“We live a life full of the power of kamma — old kamma and new. You can’t do anything about old kamma. You have to accept it like a good sport. That’s why you practice equanimity. But as for the new kamma you’re creating right now, you can’t practice equanimity with that. You have to be very concerned about what you’re putting into the system because you realize that this is the only chance you get to make the choice. Once the choice is made and it gets put into the system, then whatever the energy — positive or negative — that’s the sort of energy you’re going to have to experience. So pay attention: What are you putting into the system right now? This is the important thing to focus on.”
~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Skills to Take with You”, Meditations1,
“This is why the Buddha says that uncertainty is overcome by looking at skillful and unskillful qualities in the mind. To begin with, you’re focusing your attention on the most important issue in life, which is what sort of impact your actions are having, and particularly what kind of impact your mind states are having. After all, the source of action is in the mind. If you’re uncertain about different mental qualities, then watch. Try developing goodwill; try being generous; try observing the precepts. See what kind of impact these qualities have on your life.”
When the Buddha was giving his very first instructions on monastic discipline, and this was to a spontaneous gathering of 1,250 of his enlightened disciples at the Bamboo Grove, his first words were: “Patient endurance is the supreme practice for freeing the heart from unwholesome states.”
So when someone would come to Ajahn Chah with a tale of woe, of how their husband was drinking and the rice crop looked bad this year, his first response would often be: “Can you endure it?” This was said not as some kind of macho challenge, but more as a way of pointing to the fact that the way beyond suffering is neither to run away from it, wallow in it, or even grit one’s teeth and get through on will alone—no—the encouragement of patient endurance is to hold steady in the midst of difficulty, to truly apprehend and digest the experience of dukkha, to understand its causes and let them go.
~From “Food For the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah”
You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past
is left behind.
is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
Not taken in,
that’s how you develop the heart.
what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.
Whoever lives thus ardently,
both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day:
so says the Peaceful Sage.
Bhaddekaratta Sutta: An Auspicious Day” (MN 131), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013,
What does it mean to be mindful of the breath? Something very simple: to keep the breath in mind. Keep remembering the breath each time you breathe in, each time you breathe out. The British scholar who coined the term “mindfulness” to translate the Pali word sati was probably influenced by the Anglican prayer to be ever mindful of the needs of others—in other words, to always keep their needs in mind. But even though the word “mindful” was probably drawn from a Christian context, the Buddha himself defined sati as the ability to remember, illustrating its function in meditation practice with the four satipatthanas, or establishings of mindfulness.
“And what is the faculty of sati? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. (And here begins the satipatthana formula:) He remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… the mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.”
— SN 48.10x
Mindfulness Defined”, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 1 December 2012,
How to cope with wavering thoughts?
Versatile are flying clouds,
Yet from the sky they’re not apart.
Mighty are the ocean’s waves,
Yet they are not separate from the sea.
Heavy and thick are banks of fog,
Yet from the air they’re not apart.
Frantic runs the mind in voidness,
Yet from the Void it never separates.
“.. Don’t hate your fears or fear your fears. Learn how to educate them. When they’re educated and trained, they’re part of the path to the end of suffering. This is part of the Buddha’s genius: He took things that many of us don’t like about the mind, things that actually cause trouble in the mind, and learned how to tame them, to train them, so that they actually become part of the path to the end of suffering. In this way, you can reach a place in the mind where there really is no more reason to fear. As Ven. Ananda said, you use desire to come to the end of desire. In the same way, you can use fear, treating it wisely, to bring yourself to the end of fear. And as it turns out, that’s the only way you can get there.”
“Many of those who come to see me have a high standing in the community. Among them are merchants, college graduates, teachers, and government officials. Their minds are filled with opinions about things. They are too clever to listen to others. It is like a cup of water. If a cup is filled with stale, dirty water, it is useless. Only after the old water is thrown out can the cup become useful.
“You must empty your minds of opinions, then you will see. Our practice goes beyond cleverness and stupidity. If you think that you are clever, wealthy, important, or an expert in Buddhism, you cover up the truth of non-self. All you will see is self — I and mine. But Buddhism is letting go of self. Those who are too clever will never learn. They must first get rid of their cleverness, first empty their ‘cup.'”
Ajahn Chah was one of the great Buddhist masters of the 20th century. The following is a vintage talk given by him in his direct and unadorned style of teaching. The aside (“Whose parents are these?”) is quite charming and the extemporaneous talk he gives turns into an illuminating seminar on sitting meditation practice. Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
+ + + This was a public talk by Ajahn Chah given on October 10, 1977, addressed to the parents of a monk who had come from France to visit their son at his Thai monastery. From“Still Flowing Water”
SO NOW… There’s been not enough time…. too little time…. You’ve been visiting for many days now, and we haven’t had the chance to talk, to ask questions, because here at Wat Nong Pa Pong there’ve been many visitors, both day and night. So we haven’t had the opportunity to talk.
[Aside: Whose parents are these?]
Ṭhitiñāṇo’s parents have come to visit from Paris for several days now, staying three nights at Wat Pa Pong and three nights at Wat Pa Nanachat. In two days you’re going to leave. So I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you how glad I am that you made the effort to come here to Wat Nong Pa Pong and that you’ve had the chance
to visit with your son, the monk. I’m glad for you, but I don’t have any gift to give to you.
There are already lots of material things and whatnot in Paris. Lots of material things. But there’s not much Dhamma to nourish people’s hearts and bring them peace. There’s not much at all. From what I observed when I was there, all I could see were things to stir up the heart and give it trouble all the time. From what I observed, Paris seems to be very advanced in terms of all kinds of material things that are sensual objects—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas that act as temptations for people who aren’t familiar with the Dhamma, getting them all stirred up. So now I’d like to give a gift of Dhamma that you can put into practice in Paris after you leave Wat Nong Pa Pong and Wat Pa Nanachat.
The Dhamma is a condition that can cut through and reduce the problems and difficulties in the human heart—reducing them, reducing them until they’re gone. This condition is called Dhamma. So you should train yourself in this Dhamma in your daily life. When any preoccupation strikes and disturbs the mind, you can then solve the problem, you can resolve it. That’s because problems of this sort, everyone—whether here in Thailand, abroad, everywhere: If you don’t know how to solve this problem, it’s normal that you suffer.
When this sort of problem arises, the way to solve it is discernment:
building discernment, training discernment, making discernment arise from within our heart. As for the path of practice, it’s nothing far away. It’s right within you: in your body and mind. It’s the same whether you’re Thai or from abroad. The body and mind are what stir up trouble. But the body and mind can bring peace. Continue reading The Path of Practice is Nothing Far Away→
“Just be mindful of your bodily activities, every moment, every posture and every action that you do. Just watch. Don’t send your mind to think about something else. When you’re walking, standing, eating, taking a shower, driving or whatever activity you do, stay with that activity. This is being mindful.”
“When you come to sit in concentration, then even if your mind isn’t yet quiet, simply sitting in the meditation posture is something good. It’s better than people who don’t even do that much.
“It’s like being hungry, but today there’s only rice, with nothing to go with it. We feel disgruntled, but I’d say that it’s better than having no rice at all. Eating plain rice is better than not eating anything, right? If all you have is plain rice, eat that for the time being.
“It’s better than not eating anything at all. The same with this: Even if we know only a little about how to practice, it’s still good.”
“Upon embarking on any course we need to understand what we are undertaking and why. This is especially true for endeavors of great consequence, such as Dharma practice, which have the power to reshape our lives in radical ways. Buddhist contemplative practices challenge our fundamental assumptions about ourselves, our experience, and our relationship with the world around us…”
Only when the mind
Is settled can it become quiet.
Only when the mind
Is quiet can it become still.
Only when the mind
Is still can it see.
And only when the mind can see,
Can it reach the mystery of mysteries.
This is the process
That anyone who
Practices has to go through.
How long it takes
Is up to the individual.