Ajahn Anan: Today we will talk about wisdom. In Japan in the past, Zen Buddhism was very respected. Buddhism went from India to China, then Japan. Luang Pu Chah taught that to understand Zen, one must be mature. Zen teachings are high teachings. One needs concentration as a foundation in one’s mind to understand Zen teachings.
At Nalanda University in India, in the past, one had to answer a Dhamma question in order to be admitted to the university. Once, the monk in charge of admission held a bowl of water and stood still without speaking. Then a prospective student came and put a needle in the bowl. This meant the university had great wisdom, and the student only had a little. The student was admitted to study.
Similarly, in Japan, they used to have a tradition for visiting monks to answer a Dhamma question or engaging in a debate before being allowed to stay at the temple.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTIONS & ANSWERS FROM VENERABLE AJAHN ANAN
Q: I have heard that the Buddha’s great disciple, Venerable Maha-Kassapa, is still alive meditating in a mountain cave. He is waiting for the future Buddha, Maitreya, in order to give Maitreya Buddha the robes of our Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha.
Ajahn Anan: This is a belief of Mahayana Buddhism, that Venerable Maha-Kassapa will wait for Maitreya Buddha, then there will be many fully enlightened beings after Maitreya Buddha.
Q: A relative who is non-Buddhist asks me, “What is the goal of supporting monks and monasteries?” How should I answer this question?
Ajahn Anan: The goal is to sacrifice and give to benefit others. Like helping monks to practice and know the Dhamma, which will benefit even more people, as well. It also helps to develop one’s own mind by going against selfishness, greed, and delusion, because when one has possessions, one has some attachment to them. This is a step on the path towards Awakening.
Sacrificing and giving is not just for Buddhists. Many religions teach in this way.
For example, Christians teach to sacrifice, be generous, and help others also. You can ask your friend, what is the goal of this? The goal for Christians is the same: to have a mind of compassion and gain happiness. When we give, we gain something inside; we gain happiness.
Love and mettā is the same. Christians call it love. Buddhists call it mettā, or lovingkindness. There is no Christian or Buddhist idea there, the quality of loving kindness is the same inside.
Your friend asked about your religion. Maybe you could ask your friend about their religion. If we’re hot and drink cool water we feel at ease. If we see others are hot and give them water, then they will feel at ease. Is this the same for Christians and Buddhists or not?
Q: Is there really no difference between doing generous acts to a Christian church and Buddhist monasteries?
Ajahn Anan: If you speak about the heart that gives and sacrifices, then this is one thing. This is training the mind with the wisdom that gives things up. But if you speak about the benefits gained, then the benefit varies according to the purity of the receiver.
Q: How do you develop wisdom in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, and how is it different from Zen?
Ajahn Anan: The way to develop wisdom is the same in Theravada as in Zen. Have samadhi, or concentration, as a foundation. One great teacher, Luang Pu Tongrat, once told an older disciple of his to make his mind like a tree stump. That is all he said. And the disciple contemplated that and made his heart not like or dislike, to be at ease, just like he saw the tree stump be at peace no matter what was happening.
People would say Ajahn Buddhadasa was the Zen teacher of the south, and Luang Pu Chah was the Zen teacher of the Northeast. Once when we were doing construction work on the uposatha hall at Wat Nong Pah Pong, Luang Pu Chah asked me and another monk to separate small stones from a big pile. We had a small wooden tool. It took about a half hour to get one small handful of stones. I thought that this was not an efficient way to do this.
Luang Pu Chah looked at me and said: “Anan, these stones were not born here, you know.” That is all he said. Luang Pu Chah did not explain further.
Q: What did Luang Pu Chah mean when he said, “These stones were not born here.”
Ajahn Anan: The meaning was that the stones arrived with great effort—they had to be harvested from a mountain or quarry, then transported, then offered from people with faith to the monastery, requiring many people and much effort to arrive. These offerings, like stones, did not come easily. If people did not have faith, they would not offer things. The offerings come from the parami of Lord Buddha.
And Lord Buddha had to build spiritual perfections for an incalculable amount of time in order to discover the truth of reality and be able to teach us about it. Then that tradition and faith carried on to Luang Pu Chah, who also had to practice hard and put his life on the line in order to realize the Dhamma that the Buddha had discovered. Then people gained faith in Luang Pu Chah in order to offer things to Wat Nong Pah Pong.
The meaning of Luang Pu Chah’s statement was very deep like this.
Q: When we do metta to beings that we cannot see like devas, how do we know if they receive the metta?
Ajahn Anan: Keep practicing and training your mind. Concentrate your mind, then you can know for yourself about this.
Q: When the Buddha to be was born, why did seven lotuses spring up under his feet when he walked seven steps?
Ajahn Anan: This is became the Lord Buddha determined to spread the Dhamma to all seven parts of India.