Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – May 25th, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
On the 29th of May this year will be the commemoration of the important Buddhist holy day that we know as Visakha Puja. Visakha translates as the 6th lunar month, and it is on the 15th day of the waxing moon on this 6th lunar month, that the supreme teacher, the Buddha was born. This great event took place in Lumbini Park, in current day Nepal. It was an extremely rare birth, for this great being was born after fully perfecting his parami or spiritual perfections in previous lives. Even the teacher to King Suddhodana (King Suddhodana was the Buddha’s father), was very sad because he wouldn’t live long enough to see Prince Siddhartha becoming enlightened and becoming the Buddha. He had to pass away before that and be born as a Brahma God.
We can see that the Buddha by virtue of his great compassion, had the aspiration to help all living beings become free from the cycle of samsara – this endless round of birth and death. He was willing to stay in this cycle of birth and death – being born and dying in samsara for an incredibly long time in order to accomplish his aspiration. The Buddha had to sacrifice his life, his body and flesh, his various organs, not at all for his own benefit, but for the benefit of all living beings.
We can see that the Buddha became enlightened and then taught the Dhamma with a heart that had completely pure love and compassion. Teaching until many fully-enlightened arahants arose in this world. And it wasn’t restricted to India. The Buddha urged the first group of 60 arahants to walk alone in different directions to spread the Dhamma for the benefit and happiness of all the people. He didn’t let them go 2 monks in one direction. They spread the teachings of the Buddha.
And, later, Thailand would receive the Dhamma through 2 arahant monks, Venerable Sona and Venerable Uttara, who came across the seas in order to spread the Dhamma of the Buddha, that which they themselves had understood in all its clarity. And in Siam or present day Thailand, Buddhism became well established as the centre of Theravada Buddhism in the world in the present day. But as we understand, the things that have prosperity have decline. And the decline of Buddhism doesn’t come from external dangers, but from the dangers internally, that is, from the Buddhist monks and nuns, the lay people and lay women – its inside here that Buddhism corrodes. Bad practice leads to the decline of people’s faith in Buddhism. But the teachings of the Buddha don’t decline with it. There are many senior monks in different countries spreading Buddhism to other countries like Russia, America, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and even Africa. In Brazil now, it is beginning with the starting of Buddhism of the Ajahn Chah Lineage and various monks of that tradition starting to go there.
Like in England, Venerable Ajahn Chah brought the teachings of the Buddha to England, about 40 years ago. It was quite miraculous actually. And Ajahn Chah taught in the way of a riddle, he said “The Buddha sent what type of monks to spread the Dhamma?” Like we know well that the Buddha sent the 60 arahants as the first group to spread the Dhamma. When Luang Pu Chah brought Buddhism to England, he did so by doing the korwat patipada – the proper practices of a monk – like going for alms round. At that time no monks would dare to go alms round in England because it was something that was against the law. But Luang Pu Chah said “We will follow the standard monastic routines and practices of the Buddha.” He wasn’t afraid of going against the law. And it had results too. The police invited the monks to go back to the police station. But the monks explained to them that this was the standard monastic practices that the Buddha taught his monks to follow. They weren’t beggars. We are not beggars. Whoever had faith to give could give. There is no inciting of people to give. They understood in England. Since then, the monks in England could go for alms and could eat alms food as normal. Wherever they would go, they could stand silently in front of, say, the supermarkets and people would come and offer alms. And this started from Luang Pu Chah coming and bringing the Buddha’s teachings to England.
And the first original monastery that they offered to Luang Pu Chah arose because they saw Luang Pu Chah going for alms-round and they gained faith in Buddhism and offered the land that would become Cittaviveka Monastery. This was the first branch monastery overseas of the Ajahn Chah Tradition. And this year, the Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May, wrote a letter to Cittaviveka Monastery on the occasion of Visakha Puja. Even the Prime Minister of the UK understands the importance of Visakha Puja to the community and to the Buddhist monks, lay men and lay women. In the letter, she celebrates the founder of the teachings, the Buddha, and acknowledges that he gave many important teachings, of which an important skill is the developing of mindfulness. She wrote that Buddhism has made the UK a richer place, and Buddhism has helped to bring peace and harmony to their country. And the Buddhist people who are well-established in goodness, they gain the benefit of following the teachings of the Buddha.
This is something to think about. When we come back to look at Thailand, these days the children being born may not be interested in Buddhism and have no faith, because they see the decline of Buddhism in Thailand. But, however it is, we all come together to practice Dhamma – to pay homage to the Buddha, to chant, to keep the 5 moral precepts, whether it is on the weekends or on the ceremony on the important Buddhist holy days. We recollect the most important person in our life, in the world and in the universe – the Buddha. The Buddha had great compassion and great wisdom. He could gain insight and be victorious over the ignorance and delusion in his heart, all through his own efforts. He was ayambhu, fully self-enlightened. Even Upaka the matted hair ascetic, met the Buddha whilst the Buddha was enjoying the bliss of enlightenment and the ascetic asked the Buddha, who is your teacher and whose teaching do you declare? – the Buddha answered that he had no teacher and master and was ayambhu, rightly self-awakened. The ascetic was confused and couldn’t understand how you practice if you don’t have a teacher. What the Buddha achieved was something no-one else could do, only the Buddha. Because the wisdom for them to become rightly self-awakened, requires the building and completion of the highest spiritual perfections and virtues – the 10 parami or spiritual perfections that is required to become a Buddha.
The Buddha was rightly self-awakened and he spread the Dhamma teachings to others. He also knew how to teach – he was buddho, the Knowing, Awakened and Joyous One. And he was sattha deva manusanam, which means he was able to teach all beings – the humans and the devas. The Buddha knew how to teach them and at the time that was appropriate. One example, was when some of the noble disciples who had great rapture arise, like Venerable Bahiya, who met the Buddha and gained great faith and much rapture, but the Buddha would not teach yet. Because at that time he wouldn’t be able to attain to becoming an arahant. The Buddha waited for his rapture to fade and lower and then the Buddha taught the Dhamma and Venerable Bahiya was able to become an arahant.
So the Dhamma practitioner who has great rapture won’t be able to see and know the Dhamma at that time. The Noble 8 fold path factors, summarised as sila samadhi panya, or morality, concentration and wisdom – aren’t able to gather together. This is the virtue and spiritual perfection of the Buddha that we praise when we chant sattha deva manusaanam. The Buddha could even teach the devas to attain to sotapanna or stream-entry. Like the Buddha teaching his mother the Abhidhamma. Because devas have divine bodies and so the Buddha didn’t teach about the physical body. For humans, the Buddha may teach about the suffering of the body – having hunger and thirst is suffering, or sitting, walking, standing or laying down for long periods is suffering. The body changes and getting sick is suffering. We can see this clearly. It is the Noble Truth of Suffering. But, to the devas, the Buddha taught the higher Dhammas and many could attain to becoming Noble beings. Even when the Buddha gave the first sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (The Discourse of Turning the Wheel of Dhamma), which teaches not to attach to the two extremes of sensual pleasure and self denial and pain, as this is the cause for suffering to arise. The devas that attained to sotapanna were many more than humans during this first discourse. This is the virtue of the Buddha that we praise every day with the chant sattha deva manussanam.
After the Buddha attained enlightenment, if he wanted to stay in the bliss of enlightenment he could have. But with his great loving-kindness and compassion, even if he had to walk far distances or even if he was sick when he was about to pass away, he still walked to teach, like teaching the goldsmith so he could attain to sotapanna. We can see the Buddha’s great compassion as well through the Buddha’s daily routine. Where in the morning he would look with his divine eye to see who he could teach that day and later proceed to teach them. Even a 7 year old child who had contemplated death often, the Buddha went to go teach. And this child was able to attain to sotapanna, because she could understand the truth that life is uncertain, and death is certain. She understood it clearly until the mind gathered together and knew and saw clearly – that all things that arise, they come, stay and pass away as normal. This knowing of this normal condition is called seeing the Dhamma.
Seeing the Dhamma is like seeing the Buddha. Because the Buddha is in the Dhamma. The flesh and body of the Buddha which had the characteristics of a great being, and who lived till 80 years has parinibbana (entered final nibbana) already. But the Dhamma is still here. Whoever sees the Dhamma, sees the Buddha. So for those that are Dhamma, the Buddha is still here. The Buddha has passed away into parinibbana 2561 years ago, but the Dhamma is still here.
If we sincerely practice this Dhamma and maintain the practice – the proper practices of a monk or of a layperson – and we do this with a mind imbued with loving kindness that helps one another, one’s community and one’s country, then we can all live in happiness. Like the letter from the Prime Minister of UK sent to the abbot and followers of Cittaviveka monastery, that they are fortunate to have Buddhism in their country that has helped to make UK become richer.
So we should think that our country has had arahant disciples in the past who have spread Buddhism here long ago, and continued on till the arahants of the modern era – Luang Pu Mun and his renowned disciples, and Luang Pu Chah of ours. The Dhamma that they practiced is still here. So we should learn it, search for it, and follow it every day – like practicing sitting meditation and training the mind. Make the mind have strength and have peace and stillness arise. Because the mind that has stillness and peace will lead to wisdom. May you all be determined in this. We are all Buddhists, so may we all aspire to be the true Buddhist that arises in one’s own heart.
So this coming week may we recollect the Buddha, and practice according to the meditation object that we have confidence in. It can be Buddho, Dhammo or Sangho. These days just using the meditation word Buddho slowly may not be enough to go against the development of technology in the world. So try to use Buddho quickly – Buddho Buddho Buddho, don’t let the mind have a gap for the mind to think of other things. Then the mind will have peace, stillness arises, and we will have the wisdom to contemplate and overcome the feelings of the mind. This will allow emptiness to arise and the inner Buddha to arise in one’s own heart. See all things as emptiness, that is seeing the inner Buddha. May you all be determined in the practice and may you all grow in Dhamma.
Questions and Answers:
Q: What is the easiest way to enlightenment?
Luang Por Anan: Practice letting go. Let go of sense contact – what happens at the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Train step by step. We are not arahants yet, so practice virtue, concentration, and wisdom, and just keep walking the Buddha’s path. You will get to the goal in time.
Q: Can you please explain the Pali phrase: Dhamma dhammanu patipada.
Luang Por Anan: This means practice the Dhamma that is just right in the present moment. Like having awareness and paying attention during all daily activities.
Q: Do you have any advice for our group to meet harmoniously and increase in lovingkindness and wisdom?
Luang Por Anan: Be committed to Dhamma practice, have lovingkindness. Practice the four divine abidings: lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Forgive after conflicts. Make the mind still and calm and contemplate often. See impermanence and see all sense contact as always changing. Then see beyond conventions, see emptiness, and see freedom. If you think and contemplate too much then go back and make the mind still and peaceful again. Know what is just right for yourself.
Q: Is it wrong to order seafood at a restaurant?
Luang Por Anan: If you know that they will kill the animal because of your order, then this is wrong. You would feel bad in your heart.
Q: If your friend orders some seafood and they come and kill it right in front of you, is it wrong to then eat it? Maybe the friend would be offended if you refused?
Luang Por Anan: You could say eating it would give you a stomach ache. Or you could go to the bathroom first and spread metta to the dead animal spirits.
If you are very clear in setting your intention that you are eating just to be kind to your friend and that you have no liking for the method of killing, then this can be okay. The karma lies in the intention, which is in your own heart.
There is the story of the wife of a hunter. The wife was a stream enterer and cleaned the husband’s weapons every night, but she had no intention of harming, only of helping her husband. She could eat the food with no liking of killing because her mind had the purity of a stream enterer.
Q: If one’s job involves killing or harming animals what should one do?
Luang Por Anan: Set your heart on the good parts of the job and know that it is wrong to harm or kill. A soldier once came to Luang Pu Chah, and Luang Pu Chah told him to get a different job. Last week a former soldier came to Wat Marp Jan. He had thought he killed at least one person since he helped make weapons as a soldier. I told him to do lovingkindness practice, do chanting, and spread lovingkindness to himself. The past is already done. I told him to focus on the present and not to dwell in the past. He felt better after a week long stay here. His body was in pain and not well, but the bad karma lives in the heart.