Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – November 30th, 2018
See here for the below talk in audio format (without questions and answers): https://watmarpjan.org/en/podcast/persevering-through-illness-two-sick-monks-of-the-buddhas-time/
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all of you from all your centres. Last week there was a question about if one had to choose between long life, beauty, happiness, strength, and intelligence, which one would one choose? We heard answers from many monks and laypeople, that they would choose intelligence or wisdom. What is patibhana? It is the wisdom that arises instantly. A sudden answer may arise and it shows the way to proceed. It is a wisdom that solves the problems that one is facing. This is called patibhana. The wisdom that knows what is good, knows what is bad, knows virtue, and knows benefit.
This type of wisdom takes time in order to develop. And on the higher level this wisdom is the wisdom of the 5 spiritual faculties of faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.
Here we look in the Buddha’s time of 1 monk, named Venerable Cakkhupala. He had the determination not to lie down during the whole 3 month rains retreat. But when he faced an obstacle that would make him blind, he didn’t give up his vow of truthfulness (sacca). Even if both his eyes would be damaged, he wouldn’t give up his great determination to put forth effort in the practice. He was an individual who had the virtue of truthfulness at an excellent level.
So what is his story? The Buddha talked of Ven. Cakkhupala when the Buddha was residing in Jetavana Monastery. The story in brief was that in the City of Savatthi there were 2 brothers. They were children from a wealthy family. The older brother was named Cakkhupala, and the younger brother named Culapaala. One day the older brother, Cakkhupala followed the public to go listen to the Buddha give a teaching. He had great faith and confidence arise in what the Buddha taught.
The Buddha saw Cakkhupala’s beautiful character and the Buddha taught so that Cakkhupala would have greater faith. The Buddha gave a sermon in 5 progressive stages. The Buddha talked of dana, or generosity. What is dana, what is the benefit and result. He talked of sila, or virtue- keeping the 5 and 8 moral precepts. What the benefits of keeping sila were and how it leads one to have happiness. Later, the Buddha talked of the drawbacks of attachments, the drawbacks of the mind attaching to things. To see the drawbacks of taking pleasure in things, and the benefit of giving up attachments and delusion.
Ven. Cakhupala listened to the Buddha give this teaching and when the Buddha finished, Cakkhupala could see that sons and daughters, wealth, and even his own body, were all not lasting, were all impermanent. They all were stressful and had drawbacks to them. He saw that ordaining would be beneficial. So he asked for permission from the Buddha to ordain. The Buddha asked: “Do you have to ask permission from anyone to go forth?” He answered “I have one younger brother.” The Buddha said to ask permission from the younger brother first. Culapala didn’t agree regarding the ordination of his older brother, because he was of the view that his brother was still of a ripe age, still imbued with youth and strength. It was better to enjoy worldly pleasures (have fun, party, good food, and so on). Only later when he reached old age then could he ordain. But the older brother, Cakkhupala, saw it differently. To ordain at an old age would make it difficult to practice the renunciant life. One’s hands and legs would not be strong. One’s strength would be declining and to practice the monk’s life would be difficult and be burdensome for others. It would be hard to do it well.
He saw the Buddha’s example, where the Buddha gave up his princely wealth and ordained when he was 29 years of age, when he was still young and strong . The young brother tried to convince him not to ordain as much as he could, but Cakkhupala wouldn’t listen. Cakkhupala went to ordain and stayed with his teacher for 5 years, after which he was considered to be able to look after himself, and he decided to stay in the forest and practice to overcome all suffering. After he gained permission from the Buddha, he went with 60 of his companion monks to go practice in the forest on the border of 1 large village, about 1,500 kms from Jetavana Monastery. The villagers saw the inspiring conduct of the monks and so helped to build dwellings for them. Within that village, there was 1 doctor who had a generous heart. He gave an allowance to the monks that if there were any sick monks, he would treat them and he wouldn’t charge anything for treatment or medicines.
When it came to the day of entering the rains-retreat, Ven. Cakkhupala reflected on the Buddha, that the Buddha didn’t praise those that were heedless. Being heedless is the door to the lower realms of existence – the hell, the hungry ghost, the demon, and animal realms. So he determined to only use the 3 postures – standing, walking and sitting. He would abstain from lying down. His back would not touch the ground. Cakkhupala did this for one month and then he had a sickness with his eyes. He had tears coming out of his eyes all the time. The other monks went to the doctor who had given them permission to request, and that doctor gave medicine for Cakkhupala. But Cakkhupala wouldn’t lie down to apply the medicine. He would sit. His condition didn’t get any better, where usually just 1 application and it should get better.
Because Cakkhupala had determined to not lie down during the whole rains-retreat, and he didn’t want to ruin his determination, and so even if his eyes would be ruined, he would accept it. But he wouldn’t ruin his determination that he had made. Because Cakkhupala didn’t look after his eyes, in the end, his eyes became destroyed. But at the same time, the mental defilements in his heart were destroyed as well. He was an arahant that had attained purely through insight. His sight was destroyed, but he had the eye of wisdom arise and his heart was purified.
And when he attained to arahantship, he taught the other monks until they all attained to becoming arahants with special knowledges in that rains-retreat.
And there is a related story of one monk who had dysentery. He was lying in his own urine and excrement. The Buddha heard of this and went there, followed by Ven. Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant. The Buddha asked the monk, “What is your sickness?” The monk answered, “I have dysentery. “Do you have an attendant looking after you?” “I don’t have any attendant.” Why is that ?” “Because I didn’t attend to the other monks, so the monks don’t attend to me, Lord Buddha.”
The Buddha attended on that monk and had Ven. Ananda go fetch some water. The Buddha poured the water and Ven. Ananda wiped the monk down. Then they lifted the monk onto the bed, the Buddha lifting his head, and Ven. Ananda his feet. Then, the Buddha had a meeting with the monks and brought up this subject: why this monk was sick and why did they not attend on this monk. The monks answered that that monk had never attended on or looked after anyone. The Buddha said that this is not right. Monks have to look after the sick monks. If they didn’t look after the sick monks they would all incur an offence of wrong-doing. The Buddha said that because you have no relatives now, no father, no mother, no brothers or sisters, and you are the children of the Tathagata (the Buddha), so you must look after each other.
And the Buddha saw that the spiritual potential of that sick monk was full and so gave a Dhamma talk and taught him. And at the end of the talk, the monk attained to becoming an arahant. So can you see, the body of the monk was sick, but by the kindness and compassion of the Buddha, along with the merit and full spiritual potential of that monk, he could listen to the Buddha’s teaching and attain to becoming an arahant. Though his body wasn’t strong and his health was no good, but with his wisdom and intelligence, he could listen and receive the Dhamma of the Buddha, and could have knowing and clear seeing arise instantly. He could overcome his mental defilements, and there was no need to be born again into samsara, this round of birth and death and suffering again. Can you see that wisdom and intelligence is important to fully cut off the mental defilements?
But for us still going around in samsara, may you be determined that this birth of ours have no obstacles, may we be imbued with long life, beauty, happiness, strength, intelligence and prosperity in all things, and may we overcome all the mental defilements. So this is the answer to the lay person’s previous question on which we would choose between long life, beauty, happiness, strength, and intelligence.
And what if we have no wisdom or intelligence, will we be able to gain a lot of wealth? Or if we have wealth, would we be able to maintain it? We must use intelligence, if we want to have good health. We need to have the wisdom to know how to have good health.
If we want our body to have strength and long life, then we need to have the wisdom to know how to achieve that. So wisdom and intelligence is very important. Like the great teachers, many monks such as Luang Pu Chah who had wisdom and intelligence to answer questions and to solve problems in different situations. May you all be determined and may you succeed in your aspirations. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: What is the meaning of tanasamabat, a pali word from the blessing?
Luang Por Anan: This is about wealth – not just money wealth but also noble wealth, like enlightenment.
Q: What karma made Ven. Cakkhupala blind? If he treated his eyes would he still become an arahant?
Luang Por Anan: He was an eye doctor in a past life. A woman asked for eye treatment and said she would be his servant if the treatment worked. She got better but lied and said she was not better so that she would not have to be his servant. The doctor gave her another medicine that made her blind in return. In his last life, his body became blind but his heart still succeeded in seeing the Dhamma. For the second question, what do others think?
Q: He would still become enlightened anyway since enlightenment is about the mind and one’s spiritual potential.
Luang Por Anan: His past karma made it so he had to be blind. Its hard to say if he would become an arahant if he treated his eyes. He was not able to avoid this karma of becoming blind.
Q: How does mental action turn into patterns of behavior?
Luang Por Anan: Know if a thought is good or bad. If bad, let it go and get rid of it. If good, know its good. By attaching to thoughts karma is made.
Q: During the blessing wisdom is not mentioned. Why is this?
Luang Por Anan: The blessing mentions the foundation of health, long life, happiness, and strength – if you keep developing these turn into wisdom. Strength can mean strength of mind or body. There is another longer blessing that does include saying wisdom.
Q: For the blessing to arise, does one have to practice Dhamma?
Luang Por Anan: Initially, one just needs faith enough to do generosity. Then one develops virtue. Then one meditates and develops the mind.
Q: What is the difference between an aspiration and a vow? What is the consequence of breaking one’s vow?
Luang Por Anan: A vow is made with speech. An aspiration is just in the mind. If you break your vows then others may not believe what you say. Also, the mind is weaker.
Q: Is it clinging to hold onto a vow like Cakkhupala did?
Luang Por Anan: It is clinging but it is also walking the path. It is a cause to go further on the path and get more purity and goodness. We cling first to let go later.