Saturday, March 05, 2011

Ajahn Chah

Back to the cave. Spent the night in Viharamahadevi park as planned. Quite peaceful, expect for the mosquitoes. Recommended for 4 AM meditation.

Picked up some parcels; someone sent me some books by Ajahn Chah. So, as with the Brahmavamso book, I browsed through it. Thing is, I really like Ajahn Chah. Not just find his jokes amusing; I don't consider that to be the mark of a good teacher, either way. I really like what he says, mostly. Most of what appears to be a contrary statement to my understand of the Buddha's teaching, I'm willing to give benefit of doubt to him that we are using different words to talk about the same thing. So, I was happy to get this book. I had quite a shock, though, at one point (I don't have the book with me, meant to bring it...), where he says this (in translation):

Meditation is like a single stick of wood. Insight (vipassanā) is one end of the stick and serenity (samatha) the other. If we pick it up, does only one end come up or do both? When anyone picks up a stick both ends rise together. Which part then is vipassanā, and which is samatha? Where does one end and the other begin? They are both the mind. As the mind becomes peaceful, initially the peace will arise from the serenity of samatha. We focus and unify the mind in states of meditative peace (samādhi). However, if the peace and stillness of samādhi fades away, suffering arises in its place. Why is that? Because the peace afforded by samatha meditation alone is still based on attachment. This attachment can then be a cause of suffering. Serenity is not the end of the path. The Buddha saw from his own experience that such peace of mind was not the ultimate. The causes underlying the process of existence (bhava) had not yet been brought to cessation (nirodha). The conditions for rebirth still existed. His spiritual work had not yet attained perfection. Why? Because there was still suffering. So based on that serenity of samatha he proceeded to contemplate, investigate, and analyze the conditioned nature of reality until he was free of all attachments, even the attachment to serenity. Serenity is still part of the world of conditioned existence and conventional reality. Clinging to this type of peace is clinging to conventional reality, and as long as we cling, we will be mired in existence and rebirth. Delighting in the peace of samatha still leads to further existence and rebirth. Once the mind's restlessness and agitation calms down, one clings to the resultant peace.

(stolen from this page)

Okay, skip the samatha vipassana bit, that's not important - of course you need both. The point is the parts in bold. Ajahn Chah, the Ajaan Chah, says, "the peace afforded by samatha meditation alone is still based on attachment". That's stronger than words even I'd use. Someone should really send that to Ven. Brahmavamso.

So, at least I'm in good company with my views. Sure, there are things I could pick at in the book, like his view of the mind that doesn't die, or that one can't just pick up and practice vipassana meditation, but those are details, really. All in all, a nice read.

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