Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – December 8th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone. Today I would like to talk about how men and women have an equal chance to see the Dhamma, to see the truth of reality. Seeing the Dhamma depends on past cultivation of mental qualities, not on one’s gender.
In the time of the Buddha, many people saw the Dhamma, both male and female. The daughter of Anathapindika realized stream-entry, and another realized the next highest level of enlightenment, once-returner. So the daughter was an even higher level of enlightenment than her father, Anathapindika, who was a stream-enterer.
Welcome to everyone from all your centers. This Friday, we meet again to discuss on the Dhamma. I am sure you are familiar with many of the stories of the great disciples of the Buddha. There is Venerable Sariputta – the chief right hand disciple of the Buddha who was foremost in wisdom of all the disciples – having the recognition the Dhamma General of the Buddha – who could teach in place of the Buddha and was extremely skilled in the Dhamma.
The Buddha praised Venerable Sariputta and compared him to one who looks after a young child, teaching them until that child grows up well and has a good foundation in mindfulness and wisdom. When the monks would take leave of the Buddha to go off wandering, the Buddha would ask them to take leave of Venerable Sariputta first, so that Venerable Sariputta could teach them the things that would have benefit and give them Dhamma advice. We should know well that Venerable Sariputta built a great amount of spiritual perfections in many past lives.
Before, in the past, Venerable Sariputta could have become an arahant of the highest level with psychic abilities, because all his 84,000 followers attained to becoming arahant of this highest level. At that time they listened to the Dhamma of the chief right hand disciple of the Buddha foremost in wisdom of that era, and Venerable Sariputta, who was there, made the aspiration to be the chief right hand disciple of the Buddha in the future, and his aspiration came to fruition with our Buddha in this era.
If we look to the Buddha’s female ordained followers – there is one bhikkhuni, Venerable Dhammadinna Theri, who was imbued with great mindfulness and wisdom. Dhammadinna, as a laywoman, grew up and lived in Rajagaha City and was married to a man called Visakha Setthi. Visaka Setthi had the chance to meet the Buddha and attained to sotapanna on that occasion. And, later on, Visakha Setthi listened to the Dhamma of the Buddha again and attained to becoming an anagami, the third highest level of enlightenment. He didn’t want to have a wife anymore because at this attainment he had cut off sensual lust already.
On that day, his wife, Dhammadinna didn’t know yet that her husband had attained to anagami, and when the husband came back she awaited her husband at the top of the steps, waiting for her husband to take her hand. He didn’t take her hand and didn’t say anything about it. The wife was doubtful about her husband and thought her husband was angry at her. When they had finished eating together, she was still unhappy. She thought she must have done something wrong to make her husband angry at her. So she asked her husband.
Visakha Setthi then explained to her the reason why he didn’t take her hand, which was because he had listened to the Dhamma of the Buddha and attained to anagami. Visakha Setthi told his wife that how much ever wealth she wanted of his, she could take it and that she should go back to live with her old family. The wife said that if this was his wish then her desire was to ordain as a Bhikkhuni. The husband rejoiced in her wish and gave his permission for her to ordain. When Dhammadinna ordained, she took leave of her preceptor to go into the forest far from the city to practice. In no long time, she attained to the highest type of arahant with all the psychic abilities.
There are 4 types of arahants, or perfected enlightened individuals. The first has wisdom and can be completely victorious against the kilesas. They have knowledge of previous lives, super-knowledge of passing away and rebirth of beings, and the super-knowledge of destruction of the defilements. The third level has achieved the sixfold knowledges: they have power of transformation, power of divine hearing, power of knowing the mind of others, divine vision, power of knowing previous existences, and destruction of the fetters of the mental defilements. And the highest type of arahant is extremely skilled in the Dhamma. They could explain the Dhamma in brief so that it was completely understandable by others. They are completely skilled in this special language – because they know the language of the heart. They need to build their parami a lot more to gain this highest level.
Venerable Dhammadinna Theri – attained to the highest level, the 4th level of arahantship. After attaining to becoming an arahant, she went back to her old home in order to teach her old husband and relatives. Her old husband met her and invited her to have the meal at their house.
Visakha setthi, her old husband thought that she wished to disrobe, so he asked her some Dhamma questions. She was able to answer them all correctly and clearly. He then knew that she wasn’t ordinary at all, and that she had definitely attained to arahantship. So he had great joy and rejoiced with Venerable Dhammadinna Theri Arhanti, that was his old wife. And the important thing was that she had all the special knowledges and insights. The Buddha praised Dhammadinna Theri as the foremost of the expounding of Dhamma amongst the female disciples. She had great knowledge and ability in teaching the Dhamma. She had faith and confidence in the Buddha’s dispensation.
Can you see that the husband attained to anagami and was willing to give how ever much wealth to his wife, but she didn’t wish for that at all. But the parami and virtues of the wife were great. Now that she wished to go forth and ordain and practice the Dhamma, her mind was fully determined and attained to becoming an arahant, higher than the spiritual attainment of the husband.
This parami—you can’t measure it. Sometimes the husband has a higher level of parami than the wife, or we think that the wife has more parami than the husband—but it is not certain. If the woman decides to determine to fully practice the Dhamma and has more mindfulness and wisdom than the husband then she can attain to arahantship before the husband. Or in the world, she may be more successful than the husband. This is the subject of their accumulated spiritual merits and virtues that they have built in the past.
Every person is different and has different levels of spiritual merits and development. In this story of Dhammadinna Theri she had gratitude as well. She attained to arahantship but she thought back to her old husband whom she had built parami with in the past and he had given her the opportunity to ordain as a Bhkikkuni. So she went back to her home to discuss and teach the Dhamma to him.
The Buddha praised her that she was the foremost of teaching the Dhamma. It is good for us to learn about the history of Venerable Dhammadina Theri, and to remember her. So if you are an upasika, a lay female follower, don’t feel belittled that you are a woman, but in reality, it depends on the parami of the individual and is uncertain. By practicing and developing oneself then one can grow spiritually and can even attain to becoming an arahant, anagami, sakadagami, or sotapanna, one can attain depending on previous spiritual merits.
So, may you recollect the virtues of Venerable Dhamadinana Arahanti Theri – who attained to the highest, the highest level of arahant, and had all the psychic abilities, who the Buddha praised as foremost in teaching the Dhamma. May you all recollect these virtues of the Sangha, of Venerable Dhammadinna Theri and you will all prosper in the Buddha’s teachings and practice.
Questions and Answers:
Q: My mind feels contained within a calm boundary, but the mind still thinks and moves sometimes. Sometimes the mind is more still and peaceful.
Luang Por Anan: If you think, then contemplate thinking as changing, unstable, and uncertain. This is wisdom.
Q: Miss Universe had plastic surgery. She is 70 and looks 40. Does this go against the law of old age, sickness, and death?
Luang Por Anan: Luang Pu Chah said about plastic surgery that you can push and pull the flesh and skin to make the body look better, but, eventually, you just can’t push or pull it anymore. Also, even if you look young, does one still feel as strong and healthy as before?
Q: When the mind is very peaceful, should I let it stay peaceful or should I contemplate? In this peacefulness, there is clear knowing and the breath can disappear.
Luang Por Anan: Stay peaceful as long as you can. This gives strength and power to the mind. The more power the better, because when the mind leaves that state of peacefulness then the contemplation will be deeper.
Q: I’m taking time off the meditate in India, Burma and Malaysia. I reflect on the closeness of my death and want to practice strongly. I try to be mindful all day. Should mindfulness be more relaxed or more precise like with noting all the movements in an activity?
Luang Por Anan: Posture and movement are outer things. The point of mindfulness at all times is to make the heart light and radiant in all postures and activities, whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down. Then the mind can be calm and still.
Q: How do the 4 divine abidings of lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity relate to gratitude? And also to the 5 precepts? Which comes first?
Luang Por Anan: The precepts, or our morality, comes first. We need lovingkindness and compassion to keep the precepts, since we need a kind heart to refrain from harmful action.
We need the 4 divine abidings and samadhi to see the Dhamma. We can see the Dhamma through contemplating lovingkindness.
Q: The mind is a lotus – the top of the lotus is radiant, and the root has dirty water around it. We need mindfulness and wisdom to keep the dirty water out. The lotus has not yet bloomed.
Luang Por Anan: For a person wishing to build parami, a lotus underwater is good for animals to eat and will not grow. A lotus on top of water has more parami. A lotus above water but not yet bloomed gets the nourishing light of the sun and waits to bloom, or see the Dhamma. Sometimes it is not yet time for the lotus to bloom. In this case look after the mind with mindfulness and wisdom, keep out the dirty water, and wait until the causes are right to see the Dhamma.