Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 29th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all.
We’ve been resolute in practicing generosity and keeping the moral precepts during the whole 3 month rains retreat. Soon, in a few days, it will be the end of the retreat.
This Dhamma practice depends on our determination or our establishing of truthfulness. If we don’t establish our truthfulness, it is like whatever we do we don’t direct ourselves to achieve our aim. It’s like someone who is shooting a target with a gun or a bow and arrow – if they don’t shoot straight then they won’t hit their target. When we determine to practice generosity and keep morality, then we need to be resolute. If we aren’t resolute, the mental defilements will come to trick us. Like if we determine to go to the monastery and in the morning when we wake we feel tired, then the mental defilements tell us that we are too tired and that we should rest. We can go next week. This is one example. Or if we are going to sit meditation, the mental defilements tell us to watch a movie or listen to some music first. This makes our spiritual growth decline.
Sacca parami, or the perfection of truthfulness, is a very important quality and is one of the 10 spiritual perfections that the Buddha built to the fullest. The past lives that the Buddha was building sacca parami as a Bodhisattva were many, but the most important one was the one he was born as Vidhura the Wise. He lived in the city of Indapatta of the Kuru kingdom, which would be close to current day Delhi. In this city of Indapatta was a King called Dhananjaya.
The story begins with one ascetic that built parami, entered into the city and came to teach the people. There were 4 rich men who were friends who listened to the asectic’s teachings together. The ascetic taught these 4 wealthy men of different realms – the deva or heavenly realm, the naga or the realm of the serpent deities, and the garuda or the realm of the bird deities, and royalty in the human realm. These wealthy men gained faith and determined to build merit through generosity, morality and meditation. After their deaths, one was born as Sakka, king of the devas; one as the king of the Garudas; one as King of the Nagas; and one as a Prince of the King in the city of Indapatta. This prince later became the King of Indapatta, King Dhananjaya.
In this city lived Vidhura the Wise who had great knowledge and the ability to speak and judge fairly. He was possessed of excellent mindfulness and wisdom. These 4 friends who were reborn as kings of their different realms, came together in the human realm to keep the eight higher moral precepts, and each were very strict in their practice. They each had the thought that their morality was higher than their other friends. Sakka, king of the devas, said that his morality was purest because he had given up divine riches and enjoyments in the Tavatingsa realm to practice in the human realm. The King of the Nagas said his morality was purest because usually the Garuda is the sworn enemy and predator of the Nagas, but he can endure that and abandon hatred. The King of the Garudas said that his morality was purest because usually the Naga is the food of the Garudas, but he can endure the hunger. The King of the humans said that his morality was the purest because he had given up royal possessions and objects of greed for the purpose of peace. They all argued on this for a long time, until they had the idea to go to let Vidhura the Wise judge on this matter.
Vidhura the Wise asked them how did this argument arise. If they don’t tell him their reasons then he wouldn’t be able to judge this matter. They told him about it and Vidhura made the decision that all 4 of their morality observances were equally pure, just like the spokes of a wheel all connected in the middle. Whoever could possess these four qualities would be rightly called a renouncer of the world. When the 4 friends left, they had great admiration of the wisdom of Vidhura the Wise, who could overcome their doubts and uncertainties justly. All 4 of them gave a gift of great value from their realm to Vidhura the Wise.
The Naga King whose name was Varuna, went back to his Naga realm and his Queen Vimala asked where did the jewelled ornament that the King usually wore around his neck go. King Varuna explained that he had given it as a gift to Vidhura the Wise who had the sweet speech of Dhamma and possessed great mindfulness and wisdom. Vidhura’s words had entered his heart. And he explained that it wasn’t just him who gave valuables as gifts to Vidhura – King Sakka, King of the Garudas and the King of Indapatta, also gave gifts as homage to the Dhamma that they all received. Queen Vimala asked him how is Vidhura the Wise’s speech sweet and full of Dhamma.
The King replied that he was able to speak the Dhamma that entered the heart and it felt so sweet and was able to bring up understanding and truth in that Dhamma teaching. The Queen had the desire to hear the teachings of Vidhura the Wise. She came up with a plan to pretend to be sick. When the King visited, he asked how she could overcome her sickness. She said that she needed the heart of Vidhura the Wise to be cured. The King was distraught because he knew that Vidhura was much loved by the King of Indapatta and his people. There would unlikely be anyone who could grab Vidhura’s heart. The Queen pretended to be sick and the King Naga Varuna was extremely worried.
The Naga King’s daughter Irandati, was very worried after hearing the story from her father. She promised to help get Vidhura’s heart to give to her mother. Irandati dressed and adorned herself and gave out a call that she would marry whoever could get Vidhura’s heart. Now, Punnaka, a yakkha demon general, who was the nephew of King Vessavana, the King of the Yakkhas, went to the Naga Princess Irandati and she told him if he could get Vidhura’s heart then she would marry him. Punnaka was determined to marry Irandati. Punnaka knew the weakness of King Dhananjaya was gambling. So Punnaka went to the King in order to gamble with him, and to win Vidhura the Wise. Punnaka took a very exceptional gem that was solely the wealth of a universal monarch and a unique magical horse.
The King Dhananjaya desired these items and agreed to gamble for them. If he lost his price would be any of his possessions, except for himself or his wife. King Dhananjaya lost in gambling dice and Punnaka demanded to take only Vidhura the Wise. King Dhananjaya was shocked because he loved Vidhura as much as himself, and they argued for a long time over this. So, they agreed to call Vidhura the Wise to come and decide on the matter. Punnaka asked Vidhura the Wise whether he was a slave of the King, or a relation, or superior than the King. Vidhura said, that he must speak the truth and always be in line with the Dhamma and should not evade the truth. Sweet speech will have great value when it is imbued with Dhamma. Vidhura answered, “I am the slave of the King. Whatever he decides I will follow.” Even if he was the prize of a gamble, he would agree. King Dhananjaya heard this and was distraught but could not do anything but let Punnaka take Vidhura.
Vidhura asked permission from Punnaka to go back home to teach his wife and children for 3 days. Punnaka gave permission because he knew Vidhura was a person who was truthful.
Vidhura taught his wife and children that if the King ever asked what had their father taught them? Then they should salute him and sit in the same position as me as a slave to the King. Vidhura taught them on how to gain fame and live in the royal residence of the King. He taught them to have virtue, wisdom and purity, to be dutiful, diligent and respectful, and to never consider himself as an equal to the King, whether as friends, enjoying pleasures, clothing, in seating, or in possessions. When he finished speaking he left with Punnaka the yakkha.
During the journey, Punnaka tried to find different external methods to kill Vidhura so that he could take his heart and travel easier. Due to Vidhura’s fearlessness he could not achieve it. Vidhura asked why Punnaka wanted to kill him. Punnaka replied that he wanted to marry Irandati, the naga princess. Vidhura taught him the Dhamma of being a virtuous man. That one should follow customs by looking after strangers, one shouldn’t have any evil towards those that have been a helpful friend, and one should not go into a dwelling of an immoral woman. Punnaka listened and felt remorse in his actions. He decided to free Vidhura and gave up his desire to marry the Naga princess and would take him back to his home. But Vidhura asked him to take him to the Naga realm. “I am not afraid of danger. I have never done any evil. So, I am not afraid of approaching death.” So Punnaka took him to the Naga realm.
Here, Vidhura met and asked the Naga King Varuna, how did you gain this divine wealth? The Naga King Varuna answered that it was by his own meritorious actions in his past life as a wealthy man practicing generosity and morality. Vidhura said “You know that your rebirth is the fruit of your meritorious deeds, and even though there were no renunciants and ascetics in the naga realm to make offerings, you can still build merit by having love and compassion to all those in the naga realm. Not harming anyone in speech or actions. If you do this then after death you will gain the deva realm, higher than the naga realm.
King Naga Varuna was deeply impressed by the Dhamma teaching and asked Vidhura to meet his Queen Vimala. Queen Vimala asked how Vidhura knowing that he was in such danger, how can he not be scared of death. He answered that he had never done any evil therefore he was not scared of death. I have Dhamma and wisdom as my support, therefore I am not scared of any dangers. Queen Vimala was deeply satisified by Vidhura’s wisdom and Dhamma. The King Varuna said that this wisdom is the true heart of a sage – not the physical heart that is of flesh and blood. So, satisfied, the King gave his daughter Irandati to Punnaka, who was happy and pleased, in body and in mind through the teachings he had received.
Punnaka took Vidhura back to King Dhananjaya, and Vidhura gave a recount of the whole story to him. The Dhamma is the highest. Whichever individual has Dhamma and wisdom, will not waver in the face of dangers and will be able to overcome all obstacles. Virtue and wisdom, giving the teaching of Dhamma to others, that was showing the truth with wisdom. This is the sacca parami, the spiritual perfection of truthfulness of the Buddha when he was practicing as a Bodhisattva. May we take this teaching to contemplate and keep building our goodness, higher and higher, until we reach Nibbana. Then our hearts will have eternal happiness, free from all suffering. If we live in the human realm, we will have happiness and suffering always swapping. We need to be possessed of much mindfulness. Whoever maintains a lot of mindfulness will be able to have only little suffering. May you all be determined in your practice. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Which is more meritorious: meditation and insight, donating money, or physically helping at a monastery?
Luang Por Anan: In terms of money it depends on how one gained the money, how pure and bright the mind is when offering the money, and how good the morality is of the offering person. With physically helping is depends a lot on the mind state of the person when helping. Meditation is the highest merit as it involves overcoming the kilesas and generates great goodness.
Q: Can you explain about the 4th precept and how it relates to the truthfulness parami?
Luang Por Anan: The 4th precept is more about not lying, and truthfulness is speech that is deathless, as it is true. One should do everything truthfully, not just speech, but also one’s actions.
Q: If two people with the same faith and morality donate two different amounts of money, who makes the most merit?
Luang Por Anan: A small donation given with great joy is great merit; a big donation given with small joy is smaller merit.
Luang Por Anan: In Chiang Mai a foreign man put Buddha heads on the wall around his house along with other statues. People complained and wanted the Buddha images taken down, the police came, and the foreign man did not wish to take them down. His Thai wife explained the situation to her husband and he removed the statues.
What would you all do if you saw a person wearing a dress like this woman—one with Buddha heads all over it?