Buddhism was born out of love. While he was
a bodhisattva, the Buddha loved himself so he worked
on extricating himself from the bondage of suffering
for good. After setting himself free, he reached out
to people to show them how they too could set
themselves free. This required a multitude of sacrifices
on his part, which he willingly accepted as
part of becoming a Buddha.
This little book was born out of love and
gratitude for the Buddha and my monk teachers.
On 4 June 2017, I had a chance to listen to a
sermon by Ven. Dattajeevo in which he spoke about
the importance of the Buddha’s first sermon “the
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta,” and how it holds
the key to curing social ills and people’s personal
He also explained how not knowing how to
love oneself causes a lot of problems for oneself and
others. His sermon sparked an idea in me to write
this book so that more people will benefit from his
sermon and the Buddha’s first sermon. It is my
offering to the Buddha and
12 July 2008 –Ashram
I have been invited to meet Luang Por Dattajeevo, the Vice Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, by a person named Elsbeth, who is a Swiss woman running meditation retreats throughout Europe. She has a daughter named Joy, who is in high school here in Bangkok, and this meeting is to commemorate Joy’s birthday. This is a great honor for me, so Luang Pi Joshua (my son and a monk who currently resides here) tells me, because not many people get to meet the Vice Abbot in person. I, on the other hand, am somewhat hesitant to meet a senior monk, because he is considered a great meditator, and I am reluctant to meet someone who can instantly discern exactly who I am. I totally know what I have done in the past, and some of those things I would prefer to remain hidden from anyone else’s mind except my own.
However, the day arrives and Jon (Josh’s father) and I bike over to the Ashram where I meet Elsbeth and Joy for our meeting. There is also a monk there who will translate for us if we need him to, however Luang Por’s English, I discover, is very good indeed because he attended graduate school in Australia prior to his ordaining as a monk.
The Ashram is a low, single story building and the room where we enter is meticulously undecorated with walls of honey colored wood, wide comfortable wooden chairs of the same color, and wall to wall carpeting (and floor cushions) for people who prefer to sit on the floor.
We are, indeed, comfortably seated … Elsbeth and Joy on floor cushions, Jon and me on some wooden chairs that are slightly lower than the dais for Luang Por. We all take our seats, and within a few moments, Luang Por Dattajeevo walks in, sees us, and his whole face lights up. He is in his mid-sixties, healthy looking – not thin, not chubby – and, of course, he’s got a bald head and he’s wearing saffron robes because, after all, he is a monk. He possesses an impossible face to describe because it is so endearing: he looks at you as though you are the coolest person in the world, whereas in reality I have come to learn, HE is the coolest person in the world. I am instantly a groupie, although I have never been a groupie to anyone so I am not exactly sure what I am supposed to do with that.
After he congratulates Joy on her birthday and speaks with her about her university studies, he looks at each person in the room and takes a breath. With this slight hesitation, Jon immediately interjects a question.
“Could we talk about meditation?” Jon asked. “Why should people meditate? And how can we stop our mind from constantly thinking?”
“There are two types of teaching,” he begins. I am slightly puzzled with this way of answering Jon’s question, but I will eventually learn that Luang Por never starts where you think he should start, but starts to answer the question that you really wanted to ask and allows you the opportunity of honest-to-goodness learning. You know the expression, “Those who have the ears to hear will hear?” Well, that’s Luang Por for you: He’s hoping that everyone who talks to him has the ears to hear. “The first type of teaching is about the things that we are able to prove. The second type is about things that we are unable to prove. Creation, for example, is one thing that people think we cannot prove. Buddha, however, teaches that people need to prove everything for themselves. ‘Don’t believe me, he says, just try it out for yourself.’ Along with this, there are three types of learning: One is listening and/or reading, one is thinking, and one is meditating. It’s like this,” he says, narrowing his eyes, holding up his arm with a slight wave and adjusting his robe. “Meditation is just quieting the mind so that we can, in essence, become a blank slate in order to learn more quickly.”
Then I ask him: “Could we talk about merit, or boon? Would you explain what it is and tell me if intention plays any part in it?”
He looks at me and smiles.
He begins: “Boon or Boonya is not Merit. There is, in reality, no translation for it. Boon is Boon!” He laughs and then instantly gets serious.
“Boon is a kind of energy, but it is pure energy. For example, Sunlight is not pure. Electricity is not pure. Steam is not pure. But Boon is pure energy within your mind. Nowhere else.”
“How do we generate, or create, boon?” I ask.
Luang Por says: “Suppose you see evil. As soon as you decide to do nothing about it, or as soon as you decide to do something about it, boon happens. To create boon a person needs to separate actions into three categories:
Give up “bad” things (like smoking or drinking) … boon happens Do “good” things (like donating) … boon happens
Purify your mind through meditation … boon happens
He continues: “And WHY do we want to generate boon … for what reason? Well, be-cause boon is so clear and clean, it will destroy kilesa – and what is kilesa? Ha!!!” He slaps his knee. “Well, kilesa is the garbage of the mind. This is why we clean our minds by meditating! When we meditate, we help get rid of the garbage: When we meditate, we are cleaning our mind. When our mind is under the influence of kilesa, it loses its quality and light. Kilesa has the habit of squeezing the mind … covering the mind, acting as a puppeteer and coercing it to perform evil, rusting the mind to death. And do you know how kilesa works? It works like this.” He stops, closes his eyes, holds out his arms, spreads his fingers, and smiles. Lowering his arms slowly, and opening his eyes, he says, “Well, first it forces the mind to think what it shouldn’t: To think about bad things or to see bad things in others. Second, it forces the mind to be like a monkey, switching very quickly from one thing to another, often without finishing one thought before it goes to another. Third, our mind then becomes darker and coarser until it reduces our ability to perceive, memorize, think and then to know. SO, don’t blame others automatically. Control your thinking and look at yourself first. Don’t blame others first. Usually we have the habit of blaming others or blaming our environment, our situation, our atmosphere. We have to look at ourselves first. All of these, when done repeatedly, cause bad habits. It grows and spreads most particularly through habit. And that means that habits follow us from lifetime to lifetime. Don’t believe me. Go prove it for yourself”
We all look at one another, thinking that this was it. But I think, “WOW! So meditating is genuinely important, huh?”
He smiles, patiently, as though he knows what I am thinking.
Then, he says, “So we need to have Samma Samadhi (Right Concentration) and that can be done by concentrating outside or inside the body. If we concentrate on the outside, kilesa will be at work. It is so easy to concentrate on things that are external. But if we concentrate on the inside, or inside our center, it is impossible for kilesa to exist. When-ever you are angry, your mind goes outside. It is easy to get hooked, easy to be angry. The things you look at – all outside – all Mara. Then we start to criticize because we look at what is in front of us and behind us and all around us! And what happens is that the very thing that you need to work on is the very thing that you do not see – yourself! So, we need to meditate and keep our mind always in the center. Our mind gets used to being outside of our body. And we need to bring it back into our center. Centering our mind back inside of our body, creates more boon, and the pure energy of boon naturally destroys kilesa, or garbage.”
I ask, “So is boon self-generating? Like boon is just out there in the world and creates itself?”
Luang Por says, “It’s like this.” He smiles. “You know all of those material things that you own? Well, if you love them, then you worry about them. When you give them up, then you have less to worry about. And, in giving them up – if it helps another person – they are benefiting from the boon you created. The more we give, the more boon happens within you, the originator. In other words,
- You do, or create, a good action;
- When you do this action, boon happens;
- The boon that you create is pure energy;
- Energy is power;
- Pure power overrides and destroys destructive power, or kilesa;
- This influx of pure power makes you feel happy;
- With this happiness, you develop a clearer mind;
- This in tum generates or produces more boon.
One example of this, of course, is the idea of creating boon by giving donations to people. If you donate to a good cause, that seed will grow and it will create the fruit that helps many people.”
Jon, then, interjects, “So is there a degree of goodness in merit? Is there good giving and bad giving?”
Luang Por looks at him, smiling, and says, “Remember, there is no merit in Buddhism, just boon!” He laughs out loud. “And boon does not happen when you sleep, so don’t be a sleeper!” He looks at me and almost winks. “We need to make boon continuously because, although we are born with boon, we don’t know how much we have when we are born. So we must continually make boon. Some people practice baap, or badness, because, for example, they drink and destroy their liver, thereby destroying themselves. For those people, when they practice goodness, it is like a throwaway. We must practice boon intentionally, and continuously. Then we will be on the right path.
“Now, there are two types of giving: one is necessity/urgency and the other is urgency/ necessity. Let’s look at some examples.
“Here is the first action: You give food to the monks (even one spoonful) and the monk studies because he has been fed. In this way, we give Buddhism life. Because the monk lives and teaches Dhamma … Buddhism is still alive. This is necessity/urgency. But here is the second type of action: There are people in the world who are starving. If they need help and you can help them, then help them! This is urgency/necessity. If you have a budget, however, with which to choose your donation, then you need to think about the differences in the actions. Many factors are involved in deciding who to donate to … and you need to think about what your giving will bring to society.”
“Well,” said Jon, “what about all of those statues of the Buddha that are so expensive to build. Why do you spend so much money building them when so many people are so poor in Thailand?”
Luang Por lowers his head slightly and looks up at Jon, as though looking out over reading glasses, except he is not wearing reading glasses. “There are two things that you need to remember. The first is that this is Thailand, and the Thai culture dictates that we have Buddha images around because we are a Buddhist culture. The second thing to remember is that these statues are built to remind people of the possibilities. What the statues really represent to Buddhists is that one man in this historical age became en-lightened. If we, each of us individually, are reminded by a statue that one man became enlightened, then the possibility exists for other people to do it as well. But you will have to meditate in order to discover this for yourself.” He smiles. And then, after a pause, quietly, he says, “There are many statues of the Christ to remind Christians of his journey, are there not? And statues of other saints and holy men? This simply serves as a reminder for us to live better lives. Christ says, for example, in order to live a better life we should always remember the goodness within us. He said, ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’ The Buddha, five hundred years before Christ, said that the Dhamma is within you!”
Jon, obviously not afraid of the hard questions, asks, “Could you tell me what you think is the difference between Buddha and Jesus?”
Luang Por says, “Buddha teaches that you need to prove everything. Jesus does not … for Jesus, it is more like acceptance. Buddhists do not say resurrection, but birth and re-birth. Buddhists do not say sin, but wholesome or unwholesome.”
Then Jon asks, “Was Buddha aware of his own self-enlightenment?”
Luang Por looks at Jon with the utmost seriousness and says, “Buddha is aware of self-enlightenment forever because He can see his mind, He can see kilesa, He saw no more kilesa in himself, and He knows everything – forever!”
Then I ask, “Could we talk about the Cetiya and the four circles, the circles within the circles?”
Again, he smiles and raises his hand.
He explains, “The Cetiya is built like the mind: There are four circles. From the inside out, they are knowing…then thinking…then memory…then perception. From the outside in…just like the way people learn…perception, memory, thinking, and knowing.”
Then I ask, “Can people choose their families in which to be born?”
Luang Por, “Some people can choose and some people cannot … some can have a shopping window of families!!” He laughs. “It all depends on the amount of boon the person has when they are ready to be born again.”
Then Jon asks, “ls the 60 year building for stopping Mara? To challenge Mara?” The 60 year building is where all of the “serious” meditators spend their time in constant meditation. This building is located on the property of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, but is quite separate from the other buildings. Here, high level meditators reside and they spend all of their days and nights in constant meditation, usually in shifts of six hours:
Six hours on and six hours off. Many people consider the 60 year building to be a place where people can train themselves and eventually work together toward bringing about the greatest possible goodness to humanity, the destruction of Mara, which is the behind the scenes influential power of evil in existence. For Christians, I suppose, this would be the same as destroying or nullifying Satan.
Luang Por, “It works like this. Our boss is our mind. Our mind is not so clear. We must practice clarifying our mind. We must clarify our own mind first. Each mind must become clear in order to help. Kilesa is within your mind. We must clear our own mind and then we will be able to stop Mara. Each person must do this for himself or herself. We must always work on ourselves before we try to work on others.”
Then Jon says, “Do you think that Jesus and Buddha are in the same place, talking to one another?”
Luang Por actually looks surprised at the question, “If our minds are refined enough, we all can communicate on the same plane. The inside core, our true self, is the Dhammakaya, or body of enlightenment. Each core is unique because each person is unique. Therefore, Jesus and Buddha do not have the same Dhammakaya body. Because the Buddha and the Arahants do not have defilements, their Dhammakaya body is brighter, happier – and the brightness of the Dhammakaya body depends on the clarity of each mind. Through meditation, each person can see this for him or herself. And that is exactly why meditation is so important!”
Our “chat” has lasted about three hours. When we wind down with the questions, he smiles. And then says, “We will save the other questions for the next time.” My eyes immediately avert to the people in the room and silently think, “Did I hear that correctly? Did he just say ‘Next time?’ Can anyone verify that for me?” No one is looking at me, however. They are all just looking at Luang Por and smiling.
We pay our respects to him as he rises, adjusts his robes in a wave, looks at each of us with a twinkle of his eye, and leaves the room. Feeling as though the sunshine has just left, I sit there for a few minutes bathing in the atmosphere of the Ashram. Although I am not so sure I want a “next time”, I revel in the experience of being taught by someone so knowledgeable, and so willing to talk about the Dhamma.
Lucky us, I think, as I look around the room at the people who are now leaving.5
5 Parts of this chapter are Copyrighted, 2010, Finding Buddha, Shires Press, Manchester, Vermont.