Questions and Answers

Daily Life

Greed, hatred, and delusion are just our selfish desires, impatience or anger, and lack of mindfulness. These are the three unwholesome roots, that the Buddha discovered and taught. These are the root of all things unwholesome, of all things that are bound up with tension.

 We basically learn through the threefold training – Sīla / Virtue; Samadhi / Collectedness; Pañña / Wisdom – how to deal with this. This is the Eightfold Path that we’ve been studying a little bit.

The goal of the entire Eightfold Path is to first learn to see the greed, the hatred and the delusion. These are big words, but really, it can all be boiled down to tension. These unwholesome states are obsessive, they are not mindful, they have lack of mindfulness within them. They are conditioned in our own behavior through time, through repeated action and reaction. So, we learn to see the very strong desires, that are not so wholesome, not so good for ourselves. They’re simply pulling us out of contentment all the time.

 It’s not to eradicate all kinds of desires at all, that’s not the Buddhist teaching. It’s about cultivating wholesome desire, which gradually will bring up Liberation. We learn to discern these states with wisdom and see when we get angry; I’m not very happy, when I’m angry.

 We learn to wisely abandon these, and that’s the practice. To see first – because that’s the tricky part – that anger is reactive. Anger is an obsessive state; we’re not mindful when we get angry, we’re just reacting. We are in full-on reaction mode and the problem lies in this.

That first step is that we need to see this, we need to have the mindfulness, the openness of mind, the clarity of vision to see; oh I’m getting angry here. That’s the first Noble Truth. we have to see it, we have to recognize it, and then we can let it go. That’s the third Noble Truth, the end of tension, and that’s really the Buddha’s teaching.

It’s not just about mindfully seeing things; it’s about letting go of the unwholesome and cultivating the wholesome. Then mindfulness arises. Mindfulness is a byproduct of Right Effort, which is abandoning anger and unskillful states – anger and strong outward desires – and replacing them with wholesome states. We recondition our minds, so that it is present, happy, aware, uplifted, with Loving-kindness, with generosity, with virtue, with non-harming, with compassion and equanimity. They’re not an equanimity that is indifferent; an equanimity that is very happy and uplifted, a blissful equanimity. It’s a very mindful state.

Watch it here

  You can’t change people, so the best thing you can do is be the example. Depending on the situation – every situation is different of course – you have to be wise, and you have to find the wise path. For you to be the wise example. When you can shine the beauty of the Dhamma – and that means Dhamma as virtue, generosity, Loving-kindness, Compassion, gratitude. When you yourself are so full of it, that it just flows out of you naturally, and you are very happy.

You see, when people see happy people, they want to be like them; monkey see, monkey do – I talked about that last sunday. When we see happy people, we want to be happy like them. So, when you will be happy and if someone tells you things that are not really respectful, or are unwise, and you’re not fazed by it and you respond instead of reacting; you respond with Love, you respond with Compassion, you respond with Sympathetic Joy, you respond with steady composure of your own mind; then they see the beauty of the Dhamma and you are in fact giving them the gift of your own presence, of your own wisdom.

  The Buddha said – like I wrote in the book – and he really said this a lot monks; be like islands on yourself. And this is what you have to do for others also, because you can’t help others if you’re drowning yourself. You have to be steady, you have to be firmly planted in the Dhamma, in virtue, in wholesome states. That’s what being planted in Dhamma means; being solid in wholesome mental states. And then you can hold out your hand and help others. Not trying to change them, but by being that island, and they will just swim to your shore [laughs] and stand up by themselves. That’s what you can do.  

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

There were, and there still are, lay people that are Aryas [having attained one of the four stages of Nibbana]. I say quite often that the Buddha did not only teach a kind of sitting meditation practice. He taught a way of life and when he was in northern India at that time, it was a very specific context; bodhisattvas need a very specific environment to come down, to do their thing and to take their final birth. At that time, there were very conducive conditions, very conducive environment and for spiritual growth, for the spiritual practice. This is a way of life that he was teaching to a lot of monks. At that time it was fairly normal to become a monk, or to dedicate their lives to this kind of practice. There were also countless virtuous lay people, and still are today, that are practicing. What it comes down to is, that it is an all-the-time practice, this is a life practice, this is how to be happy. It is how to be happy and wise all the time. To understand the Buddha’s teaching, is to understand all these tools that he gave. He explained how the mind works, and how to develop the mind, and how to develop discernment and wisdom. To understand what states are wholesome, and what states are unwholesome. Greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, all these things cause us so much suffering in the first place. They cause so much difficulty, so much tension. Just to let them go, we can then experience Nibbana and Release, here and now. Nibbana simply means the letting go of, the blowing out, the cooling down.

See, there were lazy monks too and they didn’t make a lot of progress. And there were diligent laypeople who made a lot of progress. If you choose to dedicate your life to it, well, that’s that much more that you get. If you practice generosity, the mind is not clinging, the mind is always giving, the mind is liberated in the first place.  When a generous mind is a liberated mind, then the virtues are strong, they’re established, you’re protected by your own virtue, and this is very uplifting for the mind.

This might not be in one or two days, but the people that have been practicing this for a long time, they know the power of virtue.

Looking back five years ago, ten years ago; I have not hurt consciously any living beings; I have not told any lies; I have not hurt anybody sexually; I have not spoken behind anyone’s back or anything. This is just very wonderful, and this is really uplifting. As we practice that, as we are devoted to that, then we align with the Dhamma. We straighten our view, we align with the Dhamma.

However committed we are to this, is how much progress we will make, and that depends on you. If someone chooses to go to the movie theater and watch a big movie, very noisy, and eat popcorn, that’s great, sure. But if that person chooses instead to practice for two hours, and to develop their mind, to sharpen their mind and make their mind bright and beautiful, that will follow them everywhere. Whatever they’re going to do then, they’re going to be happy. This is our choice, this is everyone’s choice.

   In so many ways the Buddha told the disadvantages of sensual pleasures. We do as much as we can, and especially in the lay life, there’s so many things. But this is out of compassion to people. The Buddha was saying: Be careful, this is not where the true happiness lies, this is where you will be tricked. When we put our happiness into this, then we invest our happiness into something that can be taken away at any time. It is not reliable; we don’t know whether causes and conditions will support that for a long time.

 The Buddha always praised the advantage, the benefit of letting go the sensual pleasures, and enjoying the bliss of mental development – bhavana – and the higher mind. However anybody wants to partake in this, that’s everybody’s choice. We align with as much of the Dhamma as we can.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

Meditation

There were, and there still are, lay people that are Aryas [having attained one of the four stages of Nibbana]. I say quite often that the Buddha did not only teach a kind of sitting meditation practice. He taught a way of life and when he was in northern India at that time, it was a very specific context; bodhisattvas need a very specific environment to come down, to do their thing and to take their final birth. At that time, there were very conducive conditions, very conducive environment and for spiritual growth, for the spiritual practice. This is a way of life that he was teaching to a lot of monks. At that time it was fairly normal to become a monk, or to dedicate their lives to this kind of practice. There were also countless virtuous lay people, and still are today, that are practicing. What it comes down to is, that it is an all-the-time practice, this is a life practice, this is how to be happy. It is how to be happy and wise all the time. To understand the Buddha’s teaching, is to understand all these tools that he gave. He explained how the mind works, and how to develop the mind, and how to develop discernment and wisdom. To understand what states are wholesome, and what states are unwholesome. Greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, all these things cause us so much suffering in the first place. They cause so much difficulty, so much tension. Just to let them go, we can then experience Nibbana and Release, here and now. Nibbana simply means the letting go of, the blowing out, the cooling down.

See, there were lazy monks too and they didn’t make a lot of progress. And there were diligent laypeople who made a lot of progress. If you choose to dedicate your life to it, well, that’s that much more that you get. If you practice generosity, the mind is not clinging, the mind is always giving, the mind is liberated in the first place.  When a generous mind is a liberated mind, then the virtues are strong, they’re established, you’re protected by your own virtue, and this is very uplifting for the mind.

This might not be in one or two days, but the people that have been practicing this for a long time, they know the power of virtue.

Looking back five years ago, ten years ago; I have not hurt consciously any living beings; I have not told any lies; I have not hurt anybody sexually; I have not spoken behind anyone’s back or anything. This is just very wonderful, and this is really uplifting. As we practice that, as we are devoted to that, then we align with the Dhamma. We straighten our view, we align with the Dhamma.

However committed we are to this, is how much progress we will make, and that depends on you. If someone chooses to go to the movie theater and watch a big movie, very noisy, and eat popcorn, that’s great, sure. But if that person chooses instead to practice for two hours, and to develop their mind, to sharpen their mind and make their mind bright and beautiful, that will follow them everywhere. Whatever they’re going to do then, they’re going to be happy. This is our choice, this is everyone’s choice.

   In so many ways the Buddha told the disadvantages of sensual pleasures. We do as much as we can, and especially in the lay life, there’s so many things. But this is out of compassion to people. The Buddha was saying: Be careful, this is not where the true happiness lies, this is where you will be tricked. When we put our happiness into this, then we invest our happiness into something that can be taken away at any time. It is not reliable; we don’t know whether causes and conditions will support that for a long time.

 The Buddha always praised the advantage, the benefit of letting go the sensual pleasures, and enjoying the bliss of mental development – bhavana – and the higher mind. However anybody wants to partake in this, that’s everybody’s choice. We align with as much of the Dhamma as we can.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

Greed, hatred, and delusion are just our selfish desires, impatience or anger, and lack of mindfulness. These are the three unwholesome roots, that the Buddha discovered and taught. These are the root of all things unwholesome, of all things that are bound up with tension.

 We basically learn through the threefold training – Sīla / Virtue; Samadhi / Collectedness; Pañña / Wisdom – how to deal with this. This is the Eightfold Path that we’ve been studying a little bit.

The goal of the entire Eightfold Path is to first learn to see the greed, the hatred and the delusion. These are big words, but really, it can all be boiled down to tension. These unwholesome states are obsessive, they are not mindful, they have lack of mindfulness within them. They are conditioned in our own behavior through time, through repeated action and reaction. So, we learn to see the very strong desires, that are not so wholesome, not so good for ourselves. They’re simply pulling us out of contentment all the time.

 It’s not to eradicate all kinds of desires at all, that’s not the Buddhist teaching. It’s about cultivating wholesome desire, which gradually will bring up Liberation. We learn to discern these states with wisdom and see when we get angry; I’m not very happy, when I’m angry.

 We learn to wisely abandon these, and that’s the practice. To see first – because that’s the tricky part – that anger is reactive. Anger is an obsessive state; we’re not mindful when we get angry, we’re just reacting. We are in full-on reaction mode and the problem lies in this.

That first step is that we need to see this, we need to have the mindfulness, the openness of mind, the clarity of vision to see; oh I’m getting angry here. That’s the first Noble Truth. we have to see it, we have to recognize it, and then we can let it go. That’s the third Noble Truth, the end of tension, and that’s really the Buddha’s teaching.

It’s not just about mindfully seeing things; it’s about letting go of the unwholesome and cultivating the wholesome. Then mindfulness arises. Mindfulness is a byproduct of Right Effort, which is abandoning anger and unskillful states – anger and strong outward desires – and replacing them with wholesome states. We recondition our minds, so that it is present, happy, aware, uplifted, with Loving-kindness, with generosity, with virtue, with non-harming, with compassion and equanimity. They’re not an equanimity that is indifferent; an equanimity that is very happy and uplifted, a blissful equanimity. It’s a very mindful state.

Watch it here

  You can’t change people, so the best thing you can do is be the example. Depending on the situation – every situation is different of course – you have to be wise, and you have to find the wise path. For you to be the wise example. When you can shine the beauty of the Dhamma – and that means Dhamma as virtue, generosity, Loving-kindness, Compassion, gratitude. When you yourself are so full of it, that it just flows out of you naturally, and you are very happy.

You see, when people see happy people, they want to be like them; monkey see, monkey do – I talked about that last sunday. When we see happy people, we want to be happy like them. So, when you will be happy and if someone tells you things that are not really respectful, or are unwise, and you’re not fazed by it and you respond instead of reacting; you respond with Love, you respond with Compassion, you respond with Sympathetic Joy, you respond with steady composure of your own mind; then they see the beauty of the Dhamma and you are in fact giving them the gift of your own presence, of your own wisdom.

  The Buddha said – like I wrote in the book – and he really said this a lot monks; be like islands on yourself. And this is what you have to do for others also, because you can’t help others if you’re drowning yourself. You have to be steady, you have to be firmly planted in the Dhamma, in virtue, in wholesome states. That’s what being planted in Dhamma means; being solid in wholesome mental states. And then you can hold out your hand and help others. Not trying to change them, but by being that island, and they will just swim to your shore [laughs] and stand up by themselves. That’s what you can do.  

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

This is a sequence that is used in many ways, but usually the Buddha would – when he explained his whole explanation of the Path – get just before the first jhana and explain that. When one realized that the five hindrances have been left behind, the Buddha says: pāmojja jāyati.

Pāmojja is the word for gladness, the root is mud – like joy [Mudita]. It can be interpreted as gladness. It could also be translated as joy. I am sometimes translating it as relief. Because, when the five hindrances are left behind, they’re let go of, then there is that relief, there is that pāmojja. The Buddha, in Pali, says pāmuditassa pīti jāyati. That means with that gladness, or with that uplifted mind, or with that relieved mind, there is joy.

But we need to know the suttas very well to understand that this joy that the Buddha is speaking of here, is spiritual joy, it is mental-development-joy. This is no everyday kind of eating-a-chocolate-bar kind of joy [laughs].

This the joy of bhavana, the joy of mental development, because these five hindrances are like the clouds over the mind, and when these are left behind, there’s this wonderful joy of mental clarity. I would say this is the main difference between them.

 If we look at them in this way in other suttas [see for instance Anguttara Nikaya 6.25 Recollection], the Buddha will use that sequence when he talks about the six Recollections of an awakened person; a person who has entered stream-entry; a sakadagami or Once-Returner; an anagami or Non-Returner or an arahant. These four kinds of persons will naturally recollect:

  1. the Buddha, the good qualities of the Buddha, and naturally their mind will be uplifted. That’s how he says that pāmojja will arise, and that pīti jāyati, that joy.
  2. recollecting the Dhamma
  3. recollecting the Sangha
  4. recollecting generosity, their own generosity, or whatever act of help that they’ve done
  5. the virtue, recollecting virtue
  6. or recollecting the devas.

It’s also used in other terms. But that’s a few places where we can find that sequence.

[person who asked the question]

Thank you bhante. Can you also help to clarify the difference between pīti and sukha?

[Bhante Ananda]

 This is also Pali, and therefore it has a very specific context which we don’t always have here, in this day and age, and with the English language, for example. It’s a bit tricky to translate Pali word for word to English. In fact, that’s one of the things we realize pretty soon, that is very difficult.

But I would say that generally, pīti is more this stronger kind of joy, it is a bit more excited. Sukha is more like happiness, but a synonym of it would also be ease, this really nice ease. This is also reflected in the second and the third jhana; one feels ease with the body, sukha with the body.

Whenever I speak to different people, I will play with these words, depending on where people are. But I use happiness most generally, because it is quite well understood. Further along in the meditation, it becomes quite clear then, that it is simply this really good ease, of body and mind. So, that would be more sukha.

[Comment from the audience]

 Bhante, generally, pīti is translated as mental pleaser and sukha as bodily pleaser, in translations I have seen.

[Bhante Ananda]

For example, in the Ānāpānasati Sutta, the Buddha will explain the first four steps, which include tranquilizing the bodily formations. And then, knowing the whole body, and then he says; breathing in and out with joy, pīti, and then breathing in and out with sukha, with ease or happiness. So, if sukha is really this bodily, then pīti is more mental; then it would be the other way around.

One thing that is happening quite often, I would say, is that some terms have become very rigid in Buddhism. When we read the original texts, the Buddha himself played a lot with these terms.

 It’s not that it’s not true what is being said, but we should always keep an open mind as to how these words come. and how the Buddha uses these terms.

 In fact, sometimes he uses these terms as something that is unwholesome, and sometimes he uses them as something that is really wholesome and that is to be developed.

We have to understand what context it is being said in, and why is the Buddha saying that. We have to know the essence, the core, of his teaching, to understand what he means. I would say that he had quite a wide spectrum of ways of interpreting words, and he even mentioned that himself.

Watch it here

Sutta Explanations

The Buddha used the Pali word  “Dana” to describe generosity. Activating generosity within us is the first instruction the Buddha gave to lay people. It was his first step teaching us to open our hearts to help make us successful in life and in spiritual development.

The Buddha taught three kinds of Dana: Generosity of Mind, Generosity of Speech, and Generosity through Bodily actions. 

Generosity of Mind means to cultivate wholesome thoughts to support yourself and those around you.

Generosity of Speech means to use kind and wise words with good intention to help yourself and others to be successful in life. 

Generosity of Bodily Actions means the direct act of offering Dana as described above or doing those deeds that help your family, teachers, and others in your life whenever there is need.

Dana for the monastic community

In Asia, lay community members support programs and activities at monasteries and meditation centers. They provide goods and services to sustain their highly valued role in society. These traditional communities make it possible to build housing; provide transportation; clothing; food; and medicine to monastics, so that they can dedicate themselves full time in teaching and preserving the riches of wisdom and compassion found in the Buddha’s Teachings.

Greed, hatred, and delusion are just our selfish desires, impatience or anger, and lack of mindfulness. These are the three unwholesome roots, that the Buddha discovered and taught. These are the root of all things unwholesome, of all things that are bound up with tension.

 We basically learn through the threefold training – Sīla / Virtue; Samadhi / Collectedness; Pañña / Wisdom – how to deal with this. This is the Eightfold Path that we’ve been studying a little bit.

The goal of the entire Eightfold Path is to first learn to see the greed, the hatred and the delusion. These are big words, but really, it can all be boiled down to tension. These unwholesome states are obsessive, they are not mindful, they have lack of mindfulness within them. They are conditioned in our own behavior through time, through repeated action and reaction. So, we learn to see the very strong desires, that are not so wholesome, not so good for ourselves. They’re simply pulling us out of contentment all the time.

 It’s not to eradicate all kinds of desires at all, that’s not the Buddhist teaching. It’s about cultivating wholesome desire, which gradually will bring up Liberation. We learn to discern these states with wisdom and see when we get angry; I’m not very happy, when I’m angry.

 We learn to wisely abandon these, and that’s the practice. To see first – because that’s the tricky part – that anger is reactive. Anger is an obsessive state; we’re not mindful when we get angry, we’re just reacting. We are in full-on reaction mode and the problem lies in this.

That first step is that we need to see this, we need to have the mindfulness, the openness of mind, the clarity of vision to see; oh I’m getting angry here. That’s the first Noble Truth. we have to see it, we have to recognize it, and then we can let it go. That’s the third Noble Truth, the end of tension, and that’s really the Buddha’s teaching.

It’s not just about mindfully seeing things; it’s about letting go of the unwholesome and cultivating the wholesome. Then mindfulness arises. Mindfulness is a byproduct of Right Effort, which is abandoning anger and unskillful states – anger and strong outward desires – and replacing them with wholesome states. We recondition our minds, so that it is present, happy, aware, uplifted, with Loving-kindness, with generosity, with virtue, with non-harming, with compassion and equanimity. They’re not an equanimity that is indifferent; an equanimity that is very happy and uplifted, a blissful equanimity. It’s a very mindful state.

Watch it here

This is a sequence that is used in many ways, but usually the Buddha would – when he explained his whole explanation of the Path – get just before the first jhana and explain that. When one realized that the five hindrances have been left behind, the Buddha says: pāmojja jāyati.

Pāmojja is the word for gladness, the root is mud – like joy [Mudita]. It can be interpreted as gladness. It could also be translated as joy. I am sometimes translating it as relief. Because, when the five hindrances are left behind, they’re let go of, then there is that relief, there is that pāmojja. The Buddha, in Pali, says pāmuditassa pīti jāyati. That means with that gladness, or with that uplifted mind, or with that relieved mind, there is joy.

But we need to know the suttas very well to understand that this joy that the Buddha is speaking of here, is spiritual joy, it is mental-development-joy. This is no everyday kind of eating-a-chocolate-bar kind of joy [laughs].

This the joy of bhavana, the joy of mental development, because these five hindrances are like the clouds over the mind, and when these are left behind, there’s this wonderful joy of mental clarity. I would say this is the main difference between them.

 If we look at them in this way in other suttas [see for instance Anguttara Nikaya 6.25 Recollection], the Buddha will use that sequence when he talks about the six Recollections of an awakened person; a person who has entered stream-entry; a sakadagami or Once-Returner; an anagami or Non-Returner or an arahant. These four kinds of persons will naturally recollect:

  1. the Buddha, the good qualities of the Buddha, and naturally their mind will be uplifted. That’s how he says that pāmojja will arise, and that pīti jāyati, that joy.
  2. recollecting the Dhamma
  3. recollecting the Sangha
  4. recollecting generosity, their own generosity, or whatever act of help that they’ve done
  5. the virtue, recollecting virtue
  6. or recollecting the devas.

It’s also used in other terms. But that’s a few places where we can find that sequence.

[person who asked the question]

Thank you bhante. Can you also help to clarify the difference between pīti and sukha?

[Bhante Ananda]

 This is also Pali, and therefore it has a very specific context which we don’t always have here, in this day and age, and with the English language, for example. It’s a bit tricky to translate Pali word for word to English. In fact, that’s one of the things we realize pretty soon, that is very difficult.

But I would say that generally, pīti is more this stronger kind of joy, it is a bit more excited. Sukha is more like happiness, but a synonym of it would also be ease, this really nice ease. This is also reflected in the second and the third jhana; one feels ease with the body, sukha with the body.

Whenever I speak to different people, I will play with these words, depending on where people are. But I use happiness most generally, because it is quite well understood. Further along in the meditation, it becomes quite clear then, that it is simply this really good ease, of body and mind. So, that would be more sukha.

[Comment from the audience]

 Bhante, generally, pīti is translated as mental pleaser and sukha as bodily pleaser, in translations I have seen.

[Bhante Ananda]

For example, in the Ānāpānasati Sutta, the Buddha will explain the first four steps, which include tranquilizing the bodily formations. And then, knowing the whole body, and then he says; breathing in and out with joy, pīti, and then breathing in and out with sukha, with ease or happiness. So, if sukha is really this bodily, then pīti is more mental; then it would be the other way around.

One thing that is happening quite often, I would say, is that some terms have become very rigid in Buddhism. When we read the original texts, the Buddha himself played a lot with these terms.

 It’s not that it’s not true what is being said, but we should always keep an open mind as to how these words come. and how the Buddha uses these terms.

 In fact, sometimes he uses these terms as something that is unwholesome, and sometimes he uses them as something that is really wholesome and that is to be developed.

We have to understand what context it is being said in, and why is the Buddha saying that. We have to know the essence, the core, of his teaching, to understand what he means. I would say that he had quite a wide spectrum of ways of interpreting words, and he even mentioned that himself.

Watch it here

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