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From the teachings of Ajahn Chah

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran
edited October 2023 in Buddhism Today

I’ve embarked on a re-reading of The Complete Teachings of Ajahn Chah which made a great impression on me when I first read it and I wanted to share with you selected passages from the book. Instead of dropping them all in the ‘Buddhist Quotes’ topic I thought I’d make a new topic for it, so that we can discuss the pieces if people feel the need.

The complete book can be downloaded here…


This practice requires endurance. Some people, when they come to practise, don’t want to be bothered by anything, they don’t want friction. But there’s friction the same as before. We must try to find an end to friction through friction itself.
So, if there’s friction in your practice, then it’s right. If there’s no friction it’s not right, you just eat and sleep as much as you want. When you want to go anywhere or say anything, you just follow your desires. The teaching of the Buddha grates. The supermundane goes against the worldly. Right view opposes wrong view, purity opposes impurity. The teaching grates against our desires.

These days, in the same way, the Buddha’s teaching is contrary to our hearts. People want to indulge in greed and hatred but the Buddha won’t let them. They want to be deluded but the Buddha destroys delusion. So the mind of the Buddha is contrary to that of worldly beings. The world calls the body beautiful, he says it’s not beautiful. They say the body belongs to us, he says not so. They say it’s substantial, he says it’s not. Right view is above the world. Worldly beings merely follow the flow of the stream.

These days, those of us who still have doubts about the practice hear these things and say, “Oh, how can I do that?” Sometimes we feel happy, sometimes troubled, pleased or displeased. For what reason? Because we don’t know Dhamma. What Dhamma? Just the Dhamma of nature, the reality around us, the body and the mind.

So there is truth in this world. Trees, mountains and vines all live according to their own truth, they are born and die following their nature. It’s just we people who aren’t true. We see it and make a fuss over it, but nature is impassive, it just is as it is. We laugh, we cry, we kill, but nature remains in truth, it is truth. No matter how happy or sad we are, this body just follows its own nature. It’s born, it grows up and ages, changing and getting older all the time. It follows nature in this way. Whoever takes the body to be himself and carries it around with him will suffer.



  • I really liked this book. I did not complete it, but got well beyond 3/4 of it. Ajahn Chah taught me the importance of practice, love, simplicity, but also discipline.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited October 2023

    Yes I agree with you @Kotishka and he uses some beautiful approaches, like the way nature teaches about the Dhamma. It makes perfect sense that nature teaches about life and death, beginnings and endings and impermanence.

    He spoke a whole Dhamma talk on convention and liberation, which I found fascinating, pointing out how many things such as names and the concept of monk versus layman and civil service titles and status were all just conventions, and then contrasting this with freedom from convention and the wise use of convention not to give offence.

    These Dhamma talks really are liberating…

    When you think about it, whether people are happy or sad, content or discontent, doesn’t depend on their having little or having much – it depends on wisdom. All distress can be transcended only through wisdom, through seeing the truth of things.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited October 2023

    The Dhamma talk I am reading this morning is called ‘No Abiding’ and it talks about wanting, and how doing things from a motivation of wanting some return inevitably leads to more suffering.


    The worldly way is to do things for a reason, to get some return, but in Buddhism we do things without any gaining idea. The world has to understand things in terms of cause and effect, but the Buddha teaches us to go above and beyond cause and effect. His wisdom was to go above cause, beyond effect; to go above birth and beyond death; to go above happiness and beyond suffering.
    Think about it...there’s nowhere to stay. We people live in a ‘home’. To leave home and go where there is no home... we don’t know how to do it, because we’ve always lived with becoming, with clinging. If we can’t cling we don’t know what to do.

    Where is the Buddha? We may think the Buddha has been and gone, but the Buddha is the Dhamma, the Truth. Some people like to say, “Oh, if I was born in the time of the Buddha I would go to Nibbana.” Here, stupid people talk like this. The Buddha is still here. The Buddha is truth. Regardless of whoever is born or dies, the truth is still here. The truth never departs from the world, it’s there all the time. Whether a Buddha is born or not, whether someone knows it or not, the truth is still there.
    So we should get close to the Buddha, we should come within and find the Dhamma. When we reach the Dhamma we will reach the Buddha; seeing the Dhamma we will see the Buddha, and all doubts will dissolve.

    In the end we can say only this – apart from the birth, the life and the death of suffering, there is nothing. There is just this. But we who are ignorant run and grab it constantly. We never see the truth of it, that there’s simply this continual change. If we understand this then we don’t need to think very much, but we have much wisdom. If we don’t know it, then we will have more thinking than wisdom – and maybe no wisdom at all! It’s not until we truly see the harmful results of our actions that we can give them up. Likewise, it’s not until we see the real benefits of practice that we can follow it, and begin working to make the mind ‘good’.

    If the mind doesn’t cling to that happiness or unhappiness it will reach the ‘ocean’ of Nibbana. You should see that there is nothing other than happiness and unhappiness arising and disappearing. If you don’t ‘run aground’ on these things then you are on the path of a true meditator.
    This is the teaching of the Buddha. Happiness, unhappiness, love and hate are simply established in nature according to the constant law of nature. The wise person doesn’t follow or encourage them, he doesn’t cling to them. This is the mind which lets go of indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain. It is the right practice.

  • Buddhism is a training program to be prepared to reach the shore of Nibbana when meeting death. The arhat's mind is empty and reaches liberation when thrown into the maelstorm of death.

    The bodhissatva decides to return for some more waves, like someone in this forum once said.

    I keep struggling to find liberation through a complete experience of selflessness. Nothing to struggle really, it is simply not the moment due to conditions...
    I know Zen teaches me to avoid goals or advances, but here I see a very strong difference. I remember Dogen speaking of two kinds of beings: ordinary and enlightened. Theravada approaches this in a similar way, perhaps insisting on the effort and admirableness of even coping with the most basic adherence, meaning to precepts, scripture, and daily practice.

    So like in muay thai, they make our shins (body and mind) strong for our ultimate test.

    May all beings obtain wisdom!

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited October 2023

    This morning I was just settling down to reading a bit of the Dhamma talk Our Real Home which was given to a lay disciple in her last days. I came across this beautiful bit which seemed to be the core of the talk, where at first we consider real homes, then the body as our home in the world, and how it is all of the nature to be impermanent…


    Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but the Buddha taught that that sort of home is not our real home, it’s only nominally ours. It’s home in the world and it follows the ways of the world. Our real home is inner peace. An external, material home may well be pretty but it is not very peaceful. There’s this worry and then that, this anxiety and then that. So we say it’s not our real home, it’s external to us. Sooner or later we’ll have to give it up. It’s not a place we can live in permanently because it doesn’t truly belong to us, it belongs to the world. Our body is the same. We take it to be a self, to be “me” or “mine,” but in fact it’s not really so at all, it’s another worldly home. Your body has followed its natural course from birth, until now it’s old and sick, and you can’t forbid it from doing that. That’s the way it is. Wanting it to be any different would be as foolish as wanting a duck to be like a chicken. When you see that that’s impossible – that a duck must be a duck and a chicken must be a chicken, and that the bodies have to get old and die – you will find courage and energy. However much you want the body to go on lasting, it won’t do that.

    So understand this point. All people, all creatures, are preparing to leave. When beings have lived an appropriate time they must go on their way. Rich, poor, young and old must all experience this change.
    When you realize that’s the way the world is you’ll feel that it’s a wearisome place. When you see that there’s nothing real or substantial you can rely on you’ll feel wearied and disenchanted. Being disenchanted doesn’t mean you are averse, the mind is clear. It sees that there’s nothing to be done to remedy this state of affairs, it’s just the way the world is. Knowing in this way you can let go of attachment, letting go with a mind that is neither happy nor sad, but at peace with conditions through seeing their changing nature with wisdom. Anicca vata sankhara – all conditions are impermanent.

    Those who nurse the sick grow in goodness and virtue. The patient who is giving others that opportunity shouldn’t make things difficult for them. If there’s pain or some problem or other, let them know and keep the mind in a wholesome state. One who is nursing parents should fill his or her mind with warmth and kindness and not get caught up in aversion. This is the one time you can repay your debt to them. From your birth through your childhood, as you’ve grown up, you’ve been dependent on your parents. That you are here today is because your mother and father have helped you in so many ways. You owe them an incredible debt of gratitude.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    A quote from a forum oldie, Cinorjer

    As I got older, the mindfulness of the body got easier every year. I'm mindful of the aches and twinges in my knees and back, and the interesting sounds and sensations my gut makes if I try to eat spicy foods. This morning I'm mindful of my breathing because my stepdaughter gave me her chest cold a few days ago and I make an interesting whistling when I breathe out. The way my body looks in the mirror this morning reminds me of the impermanence of all things. Mindfulness ain't necessarily pretty.

    People don’t seem to age in their mind at the same rate as aging in the body… often a seventy year old still thinks he or she is twenty.

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