Forest Sangha Newsletter July 1989

Gratitude to Ajahn Chah; Jayasaro Bhikkhu
Image of the Dhamma; Sister Viveka
Living in the World with Dhamma; Ajahn Chah
Part of the Lineage: pt.I; Aj. Sucitto interviews Aj. Jagaro
What is the Devon Vihara? Supanno & Pasadaka
Out on a Limb; Venerable Kovido
Lineage is more than History; Ajahn Sucitto

Question Time; Aj Sumedho
Allowing Silence; Aj Sucitto

Living in the World with Dhamma
A translation of an informal talk given by Ajahn Chah to a group of visitors to Wat Nong Pah Pong.

Most people still don't know the heart of dhamma practice. They think that walking meditation, sitting meditation and listening to Dhamma talks are the practice. That's true, too, but these are only the outer forms of practice. The real practice occurs where the mind encounters a sense object. That's the place to practise, at the point where sense contact occurs. For instance, when people say things we don't like, resentment arises. If they say something we like, we experience pleasure: now this is the place to practise. How are we going to practise with these things? This is the important point. If you just go chasing after happiness and run away from unpleasantness you can go on practising like that until the day you die, and never see the Dhamma. This is useless. When pleasure and pain arise, how are we going to use Dhamma to be free of them? This is the point of practice.

Where confusion arises, that's where peace can arise. Where there is confusion we penetrate with wisdom, and there is peace.

Some people cannot accept criticism: they are very conceited. Instead they turn around and argue - especially so with children. Actually there may be something in what the children say, but if you happen to be their mother, you can't give in. Perhaps you are a teacher and your students may say something you didn't know before. It may be true; but because you are their teacher you can't listen, you even dispute it. Thinking like this is not right.

In the time of the Buddha there was one disciple who was very wise. At one time while the Buddha was instructing the monks on the Dhamma, he turned to this monk and said: "Sariputta, do you believe this?"

We study in the natural way; be it a sight, sound, smell, taste, tactile or mental impression, we should listen to it all.

Then Sariputta replied: "I don't yet believe it."

The Buddha liked his answer. He said: "Oh, that's very good, Sariputta. You are one who is endowed with wisdom. One who is endowed with wisdom should not believe too readily. They should listen openmindedly, and then consider the validity of that matter before believing or disbelieving."

Now this is a fine example of good Dhamma practice for a teacher. What Sariputta said was true, he simply spoke his true feeling. Some people would feel that to say that one didn't believe would be like questioning the Buddha's authority. They would be afraid to say such a thing; they'd simply go ahead and agree.

The world is like this, but the Buddha said that you needn't be ashamed of those things which aren't wrong or bad. It's not wrong to say you don't yet believe what you don't believe, so when Venerable Sariputta said: "I don't believe it," the Buddha praised him: "This monk has much wisdom. He carefully considers before believing anything" This is the right course for one who is a teacher of others. Sometimes you can learn things from small children. Don't blindy cling to positions of authority.

Whether we are standing, walking around or sitting in various places, these are the times when we can study the things around us. We study in the natural way; be it a sight, sound, smell, taste, tactile or mental impression, we should listen to it all.

A wise person considers them all. In the real practice the adept practises to the point where there is nothing on his mind. *
*Literally "No more stories/business"

If we still don't understand like and dislike as they arise -as they really are - there is still something on our minds. If we know the truth of these things, we know that "Oh, this liking here ... there's nothing to it, It's just a feeling that arises and passes away." What else do you expect from feelings? If we think that pleasure is ours, suffering is ours, then we're in for trouble-we never get beyond the point of having some business or other on our minds. And these problems feed each other in an endless chain. This is how things are for most people.

People tend to be like this, they don't appreciate the value of Dhamma, they don't talk about the Truth. If one talks the Truth, people even take exception. They say things like: "Oh, he doesn't know the right time and place. He doesn't know how to speak nicely" -or whatever. But when people speak the Truth, one should listen. When speaking Dhamma the true master doesn't simply speak from memory, he speaks the Truth. People in the world usually speak from memory and usually in such a way to exalt themselves. The true monk doesn't talk like that. He talks about the Truth, the way things are.

Even monks these days are like this. I've heard some of them say: "I haven't become a monk to practise, I only became a monk to study" These are the words of one who has cut off the path of Dhamma practice. There is no way, it's finished, the end of the path. When they teach, they teach only from memory. Maybe they say one thing but their minds are in quite a different place. They only teach according to their memories, they don't teach to reveal the Truth.

The way of the world is like this. If one doesn't live in that way and instead lives simply, practising the Dhamma and living at peace, they say one is weird, not like other people. They say people like this get in the way of progress in the world, in society. They even harass them. So a good person may start to feel there's something wrong with him and revert to following worldly ways. He gets sunk deeper and deeper in the world until he can't find the way out. You get the situation which brings People to say: "Oh, I can't get out now, I'm sunk in too deeply."

People these days think too much. There are too many things for them to get interested in but none of them leads to any completion.

Suppose we had a cart, and an ox to pull it. The wheels aren't long, but the tracks are. As long as the ox pulls the cart the tracks will follow. The wheels are round yet the tracks are long. Just looking at the stationary cart one couldn't see anything long about it, but once the ox starts pulling the cart, we see the tracks stretching out behind us. As long as the ox keeps pulling, the wheels keep turning; but there comes a day when the ox gets tired and throws off its harness. The ox walks off and the cart is left there. The wheels no longer turn. In time the cart falls apart. Its constituent parts go back into the four elements: earth, water, wind and fire.

People who follow the world are the same. If one were to search within the world for peace one would go on and on like the cart-wheel tracks without end. As long as we follow the world there is no stopping, no rest. If we simply stop following it, the cart - wheels no longer turn. There is stopping right there. Following the world ceaseless1y, the tracks go on. Creating bad kamma is like this. As long as we continue to follow the old ways, there is no stopping. If we stop, then there is stopping. This is the practice of Dhamma.

If we really understand the practice of Dhamma then, no matter what profession or position we may have in life - be it a teacher, doctor, government worker or whatever - we are training in the Dhamma every minute of the day. People think that one can't practise as a lay person. This is to be totally scattered and to lose the path completely. If one has sufficient desire to do something, one can do it. Some say: "I can't practise Dhamma, I haven't got the time"

I say: "Then how come you've got time to breathe?"

This is the point. How do they get the time to breathe? Breathing is something vital to people's lives. If you see that Dhamma practice is vital to your life then you will feel that breathing and practising the Dhamma are equally important. This practice of Dhamma isn't something you have to go running around for or expending a whole lot of energy on in order to do. You simply look at the various feelings which arise in your mind. When the ego sees form, ear hears 'sound, nose smells an odour, tongue tastes a flavour, and so on, they all come to this one mind, the "One Who Knows".

Now when the mind recognizes those things, what happens? If liking for that object arises we experience pleasure, if dislike arises we experience displeasure. That's all there is to it. So now, living in this world, where can one find happiness? Do you want everybody in the world to speak only things which are pleasant and agreeable to you all your life? Is that possible? It's not. If its not possible then where are you going to go? The world is simply like this, so the Buddha said "lokavidu"- know the Truth of this world. The world is something we should understand clearly.

The value of Dhamma isn't to he found in the books where they tell us about this and that. This is just the external aspect of Dhamma, it's not the knowledge that arises from deep within our own mind. If we have profound understanding we realize our own mind, we see the Truth there. When the Truth becomes apparent within us it cuts off the flow of delusion.

These days people don't search for the Truth. These days people study simply in order to find the knowledge necessary to make a living, raise their families and look after themselves, that's all.

They study for a livelihood. Students nowadays have much more knowledge than students of previous time's. They have all the requisites at their disposal, everything is more convenient. They have more knowledge than before, yet people these days also have a lot more confusion than before, they have more suffering than before, Why is this? Because they only look for that knowledge which is useful in earning a living.