Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – August 30th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: In Thailand we are in the rainy season, and there is some flooding. In this world one cannot win over nature. Nature always wins. We can compare weather to the moods in our minds. Moods arise and the mind changes. Extreme weather can be hard to overcome. Often one cannot do anything about it. If the mind chases greed, hatred, and delusion, then train the mind to fix this issue. This training of the mind is very important. The mind is a knowing element that receives sense impressions from the six sense bases; then the mind reacts with like and dislike, then the mind gets sent out and is born into various sense objects.
One example of this is the story of a monk who was very attached to his robes. After he died, he was reborn as a flea on his old robes. One must be careful—keep watch over the mind. Whoever takes care looking after their mind is able to overcome the trap of Mara (delusion). Whether one undertakes the 5, 8, 10, or 227 precepts, one begins with sila in Dhamma practice. This is the foundation for building mindfulness, then samadhi or concentration, then wisdom. When wisdom arises, this destroys the sense of self, conceit, and views. And this overcoming of attachment to views is of great importance. For example, if one thinks of oneself as a good person and attaches to that view, then a bad thing – that attachment – arises. Doing good things, feeling that one is right, then attaching to that is a source of suffering – like sweeping or cleaning up and thinking that we are helping society. But, then, someone comes along and says we are not doing any good. Then we suffer. We want others to do good, we want our friends to be good, we want our children to be good, but then our children or friends aren’t as good as we wished, and we suffer. Now let us learn about a story Luang Pu Chah told about someone who wanted others to be equal and suffered about that.
Today I have a story to share with you. It’s a story that Luang Pu Chah told before. He said he didn’t really want to tell it because it was a long story. But he felt he ought to tell it. If he could say it in a short way, it would be good, but he wasn’t able to do it. There was once a person with a meritorious heart who liked to do charity. As a layperson he would be diligent in doing whatever was meritorious and wholesome. He would do it with a lot of care and was very meticulous in everything he did. When he was preparing offerings, he was detailed and would put everything properly in its place – this certain object would have to be placed in this spot, and that object had to be placed in that spot. If one of his children moved it to another place, then he would complain, tell them it was wrong, and wouldn’t be pleased. The broom had to be put here, and the water flask had to be put there. Whoever didn’t do it the way he wanted, then he would have suffering arise. He was someone who was very detailed, had a meritorious heart, and who followed all the proper rules.
One day, when he was in the forest, he saw people resting under a tree, and he had the idea that he could make a pavilion for travelling merchants in which they could rest. He thought this would be a meritorious and good act. Those people would have happiness and be able to rest at ease. He had this idea, undertook the task and completed it well. When it was all done, he was pleased. But later, after he died, his ghost was attached to that pavilion. It had been attached to it since he was alive. After building the pavilion, he would go see where it was dirty and who was staying there. If there was someone who didn’t do something right, then he felt bad, but if they did it well, only then did he feel pleased. This was caused by his heart of charity, his detailed nature, and his strictness in following rules.
Later, there were many hundreds of merchants who came to stay in that pavilion. After they had finished dinner, they went to sleep in a long row. The owner who was a ghost, came to see if they slept in an orderly fashion or not. He saw that their heads were not in a line. Some were tall and some were short. It concerned him a lot. So what should he do? He pulled their feet, so that their heads would be in a straight line. When he had pulled them so that all their heads were in a perfect line he felt very pleased and happy. He walked along and saw their heads in a line and had a lot of happiness, because it was orderly. Then he went to look at their feet, and OH! Their feet weren’t in a line. So he pulled on their heads to line up their feet in a straight line. When all their feet were in a line, he then went to go see their heads, and OH! They weren’t in a straight line again. He then changed it again to make them straight. He kept busily doing this all night. So what was this all about? We are deluded, but its not that strong – we are just deluded this much. This ghost was deluded already. The ghost thought that, AW! people are short and tall, and not the same height. The tallness and shortness of people is not the same. This is where our disappointments come from. We people aren’t the same height. This is the way it is. And so he could let go. Because of what? Because he could saw according to truth – that people are not the same. Before he had seen people as the same. And when people weren’t the same, he would try to make them the same. When they couldn’t be the same, then he would suffer. He sat and thought that, in truth, people are like this. People are short and people are tall. People aren’t the same. It’s like this. When he could see this, then his mind was at ease. His mind was freed, and he could let go.
And this applies to our daily lives, in society and at home. Even our children who are born from us, aren’t even the same – their character, their heart, how they act, their mindfulness and wisdom aren’t similar. Or in the workplace, the workers are different, nothing is the same, or equal. This doesn’t exist.
So when we learn about this, then we understand that this is just the nature of people. They aren’t the same. Some people are good, really good – they do things properly and according to the rules, they understand all aspects of the work easily. Some people, we must tell them many times before they do it, and some people you tell them and they just don’t do it. Some people are stubborn. There are so many different types.
So whichever way they are, the Buddha has said that some people can be taught, whereas some people need to be taught often and they can eventually be trained. Some people if you tell them many times then they will be able to do it. But some people, no matter how many times you tell them, they just wont get it. This is one who won’t gain any benefit.
It’s like training a horse. For some horses – the smart ones – the rider can just raise the whip and the horse will gallop already. For some horses the rider needs to whip them a little and they will gallop. For some horses they need to be whipped a lot till they will gallop. But whenever one stops whipping them, they will stop galloping. This is called a neyya puggala. These days there are just people who are neyya puggala, in that one needs to keep whipping them on and on. If one stops, then they will stop running. This is the mind that is still rough and the mental defilements are thick. But for some no matter how much one whips them, they just won’t run. The Buddha compared this type of individual to a horse that is untrainable and must be put down. This is how a horse trainer replied to the Buddha.
So for us, even if our minds are like horses that need to be whipped and prodded, it is still good, so long as we can run. So may you keep at the practice. Keep it up without stopping. And then you will know and understand the Dhamma.
May you contemplate that all people are not the same—they differ in mindfulness, wisdom, capabilities, mental strength and spiritual development. So we don’t look down on them and we don’t bully others. We try to understand ourselves and understand others. Try to keep practicing Dhamma. See oneself as important. And then we will grow in our Dhamma practice. We will see and know the Dhamma. May you grow in blessings
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: Luang Pu Chah said that we must be careful, especially people in management roles, as they look after rules and discipline. One must teach oneself as described in the video.
1. Q: I chant fast in order to get the chanting over with. Is this mental defilement? And why must we count the number of times that we chant?
Luang Por Anan: Chant with mindfulness. The purpose of chanting is to train in mindfulness and be in the present, not to go into the past or future. Yes, this is mental defilement at work. Chanting too fast or not chanting at all is mental defilement. Don’t go too fast or too slow, do it just right. If one is peaceful then one can stop chanting. Peacefulness is the goal of chanting, this is samadhi. Even 9 times can be enough. Reaching the given number of repetitions of chanting is finishing on the outside; reaching peace and stillness of mind is called finishing on the inside.
2. Q: Can one chant without counting the repetitions? I worry about finishing.
Luang Por Anan: There is no need to count. One can just chant for 15 or 30 minutes, or whatever amount of time. Have mindfulness. Do not worry about counting or amounts of time. Do chanting so that samadhi arises. Be determined to have mindfulness. Then samadhi can arise.
3. Q: Is chanting while also thinking about other things okay? Is there any point to doing this?
Luang Por Anan: If one thinks while chanting, this is still useful. One would think even more if one tried to just be with the breath. Have mindfulness. One can visualize each letter or syllable of the chant, then mindfulness can improve and thinking reduces. One can visualize points on the face, 9 points in a circle around the face, with one point representing each of the 9 virtues of the Buddha in the chant on the virtues of the Buddha. The purpose is to develop mindfulness.
4. Q: Are people different according to their karma or for other reasons?
Luang Por Anan: It is important to make good karma. Have faith and wisdom. If one only has faith, then one gets lost. Have sila. See the drawbacks of not having, and the benefits of having, virtue, mindfulness, and samadhi. These qualities decrease the experience of stress and suffering, of dukkha. Use wisdom to do good karma like listening to and learning Dhamma and associating with good friends and teachers. This will lead to more growth in wisdom, which leads to more good karma. Eventually one can see the Dhamma. If one does not see the Dhamma, then the mind can still become lighter and suffer less.
5. Q: How does one let go of attachment to views and opinions? If one is attached to a physical object, then one can give it away.
Luang Por Anan: Build correct views. It is like cleaning a dirty floor—the cleanliness is in the dirtiness. Clean wrong views and right views will arise. Light comes, and darkness goes away by itself.
6. Q: How can I help another who is suffering? Like a family member.
Luang Por Anan: Find a way to advise loved ones. Look for the right time and opportunity. Find skilful means. Like Anathapindika’s son—his father had to offer him money to go listen to Dhamma, but, after the son saw the Dhamma from the Buddha’s talk, the son no longer wanted any money. Be skilful in looking after one’s own mind to not suffer about other’s problems.
Contemplate: how old were we when we got interested in the Dhamma? As a teenager, one may not be interested. Give time and opportunity for them to come. Maybe after experiencing more suffering, then they will come to be interested in Dhamma. Its like hunger. When one is hungry, one thinks of food and goes to find it. But one needs to let go, as well, if the other does not follow one’s advice. When a dog pulls hard on a leash, sometimes, one has to let go.
7. Q: How does one have mindfulness all the time? One cannot sit in meditation every moment of every day.
Luang Por Anan: Do not think too much and get distracted. Have mindfulness with whatever you are doing.
8. Q: Mindfulness and awareness come as a pair. If I get lost in thought, I think to return to the breath, then I become aware of the breath. How do I make mindfulness faster?
Luang Por Anan: Practice a lot and it will get better. Mindfulness and awareness arise, then wisdom arises. Do it a lot, build the causes, and the benefits from practice grow. Otherwise the mental defilements pull oneself easily. If one practices virtue, concentration, and wisdom, then one is pulled in the right direction.
9. Q: How do I deal with an employee who is a perfectionist? She pressures herself.
Luang Por Anan: Its good to have a perfectionist employee, there is less need to take care of them. If this is reversed then it is difficult. So one can be happy for them. It is one’s merit to have a good worker. To help her, show her this talk.
In the early days, Luang Pu Chah was very strict. One couldn’t break the rules. Luang Pu Chah would suffer, as well, if a disciple broke the rules. Then, one day, Luang Pu Chah entered samadhi for three days straight and came out changed. People were not the same—he had to let go of people that couldn’t be fixed. If there is attachment to goodness or perfection then suffering arises. The right path is just right, so that suffering does not arise. Its like grabbing a snake’s tail—the head still comes around to bite.
10. Q: What is the importance of chanting?
Luang Por Anan: The importance is to make the mind peaceful, recollect the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, to generate mindfulness, to develop gratitude, and to contemplate the meaning of the chanting, which leads to wisdom arising like listening to a talk. For example, one chants that the components of the body and mind (5 aggregates) are not permanent, like feeling, or vedana, is impermanent, stressful, and not-self. One reflects on this and gains benefit; one can even see the Dhamma. If one does not chant, then unskilful thoughts can arise. We chant to give up bad and unwholesome thoughts while giving rise to wholesome thoughts. When chanting one has sila, or virtue, in body, speech, and mind, then one gets samadhi, then wisdom can develop. This is the Noble Eightfold Path, summarized as virtue, concentration, and wisdom, which is the way to awakening. When one is suffering, we chant or listen to chanting to feel peace, feel more emptiness in the mind, and, if others hear it, they can feel happy, too.
11. Q: What is value of the Sangha as a refuge? We usually go for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
Luang Por Anan: Sangha means individuals who have practiced well. We listen to their teachings, then we do good, refrain from doing bad, contemplate the Buddha’s teachings, and learn how to practice the right way, and this leads to understanding in oneself. If one does not listen, it is hard to find one’s own way. Its like going to school—one has teachers to listen to, it is not only books.
12. Q: Why should we not point our toes to the Buddha or to the teacher?
Ajahn Greg: The feet touch the ground, which is dirty, so the feet are seen as a dirty or lower part of the body, which one would not want to point towards the teacher.
Luang Por Anan: This is Asian culture—one bows one’s head, bringing the head, which is considered high, down low.
One day, a foreign monk stepped over a Thai monk’s shoulder bag, which had some Buddha images in it, and he touched the head of the Thai monk. The Thai monk was extremely angry. The Thai monk had attachment. There is another story in England of a foreign monk who put a picture of Luang Pu Chah at the foot of his bed so that he could see Luang Pu Chah and feel happy as he lay down. If he put the picture at the head of the bed, then he would only see it once when he bowed to it. A Thai monk saw this and was offended. Who is right and who is wrong?