The following was from an email that was sent by Tan Kovilo to Luang Por Pasanno on October 14, 2017. Tan Kovilo started by describing the setting:
Today is Kathina day at Wat Nanachat and Luang Por Liam made a surprise visit just before the meal. It was a blessing to see and pay respects to him as always…but especially so today as the first thing he brought up after the community had bowed to him was to ask about Abhayagiri and the status of the fire.
Thinking that his words might bring some joy to my Abhayabrothers, I quickly took out my notepad and began recording what he said. Here is a paraphrase of the interaction which was mostly Luang Por Liam speaking to Ajahn Kevali and the group in general with an excited question from Kovilo thrown in here and there for good measure:
Luang Por Liam asked about the status of the fire and Ajahn Kevali recounted the latest news update sent from Ajahn Jotipālo. Luang Por Liam then responded:
Situations like this can be used as a skillful means to sharpen one’s wits. If one has the Dhamma as one’s foundation, then there’s really no problem.
You can see the Buddha’s wisdom in his allowances for suspension of Sanghakamma—that is, in allowing the Sangha to adjust their routines when there arose various natural disasters such as forest fires, flooding, or other external inconveniences. There, he is acknowledging that our lives are, to some extent, “subject to the winds”. But these things don’t have to touch the heart of a practitioner.
With wisdom, you can look at things from different angles. You could think, for instance, that the fire was celebrating the new Dhamma Hall’s completion [smiles].
At this point, Tan Kovilo asked Luang Por Liam if he had any words of encouragement or advice for the Abhayagiri community. Luang Por Liam then responded:
Nope. No encouragement [he chuckles]. Just a word of reminder of what the Buddha said: “anicca vata sankhārā” - all conditioned things are impermanent. Don’t let your thoughts get you down. This is just the stuff of the world. That’s all it is. The world is just like this.
We should learn to think more broadly. Just as the trees there grew naturally, so too, fires just happen naturally. You can’t fault the fire. It’s just doing what fires do. When it’s cold out, we love the fire right? It’s just an aspect of nature. It’s a normal thing.
Think about things in different ways. In some ways, forest fires are easier to deal with than floods. With floods, you’re never sure when the water will recede. Our suffering depends on how we think about things.
At least not so many people have lost their lives. In war, people die by the millions. And in a way, the fire has brought people together. Think like this!
There’s an old saying: “If a country’s leaders are hot headed, then disasters will belay the country.” [chuckles]…maybe that’s what’s happening in America?
But don’t proliferate about the situation. Don’t make a problem out of it. Our world is, by nature, subject to natural disasters. People think too much about themselves. This is “attādhipatteyya,” or taking one’s own self as one’s governing principle. What one should do is take the Dhamma as one’s governing principle (Dhammādhipatteyye). Then, there’s not much to it.
Tan Kovilo then closed the email:
I hope that these words of wisdom from Luang Por Liem prove of some solace. Although not the typical words of encouragement, Luang Por Liam’s bearing during the whole of the conversation was one of showing care with the metta just beaming out of his every pore.