Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ajahn Chah

I haven't red this book (actually all his books in a single pdf file), but I like another book of one of his students (Ajahn Brahm) very much. Ajahn Chah is the most famous monk in Thailand and has influenced many Western teachers as well. If you don't like reading ebooks, you can order the books from amazon as well. But at least here you can get a taste first-hand.

The Teachings of Ajahn Chah: A Collection of Ajahn Chah's Translated Dhamma Talks
by Ajaan Chah, translated from the Thai by the Sangha, Wat Nong Pah Pong (2007; 3.6Mb/725pp.)
A comprehensive anthology of Ajaan Chah's Dhamma talks, translated into English. The talks include all those that have been previously published in the following books: Bodhinyana (1982), A Taste of Freedom (fifth impression, 2002), Living Dhamma (1992), Food for the Heart (1992), The Path to Peace (1996), Clarity of Insight (2000), Unshakeable Peace (2003), and Everything is Teaching Us (2004).
In the following section he describes the most basic meditation practice:
The Practice of Concentration

The training in samadhi (concentration) is practiced to make the mind firm and steady. This brings about peacefulness of mind. Usually our untrained minds are moving and restless, hard to control and manage. Mind follows sense distractions wildly just like water flowing this way and that, seeking the lowest level. Agriculturists and engineers, though, know how to control water so that it is of greater use to mankind. Men are clever, they know how to dam water, make large reservoirs and canals – all of this merely to channel water and make it more useable. In addition the water stored becomes a source of electrical power and light, further benefits from controlling its flow so that it doesn’t run wild and eventually settle into a few low spots, its usefulness wasted.

So too, the mind which is dammed and controlled, trained constantly, will be of immeasurable benefit. The Buddha himself taught, “The mind that has been controlled brings true happiness, so train you minds well for the highest of benefits”. Similarly, the animals we see around us – elephants, horses, cattle, buffalo, etc. – must be trained before they can be useful for work. Only after they have been trained is their strength of benefit to us.

In the same way, the mind that has been trained will bring many times the blessings of that of an untrained mind. The Buddha and his noble disciples all started out in the same way as us – with untrained minds; but afterwards look how they became the subjects of reverence for us all, and see how much benefit we can gain through their teaching. Indeed, see what benefit has come to the entire world from these men who have gone through the training of the mind to reach the freedom beyond. The mind controlled and trained is better equipped to help us in all professions, in all situations. The disciplined mind will keep our lives balanced, make work easier and develop and nurture reason to govern our actions. In the end our happiness will increase accordingly as we follow the proper mind training.

The training of the mind can be done in many ways, with many different methods. The method which is most useful and which can be practiced by all types of people is known as “mindfulnessof breathing”. It is the developing of mindfulness on the in-breath and the out-breath. In this monastery we concentrate our attention on the tip of the nose and develop awareness of the in-and out-breaths with the mantra word “Bud-dho”. If the meditator wishes to use another word, or simply be mindful of the air moving in and out, this is also fine. Adjust the practice to suit yourself. The essential factor in the meditation is that the noting or awareness of the breath be kept up in the present moment so that one is mindful of each in-breath and each out-breath just as it occurs. While doing walking meditation we try to be constantly mindful of the sensation of the feet touching the ground.

This practice of meditation must be pursued as continuously as possible in order for it to bear fruit. Don’t meditate for a short time one day and then in one or two weeks, or even a month, meditate again. This will not bring results. The Buddha taught us to practice often, to practice diligently, that is, to be as continuous as we can in the practice of mental training. To practice meditation we should also find a suitably quiet place free from distractions. In gardens or under shady trees in our back yards, or in places where we can be alone are suitable environments. If we are a monk or nun we should find a suitable hut, a quiet forest or cave. The mountains offer exceptionally suitable places for practice.

In anycase, wherever we are, we must make an effort to be continuously mindful of breathing in and breathing out. If the attention wanders to other things, try to pull it back to the object of concentration. Try to put away all other thoughts and cares. Don’t think about anything – just watch the breath. If we are mindful of thoughts as soon as they arise and keep diligently returning to the meditation subject, the mind will become quieter and quieter. When the mind is peaceful and concentrated, release it from the breath as the object of concentration. Now begin to examine the body and mind comprised of the five khandhas : material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. Examine these five khandhas as they come and go. You will see clearly that they are impermanent, that this impermanence makes them unsatisfactory and undesirable, and that they come and go of their own – there is no “self” running things. There is to be found only nature moving according to cause and effect. All things in the world fall under the characteristics of instability, unsatisfactoriness and being without a permanent ego or soul. Seeing the whole of existence in this light, attachment and clinging to the khandhas will gradually be reduced. This is because we see the true characteristics of the world. We call this the arising of wisdom.

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