The seventeenth of June marked the 103rd anniversary of the birth of Ajahn Chah. That night, sitting in the moonlight surrounded by a group of monks, I asked each of them to share one teaching of Ajahn Chah that had particular meaning for them. Some monks mentioned his emphasis on ‘mynae’, the essentially unpredictable, unfixed, contingent nature of life. Others spoke of his advice on letting go, and the importance of practising Dhamma with patience and consistency. I especially appreciated a short quote that I had not though about for some years. In it, Ajahn Chah asserted that purity is to be found within impurity, nowhere else.
Many years ago in my monastery in Ubon province, a young European monk with a gift for languages was making good progress in his study of Thai. One day, after giving my weekly Dhamma discourse to the local villagers, I asked him how much of the talk he had understood. He said almost all of it. I expressed my appreciation and asked him to summarise the main points. His confident summary bore almost no connection to the key themes of the talk. I realised that he had unintentionally stitched together a narrative from the words he knew and bypassed those he did not.
People often feel that they must make a choice between telling the truth and thereby hurting someone’s feelings or else telling a ‘white’ lie to spare their feelings. But it is a false dilemma. There are other choices available if we are willing to look. We can care for the truth in many different ways.
It has been observed that over the past two hundred years, as the number of pirates in the world has steadily declined, average global temperatures have steadily increased. Could the answer to the growing climate crisis be as simple as sponsoring more pirates? Probably not.
The nature of water is such that it can be dyed or dirtied, be heated or cooled, and it can flow swiftly or stagnate. But whatever is added to water or whatever transformations it is subjected to, water always remains simply water.
The non-harming of self and others has always been one of the defining features of Buddhism. There is not a single sentence of the Buddha’s teachings that can be interpreted in such a way as to support violence of any kind. The Buddha even denounced mental violence. On one occasion he cautioned the monks around him that anyone who indulged in angry thoughts towards those who slandered the Buddha would be no true disciple of his.
Most visitors to the Wat Pa Pong museum would climb straight to the third floor. It is there that the prize exhibit of the museum is to be found: an uncanny realistic life-size model of Ajahn Chah. Many statues of Ajahn Chah are to be found in monasteries in Thailand, and many paintings. None of them provide a fraction of the impact of this model…
…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….
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…