Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (5)

  • Mindfulness allows us to open the mind to all possibilities – for what we like and for what we don’t like. Then we can begin to accept life’s flow and movement – the way it changes – without being angry or fed up when it isn’t what we want. In fact, we begin to feel quite at ease with life when we can accept the whole of it as it is. A lot of people become fussy and cowardly and timid because they don’t want to get involved in anything that might agitate them or create unpleasant feelings in their minds. They think, “Oh, I can’t go there because it’ll just upset me.” But when you’re mindful, you don’t mind being upset. Being upset is part of living. You don’t go around seeking to be upset, but it does happen. And, when it does, you learn from it. It’s part of life’s experience.
  • It’s not very useful to think that we have to have the very best of everything – the best health, the best teacher, the best monastery – before we can start practicing the Dhamma. Very seldom in life do we ever find ourselves in a position where we really feel we have the best, because this is a very uncertain quality. At one moment, we might feel we have the best, and in the next, we might feel we have the worst. The perception of the best is precisely that: a perception in the mind. And if we are attached to this perception of the best, then if we have less than that, we feel the conditions aren’t good enough for practice. Maybe we think we’re too neurotic, we make too many terrible mistakes in our lives, we say too many horrible things. Or maybe we look around and see flaws in all the teachers we meet, or in the monasteries we go to. You can always find something wrong, something that makes it not quite fit the perfect image.

    I remember people looking for the best teacher in Thailand. Wherever they went, the found something wrong. Either the teacher would be chewing betel nut and they would say, “An arahant certainly wouldn’t be chewing betel nut.” Or he’d be smoking cigarettes, and they would say, “No, we couldn’t possibly learn from anyone who smokes cigarettes.” It would on and on like this. We have such high standards to judge by that we miss out on the actual opportunities as they present themselves.

    So this is where our ability to reflect is most important. This is the way out of suffering. The way out of suffering is not through aiming to have the best of everything, but through being able to use wisely what we do have: the kind of character we happen to have, with all its virtues and faults, and the situation we’re in, whether we are a monk, a nun, or a layperson, rich or poor, employed or unemployed.

  • Joy isn’t dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn’t dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving. It’s that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control – I can’t go around making everything how I want it – still, I can be kind, generous, and patient, and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that’s worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn’t make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

  • But when we fully understand it, morality brings a sense of joy and self-respect and, because we begin to feel respect for ourselves, we feel respect for the right of other beings to exist. This is very peaceful. It’s a lovely feeling to have self-respect and to care about the lives of others. But it has to come from wisdom and growth within. It has to come from personal responsibility and personal knowledge of oneself.

    I’m not talking about superficial niceness and goodness – a mask, a pretty façade of goodness – but rather a profound goodness, in the heart of things. Virtue is something very deep and profound and penetrating. It takes wisdom, sensitivity, receptivity, and intelligence to be truly virtuous.

  • The empty mind – the pure mind – is not a blank where you’re not feeling or caring about anything. It’s an effulgence of the mind. It’s a brightness that is truly sensitive and accepting. It’s an ability to accept life as it is. When we accept life as it is, we can respond appropriately to the way we’re experiencing it, rather than just reacting out of fear and aversion.

  • First, you must recognize what attachment is, and then you let go. That’s when you realize non-attachment. However, if you’re coming from the view that you shouldn’t be attached, then that’s still not it. The point is not to take a position against attachment, as if there were a commandment against it; the point is to observe. We ask the questions, “What is attachment? Does being attached to things bring happiness or suffering?” Then we begin to have insight. We begin to see what attachment is, and then we can let go.

    If you’re coming from a high-minded position in which you think you shouldn’t be attached to anything, then you come up with ideas like, “Well, I can’t be a Buddhist because I love my wife, because I’m attached to my wife. I love her, and I just can’t let her go. I can’t send her away.” Those kinds of thoughts come from the view that you shouldn’t be attached.

    The recognition of attachment doesn’t mean that you get rid of your wife. It means you free yourself from wrong views about yourself and your wife. Then you find that there’s love there, but it’s not attached. It’s not distorting, clinging, and grasping. The empty mind is quite capable of caring about others and loving in the pure sense of love. But any attachment will always distort that.

  • The Buddhist concept of metta, or loving kindness, is the ability to be patient and bear with the imperfections in our life, our society, and ourselves. The attitude of loving-kindness is a universal value. You can have metta for Christians, for Buddhists, for Jews, for every political group, and for all classes of society.

  • This attitude of metta is not missing in any of us. It’s just that we tend to overlook it when we are caught up in our frantic drives and compulsions. We are so involved in our conditioning that we miss the leveling quality of patience, forgiveness, kindness, and gentleness. But when we open ourselves, and free ourselves from the delusions of our conditioning, we come into contact with metta. This is universal, whether we are educated, uneducated, male or female. This is not the prerogative of any elite class or any religious group. The mind is spacious and all-embracing is the common ground; it’s where we see things in perspective, rather than from some extreme position.

  • Contemplating the arising and ceasing of conditions allows us to understand them. We are not just caught in the arising and ceasing of the world – or of the human body – like a helpless creature that has no way of knowing what is beyond conditions. We actually have the ability to transcend the world, society, the body, and the self. All that we can possibly conceive of or believe in – what is most dear and precious, what is most frightening – we can transcend.

  • This appreciation comes from not having opinions about things being perfect in a static way. It comes from seeing that the rose is a perfect rose in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. For static perfection you need a plastic rose, but that’s never as satisfying. By reflecting in this way, we begin to open to the perfection of nature and the sensory world. Our view of perfection is no longer a fixed idea. We don’t feel that things have to be only one way to be perfect, and we don’t feel that it’s the end of perfection when things change in a way that we don’t like. We’re not clinging to a static idea of how the world should be; instead, we see it for what it is.

  • Transcendence means not clinging to the world; it doesn’t mean floating up into the sky away from the world. It means living within all the sensory conditions of the human form, but no longer being deluded by them. When one uses the ability to reflect and contemplate existence until one sees it clearly as it is, that is what we call transcending the world. So in transcending the world, one can still act and live in the world, but in a very clear and pure way because the world is no longer a delusion. One is not expecting the world to be anything other that what it is – and the world is the mind itself.






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