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Why do westerners prefer to read books more than practising meditation?

Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
why do you think that is ?
DaltheJigsaw
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Comments

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Just my 0.02 but I think it has to do with challenging everything and the whole "superstition/bullshit" view some people have about some aspects of Buddhism.
    DaltheJigsaw
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited January 2014
    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.

    I hadn't heard that. Which books did he ban, was it books about Buddhism, or was it the suttas?
  • he said westerners read too many books , he asked them to stop reading books and practise meditation.

    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.

    I hadn't heard that. Which books did he ban, was it books about Buddhism, or was it the suttas?
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited January 2014

    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.

    I hadn't heard that. Which books did he ban, was it books about Buddhism, or was it the suttas?
    I've not heard about this either, nor have I heard about westerners reading books more then practicing meditation. Kind of a silly thing really.. that would be like me saying " why to easterners practice merit instead of meditating?". i'm sure many easterners have a balanced approach as I'm sure many westerners have the same.
    Yik_Yis_YiipersonInvincible_summer
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Why doesn't he do this any longer?

    My guess is he was a control freak but I have not read his stuff.
    hermitwinanatamanDharmaMcBum
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    ourself said:

    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Why doesn't he do this any longer?

    Because he died over 20 years ago? :)
    hermitwinChazDharmaMcBum
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    I think it's because we're addicted to sensory stimulation. A book stimulates certain sense. Meditations doesn't.
  • ZeroZero Veteran
    hermitwin said:


    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    He was well known for tailoring advice - to one man stop reading, to another read more!
    The quote above from him about Dhamma not being in books, works in certain situations, for a certain crowd but of course is contradictory to his own advice so it can't be intended as universally applicable.
    lobsteroctinomosmatthewmartin
  • hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Ignorance.
    When people read stuff they feel they understand. If they understood they would not keep having opinions.
    . . . well that is my opinion . . . I think I read it in a book . . .

    :buck:
    ZeroHamsakaNirvana
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited January 2014
    seeker242 said:

    ourself said:

    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Why doesn't he do this any longer?

    Because he died over 20 years ago? :)
    Ok, so I guess it's best I don't bother reading his stuff then. I wouldn't want to offend him. In fact, why would anyone bother listening to what he says at all if all we need to do is meditate?

    Sounds like a shyster to me.

    octinomos
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    At any rate I'm sure he wasn't saying not to read books or else he wouldn't have written any.
  • ZeroZero Veteran
    ourself said:


    In fact, why would anyone bother listening to what he says at all if all we need to do is meditate?
    Sounds like a shyster to me.

    I'm sure his point was made in response to a request - the fact that it was recorded and accessible means that it may now be taken out of context, should one choose to see it that way! I say choose as dharma seems all-encompassing...
    The point is I think, why would anyone bother asking rather than why bother 'listening to the response' once the question is asked - indeed, the 'answer' to many 'questions' is a polite 'just meditate'... perhaps a hint that there is no answer within the context of the question.
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited January 2014
    @Zero;

    That I can understand. The truth of Buddhas teachings are not found written in a book but the o/p suggests he banned his western followers from reading books.

    It simply doesn't make sense as he himself, was a writer of books.
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    This thread actually smacks of bigotry.

    I find it amusing that we hear so often the lament of western misunderstanding.

    As if not a person in the east has ever been confused at the dharma.
    Vastmind
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    Everyone wants to be happy, but when they discover the necessary price, well it's either "strike while the iron is hot" or "look before you leap."
  • ZeroZero Veteran
    ourself said:


    ...the o/p suggests he banned his western followers from reading books.
    It simply doesn't make sense as he himself, was a writer of books.

    Indeed... the OP has probably erred in that regard.
  • ourself said:

    This thread actually smacks of bigotry.

    I find it amusing that we hear so often the lament of western misunderstanding.

    As if not a person in the east has ever been confused at the dharma.

    You could be right about the bigotry.
    I think the the thread title jumps to a conclusion that the OP doesn't imply. It's nonsensical.
    Who is to say that his western students weren't meditating just because they were reading too much.
    If Hermitwin knows that this was the case, why the guessing game?
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    hermitwin said:

    he said westerners read too many books , he asked them to stop reading books and practise meditation.

    Fair enough.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited January 2014
    ourself said:

    seeker242 said:

    ourself said:

    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Why doesn't he do this any longer?

    Because he died over 20 years ago? :)
    Ok, so I guess it's best I don't bother reading his stuff then. I wouldn't want to offend him. In fact, why would anyone bother listening to what he says at all if all we need to do is meditate?

    Sounds like a shyster to me.

    ourself said:

    At any rate I'm sure he wasn't saying not to read books or else he wouldn't have written any.

    I find much benefit to Ajahn Chah's teachings. He never actually sat down and wrote a book, all of his stuff, being dhamma, no ajahn chah, etc are collections of his teachings put together into books. Ajahn Chah was not an intellectual, he lived and spoke dhamma in its simplest form.

    His quote also that is mentionable here is "there is no book worth reading more then the human heart". In the end what books do for many of us is bring the teachings to those of us who dont have a teacher as a supplement to our practice.

    These days i read a book on average every two months. I read slow and all the books are dhamma related. The last book i read was an amazing one called "getting off". Now im reading "forest recollections" about thudong(wandering) monks of thailand of the last century, one of which was Ajahn Chah.
    lobsterZerobookworm
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    Whereas meditation always challenges the status quo of our identity,

    reading usually just makes us think we are challenging it.
    Chazpegembara
  • 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
    In the absence of a physical teacher (and it affects many of us), books can be a way of TEACHING us how to challenge it.
    lobster
  • Once I heard this conversation. One man said: "I read a lot about wines". The other replied: "Do not read, just taste them".

    I remember a comedian holding a glass of wine on one hand and a book of wine on the other hand. As she took one sip, she looked at the book for a hint then said, it tastes fruity, right. Then she went on and on about how she tasted according to what the book told her. :)
    Nirvana
  • DaftChrisDaftChris Spiritually conflicted. Not of this world. Veteran
    I don't know about others, but I feel non-meditation practices work better for me. Whether such practices are chanting mantras, cultivating compassion, good works, or even intellectual stimulation via reading.

    It may be because the west tends to favor "rationalism" over "superstition", my personal preference for knowledge and wisdom based practice, or the fact that meditation never worked for me.

    It's all about preference and experience; whether from laypeople or from teachers.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    One of the things that I noticed in my years visiting and living in Thailand was that "leisure reading" was not a normal activity, although over the years it grew.

    Most of the bookstores in Bangkok were directed at foreign tourists, particularly English-language visitors, and to some extent Germans. Back in the 1980s, I would see occasional Thais in the bookstores, but even though it was the national capital, the clientele was predominantly Westerners. When living there up until 4 years ago, it was more common to see Thais in the bookstores, and Thai-language floor space was decidedly larger...although the main bookstores were, at best, 50-50.
  • upekkaupekka Veteran
    edited January 2014
    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Ajahn Chah knew (know and see) Buddha's Teaching

    his pupils could get direct advice from Him instead of reading books and going astray or taking a longer way to see the Truth

    bookwormcvalueseeker242
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran
    edited January 2014
    I love Ajahn Chah, he is my hero, I read all his books, his teachings was a light that helped guide me out of my confusion when I was new to Buddhism, I know how to practice thanks to his teachings.
    lobsterNirvanaCinorjerpegembara
  • DaftChris said:

    I don't know about others, but I feel non-meditation practices work better for me. Whether such practices are chanting mantras, cultivating compassion, good works, or even intellectual stimulation via reading.

    That may be true until such time you are ready to stop 'faffing about' . . . which is one of the reasons book learning for intensive trainees (monks) might be temporarily off limit. There is a steep learning curve with meditation, after a few years it gets harder but you don't mind so much . . .

    Most of the world is the position of 'faffing about', it is a uniquely human tendency. In a sense we have to realise that intellectual 'wisdom' or a little mind calming is all most people want or require. Not all of us are like that or will always be like that . . .

    Hope that was not too harsh or crazy talk
    :screwy:
    ChazNirvana
  • Because I'm scared of emptiness.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited January 2014
    ourself said:

    seeker242 said:

    ourself said:

    hermitwin said:

    Ajahn chah used to ban westerners from reading books.
    why do you think that is ?

    Why doesn't he do this any longer?

    Because he died over 20 years ago? :)
    Ok, so I guess it's best I don't bother reading his stuff then. I wouldn't want to offend him. In fact, why would anyone bother listening to what he says at all if all we need to do is meditate?

    Sounds like a shyster to me.

    We need to listen to him because hardly anyone knows and hardly anyone believes that all you need to do is meditate. He wrote books to tell people this and tell people to stop looking "somewhere else". If you are one of the people that actually does believe that and know that, then no you don't need to listen to him anymore. :p
    I wouldn't want to offend him.
    It would be impossible to offend him. :p
    lobster
  • he didnt. lol
    ourself said:

    At any rate I'm sure he wasn't saying not to read books or else he wouldn't have written any.

    Nirvana
  • I shd clarify, ajahn chah didnt write any books. his disciples wrote books about his teachings.
    Nirvana
  • DaftChrisDaftChris Spiritually conflicted. Not of this world. Veteran
    edited January 2014
    lobster said:

    DaftChris said:

    I don't know about others, but I feel non-meditation practices work better for me. Whether such practices are chanting mantras, cultivating compassion, good works, or even intellectual stimulation via reading.

    That may be true until such time you are ready to stop 'faffing about' . . . which is one of the reasons book learning for intensive trainees (monks) might be temporarily off limit. There is a steep learning curve with meditation, after a few years it gets harder but you don't mind so much . . .

    Most of the world is the position of 'faffing about', it is a uniquely human tendency. In a sense we have to realise that intellectual 'wisdom' or a little mind calming is all most people want or require. Not all of us are like that or will always be like that . . .
    I might be looking way too much into what you wrote, but why does it have to be "faffing around"? Why not simply different practices which work for different people? I don't see how meditation is an inherently superior practice. After all, couldn't something like chanting simply be "loud meditation"?

    Hope that was not too harsh or crazy talk
    :screwy:
    No more than what you usually write.
    Chaz
  • I don't see how meditation is an inherently superior practice.
    Stop reading so much and start practicing meditation, then you will know. :buck:
    ChazNirvanapegembara
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    I have not read his stuff so am only going by the representation given by the o/p which seems to be ill conceived. Suggesting practice over theory is not to ban theory.
    hermitwin said:

    I shd clarify, ajahn chah didnt write any books. his disciples wrote books about his teachings.

    A book is just a teaching written out.
    lobster
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    DaftChris said:

    I don't see how meditation is an inherently superior practice.

    Well, the way I see it, the Buddha was mediatating when he attained enlightenment. I'd say That makes it a "superior practice".

    After all, couldn't something like chanting simply be "loud meditation"?
    Sure, provided you're actually meditating when you chant.



  • jlljll Veteran
    your comments are refreshing bcos you are ignorant of ajahn chah's standing.

    however, it would be prudent to learn a little about ajahn chah before shooting off remarks.

    just my opinion.
    ourself said:

    I have not read his stuff so am only going by the representation given by the o/p which seems to be ill conceived. Suggesting practice over theory is not to ban theory.

    hermitwin said:

    I shd clarify, ajahn chah didnt write any books. his disciples wrote books about his teachings.

    A book is just a teaching written out.
    Chaz
  • That was his advice to all the monks under him. Not just westerners. I think its a great advice for the practicing monk/laymen. Giving up reading for the time being to practice meditation would yield excellent progress. Besides, giving up books amongst other worldly possessions is part of renunciation. That doesn't mean of course to never read a book again. It just means that right now, you should focus on your practice, and meditate as much as possible.
    lobsterhowThaiLotus
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    hermitwin said:

    I shd clarify, ajahn chah didnt write any books. his disciples wrote books about his teachings.

    Yes, it's an important distinction.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    jll said:

    your comments are refreshing bcos you are ignorant of ajahn chah's standing.

    however, it would be prudent to learn a little about ajahn chah before shooting off remarks.

    just my opinion.

    ourself said:

    I have not read his stuff so am only going by the representation given by the o/p which seems to be ill conceived. Suggesting practice over theory is not to ban theory.

    hermitwin said:

    I shd clarify, ajahn chah didnt write any books. his disciples wrote books about his teachings.

    A book is just a teaching written out.
    Your post is refreshing because you can't see the o/p is full of crap. Nor do you seem to grasp the fact that this isn't a point solely made by Ajahn Chah but echoed by many.

    Please show me where he says western followers of his are not allowed to read books.
  • This doesn't sound good for me- I always have 6-10 books going at the same time at any given time...
    Kundo
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran

    This doesn't sound good for me- I always have 6-10 books going at the same time at any given time...

    Nothing wrong with reading dharma books.

    Hows your practice?
This discussion has been closed.