93. A devout elderly lady from a nearby province came on a pilgrimage to Wat Pah Pong. She told Ajahn Chah she could stay only a short time, as she had to return to take care of her grandchildren, and since she was an old lady, she asked if he could please give her a brief Dhamma talk.
Ajahn Chah replied with great force, "Hey, listen! There’s no one here, just this! No owner, no one to be old, to be young, to be good or bad, weak or strong. Just this, that’s all - just various elements of nature going their own way, all empty. No one born and no one to die! Those who speak of birth and death are speaking the language of ignorant children. In the language of the heart, of Dhamma, there are no such things as birth and death."
94. The real foundation of the teaching is to see the self as being empty. But people come to study the Dhamma to increase their self-view, so they don’t want to experience suffering or difficulty. They want everything to be cosy. They may want to transcend suffering, but if there is still a self, how can they ever do so?
95. It is so easy once you understand. It is so simple and direct. When pleasant things arise, understand that they are empty. When unpleasant things arise, see that they are not yours. They pass away. Don’t relate to them as being you, or see yourself as the owner of them. You think that papaya tree is yours, then why don’t you feel hurt when it is cut down? If you can understand this, then the mind comes into balance. When the mind comes into balance, then this is the correct path, the correct teaching of the Buddha, and the teaching that leads to liberation.
96. People don’t study that which is beyond good and evil. This is what they should study. "I’m going to be like this; I’m going to be like that," they say. But they never say, "I’m not going to be anything because there really isn’t any T’." This they don’t study.
97. Once you understand non-self, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy. Learn to let go without struggle, simply let go, to be just as you are - no holding on, no attachment, free.
98. All bodies are composed of the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire. When they come together and form a body we say it’s a male, a female, giving it names, and so on, so that we can identify each other more easily. But actually there isn’t anyone there - only earth, water, wind and fire. Don’t get excited over it or infatuated by it. If you really look into it, you will not find anyone there.
99. Q: What’s peacefulness like?
A: What’s confusion? Well, peacefulness is the end of confusion.
100. Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering, it is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by, a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.
101. If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will have complete peace.
102. Actually, in truth, there isn’t anything to human beings. Whatever we may be, it’s only in the realm of appearances. However, if we go beyond appearances and see the truth, we will see that there isn’t anything there but the universal characteristics - birth in the beginning, change in the middle, and cessation in the end. This is all there is. If we see that all things are like this, then no problems arise. If we understand this, we will have contentment and peace.
103. Know what is good and bad, whether travelling or living in one place. You can’t find peace on a mountain or in a cave. You can even go to where the Buddha attained enlightenment without getting closer to the truth.
104. Looking outside the self is to compare and to discriminate. You will not find happiness that way. Nor will you find peace if you spend your time looking for a perfect person or the perfect teacher. The Buddha taught us to look at the Dhamma, the truth, and not to look at other people.
105. Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but the Buddha taught US that sort of home is not our real home. It’s a home in the world and it follows the ways of the world. Our real home is inner peace.
106. The forest is peaceful, why aren’t you? You hold onto things causing your confusion. Let nature teach you. Hear the bird’s song and then let go. If you know nature, you’ll know Dhamma. If you know Dhamma, you’ll know nature.
107. Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache. You won’t be able to find it. But when your heart is ' ready, peace will come looking for you.
108. Virtue, concentration, and wisdom together make up the Path. But this Path is not yet the true teaching, not what the teacher actually wanted, but merely the Path that will take you there. For example, say you traveled the road from Bangkok to Wat Pah Pong; the road was necessary for your journey, but you were seeking Wat Pah Pong, the monastery, not the road. In the same way, we can say that virtue, concentration, and wisdom are outside the truth of the Buddha but are the road that leads to this truth. When you have developed these three factors, the result is the most wonderful peace.
109. There are two kinds of suffering: the suffering which leads to more suffering, and the suffering which leads to the end of suffering. The first is the pain of grasping after fleeting pleasures and aversion for the unpleasant, the continued struggle of most people day after day. The second is the suffering which comes when you allow yourself to feel fully the constant change of experience - pleasure, pain, joy, and anger - without fear or withdrawal. The suffering of our experience leads to inner fearlessness and peace.
110. We want to take the easy way, but if there’s no suffering, there’s no wisdom. To be ripe for wisdom, you must really break down and cry in your practice at least three times.
111. We don’t become monks or nuns to eat well, sleep well, and be very comfortable, but to know suffering:
- how to accept it...
- how to get rid of it...
- how not to cause it.
So don’t do that which causes suffering, like indulging in greed, or it will never leave you.
112. In truth, happiness is suffering in disguise but in such a subtle form that you don’t see it. If you cling to happiness, it’s the same as clinging to suffering, but you don’t realize it. When you hold onto happiness, it’s impossible to throw away the inherent suffering. They’re insepara-ble like that. Thus the Buddha taught us to know suffering, see it as the inherent harm in happiness, to see them as equal. So be careful! When happiness arises, don’t be overjoyed, and don’t get carried away. When suffering comes, don’t despair, don’t lose yourself in it. See that they have the same equal value.
113. When suffering arises, understand that there is no one to accept it. If you think suffering is yours, happiness is yours, you will not be able to find peace.
114. People who suffer will accordingly gain wisdom. If we don’t suffer, we don’t contemplate. If we don’t contemplate, no wisdom is born. Without wisdom, we don’t know. Not knowing, we can’t get free of suffering - that’s just the way it is. Therefore we must train and endure in our practice. When we then reflect on the world, we won’t be afraid like before. It isn’t that the Buddha was enlightened outside of the world but within the world itself.
115. Sensual indulgence and self-mortification are two paths the Buddha discouraged. This is just happiness and suffering. We imagine we have freed ourselves from suffering, but we haven’t. We just cling to happiness. If we cling to happiness, we will suffer again. That’s the way it is, but people think contrarily.
116. People have suffering in one place, so they go somewhere else. When suffering arises there, they run off again. They think they’re running away from suffering, but they’re not. Suffering goes with them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don’t know suffering, then we can’t know the cause of suffering. If we don’t know the cause of suffering, then we can’t know the cessation of suffering. There’s no way we can escape it.
117. Students today have much more knowledge than students of previous times. They have got all the things they need, everything is more convenient. But they also have a lot more suffering and confusion than before. Why is this?
118. Do not be a bodhisatta; do not be an arahant; do not be anything at all. If you are a bodhisatta, you will suffer; if you are an arahant, you will suffer; if you are anything at all, you will suffer.
119. Love and hate are both suffering, because of desire. Wanting is suffering; wanting not to have is suffering. Even if you get what you want, it’s still suffering because once you’ve got it, you then live in the fear of losing it. How are you going to live happily with fear?
120. When you’re angry, does it feel good or bad? If it feels so bad, then why don’t you throw it away? Why bother to keep it? How can you say that you are wise and intelligent if you hold onto such things? Some days the mind can even cause the whole family to quarrel or cause you to cry all night. And, yet, we still continue to get angry and suffer. If you see the suffering of anger, then just throw it away. If you don’t throw it away, it’ll go on causing suffering indefinitely, with no chance of respite. The world of unsatisfactory existence is like this. If we know the way it is, we can solve the problem.
121. A woman wanted to know how to deal with anger. I asked her when anger arose whose anger it was. She said it was hers. Well, if it really was her anger, then she should be able to tell it to go away, shouldn’t she? But it really isn’t hers to command. Holding onto anger as a personal possession will cause suffering. If anger really belonged to US, it would have to obey US. If it doesn’t obey US, that means it’s only a deception. Don’t fall for it. Whether the mind is happy or sad, don’t fall for it. It’s all a deception.
122. If you see certainty in that which is uncertain, you are bound to suffer.
123. The Buddha is always here teaching. See for yourself. There is happiness and there is unhappiness. There is pleasure and there is pain. And they’re always here. When you understand the nature of pleasure and pain, there you see the Buddha, there you see the Dhamma. The Buddha is not apart from them.
124. Contemplating them together, we see that happiness and suffering are equal, just as hot and cold are. The heat from a fire can burn us to death, while the coldness from ice can freeze us to death. Neither is greater. It’s the same with happiness and suffering. In the world, everyone desires happiness and no one desires suffering. Nibba¯na has no de- sire. There is only tranquility.
125. You are your own teacher. Looking for teachers can’t solve your own doubts. Investigate yourself to find the truth - inside, not outside. Knowing yourself is most important.
126. One of my teachers ate very fast. He made noises as he ate. Yet he told US to eat slowly and mindfully. I used to watch him and get very upset. I suffered, but he didn't! I watched the outside. Later I learned: some people drive very fast but carefully; others drive slowly and have many accidents. Don’t cling to rules, to outer form. If you watch others at most ten percent of the time and watch yourself ninety percent of the time, your practice is obey.
127. Disciples are hard to teach. Some know but don’t bother to practise. Some don’t know and don’t try to find out. I don’t know what to do with them. Why is it humans have minds like this? Being ignorant is not good, but even if I tell them, they still don’t listen. People are so full of doubts in their practice. They’re always doubting. They want to go to nibbana but they don’t want to walk the path. It’s baffling. When I tell them to meditate, they’re afraid, and if not afraid, then just plain sleepy. Mostly they like to do the things I don’t teach. This is the pain of being a teacher.
128. If we could see the truth of the Buddha’s teaching so easily, we wouldn’t need so many teachers. When we understand the teachings, we just do what is required of us. But what makes people so difficult to teach is that they don’t accept the teachings and argue with the teachers and the teachings. In front of the teacher they behave a little better, but behind his back they become thieves! People are really difficult to teach.
129. I don’t teach my disciples to live and practice heedlessly. But that’s what they do when I’m not around. When the policeman is around, the thieves behave themselves. When he asks if there are any thieves around, of course they all say there aren’t, that they’ve never seen any. But as soon as the policeman’s gone, they’re at it again. It was like that even in the Buddha’s time. So just watch yourself and don’t be concerned with what others do.
130. True teachers speak only of the difficult practice of giving up or getting rid of the self Whatever may happen, do not abandon the teacher. Let him guide you, because it is easy to forget the Path.
131. Your doubts about your teacher can help you. Take from your teacher what is good, and be aware of your own practice. Wisdom is for yourself to watch and develop.
132. Don’t just go and believe in the teacher because he says a fruit is sweet and delicious. Taste it for yourself and then all the doubting will be over.
133. Teachers are those who point out the direction of the Path. After listening to the teacher, whether or not we walk the Path by practising ourselves, and thereby reap the fruits of practice, is strictly up to each one of us.
134. Sometimes teaching is hard work. A teacher is like a garbage can that people throw their frustrations and problems into. The more people you teach, the bigger the garbage disposal problems. But teaching is a wonderful way to practise Dhamma. Those who teach grow in patience and in understanding.
135. A teacher cannot really clear up our difficulties. He is just a source to investigate the Path. He can’t make it clear. Actually what he says is not worth listening to. The Buddha never praised believing in others. We must believe ourselves. This is difficult, yes, but that’s really how it is. We look outside but never really see. We have to decide to really practice. Doubts don’t disappear by asking others, but through our own unending practice.