The Path of Wisdom, by Ajahn Sumedho

The Six Realms of Birth, 10 hanging scroll paintings Japan Edo period, 19th century ADSometimes people criticize Buddhism because they say it’s pessimistic — we just talk about suffering; why not talk about love? Love is much more in­spiring than suffering, isn’t it? Talking about universal love is a very inspiring subject. There is nothing wrong with contem­plating universal love, either. But if that’s all we are doing, then it can be merely a whitewash over inner pain and anguish. We might want to love all beings and live in a world of unity and total love. That might be a very appealing idea. What is it that prevents us from that unity? If we trace it back, we will find it’s the ignorance that we have about ourselves. The suffering that we create in life is always the tendency to divide and separate, compare, accept and reject. So the Buddha emphasized the Noble Truth of suffering — not as an absolute, pessimistic view, but as a truth that we can be free from. The Buddha said, ‘I teach only two things — suffering and the end of suffering’. Continue reading

Crashed out Buddhas, by Ajahn Sumedho

Art © Marcelle HanselaarIs there any object we can really trust forever and take refuge in? Is there another person we can feel completely happy with all the time? Is there a place, a book, a picture, a flower, beautiful scenery that we can enjoy all the while? Flowers are beauti­ful creations of nature, but how long can we sit and look at one without feeling bored? Most of us have to go from one flower to the next because one beauti­ful flower is not enough. People who do gardening, their minds are always creating something new, some new kind of arrange­ment, something that will be even nicer. No matter how beautiful anything is, it is never truly satisfying. There is always a snake in the grass, a worm in the apple, a fly in the oint­ment. Continue reading

Tathata or Suchness

Buddha in sitting posture.  © Victoria and Albert MuseumTathata means ‘Suchness’, or ‘as-is-ness of the moment’. When I first came across this word ‘Suchness’ in Zen literature, I thought, ‘What the heck is Suchness? Suchness! That’s nonsense! Can’t figure that one out.’ If we hold perceptions to be reality, then in order for our world to be real, we have to perceive it as something. It can’t be just what it is. We have to interpret it, or give it a name, or describe it in some way. We perceive the world through words, through ideas. This obsession with cameras and photography now, is just wanting to capture things, capture moments on film, petrify them in time, and make them fixed because everything is moving and changing. But Suchness, or Tathata, the Tathagata, is right now. This is the way it is. But sometimes, when I say, ‘This is the way it is,’ somebody will say, ‘You mean this is the way it is forever?’ No! RIGHT NOW — this is the way it is. The only way it can be is the way it is right now! It’s changing, but at this moment, the Suchness of this moment, is just this way. The thinking mind has to stop. Otherwise you will want to ask, ‘Where is it? What is he saying?’ You just have to stop your mind and listen, or watch. Then you will be relating to Suchness, the Suchness of the moment, the as-is-ness.

Ajahn Sumedho

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Brothers and sisters in suffering, old age, sickness and death, by Ajahn Sumedho

Buddha image. British MuseumThe Buddha pointed to an existential truth. It’s about existence. Suffering (dukkha) is about our human existence. And the actual meaning of `exist’ is to `stand forth’. What stands forth for us in our lives is suffering, isn’t it? We suffer a lot. We have a lot of existential suffering on this journey that we’re involved in from birth to death. And this suffering is common to every human being. It’s not just certain ones — it’s not just the poor, or just men or just women, or just Europeans or Africans or Asians — it’s everyone from the beginning of the human race, and will be to the end of it. As long as there’s ignorance, there’s going to be suffering. So this is a common experience we all share. When we talk about suffering, we don’t say, `I believe in it,’ or `I don’t believe in it.’ We know it because we suffer. You don’t have to believe in it — you already know you suffer. You have to believe in things you don’t quite know yet. Continue reading

In the moment of mindfulness, there is no suffering, by Ajahn Sumedho

Buddhist print. #endangeredarchives @bl_eapIn the moment of mindfulness, there is no suffering. I can’t find any suffering in mindfulness; it’s impossible; there’s absolutely none. But when there’s heedlessness, there is a lot of suffering in my mind. If I give in to grasping things, to wanting things, to following emotions or doubts and worries and being caught up in things like that—then there is suffering. It all begins from my grasping. But when there is mindfulness and right understanding, then I can’t find any suffering at all in this moment, now. This is about this moment here and now. It’s not about whether suffering exists as a kind of metaphysic or abstraction or theory of suffering. We’re not talking about suffering as a theory or an idea, but as an actual experience, here and now. There might be physical pain, but if we’re mindful, we reflect on this as: There is pain. It’s like this. But then we don’t create aversion around it; so there’s no suffering. If we have a fever or cancer or anything that people think is suffering, and then we’re mindful, there is no suffering in that moment. When there is heedlessness, we might worry or be caught in despair and negative states towards it. But at any moment of mindfulness and understanding, there is no suffering. Continue reading

Pointers to the Ultimate, by Ajahn Sumedho

Welcoming Descent of Amida and BodhisattvasIn any religion there is the exoteric side — the tradition and forms, scriptures, ceremonies and disciplines—and the esoteric, which is the essential nature of that. So, in much of what we call religion, the emphasis is really on the external form. And of course this can be variable. There is no one external form that is totally right, making all the others inferior to it. The aim of a religion is to point to the truth or the deathless reality, immortality, or in Christianity to God. But what is God? If God is a being, then that’s a condition. If God is something that comes and goes, arises and ceases, then God is not an ultimate reality. So God must also mean ultimate, that which religion points to, that which is immortal and ultimately real and truth. God in Christianity is personified in the Trinitarian structure in which there is God the Father (the patriarchal form) and the Logos or the Word of God, where God’s Word was expressed through Jesus Christ. These are the traditional beliefs and the exoteric form of, say, Christianity. Continue reading

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