Tahn Ajahn Wanchai Q&A

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Ajaan Wanchai
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  1 TAHN AJAHN WANCHAI ’ S Q&A WITH MONKS FROM WAT PAH NANACHAT Warrior Heart Ajahn Chandako: May we please ask a few questions, Tahn Ajahn? Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: [gestures affirmatively] But Ajahn Chah is already top-notch. Ajahn Chandako: Venerable Ajahn, how should one develop and train one's temperament and  personality in order to see and realize the Dhamma? Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: Every person, every heart  —  kilesa has been their master since time immemorial. Whatever kilesa has led us to do has become our personality. Some people like to eat a lot, sleep a lot or have a lot of material possessions. Some people don't like having to deal with others. Kilesa causes these traits to form. Once we've decided to modify these habitual tendencies, applying the Buddha's Dhamma, we take the Dhamma which is their opposite, their enemy. For example, someone who likes to sleep a lot has to practice going without sleep. Someone who likes to eat a lot has to take on the ascetic practices (dhutangavatta): putting all your food in your  bowl, with absolutely nothing left outside of it, and then eating just the right amount. People who are gregarious and chatty have to go and live alone, not allowing themselves to get involved with other people. One keeps working on these tendencies. People who are coarse, people who are sloppy, people who never put their heart into anything they do, have to train themselves with those things which counter their innate character traits. You have to be discriminating in choosing the Dhamma teachings which are appropriate. Study and get to know your own temperament. Make sure you really do it. Once you know if you are a greedy type  —  for instance, greedy for food or you love to sleep--then make sure you take up the teachings of the Buddha which are the kilesas' opposites in order to counteract them. Once we manage to oppose them, we then find out that we have some strength to contend with these kilesas. Stand up to them. For example, I told Tahn Brad, Don't have any coffee. Just try it out for a while. Resist this one. Stand up to your deeply ingrained habits of personality. Stand up to them until the mind and heart are balanced and centered, until the mind and heart do not waver. Whether you then get any coffee to drink or not, the mind and heart are equanimous, still and unmoved. That is, equanimous after being tested. Until we've tested ourselves it's still not a sure thing. There's also the equanimity of kilesa. The equanimity that we're looking for arises from having tested, struggled with and seen for ourselves. Ajahn Chandako What is the purpose and benefit of monastic etiquette (kor wat) and serving one's teacher ( เ cariya vatta), specifically the way the Krooba Ajahns of our tradition use them? Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: The Buddha himself taught it all: the fourteen kiccavattas, how the Ajahn relates to his disciples  —  this is the Ajahn's particular kor wat  —  and how the disciples relate to their Ajahn  —  this is the kor wat specifically for them. There's kor wat for the senior monks concerning how to behave towards those more junior to them and kor wat for the junior monks concerning how to behave towards those more senior. Kor wat includes everybody. It doesn't just refer to the responsibilities of those newly ordained towards their mentor. The Ajahn has his kor wat practices as well. He has to look after all aspects of his disciples' well-being, from the food they eat and the requisites they use, to words of  2 guidance and teaching. He's there to benefit his disciples, so they don't have to struggle to find food, shelter and requisites, in order that they will have the time to put forth unremitting effort. The disciples repay their Ajahn by carrying out the various kor wat duties. While repaying their debt of gratitude to him they also get to know his personal characteristics. They study the traditional ways of the Buddha and of the old generation of Krooba Ajahns in order that those traditions won't decline. They see the appropriate way for disciples to relate to their mentor and how the mentor relates to his disciples. Each person has their appropriate kor wat. The benefits of this are that the disciples have abundant free time for practising. They inherit the knowledge imparted by the Krooba Ajahns. They make the lives of these old masters a bit easier; and as those disciples become more senior they will be thoroughly acquainted with the Vinaya of this sasana and the monastic etiquette so that they in turn may pass it on to others in the future. A further benefit is that once you've taken care of a Krooba Ajahn, when you yourself become senior other people will return the favor to you. Or whether you become a layperson or wherever you happen to be reborn, having offered services to a Krooba Ajahn, there will be people waiting to lend you a helping hand. Having fetched water, offered this and that, people will look after you in a similar way. The greatest benefit is this: one gets the opportunity to study intimately the ways and habits of the Krooba Ajahns, gets to know what kind of temperaments they have that they were able to do  battle with the kilesas and emerge as our Krooba Ajahns. This is the most important point, the best and highest benefit. The lesser benefit is that there will be people to attend on and look after us in the future. Wherever we're reborn and whatever we do, we won't go without or be poor. There will always be people to help us. Kor Wat defines how we practise towards each other: between teacher and student, seniors and  juniors, general communal etiquette, behavior in the dinning hall, at the hot drink, while using the toilet, etc. There are lots, and it's all beneficial. You have to use your pa¤¤à to thoroughly contemplate these duties, so you know that without exceptions they are all of benefit. They have the ability to subdue our kilesas  —  subdue laziness, for one thing. They subdue conceited opinions and arrogance. Maybe our teacher didn't have much schooling, didn't graduate with any degrees, only completing a few years in grade school. But his knowledge of Dhamma is vast. Those of us who are highly educated however, might be very arrogant and proud of ourselves that we have a degree and have studied a wide range of subjects. We do this kor wat for subduing conceit as well. This self-inflation can't be allowed to manifest or else we'll never see our heart's true nature. Conceit is one form of kilesa. If we are proud of ourselves for being well educated, well off or upper class, we will never be able to dissolve this conceit and flush it out of our heart. This is another important point. Ajahn Chandako: Venerable Ajahn, what are the biggest obstacles for meditation (kammatth เ na) monks in the present age? Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: Oneself. The kammatth เ na monk himself. Other things don't obstruct. If the kammatth เ na monk goes astray, everything else gets totally spoiled. In any age the most important factor is oneself. There's no greater obstacle than one's own heart, the kilesas in one's own heart. That says it all, don't you think? Just that. Don't go thinking that other things are obstacles. Just ourselves. It doesn't matter how abundant food may be, if we're under control we won't get lost in it. Even if we have too many tools and an excess of equipment, if we don't get lost in it it's not detrimental. But if we start to get lost in it  —  even a little bit  —  then even if we're eating little and living simply we sabotage  3 ourselves. The obstacle for a kammatthàna monk is the kammatthàna monk himself, the kilesas in the heart of the kammatthàna monk. This is the most important one. The next most important obstacle is not having a Krooba Ajahn to guide us. If we get stuck at some point, it can be next to impossible to solve it by ourselves. Still, this is of secondary importance. We are our own biggest obstacle. Luang Pu Mun and Luang Pu Sao didn't have a Krooba Ajahn at all. They read the scriptures and practised accordingly. They were still able to attain enlightenment because they were careful with themselves. One's primary enemy is oneself. This is the most onerous, the most cruel. Next to that is being without a Krooba Ajahn and a good monastic community, but this is secondary. Not being diligent in putting forth effort in meditation, not having a heart that's firmly resolved, this is the obstacle. If we are lazy in even just one area, there's no chance of ever seeing Dhamma. If we're feeble and frail rather than strong and steadfast in our Dhamma practice, we won't see our own heart. This is the abbreviated answer.  Afraid of Death Ajahn Chandako: How then do we overcome fear, Ajahn, especially... Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: Wait, wait. What's the most important obstacle for kammatthàna monks in the present age? Ajahn Chandako: Oneself. Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: Errr. I was afraid you'd forget. (laughs) What were you asking? Ajahn Chandako: How do we overcome fear, especially the fear of death? Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: Firstly, panna. Panna first and foremost. We see: absolutely everyone dies. We look at ourselves, at our own body: we will die as well. This is extremely fertile ground for  pa คค a to contemplate. I'll answer briefly, but the fruits it yields are limitless. Panna will penetrate this issue of death through and through, and then we'll have no fear of dying. Secondly, being a person of courage  —  courageous in the face of hardship  —  like our Krooba Ajahns. In the old days when they set out walking on tudong they weren't concerned one bit whether there would be food to eat or medicine available if they got sick. They couldn't care less. They surrendered themselves to the truth. If this body lives it lives. It follows the laws of nature and is subject to one's kamma. If you gotta die you gotta die. Nothing can help you at that point. Constantly bringing this to mind, the fear of death gradually diminishes. Regularly facing this  predicament and contemplating it, the fear of death gradually diminishes until the key moment: when you're gravely ill, on your deathbed. You then rely on wisdom, mara ๕ asati, taking death as the focus of your meditation. Sometimes the fear of dying completely vanishes. Occasionally people of great innate capabilities such as Por Mae Krujahn (Luang Pu Mahà Boowa) would sit in meditation all night, fully prepared to die in the process. Fully reconciled with death, he realized enlightenment. If one doesn't fully abandon to the idea of death, one doesn't realize enlightenment. Fear of death is a huge obstacle. In the beginning you have to be brave. Pa คค à then offers the best understanding: fear of death only leads to suffering. It doesn't help us at all. Fearing death has never prevented anyone from dying. It can't. The ones who are afraid to die have to die. The ones who aren't afraid to die have to die. What's the point of being afraid? If fear is coming up, walk deep in the forest searching for a tiger... until the fear subsides. When you're experiencing fear of death, sit in meditation a long, long time. Sit until the pain is so bad it  4 feels like you are going to die...until the fear subsides. There. That's how you conquer fear, conquer the fear of death. You have to genuinely battle. If you're still afraid of death it's impossible to go beyond dukkha. The undeniable truth of death coupled with a cowardly heart is nothing but self-deception. Death does not faze me one bit. My heart stands unmoved. Because death and the heart are totally different things. The body and the citta are separate things. If you can develop samadhi, this is the most secure foundation. While in samadhi the body and the citta separate, and then you'll know that although the body dies the citta has never died. It's necessary that pa คค à, the inquiring mind, understands in this way  —  understands that it's imperative to generate samàdhi. Then you'll know that death is meaningless, that it's not dangerous for anyone. Whoever fears it just creates suffering for themselves. Fear then gradually fades. In the present age when we are our own biggest obstacles, we don't have the courage to sit in meditation for long periods of time like the old masters, don't have the guts to occasionally do long fasts. When we're sick or in pain we lack the courage to patiently endure with a valiant heart. Instead we go running for a doctor looking for medicine. In the old days the Krooba Ajahns  patiently bared with it. When sick or in pain they would first persevere and contemplate it. They used the sickness to their own advantage. If there were medicine available, then they would take it, and if there was a doctor to treat them, fine. But if there wasn't, it didn't matter to them. But we don't dare to do it the way they did. There's only fear: afraid to get sick, afraid of discomfort, and afraid of death. These fears give rise to suffering, nothing but suffering. They don't give rise to any happiness whatsoever. In the beginning, the way to overcome the fear of death is to challenge it, bit by bit, sometimes fasting, sometimes going without sleep. Experience some dukkha. Once you start to experience some dukkha what's your heart like then? Does it tremble? Does it cower in the face of suffering? Gradually relax the fears. They'll fade and dissolve If you are truly 'geng'', sincerely have what it takes, then bhavanà 'til dawn, sit in meditation or walk jongrom all night long  —  until it hurts so much you think you're actually going to die. The citta however, can't be harmed. Remaining still and equanimous the entire time, the citta knows it won't die. It's only the body that dies, only the kilesas that die. Since beginningless time the citta has never died. Once this is seen, fear vanishes entirely. If you haven't yet reached this point, fear merely gradually tapers off. To the degree that you're rigorous with the kor wat practice and tenacious in your bhavanà, fear will gradually diminish to that extent. It fades step by step until you reach a certain point where s ใ la, samàdhi and pannà have sufficient strength, and fear then ceases for good. However at this stage of the game, you have to whittle away at it bit by bit. Fear of hardship, fear of unhappiness, fear of pain  —  wrestle with these for the time being. Once you've contended with these, then you can wrestle with the fear of death. Samanera Khemavaro: For the beginning meditator, should we go for the peaceful states or be  peaceful with whatever state we're in? Tahn Ajahn Wanchai: In the beginning go at it from any angle. The Buddha's teaching is excellent through and through, but don't stray outside of His teachings. When you know you're suffering and you want to be free of that suffering, however you want to meditate is fine. If you want to be  peaceful then meditate on a mantra. If you want to contemplate, then get down to the investigative work. For the beginner there's nothing wrong with this at all.
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