Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – December 20th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: To begin with, I would like to go over a few meditation instructions. The way to make the mind have calm and peace. Knowing the in and out breath is our meditation object. We can establish our mindfulness at one point, at the tip of the nose. Notice the feeling where it’s easy to notice. We can just have the knowing of the breath going in and the breath going out.
If we want we can add a meditation mantra like ‘Buddho’. When the breath goes in we think ‘Bud’… and when the breath goes out we think ‘dho’…. . While doing this, don’t get caught up with the thoughts from the past or thoughts of the future. We should put down these thoughts first. Even if we are sitting meditation in a group, we should feel like we are sitting there all alone.
We just close our eyes and we do so in a relaxed way, we don’t have to shut our eyes very tightly—make it just right. When we have mindfulness of the breath then we don’t control the breath. Some people, when they meditate, they try to control the breathing. We can use the method of counting in pairs along with the breath. So, when it goes in we can count ‘one’ internally, the breath goes out we count ‘one’. Breath goes in ‘two’, out ‘two’ and then the third pair, forth pair, fifth pair. We count like this and then we begin again at the first pair, “one, one”, and when we get to the fifth pair we add another one for the sixth pair. And so we do it in this way until we reach the tenth pair.
If we get distracted and forget the number while we’re counting the breath in pairs, we just begin again at the first pair to the fifth pair again. And this is so that the mind can be relaxed and at ease while developing mindfulness of breathing, and one won’t be controlling the breath when using this method. Using this method, the feeling of the breath is just right, it’s not too short or too long, and, if it works for you, then you can use this method when you meditate.
So, why do we need to develop meditation and mindfulness in this way? Why do we need to make our mind very firm and still? This is because the mind is usually not still. It’s usually thinking of the past the future. It is not calm and our mindfulness is not with the present moment. When the mind is not in the present moment then it won’t be able to see the nature of what is already present or already existing in the present moment. So what is this nature like? We won’t know this, and the mind will be deluded. This will lead to attachments arising, and wisdom won’t arise. So we need to have mindfulness, and this mindfulness will help us develop peace and calm within.
The mind is usually thinking all over the place and disturbs and distracts us. We bring it to mindfulness, just staying with one mental object. We can use ‘Buddho’ as our meditation mantra. This is the recollection of the Buddha as a meditation object. If we do so then peace can arise, which can lead to wisdom arising in the mind. Those who find it difficult to meditate on the breath or counting the breath in pairs, they can recollect the Buddha first. They can recollect his great qualities of purity, that he is an Arahant, or self-awakened through his own efforts.
We can recollect his great compassion to help all other living beings to become free from suffering. We can recollect his great wisdom and other virtues of the Buddha. This can lead to a great feeling of inner rapture and joy arising. If this works for us, then we should first recollect the virtues of the Buddha when we come to meditate, which will lead to these feelings of fullness, rapture and joy inside the mind. This is because we all have a great faith in the Buddha, and recollecting this will easily lead to peace and calm within.
When we practice in this way consistently and put consistent effort into doing this, then when we are travelling to other places whether it’s near or far, we are still practising and training the mind. This training of the mind and meditation is not just when we are sitting formally at home but it’s also when we are sitting anywhere, going to other places, travelling, sitting in the car, going to work. Whenever we have the time, then we train the mind. This applies for people who are interested in the training, who are genuinely interested in training the mind.
We can use chanting, as well, as a way of training the mind. When we are free, we can chant the qualities of the Buddha “Itipiso Bhagava …”. We can also bring up a word or a quality in Pali that we feel connects us most to the Buddha. Whatever words or phrase that brings up this inner joy and happiness in our mind then we can just use that. For some, maybe they use the meditation chanting of “Arahang Samma Sambuddho” – but, just this short verse may not make the mind peaceful yet, and so maybe one needs to lengthen the meditation mantra or chant many repetitions of it.
If once isn’t enough, one can do it 9 times, or 18 times, or 27 times, or more. We recollect the virtues of the Buddha in this way until the mind becomes very familiar with this repetition. We can also recollect a certain Buddha image or statue that we have a great faith in. For instance, the Buddha Metta in Bodhgaya or the statue in the Uposatha hall—any image in which we have a lot of faith, we can recollect and do our chanting of the virtues of the Buddha. Whenever we are doing our work or other duties such as kitchen work or cleaning and sweeping the house, we can still train the mind by doing our chanting in this way.
While we are watching the Skype Dhamma video, we can also have mindfulness of the in and out breath at the same time as we are watching. If the mind becomes very peaceful and isn’t interested in watching this video, then that is also fine. Because the mind is getting peaceful, and so this is still the correct method. All these different methods that we use, they are all to make the mind calm and peaceful. They are all correct.
Homage to the Worthy One, the Blessed One, the Rightly Self-awakened One
Today we meet again to learn and practice the Dhamma. The Dhamma helps to brighten and develop our mind. Bhavana, the Pali word, is the action of developing the mind. Development of the mind is reducing Greed, Hatred and Delusion in the mind. If the mind is not developed, this means the mind still has greed, hatred and delusion. This is true even if we were to live in a country that is developed and advanced in its economy and technology. However, if we were to develop our mind, then we are considered to be rich in virtue and wisdom. This is true even if we are living in a country that is still behind in its economy and technology compared to the developed countries. If there is only development of material wealth and technology without the development of the mind, the mind will still be dark with greed, hatred and delusion. Therefore, we need to develop the mind, as well.
Buddhanusati is the recollection of the Buddha. It can be a meditation object to help the mind to be collected and not lost in thoughts so that one is not losing one’s attention. Using Buddhanusati makes it easy for us to arouse the feelings of inner rapture, or great peaceful happiness. Tears flowing, mind and body feeling light and having goosebumps (hair standing) are signs of inner rapture. They are forms of rapture that can come from recollecting the virtues of the Buddha in our mind. This makes the mind feel fresh and have Samadhi (mental concentration) and mindfulness, which leads to the development of wisdom.
Even though the Buddha has passed away into parinibbana long ago, there are still the sacred sites of the Buddha that we venerate. We venerate the Maha Bodhi tree where the Buddha attained enlightenment, the requisites of the Buddha, of which the important ones are the bodily relics of the Buddha that are still in this world, like the hair relics, or his bone relics. When we recollect these as Buddhanusati, we recollect the virtues of the Buddha – the virtues of great wisdom, great purity and great compassion – then our minds will feel joy and will have feelings of inner peace and happiness.
Ven. Ananda had once asked the Buddha that after the Buddha had passed away into parinibbana, what should the faithful disciples of the Buddha who wanted to recollect the Buddha do? The Buddha said for them to recollect the places where the Buddha had attained enlightenment, gave a sermon, attained parinibbana, and the place where the Bodhisattva was born. For example, one can recollect the Buddha’s virtues at the Maha-Bodhi tree and paying homage to the sacred relics of the Buddha.
So Puja, or giving homage to a chedi or stupa after the Buddha’s parinibbana leads to many great benefits. If our mind already has faith and confidence, then our mind will be peaceful in samadhi, and the mind will be reborn in heaven. We have to understand that the mind that has joy, peace and coolness is heaven already. When the body breaks up the mind will be born in heaven. Even when the body has not broken up yet, at this time, the mind is already a deva, a divine being, and this is heaven in the mind.
It is immeasurable merit to give homage to the Buddha, Pacceka Buddha, or Noble disciple of the Buddha; those who are worthy of homage, those who have gained Dhamma, those who have gained freedom from the cycle of birth and death, gained freedom from grief and sorrow, lamentation and distress. We give homage to these individuals and this is great merit.
After the Buddha had passed away into parinibbana, during the period of King Asoka, a great number of chedis, which contained relics of the Buddha for the people to worship, were built by the great King. King Asoka had great faith in the Buddha Sasana. He had 11 sons and daughters. Formerly, King Asoka was a very cruel king who liked to wage war with different regions until he gained the name Asoka the cruel. But, after King Asoka gained faith in the Buddha Sasana, he became the leading patron of Buddhism. He supported Buddhism to prosper and this period was considered the greatest expansion of Buddhism in its history. And King Asoka conducted all his many royal duties according to the 10 principles of a virtuous king. This caused him to gain the name Dhammasoka, Asoka the Righteous. He was one who was praised as one of the 6 great men in the history of the world, according to H.G. Wells, an important historian in the West, that is: King Asoka, along with the Buddha, Socrates, Aristotle, Roger Bacon and Abraham Lincoln.
Who was the Novice Nigrodha? He was the venerable teacher of King Asoka, who was also King Asoka’s nephew. Nigrodha was the son of Prince Sumana, who was the older brother of King Asoka’s wife. One day Novice Nigrodha was walking past the royal residence of King Asoka. King Asoka saw the novice’s inspiring conduct and how he carried himself and so invited the novice inside. Then King Asoka asked the novice if he knew the teachings of the Lord Buddha and if he could please tell him. The novice answered, “Heedfulness is the path to the deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. Those who are heedless, are no different than those who have already died.” King Asoka had great rapture arise and became a Buddhist. He then found out that this novice was actually his own nephew. His nephew was also the one who had first shown him the Dhamma.
King Asoka had a son, Ven. Mahinda Thera, who ordained, and, after ordaining, attained to arahantship. King Asoka had one daughter, Sanghamitta Theri, who ordained and also became an arahant. Ven. Mahinda Thera and Ven. Sanghamitta Theri were the ones who brought the tooth relic of the Lord Buddha and a sapling of the original Maha Bodhi tree to the country of Sri Lanka. This tooth relic is one of the lower right teeth. At the present day, this tooth relic is enshrined in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. This is a place of worship and reverence, is considered the heart of Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and is an important stupa in this world.
During the Buddha’s time there were the 2 merchants, Tapussa and Bhallika. These two merchants had offered barley gruel and honey balls to the Buddha during the time the Buddha was enjoying the bliss of enlightenment, and they gained great faith in the Buddha. The Buddha then rubbed his hair and gave 2 strands of hair to Tapussa and Bhallika. These strands of hair were brought back to Burma to be later enshrined in the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is a place of worship for the people in Burma and Buddhists around the world who come to recollect the Buddha in this sacred place.
The individuals who go to puja and give worship at these places recollect the Buddha and develop Buddhanusati. The mind and heart will be bright. Even when born as a deva, one will have an aura that spreads far and wide. This recollection of the Buddha makes the mind have joy and rapture arise easily. It is the meditation object that we should develop everyday. When we have developed this meditation object well and recollect the Buddha like this, the mind is peaceful. Then we can lead the mind to contemplate impermanence and the uncertainty of all the different physical and mental phenomena—that they are of the nature to arise and pass away.
The Buddha had great kindness and compassion and said that after he had passed away, to bring the Urangadhatu (chest bone relic) to enshrine in the country of Siam – in the current day province of Nakhon Phanom. Ven. Maha Kassapa Thera followed according to the Buddha’s wishes and made the mental determination that whichever bodily relic that the Buddha wished to be enshrined in the country of Siam, may that relic of the Buddha come into his hand. It happened that the chest bone relic came into the hand of Ven. Maha Kassapa Thera, and he, along with 500 monks, brought the relic to Thailand, to Phra That Phanom.
A Chedi was constructed there by 5 Kings. They each helped to build one of 5 chedis. One was constructed in the east, another in the west, one in the north, and one in the south. And one built the top of the chedi. These 5 Kings jointly constructed the Chedi Phra That Phanom during that era, and they enshrined the Buddha’s chest relic in the lone mountain in what today is known as Phra That Phanom. So Phra That Phanom is considered a sacred place of worship for Buddhists. Both the Thais and the Laotians highly venerate and pay homage to this chedi.
In the beginning, we recollect the Buddha and bow to the Buddha. During the Buddha’s time, it was bowing to the real Buddha. In this era we bow to the Maha Bodhi tree, the tooth relic of the Buddha, the Buddha’s relics, and we recollect the great virtues of the Buddha. We bow to the Buddha statue that is a representation of him. And we recollect the goodness, the purity and the great kindness and compassion of the Buddha. We do so until our minds become peaceful and cool by the inner repetition of ‘Buddho, Buddho, Buddho’ in the heart. ‘Buddho Buddho Buddho; Buddho Buddho Buddho’. Then the mind has rapture arise; peace, a feeling of mental fullness and coolness arises in the mind.
After this, we enter vipassana (clear seeing), we see impermanence—that even though the Buddha had inner purity, his physical form still had to pass away into parinibbana. And so how will our body last? It must be impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and non-self (anatta) for sure. Seeing this clearly, this is seeing the Dhamma of the Buddha one more time. This is seeing the Buddha in the heart, and this is the faith that cannot be shaken and deteriorate. The Buddha in the heart is not going anywhere. No one can steal this Buddha from us. No one can damage the Buddha in our hearts. This is what the Buddha wished for us to practice – to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, to enter the path of Awakening, leading to the inner Buddha in our heart. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Initially when there are distracted thoughts I use the breath counting method and when the mind is more peaceful I just used the word ‘Buddho’ with the breath. Is that OK?
Luang Por Anan: That method is fine. These are all methods to make the mind peaceful. When the mind is peaceful and doesn’t want to count anymore, one can be aware of just the in and out breath or use ‘Buddho’. If ‘Buddho’ disappears, just be aware of the in and out breath. Just keep doing this until the body and the mind become peaceful and light. Whatever method that brings more calm and peace to the mind is okay to use.
2. Q: If after 30 minutes we use the method ‘Buddho’ and the mind is still distracted, do we still use the word ‘Buddho’?
Luang Por Anan: That means one word is not enough to hold the mind. Use a longer meditation mantra like “Itipiso….”. If one still gets distracted then just think that in 5 minutes you’re going to die and recollect that each moment is close to one’s death. This helps to reduce distracted thoughts about the future. If other methods don’t work, then recollect death.
If one has a lot of distracted thoughts or drowsiness, then one can imagine a box with a snake in it. We put it near us and its tongue is able to come out. It’s likely that the hindrances will go away and disappear.
I had a strong fear of ghosts as a young man. Whenever I stopped using ‘Buddho’, then the fear would arise. I then sat in meditation and the mind gathered into samadhi. I knew that instant that the mind is something very dangerous and makes us deluded. When the peace arises, the true knowing arises. I then knew that fear and non-fear are both in the same place in the mind.
In another story, there was once a forest monk who went on Tudong (wandering) and meditated in the forest under his umbrella net. He sat in meditation, and, when he opened his eyes, he saw a huge snake. It was as thick as his arm. He continued to sit and spread metta and entered into samadhi for an hour. When he opened his eyes the snake was still there. He did this 2 or 3 times and the snake was still there. Thinking that it was already late and he won’t be able to rest he then talked to the snake. He said: “This is a monk’s place of practice, I am not young any more and need rest. You, too, should rest and go back to your resting place now.” The snake actually understood and left from the monk’s resting place.
3. Q: Between the offering of a Buddha statue and the offering of money, is the merit different?
Luang Por Anan: Offering the Buddha statue, which is the representation of the Buddha, is the cause for one to gain power, status, and strength. This comes from the homage to the Buddha.
Offering money to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha is also recollecting the Buddha and it gives benefit to this and future lives where one will have wealth, prosperity, and one will have sufficient requisites for one to use.
If one only offers Buddha Statues, one may have just power and status, but one may not have prosperity or wealth. However, if one only offers money then one won’t have power and status and others will take advantage of oneself. One can do both of these types of offerings. They are ways to gain ease and happiness in one’s life and future lives.
4. Q: Is it bad kamma to donate on our friends behalf first and get the money back from them later? This is because we are offering money and other friends don’t have the time or conditions to donate at that particular time. However we only have the intention of donating for example 100 thousand Baht over the total of 1 Million Baht.
Luang Por Anan: We think our friends will give the remaining 900 thousand baht from the total of 1 Million Baht, but, we have to reflect, what if our friends do not give the money in the end? What will the effect be on our mind? It is likely that we will feel bad and uneasy because we have to donate more than the amount that we want to donate or are able to donate. This is because the mind isn’t pure and we say it is bad.
It is much better to do it in a way that you give and the mind feels at ease and happy. That is your merit there. Unless others have already made a promise that they will give that amount and they say they will, then you can consider it for yourself using wise judgement.
5. Q: What if the friend who has promised did not give the amount they said they would later? Perhaps they forgot or don’t speak about it because of personal or financial problems?
Luang Por Anan: It is up to one’s mind state. If we think that we have the good opportunity to offer more and it makes our mind feel at ease, happy, and delighted, then it is good.
But if we start to criticize them for not doing what they said they would and feel worry, then it is not good as it is an unskilful thought.
So, one should make the situation good but it is better to just do whatever we can for ourselves and this makes ourselves at ease and good and that’s the end of it. We don’t need to force ourselves to donate for others.
6. Q (Question from 10 year old boy): Is it right that a Sotapanna (stream-enterer) gives up all happiness?
Luang Por Anan: It’s not that they have to give up all happiness and pleasure. Happiness arises from cause and result, and so one needs to know contentment and the right amount of pleasure and happiness. One needs to keep one’s enjoyment of these pleasures within the boundary of Sila-Dhamma (Morality and Virtue). With this level of morality, a lay person is allowed and can have money, wealth, partner, wife or husband, but it has to be in the boundaries of morality.