The Buddha’s path to Wisdom | Sunday Observer
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The Buddha’s path to Wisdom

27 August, 2023

Following are excerpts from an interview with Theravada Buddhist Bhikkhu Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera of Thailand. The Maha Thera is well known across the globe for his effective Dhamma teaching methods and meditation practice.

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera

Q: During my previous discussion with you, you explained that according to Buddhism, “the mind is just a knowing element that contains the ability to feel, remember or perceive, think, and connect with a body to receive essential objects coming into contact with the essential organs of the body.” Based on this, I would like to know whether one’s mind ceases to exist soon after his/her death or whether it is the same “Knowing element”/mind that goes to the next birth.

A: It is the same knowing element that goes to the next birth. The knowing element does not die with the body. It just gets separated and disconnected from the body.

Q: The long Samsara is like a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. And if the mind is just a knowing element, what is the common factor/thing that goes with a being/person throughout the Samsaric journey?

A: What goes with the mind is good or bad Kamma that one has committed while alive.

Q: Is meditation essential to attain Nirvana, the highest mental state, according to Buddhism?

A: Yes, meditation will purify the mind, which is being defiled with defilements of greed, hate, and delusion. When we practise meditation ( both levels of meditation - meditation to calm the mind first, next meditation to achieve wisdom ), then you will be able to purify the mind. Once there are no defilements left in the mind, then one has reached Nirvana,

Q: According to Ven. Mae Chee Kaew Therani’s (A well-known Thai female Arahant) biography, a spirit of a deceased buffalo expressed its wish to be reborn as a human to Mae Chee Kaew Therani during her profound meditation sessions. However, as I understand, Ven. Mae Chee Kaew Therani had not yet attained Nirvana (Nibbana Status) when she first encountered the spirit of the dead buffalo.

It shows that she had the power to talk to the dead spirits of the buffaloes (animals) even before achieving Arahant status (attained Nirvana). How is it possible? Shouldn’t a person have attained Arahant status before being able to communicate with spirits? Please explain.

A: No, because you can get psychic power on this (to talk to spirits) through meditation and you do not need wisdom to perform this act. Wisdom is for you to be able to free yourself from suffering, from Dukkha (to attain Nibbana). But to develop psychic power (ability), you just need meditation,

Q: Is there any way to know where our loved ones go, after death? If he/she is in a Deva realm, are we in a position to bestow merits on him/her?

A: Then you must have psychic power like the Buddha! The Buddha had the ability to connect with his mother who was a spiritual being and he could communicate with her. The Buddha taught her the Dhamma continuously until she became a Sotapanna. So you need to have psychic power if you want to connect with spiritual beings.

Q: During the time of the Buddha, King Bimbisara sought the Enlightened One’s advice to bestow merits on his dead relatives who had been born as hungry ghosts. King Bimbisara, having seen their pathetic condition in a dream, offered alms to the Sangha and bestowed merit on those hungry ghosts, upon the advice of the Buddha. If anyone constantly sees his/her dead relatives in a tragic state in dreams, is it an indication that they require merit?

A: Most probably so. But sometimes it can be your own imagination of him/her as well because a dream can be either real or imaginary. Sometimes they are real, sometimes they are not. But for safety’s sake, just go ahead and make merit, and then pass the merit to the departed. Then, if they are waiting for merit, they can get it.

Q: What is non-attachment in Buddhism and how should we practise it in our daily lives?

A: Non Attachment means you do not have any emotional reaction to the thing/act you are detached from. That means you do not have any love, hate, or fear towards the things/ acts that you are detached from. But you can still deal with them rationally or deal with them with loving kindness or compassion.

Q: An insane person is not in a position to think like a normal person. If a person is either born abnormal or loses his mind during one particular birth, what will his/her next birth be like as whatever he/she does or thinks during this birth is unintentional?

A: I don’t know how to answer this question, but normally, a person, when he does something, usually knows what he is doing or has a certain intention. So we cannot really say that there is no intention when a person is doing something. But I cannot really give you a sound answer to this question, so I better excuse myself for this question.

Q: In short, is an insane person accountable for what he commits? I mean does he/she have to suffer the Karmic consequences of his/her acts? Does a madman who throws a big stone that kills someone count as a sinner, for instance?

A: It depends on whether an action is done with intention or not. If it is intentional, then there will be Karmic consequences. If it is accidental then there will be no karmic consequences. So it depends on one’s intention.

For example, if you see a dog on the street when you are behind the wheel and you run into the dog intentionally then there will be karmic consequences. But if a dog suddenly appears when you are driving and you simply cannot avoid running into the dog, then this is accidental. And there are no karmic consequences.

(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.