Tonight we talk about a dog swimming in the ocean, far from the shore.
Even in the USA, England, and around the world this story is famous. Why could this dog
survive? It is because of its merit. Its name is Boonrod, which means: “Saved by Merit”.
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Ajahn Anan: Imagine if there were thousands of dogs who fell into the sea—how many would survive? It is likely very difficult for a dog to survive like this dog, Boonrod, did.
Does anyone really love animals?
Q: We have had this dog for 14.5 years. This dog has merit, too, I think. Half a year ago half of the dog’s body became paralyzed. My sisters brought him to acupuncture and took care of him. Now he can walk normally.
Ajahn Anan: Yes, even a dog needs to have built merit to be looked after well and be with people who have minds of merit.
Q: Maybe the dog gets merit from listening to these Dhamma talks every week.
Ajahn Anan: This is possible. The humans can feel good chanting and listening to Dhamma, and the dog can also get a good feeling. Maybe next Skype there will be more dogs showing up to listen, as well.
Q: If one donates something to a dog, or gives the same thing to a human, is the merit the same? Is it the same demerit to kill an animal as a human?
Ajahn Anan: In the Buddhist suttas this question is answered. Helping animals is less merit than helping humans. Helping humans with virtue, or morality, is more merit than helping those without virtue. It depends on the mind of the receiver. Animals don’t have virtue in general, although some pet dogs don’t harm others.
Q: What does it mean for the dog’s merit that it fell into the ocean in the first place? Maybe it had some past life karma?
Ajahn Anan: The subject of karma is deep and complex. I cannot answer this. But if we ask how the dog got separated from its original human companions, then you could say that maybe in the past this being separated others from what they loved or harmed others in some way. This is a general answer to this question.
Q: I have heard that one’s future birth depends on one’s last mind moment- if one has a good or bad state of mind. Even the last mind moment can be different than what one had done in one’s life as a habit. Does the merit and badness that one had done affect the future life as well?
Ajahn Anan: Imagine there is a pen full of cows. When the gate opens, there is a weak cow next to the gate, and a strong cow in the back. The weak cow leaves first when the gate opens. This is like when one has led a life of goodness, but has a bad thought at the time of death, the badness gives result first, and the goodness comes later. This is the same if one leads a bad life but has a good thought at death. Other karmas that one has done will give results as pleasant or unpleasant experiences, helpful and unhelpful conditions.
In the story Bunrod escaped with his life. Maybe he fell from a fishing vessel where the crew was going to eat him. He escaped from the fishing boat and escaped from the sea. It’s possible another fishing boat that would pick him up would also eat him.
In the Buddha’s time a wealthy man had a wife and child. There was no food due to a bad disease in the town. The husband thought they couldn’t feed the child anymore. The wife didn’t want to kill the child. But the child died anyway. Later the husband and wife went to another town, stayed in the house of another wealthy person, then the husband died of starvation. Upon dying the wealthy man was born in the womb of the dog of the family he had been staying with at the time.
Q: What is the difference between merit and parami, and how are these two related?
Ajahn Anan: Merit is happiness of the heart. We do goodness like listening to Dhamma, then we feel happy and full in our hearts. The dog listening to Dhamma also can feel happy and full in its heart even though it doesn’t understand. Helping and giving time to others is also merit like setting up the Skype equipment. Parami is spiritual accumulation which helps one progress and go to a higher level.
Virtue parami, giving parami, patience parami, and so on, lift our hearts even higher. The parami gather together to lift our mind higher.
There is ordinary giving, then the giving of Bodhisattvas, like when the Buddha sacrificed his body parts and lives to build parami. Regular people would not do this. He gave up his family and wife in order to build parami to the fullest to become the Buddha.
Last time the center asked about our Buddha and how he left his family to seek the Dhamma the night his son was born. The question was, do all Buddhas sacrifice like this? The answer is that all past Buddhas [before they attain to becoming a Buddha] have a wife and a son. The texts do not say how the Buddhas leave home. The Bodhisattva’s family may rejoice when the Bodhisattva leaves home.
Q: One time, I was swimming and couldn’t get back to shore even though I tried because the current was strong. So I can understand how the dog felt. I had a dog who died at 13. I chanted “Namo Tassa” for the dog. Can the dog be reborn as a human? Did the chanting help it?
Ajahn Anan: It is definitely possible for the dog to be reborn as a human from listening to “Namo Tassa”. If one chants the virtues of the Buddha and the dog’s mind feels good, then it can be reborn as a human.
There is one dog we had here named Chocolate. When there was a Dhamma talk, the dog would walk into the hall looking for a place to sit – he would look for his seat. He would lie down then listen to the talk. When the talk was over, the dog would get up and leave. One time we played a recorded talk. The dog entered the hall after hearing the sound then looked for me. It didn’t see me so it left the hall. He was very smart.
Chocolate got very sick and we sent him to a good animal hospital. Some monks visited him in Bangkok. The doctors said the dog couldn’t hear or understand anything. Then they put a phone near Chocolate’s ear. I called his name over the phone and he lifted his head and could hear. I told Chocolate to put his mind in a good state. Chocolate died in one monk’s lap.
Chocolate would lie down and listen to chanting and Dhamma talks. He was a really smart and good dog. His mind was often in a good state, and it is possible he got reborn as a deva or human. It is possible he was reborn as a deva.
After Chocolate came back from the hospital and died in the monk’s lap, Chocolate’s body was still soft and didn’t smell when kept overnight in the hall. This is the dog’s merit looking after the corpse.
Can I chant ‘Namo Tassa’ to help someone who has died already?
Ajahn Anan: Yes this can help if they are aware of your chanting. If they cannot be aware of what you are chanting, then it’s up to their karma that they have done already.
Q: Chinese believe that for seven days the dead stay around can still understand and know what is going on. Is this true?
Ajahn Anan: In the suttas sometimes beings get reborn in hell, in heaven, or as ghosts right away after death. They don’t stay near the dead body. But if the being is worried, then maybe that being does stay near their old dead body.
Q: My friend has a son he is worried about because of strange behavior that has started.
Ajahn Anan: Is his brain okay?
Q: He gets good grades. He talks and behaves like a lady just recently.
Ajahn Anan: There are two things: does the mind of the son want to be a man or a woman? It could be a deep feeling that he wants to be a woman. His environment tells him to be a man, but this maybe goes against his desires. The parents can ask what he wants to be. He has to choose. He is old enough to choose now. Whether he chooses to be a man or a woman, it’s fine. The parents should see him as their child either way. He should set his mind to do goodness either way, this is more important than whether they choose to be a man or a woman. The parents can focus that their child is their child either way.
Q: There are many novices who recently ordained here. I talked with my friend, who did not feel grateful for his opportunities in life. Any advice for me to help my friend feel grateful for this life?
Ajahn Anan: The friend’s thinking is wrong. One should change this thinking and cultivate new thoughts: It is a good opportunity to build goodness being born as a human with one’s body and mind functioning. This means one can do a lot of goodness and benefit to oneself and others. Maybe this person has high expectations, if they cannot reach their ideals, then they will suffer, so they have to learn about the truth that some expectations or goals cannot be reached. Like with one’s body. It cannot be strong and healthy all the time, it has to get sick and die. In the same way, outside things are also not in our control.
Being born into this world, everything won’t be perfect, and you won’t always get what you want. Don’t compare to others, otherwise one will suffer a lot.
Q: My dog is very sick. The vet cannot help sometimes, and the vet suggests to ‘put the dog to sleep’ to reduce its suffering. Is this a good idea?
Ajahn Anan: If your intention is to kill the animal then this is killing. If there is too much suffering for the animal, and one slowly gives medicine over time for it to reduce the pain, and ones intention is to reduce its pain, this is better than not giving it medicine [to put the dog to sleep].