My parents died many years ago, but I remember going to see them in America when I was fifty-five years old. To them of course I wasn’t Ajahn Sumedho or anything like that, but just their little boy. Pretty soon the old ways of relating to each other started up again, and I found it really strange; it really affected me. Try to notice those kinds of relationships, the assumptions that go with father-son, mother-son, mother-daughter and so forth, just the assumptions and habit-tendencies that we have personally and emotionally. You could say that your parents shouldn’t treat you the way they do, that they should accept you as an equal adult. But that would be a should of life; it would be an ideal. The way it actually is, is ‘like this’. By allowing experiences to be consciously accepted, you realize that even if your parents can’t change, at least you can; you can change your attitude and not get caught up in adolescent resentments that arise ― when you are fifty-five years old! Continue reading
A 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
‘The awareness of the self is not the self.’
‘Pure consciousness isn’t a self; it’s not a person.’
‘The condition of a self arises and ceases according to time and place.’
Film around 90 minutes. (Sometimes it takes a while to link to this film)
At ease and relaxed but attentive, awake and aware with the attitude of the knower, the observer, just witness the feelings, emotions, thoughts, memories and sensations that come and go; just observe the breathing, the experience of the body sitting, and maybe the ‘sound of silence’ (the background to the sounds of the traffic). This attitude of being here and now in the present is what we call ‘cultivation’ (bhavana), which is reminding oneself that there is only the present. The body is present now ― it is ‘like this’; the breathing is now ― it is ‘like this’; the ‘sound of silence’ is ‘like this’. Be aware of your mental state, your mood ― right now. Is it happy, sad, confused, peaceful, anxious or worried? The quality of your mental state is not the issue here because you are not being the judge or owner of what is present but only the witness. Many experiences don’t really have a clear-cut quality to them, do they? You might feel confused, uncertain, anxious, a lack of clarity and a general feeling of unease, sadness or loneliness, but reflecting that ‘it is like this’ or ‘this is the way it is’ is using the thinking process not to define or judge but to point to ― ‘My mood at this moment is like this.’ By just thinking these words, you become aware of your mental state, while at the same time being aware of the body and the breath. So this is discerning rather than discriminating. It isn’t a judgemental process but an observing, a witnessing without judging anything as right, wrong, good or bad. Continue reading
Filed under: Ajahn Sumedho, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Foundations, Foundations of Buddhism, Theravada | Tagged: Art Metropolitan Museum of Art, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, bhavana | Leave a comment »
Question: An academic friend of mine has done some research and come up with the theory that the historical Buddha didn’t really live, that the Buddhist teachings were of a later period. Is the personality of the Buddha important for Buddhist practice?
Ajahn Sumedho: It’s a convention. It doesn’t matter whether there was ever a Buddha or not, it still works. If you want to say there was nobody like Siddhattha Gotama who became the Buddha, and this was all made up by Joe Bloggs, or somebody, it still wouldn’t make any difference in terms of practice. People, now, want to prove that Jesus Christ never existed. There’s a great deal of interest in history, in trying to prove that this didn’t actually happen, or this person didn’t really exist, but that is being very simplistic and shows a blind faith in history as being reality.
What works? What really works? This you have to find out for yourself. I find the Buddhist convention a very skilful one for me. Buddha was really not leaving anything to be grasped, and so one often feels frustrated by the practice. There’s something in us that wants to grasp something and hold on, but every time we do, it’s pulled out. So you may become an Advaita-Vedantist for a while because you would really like a metaphysical doctrine, or you would like to have, say, Buddha-nature. ‘That’s it!’ You know, get a nice name for it, something you can name and have faith in. But in the long run, even that is relinquished, even the hope and the need for grasping anything, any concept. The Simile of the Raft is a very good simile of what the Buddha was teaching. He was just giving us a convenient vehicle, a practical vehicle to use, not something to hold or grasp, but to use. Continue reading