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Ajahn Chah's Spider Web Technique

JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

Ajahn Chah once spoke of practicing like a spider on a web. What does it mean to you?

"Try watching a spider. A spider spins its web in any convenient niche and then sits in the center, staying still and silent. Later, a fly comes along and lands on the web. As soon as it touches and shakes the web, ''boop!'' - the spider pounces and winds it up in thread. It stores the insect away and then returns again to collect itself silently in the center of the web.

Watching a spider like this can give rise to wisdom. Our six senses have mind at the center surrounded by eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. When one of the senses is stimulated, for instance, form contacting the eye, it shakes and reaches the mind. The mind is that which knows, that which knows form. Just this much is enough for wisdom to arise. It's that simple.

Like a spider in its web, we should live keeping to ourselves. As soon as the spider feels an insect contact the web, it quickly grabs it, ties it up and once again returns to the center. This is not at all different from our own minds. ''Coming to the center'' means living mindfully with clear comprehension, being always alert and doing everything with exactness and precision - this is our center. There's really not a lot for us to do; we just carefully live in this way. But that doesn't mean that we live heedlessly thinking, ''There is no need to do siting or walking meditation!'' and so forget all about our practice. We can't be careless! We must remain alert just as the spider waits to snatch up insects for its food.

This is all that we have to know - sitting and contemplating that spider. Just this much and wisdom can arise spontaneously. Our mind is comparable to the spider, our moods and mental impressions are comparable to the various insects. That's all there is to it! The senses envelop and constantly stimulate the mind; when any of them contact something, it immediately reaches the mind. The mind then investigates and examines it thoroughly, after which it returns to the center. This is how we abide - alert, acting with precision and always mindfully comprehending with wisdom. Just this much and our practice is complete.

This point is very important! It isn't that we have to do sitting practice throughout the day and night, or that we have to do walking meditation all day and all night long. If this is our view of practice, then we really make it difficult for ourselves. We should do what we can according to our strength and energy, using our physical capabilities in the proper amount.

It's very important to know the mind and the other senses well. Know how they come and how they go, how they arise and how they pass away. Understand this thoroughly! In the language of Dhamma we can also say that, just as the spider traps the various insects, the mind binds up the senses with anicca-dukkha-anattā (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, not-self). Where can they go? We keep them for food, these things are stored away as our nourishment6. That's enough; there's no more to do, just this much! This is the nourishment for our minds, nourishment for one who is aware and understanding.

If you know that these things are impermanent, bound up with suffering and that none of it is you, then you would be crazy to go after them! If you don't see clearly in this way, then you must suffer. When you take a good look and see these things as really impermanent, even though they may seem worth going after, really they are not. Why do you want them when their nature is pain and suffering? It's not ours, there is no self, there is nothing belonging to us. So why are you seeking after them? All problems are ended right here. Where else will you end them?

Just take a good look at the spider and turn it inwards, turn it back unto yourself. You will see that it's all the same. When the mind has seen anicca-dukkha-anattā, it lets go and releases itself. It no longer attaches to suffering or to happiness. This is the nourishment for the mind of one who practices and really trains himself. That's all, it's that simple! You don't have to go searching anywhere! So no matter what you are doing, you are there, no need for a lot of fuss and bother. In this way the momentum and energy of your practice will continuously grow and mature."

Source: http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Two_Faces_Reality1.php

lobsterBunksSnakeskinDhammika

Comments

  • Ajahn Chah once spoke of practicing like a spider on a web. What does it mean to you?

    It is a useful teaching. Being attentive to our mind builder/spider/fly catcher is an enabling facility.

    I am truly amazed by nature and what it can teach us. It is a question (and answer) of attention. I make no apology for repeating yet again this story:

    There’s an old Zen story: a student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.” Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.” The student said, “Is that all?” The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.” The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.” In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.” In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word ‘attention’ mean?” Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”
    https://tricycle.org/magazine/attention-means-attention/

    JeffreySnakeskinadamcrossleyCarameltail
  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    I'm guessing then the disciple was promptly whacked with a stick for extra emphasis on attention.

    lobsterShoshinSnakeskinadamcrossley
  • I was reading this today as it happens. I admire Ajahn Chah, but this spider analogy doesn't really work for me. The spider's behaviour is driven by hunger, which you could interpret as craving for flies. The analogy would work better for me if the spider had a magic permanent supply of tasty fly puree at the centre of the web, and could just watch the flies coming and going. ;)

    HozanJaySon
  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    @DairyLama said:
    I was reading this today as it happens. I admire Ajahn Chah, but this spider analogy doesn't really work for me. The spider's behaviour is driven by hunger, which you could interpret as craving for flies. The analogy would work better for me if the spider had a magic permanent supply of tasty fly puree at the centre of the web, and could just watch the flies coming and going. ;)

    I find him hilariously masculine.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @JaySon said: I find him hilariously masculine.

    ....What....?

    image

  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    @federica said:

    @JaySon said: I find him hilariously masculine.

    ....What....?

    image

    I think of him as like the Marlboro Man Buddha of Thailand. He was so tough, using analogies like "starve the tiger in a cage" when talking about not being a slave to your selfish desires. See what I mean? Or did I lose ya at Marlboro Man Buddha?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It didn't go well for the Marlboro' Man, if I'm not much mistaken.
    But I get the tough Buddha-guy analogy.... :D

    JaySon
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Veteran
    edited February 9

    After reading it, I thought, 'That's why he was called "Ajahn" and I'm not.' I had reflected on samsara with a spiderweb analogy. Unlike his, I wasn't the spider. Mara was the spider. I was the fly. Same in a way. Either way, it's all sticky. Best to avoid landing on it or spinning it.

    JaySon
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