Break the cycle of revenge | Sunday Observer

Break the cycle of revenge

25 September, 2022

Following are excerpts from an interview with Theravada Bhikkhu and renowned meditation guru Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera of Thailand.

Q: Certain laymen claim to have reached higher mental levels such as Sovan, Sakkuddagami, Anagami, or Arahant. Will a person who has truly achieved such advanced mental levels make public announcements?

A: Usually not. Because he/she is smart enough to know that it is safer for them just to keep quiet. So he/she will not say anything, He/she will just say how to practise and how to achieve it. There is no need to make self-announcements because someone who has achieved higher attainment is not hungry for fame anymore. If you are still hungry for fame, then this is your defilement. So usually an arahant tends to keep quiet.

At this stage, he only speaks about the path, practice, and achievement without mentioning the person because he knows that whatever he says will be subjected to scrutiny and it is hard to prove to people who have no way of knowing. So it is useless to tell people that you have achieved a certain level.

It is not productive. It can be more harmful than good. It is probably better just to keep quiet because if you have truly reached a higher state of mind, you have contentment, and you know you are not hungry for fame, praise, or for anything from other people. You are happy as you are, so you don’t need to do or say anything to gain more benefits.

Q: Is it possible to ascertain whether a person has attained any four stages of awakening (Sovan, Sakkuddagami, Anagami, Arhant) by outward appearance and behaviour?

A: Partially, not completely. To be certain you have to ask the person what kind of achievement the person has achieved.

Q: Has the Buddha ever mentioned in a Sutta (any of his Suttas/teachings) how to know whether a person has achieved any of the four stages of Enlightenment – Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami, or Arahant? If so, could you mention the name of the sutta and elaborate on its content?

A: This is not stated in the scriptures. It is something that you find out through your practice, and only those who practise will understand, will know.

In order to know whether a person has truly achieved arhathood, you have to be an arahant. If you, yourself have not achieved Enlightenment you will not be able to tell whether the person is speaking the truth or not. So yes, it is like this. If you have passed a certain type of examination only, you can talk to another person about the same type of examination. Since you have already passed the same exam, you know what the questions are like. So in order to ascertain someone’s attainments, you have to reach that level yourself before you can question another person about his achievements.

Q: What does it mean to be a true Buddhist? How would you define a true Buddhist? What should be his key virtues?

A: First he has to have absolute faith in the Buddha and the Dhamma. He believes in the teachings of the Buddha, Dhamma, and the Sangha only and not other teachings. If other teachings do not contradict the Buddha’s teachings, no harm in following them. For example, if you still want to study physics and mathematics, that is okay. But that should not contradict the teachings of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. As a Buddhist, you have to take the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as your real teacher and then follow their teachings, and practise until you achieve the result. So his key virtue is to be faithful - to have Sadda. Then he needs to have Veerya (which is being diligent,) to develop mindfulness - Samadhi, and wisdom.

Q: Could you tell us why you decided to become a Bhikkhu?

A: Well, after studying, practising, and following the teachings of the Buddha for one year, I found that it was the best choice for me at that time. I had two choices - to become a bhikkhu or go back to work.

If I go back to work I would not have any time to meditate. I would get only a little time to practise humanity. But if I become a bhikkhu I could practise and meditate all day long. So I decided to become a bhikkhu because the result of meditation is far greater than the result of working.

Q: Can a true Buddhist hold grudges?

A: Yes, even if you are a true Buddhist you can still have defilements. You will have no grudges against anybody, only when you have achieved the highest level of attainment as an arahant.

Q: What if a person who holds grudges for ages tells you that he/she is so keen to end the Cycle of Samsara soon? Isn’t it contradictory?

A: It is not, If you have not yet achieved the highest level of attainment, you can still have grudges, you can still have anger. But once you have achieved the highest level of attainment, you no longer have any anger or hatred.

Q:: For a person who is keen to learn the key teachings of the Buddha, what books would you recommend?

A: I would recommend you read the following suttas of the Buddha first.

1) Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta (First Discourse)

2) Anatta-lakkhana Sutta (Not-Self Discourse).

3) Adittapariyaya Sutta (The Fire Sermon

4) Satipatthäna Sutta (The Four Foundations of Mindfulness)

5) Mangala Sutta (Blessings)

These are the principle teachings of the Buddha.

Q: As the Buddha had stated in Majjimaa Nikaya, “Every living being has karma as its own, its inheritance, its cause, its kinsman, its refuge. Kamma is that which differentiates all living beings into low and high states.” Could you enlighten us more on Karma ( Kamma)? What is Kamma and how does it come into play in an individual’s life?

A: Karma is the action performed by the mind through the body and speech. It is the mind that directs speech and the body’s actions. And this action can be good or bad, harmful or beneficial to other people. If it is harmful, it is considered to be bad karma, if it is beneficial, it is considered to be good karma. And when you do good karma your mind becomes happy, when you do bad karma your mind becomes unhappy.

So this is what happens when you do karma. And this happiness and unhappiness is the one that differentiates people from one another. Some people are happy and some people are not happy. Basically, this will make them different from one another. People who are not happy tend to do bad things more than those who are happy. Happy people tend to do good karma. This is all I can tell you about karma.

Q: At times we are being compelled to associate with people who would make our life unpleasant on purpose by harassing us unnecessarily or by inflicting pain on us in some way or the other. According to Buddhism, we get subjected to such harassment due to a bad Karma we had committed either in this life or previous life. Let’s call A the victim and B, the culprit. For example, to make A pay for his/her karma, B is made to commit fresh karma (by inflicting pain or harassing A). In other words, B accumulates bad new karma by making A pay for his past bad karma. Later, either in this birth or in the next birth B will have to pay for his bad Karma which he had to commit (unknowingly) to make A pay for his previous bad karma. How would you justify B being made use of in order to make A suffer for his past karma?

A: There is no justification. The only way to overcome this retaliating action is to stop retaliating. If someone does something bad to you, then do not react or retaliate. Try to stop this vicious circle of retaliation against one another. If you do that, eventually there won’t be retaliation from your enemy. If you keep on doing bad actions in retaliation for another’s action, then the process will go on. Action produces more action. No action produces no action. That is the law of karma. If you do not wish to have any reaction from your opponent, stop your actions. When you stop your action, your opponent too will stop his reaction/s eventually.

Q: How can we make use of the teachings of the Buddha in order to deal with hopelessness?

A: Hopelessness comes from misunderstanding the truth. So you should stop hopelessness by stopping to think temporarily. Keep reciting the ‘Buddho, Buddho’ mantra when you feel hopeless. After you have recited the mantra, you will be able to stop thinking for a while. Then your hopelessness will disappear. As a result, you will be able to look at the real situation properly again with wisdom.

In short, when you feel hopeless, try to use mindfulness. Then you can see things in a different light!

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera was born on November 2, 1947. Having completed his degree in Civil Engineering at California State University, Fresno, USA, he returned to his motherland where he designed an ice cream parlour for a brief stint. Quite soon, inspired by a Dhamma Book, he decided to go in search of ‘true happiness’, to find inner peace through the practice of Buddhist meditation. He became a bhikkhu at the age of 27 and received ordination at Wat Bovornives in Bangkok on February 19, 1975, with Somdet Phra Ñanasarivara, the late Supreme Patriarch (Somdet Phra Sangharaja), as his preceptor.

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera resides in Wat Yansangwararam, Thailand.