Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1987

Settling in at Stokes Valley; Ajahn Viradhammo
Roots of the Forest; Ajahn Sucitto, (part II)
Letter from Chithurst; Ajahn Anando
Tudong in the Lakes; Venerable Amaro's notes
Desana; Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro
Meditation and Prayer; Ajahn Sucitto


'Keeping the Breath in Mind'

Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo was one of the disciples of Venerable Ajahn Mun. He was perhaps the first master to come out of the forests and lonely places to establish a monastery of his own, where he taught meditation to lay people and Sangha alike. This monastery was Wat Asokaram, quite close to Bangkok. Ajahn Lee was a gifted speaker, and many volumes of his sermons are still at Wat Asokaram in unpublished form.
Venerable Thanissaro has contributed greatly to the available teachings of the forest masters by translating selections of Ajahn Lee's sermons into English, and having them printed for free distribution. From time to time, we receive packages of these at Amaravati -- so just ask if you're visiting as to what we might have in stock. Here is a small section from the book, 'Keeping the Breath in Mind'

We all want nothing but goodness, but if you can't tell what's good from what's defiled, you can sit and meditate 'til your dying day and never find nibbana at all. If, however, you can set your mind and keep your mind on what you're doing, it's not all that hard. Nibbana is really a simple matter, because it's always there. It never changes. The affairs of the world are what's hard, because they're always changing and uncertain. Once you've done something, you have to keep looking after it. But you don't have to keep looking after nibbana at all. Once you've realized it, you can let go. Keep on realizing, keep on letting go -- like a person eating rice who, after he's put rice in his mouth, keeps spitting it out. What this means is that you keep on doing good, but you don't claim it as your own. Do good, then spit it out. This is viraga-dhamma: disengagement.

For most people in the world, once they've done something, it's theirs. And thus they have to keep on looking after it. If they're not careful, it will either get stolen or else wear out on its own: they're headed for disappointment. Like a person who swallows his rice: after he's eaten he'll have to digest it. After he's digested it, he'll be hungry again, so he'll have to eat some more and digest some more. The day will never come when he's had enough. But with nibbana, you don't have to swaliow. You can eat your rice and then spit it out. You can do good and let it go.
That's where nibbana is. Like a person without any money' How will thieves be able to rob him?


Nibbana doesn't lie far away: It's right on our lips, right at the tip of our nose. But we keep groping around, and never find it. If you're really serious about finding purity, set your mind on meditation and on nothing else. As for whatever else may come your way, you can say, 'No thanks.' Pleasure? 'No thanks.' Pain? 'No thanks.' Goodness? 'No thanks.' Evil? 'No thanks.' Attainment? 'No thanks.' Nibbana? 'No thanks.' If it's 'no thanks' to everything, what will you have left? You won't need to have anything left. That's where nibbana is. Like a person without any money' How will thieves be able to rob him? If you get money and try to hold on to it, you're going to get killed. If this thief doesn't get you, that one will. Carry around what's yours until you're completely weighed down. You'll never get away.

In this world we have to live with both good and evil. A person who has developed disengagement is filled with goodness, and knows evil fully, but doesn't hold on to either, doesn't claim either as his or her own. Such a person puts them aside and lets them go, and so can travel light and easy. Nibbana isn't that difficult a matter. In the Buddha's time, some people became arahants while going on their almsround, some while urinating, some while watching farmers ploughing a field. What's difficult about the highest good lies in the beginning, in laying the groundwork -- being constantly mindful at all times. But if you can keep at it, you're bound to succeed in the end.