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Welcome.

Ajahn Jayasāro's
Yellow Pages
Teaching 2020

Note: Here is Ajahn Jayasāro’s bi-weekly hand-written Dhamma sharing known as Yellow Pages Teaching. They are released on Tuesday and Saturday. The English transcription is done by Dhammawitz; sincere apologies if there are any errors.  It is transcribed so that it helps in translation.  This website has an auto-language machine translation feature which you may use but be aware it may not be accurate.  If there is a human translated version for a particular sharing, it will be notated clearly and appended below the English transcription as a drop-down menu. Dhammawitz welcomes collaborators to help in the translation to various languages and new language tabs can be appended. Translators will be attributed.  However, do note that if there are any inconsistencies in the English transcription and/or other language translations, please fall back on Ajahn’s original hand-written sharing. To reach Dhammawitz, please use the contact form located here:  https://dhammawitz.org/contact-us/  Anumodanā and thank you very much.

2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Most people like watching magic tricks.  We can watch them again and again without feeling bored. Our continued enjoyment of a trick is dependent on not being able to work out how it is done.  We know that sleight of hand is involved but our eyes are not quick enough to catch it.  We are intrigued.

But let’s say that someone reveals to us how a trick is done.  We feel a sense of disappointment:  is that all?  Once it’s been explained, the deception seems so obvious.  We wonder how we could have missed it.  Once we know how the trick is performed we never want to watch it ever again.

Saṃsāra is like a magic trick.  We get caught up in it again and again.  As Buddhists we may have learnt that the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, mental formations and sense-consciousness are not self, but we can’t see it.  The illusion of self is too convincing.  But for those who practise the eightfold path diligently, there comes a day when their vision is sharp enough to see the deception.  Now it seems so obvious.  Nibbidā (disenchantment) arises.  The fascination is gone.  They know that they won’t get fooled again.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

คนจำนวนไม่น้อยชอบดูมายากล สามารถดูได้ซำ้ๆ โดยไม่เบื่อ เราจะยังเพลิดเพลินในมายากลนั้นก็ต่อเมื่อยังคิดไม่ออกว่าทำได้อย่างไร เราทราบดีว่านักมายากลต้องอาศัยมือที่ว่องไว แต่ตาของเราจับไม่ได้ไล่ไม่ทัน เราจึงรู้สึกทึ่ง

หากมีใครสักคนมาเฉลยกลให้เราฟัง เราย่อมอดผิดหวังไม่ได้ว่า “แค่นี้เองเหรอ” เพราะเมื่อได้รับการเฉลย มายากลก็เป็นที่ประจักษ์ชัดเสียจนน่าฉงนว่าเรามองไม่ออกได้อย่างไร ครั้นล่วงรู้ว่ามายากลนั้นทำอย่างไร เราก็ไม่นึกอยากดูมายากลนั้นอีกเลย

สังสารวัฏเปรียบเสมือนมายากล เราหลงวนเวียนในวัฏสงสารมานับไม่ถ้วน เราอาจเคยศึกษาว่าขันธ์ทั้งห้า คือรูป เวทนา สัญญา สังขารและวิญญาณ ไม่ใช่ตัวไม่ใช่ตน แต่ก็ยังมองไม่เห็นความจริงนี้ ภาพลวงของอัตตาทำให้เราเชื่อสนิทว่ามีตัวตน แต่สำหรับผู้เพียรปฏิบัติตามหลักอริยมรรค สักวันหนึ่ง ญาณทัศนะย่อมแจ่มชัดพอที่จะเห็นภาพลวงนั้น คราวนี้ ทุกอย่างย่อมดูกระจ่างชัด นิพพิทาหรือความหน่ายในกองทุกข์จึงบังเกิด ความหลงเพลิดเพลินมลายไป บุคคลนั้นย่อมรู้ตนว่าจะไม่มีวันหลงภาพลวงอีกต่อไป

ธรรมะคำสอน โดย พระอาจารย์ชยสาโร

แปลถอดความ โดย ปิยสีโลภิกขุ

(no human translation)

Saturday, October 10, 2020

2020.1010 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

One day recently a student of mine was praised for being kind.  As a result, he immediately felt a warm feeling in his heart.  Later, he wondered whether his reaction was a mental defilement.  He asked me ‘Do truly wise people feel pleasure when they are praised?’  I replied that the wise people that I know do not see themselves as the owners of their good qualities.  They do not crave praise for their goodness or become attached to it.  However, they may feel the kind of joy that gardeners may feel when people praise the beauty of flowers in their garden.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

เมื่อไม่นานมานี้มีคนชมลูกศิษย์คนหนึ่งของอาตมาว่าใจดี ทำให้เขารู้สึกอิ่มใจขึ้นทันที ต่อมาเขาสงสัยว่าปฏิกิริยาของเขานี้เป็นกิเลสหรือเปล่า เขาถามอาตมาว่า ‘ผู้มีปัญญามีความสุขเมื่อมีใครชื่นชมท่านไหมครับ?’ อาตมาตอบไปว่า ผู้มีปัญญาเท่าที่อาตมารู้จัก ท่านไม่มองตัวเองว่าเป็นเจ้าเข้าเจ้าของคุณธรรมในใจ ท่านไม่ต้องการคำชื่นชมและยึดติดกับคุณธรรมเหล่านั้น แต่ท่านอาจรู้สึกเบิกบานใจเฉกเช่นคนทำสวนอาจรู้สึกเมื่อมีคนชื่นชมความงามของดอกไม้ในสวนของเขา

ธรรมะคำสอน โดย พระอาจารย์ชยสาโร
แปลถอดความ โดย ศิษย์ทีมสื่อดิจิทัลฯ

(no human translation)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

On reading of someone’s misfortune, a thought pops up into your mind.  But why that particular thought? It is a matter of kamma.  All of our intentional actions, speech and thoughts in the past are called ‘old kamma’.  The thought that arises spontaneously in the present is conditioned by that kamma.  For example, if you know the person and have thought about them kindly and spoken of them well in the past, then your first reactions might be, ‘Oh dear, I hope they recover soon.’ But perhaps you know this person, dislike them, and have spent a lot of time thinking about them with anger and contempt in your mind, and spoken about them with anger and contempt.  In that case at the moment of hearing about that person’s misfortune, it is unsurprising that the initial reaction is negative: ‘Serves them right!’ or ‘I hope they suffer!’

Your response to that initial reaction involves volition and constitutes new mental kamma.  If the initial reaction is positive, it might lead to a wholesome train of thought devoted to the question, ‘How could I help that poor person?’  Thus good new kamma is created.  If the reaction is negative and you dwell on it, taking pleasure in thoughts about the pain of the person you don’ like, then bad new kamma is created.  However, if you recognise the initial thought as poisonous and abandon it, good new kamma is created. 

In short, the results of our past actions of body, speech and mind are a given.  The question is how we deal with those results.  It is in the quality of our response that we create ourselves in this world, moment by moment.

–  Ajahn Jayasāro

2020.1006 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro Chinese

当看到某人遭遇不幸,一个念头在你心里冒出来。但为什么是那个特别的念头呢?这关乎业力。我们过去所有有意发出的行为、语言和意识被称为“旧业”。于当下不由自主生出的念头都受到业的限制。举例来说,如果你认识这人,而且曾经友好地想到过他们,善意地谈论过他们,那么你的第一反应可能是,“天哪,但愿他们很快恢复”。但是,也许你认识这人,可是讨厌他们,还花了很多时间以愤怒和轻蔑之心想到他们,愤怒而轻蔑地谈论他们。在那种情形下,当听闻那人的不幸消息时,最初的负面反应也就不足为奇了,“活该!”或者“但愿他们遭罪!”

你对于最初反应的回应涉及抉择,并构成了新的意业。如果最初的反应是正面的,这会引发一系列善念,问道,“我怎样才能帮助那个可怜的人?”由此新的善业就产生了。如果反应是负面的,而你沉溺其中,并以想着那个你讨厌之人的痛苦为乐,那么新的恶业就产生了。但是,如果你认识到那个最初的念头是有害的并放弃它,那么新的善业就会产生。

总之,我们过去的身口意行为的结果是既定的。问题在于,我们要如何处理那些结果。正是我们回应的品质创造了在这世上的我们,一刻接着一刻。

– 阿姜袈亚裟柔

FFH翻译组

2020.1006 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro Thai

เวลาอ่านเรื่องเคราะห์ร้ายของใครสักคน ความคิดอย่างหนึ่งย่อมผุดขึ้นในใจ แต่ทำไมต้องเฉพาะเจาะจงเป็นความคิดนั้นเล่า ข้อนี้เป็นเรื่องของกรรม ไม่ว่าจะเป็นกายกรรม วจีกรรม มโนกรรมซึ่งเราเจตนาทำในอดีตล้วนเป็น ‘กรรมเก่า’ ทั้งสิ้น

ความคิดที่ผุดขึ้นมาเองในปัจจุบันนั้นหล่อหลอมมาด้วยกรรม เช่น หากเรารู้จักบุคคลนั้น และที่ผ่านมา เราเคยคิดดีพูดดีกับเขามาก่อน ความรู้สึกแรกที่ทราบข่าวอาจเป็นว่า “ตายจริง ไม่น่าเป็นอย่างนั้นเลย ขอให้หายไวๆ เถิด” แต่หากเราไม่ชอบบุคคลนั้นและเคยคิดร้ายพูดร้ายกับเขามาก่อน ทันใดที่ได้ฟังข่าวร้ายของเขา ย่อมไม่แปลกเลยที่ความรู้สึกแรกของเราจะเป็นลบ “สมน้ำหน้า” หรือ “ขอจงทรมานให้เต็มที่เถอะ”

การตอบรับต่อปฏิกิริยาแรกนี้ย่อมประกอบด้วยเจตนา และก่อให้เกิดกรรมใหม่ หากปฏิกิริยาแรกเป็นแง่บวกก็อาจนำไปสู่กระบวนความคิดอันเป็นกุศล โดยใส่ใจว่า “เราจะช่วยเขาได้อย่างไร” ด้วยเหตุนี้ กุศลกรรมใหม่จึงเกิดขึ้น แต่ถ้าปฏิกิริยาแรกเป็นลบและเราปล่อยตัวเองให้จมอยู่ในอารมณ์นั้น เพลินคิดไปในความเดือดร้อนของคนที่เราเกลียด อกุศลกรรมใหม่ย่อมบังเกิด ทว่าเมื่อใดที่เราเห็นว่าความรู้สึกแรกเป็นโทษและละเสียได้ กุศลกรรมใหม่ย่อมเกิดขึ้นอีกครั้ง

สรุปว่า ผลแห่งกรรมนั้นถูกกำหนดไว้แล้วด้วยกายกรรม วจีกรรม มโนกรรมในอดีต สำคัญที่ว่าเราจะจัดการกับผลแห่งกรรมนั้นอย่างไร การตอบสนองต่อผลกรรมจะเป็นเครื่องหล่อหลอมตัวเราในทุกๆ ขณะ

ธรรมะคำสอน โดย พระอาจารย์ชยสาโร

แปลถอดความ โดย ปิยสีโลภิกขุ

 

(no human translation)

Saturday, October 3, 2020

2020.1003 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

When lay meditators go to stay in monastery for an extended period of retreat, they often feel that their practice gets worse rather than better.  They can, for example, find themselves being very critical of those around them.  They can be obsessed over matters which at home, they say, they would find quiet easy to let go of.  In the monastery, all of their faults seem magnified.  Some people lose faith in the training; others lose faith in themselves.

If one gets caught in this kind of doubts, the first refuge is patience.  Buddhist training is not – in the familiar analogy – a hundred metre sprint.  It is not even a marathon.  It is more like a great many ultra-marathons one after another.  But that is only a problem if you think you’ve got something better to do with your life.  The advice I give is to see doubt as doubt, and carry on.

Today ‭l told a student, ‘Without expectation or comparison, just deal as best as you can with whatever arises, moment by moment.’  The monastery is a place designed to drastically reduce distraction.  When you have nowhere to hide from yourself, defilements appear like stains on white cloth.  That is a good thing.  It is a only when you clearly see defilements that you can find the way to free yourself from them.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

2020.0929 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Consideration of time and place is one of the most important expressions of mindfulness in daily life.

We make the effort to avoid speaking when it is too early or too late in the day.  We don’t speak in public what should be spoken in private, or speak in private what should be spoken in public.  We don’t speak when it is too early or too late in a relationship.  We don’t speak when our emotions make it impossible to express ourselves well.  We don’t speak when the other person’s emotions make it impossible for them to hear us.  We don’t speak about serious matters before checking our information.  We abstain from speaking when it would be wiser to rest in mindful silence.  We don’t speak when it would be better to listen.  We don’t speak when whatever we say will only make things worse.

We make the effort to speak when the conditions for good communication are ripe, or as ripe as they can be.  We speak at the best time of the day for our purpose, privately or publicly as is appropriate.  We speak with awareness of how the current  state of our relationship affects what we can usefully speak about.  We make sure of our facts before bringing up sensitive issues.  If there is no suitable time and place to speak we know how to be patient and rest in mindful silence.  We listen when we need to listen more than we speak.  And when whatever we say will make things worse, we stop talking or politely take our leave.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

2020.0926 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

In the Four Noble Truths the Buddha identified craving (taṇhā) as the cause of suffering. He revealed how it is only when craving has been abandoned that suffering will cease. It is important to understand that not all kinds of desire are considered to be forms of craving. Craving refers specifically to the desires that arise in the mind in the absence of authentic knowledge of the true nature of our life and the world we live in. The Buddha spoke of three kinds of craving:

(i) The craving for the pleasure that arises through contact with visible forms, sounds, odours, tastes and physical sensations. The ignorant mind feels a deep sense of lack which it seeks to remedy with sense pleasure. But no sense pleasure can give more than temporary relief. Craving for sense pleasure ties the mind to a coarse, restless and superficial level. Seeking happiness from sense pleasure has been compared to licking honey from a razor blade.

(ii) The craving for being. The ignorant mind perceives a stable, independent self. It craves to protect and enhance that imaginary self. This kind of craving may be seen in the desire to be a particular kind of person, or to be seen as such. It manifests in the desire to stand out, to be special, unique, to live forever. It is seen in the craving for status, fame and power.

(iii) The craving for non-being. The ignorant mind perceives a stable, independent self. It craves for that self to disappear or to be annihilated. This craving can lead to he decision to commit suicide. It appears generally in the craving to escape from or to get rid of anything we dislike.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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(no human translation)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

2020.0922 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Upādāna is the name that the Buddha gave to the various kinds of attachment that arise in the mind dependent upon craving (taṇhā). They must be eliminated by those intent on liberation. The Buddha listed four kinds of attachment:

(i) Attachment to sensual pleasure

In attaching to sense pleasures we make them seem essential to our well-being. Life without them comes to seem depressing or meaningless. We fear separation from sense pleasures and strive to prevent it. Our mind becomes dominated by sensual thoughts, and is imprisoned by them.

(ii) Attachment to views, opinions, beliefs

We become attached to views, theories, philosophies, religious beliefs that reflect or allow us to gratify our cravings, especially for being or non-being. As a consequence, we feel threatened by opposing views and different beliefs. We see them as a danger to who we think we are. This kind of attachment leads to prejudice and narrow-mindedness.

(iii) Attachment to external religious forms

Ceremonies, rituals, conventions, training rules, can all become objects of attachment. We come to see them as having an intrinsic value in themselves independent of our relationship to them. In other words, we believe that by simply behaving in a certain way, purification of mind will take place automatically. This leads to complacency and superstition.

(iv) Attachment to the idea of a permanent, independent self

This kind of attachment is the most characteristic expression of ignorance. It is reinforced by the conventions of language, especially words such as ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. It leads to selfishness, conflict and harmful ideas of possession and control. It prevents us from seeing the stream of causes and conditions that constitute body and mind.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

2020.0915 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The senior American monk, Ajahn Dick (Sīlaratano), spent many years as the personal attendant of his teacher, the great master, Ajahn Mahā Bua. His duties took up many hours of the day, and in the early days he confessed to feeling some dismay at how much less time he now had to meditate. But as time passed he realised just how fortunate he was and how much he was benefiting. He summarised:

“(He)… believed that the right temperament was just as critical to success in practice as were intelligence or effort, if not more so. Only by raising the character of our inner being does the mind become worthy of encountering the right circumstances, the right guidance and the right insights that will lead to realising the truth of Dhamma. The practice requires more than simply an emphasis on striving for deep samādhi and insightful experiences. Actually, the level of meditation a person is capable of achieving is dependent on an inner readiness to accept that level. For that reason, cultivating our inner worth is a critically important, though often neglected, aspect of the overall practice. This principle is surely the most significant lesson that I took away from my teacher’s approach to teaching his students.”

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

2020.0912 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

How many times have we suffered, and how many times have we created suffering for others, because of our negative emotions? How many times have we been consumed by self-aversion because of things we have said or done? How many times have we acted in ways that we had previously promised ourselves, ‘Never again!’

This is not the first lifetime in which we have had to endure such a frustrating state of affairs. It has happened countless times before, in countless lifetimes. And unless we take more responsibility for our lives, it will go on happening for countless more lives in the future. Just stop and think about that for a moment. The Buddha one observed that the greatest of all enemies is our own untrained mind. But – and it is here that we can find some hope – the mind *is* trainable. The Buddha also said that there is no friend that can compare to the well-trained mind. So please put forth your best effort to train your mind. Break free from your worst enemy and find happiness and peace with your truest friend.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

2020.0908 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

On a number of occasions in the suttas, Māra, the personification of evil, tries to lead monks and nuns astray. But Māra’s power lasts only as long as he remains unrecognized. As soon as he is seen for who he is, he disappears. In more abstract terms we might say that defilement ceases with the arising of clear vision.

On one occasion, while the bhikkhuṇī Somā was meditating in a forest grove near the town of Sāvatthī, she heard a voice. It told her that women are, by nature, not intelligent enough to achieve liberation. Hearing this voice, Somā realised who spoke. She replied in verse:

“What does womanhood matter at all
When the mind is concentrated well,
When knowledge flows on steadily
As one sees correctly into Dhamma?”

Then she gave her ‘lion’s roar’. She declared that she was not a fitting target for such a jibe as she did not consider herself in terms of gender:

“One to whom it might occur
‘I am a man’ or ‘I am a woman’
Or ‘I am anything at all’ –
Is fit for Māra to address.”

Then, the sutta tells us
“Māra the Evil one, realising ‘The bhikkhuṇī Somā knows me,’ sad and disappointed, disappeared right here.”

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

2020.0905 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The Buddha once said, “Enmity does not come to cease through enmity. Enmity only ever comes to cease through non-enmity. This is a timeless truth.”

Over 2,500 years after these words were uttered, we might add that this is indeed a timeless truth, but also one that is endlessly forgotten.

The use of the word non-enmity in the verse is worthy to note. Non-enmity here is not simply a synonym for loving-kindness. It has a broader meaning, including a number of wholesome mental states that may each contribute towards a wise response to enmity. Meeting enmity with mettā is an inspiring achievement, but for most people it can be a step too far. For them, empathy, patience, kindness and equanimity may be better goals.

The important thing to bear in mind is that we need to make a special effort to be mindful in times of conflict. If we observe enmity in our heart, we should stop, realise that we have taken a wrong turning, and re-establish our mind in a wholesome state. Because with enmity in our heart – no matter how certain we are right and the other party is wrong – we will be unable to find a lasting solution to the conflict; we might find a short-term fix, but in the long term we may only make matters worse. This is a timeless truth.”

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

2020.0901 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Human beings are very good at measuring. We are constantly finding more and more things to measure, and developing ever more sophisticated tools to measure them. Measurement lies at the heart of the scientific method. Our ability to measure things underlies much of the material progress that has been made in the world over the last two hundred years. But there is a danger. We can be so involved with measurement that we overlook or downplay all the things that cannot be measured. Often, unmeasurable has come to mean unscientific and unscientific to mean unreal. But how many of the most important things in life are, in fact, measurable? How, for example, could we quantify a parents love for their child? Notably, the Buddha gave the title of the Four Immeasurables to the wholesome motions of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

 

In the human search for understanding, science and Dhamma go hand in hand. The scientific method provides our best tool to explore all the aspects of our experience that can be measured. The Buddha’s teachings provide our best tool to explore all the aspects that cannot.”

 

– Ajahn Jayasāro

(no human translation)

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

2020.0829 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

One of the first discoveries in meditation is how unfree we are. The effort to sustain attention on a meditation object reveals just how little control we have over our mind. However, wise reflection on the unfree and conditioned nature of the untrained mind, when supported by the confidence that Dhamma practice offers a path to true freedom, is empowering. We come to feel that this is an intolerable situation and that we really must do something about it. The Buddha showed how the five hindrances that arise during meditation limit our freedom with a number of similes:

Indulgence in thoughts of sense pleasure is like being in debt. Every moment of pleasure increases the payment to be made when it comes to an end.

Indulgence in negative thoughts is like having a fever. One can do no constructive work and is drained of all joy.

Dullness and lethargy are like being in prison, cut off from all that brings happiness and benefit.

Restlessness and worry make one like a slave. The mind feels compelled to rush around from one matter to another with no benefit to oneself whatsoever.

Being caught in wavering doubt and indecision is like being lost in a desolate land.

Freeing oneself of these hindrances with right effort, mindfulness and clear comprehension brings great joy to the mind. It is similar to the joy that may be experienced when becoming free of debt, recovering from illness, being released from prison, released from salvery or discovering a path to safety.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

2020.0825 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Before we start to practise Dhamma we cannot avoid being aware on some level that life is brief, fragile and uncertain. But we turn our back on that truth as best we can. We are afraid that thoughts of death will lead to depression and despair. The knowledge that death can come at any time rarely affects the choices we make in life.

The Buddha taught that facing up with mindfulness to our mortality need not be morbid. It helps us to see the value of our life, and the importance of living it well. He once listed approvingly a number similes taught by an ancient teacher called Araka:

Just as a drop of dew will quickly vanish as soon as the sun rises, so too is human life like a drop of dew.

Just as when the rain pours down, bubbles of water form and then swiftly vanish, so too is human life like such a water bubble.

Just as a line drawn on water with a stick will swiftly vanish, so too is human life like a line drawn on water with a stick.

Just as a stream flowing swiftly down a mountain, carrying along much flotsam, will not stand still for even an instant, a fraction of a second, but will rush on, swirl and flow forward, so too is human life like a mountain stream.

Just as a strong man might form a lump of spittle at the tip of his tongue and spit it out, so too is human life like a lump of spittle.

Just as a piece of meat thrown into an iron pan heated all day will quickly vanish, so too is human life like this piece of meat.

Just as when a cow to be slaughtered is being led to the slaughterhouse, whatever leg she lifts, she moves closer to slaughter, closer to death; so too is human life like a cow condemned to slaughter.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

2020.0822 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

There is a well-known story of a man sitting by the side of a sack of chilli peppers. He bites on a chilli, grimaces and spits it out. He picks out another chilli and does the same thing. He repeats the same process again and again, even though it is unpleasant for him to do so. When asked what he’s doing, he replies that he’s searching for a sweet one.

Clearly, this is a story teaching the foolishness of recreating the same causes again and again, while hoping for a different, better result. In the Buddhist version the story is taken to express the futility of looking for lasting happiness in impermanent experiences.

But how does the man in the story see the situation? Presumably, he does not perceive himself as a fool. My guess is that he has some logic on his side. Maybe has heard that one in a thousand chillis has such a marvellous sweet taste that it is worth the discomfort of chewing hundreds of spicy ones in order to find it. Maybe he has read an article on the internet revealing that the existence of sweet chillis is a secret jealously guarded by an evil international organisation. Maybe he believes that a god will create a miracle of sweetness for him if he prays hard enough.

The observation: people acting irrationally often believe themselves to be the truly rational ones.

The moral: don’t take the feeling that you are being rational as proof that you are.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

2020.0818 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

There is an old saying:

A single hair conceals the mountain.
Thought is a single hair.
It is thin, brittle and insubstantial.
But it grabs our attention so strongly
that we can see nothing else.
We live in a world of thought
and imagine it to be the real world.
Meditation reveals a way out
of the stifling world of thought.
We withdraw from it without regret.
We change our focus.
And now we see the mountain.
We see the leaves
on the trees
on the mountain slope
fluttering in the wind.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

2020.0815 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

One helpful way of reflecting on unfair criticism is to recollect how normal it is, how many times even the purest of beings have been subjected to such treatments. The most famous example is perhaps the occasion when a woman called Ciñcā Mānavikā accepted payment from religious teachers jealous of the Buddha to accuse him of making her pregnant. There are accounts of nearly all the great enlightened disciples being falsely accused one thing or another. Ven Sāriputta provided a model for how to deal with such a situation. On one occasion he was accused by another monk of striking him and then leaving the monastery without apologising. The Buddha knew this could not be true but nevertheless called a meeting to examine the matter, ensuring that there could be no grounds for criticism that he was prejudiced in favour of his senior disciple.

In the course of conducting his defence, Ven Sāriputta compared his mind to the four elements. He said that people throw impure things – faces, urine, spittle, pus and blood – on the earth, and wash them in water; fire burns those impure things and air blows upon them. Despite coming into contact with all kinds of impure things, the elements of earth, water, fire and air are not repelled, humiliated or disgusted by them. Similarly, he, Sāriputta, dwelt in the midst of slander and malicious gossip with a mind like earth, like water, like fire, like air, “vast, exalted and measureless, without enmity or ill-will.”

~ Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

2020.0811 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The more clearly and accurately we see ourselves and the world around us the more we change for the better. There is a deep, organic connection between wisdom and goodness. The more, for example, we understand the causal processes underlying progress – whether in the worldly or spiritual realm – the more our minds become imbued with gratitude and humility. It is not so much that we have to make some special effort to be grateful or humble, but that these virtues manifest as natural expressions of a mind that sees things in their true light.

It cannot be said that every appearance of gratitude or humility, kindness, generosity or patience is evidence of wisdom. It is common to see people distinguished by one virtue at the same time as being deficient in others. But it may be observed that when the mind is refreshed by the cool rain of wisdom, all the good and noble qualities within it flourish in harmony.”

~ Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, August 8, 2020

2020.0808 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

A person suffering from a number of ailments went to see a doctor. The doctor did not reveal his diagnosis but prescribed a certain pill for his patient which he said should be taken three times a day: morning, afternoon and night time. He said that it was important that after taking the pill the patient should drink a large glass of water. Sometime later the person returned for a check-up. He said that he felt much better and asked the doctor what exactly had been wrong with him. The doctor said, ‘You weren’t drinking enough water.’

Sometimes practitioners go to see their teachers wanting a special pill to take away their problems. But many difficulties are the result of a fault in our overall approach and attitude, rather than a technical flaw to be cured with a technical fix. Perhaps the teacher will give a pill, but the most important thing is drinking the water.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

2020.0804 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

It is said that morality cleanses wisdom and wisdom cleanses morality, just as the left hand cleanses the right, and the right cleanses the left. Today, I would like to make a few comments on this statement.

Wise reflection (yoniso manasikāra) impresses upon us the suffering we create for ourself and others whenever we break a precept, and the benefits of keeping each of the precepts. Contemplating these points gives us the strong motivation to keep precepts well. Wise reflection guards against us taking on precepts for worldly gains or heavenly rebirth. Wise reflection prevents us from becoming proud and thinking that we are better than people who do not keep precepts. Thus wisdom cleanses morality.

Shame and guilt regarding our conduct make us keep away from Dhamma teachings and wise people. Keeping precepts removes that shame and guilt. It give us the opportunity to follow the Buddha’s path of wisdom without resistance. When we keep our precepts well, we significantly reduce the obstacles to the cultivation of the stability and clarity of the mind called samādhi. Having cultivated samādhi the mind has created the supporting conditions for the development of the liberating wisdom of vipassanā. Thus morality cleanses wisdom.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

2020.0801 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

All the various challenges that occur during meditation (and, indeed, life itself) involve us attaching to physical and mental phenomena as ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Thus any effective method applied to deal with those challenges must be aimed at undermining this attachment. One powerful method that the Buddha taught us is to look at phenomena in terms of four elements. These are listed in the texts as ‘earth, water, fire and air,’ but we may refer to them in more modern terms as ‘mass, fluidity (or cohesiveness), temperature and motion.’ Mass, for example, may be observed in the heaviness in the shoulders when sad. A constriction in the throat or chest may be seen as weak fluidity. Temperature may be seen in the shivering of fear and the heat of anger. Restlessness and a racing heart beat may be observed as motion. We can use these four concepts of mass, fluidity, temperature and motion to deconstruct experiences. By doing so the identification with them and the false sense of ownership can dissolve. And when that dissolves, so does the suffering.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

2020.0728 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

A few years ago a research in America quizzed university graduates on their college major. First he asked them how well they understood some of the fundamental principles of their discipline. Then he asked them to write detailed descriptions of the principles they claimed to know. To their surprise and embarassment, many of the students found it extremely difficult. The most likely reason, the researcher proposed, was that participants had not realised how much they had forgotten. He concluded that why many students carried with them after university was not so much a store of useful knowledge as an over-inflated confidence in their abilities.

Believing that you know things that you don’t really know, or that you did know once but have now forgotten, causes all kinds of problems in the workplace. And it is also true in the study of Buddhism. It is a good practice to return every now and again to the fundamental teachings and imagine that you have to explain them to an intelligent, sympathetic listener who has absolutely no prior knowledge of Dhamma. You can do this by writing a few paragraphs or by speaking aloud. Any gaps or fuzzy patches in your understanding will become immediately clear. It is a practice based on one of the most important of all teachings: take nothing for granted.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

2020.0725 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

In this period of great stress and uncertainty, one of our most important tools to maintain sanity and balance is the cultivation of loving-kindness for self and others. On one occasion the Buddha listed the benefits that may be realised. The range is remarkable: beginning with physical and mental well-being and culminating in profound spiritual accomplishment:

1) one sleeps well
2) one awakens happily
3) one does not have bad dreams
4) one is pleasing to the human beings
5) one is pleasing to the non-human beings
6) one is protected by devas
7) fire, poison and weapons do not injure one
8) one’s mind becomes quickly concentrated
9) one’s countenance is serene
10) one dies unconfused
11) if one fails to attain arahantship, one is reborn in a brahma realm.

(An 11.13)”

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

2020.0721 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The Buddha’s teachings recorded in the Pali Canon may be divided into two categories:

(i) statements about the nature of existence, ‘the way things are’

(ii) advice on the best way to live as a human being.

The two categories are connected. The Buddha taught that the wisest way to live is best determined in light of the constraint and possibilities afforded by ‘the way things are.’ It is in the Buddha’s discovery of the true nature of human existence and his ability to devise a way of life in harmony with it, that his unrivalled genius may be appreciated.

One of the Buddha’s core statements about human nature is that our fundamental misunderstandings about it are deeply significant. Crucially, our ignorance manifests as an instinctive belief in a permanent, independent self at the centre of our being. Our lives are motivated, above all, by the craving to serve the needs of that imaginary self. This ignorance and its attendant craving is at the root of human suffering. Another of the Buddha’s core statements is more optimistic. He proclaimed that ignorance, and the craving and suffering it engenders, can be completely eliminated by the systematic training of our conduct, emotions and thinking which he called the Noble Eightfold Path. In following the Eightfold Path for the welfare and happiness of self and others, we fulfil our greatest potential as human beings.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

2020.0718 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Forests in Thailand are not quiet places. Birdsong can be loud and raucous. In the evening, the cicadas can make such a din that it is impossible to hold a conversation. On occasions in the past, I have had to end (amplified) Dhamma discourses to the Sangha because the croaking of bullfrogs made them inaudible. But the natural sounds of the forest, however loud, do not disturb the atmosphere of peace. Strangely enough the sounds seem to be part of the peace, or even enhance it.

In daily life it is not possible to fulfill our responsibilities with a completely quiet mind. There is thinking that needs to be done. But if we persevere with our Dhamma practice, the chasm between thinking mind and non-thinking mind, narrows. Thought in the mind is experienced more like birdsong in the forest than a pneumatic drill by the roadside.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

2020.0714 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Every time we act upon a volition, wholesome or unwholesome, we strengthen that volition and increase the likelihood that it will reappear in the future.

Every time we refrain from acting upon a volition, wholesome or unwholesome, we weaken that volition and decrease the likelihood that it will reappear in the future.

This is the meaning of the popular summary of the teachings on kamma; ‘do good, get good; do evil, get evil.’

In taking on precepts we make a commitment to refrain from acting upon certain unwholesome volitions. This training of conduct is focused on the expression of defilements. It complements the practice of meditation in which we learn how to deal directly with the defilements themselves.

Without keeping precepts we constantly feed unwholesome intentions and thus the defilements from which they spring. By doing so we undermine the work of meditation. For progress on the Buddha’s path it is vital to understand the links between the practice of meditation and the practice of sīla.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

 

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

2020.0711 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Recently, I was sent a beautiful vignette. It concerned the great cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead. On one occasion she was asked what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. Presumably, her questioner expected the answer to involve some kind of ancient tool or artefact. Instead, she answered that it was a femur (a human thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. She explained that for creatures in the wild a broken leg is a death sentence: the injured animal cannot hunt, make its way to a watering hole, or escape from its enemies. A healed broken femur shows that the person received assistance. Someone helped them by binding up the wound, carrying them to safety, nursing them until they recovered. Margaret Mead concluded that in her view, civilization begins when people start helping each other through difficulties.

I found these words very moving and my mind keeps returning to them. They reinforce my conviction that mutal aid is not just the beginning of civilization, but its heart. It is only when we dare to go beyond the narrow, suffocating prison of self concern that in our inner world we can open ourselves to the Dhamma, and in our life in the world, we can help to create a society worth living in.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

2020.0707 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The Buddha identified four factors conditioning fear of death. Those whose life has been based on the pursuit and enjoyment of sense pleasures tend to see death in terms of their approaching separation from those pleasures, and thus experience rear. Those who have been obsessed with their body and identified with it, tend to fear death as the separation from that cherished body. Those who have committed deeds for which they feel remorse may look on death as a precursor to some kind of payment for their bad actions, and feel fear. Lastly, those who are confused and without an inner refuge tend to experience doubts and mental agitation regarding their coming death, which results in fear.

Little or no fear of death is shown by those people who have not given such value to sense pleasures or their body; to those who have committed many good actions and are confident of their good karmic results of those actions awaiting them after death; and by those who have inner refuge and a calm, stable mind.

Of course, these days many people overcome their fear of death by adopting the belief in annihilation. They look on the mind as a function of the brain and see physical death as like turning off a light. This kind of superstition can be comforting and is praised as realistic or ‘scientific’. But it requires a refusal to seriously examine all the evidence for rebirth. For Buddhists, that is a step too far.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, July 04, 2020

2020.0704 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

On the full moon day of July, we commemorate the occasion on which the Buddha delivered his first discourse, the Dhammacakkhapavatthana Sutta, so called because it ‘set into motion the wheel of Dhamma.’ It was the day the teachings first appeared in the world, and the day that Venerable Kondañño became the first person to penetrate their deep meaning.

This Dhamma wheel has now been revolving through the world for over 2,500 years. During that time, those who have taken refuge in the teachings recorded in the Pāli canon have waged no wars, inflicted no violence in their name. In whatever country of the world men and women have adopted the Buddha’s training of action, speech and mind with a sincere heart, they have seen qualities of peace, wisdom and compassion grow within them. How fortunate we are that thanks to the Buddha and his disciples even now, in this day and age, ‘the gates to the Deathless’ are still open.

The Knowledge that leads to the opening of these gates is profound but not complex. Venerable Kondañño’s exclamation as understanding manifested in his heart on that full-moon day was unexpectedly simple: all that arises, passes away. Deceptively straightforward, but contemplating this short phrase is of incalculable benefit to all practising Buddhists.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020.0630 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

One morning when I was about nine years old, I walked out of my family home with all my savings in my pocket. I caught a bus from our village to the nearby town of Hythe, and from there bought a ferry ticket to the port city of Southampton. I walked about the city for an hour or so, then caught a return ferry, and a bus back home. I told no one of my adventure. I was quite sickly boy at that time, and the expedition gave me a wonderful sense of achievement. I felt that I had proved myself a fearless explorer and someone who would one day be able to take care of himself. A small thing perhaps – a few journeys on public transport and a stroll along city street – but it gave me a confidence that I had never felt before.

It is hard to sustain enthusiasm for Dhamma practice over a number of years. This can be true for monastics as much as lay meditators. One skilful means that may be employed to deal with this problem is to regularly set yourself modest, measurable spiritual goals. You might, for example, abstain from eating after midday for a week or a month. You might abstain from television or movies or your favourite indulgence for a certain period of time. You might vow to meditate for a certain number of hours a week. You might vow to meditate through the night every full moon, or at least until midnight. The point is to experience the joy of accomplishment, of being someone who achieves goals. It is a feeling that can arise through small victories; it can give you a renewed confidence and commitment to face the larger challenges ahead.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

2020.0627 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

In the first two lines of the Discourse on Blessings (Mangala Sutta), the Buddha gives his most fundamental advice for life in the world: be careful who you associate with. However, the terms he uses may need some explanation. The Buddha says that two of life’s highest blessings come from ‘not associating with the foolish, but associating with the wise.’  I think that the difficulty most people would have with following this advise is that they would judge the majority of their associates to be neither outright fools nor particularly wise.

I would like to rephrase the teaching as follows: not cultivating destructive relationships but cultivating nourishing ones. Here, a destructive relationship would mean one in which the good and noble qualities in one’s heart start to wither and the mean and ignoble ones steadily grow. If one finds it more difficult to keep the precepts, if one finds oneself becoming more neglectful of spiritual cultivation, then this is not a relationship worth pursuing. If, on the other hand, it feels as if an association brings out the best in one, if ones feels oneself growing in the Dhamma as a result of it, then that is a relationship to cherish. It is a blessing.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

2020.0623 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Even the most wonderful experience, the most fulfilling relationship, can be ruined by a single moment of greed, hatred or delusion. As long as the mind is still subject to mental defilements there can be no true security or happiness.

Human beings are creatures who naturally shrink suffering and desire to be happy. For this reason, dealing effectively with mental defilements is the most important life skill that we need to master.

How is this achieved? Initially, by learning (i) how to look after mind in such a way that as-yet unarisen defilements cannot manifest; and (ii) by learning how to let go of defilements that have already manifested. The key factors involved here are mindfulness, clear comprehension and consistent, balanced application. However, although this stage restrains defilements, it does not eliminate them. Only wisdom can do that.

When the mind can dwell in the present moment without interruption, then attention may be turned to the nature of the body and mind. It is in this investigation that the underlying beliefs and assumptions that fuel defilements are exposed and abandoned. When body and mind are seen in their true light, the profound truth of the Buddha’s teachings shines forth.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

2020.0620 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Clarity can be very convincing. Imagine you once misinterpreted a comment somebody made as an insult. It hurt so much that even years later the memory of it is crystal clear. The memory is so vivid that you assume that therefore the thing that is remembered – the painful insult – must definitely have occurred. In fact the clarity is merely the result of the emotion that the memory evokes. So many arguments over the past could be avoided through understanding this point.

Imagine there is an abstract topic which you have been struggling to understand for years. You are very frustrated. Then you hear a brilliant analogy that explains the point. Your frustration dissolves. What was foggy and obscure is now simple and clear. You assume that the clarity of the image is a proof of the accuracy of the analogy. It is not. Wise people do not abandon the principle of ‘not sure’.

Although mental clarity may be misleading, there is a case in which it is reliable: the clarity that manifests when the five hindrances are abandoned through meditation. Here the clarity is not an attribute of the objects that arise in consciousness, but of the ground in which they appear. It is the clarity which allows mental objects to be recognised as impermanent, ownerless phenomena rather than as self or possessions of self. It is the clarity which is a pre-requisite for the development of wisdom.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

2020.0616 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

As usual, I am writing this Yellow Page teaching sitting on the verandah of my kuti. Through the lush vegetation to the south I can see the sky covered with thick grey clouds as far as the Kow Yai mountains. A fresh breeze, cooling my shaved head and bare arms, tells me that rain is on the way. Ajahn Chah looks down at me from a large framed black-and-white photograph on the wall. Tomorrow, the 17th, is his birthday and my mind, as it does so often, turns to him.

Although he must have found the addiction to thinking amongst his Western disciples quite alien, he also found it very funny, and he teased them about it. He was also aware that the university education most of them had received tended to burden them with a tendency towards chronic doubt. Luang Por would remind the Western monks that doubts never disappeared due to the words of another, no matter how wise. Doubts in the Dhamma only ceased through putting them to the test of experience. He reminded them that doubt is a conditioned mental phenomena. They should see how it arises, what feeds it and how it comes to cease. Only in this way would they ever find their way out of the maze of doubt.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

2020.0613 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The Buddha taught that walking meditation is excellent physical exercise. It keeps us healthy, makes us more resilient, helps with digestion. Most importantly, it leads to a calm stability of mind that stays with us after the meditation has ended. Walking at a normal pace with eyes open can produce a samādhi more easily integrated into daily life than produced by sitting meditation.

Walking meditation can be alternated with sitting meditation. It may also be practiced in preference to sitting if the meditator is sleepy, for example, or if an illness or injury makes sitting difficult.

In the forest monasteries we walk on shaded paths between twenty to thirty paces long. On a twenty-four-pace path, the beginning, the middle and end of the path provide the opportunity to check one’s mindfulness every twelve paces. If the mind wanders, it does not do so for long.

The first task during walking meditation is the abandonment of distracting mental states. This may be accomplished by sustaining mindfulness on a single area of sensation such as that which appears in the soles of the feet as they touch the ground, or the whole body. Another popular technique is to inwardly recite a mantra such as ‘Buddho’ – ‘ Bud’ as the right foot touches the ground, ‘Dho’ as the left food touches.

When the mind has freed itself of hindrances, it may be directed to contemplation of one of the three characteristics of existence: impermanence, suffering or not-self as they manifest in the present moment.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

2020.0609 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Human skin is about 1mm thick. Its colour is determined by the body’s production of melanin. What could be more idiotic than to discriminate against another human being on account of the colour of their skin? As Buddhists we learn to focus on the fundamental things that unite us, rather than obsessing about the trivial things that divide us.

The Buddha said that he taught only two things: suffering and the cessation of suffering. This presents us with a simple choice. Do we want to spend our short lives increasing the amount of suffering in our own life and the lives of others, or do we want to devote ourselves to the reduction and elimination of suffering wherever, whenever and however we can?

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

2020.0606 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Avijjā means both a lack of understanding and a false understanding of our life, i.e. our body and mind.

Avijjā manifests as craving for sense experience, craving to be or to become, and craving not to be or not to become. As long as avijjā and craving remain we will never find true happiness and peace.

Avijjā and craving cease with the arising of vijjā. Vijjā means a true understanding of our body and mind. Vijjā arises through the cultivation of wisdom. Wisdom is cultivated in the presence of the clarity and stability of samādhi.

Samādhi arises through the cultivation of mindfulness, clear comprehension and right effort. Mindfulness, clear comprehension and right effort are cultivated through meditation practices such as mindfulness of breathing.

The success of meditation practices depends on living a life of generosity and kindness, moral restraint and the continual effort to be awake and aware in daily life.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

2020.0602 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

In the forest growing up around the kuti in which I live there are many poisonous snakes, including cobras, king cobras and banded kraits. We call certain kinds of snake poisonous because they carry around a venom in their body which can cause pain and death to human beings. It doesn’t mean, of course, that they all necessarily bite human beings whenever they can. Certainly if we go too near them, startle them or tread on them they may well bite and poison us. But if we keep out of their way we will be safe.

The Buddha’s teaching that all phenomena are dukkha is equivalent to the statement that all cobras are poisonous. It doesn’t mean that all phenomena necessarily make us suffer the whole time. It means that they are always ready to do so if we relate to them with ignorance and craving. Relating to phenomena with mindfulness and wisdom is like living in peaceful co-existence with a forest full of poisonous snakes.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

2020.0530 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha means that we no longer seek for refuge in sensual pleasures or in the sense of self provided by wealth, status or power. A natural humility appears, one that – in the words of a modern sage – does not consist of thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. So much of people’s suffering in social situations occurs because they are thinking about themselves too much. They are desperate to be seen in certain way, and fear that they will not be. The effort to maintain a certain image of oneself is stressful and depressing. Buddhist practitioners are confident that they take care of their actions, speech and mind in line with the Buddhist’s teachings, they will flourish. If mindfulness and clear comprehension are well-established, thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ can be seen as empty phenomena, and allowed to pass away without regret. With the mind free of attachment to thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, comparison with others loses its grounding. Pride, competitiveness and jealousy begin to fade away.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2020.0526 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

For most people reaching the end of their life, breathing becomes laboured. Meditation on the breath, even for experienced meditators, becomes difficult. At this crucial time, with death approaching, the meditations that are most practical are those that use the power of recollection to stimulate uplifting emotion. Once kindled, that emotion can become the meditation object. If the mind starts to waver, then the meditator is encouraged to return to the original recollection in order to re-kindle the emotion. Wholesome emotion, systematically cultivated in this way, can take the mind beyond the hindrances and into samādhi.

The most powerful of these meditations is the recollection of the good deeds that one has performed throughout one’s life. When we recall occasions on which we acted kindly and purely for the welfare of others, with no desire for any kind of reward, we feel an immediate sense of well-being. This is true even for good actions performed many years ago. To realise that such a source of joy and peace lies within us is a wonderful discovery. We come to understand that no goodness is ever lost. Every kind action we have performed has added to the store of ‘noble treasure’ within.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

2020.0523 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Well-spoken words (V)

Benefit

We are mindful if the other person’s words are (a) relevant to the conversation, and (b) conducive to growth in wholesome or unwholesome mental states. If the other person’s words become diverted into irrelevant or unwholesome topics, we politely bring the conversation back to the matter in hand. We may say something like, “if it’s okay with you, I wonder if we could talk a bit more about…” We do not add our own negative comments if the person we are speaking to starts to denigrate another person behind their back. We don’t join in making fun of others. We don’t acquiesce in expressions of anger or contempt or disrespect towards those of different political or religious beliefs. If the conversation is going around in circles, and is obviously not going to achieve any of its goals, we may suggest ending it, at least for the time being.

Manner

We seek to be aware of the effect upon our judgement of the other persons appearance, body language and tone of voice. We remind ourselves that a charming, confident, articulate manner is not a guarantee that a person’s words are necessarily true or beneficial. We remind ourselves that a nervous, inarticulate manner is not evidence that the speaker’s words are without weight or significance. If the person’s manner seems aggressive or disrespectful then we need to be clear exactly where our boundaries lie. If the person’s manner is beyond what we consider acceptable then we let them know that we feel uncomfortable and end the conversation. But we also careful not to let our dislike of the manner in which someone expresses themselves lead us to reject words which may be true and beneficial.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

2020.0519 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Well-spoken words (IV)

At the same time as considering these five points within ourselves, we also practice being aware of them with regard to other people.

Intention

We remind ourselves that we cannot read minds. We can never be completely sure of the other person’s intention. Nevertheless we reflect upon it: ‘Do they seem sincere? Do they want something from us? Are they trying to flatter or intimidate us? While doing this, we are careful to avoid allowing our likes or dislikes for somebody to influence our interpretation of their words.

Time and Place

If the other person has chosen the time and place of the conversation, we consider whether or not we are comfortable with their choice. If we are not, then, if possible, we say so and suggest an alternative.

Truthfulness

Sometimes people say things we believe to be false. We do not jump to the conclusion that they are lying. It is possible that our information is wrong, or that they believe their false words to be true, or even that they have simply forgotten things they’ve said and done in the past. It is only when bearing these possibilities in mind that we address the falsehood, and only then if we judge that it will be of benefit to do so.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

2020.0516 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Well-spoken words (III)

We have looked at the two preliminary considerations of intention and timeliness. We have looked at the two considerations of content: truthfulness and benefit. The fifth consideration is of manner.

We try to speak in a polite and tactful manner, sensitive to the views, beliefs, desires and fears of the other person. Even if we are provoked, we abstain from crude or malicious words aimed to wound or pay back. We strive to speak clearly, to the point, and avoid the use of alienating jargon. We listen patiently, and are calm but firm if we are interrupted. We are mindful of our body language and tone of voice. We show respect for the other person’s words and a genuine interest to understand. We do not adopt the stance of ‘I’m right and you’re wrong; ‘I’m good and you’re bad’; ‘I’m smart and you’re foolish’. We are aware that the most fruitful conversations have no winners or losers. Our goal is to speak in the manner of the best of friends.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

2020.0512 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Well-spoken words (II)

Circumstance

We asked ourselves if this is the right time and place to have this conversation. We consider, for example, how much time is available, whether it is better to speak in private or in the presence of others, whether our mental state is conducive to speaking well. Is the other person in the right frame of mind to listen to our words? Timing is crucial in so many important matters. Speaking about a sensitive topic out of impatience, before we have all our facts straight, can undermine the other person’s confidence in our trust- worthiness and good-will; and may go on to jeopardise future communication. Repeatedly putting off a painful conversation because of fear of what may result may lead to a bad situation becoming worse, or even reaching a state beyond remedy.

Truthfulness

We train ourselves to speak from the heart. We tell the truth as we see it, always open to the possibility that we have got something wrong. We don’t exaggerate in order to look good, or for the sake of laughter. We don’t omit anything that the other person has a right to know, even if it may be embarrassing. We may prefer to keep certain matters private but we do not deliberately mislead others in order to protect that privacy. We aspire to be trustworthy and reliable.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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2020.0512b Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Well-spoken words II(a)

Effect

We monitor the effects of our speech to ensure that it fulfils our intention.  If our intention, for example, is to inform, are we explaining ourself clearly?  If we intend to encourage, are our words actually having that effect?  The most important consideration is whether or not our words are of benefit to the listener.  Here, benefit is defined as that which either helps or weaken or decrease unwholesome mental states in the listener or increases wholesome mental states.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

2020.0509 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Well-spoken words  (I)

To speak well and communicate effectively first requires us to check on our intention in speaking, and on the prevailing circumstances. During the conversation itself we should keep track of the truthfulness and effect of our words and of the manner in which we speak them.

Intention

It is better to abstain from speech if we become aware of an intention to deceive, manipulate, belittle, or to vent aggression and pain. Driving a wedge between the defilements that arise in the mind and the verbal expression of them is significant spirtitual achievement. Good speech results from the wish to share, to inform, to offer support, to comfort, to encourage, to gently remind and – if appropriate – to admonish. Mettā, the heart-felt wish for the well-being of both self and other, is the best foundation for right speech. Our speech will be well-balanced when we also determine to listen with care and respect to all those we speak to, and seek to understand them.

(to be continued)

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

2020.0505 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

It was the full moon of May. The Buddha-to-be was reflecting on the ascetic practices he had undertaken over the past six years. He realised that although it was possible that there might be ascetics who had equalled the amount of physical pain he had endured over those years, nobody had ever or would ever exceed it. And yet after all his efforts, after all of that pain, he had still made no real headway in his search for enlightenment. At that moment he recalled a day from his childhood when while meditating in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree his mind had entered the first jhāna. He remembered the rapture and pleasure of that meditative state and suddenly realised his mistake; he had been assuming that all kinds of pleasure were a trap to be avoided by the spiritual seeker. In fact, experiencing the pleasure that arises unconnected to sensuality and unwholesome things, while not grasping on to it, is what empowers the mind to go beyond the world. It was time for him to take some nourishment for his body, and follow a new path. That night he discovered the four essential truths of human existence: suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. He became the Buddha.

– Ajahn Jayasāro 

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Saturday, May 2, 2020

2020.0502 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

No matter how pleasant and comfortable our surroundings may be, there will always be occasions when a form, sound, odour, taste or physical sensation encourages aversion in the mind. No matter how unpleasant and uncomfortable our surroundings may be, there will always be occasions when a form, sound, odour, taste or physical sensation encourages greed in the mind. No matter what our surroundings may be, pleasant or unpleasant, there will always be occasions when a form, sound, odour, taste or physical sensation encourage us to forget our sense of right and wrong, wholesome and unwholesome, appropriate and inappropriate.”

Practising the Dhamma in daily life requires us to be ready to deal with all challenges. We firmly resolve that today:

‘I will not allow greed to overwhelm my mind when in contact with an object encouraging greed.’

‘I will not allow aversion to overwhelm my mind when in contact with an object encouraging aversion.’

‘I will not allow delusion to overwhelm my mind when in contact with an object encouraging delusion.’

This determination is a supporting condition for mindfulness. We live in a world in which there will always be experiences that invite us to respond with defilement. We cannot change that. But what we can do is to cultivate the ability to calmly and politely refuse the invitation. 

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020.0428 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

To follow a middle way is often understood to refer to adopting a moderate approach half-way between two opposing positions. But there is an obvious problem with such an interpretation. A middle way between a bad option and a disastrous one will not end well. Or perhaps (a somewhat unlikely example) someone might claim to be following the middle way between living as a pacifist and being a serial killer by only killing people when they are really angry with them.

In the Buddhist sense of the term, following the Middle Way requires us first to establish our goal: liberation from all suffering. The extremes to be avoided are determined by that goal. They are the actions, speech and mental states that are obstructive to its realisation. In one of his Dhamma talks, Ajahn Chah summarised these as indulgence in feelings of like and of dislike. The Eighfold Path is the true Middle Way because it avoids those traps and provides the optimal training for one who aspires to liberation.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

2020.0425 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

In discussing rebirth we may either ‘zoom out’ and consider it in terms of a succession of lifetimes or ‘zoom in’ and look at it in terms of the moment-by-moment succession of mental states in the present lifetime. Both are legitimate perspectives. But many Buddhists find the goal of putting an end to rebirth as uninspiring or off-putting because they focus too much on the first of these options. As most of us have no memory of past lives, it is far more useful to concentrate on the second option. To do this we examine present experience. We reflect on the Buddha’s teaching that every time we identify with a mental state as ‘me’ or ‘mine’ we are, in a sense, taking birth. The taking of birth is followed by death and a new birth. Again and again and again. We can see this for ourselves by observing the arising and passing away of the various forms of greed, anger and delusion that occur in daily life. We ask ourselves, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we never again had to be born into the realm of greed, or the realm of anger on the realm of delusion? If we have seen clearly, our answer will be yes. In this way, our feelings about an end to rebirth begin to mature.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2020.0421 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

A Buddhist legend recounts the story of a young casteless woman, Pakati, who was drawing water from a well one day when Venerable Ananda walked by. To her shock, he requested some water to drink. She told him that this was a well of the casteless community, and if he were to drink the water he would be defiled by it. Ven. Ananda replied that he had not inquired about caste, only water.

Pakati watched wide-eyed as Ven. Ananda drank the water she offered him before taking his leave. She followed after him all the way to the monastery in which the Buddha resided. She picked up her courage and followed him inside. She went to pay respect to the Buddha and begged him to allow her to stay there, close to Ven. Ananda, so that she could serve him. Pakati said that she loved Ven. Ananda. The Buddha told her gently that she was mistaken. She did not love Ven. Ananda. She loved the kindness that she found so unexpectedly in his manner and words. She could be close to that kindness at all times by cultivating it within herself and by extending it to others. By doing so, she could become a truly noble being, irrespective of her birth.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

2020.0418 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

One day I was attending on Ajahn Chah as he sat underneath his kuti receiving guests. At one point, a group of people from Bangkok arrived. During the course of his conversation with them. Ajahn Chah pointed to me, ‘This one’s only been here for a short time and he already speaks Thai and Isan dialect very well.’ He turned towards me, ‘Don’t you?’. ‘Yes, sir’ I replied. He beamed at his guests, ‘Your see!’ I don’t think that ever in my life had I felt as proud of myself as I did at that moment.

After all the laypeople had left, Ajahn Chah took his false teeth – now stained red with betel-nut juice – and told me to scrab them clean with sand. As I worked, he spoke to me in rapid Isan. Even with his teeth in, I would have struggled to understand more than the gist of what he said. Without his teeth, I couldn’t understand a word. Scowling, he grumbled about my language skills to the other monks. I don’t think that ever in my life had I felt so deflated as I did at that moment.

This is how Ajahn Chah taught me about praise and blame.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

2020.0414 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

At the time of the Buddha, spiritual teachers were expected to adopt a clear position regarding the key philosophical doctrines of the day. These doctrines (e.g. the enlightened one exists after death, does not exist, both exists and does not exists, or neither exists nor does not exist) were gathered in a sort of checklist which religious seekers would use as a basis for their questioning of famous masters. The Buddha confused and angered many people by always refusing to answer these questions. He said that they were irrelevant. The subject of his teaching was suffering and the end of suffering. Nothing more.

These days we are surrounded by so many questions and unresolved issues. Although we don’t have enough information to come to any conclusions about the future of our lives and careers and our society after the virus has been overcome, it is hard to refrain from speculation. Little is gained other than an increase in anxiety. Far better at times like this to follow the Buddha’s advice. Turn attention to what can be known and dealt with in the present moment. ‘Here, now, what is my suffering? How does it feel? What is the craving right here and now which is fuelling this suffering? How can I apply the Buddha’s teachings to let go of this craving and be free from the suffering?

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, April 11, 2020

2020.0411 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Every full moon and dark moon day – in other words every fifteen days – lay Buddhist are encouraged to undertake the eight precepts. In the modern idiom this might be called a detox. For one day and one night the person who follows this practice abstains from eating after midday, from every kind of sexual activity, from all kinds of physical adornment, from all kind of entertainment. It means no social media, no internet, no video games, no music. Temporary separation from these things provide an opportunity to observe to what extent they have produced toxins in our mind. If we see that they have, we can contemplate how to develop a more healthy relationship with them. At the same time, abstaining from these activities frees up time to devote to our spiritual welfare: to reading Dhamma books or listening to Dhamma talks, to chanting and to meditation. At least for two days a month, lay Buddhists are encouraged to put spiritual matters at the top of the list of their priorities.

This year, through no wish of their own, people all over the world are experiencing separation from things that give their lives pleasure and purpose. It is very difficult. But at the same time, it can fulfil some of the functions of a spiritual detox. There is time to examine one’s life and goals. It may lead to questioning, perhaps for the first time, as to what is truly important in one’s life. And that is the first step towards wisdom.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

2020.0407 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

Many years ago, I was sitting with Ajahn Buddhāsa in front of his kuti when a lay Buddhist approached him. The man was clearly in a state of some confusion. He exclaimed, ‘Luang Por, my mind is so agitated!’  Ajahn Buddhāsa looked at him with a calm, even gaze and replied, ‘Well then, stop agitating it.’ 

The defilements are not enemies that have invaded our minds. We are complicit in their presence. Although it may not seem like it, defilements cannot arise in the mind without our consent; and if they stay a long time, it is because one part of us wants them to.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

2020.0404 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

During a visit to my family home sometime in the mid-1990’s, I came across a dear friend under the stairs. This was not so strange as you may think. The friend was a book – as many of my best friends growing up tended to be – an old, tattered edition of Peter Kropotkin’s ‘Mutual Aid’.

I had purchased the book in a second-hand bookstore in Cambridge some twenty years before. It came into my life at a time when I was looking hard for intelligent refutations of the idea that life is a grim struggle in which every person should look after number one. I wanted support in my conviction that alturism is not only possible, but an essential feature of human survival and flourishing.

Kropotkin’s book was a revelation. Here, he summaries his findings: “Mutual aid is as much a law of animal life as mutual struggle; but that as a factor of evolution it most probably has a far greater importance, inasmuch as it favours the development of such habits and characters as ensure the maintenance and further development of the species, together with the greatest amount of welfare and enjoyment of life for the individual, with the least waste of energy.”

Over a hundred years have passed since the publication of this book. But with the current situation in the world it has come back to my mind again. In this crisis, there are signs that many are waking up to the necessity and nobility of mutual aid. In the coming months and years, as the economic impact of the virus becomes apparent, especially on the poor and vulnerable, let us nurture this commitment to compassionate action for the welfare of all.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2020.00331 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro

The Buddha taught that one of the characteristics of a well-trained mind is its sensitivity to time and place. The law of kamma reveals that there are timeless principles governing our actions and their consequences. But how we apply our awareness of these principles in daily life cannot be learnt from a book. We learn through experience.

During this period when families are spending more time together than they are used to, opportunities for conflict have increased. Cultivating mindfulness of time and place is an especially important Dhamma practice at this moment. As place – the home – is more or less decided for us, the emphasis falls on time. We are mindful that:

There is a time to give and a time to receive.
A time to talk and a time to be silent
A time to speak and a time to listen.
A time to lead and a time to follow.
A time to be serious and a time to be humorous.
A time to work and a time to relax
A time to be together and a time to be alone.
A time to persist and a time to let go.
A time for news of the world and a time for the latest news of our own body and mind.
A time for patience and kindness. Always.

– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

2020.00328 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
We human beings have agreed that there is something called ‘time’ which can be measured by clocks and calendars. But what exactly is time in the real world of our direct experience? Can we know time in the way that we can know a visible form, a sound or an odour? I would say no. What we can observe is a perception of ‘time passing’ such as when we glance at a clock or look at the position of the sun or moon. But time itself is more elusive. And the question arises: is it really a thing at all? This is not merely philosophical musing. With so many people around the world confined to their homes, it is important to recognize how our understanding of time conditions our feelings. If we think of time as an entity composed of days, weeks and months that we have to somehow fill up with something or other, suffering will surely follow. But we can look at time in a different way: as a succession of present moments. We don’t have to try to be in the present moment, we already are and always have been in it. The challenge is simply to awaken to what is already the case. Having been forced to slow down and simplify one’s life, now is the opportunity to find a way back to the present moment. Free of obsessive thoughts, memories and imagination, what is this?
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

2020.00324 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
When I first heard Ajahn Chah’s teachings on uncertainty and unpredictability, and of the need for constant vigilance, it struck a deep chord in me. It had been one of the main lessons I had been learning over the previous couple of years. Let me give you an illustration.
 
It was 1976. I was a smooth-faced eighteen-year-old, hitchhiking from Mashad in northeastern Iran to Teheran. In the later afternoon I got lucky: a huge container lorry stopped for me. Suddenly I found myself settling back onto a luxurious seat in an air-conditioned cab. It felt so good, an upgrade on the battered pick-up trucks and motor scooters I’d become used to. But late that night, as we crossed a mountain range, the driver pulled into a layby. He insisted that we spend the night together in the bed behind the seats. When I refused, he tried to assault me. After a struggle, I got the door open and jumped down to the ground. Cursing, he came after me, but I was hidden too deep in the trees. He drove off angrily, leaving me in the darkness and the cold.
 
I started to walk along the road to keep warm. After a kilometre or so I came to a restaurant. I walked around the back looking for an open window, but there were none. Then I noticed a large Persian carpet propped up against an exterior wall. I had an idea. I unrolled it in the courtyard, and laid down upon it. Grabbing on one end of the carpet, I rolled and rolled. I’d made myself a warm, cosy nest and I soon fell asleep.
 
Early next morning, I was out on the road again. There were still few cars on the road and I was not optimistic. But the second car stopped. It was a family group. A moment later I was sharing the breakfast of three sweet kids. Ahhh! I sighed inwardly, ‘a happy ending to a grim night.’  And then, no more than ten kilometres down the mountain, the car broke down. It was serious and it would be hours before help arrived. I said my reluctant goodbyes and started walking down the road.
 
‘Well’, I thought, ‘you really can’t take anything for granted.’
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

2020.00321 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
A few mindfulness exercises for the pandemic
 
(1) Be mindful of anxiety as a phenomena affecting body and mind. Don’t fight it or indulge it. See the anxious thoughts as simply thoughts, like clouds passing through the sky of the mind. See the physical sensations as merely sensation, part of nature. Breathe deeply. Imagine the anxiety leaving the body with the outbreath. Imagine calm and clarity entering the body and mind with the inbreath.
 
(2) Develop mindfulness of the urge to touch the face, and endure through it. (Remembering how it feels when the impulse passes away is a help in resisting it the next time). Be mindful while washing your hands for twenty seconds. For example try reciting inwardly: 1-Buddho, 2-Buddho, 3-Buddho up to 10-Buddho, then 10-Buddho, 9-Buddho… down to zero. Be mindful of the distance between you and others.
 
(3) Develop mindfulness as an inner refuge by daily periods of chanting and meditation. Chanting Pali verses with full attention is calming. Chanting in translation brings to mind important reflections that are uplifting and wise. Meditation helps to create a quiet oasis of inner calm amid all the confusion of daily life.
 
(4) Be mindful of children’s fears. Explain the virus to them as best as you can, encourage them to ask questions. Let them know that their safety is your first concern. Beware of your speech concerning the virus in their presence.
 
(5) Be mindful of your use of social media. Restrict your consumption of news. Catching up once or twice a day is sufficient. Avoid unreliable social media that stir up fears or are full of miracle cures. (This will all be much easier if you observe how your mental state is affected by what you look at on your screen). If you have children, ensure that they are similarly restrained.
 
(6) Be mindful of the suffering of others. Don’t be reckless. Don’t be selfish in your use of precious resources. Get together with like-minded friends and offer assistance to any elderly people at risk or children going hungry.
 
(7) Be mindful of this opportunity to spend some quality time with your family.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2020.00317 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
People suffering great anguish would often go to request teachings from Ajahn Chah. When they would ask, for example, why such bad things could happen to such a good person or why an innocent child should have to die, he would rarely talk about kamma from past lives. He would often say very simply, ‘because they were born.’ As soon as we’re born we become vulnerable to all kinds of pain, simply through the possession of a human body.
 
In the case that a virus sweeps around the world, questions may arise. Why did this person survive and that person not? The simple and undeniable answer is that as humans we have bodies that are susceptible to a huge number of illnesses. We are all inescapably subject to sickness, ageing and death. The ripening of kamma created in a previous life may sometimes play a part in a particular misfortune, but not necessarily. There are multiple causes and conditions for any event. It is recognising what we all share in common as human beings that we open up to the sufferings of others and our selfishness falls away.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, March 14, 2020

2020.00314 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
The more closely we contemplate our bodies and minds and the world we live in, the more profoundly we become aware of fragility and instability. When a crisis like this pandemic lays bare the unreliable and uncertain nature of the world, we are unsurprised. We know that what is happening right now is not a deviation from the norm. It is merely that the covers have been dragged away from truths that most people spend their lives trying to ignore. With a daily grounding in the way things are, we can remain free from panic, anxiety and depression. We can turn our minds to compassion.
 
Faced with suffering of this depth and range, we form the heart-felt wish that all people, young and old, in all countries of the world, be free from infection. If they have contracted the virus may they recover. If they have contracted the virus, may they recover. If they do not recover may they be able to endure their pain with patience and acceptance; may they have a refuge in their heart to turn to; and in their final days may they be surrounded with love and kindness.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

2020.00310 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
Today I would like to recount an old Buddhist legend. It is a simple tale that reminds the reader how worldy desires can blind us to out true welfare. The story concerns the beautiful courtesan Vasavadatta who fell deeply in love with a young monk called Upagutta, the future teacher of Emperor Ashoka. Vasavadatta tried every means at her disposal to entice the monk. But however she invited or pleaded with him, Ven. Upagutta would always tell her that the time was not yet ripe. Later, while engaged in an affair with a local man, Vasavadatta found out that an extremely rich merchant desired her. Driven by greed for the riches she might gain, she killed the lover who stood in her way. But her crime was discovered. The judge ordered that her ears and nose, her hands and feet be cut off, and that she should be abandoned in the charnel ground to die.
 
Vasavatta, writhing in pain on the ground, saw Ven Upagutta walking towards her. Frantically, she begged the loyal servant still with her, to hide the amputated body parts. When the monk arrived she complained that when she was beautiful and dressed in her finery, he would not come to her. Now she was mutilated and covered in filth and blood he came. How could this be the right time at last? Ven Upagutta replied that he did not come to enjoy her body but to release her mind. Formerly, she had been so absorbed in the sensual world of beauty and pleasure that she’d been incapable of receiving the Dhamma. Now, if she paid attention, she could understand. And so it was. Before passing away, Vasavadatta’s heart at peace and filled with faith, took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, March 7, 2020

2020.00307 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
A certain person, ‘the Baltimore Stockbroker’, sends out 10,240 emails. Half of these emails predict that a certain share price will increase in value, the other half that it will decrease. Some time later he sends a second email to the 5,120 people who received the correct prediction in the first email. Half of them are told that a certain share price will increase, the other half that it will decrease. Some time later he sends a third email to the 2,560 people who received the correct prediction in the second email… you get the picture. After ten emails have been sent, there remain ten people who have received ten consecutive accurate predictions. To them it seems that this cannot be a lucky fluke. The Baltimore Stockbroker is a genius! They are ready to be exploited.
 
This is the deceptive magic of big numbers. To many people the world around us seems to have been designed specifically for human beings. But taking into account the untold billions and billions of planets in the universe that is an unnecessary hypothesis.
 
Whether we explore the worlds of science and maths, or the internal world of the mind, it is awareness of context that keeps us undeceived.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

2020.00303 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
Imagine yourself trapped in an enclosed space with a deeply frightened creature. The creature howls, whines and whimpers.  It throws itself against the walls.  It urinates and excretes on the floor.  The whole experience is a nightmare.  
 
Now imagine yourself in a park, grass and trees as far as the eye can see.  The creature appears, racing in circles, howling loudly.  But after a while it slows down.  It starts to relax.  Eventually, it lies down to rest in the cool shade.
 
In the untrained mind, the experience of fear can feel like confinement with a panicking animal.  Practising the Dhamma, it’s not necessarily that the fear no longer arises.  It’s more that we enlarge the space around it.  The fear runs its course and comes to rest.  We can accomplish this by grounding attention in the body.  We make sure that our breathing is normal.  Then we establish a relaxed awareness of the pattern of sensations coursing through the body from head to feet.  We make the body into a spacious park.  We don’t have to struggle with the fear.  We allow it to cease.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

2020.0229 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
Before I became a monk I enjoyed reading the works of the great Sufi sages.  They often wrote poems addressed to the Divine in the form of love poetry.  Years later, travelling England, I overheard a romantic song playing on a car radio and was inspired to write my own version of it, a love song addressed to the Dhamma.  The original was called “Everything I do (I do it for you)’ by Bryan Adams.  Here is my version:
 
To see and be free
 
Looked into my life,
Made me feel sad and so unreal.
Searched my heart, searched my mind
But my eyes were shut, I was searching blind.
I needed goals worth striving for.
It was trash all I had been crying for.
Then it came to me:
Got to learn to see, to see and be free.
Looked into my heart,
There I found a beauty so profound.
So I made my choice, I’d give my life, 
I would give it all, I would sacrifice.
Don’t tell me it’s not worth trying for.
I can’t help it; there’s nothing I want more
Cos’ it came to me
Got to learn to see, to see and be free.
Just reach peace, all pains cease.
Only wisdom gives this real peace.
There’s nowhere – unless truth’s there.
All the time – all the way.
Don’t tell me it’s not worth striving for.
I can’t help it; there’s nothing I want more.
Dhamma fills my mind; it thrills my mind.
Dhamma stills my mind, yeah, it heals my mind
Oh it came to me
Got to learn to see,
To see and be free.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020.0225 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
The Buddha encouraged the monks to look after each other in times of sickness. He once said ‘Let him who would minister to me, minister to the sick amongst you.’  He later listed the qualities of good nurses and good patients.
 
The good nurse:
1) is able to prepare medicine
2) knows what is beneficial and what is harmful, providing the beneficial and withholding the harmful.
3) he nurses the patient with a mind of loving-kindness, without the wish for any kind of reward.
4) he is free of disgust for feces, urine, vomit and phlegm.
5) he is able, at appropriate times, to inform, encourage, inspire and cheer the patient with talk on the Dhamma.
 
The good patient:
1) does what is beneficial
2) observes moderation in what is beneficial
3) he takes his medicine
4) he accurately discloses his symptoms to his nurse; he reports whether he is getting better, worse or remaining the same
5) he patiently endures painful feelings
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

2020.0222 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
The word ‘mettā ‘ is usually translated into English as ‘loving kindness’.  It is often understood to refer to unconditional love.  Boundless love for all beings is an inspiring idea but not one easily put into practice in daily life.  Fortunately, practising mettā doesn’t mean you have to love everyone.  That’s too high a standard.  Trying to be a friend to all beings is probably a better place to start.
 
True friends allow no room in their heart for enmity.  They know it is a poison.  True friends do no harm, either through their actions or their speech.  True friends are concerned for their friends’ welfare.  They not only wish that their friends be free from suffering, but that they also be free from the defilements that lead them to created suffering for those around them. They wish their friends to experience the happiness that is born of goodness and wisdom.
 
With difficult or cruel or selfish people, this inward recitation may be helpful:
 
‘Not a single person is excluded from my heart.’
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2020.0218 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
In Theravāda Buddhism, enlightened monastics are distinguished by their devotion to sīla. The first reason for this is straightforward.  Almost all of the transgressions of precepts can only occur when there is defilement in the mind.  No defilements, no defiled intention, no transgression.
 
But there are also cases where defilement may not necessarily be present in the mind for transgression of a precept to occur e.g. eating after midday.  Here, two other factors come into play:
 
(i) A wish to be a good example to one’s students and to future generations.  Hearing that great arahants keep all their precepts leads monks to think, ‘Well if they keep all the rules even though their minds are unshakeably pure, how much more should I, whose mind is still full of defilement.’
 
(ii) Love and respect for the Buddha.  Disregarding a precept, even though the Buddha made no exceptions for his enlightened disciples, would be disrespectful.  The noble disciple does not put his own judgement above the Buddha’s.
 
For lay Buddhists these three factors are also worthy of consideration:  keeping precepts to prevent the expression and thus strengthening of the defilements necessary for transgression; being a good example to those around you; honouring the Buddha who made the precepts a key part of the training.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

2020.0215 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
The Buddha’s approach to problem solving consists of strategies covering the three main areas of life: conduct emotions and thinking.
 
In the present day, in the case of our destructive relationship with the natural environment, this might take the following form:
 
(i) Encouraging firm commitments to certain behaviours e.g. to live a more simple life, to reduce the consumption of goods and services that unnecessarily harm the environment, to support initiatives that put the long-term welfare of sentient beings and the planet above short-term monetary gains.
 
(ii) Encouraging the cultivation of a sense of appreciation for the beauty of this fragile world.  Encouraging the cultivation of love and compassion for the planet and all sentient beings, including those who are wantonly destroying the natural environment.  Encouraging the wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
 
(iii)  Encouraging the contemplation of all the suffering that arises from mistreating the environment, and of the benefits that come from caring for it with respect and gratitude. Investigating the web of relationships that link sentient being to each other and to the material world.  Seeing clearly how we are part of nature not its owner or adversary.
 
These three areas of life must be addressed in a holistic way.  Only when people have developed the necessary emotional and intellectual foundations will they commit to the benefical but difficult changes that need to be made.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

2020.0211 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
Meditation plays a vital role in providing us with a space in which we can digest and evaluate our experiences in daily life. This is important because our conduct is often conditioned by  fears, anxieties, desires and attachments in ways in which we are scarcely, if at all, aware.  We make so many avoidable mistakes.
 
It is not that we use our meditation sessions to review the issues that we are currently dealing with in our lives.  It is more that as we become more mindful, more calm, more stable, more bright and clear and energised, certain insights pop up into our minds.  For example, the realisation that some problem that has been keeping us awake at night is really a very minor matter, can suddenly appear in the mind.  Or the recognition that some matter we’d been dismissing as insignificant, is in fact very serious, and needs to be dealt with immediately.  Thoughts, perceptions, view that have seemed so real and meaningul can now come to be seen as unrooted and insubstantial.   The meaning of wise words of our teachers can suddenly come alive.
 
Wisdom – beginning with these kinds of insight and culminating in the penetration of the three characteristics – is our goal.  As meditators our challenge is to create the conditions for wisdom to arise.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

2020.0208 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
In the present day, a gathering of even five or six arahants would be a marvellous event. But on the full day of February, in the year following the Buddha’s enlightenment, a completely unplanned meeting of 1,250 arahants took place at the Bamboo Grove Monastery in Rājagaha. The teaching that they received on that day has come down to us in abbreviated form as the ‘Ovāda Pātimokkha’.  In it the Buddha gave a list of key principles for Buddhist practitioners.  It provided the assembly of arahants with a checklist that they could memorise and refer to as they wandered through the North Indian countryside propagating the Dhamma and instructing their students.
 
Today, Māgha Pūjā, we celebrate this unique occasion that took place so long ago.  It is a good time to re-read the short text.  At first glance, the teachings within it are very simple.  Key points include the declaration of Nibbāna as ultimate goal, the supreme importance of forbearance (khanti) and the summarisation of practise as abandoning all evil, cultivating all that is good and purifying the mind.  The text may be read in a minute or two.  But it would be wise to give it an hour or two.  And to return to it again and again.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

2020.0204 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
The strength of our anxiety bears no fixed relationship to the severity of the threats that we face in life.  We can be as anxious about things that have almost no likelihood of occurring as about things that pose a real danger to our well-being.  Anxiety is not caused by our sense of threat, it is what we add on to it.  Allowing the mind to dwell again and again on a worst case scenario makes it come to seem far more likely to occur than the situation warrants.  Taking care of our physical health needs to be accompanied by a sincere effort to take care of our mental health.  We need to catch oursleves when we get caught up in anxious thoughts and gently but firmly put them down.  Again and again.  We can motivate ourselves by remembering that anxiety and its associated states of stress and panic weaken our immune system and make us more vulnerable to the very illness that we fear.
 
Times of threat and uncertainty bring out both the best and worst in human beings.  Let us be in the group that arises up to the challenges with self-discipline and mindfulness, calm and good humour, with consideration for those around us and compassion for all.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, February 1, 2020

2020.0201 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
Practising Dhamma means putting the Buddha’s teachings to the test of experience.  Simply believing that they are true is not the point.  Belief without experience can never escape the shadow of doubt, except by repression.  As we put the teachings into practice we start to change.  But we may not recognise the changes taking place because they do not always correspond to what we think they should be.  Practitioners are sometimes so focused on looking for ‘wow!’ moments that they overlook the modest, incremental improvements taking place in their conduct and inner life.  These improvement include a growing sense of gratitude for all one has been given in one’s life, an increased joy in giving and sharing, a stronger commitment to precepts, a natural, unforced turning away from trivial pursuits.  Recognising such changes, while avoiding the traps of pride and complacency, can be a major factor in inspiring consistency in our practice.   And if there is any special recipe for success in Dhamma practice, it is consistency.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2020.0128 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
In his teachings on the cultivation of Right Mindfulness the Buddha listed four objects or foundations (satipaṭṭhāna) for the practice.
 
(i) the body
(ii) feeling tone (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral)
(iii) the mind
(iv) mental states perceived in their terms of their obscuring (akusala) or enlightening (kusala) effects on the mind.
 
During meditation, being aware of the breath is to practise the first foundation of mindfulness.
 
Being aware of the feeling tone present during every inhalation and exhalation is to practise the second foundation of mindfulness.
 
Being aware of the quality of the mind that pays attention to the breath is the practise of the third foundation of mindfulness.
 
Being aware of the presence or absence of the hindrances (nivāraṇa) and enlightenment factors (bojjhaṅgā) and understanding the causal processes involved, is to practise the fourth foundation of mindfulness.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, January 25, 2020

2020.0125 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
How do we look at people who think nothing of the suffering they inflict on others in their pursuit of sense pleasures, power and status?
 
How do we look at people whose hatred leads them to physically and verbally abuse others, or even to maim and kill innocent people?
 
How do we look at people who through foolishness, thoughtlessness and confusion destroy the very things they should most to preserve?
 
Looking at such people in ways that lead to aversion, depression or despair is to lose the path.
 
It is wiser to see them as victims of viruses.  They have contracted the greed virus, the hatred virus, the delusion virus.  When we see the symptoms of these viruses manifesting in others, we should remind ourselves that we have them too, if only in milder forms.  We should recognise how dangerous these viruses are and how fortunate we are that the Buddha has with his great compassion, given us the antidote.  We should re-double our efforts to apply this antidote to cure ourselves and, when possible, to share it with others.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020.0121 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
The cultivation of sense restraint is one of the primary tasks of the newly ordained monk.  Monks are taught that certain sense objects easily inflame the mind.  When there is no need to pay attention to such objects one should train oneself to avoid dwelling on either their overall impression or any of their attractive features.  The logic is clear: preventing the arising of a problem is more efficient than dealing with one after it has arisen. This is not a practice to eliminate defilements but to reduce the food on which they feed.
 
In adapting this teaching for young people, I tend to replace the phrase ‘sense restraint’ with ‘taking care of the senses’.  Although lay Buddhists do not generally aspire to the intensity of the monastic training, almost everyone in the modern world faces the challenge of sensory overload. Bringing attention to the sense data that we allow into our minds, and refraining from stimulation that unnecessarily distract and upset us, is an important life skill.  We take care of our senses, and thus our mental health, by monitoring how much and what kind of sense data we expose ourselves to.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

2020.0118 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
16th January is Teachers Day in Thailand.  It is also the day that Ajahn Chah passed away.  Every year, to commemorate his passing, over a thousand monks and nuns and several thousand lay Buddhists gather at his monastery for six days of Dhamma practice.  On the afternoon of the 16th, the whole assembly pays their respects to Ajahn Chah’s relics by forming into a long column and circumambulating the stupa in which the relics are enshrined.
 
When I give Dhamma talks on these days I find myself returning to a familiar point.  Ajahn Chah left us once, in January 1992.  But since then we, his disciples, have left him many, many times. Whenever we choose to ignore or act in opposition to his wise and compassionate teachings it is as if we turn our backs on him and walk away.  My appeal is that we should all try to honour is memory by keeping his teachings in our hearts and, come what may, putting them into practice as best we can. This, I believe is the ultimate expression of gratitude and deep respect.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020.0114 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
Ajahn Chah rarely spoke about himself.  When he did, the stories he related were almost all concerned with the defilements he used to have, and the struggles he’d endured during his practice.  This seemed to me a wise and compassionate way of talking to his disciples.  It is natural for us to feel in awe of such a teacher and to feel that the gap between him and us is unimaginably wide.  By telling us of his failings, Ajahn Chah reminded us that when he began his practice he was no different from us.  His realisation came through intelligent and consistent effort, through patience and resilience.  The lesson he wanted to teach us was:  if I can do it, so can you.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

2020.0111 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
“Monks, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb by limb with a two-handed saw, if you were to give rise to a mind of hate towards them, you would not be carrying out my teachings.”  This is surely of the most startling and intimidating of the sayings of the Buddha.
 
So how should we hold it in our hearts?  Some people might think that the Buddha has set us an impossibly high standard to live up to.  They may well feel despair: ‘I will never be a true disciple of the Buddha.  It’s just too hard.’
 
Myself, I believe that with these words the Buddha was giving us a new perspective on our feelings, a skilful reflection to make use of at times when anger and ill-will threaten to engulf our minds.  We can think, “The Buddha said that if I were practising his teachings well, I could let go of hate even if bandits were to be sawing my limbs off.  Compared with that, this provocation is nothing.  I may not be able to guarantee my feelings if someone were to lop my arms off, but in this small matter, at least, I can show my determination to follow the Buddha’s path to liberation.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

2020.0107 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
These days the news on our screens can be overwhelming.  So much anger, so much violence, so much ignorance and greed!  It is easy for us to fall into the trap of anxiety, depression or denial.  The Buddha taught us to deal with the craziness around us by determining:  this world is infected by greed and selfishness; I, at least, will try to live my life with restraint and a generous heart.  This world is infected by hate and anger; I, at least, will try to live my life with kindness and compassion.  This world is infected by ignorance and superstition; I, at least, will try to life my life with wise consideration.  We may not be able to do much alleviate the suffering that appears on our screens.  But we can be a force for good, moment by moment, day by day, in our families, our workplace and our community.
 
– Ajahn Jayasāro

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

2020.0104 Yellow Pages Teaching Ajahn Jayasaro
These days the news on our screens can be overwhelming.  So much anger, so much violence, so much ignorance and greed!  It is easy for us to fall into the trap of anxiety, depression or denial.  The Buddha taught us to deal with the craziness around us by determining:  this world is infected by greed and selfishness; I, at least, will try to live my life with restraint and a generous heart.  This world is infected by hate and