Why do you want this holy water? By Ajahn Chah

The worldly way is to do things for a reason, to get some return, but in Buddhism we do things without the idea of gaining anything…

Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art In the beginning we practise with a desire of some kind in mind; we practise on and on, but we don’t attain our desire. But if we continue to practise anyway, we reach a point where we’re practising without ideas of some kind of return; we just practise in order to let go. This is something we must see for ourselves; it’s very deep. Maybe we practise because we want to go to nibbana, but you won’t get to nibbana! It’s natural to want peace, but it’s not really correct. We must practise without wanting anything at all. If we don’t want anything at all, what will we get? We don’t get anything! The point is, whatever you get is a cause for suffering, so we practise ‘not getting anything’. Continue reading “Why do you want this holy water? By Ajahn Chah”

The Precepts aren’t Hard, by Ajahn Chah

If there’s someone to sweep them and look after them, they’re beautiful. They’re not dirty — because there’s someone to look after them. It’s because there’s someone looking after them that they can be beautiful…

Elephant Bell with Miniature Elephant, Thailand (Ban Chiang), ca. 300 B.C.–A.D. 200. © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Buddha taught that looking after the precepts isn’t hard if you look after yourself. If any forms of harm are about to arise by way of your bodily actions or speech, then if mindfulness is in place, you’ll recognize them. You’ll have a sense of right and wrong. This is how you look after your precepts. Your body and speech depend on you. This is the first step.

If you can look after your bodily actions and speech, then they’re beautiful. At ease. Your manners, your comings and goings, your speech, are all beautiful. This kind of beauty is the beauty that comes from having someone shape and mould them — someone who keeps looking after them and contemplating them all the time. It’s like our home, our sala, our huts, and their surrounding areas. If there’s someone to sweep them and look after them, they’re beautiful. They’re not dirty — because there’s someone to look after them. It’s because there’s someone looking after them that they can be beautiful. Continue reading “The Precepts aren’t Hard, by Ajahn Chah”

Dealing with Disease, by Ajahn Sumedho

Maybe disease isn’t something to get rid of; maybe it’s something to understand, to contemplate, to come to terms with. Being born itself implies that we are going to be subject to different forces beyond our control. We can, of course, learn how to live more care­fully, respecting life, not mis­using our bodies, nor exploiting them…

Globe with stand. digitalcollections.nypl.orgA very common illusion in the materialist world is that we should try to get rid of disease. I remember about twenty-five years ago (From a talk given in Australia in March 1987) in the States, before I ordained, people thought that modern science was going to get rid of all disease within the next twenty-five years. Now, twenty-five years later, we’ve got new diseases! And cancer seems to be a kind of disease that isn’t going to go that quickly.

Maybe disease isn’t something to get rid of; maybe it’s something to understand, to contemplate, to come to terms with. Being born itself implies that we are going to be subject to different forces beyond our control. We can, of course, learn how to live more care­fully, respecting life, not mis­using our bodies, nor exploiting them. People exploit their own bodies, using them for all kinds of harmful things, dangerous things. So the body starts breaking down, getting weak, and so forth. This is the result of not understanding the limits, and a lack of respect for the body. Continue reading “Dealing with Disease, by Ajahn Sumedho”

Ethnicity and Buddhism in the UK, by Noy Thomson

Ethnicity and Buddhism in the UK, by Noy Thomson (Thai name Mom Rajawongse Saisvasdi Svastis Thomson) at The ‘British Buddhist Landscape —Transplantation and Growth’ conference. Short film, about 17 minutes.

Noy ThomsonEthnicity and Buddhism in the UK, by Noy Thomson (Thai name Mom Rajawongse Saisvasdi Svastis Thomson) at The ‘British Buddhist Landscape —Transplantation and Growth’ conference.

 Talk given on Saturday June 28 2008 at Taplow Court. The conference was organised by the Network of Buddhist Organisations (UK) & The Institute of Oriental Philosophy-UK

It’s Like This, by Ajahn Chah

The crude, beginning level of the practice is a little hard to maintain, but the refined levels of virtue, concentration, and discernment all come out of this…

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It's Like This coverCoconut Water
The crude, beginning level of the practice is a little hard to maintain, but the refined levels of virtue, concentration, and discernment all come out of this. It’s as if they’re distilled from this same thing. To put it in simple terms, it’s like a coconut tree. A coconut tree absorbs ordinary water up through its trunk, but when the water reaches the coconuts, it’s sweet and clean. It comes from ordinary water, the trunk, the crude dirt. But as the water gets absorbed up the tree, it gets distilled. It’s the same water but when it reaches the coconuts it’s cleaner than before. And sweet. In the same way, the virtue, concentration, and discernment of your path are crude, but if the mind contemplates these things until they’re more and more refined, their crudeness will disappear. They get more and more refined, so that the area you have to maintain grows smaller and smaller, into the mind. Then it’s easy.

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Ajahn Chah was a master at using the apt and unusual simile to explain points of Dhamma. The translations of these similes have been polished as little as possible, for their unpolished nature is precisely what reveals unexpected layers of meaning.

Ajahn Chah
Year Published: 2013

With thanks to Abhayagiri

This book is a companion to In Simple Terms.


Notes on Meditation, from Ajahn Chah

If the mind is agitated by different things and you can’t concentrate, try taking an extra–deep breath until the lungs are completely full, and then release all the air until there is none left inside. Do this several times, then re–establish awareness…

It's Like This coverOnce the mind has let go of external mind–objects, it means you will no longer feel disturbed by the sound of traffic or other noises. You won’t feel irritated with anything outside. Whether it’s forms, sounds or whatever, they won’t be a source of disturbance, because the mind won’t be paying attention to them – it will become centred upon the breath.

If the mind is agitated by different things and you can’t concentrate, try taking an extra–deep breath until the lungs are completely full, and then release all the air until there is none left inside. Do this several times, then re–establish awareness and continue to develop concentration. Having re–established mindfulness, it’s normal that for a period the mind will be calm, then change and become agitated again. When this happens, make the mind firm, take another deep breath and then expel all the air from your lungs. Fill the lungs to capacity again for a moment and then re–establish mindfulness on the breathing. Fix mindfulness on the in–breaths and the out–breaths, and continue to maintain awareness in this way.

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Ajahn Chah
Year Published: 2010

With thanks to Abhayagiri