Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – April 6th, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
Welcome to all the centres and all of you that have come together to learn and practice the Dhamma. Today we will continue to learn about the highest blessings of our lives. This was the question that all the humans, all the devas, and all the brahmas couldn’t understand clearly, what is the highest blessing? In the end, Sakka, the king of the devas, had the devas ask this question to the Buddha.
The Buddha then gave the Dhamma talk on the highest blessings at Jetavana Monastery. It begins with not to associate with fools is the highest blessing of one’s life and to associate with the wise is the highest blessing. So here we ask who is a wise person? If we talk of the meaning of a wise person, it is a person who leads a life with wisdom, or one who knows the real benefits in life. This wisdom we are talking about here, we can separate it out firstly with the wisdom that knows how to learn and gain knowledge, that conducts work with honesty, and can progress one’s business with prosperity.
This is important. If since a young age, one is studious, learns from books, and builds one’s mindfulness and wisdom up, then one can grow up to be a good person, one who has a habitual level of morality, and ca do work with sincerity and honesty.
But these days, from what we all can see, the world has developed technologically and there are many modern devices such as tablets and smartphones, and children can get deluded in these devices. But the children who are smart, those that have mindfulness and wisdom, they can use these devices in order to learn and study more efficiently. But these days, the amount of children that have wisdom has diminished. The material prosperity of the world has made people even more deluded.
The wisdom of a higher level is one that can separate and knows right and wrong, good and bad, separate that which is merit and skilful from what is demerit and unskilful, that which has leads to one’s welfare and that which has downsides. When we are proficient at separating things and actions like this, then we are able to teach our children well, for them to know right and wrong, good and bad, what is for their benefit and disadvantage. They will be able to provide society with well-being and happiness. And the highest wisdom are the ones that can understand the Dhamma clearly. Although these individuals are incredibly few, they still do exist. In our era those that have wisdom in terms Dhamma, we have Venerable Ajahn Mun and Venerable Ajahn Chah, who were considered arahant bodhisattvas. And there are also many more monks. There are even lay people who have mindfulness and wisdom and can contemplate properly.
And these wise people will know how to lead their life properly. This present life they know how to be diligent – since young they were committed in their studies, then they were earnest in their work, they know how to use their wealth appropriately, they make their life firmly established, the wealth they can gain they can maintain and not lose it, they can associate with good friends, they consume money in a modest way, not extravagantly, they have more income than expenses, they keep money for future times of sickness, and they have money to look after their wife and children. And these wise people have faith to give part of their wealth to renunciants, monks and nuns, so they can learn and practice to develop wisdom, and to support them to gain nibbana. This is for our own benefit and the benefit of others. This person who practices this way is called a wise person. They are imbued with wisdom.
There was once when the monks and novices had drunk some coffee and didn’t pack up the flasks. Venerable Ajahn Chah saw this and used his cane to smash the flask until it went flying. He shouted out that – you know how to drink and eat, but you don’t know how to pack up. He was really scolding and loud, that even 30 meters away it was heard clearly. The flask smashed around. But in Luang Pu Chah’s heart he didn’t have anything. He entered the eating hall and smiled cheerily as if nothing. But that day the monks and novices were so tense that they couldn’t eat properly. All the monks in the monastery felt the same way. Here, Luang Pu Chah was a muni, a sage as well. On the outside he spoke one way , and inside his heart he was another way. He had special dhamma, he was a – was a wise person, and he was an arahant bodhisattva.
Wise people will listen to advice given by everyone. In this way they are people that everyone likes and loves. The wise people know and follow rules and proper conduct. They maintain this well.
Wise people have minds that are filled with lovingkindness and compassion, with intentions to help others to build goodness and follow the right way. They will help to make their children be diligent, be competitive, advise them properly in work, help them to grow mindfulness and wisdom, and to conduct themselves in a way appropriate for their status.
The wise friend is someone who can be relied on in times of happiness and sadness, and they don’t abandon their friends in times of difficulties, and at the highest level they could even sacrifice their own life for their friends. And when their friends fall to a lower path, the wise friend will help them back to a virtuous path.
We can look at Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Maha Moggallana. They were both wise people. They cherished each other as beloved friends, they would do things together, they ordained together as spiritual seekers, and after going their separate ways to seek the Dhamma, they promised to each other that whoever sees the Dhamma will quickly go and tell the other. This is amazing. Venerable Sariputta listened to the Dhamma from Venerable Asajji Thera, and the eye of Dhamma arose within him. Ven. Asajji thera was going to teach further, but Ven. Sariputta, said “Stop”, I will tell this Dhamma to my friend first because I have promised that whoever sees the Dhamma will tell the other. If he heard the dhamma more he would have become an arahant. But he couldn’t. He said “enough, enough.” He had to tell his friend first. He had found a great excellent thing that he had to share with his friend. Something for which he searched for a long time. He loved his friend, as if they had one heart. He was a true friend, a friend who brings one great benefit. He was a friend in both happiness and suffering. A friend that shows one benefit, a friend who is considerate of one. Both of them were wise people. They were both excellent in the worldly sense, having high intelligence and knowledge, but also excellent in Dhamma, that is their hearts were imbued with Dhamma.
So you all must practice to become a wise person yourselves, through consistently associating with the external wise people, and the wise person inside of oneself, that is one’s own heart. We should get to know, befriend, and be close to those who are wise. We should be good friends to each other and have love and respect for one another.
We can take the friendship of Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Maha Moggallana, the right and left hand chief disciples of the Buddha, as our example. Associating with the wise has lots of benefits. Venerable Ajahn Chah said, “Some dhamma practitioners, they have small spiritual development, small wisdom, but they stay close to a wise person, and they will develop quickly in their Dhamma practice. But others who have a high spiritual development and high wisdom, but stay far from a wise person, may progress slowly in their Dhamma practice. So by staying close to a wise person, even if we are not wise, we can develop higher wisdom and quickly as well.”
In one important sutta, Venerable Ananda, said to the Buddha, that to associate with wise people is half of the holy life. But the Buddha said, “Don’t say that Ananda, to associate with wise people is the whole of the holy life.” And the Buddha is the highest of wise people.
Wise people will lead us to meet with good things. Another example in the time of the Buddha, was the wealthy merchant, Anathapindika. When he went to find friend his friend in Rajaghir City, his friend was a wise person. Usually his friend would give a warm welcome to him, but on this particular day, he didn’t. On being asked the reason, the friend said he had not time to welcome him as usual because he was preparing to offer the Buddha a meal the next day. And Anathapindika had the chance to meet the Buddha the next day and listen and see the Dhamma and become a Sotapanna.
Wise people will help each other in times of need, giving them support and assistance. Any obstacles their friend meets, they will help to overcome it. So we need to find external wise people as well as the wise person internally. On the outside we associate with wise people, and on the inside it is our own heart. When we have this wise person internally, then other people who are looking for wise people will come together and associate with us. It becomes like well-loved relatives. We help each other to build parami, merit and goodness through generosity, morality and mental development. Then we prosper and support each other in the world and have happiness in the present. When we die from this world, we will have happiness in the future destination. And at the highest level, we can attain to become a Noble being. Or we can build our spiritual potential, like a lotus expanding and growing and gaining more levels.
So this talk has been about the 2nd highest blessing, to associate with wise persons, from the Mangala Sutta that the Buddha gave to tens of thousands of world systems in Jetavana Monastery. May you learn and practice from this. May you all grow in Dhamma and in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: After doing anapanasati I can get strong sensation between my eyebrows, which distracts me from the breath. Should I put attention at this point between the eyebrows?
Luang Por Anan: The goal of watching the breath is to have mindfulness at one point. So it is fine to watch this one point between the eyebrows if that is what makes the mind quiet. This is like associating with a wise internal person. This can give rise to samadhi.
Q: Is the Mangala Sutta (the Discourse on Blessings) given in order of importance? Like the most important blessing first and least important last?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. If one does not have the first blessing than all other kinds of goodness disappear.
Q: You mentioned the arahant Chi Gung. Is this the same being as the deva Chi Gung that Chinese people revere, the one who drinks alcohol?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. Although is it alcohol or water? I don’t know. There is a monk in Rayong who became known for drinking alcohol every day – he got his disciple to go buy some every night. The police came to arrest him and the monk said ‘No, look, its water’. The police tested the liquid in the bottles and it was water. They gained faith in that monk.
Luang Pu Suk studied with Luang Pu Thape Udon. Every day LP Thape Udon told him to cut up the fish that he caught. Eventually LP Suk lost faith and decided to leave, but LP Thape Udon asked him to clean the kitchen first. When LP Suk cleaned the kitchen he saw all the fish were actually vegetables, and he stayed on as a student. They both were famous for having advanced psychic powers.
Q: I notice that my mind is looking for things to think about. How can I establish the knowing mind with this constant thinking activity?
Luang Por Anan: If the knowing mind has strength, then it can win over thoughts. If the knowing mind does not have enough strength, then you have to keep fighting to make it strong again.
Q: I work with a lot of people, and these people like to party and drink and be rowdy. I notice my mind replays images and impressions from the work day after I get home.
Luang Por Anan: Be more mindful at work. Be with your meditation object during the work day, decrease your involvement with the senses, and this will help.
Q: Was LP Tape Udon a bodhisattva or not?
Luang Por Anan: This is a hard question. Some say he still exists. He had high wisdom. One monk, Luang Pu Moon, was able to read a special language of LP Thape Udon and chant the special chant to invoke him. LP Moon chanted then saw LP Thape Udon come out of a wall and then they held hands together and had a picture taken by a lay student. Later the picture showed it was an Indian man but LP Moon swore it was LP Thape Udon.
Q: Does an arahant have a wandering mind?
Luang Por Anan: The mind of an arahant is like water, if you drag a stick through the water it leaves a mark only for a very short time then the water becomes still and balanced again.
For a deluded person it is like dragging a stick through stone, for a less deluded person, like dragging through hard dirt, for a less deluded person then softer dirt, for an even less deluded person then sand, then finally water for the mind of the arahant.
The thoughts and the mind are separate for the mind of the arahant.