiness, as well. Thinking in terms of Brahma gods can be hard to understand.
6. Q: If one determines to be together with another in every life, or, if one determines to never meet with another again, will these determinations yield results?
Luang Por Anan: There are good and bad points, here. If one determines to not meet another person, but one does meet again, then disliking can arise quickly. This disliking can be deep in the mind and give rise to negative mind states. It is better to determine to forgive that person in every life onwards. Spread metta and try to forgive.
If one determines to be a pair in every life, later, one’s levels of parami can become different, then perhaps you will meet in the future and be paired again. Then, when you meet again, you could have difficulties and suffering. So you must have patience and endurance if you determine this until you realize Nibbana. So one should contemplate deeply on this.
7. Q: Why do we chant Itipiso 108 times? Not another number?
Luang Por Anan: We chant many times in order to cultivate peacefulness and mindfulness. 1 time perhaps would not be enough. For some, 9 times may be enough. But, if the mind is scattered, then more repetitions can increase peace and calm. The virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha add up to 108 virtues.
8. Q: If we share merits with karmic debtors, will this help the situation? And how should we share merits?
Luang Por Anan: When you make merit and do goodness, you can have the thought to share that merit with the karmic debtors and wish that they have no ill will towards one, no more karma with one, and may they forgive oneself.
9. Q: If we share merits with someone who passed away due to an unnatural death, like supernatural interference, will that being come close to us and affect our energy? Like if someone has a spell cast on someone and they die.
Luang Por Anan: If that person has passed away by supernatural causes, or even for others who die normally, if you share merits with them, it won’t have a negative effect on oneself. Merit is like coolness and ease, and you are simply sharing this coolness and ease with other living beings. This won’t have a bad effect on oneself.
10. Q: Sometimes people say that when we share merits, beings come to us to receive that. I imagine a lot of beings crowding around a person when they share merits.
Luang Por Anan: Minds that are suffering or are in unhappy states, those minds want and need merit, but they do not come close like that. One may get the feeling that another being has received that merit and gained a happier mind state from that merit.
When we meditate and give alms for instance, or chant the sharing of merits at the end of chanting, then we can share merits with all beings.
Does it help your mind feel at ease when you share merits?
Q: Most of the time, yes, if I am mindful.
Luang Por Anan: Do not doubt, otherwise your mind will not feel at ease. Make your mind still and spread merit to others, then you will feel at ease. At that point, your duty is done. You do not need to worry or wonder about whether others receive it.
11. Q: There are many religions that believe that their God is protecting them. But they have never seen this God. In Buddhism, we believe in Buddhas, Brahmas, and devas, but we have not seen these things, either. What makes us believe in these things that we have never seen?
Luang Por Anan: The Buddha is in the Dhamma. The Dhamma is here. We are meeting with this every day—we study the Dhamma of things arising and passing away, things changing, and this is the Dhamma. It is all around us for us to see if we have wisdom.
In order to see the Dhamma, we practice to make our minds peaceful and still. Then we can look with wisdom and see the Dhamma clearly. Whether laypeople or monastics, all of us, we can see the Dhamma; the Dhamma has arisen already—our breath arises then passes away. We can see impermanence, and this impermanence is arising here all the time. If we have mindfulness and wisdom we can see Dhamma arising just like this. The Buddha taught like this. We see this clearly and we see the Buddha.
12. Q: If we determine to eat once a day, but we cannot do it, then can we determine again later and renew the determination?
Luang Por Anan: Instead you should determine to eat two meals a day. Later, when you have more strength, you can determine to eat once a day.