‘Practise the Dhamma and you will never get depressed’ | Sunday Observer

‘Practise the Dhamma and you will never get depressed’

6 November, 2022

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

Q: Can a female become a Buddha?

A: Yes, the one who becomes the Buddha is not a ‘male’ or ‘female’, it is the mind that matters. So it is not gender that determines whether one can become a Buddha or not, it is the ability to develop charity, morality, meditation, and wisdom. That will determine whether that person can become a Buddha or not. So, anybody who has developed charity, morality, meditation, and wisdom can become a Buddha. But it is not easy. It is possible, but it is not easy to become a Buddha by oneself. It is a lot easier to become a noble disciple because you have the Buddha to guide you / teach you how to become enlightened.

Q: So gender is not a bar to Buddhahood?

A: I just answered that. No, gender has got nothing to do with becoming enlightened or becoming a Buddha. It is the ability to develop charity, morality, meditation, and wisdom, especially it is wisdom that matters.

Q: Has the Buddha mentioned so in any of his Suttas that gender is no bar to Buddhahood?

A: I am not sure whether he did because I did not study a lot of suttas, but I know from practical experience that it is not the body that matters, but the mind to become enlightened or a noble disciple of the Buddha. A mind that has developed virtues such as charity, morality, meditation, and wisdom.

Q: Animals are being killed for research purposes in the process of inventing medicines to cure human ailments. How ethical is it to put one’s life at risk in order to cure another?

A: It is not ethical to kill even for protecting somebody else’s life. Killing is considered a bad Kamma. Killing animals for research so that medicine can be invented to cure humans is as bad as killing animals for food. Animals are killed to eat the meat of the animal to prevent you from dying. In the same way, you kill animals for research to invent medicine to cure your illnesses, so that you don’t die. They are both the same thing. Yeah, it is bad Kamma and it should not be done. We should accept life as being temporary, being impermanent and that life is subjected to sickness and death regardless of what we do. So it is better not to do bad Kamma because you will not be able to prevent ageing, sickness, and death anyway.

Q: Isn’t it a sin to use animals in laboratory research in whatever ways?

A: Yes, it is a sin or bad Kamma if you kill the animal. If you don’t kill the animal it is not considered to be bad Kamma yet. You have to break the Precepts for an act to become bad Kamma. But it is not good to put somebody in a cage anyway. This is also considered a sin but not as bad as killing. To lock somebody up in jail is wrong unless that person had done something bad and has to be locked up to prevent that person from hurting other people (like when people had committed a crime and had been sentenced to imprisonment.) Then it is not considered bad Kamma. But to lock animals up in a cell for research is bad Kamma.

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera

Q: Many hold the view that feeding a hungry human being would help one acquire more merit than feeding an animal. What is the view of the Buddha? Is there any truth to this?

A: No, feeding anybody whether a human or an animal would give the same merit because you share or sacrifice the same amount. It is not the amount of merit you gain, it is not dependent on the receiver (of your donation/giving ) but on the amount that you give. The more you give the more merit you make, the less you give the less merit you make. So it is not the person, (the receiver) that determines the amount of merit one would acquire, but the amount you offer to others. So if you give the same amount to an animal or a human being you will get the same amount of merit.

Q: Today, more than any other time, people have access to the Dhamma. They listen to Dhamma sermons and read the Dhamma. But still, depression rates are high, people lead stressful lives. What is the reason? Why do they fail to put what they read or hear into practice? Where have they gone wrong?

A: First of all we have to read these statistics properly -whether the people suffering from depression read the dhamma books or not. Maybe this is not the case if you really read the Dhamma, study Dhamma and practice the Dhamma.

Then you will not get depression, I guarantee you. So people who are depressed usually don’t read the Dhamma they don’t practise or study the Dhamma. There might be some who read the Dhamma, but do not practise it. Then they also can get depression. But if you practise, read, and study the Dhamma successfully you will not be depressed.

So sometimes when you read the statistics you need to read the details as well. When they say people become more depressed, students, Dhamma practitioners, or just anybody are included.

If you are a Dhamma student or a Dhamma practitioner and if you practise the Dhamma regularly, I promise, you will never suffer from depression.

Q: Is it a sin to lie for fun (as a joke)?

A: To lie is considered as breaking one of the Precepts, breaking the Fourth Precept which is considered to be bad Kamma. But to joke is not considered to be bad Kamma because a Precept is not broken. If the joke does not involve lying or does not give you any misinformation, the Fourth Precept is not broken. But if the joke gives misinformation then it is a lie, and the Fourth Precept is violated. So it is bad Kamma.

Q: If a person keeps on telling lies as a joke and especially if it is extremely difficult to distinguish between the lie and the joke, does the ‘ lier’ commit a sin?

A: To break the Fourth Precept, you have to have the intention to tell a lie. But if you have no intention, and if you do not know that it is a lie, then it is not considered to be lying and hence there is no violation of the Fourth Precept. You have to know it is not true and if you do so intentionally, then it is a lie and the Fourth Precept is broken.

Q: Who should we give priority to, in our lives: ourselves, our spouse, parents, siblings, or offspring?

A: Well, you have to give priority to yourself first. You have to be able to look after yourself first before you can look after other people. If you cannot look after yourself how can you look after other people?

Q: The one who conquers the mind is the best of all conquerors, the Buddha has said. We, humans, are rushing after material benefits trying to conquer everything other than our own mind. What is the best way to conquer one’s mind?

A: The best way is to practise the Noble Eightfold path. Practise charity, morality, and meditation. (Dana, Seela, Bhavana) Meditation here means the practice of mindfulness meditation and meditation for wisdom. This is the best way to conquer one’s mind.

Q: Recently I came across a social media post which said that those who are too attached to animals/pets (those who love them too much) such as dogs, cats, rabbits, cows are at risk of /stand a higher chance of being born as animals in their next births. How would you explain this? Is there any truth to this?

A: No, not at all. You can be close to animals, you can love them. That does not mean that you will be born as an animal.

What might cause you to be born as animals is when you break the Five Precepts - any of the five Precepts for food or for survival. Then you may become ‘animals’ in this life itself – or your mind becomes similar to that of an animal while you are still alive! And then when you die with that ‘animal mind’, you will get an animal body! It is not the close association with animals that would make you be reborn as animals, but killing, stealing or committing adultery. These are the sins that will make you become animals in your next birth. If you kill for survival, for your happiness, or steal or commit adultery or lie for your own survival or for your own happiness, then you will be reborn as an animal in your future life.

Q: What is Buddhism in a nutshell? How would you explain what Buddhism is to a non-Buddhist?

A: In a nutshell, Buddhism is the teaching about how to get rid of stress in the mind by practising the Noble Eightfold path or practising charity, morality, and meditation (Dana, Seela, and Bhavana.) This is what Buddhism is - the way to get rid of stress in our minds. If you can practicse Dana, Seela and Bhavana, then you have no stress left in your mind eventually.

Q: What is the greatest meritorious deed according to the Buddha?

A: The deed that leads you to Nibbana. That is the greatest meritorious deed. It is the action that will bring you to Nibbana. And that has to be achieved through practising morality, meditation, and wisdom (Seela, Samadhi, and Panna) and directing the mind towards Nibbana. These are the greatest meritorious deeds.

(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)