The free mind of Luangpor Teean
Awareness is the root of merit; ignorance is the root of evil.
I asked Luangpor Teean, "Does making merit really give me merit?"
Luangpor asked in turn, "What do you understand merit to be?"
When I told him that I understood merit to be a good outcome or destiny that we receive after we die, in exchange for the good that we have done, he asked, "Have you ever heard the monks' chant that lists the benefits of making the kathina offering, that it will lead to us reaching heaven where the sprites, numbering 500 or 1,000 beings, will be our dedicated followers?
"Now consider the number of temples that there are in Thailand. If there is a kathina offering every year in every temple, where could enough sprites be found for everyone who made merit? We imagine in this way that monks are like bank accountants responsible for calculating the interest owed to us after we die, do we?"
I further enquired of Luangpor, "If this is so, what is your view of the making of merit by giving material things, as is generally done nowadays?"
He answered as follows: "Making merit by giving material things is a good thing to do, but it is like husked rice, which is of use only for growing seedlings. If we are to benefit from eating rice, we must eat boiled or steamed rice, not uncooked or husked rice. To be attached to making merit by giving material things in a superstitious way is one form of delusion: to be lost in darkness, even if in this case it is a white darkness.
"Merit at its highest, in its consummation, is to really know oneself, to be without dukkha (suffering)."
Watch your mind with mindfulness. No matter what thought arises, see it right away. You will then be aware of deception in time, as well as its prevention and cure. You will know how to overcome thoughts as produced by a combination of causes. Morality will consequently arise in your own mind. It is not a person that takes care of the precepts, but it is the precepts that take care of a person.
PEOPLE PROTECT MORALITY - OR - MORALITY PROTECTS PEOPLE?
Luangpor Teean often asked, "Why do we observe moral precepts in a manner similar to taking care of a glass so as to prevent it from breaking? Why don't we live and practise to have morality, that is, the mind that is normal, truly in our lives? Morality will then take care of us, rather than we having to worry about looking after morality."
If you are aware of your movements, then you are practising dhamma. Whether you are washing clothes or washing dishes, if you are aware of your movements at that particular movement, then you can be practicing dhamma.
Luangpor Teean told us how on one occasion, while leading the ceremonial chanting for auspiciousness in a villager's house, he had asked for a very large bowl to use in place of his small alms bowl in the making of holy water, an integral part of the ceremony.
When the chanting had been completed, and the water in the bowl had been made into holy water, instead of sprinkling it over the people present, as is customarily done, Luangpor took the large bowlful of holy water and threw it all over the floor of the house, saying, "Everybody, please join together and help to put things in order, help to clean the floor - this is what is auspicious. Using holy water merely to sprinkle upon ourselves, we might suffer allergic reactions to the leaves floating in the water, break out in an itching rash, and have to waste money on buying medicine to treat ourselves - now how could something like that be auspicious!"
The quicker the thought, the quicker the wisdom should be: the deeper the thought, the deeper the wisdom should be. If these two become equally deep and interact with each other, a breakthrough will result. This potential is inherent in every individual.
THE STORY OF VENERABLE ANANDA
I was always in doubt as to why the Venerable Ananda, in spite of listening to, hearing and knowing the teachings of the Buddha (i.e. the dhamma) more than anyone else, was not fully Awakened to actual dhamma.
Luangpor Teean explained, "Venerable Ananda knew a lot about the Buddha, that is true, but he did not yet know himself. After the Buddha passed away, Ananda studied to really know himself, and therefore succeeded in attaining full Awakening."
The techniques of raising the hand and turning the palm face down are techniques for cultivating mindfulness and wisdom. When these two dhammas are in correct proportion, they will arise without exception. Any person can practise this, whether he be a child or an adult, whatever colour he is dressed in, whichever religion or creed he professes. This is called the real thing.
Towards the end of his life, when Luangpor Teean's health was deteriorating, my wife expressed to him her deep concern about the teaching of dhamma - what would be the situation after his death?
Luangpor responded, "You needn't worry about this at all. As long as humanity exists, there will, from time to time, be those that come to know dhamma, because dhamma is not a personal possession that can be monopolised or owned. Dhamma was present long before the Buddha's time, but the Buddha was the first to bring it out to teach and propagate. An individual that knows dhamma can be compared to a lamp that lights up brightly in the darkness: one who is close will see clearly, while those farther away will see less clearly. After a period of time the lamp's light must be extinguished, but then from time to time the lamp will again be lit, again providing illumination."
Sources: Luangpor Teean Jittasubho's The Prime Key and Dr Vatana Supromajakr's The
Singularity of an Ordinary Monk (translated into English by Bhikkhu Nirodho).