Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – August 25th, 2017
Note: One can listen to this talk here.
L uang Por Anan:
Welcome to all of you here. Last Friday I talked about the great love of a mother that has no equal. She has such great love that even her own life she is willing to sacrifice for her child. I spoke on the example of Lady Mantani, the mother of Angulimala, who even though her son was a murderer killing close to a thousand people, when she found out that King Passendi was bringing an army to kill her son, and knowing that her son would not be able to escape this fate, she quickly went to try to warn her son, Angulimala to flee. Even if she would likely have to die at her son’s hands, or for betraying her King. She was willing to do it. This is the great love of a mother, willing to sacrifice everything for her child.
Today I will talk on one more topic, of a son’s great gratitude to his mother. This is the story of Venerable Sariputta Maha Thera, the right hand chief disciple of the Buddha. His original name was Upatissa. He was the son of the Brahmin, Lady Sari, who was very wealthy and had a large retinue. Lady Sari was born in Nalanda, not far from Rajagaha. Upatissa had a close friend named Kolita, who would later become Ven. Maha Moggalana. Both of them grew weary of the world and asked to ordain with the wandering ascetic, Sanjaya, who was one of teachers that had a big following at that time. They practiced till they gained the highest knowledges that he could teach. They were both lifted to the status of equal teachers. Both of them discussed that the teachings of their teacher Sanjaya wasn’t the right path and not what they were ultimately looking for. They wanted to find a teacher that had true knowledge. They made a pact together that if they met and found the true Dhamma then they would go find and tell the other. They made this important pact and went their separate ways.
One day, Upatissa went to the city of Rajagaha, and met with one venerable monk – the Elder Assaji going for alms. He conducted himself in such a way that Upatissa was very impressed. He went to him after the Elder Assaji finished his alms round and asked him, “Who is your teacher and whose doctrine do you profess?”
“The Blessed One, a descendant of the Sakyan clan, is my teacher and it is his Dhamma that I profess.”
“What does the venerable one’s master teach, what does he proclaim?”
The Elder Asajji saw that Upatissa had wisdom so wanted to show him how profound the teachings were so answered, “I am but new to the training, friend. It is not long since I went forth from home, and I came recently to this doctrine and discipline. I cannot explain the Dhamma in detail to you.”
“The meaning only, please proclaim to me.
The Elder Assaji expounded the Dhamma, “Of those things that arise from a cause, the Tathagatha has told the cause, and also what their cessation is: This is the doctrine of the Great Samana.”
Upon hearing just the first 2 lines, there arose the dust–free, stainless vision of the Dhamma, and he attained to Sotapanna.
Sariputta said, “Do not enlarge upon this exposition of the Dhamma, venerable sir. This much will suffice. But where does our Master live?”
“In Veluvana Monastery”
“I have a friend with whom I have made an agreement to share the Dhamma. I shall inform him, and together, we shall follow you and come into the Master’s presence.”
Upatissa went to tell Kolita of the teaching he had heard, and upon hearing it Kolita too became established in the fruit of stream–entry, attaining to Sotapanna.
Both of them arrived at Veluvana Monastery, where the Buddha was teaching a large gathering of monks, and told them, “These two Upatissa and Kolita, who are now approaching, will be my two chief disciples, an excellent pair.”
They paid homage then asked “May we obtain the going forth under the Blessed One?” The Buddha accepted them, and both of them went of to practice the Dhamma. Ven. Maha–Mogallana practiced for 7 days till attaining to arahantship, whereas Sariputta took 15 days, because he had to investigate the Dhamma deeply and so needed more time to develop.
On the 15th Day of the full moon of Magha, the Buddha formally proclaimed that Ven. Sariputta was the right hand chief disciple of the Buddha, distinguished by his excellence in wisdom; and Ven. Maha–Moggallana, the left hand chief disciple and distinguished by his excellence in psychic abilities.
Ven. Sariputta, foremost in wisdom, was the foremost disciple who could teach the Dhamma to the monks. The Buddha would tell the monks who were going on a journey that they should go see Ven. Sariputta before they leave so that he would teach them the Dhamma. Ven. Sariputta is compared to like a mother who brings forth a child, because he trains his pupils in the fruition of sotapanna, the first stage of liberation. Ven. Sariputta was called the general of the Dhamma, relative to the Buddha who was the Dhamma king.
Ven. Sariputta was praised as having the great virtue of gratitude. Wherever he slept, he would face his head to Ven. Assaji, as sign of gratitude to his first Dhamma teacher.
Another example of Ven. Sariputta’s gratitude is in the story of the Elder Radha. Radha was a poor Brahmin who asked to be ordained, but the monks did not want to take him because he was too old. Radha was sad, his body skinny, and his features dark. The Buddha saw that no–one would take him, so asked in the midst of the gathering of monks, who remembered receiving any help from Radha? Ven. Sariputta said he remembered an occasion when he was going for alms in Rajagaha and Radha had given him a ladleful of rice that he had begged for himself. Buddha said that Sariputta had great gratitude, that just this small act he would remember. So remembering this act, he accepted Radha as his student.
One more great example of Ven. Sariputta’s gratitude, was when he knew he would soon pass away. He wanted to teach his mother before his parinibbana. So he journeyed to his birth home. Ven. Sariputta’s mother, Lady Sari, was a staunch Brahmin and had no faith at all in the Buddha’s teachings. She was sad that Sariputta and her other children had ordained in the Buddha–sasana. Ven. Sariputta had tried many times to teach her but never succeeded. And this was the last time he would be able to teach her. Ven. Sariputta bade farewell to the Buddha, because he desired to go home to teach his mother. He went with Ven. Cunda, his brother, and his 500 disciples. Lady Sari thought that Ven. Sariputta ordained till an old age and now came back to disrobe. She arranged for Sariputta to stay in his birth chamber and 500 rooms for the monks. That night, the 4 heavenly kings perceived Sariputta, lying sick and close to his final passing, and went to pay their last respects to Ven. Sariputta.
After they left then Sakka, the king of the devas, came to pay respect. And after Sakka left, finally, Maha Brahma came to pay respects and a bright radiance filled the entire room. After Maha Brahma left, Lady Sari asked her son Ven. Cunda, “Who came just then?” He explained and said that it was the Four Heavenly Kings, Sakka, and then Maha Brahma, who came to pay their last respects to Ven. Sariputta. “The same Maha Brahma that is my lord and master?” “Yes.” Hearing this she developed faith in her son and in the Buddha, thinking that if my son has such virtue, greater than the Maha Brahma, then what must be the virtue of his master? Ven. Sariputta knew that his mother had developed rapture and joy suffusing her entire body and had developed faith in the Buddha, so he knew it was the time to teach the Dhamma to her to repay his debt to his mother. He taught her to have right view through expounding the virtues of the Buddha. At the end of the Dhamma talk she was a Sotapanna. This was the gratitude of Sariputta. He was an arahant himself and did his best to teach mother till she could be Sotapanna. Foremost in gratitude, where even one spoonful of alms from Radha he didn’t forget.
It’s a good example to all of us. You should study and learn from this, and practice it – it’s a way of homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, because Ven. Sariputta was the highest example of repaying the debt of gratitude to parents. The day after Sariputta’s cremation, Ven. Cunda brought Ven. Sariputta’s relics to the Buddha staying in Jetavana Monastery. The Buddha said to put the relics in a Stupa and praised Ven. Sariputta as being the foremost in gratitude. The child that can establish parents in samma–ditthi, or right view, they have fulfilled their duty with the highest gratitude. May you take these teachings for your contemplation.
Questions and Answers:
Q: When I see bad leaders in my country, I wonder how can I help them and also help the people in my country to increase in wisdom?
Luang Por Anan: Try to improve sati and panya, then expand this to your family and friends. Don’t worry too much about the whole country, this might be too much.
Q: Does the kamma of parents get shared with their children?
Luang Por Anan: No, the fruit of kamma is for the one who does the action. It is not shared in this way.
Q: Some people say problems that arise that we don’t understand the origin of may come from parents, and also that not everything is caused by kamma. Is this correct?
Luang Por Anan: Actions have results, just when and where is uncertain. Practice Dhamma to overcome kamma. Only the Noble Eightfold Path goes beyond kamma.
Like if someone eats a lot of oily food then gets clogged arteries, is this from present or past life kamma? What do you all think?
Q: Present life kamma.
Q: What about this example: at a market a mother is killing striped snake headed fish and her young daughter watches, initially being disturbed at seeing killing. Then the daughter gets used to seeing it and eventually is killing the fish herself. Is this an example of parent’s kamma affecting the child?
Luang Por Anan: That the child was born to that mother is from past kamma, but if the daughter had enough sati and panya she could decide not to kill, but without enough sati panya, then she kills the fish, the daughter makes this kamma for herself.
Q: Is it possible to have things happen due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and its not from kamma?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, this is possible. Focus on present kamma, not past. Its like if you have one liter of water with salt in it—if you add more water, the amount of salt is the same but the saltiness decreases. Water is like good kamma and salt like bad kamma in this example.
Q: My mind seems to randomly produce mental formations, and I can see this as not self. But when I go out and interact with others (such as going to help at the monastery regularly), seeing mental activity as not self is much harder. How can I balance service with seclusion and practice?
Luang Por Anan: Find balance; make it just right. Have sati and panya while doing service, and you have to know balance for yourself.
Q: In the Sariputta story devas show up before he dies. Do devas really exist? Do Bodhisattvas like Kuan Yin really exist? How is it in Theravada?
Luang Por Anan: When looking for a true refuge for the heart, we look to those who have liberated their own hearts already, or to those with high levels of mindfulness and wisdom. Then we go to them with aspirations and determinations and make them a refuge. It is not enough to just go ask and pray to them—we must follow in their footsteps, as these beings have done the work to liberate themselves and cultivate goodness themselves.
In Theravada, devas are a sign of goodness. Like Maha Brahma—Maha Brahma spreads the four brahmaviharas.
Bodhisattvas are a true refuge when we follow in their footsteps, like cultivating goodness and wishing to help others
Q: Did the Bodhisattvas used to be humans before the Buddha?
Luang Por Anan: We have Bodhisattvas from before like Maitreya Buddha, who cultivated even more parami than our Buddha did. He made a very high level of parami.
For all of us, we should practice to have metta and karuna and wish to help others. This is the mind of a Bodhisattva.
Q: Is Maitreya an arahant?
Luang Por Anan: Maitreya has built parami to the level of a Buddha. He could have been an arahant an extremely long time ago, but he decided to build more parami.
Good questions today.
A disciple of Wat Marp Jan got the flu recently and went to the hospital. Her children gathered together to help her out of gratitude for her being their mother. She got better twice then got worse again. She was mindful around the time of death, and her eyes were always on the ceiling, as if she was seeing devas. Let us all take a minute to share merits with her.