Monica : What does it mean for a Buddhist to give birth to a child?
Luang Por : Buddhism regards a birth not only as a natural process. We consider that everyone is reborn because of the cycle of life and death. As long as the driving force remains, one continues to be reborn in order to learn the truth of life that would lead to the final stage, or the end of birth. The more often we are born, the more suffering we encounter. Birth is the origin of many other kinds of suffering such as aging, sickness, death, separation from loved objects, facing unpleasant
things and torment from unfulfilled desire.
Consequently, a human birth is not only natural, but also has the purpose of seeking to cease birth itself. This Buddhist view is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but rather realistic. The reality is that suffering coexists with birth. Our birth is not directed by anyone, but it is the matter of karma or retribution for our past deeds.
Physically, birth starts from a father and a mother who have a sexual relationship, or in Dhamma terms, physical intercourse where the refined body is given an opportunity to incarnate.
Monica : What does the Buddhist scripture teach parents about how they should raise or have children?
Luang Por : The Lord Buddha taught that parents should feed them not only with food, but they should also teach their child to abstain from misdeeds such as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, consumption of alcohol and narcotics, and involvement in any other unwholesome allurements. These are the first steps.
For the next step, they have to teach their child to do only good deeds including practicing generosity, observing precepts, and meditating. Thirdly, parents should support their child’s education to the highest level. The fourth step is that parents should advise their child on how to choose a promising spouse.
Significantly, due to their long experience in married life, the parents should help their sons and daughters to find a consort who is relevant to them in four aspects: faith, precepts, attitude, and belief, so they can live together harmoniously. Lastly, provide the children with property in a timely manner so as to be invested in the future. The parents should also suggest how to earn, spend and save money.
Monica : What do the monks think about family life? And do you consider family life to be a distraction from your faith?
Luang Por : Family life is restricted by many factors, similar to a fish swimming in a tank compared to a fish swimming in the ocean. While one is constrained in a specific area, the other enjoys the boundless space of the sea.
In other words, we may also compare a married couple to caged birds who are not allowed to fly
freely in the sky. So marriage is a binding of life, and family life is not easy. There are several things to worry about, and this would obstruct the path towards Arahantship, the highest attainment for laypeople in Buddhism. If we wish to attain nirvana, monkhood is the only status that takes you there.
For laypeople, they can attain enlightenment up to a certain level, but not the highest level. Look at Prince Siddharta who was blessed with a beautiful wife and an adorable baby boy. He had never found the utmost satisfaction in life although he had abundant wealth, dignity, power, and servants. Finally, he renounced the world and sought to ordain since he realized that a family life does not encourage the Dhamma attainment. Is that clear to you?
Monica : It seems as if we in the west only find happiness when we buy a new car or a big house, and have a lot of material things around us. I think that you have good inspired thinking, so I wonder, what gives a Buddhist life value?
Luang Por : What matters most to Buddhists is Dhamma attainment, because happiness obtained from external sources such as family, dignity, power, and fortune are still limited. They coexist with life’s obligations.
But happiness and joy from Dhamma attainment is boundless and superior to a household life. Then the value of life can be achieved through the attainment of Dhamma that exists within oneself. Having said that, I would also like to emphasize a basic need for material wealth to a certain degree, but it will never buy true happiness and the highest satisfaction in life for us.
Prince Siddharta, as an example, rejected his excess royal wealth because he foresaw that they provided limited happiness whereas sufferings still existed. His solution was to ordain and seek enlightenment which yielded the highest satisfaction for himself.
Those who possess great wealth but never feel satisfied with their lives are still unsuccessful. But the Dhamma attainment will lead us to the highest satisfaction. We will desire for nothing more. We will be able to rely on ourselves and be independent from all external factors.
Monica : Do the scriptures teach about organizing the temple, and the fellowship among other Buddhists?
Luang Por : There is a teaching that Buddhists should visit temples regularly in order to learn from the wise, the sages, and especially the Buddhist monks, who prolong the Lord Buddha’s teachings. This allows the new generation to understand the truth of life and to follow the path accordingly, so they can live their lives righteously towards the ultimate goal of humankind by correcting their view first. The Lord Buddha never forced anyone to become a Buddhist or to visit the temples, he just pointed out the many benefits of doing so. This raises the awareness that one should take the best care of oneself in both private and public aspects by doing only good deeds. Did I make it clear to you? Simply speaking, Buddhists do not force anyone to visit temples but they help to provide a better understanding of Buddhism, until one is willing to come. For example, one is given guidance on how to have the right livelihood which would secure for oneself a rebirth only in the wholesome realms.
Monica : What does it mean to a Buddhist to practice meditation in a ceremony like the Kathina Ceremony yesterday? Does it enrich the Buddhist life to meditate together with others, or can they do it just as well at home alone or somewhere else?
Luang Por : The reason for mass congregation is unity in meditation practice. Normally the laypeople will meditate individually at home from Monday to Saturday. So, on Sunday, it is a good chance for
everyone to get together to meditate and generate strong positive mental energy to cleanse the impurities away from this world. The tradition of communal meritorious activity has been practiced since the Lord Buddha’s time. People may meditate privately or as a group. The mass congregation will motivate the others to follow this good deed as well because the unity of people doing good deeds together is admirable. The moment that people join together to meditate is the moment of peace that can prosper to become world-peace. The world has experienced
spiritual drought for a long time, and the peaceful congregation will bring about change. The peace that everyone has longed for will become a reality. All problems in this world arise from the wicked mind.
As the mind is the cause, to solve the problems, we have to deal with our mind first. War is a result of evil thoughts and furious minds, while peace occurs from a calm and clear mind. Meditation thus is the easiest and the most effective way to solve any problems. Although people have been longing for peace, no one has ever imagined it can really take place nowadays. However, meditation will bring about this impossible thing. If everyone meditates together, the world can be changed easily as both wars and peace are the result of our mind’s actions.
Monica : How do Buddhists relate to death? Are they afraid of it, and if not, why?
Luang Por : Deep down everybody certainly fears death, but true Buddhists will be less scared as they know the fact that whether they fear it or not, death is inevitable. They thus prepare themselves for death and study what they should do in order to have a good afterlife.
Monica : Do you prepare yourself for death? How do you do that?
Luang Por : Buddhists have been taught that death is a binary opposition of birth. To prepare ourselves for the impending death on a normal level, we must learn to purify our minds, avoid unwholesome acts, do good deeds, be helpful and generous to other people, and accumulate merits. Also, one should acknowledge the purpose of being born a human so as to cease birth
and find the celestial realm as a halfway before reaching the goal of nirvana. And for those who can attain a higher level of Dhamma, their minds will be free from any emotional breakdown including the fear of death. More particularly, for the person who can reach higher levels of meditation and gain the proper peace of mind, death or life will be no different to them
because they know the nature of death before experiencing the real death.
Monica : How much time do you spend meditating every day?
Luang Por : I meditate twice a day–when I close and open my eyes; when I inhale and exhale. In every manner even sitting, standing, lying, walking or doing anything, I can keep meditating naturally and automatically because I have practiced it this way since I got ordained. I can focus my mind on my inner peace despite my outward movement. It is like the road that lays still even when there are cars running on it, or the sky that is fixed in its place even when clouds are floating by. It became my habit to meditate by focusing my mind at the center of my body, all the time in every activity.