January 2023 Sesshin, Day 3: Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away: Teachings on Impermanence and the End of Suffering by Ajahn Chah (trans. by Paul Breiter)
3:29PM Jan 19, 2023
This is day three of this January 2023, seven day Rohatusu sesshin. And we're going to read again today, from the book, Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away: Teachings on Impermanence and the End of Suffering by Ajahn Chah.
Yesterday, when we finished up, we read this passage with lace supporters come to make offerings here, they recite, in the end may we finally reached nirvana in a future time. Because that's just some standard chant that they use in that tradition. when or where that is, they don't really know. It's so very far away. They don't say here and now, they say sometime in the future. It's always somewhere, sometime, they're not here, only there. In the next life, he will also be there. And in future lives, it will be there. So they never arrive. Because it's always there. It goes on and says it's, it's like people inviting an old monk to receive ALMS food in a village and saying, Please, Venerable sir, go from alms in the village over there. Then when he has walked to a distant village, they say, Please, venerable one, receive your arms over there, your arms over there, he keeps on walking. But wherever he arrives, they tell him, Please receive your arms food over there. Poor old fellow will never see a morsel of food just keeps on walking there and over there, and nothing becomes of it. We tend to be like this. We never say here and now. Why not? Is there something wrong with the present? It's because we are still involved with things.
Because we're still caught up in the drama, getting what we want, for avoiding what we hate.
Such a radically different move, to just settle into this moment. Put down the burden for just a bit. takes us a long time to do this to learn this.
Sometimes we stumble into it. But then we fall back out and we don't know our way back. Have to keep learning again and again.
He says we still delight in the worldly, and don't dare to give it up. So we prefer to let it be sometime in the future.
story about St. Augustine, famous Catholic saint. As a young man, he was let's just say he was sexually active. And he prayed to God, Dear God, please make me chaste. But not yet.
We prefer to let it be sometime in the future. Just like someone egging on the old monk with talk of a meal offering please search travel over there for your ohms so he goes in search of the place over there where he can find food to sustain himself. But it's never here. And he never receives any food. Let's talk about here and now in the present. Practice really can be done in the present. We don't need to look to sometime in the future. It's amazing. We even have to say that isn't it? Practice can be done right here in the present. We can relax into the present I can notice that tension we have to get over there, where our food is going to be. Says rather than becoming anxious about anything, we just look at the here and now Dharma and see uncertainty and impermanence. See everything in motion, nothing is static. Everything is flowing.
We want everything to stop moving, want to get into whatever state it is, it's going to be the right one and then we want to lock it down and stay there. The mind is constantly changing, the body is constantly changing.
says, when we look at the here and now Dharma, the buddha mind, the one who knows comes to be it is developed through this knowledge that all things are impermanent, we could say through non clinging, non abiding through Mu.
John Chow says, This is where knowledge is gained Samadhi the collectiveness of the mind can be developed here. There is the peace of living in the forest, there is calm when the eye doesn't see and the ear doesn't hear. The mind is pacified of seeing and hearing. But it is not pacified of the defilements. The defilements are still there. But at that time, they aren't appearing. It's like water with sediment in it. When it's still it's clear. But when something stirs the dirt rises up and clouds it, you are the same in your practice. When you see forms, hear sounds, have disagreeable experiences or have bodily sensations that are unpleasant, then you're disturbed. These don't occur, you're comfortable, you're comfortable with the defilements
is the limitation of Samadhi. To temporary condition, the promise of that deep absorption is that we may see
things can turn upside down the world of self and things can disappear. Opposition of liking and disliking.
Says the Samadhi that comes from living in a peaceful environment is like that there is happiness and being pleased by the tranquil state. But the happiness only goes so far. Because the mind is under the influence of desire for something that is changeable. desire for peace, tranquility. After a while it'll be gone and the unhappiness will take its place.
Just as when a thief gets the camera you've been wanting and finally got. This is the peace of Samadhi the temporary peace of tranquility meditation, we have to look into this a little more deeply. Whatever we have will become a source of suffering when we lose it. If we aren't aware of its impermanence. If we are aware of it, then we can make use of things without being burdened by them. We're not attached. Nothing wrong with good food pleasant conditions.
In our attachment we forget that everything is changeable. The Buddha taught to look in the present and see the impermanence of body and mind of all phenomena as they appear and cease without grasping at any of it. If we can do this, we will experience peace. This peace comes because of letting go. Letting Go comes about Because of wisdom, the wisdom that comes from contemplation of impermanence, suffering, and not self, again the three aspects of reality the truth of experiencing and witness witnessing this truth in one's own mind.
Practicing is like this, we are continuously seeing clearly within our own minds. That is noticing, noticing our thoughts and feelings. When we notice them, we don't get hijacked by them says phenomena arise and cease ceasing, there is new arising, arising there is ceasing, if we form attachment to what occurs, suffering comes about right there. If we are letting go, suffering will not come about. We see this in our own minds.
suffering that we that we experience is a is a message, it's a little alarm. When teacher called it a compassionate alarm clock, that tells you, you're living in the dream. Instead of running away from it, look into it. Instead of feeling this is wrong, learn what you can
everything is workable.
He says we can gain real certainty about the Dharma when meditating like this, and we can come to the point where all we have to do is be looking at our minds in the present.
We let go of the past and the future, and look in the present. And we see the three characteristics continuously and in everything. Walking, there is impermanence. Standing, there is impermanence. Sitting, there is impermanence. Everything is in flow. Nothing is fixed. We are open and responsive.
That's the inherent truth in things. If you're looking for certainty and permanence. You can only find it in the fact that things are this way and not changing into some other way. When your view matures like this, you will be at peace. Or do you think that by going to meditate on a Lonely Mountain Top you'll have peace, you may have peace for a while. But when the austerity of living there catches up with you, you'll start to feel hungry and exhausted. So you come down the mountain and head for town, lots of good food and comforts there. But then you'll begin to think it's disturbing to your practice, that it goes somewhere remote. Really, someone who suffers when living alone is foolish. Someone who suffers when living with others is foolish. It's like chicken turds. If you carry them around by yourself, you stink. If you keep them when you're among others, they also stink. You carry the rotten things with you
could say the calls are coming from inside the house. If we are astute, then we may be living around a lot of people and feel it isn't a peaceful environment. And that will be correct to some extent. But still it can be a cause for gaining wisdom. I developed some wisdom from having a lot of disciples. lay people came in large numbers, many monks wanting to be disciples and everyone had their own views and dispositions. I experienced a lot of different things. And I had to rise to the occasion. My capacity for patience and endurance was strengthened to the extent that I could bear it. I was able to keep practicing, that all my experience became meaningful. But if we don't understand correctly If there is no resolution, living alone will be good. Until we get fed up with it, then we think it's better to live in a group. Having simple food will seem good, and then maybe having a lot of food will seem to be the right way. It goes on like this when we can't resolve our minds once and for all. Seeing that everything is unreliable, we will take all situations of lack or plenty as uncertain and not have attachment to them. We pay attention to the present moment, wherever this body happens to be dwelling. That staying will be okay. Traveling will be okay. Everything will be okay. Because we are focused on the practice of recognizing the way things really are. People say I John Cha only talks about not certain. They get fed up with hearing this, and they run away from me. We went to hear John Todd Cha teach, but all he talked about was not certain. They can't bear to hear the same old thing anymore. So they leave. I guess they're going to look for someplace where things will be certain. But they'll come back
it's hard. It's practice is hard. Recognizing the truth is hard. But as Dogan said, this estate sustained exertion is not something that people of the world naturally love or desire. Yet, it is the last refuge of all.
finding our way back to now to here dropping the dream. It's not easy
but it's worthwhile.
Moving on to another chapter, entitled A perplexed meditator meets the Buddha. He tells a story here, there was a venerable elder in the time of the Buddha. He was a serious meditator. He wanted to get to the bottom of things. And so he went to practice Samadhi and seclusion. Sometimes his meditation was peaceful, and sometimes it wasn't, he couldn't make it stable. Sometimes he was lazy. And sometimes he felt diligent. So he started to have some doubts, and he thought he needed to hear more about the path of practice, you would hear of different teachers, such and such Master is really good. His practice and teachings are excellent, his famous spread far and wide. And he would seek out that teacher to learn his way of practice. And after studying for a while, he would go back to practice on his own again. Then, practicing what he had learned from that teacher, he found that some things agreed with his own ideas, and some didn't, as dot doubts would keep on coming, he would hear someone praising another teacher. And so he went to see that one, he would learn from that teacher and then ended up comparing it with what he had learned from the previous one. And kept on learning and comparing. And the teachings didn't agree. And further, they didn't agree with his own ideas. So his doubts increased even more. And then there were the methods of practicing Samadhi. He thought about them all and tried them all and only made his mind scattered and disturbed. It didn't bring his mind to concentration. He was getting to the point of exhaustion, and was still as full of doubts as ever. One day, he heard about the monk, Gautama. That's the Buddha, that he was indeed someone special. He couldn't resist. off he went yet once again. Arriving at the place where the Buddha was staying. He listened to the teaching of the Dharma. Gautama said, trying to gain understanding from another's words will not bring an end to doubt. The more one listens, the more one doubts, the more one listens, the more confused one becomes. Of course, we're speaking of doubt, not in terms of the doubt sensation, not in terms of wondering do keep wondering about the nature of things, but confusion, uncertainty about what to do how to practice. The Lord Buddha said, doubt is not something that another person can resolve for us. Another person can only explain about doubt. It is for us to apply to our own experience and come to direct knowledge ourselves. The Buddha taught within this body our form feelings, perceptions, thoughts and consciousness. These are the five skandhas makeup, body in mind. These are already our teachers giving us knowledge, but it requires proper meditation and investigation. If you want to make an end of doubt, then you should stop and investigate this body and mind
talking about direct experience, not ideas. Not slogans, not pictures. thing itself. The Buddha says, discard the past, whatever good when one has done whatever evil one has done, discard them, there is no benefit in holding on to them. Now. Whatever was good has passed, whatever was wrong has passed. The future has not yet come, whatever will be will arise and pass away in the future. When it does, you should recognize it and discard it without grasping. Whatever occurred in the past has vanished. Why will you expand yourself thinking about it now. In the present, you need not be involved with it. You need not try to stop any thoughts or recognition. But having thought of and recognize the past, you're aware of this and let it go. Because it is something that is already finished. The future has not yet come knowing thoughts of the future as they arise and pass away. Let them go. thoughts of the past are impermanent, the future is uncertain, knowing them, let them go. Look at the present right now. Look at the here and now Dharma of your present experience. Do not think that this or that teacher will resolve your doubts for you. All the teacher can do is encourage you to do the experiment
everyone has to learn for themselves. Everyone has to stop and turn the mind in.
It's hard for us to do. It's why sesshin is so helpful.
Turning the Mind back, we give ourselves to the process. Not trying to make anything. Feel anything special. Just trying to see what's there. strip everything else away. Only Mu only this only the breath
he says the Buddha did not praise those who believe others. One who relies on the words of others and is elated or depressed thereby is not praised by the Buddha. Understanding what someone says one should let go. Because those words are another's and should not be attached to even if they are correct. They are correct for that person. If we don't internalize them and make them correct in our own hearts, they never really become correct for us. And the doubts will not cease. Is it correct? Is that teacher right? Is this teacher wrong? This means we haven't practiced to realize the true meaning. So we are not yet praised by the Buddha. I am always teaching about this aspect of the Dharma that calls for turning inward to see to know and to realize for yourself. If someone says something is right, don't yet believe him. He says something is wrong. Don't yet believe him. Right and wrong are merely words spoken by some other person. Whatever teaching you here, internalize it and practice to realize the truth of it. Hear and now
the same practice will not be the same for different individuals because of their differing degrees of wisdom. Even beyond that, we could say because of their different characteristics, just everyone is different. works for one person doesn't work for another. We go to see meditation teachers and try to understand their way. We look at their methods and their conduct, but this is looking at externals. What we can see of their practice is just the external part. If this is how we approach it, then our doubts will always remain. Why does this teacher practice in this way? Why does that teacher use that method? Why does one teach a lot, while another teaches very little, and another doesn't teach at all. This can really confuse you. Finding the right way doesn't depend on these things. It's up to each individual to follow the correct path. We can take others as good examples, but we have to look deeper within ourselves in order to eradicate the doubts. Thus, the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught that elder that elder in the story, to contemplate the present moment, not letting his mind go off towards past or future.
Says the wheel of samsara the round of existence spins, but it's not necessary to try to follow after it goes around in a circle. You want to try to keep up with it, it's really fast. If a wheel is spinning, you can stay in one place and let it spin around. A lizard might try to run after it. You can stay put, and see the lizard come around again and again. Without having to chase it. It's fast. The cycle of the worldly dramas, dharmas, dharmas and dramas. But for a person who has wisdom, there is no problem. If one is mindful than in all different situations coming and going, taking care of whatever affairs one has to there is no harm to the mind.
Gonna move on to another section of the book. This is part three. We're leaving impermanence behind. And now we've got dukkha unsatisfactoriness. So this is chapter 16. Understanding dukkha dukkha, sticks on the skin and goes into the flesh, from the flesh, it gets into the bones. It's like an insect on a tree that eats through the bark into the woods and then into the core. Until finally the tree dies. As we grow up, it gets buried deep inside. Our parents teach us grasping and attachment, giving meaning to things, believing firmly that we exist as a self entity, and the things belong to us. From our birth, that's what we're taught. We hear this over and over again. And it penetrates our hearts and stays there as our habitual feeling. Not only our parents, everyone, all of society, our peers, brothers and sisters and friends. Everyone lives this way
remember my, at that time granddaughter, Isabelle suddenly standing up at the table and pointing to her mom and dad and say, Mommy, Daddy, than pointing to herself and saying is he remember thinking this can't be good
but we have to, we have to get that down. That's that's the beginning. We have to differentiate in order to live in this world. Then we got some cleaning up to do. You says when we take an interest in meditation and hear the teaching of a spiritual guide, it's not easy to understand. It doesn't really grab us. We're taught not to see and do things the old way. But when we hear this, it doesn't penetrate our hearts. So we sit and listen to teachings, but it's often just sound entering the years. It doesn't get inside and affect us. It's like we're boxing, we keep hitting the other guy, but he doesn't go down. We remain stuck in ourselves view. The wise have said that moving a mountain from one place to another is easier than moving the conceit of self view, this solid feeling that we really exist as some special individual.
That solid feeling is a barrier barrier to getting deep into our practice Ramana Maharshi the Indian sage said, you need not have any attitude in the mind. All that is required is you must give up the attitude that you are the body of such and such a name and so on. There is no need to have an attitude about your real nature. It exists as it always does. It is real and no attitude.
John Chow says we can use explosives to level a mountain and then move the earth but the tight grasping of self conceit, oh man are wrong ideas and bad tendencies remain so solid and on budging, and we're not aware of them. So one of the fruits of practice is becoming aware of those wrong ideas and bad tendencies. People think it's bad news when those things come and hit them in the face. But it's necessary to start. Says the wise have said that removing this view and turning wrong understanding and to right understanding is about the hardest thing to do. For us who are worldly beings to progress on to being virtuous beings. These are two Pali terms which I'm not going to bother with. To progress on to being virtuous be it beings is not easy. Worldly being is one who is thickly obscured who is dark, who is stuck deep in this darkness and obscuration. A virtuous being has made things lighter, we teach people to lighten. But they don't want to do that because they don't understand their situation, their condition of obscuration, so they keep on drifting in their confused state. If we come across a pile of buffalo dung, you've got something about really isn't earthy guy. If we come across a pile of buffalo dung, we won't think it's ours. And we won't want to pick it up. We'll just leave it where it is because we know what it is, such as what's good in the way of the impure. that which is evil is the food of bad people. If you teach them about doing good, they're not interested, but prefer to stay as they are because they don't see the harm in it. Without seeing the harm, there is no way things can be rectified. If you recognize it, then you think, Oh, my whole pile of dung doesn't have the value of a small piece of gold. And you will want the golden stead you won't want the dog anymore. If you don't recognize this, you remain the owner of a pile of dung. But it is so hard to let go of it. Remember the phrase in the Dhammapada when the Buddha says quotes the person saying he robbed me He abused me he beat me to those who think in this way, suffering will not cease. We feel that our resentments are justified feel that things should be different. Reality should be different. I fought the law and the law one.
That's the so called good of the impure gold. rules and diamonds are considered something good in the realm of humans, the foul and rotten are good for flies and other insects. If you gather fresh flowers, the flies won't be interested in them. Even if you tried to pay them, they wouldn't come. But wherever there's a dead animal, wherever there is something rotten, that's where they'll go. wrong view is like that. It delights in that kind of thing. What sweet smelling to a bee is not sweet to a fly. Course with us, even when we don't like it, we're attracted to it, we can't drop the things we dislike. we wallow in pain, because we're habituated to it. Don't know any other way a lot of addiction is no longer fun. But not doing it seems harder.
It says there is difficulty in practice. But in anything we undertake, we have to pass through difficulty to reach ease. In Dharma practice, we begin with the truth of dukkha, the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence. But as soon as we experience this, we lose heart. We don't want to look at it. dukkha is really the truth. But we want to get around it somehow. It's similar to the way we don't like to look at old people, but prefer to look at the young and attractive. Thinking one of the fruits of practice, that we begin to see the beauty in every face. Something I remember Roshi Kapleau, mentioning, way back in the 60s, came back from Japan.
spoke of the beauty of an angry face. Everything is so fascinating and interesting. When we're not turned away by our likes and dislikes. We can drop our agenda. Things open up and reveal themselves. Find everyone has their own kind of beauty.
It says if we don't want to look at dukkha, we will never understand dukkha no matter how long we live dukkha is truth. If we allow ourselves to face it, then we will start to seek a way out of it. If we're trying to go somewhere and the road is blocked, we will think about how to make a pathway working at it day after day we can get through. When we encounter problems, we develop wisdom like this. Without seeing dukkha we don't really look into and resolve our problems. We just bear with them or pass them by and differently. My way of trading people involves some suffering, because understanding suffering is the Buddha's path to enlightenment. He wanted us to see suffering and see its origination, its sensation, its cessation, and the path that brings about cessation. This is the way out for all the awakened ones. If you don't go this way, there is no way out.
Opposing our habits creates some suffering. But generally we are afraid of suffering. If something will make us suffer, we don't want to do it. We're interested in what appears to be good and beautiful. And we feel that anything involving suffering is bad. But it's not like that. If there is suffering in the heart, it becomes the cause that makes you think about escaping. It leads you to contemplate you will be intent on investigating to find out what is really going on trying to see causes and their results. To put it in a Alcoholics Anonymous terms, it's like a drunk bottom. When things get bad enough. We realize we have to do something different and when ready, are ready to drop our old views ready to be humbled.
We need to suffer in order to drop our pride stop competing, trying to stand out above others.
We have to suffer enough. For some people, it doesn't take much. I remember in AAA hearing the story of a woman who had been wrapping presents under the Christmas tree, and she woke up the next morning realizing she had fallen asleep there. And she was shot so shocked that she joined a and never drank again. Most drunks have a more spectacular bottom. But it varies quite a bit, quite a bit. In a way, though, person who hits the bottom the person who sees their suffering understands that the way they're approaching life isn't working. That person is fortunate, because the people who manage to skate by managed to continue to hold on to self view, to preen to criticize others, but everything is going okay to them by their assessment anyway, those people will never change. Sometimes, we have to be miserable before we can turn around. How miserable is different for everybody. So one of the virtues of machine is that it makes us miserable.
But then we find a way find a way and so sheen becomes the most wonderful thing. Doesn't stop being miserable. But it's still become something wonderful. We're in the third day, still in the more miserable portion of sushi for most people. But things are beginning to brighten a bit. People are beginning to become more settled. In to understand yes, we can do this work. So much possibility. We'll stop here and recite the four vows