Being Tranquil and Having Wisdom, by Ajahn Chah

Seagull looking out to sea.

I’ve often taught that tranquillity is stillness; flowing is wisdom. We practise meditation to calm the mind and make it still; then it can flow. In the beginning we learn what still water is like and what flowing water is like. After practising for a while we will see how these two support each other. We have to make the mind calm, like still water. Then it flows. Both being still and flowing: this is not easy to contemplate.

We can understand that still water doesn’t flow. We can understand that flowing water isn’t still. But when we practise we take hold of both of these. The mind of a true practitioner is like still water that flows, or flowing water that’s still. Whatever takes place in the mind of a Dhamma practitioner is like flowing water that is still. To say that it is only flowing is not correct. To say that it is only still is not correct. Ordinarily, still water is still and flowing water flows. But when we have experience of practice, our minds will be in this condition of flowing water that is still.

This is something we’ve never seen. When we see flowing water it is just flowing along. When we see still water, it doesn’t flow. But within our minds, it will really be like this; like flowing water that is still. In our Dhamma practice we have samādhi, or tranquillity, and wisdom mixed together. We have morality, meditation and wisdom. Then wherever we sit the mind is still and it flows. Still, flowing water. With meditative stability and wisdom, tranquillity and insight, it’s like this. The Dhamma is like this. If you have reached the Dhamma, then at all times you will have this experience. Being tranquil and having wisdom: flowing, yet still. Still, yet flowing.

Whenever this occurs in the mind of one who practises, it is something different and strange; it is different from the ordinary mind that one has known all along. Before, when it was flowing, it flowed. When it was still, it didn’t flow, but was only still – the mind can be compared to water in this way. Now it has entered a condition that is like flowing water being still. Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, it is like water that flows, yet is still. If we make our minds like this, there is both tranquillity and wisdom.

From Everything is Teaching Us by Ajahn Chah © Amaravati Publications.

Click here to read more teachings from Ajahn Chah.

Categories: Ajahn Chah, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Theravada


5 replies

  1. I have learnt a lot from the teachings of Ajahn Chah. Really grateful to have encountered his teachings. The fruits of tranquility and stability in the Dhamma practices.

  2. Thank you for a clear and helpful explanation. This seems a particularly interesting example of Nagarjuna’s ‘Two Truths’.

  3. Sadly, Ajahn Chah passed away on 16th. January 1992, aged 73, after a long illness. Yet his teachings are so beneficial to us all; even today.


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