January 2023 Sesshin, Day 4: 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 the fourth day of this January 2023, seven day Rohatusu sesshin going to spend one more day with Ajahn Chah, our friend from Thailand. reading from the book, Everything Arises Everything Falls Away: Teachings on Impermanence, and the End of Suffering.
I'm going to pick up where we left off yesterday. The last thing we read was opposing our habits creates some suffering. But generally we are afraid of suffering. And if something will make us suffer, we don't want to do it. We are 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 a 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 the results. Really dissatisfaction is the impetus for coming into real practice. People being what they are, when everything's good when everything's fine, we tend we tend to coast.
Fortunately, everything's not fine. Sooner or later, we're gonna get bruised. He says happy people don't develop wisdom. They're asleep. It's like a dog that eats its fill. After that it doesn't want to do anything, can sleep all day. It won't bark. If a burglar comes, it's too full and too tired. But if you only give it a little food, it will be alert and awake. If someone comes sneaking around, it will jump up and start barking. Have you seen that
my dog is almost 14 years old, a lot of food, little food doesn't matter. He's sleeping.
We humans are trapped and imprisoned in this world and have troubles in such abundance. And we are always full of doubt, confusion and worry. This is no game. So there's something we need to get rid of. According to the way of spiritual cultivation, we should give up our bodies give up ourselves. We have to resolve to give our lives to the pursuit of liberation. Sounds like a big ask. But it's it's actually a pretty good deal. These bodies and cells cause of a lot of pain and suffering. It's our identification with our body, our belief in this imaginary self. Our pride and rigidity a reluctance to feel pain. He says if we speak the subtle Dharma, most people will be frightened by it. They won't dare to enter it. Even saying don't do evil. Most people can't follow this. So I've sought all kinds of means to get this across. And the one thing I often say is, no matter if we are delighted or upset Or happy or suffering, shedding tears or singing songs, nevermind living in this world, we are living in a cage. We don't get beyond this condition of being in a cage. Even if you are rich, you're living in a cage. If you're poor, you're living in a cage. If you sing and dance, you're singing and dancing in a cage. If you watch a movie, you're watching it in a cage. What is this cage? The cage of birth, the cage of aging, the cage of illness cage of death. In this way, we are imprisoned in the world. This is mine, this belongs to me. We don't know what we really are, or what we're doing. Actually, all we are doing is accumulating suffering for ourselves. It's not something far away, that causes our suffering. But we don't look at ourselves. However much happiness and comfort we may have, having been born, we cannot avoid aging, we must fall ill, and we must die. This is dukkha itself, here and now.
The time we can be afflicted with pain or illness is always can happen at any moment. It's like we've stolen something. We could be arrested at any time, because we've done that. That's our situation. We exist among harmful things, among dangerous among danger and trouble, aging, illness and death reign over our lives. We can't go elsewhere and escape them. They can come catch us at any time. It's always a good opportunity for them. So we have to see this to them and accept the situation. We have to plead guilty. We do, the sentence won't be so heavy. If we don't, we suffer enormously.
So sad and pathetic, our attempts to deny the reality of existence of our lives. That denial brings more suffering than acceptance. Really, we can say that Zen practice, Roshi is fond of saying this Zen practice is training and dying. We're on the mat, we let go of our preoccupation, let go of our precious thoughts, and images. Let go of our belief in our identity specialness we do that we die.
The more we do that, the more we let go, the more we find we're able to do that. It's not so bad. But even even when you've when you've gotten into a wonderful state and sitting where all sense of self is dropped away, total absorption. It's temporary it'll pass. And then we run into the resistance again, but a little less. We need to see, he does see clearly
says if we plead guilty, they'll go easy on us. We won't be incarcerated too long. Okay. When the body is born, it doesn't belong to anyone. It's like our meditation hall. After it's built, spiders come to stay in it. Lizards come to stay in it. All sorts of insects and crawling things come to stay in it. Snakes may come to live in it. Anything may come to live in it. It's not only our haul, it's everything's haul. These bodies are the same. They aren't ours. We come to stay in and depend on them. illness, pain and aging come to reside in them. And we are merely residing along with them. When these bodies reached the end of pain and illness, and finally break up and die, that is not us dying. So don't hold on to any of this. But contemplate clearly and your grasping will gradually be exhausted.
That book recently written I think by Ed Young, why ONGYONG called I contain multitudes. Understanding now that we are a conglomeration of beings as human body so Much of what we feel and and do is intimately related with the bacteria and other flora that live in our guts.
So, amazingly complicated, inter woven system supports our life. But it's not even our life. What is it
skipping ahead, he says, we recognize suffering as suffering when it arises, then when it ceases, we consider that to be happiness. We see it and designated as such, but it isn't. It's just dukkha ceasing dukkha arises and ceases, arises and ceases, and we pounce on and grab hold of it. Happiness appears and we're pleased, unhappiness appears and we are distraught. It's really all the same, merely arising and ceasing. When there is a rising there's something when there is ceasing, it's gone. This is where we become confused. Thus, it's taught that dukkha arises and ceases. And outside of that there is nothing. We don't recognize clearly that there is only suffering because when it stops, we see happiness there, we seize on it and get stuck there. We don't really know what's going on, which is just arising and ceasing the Buddha, some things up by saying that there are only arising and ceasing and there's nothing outside of that this is difficult to listen to. But the one who truly has a feel for the Dharma doesn't need to depend on anything, and dwells in ease. twelves, beyond good and bad, favorable and unfavorable.
goes on to say the truth is that in this world of ours, there is nothing that does anything to anybody. There is nothing to be anxious about. There's nothing worth crying over. Nothing to laugh at. Nothing is inherently tragic or delightful. But such is what's ordinary for people. Our speech can be ordinary relating to others according to the ordinary way of seeing things. That's okay. But if we are thinking in the ordinary way, that leads to tears.
We really know the Dharma and see it continuously. Nothing is anything at all. There are only arising and passing away. There's no real happiness or suffering. The heart is at peace then when there is no happiness or suffering. When there is happiness and suffering, there is becoming and birth, meaning meaning ceaseless transformation. We're usually trying to stop suffering and give rise to happiness. That's what we want. But what we want is not real peace, its happiness and suffering. The aim of the Buddhist teaching is to practice to create a type of karma that is beyond happiness and suffering, and that will bring peace.
Usually we can only think that having happiness will bring us peace. We find some happiness, we think that's good enough. Thus, we humans wish for things in abundance. We get a lot, that's good. Generally, that's how we think. Doing good is supposed to bring good results. And if we get that we're happy. We think that's all we need to do and we stop there. But can good experiences give us lasting satisfaction? It won't remain. We keep going back and forth experiencing good and bad trying day and night to seize on what we feel is good.
No matter what we get. It's never enough. There's never a point where our desire for more is extinguished. There's a story about Joseph Heller, the author who wrote catch 22 goes like this later in his life. Heller went to a party in the Hamptons. And they were mostly young hedge fund guys at the party. And while I was there, someone pointed out some 25 year old guy. See that guy over there that someone said that guy made more money last year than all your books in your entire lifetime times 10. Heller looked at the 25 year old guy and said, but I have one thing that that man will never have. What could that possibly be? And Joseph Heller said enough
for another version of that story that has Kurt Vonnegut at the party so
but good stories are always true
the Buddhist teaching is first we should give up evil and then we practice what is good. Second, he said we should give up evil and give give that we should give up evil and give up the good as well not having attachment to it. Because that's also one kind of fuel. When there is something that is fuel it will eventually burst into flame good is fuel that is fuel.
Going to move ahead we're moving out of the section on DACA and into final section entitled Anita which means not self, or no self. Our true self is no self. And this is chapter 23. Practice like the four elements. A city person may like to eat mushrooms. He asks Where did the mushrooms come from and someone tells them they grow in the earth. So he picks up a basket and goes walking out into the countryside. Expecting the mushrooms will be lined up along the side of the road for him to pick. But he walks and walks climbing hills and trekking through fields. without seeing any mushrooms. A villager has gone picking mushrooms before and she knows where to look for them. She knows which part of which forests to go to. But the city person only has the experience of seeing the mushrooms on his plate. He heard they grow in the earth and got the idea that they would be easy to find. But it didn't work out that way. training the mind in Samadhi meditative stability is similar. We get the idea it will be easy. But when we sit, our legs hurt, our back hurts, we feel tired, we get hot and itchy. And we start to feel discouraged thinking that Samadhi is as far away from us as the sky from the earth. We don't know what to do and become overwhelmed by the difficulties. But if we can receive some training, it will get easier little by little.
When we are new
to it, training in Samadhi is difficult. Anything is difficult when we don't know how to do it. But training in it this can change that which is useful can eventually overcome and surpass that which is not we tend to become faint hearted as we struggle. This is a normal reaction, and we all go through it. So it's important to train for some time. It's like making a path through the forest. At first is rough going with lots of obstructions. But returning to it again and again we clear the way. After a while we have removed the branches and stumps and the ground becomes firm and smooth from being walked on repeatedly. Then we have a good path for walking through the forest. This is what it's like when we train the mind. keeping at it, the mind becomes illumined the Buddha's and his disciples are once ordinary beings, but they develop themselves to progress through the stages of enlightenment. They did this through training. What was the Buddha's advice on how to practice meditation. He taught to practice like the earth to practice like water to practice like fire to practice like wind. Practice like the old things, the things we are already made of the solid element of Earth The liquid element of water, the warming Element of Fire, the moving element of wind.
Someone digs the earth, the earth is not bothered. It can be shoveled, tilled or watered, rotten things can be buried in it, but the earth will remain indifferent. Water can be boiled or frozen or used to wash something dirty, it is not affected. fire can burn beautiful and fragrant things are ugly and foul things doesn't matter to the fire. When wind blows, it blows on all sorts of things fresh and rotten, without concern. The Buddha use this analogy, the aggregation that is us is merely a coming together of the elements of earth, water, fire and air. If you try to find an actual person there, you can't. There are only these collections of elements. But for all our lives, we never thought to separate them like this, to see what's really there. We only thought, This is me. This is mine. Of course, using earth, water, fire and air, our view is perhaps more sophisticated. But in the end, all component parts. It's no self in any of it. He says we've always seen everything in terms of a self never seen that there are merely earth, water, fire and air. But the Buddha teaches in this way. He talks about the four elements and urges us to see that this is what we are. There are earth, water, fire and air, there is no person here, contemplate these elements, to see that there is no being or individual. But only earth, water, fire and air. It's deep isn't it is hidden deep. People will look but they can't see it. We're used to thinking in terms of self and other all the time. So our meditation is still not very deep. It doesn't reach the truth. And we don't get beyond the way things appear to be.
Sense of Self the sense of separate self. What is it that obstructs us in our sitting? The idea that we're a person that we're a certain person, we're this body can't forget ourselves. If you want to train in Samadhi, you need to forget yourself.
To means you need to practice you need to train.
People will look but they can't see it. We're used to thinking in terms of self and other all the time. So our meditation is still not very deep. It doesn't reach the truth. And we don't get beyond the way things appear to be. We remain stuck in the conventions of the world. And being stuck in the world means remaining in the cycle of transformation, getting things and losing them dying and being born. Being born and dying. Suffering in the realm of confusion. Say getting good grades getting bad grades, success and failure, gain and loss. praise and blame all the Earl worldly wins. says whatever we wish for and aspire to, doesn't really work out the way we want. Because we're seeing things wrongly with this kind of grasping attachment, we're still very far indeed from the real path of Dharma. Heir. Let's get to work right now. Our practice of Dharma should be getting us beyond suffering. If we can't fully transcend suffering, then we should at least be able to transcend it a little. Now in the present. For example, when someone speaks harshly to us, if we don't get angry, we have transcended suffering. If we get angry, we haven't just transcended dukkha. In other words, we need to go in the right direction. We need to lighten, become become lighter, carry ourselves more lightly. It's a continuum. You know, we all know people who are so wrapped up in themselves. It's too Just like Walking Disaster, most of us are somewhere in between. What direction are we going in? says when someone speaks harshly to us, if we reflect on Dharma, we will see it as just heaps of Earth involved. Okay, he is criticizing me. He's just criticizing a heap of Earth. One heap of Earth is criticizing another heap of Earth. Water is criticizing water. Air is criticizing air fire, criticizing fire. But if we really see things in this way that others will probably call us crazy. He doesn't care about anything, he has no feelings. When someone dies, we won't get upset and cry and they will call us crazy. It really comes down to practicing and realizing for ourselves. Getting beyond suffering doesn't depend on others opinions of us, but on our own individual state of mind, never mind what they will say. If we experience the truth for ourselves, then we can dwell at ease. Going to indulge myself and let Anthony de Mello chime in on this point. Many people have heard this before. Just gonna read a little bit. He says, you want to see how mechanical you really are. And then he quote someone, my that's a lovely shirt you're wearing? You feel good hearing that for a shirt for heaven's sakes, you feel proud of yourself. When you hear that? People come over to my center in India. And they say what a lovely place these lovely trees for which I'm not responsible at all this lovely climate. And already, I'm feeling good until I catch myself feeling good. And I say, can you imagine anything as stupid as that? I'm not responsible for those trees. I wasn't responsible for choosing the location. I didn't order the weather. It just happened. But me got in there. And so I'm feeling good. I'm feeling good about my culture and my nation. How stupid can you get? I mean that. I'm told my great Indian culture has produced all these mistakes. I didn't produce them. I'm not responsible for them. Or they tell me that country of Urizen is poverty is disgusting. I feel ashamed. But I didn't create it. What's going on? Did you ever stop to think people tell you, I think you're very charming. And so I feel wonderful. I get a positive stroke. That's why they call it I'm okay. You're okay. I'm going to write a book someday and the title will be I'm an ass. You're an ass. It's the most liberating wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you're an ass. It's wonderful. When people tell me you're wrong, I say, what can you expect of an S? The me is always going to be an ass. This, this self of ours, this separate, cherished self is always going to be self absorbed. Self preferential. We can we can act good. But deep down inside, as long as we don't, as long as we haven't dropped it. warehouses. He says disarmed. Everybody has to be disarmed. In the final liberation. I am an ass urine is normally the way it goes. I press a button and you're up. I press another button and you're down. And you like that? How many people do you know who are unaffected by praise or blame? That is inhuman, we say human means you have to be a little monkey. So everybody can twist twist your tail and you do whatever you ought to be doing. But is that human? If you find me charming, it means that right now you're in a good mood, nothing more. It also means that I fit your shopping list. We all carry a shopping list around and it's as though you've got to measure up to the list. Tall, dark, handsome, according to my tastes. I like the sound of his voice. You say I'm in love. You're not in love you silly ass. Anytime you're in love. I hesitate to say this. You're being particularly asinine. Just sit down and watch what's happening to you. You're running away from yourself. You want to escape. Somebody wants said thank God for reality and for the means to escape from it. So that's what's going on. We are all so mechanical and so controlled. We write books about being controlled and how wonderful it is to be controlled, and how necessary it is that people tell you, you're okay. And then you'll have a good feeling about yourself. wonderful it is to be in prison. Or as somebody said to me yesterday to be in your cage, just to echo John cha cha. Do you like being in prison? Do you like being controlled? Let me tell you something. If you ever let yourself feel good, when people tell you that you're okay, you are preparing yourself to feel bad when they tell you you're not good. As long as you live to fulfill other people's expectations, you better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, whether your shoes are polished, in short, whether you live up to every damn expectation of theirs. Do you call that human? This is what you'll discover you discover when you observe yourself, you'll be horrified. The fact of the matter is that you're neither okay or not. Okay? You may fit the current mood or trend or fashion. Does that mean you've become okay? Does your okayness depend on that? Does it depend on what people think of you? Jesus Christ must have been pretty not okay, by those standards. You are not okay. And you're not not okay. You're you. I hope that is going to be the big discovery. At least for some of you. Three or four of you make this discovery during these days we spend together what a wonderful thing extraordinary cut out all the okay stuff in the not okay stuff, cut off all the judgments and simply observe watch. You'll make great discoveries, these discoveries will change you, you won't have to make the slightest effort, believe me. Any change we make through effort through having a picture in our minds of how we want to be isn't going to be real change. So when we let go, the longer identify with delusion the we begin to change gradually, sometimes quickly. Even if we change quickly, still gotta go back to changing gradually.
Back to our John Cha. He says when difficulties occur, recollect recollect dharma. Think of what your spiritual guides have taught you. They teach you to let go to have restraint and self control to put things down. They teach you to strive in this way to solve your problems. The Dharma that you study is just for solving your problems. What kind of problems are we talking about? How about your families? Do you have any problems there? Any problems with your children, your spouse's, your friends or your work? All these things give you headaches sometimes, don't they? These are the problems we are talking about. The teachings are telling you that you can resolve the problems of daily life with dharma. We have been born as human beings, it should be possible to live with happy minds. We do our work according to our responsibilities. If things get difficult, we practice endurance earning, earning a livelihood in the right way is one sort of Dharma practice the practice of ethical living, living happily and harmoniously like this is already pretty good. We're usually taking a loss. However, don't take a loss. If you go to a senator or a monastery to meditate, and then go home and fight. That's a loss. Do you hear what I'm saying? It's just a loss to do. This means you don't see the Dharma, even a tiny little bit and there's no profit at all.
We're going to skip ahead a little farther.
This is from chapter 26 title, don't be a Buddha says no matter what kind of Dharma we learn, if we don't realize the ultimate truth in our hearts, we won't reach satisfaction. And Apple is something you can see with your eyes. You can't know the flavor of the apple by looking at it. But you do see the apple, you can't see the flavor, but it's there. You can only know it when you pick up the apple and eat it. The Dharma we teach is like the Apple, merely hearing it people don't really know the flavor. When they practice, then it can be known, the flavor of the apple can't be known by the eyes. And the truth of the Dharma can't be known by the ears. There is knowledge true, but it doesn't reach the actuality. One has to put it into practice, then wisdom arises, and one recognizes the ultimate truth directly. One sees the Buddha there. So I compare it with an apple in this way. Of course, our appreciation grows over time, never stops growing, as we proceed in practice.
Skipping ahead a little bit. People don't look at themselves. They don't really know what's going on in life. How do you stop this delusion? People believe this is me. This is mine. If you tell them about not self, that nothing is me or mine. They immediately want to argue the point. Even the Buddha after he attained awakening, felt weary at heart when he considered this. When he was first enlightened, he thought that it would be too hard to explain the way to others. But then he realized that such an attitude was mistaken. If we don't teach such people who will we teach? This is my question that I used to ask myself at those times. I got fed up and didn't want to teach anymore. Who should we teach? If we don't teach the diluted? There's really nowhere else to go. We get fed up and want to run away from others we are diluted. And a student asks him, what about if we aspire to be Pacheco Buddhas, that is sort of solitary realizers who attain enlightenment without a teacher and don't teach others. You and I John Shaw says such terms are merely metaphors for states of mind. But being something is a burden. Don't be anything. Don't be anything at all. Being a Buddha is a burden. Being a Pacheco is a burden. Just don't desire to be. I am Mr. Smith, I am a venerable MCQ that way is suffering, believing that you really exist thus, Mr. Smith is merely a convention. Monk is merely a convention. If you believe you really exist that brings suffering. If there is Mr. Smith, then when someone criticizes him, Mr. Smith gets angry. That's what happens when we hold these things to be real. Mr. Smith gets involved and is ready to fight. If there is no Mr. Smith, then there's no one there. No one to answer the telephone, Ring Ring. Nobody picks it up. You don't become anything. No one is being anything and there is no suffering. Once a monk came to me and He urgently confided, long pour, it's a sort of term of endearment for John Cha. I have attained stream entry. It's the first level of enlightenment. Say I've come I've had a Kensho all I could think to say was, well, that's a little better than being a dog. I guess. The translator notes here that calling someone a dog is among the worst of insults in Thailand, and not done lightly by anyone. John Shaw says he didn't like that. And he went away in a great Huff. The stream entrer was angry We believe ourselves to be something or someone that every time the phone rings, we pick it up and get involved. How can we free ourselves of this? We have to look at it clearly and develop wisdom. So there is no Mr. Smith to pick up the telephone. If you are Mr. Smith and you answer the phone, you will get yourself involved in suffering. So don't be Mr. Smith. Just recognize that these names and titles are on the level of convention. If someone calls you good, don't be that don't think I'm good. Someone says you are bad, don't think I'm bad. Don't try to be anything know what is taking place. But then don't attach to the knowledge either thinking I am someone who is aware
anytime, anytime we rest in attainment, or status, taking our eye off the ball
that danger is all that always there. No matter how far you may think you've advanced in practice. The minute you think that you're your ordinary you're you're diluted it's one we're empty. There is no one doing it. No sense of status. When things can shine, when we can actually be useful as long as we're chasing experiences, mired in success and failure it's just an endless struggle isn't it
need to aim for truth and need to work to see to see directly
need to be okay with things as they are. Sometimes practice goes easily. Sometimes we feel like we're spinning our wheels. We think there's a problem but there isn't. Part of practice is spinning your wheels. Thinks things should be one way than there another
what do we want to be doing?
What could be better than stepping out of the trap? What could be better than learning to let go? Whether it takes a long time or a short time? What could be more valuable? We'll stop here and recite the four vows