determine in your mind to listen with respect to the Dhamma.
During the time that I am speaking, be as attentive to my words
as if it
were the Lord Buddha himself sitting in front of you. Close your
and make yourself comfortable, compose your mind and make it
one-pointed. Humbly allow the Triple Gem of wisdom, truth and
abide in your heart as a way of showing respect to the Fully
Today I have
nothing material of any substance to offer you, only Dhamma,
teachings of the Lord Buddha. Listen well. You should understand
even the Buddha himself, with his great store of accumulated
could not avoid physical death. When he reached old age, he
his body and let go of its heavy burden. Now you too must learn
satisfied with the many years you've already depended on your
should feel that it's enough.
You can compare it
household utensils that you've had for a long time -- your cups,
saucers, plates and so on. When you first had them they were
shining, but now after using them for so long, they’re starting
wear out. Some are already broken, some have disappeared and
are left are deteriorating; they have no stable form, and it's
nature to be like that. Your body is the same way -- it's been
continually changing right from the day you were born, through
and youth, until now it's reached old age. You must accept that.
Buddha said that conditions (sankhàras), whether they are
internal conditions, bodily conditions, or external conditions,
not-self, their nature is to change. Contemplate this truth
see it clearly.
This very lump of
that lies here in decline is saccadhamma, the truth. The
this body is saccadhamma, and it is the unchanging
the Buddha. The Buddha taught us to look at the body, to
and to come to terms with its nature. We must be able to be at
with the body, whatever state it is in. The Buddha taught that
ensure that it's only the body that is locked up in jail and not
mind be imprisoned along with it. Now as your body begins to run
and deteriorate with age, don't resist that, but don't let your
deteriorate with it. Keep the mind separate. Give energy to the
realizing the truth of the way things are. The Lord Buddha
this is the nature of the body, it can't be any other way:
born it gets old and sick and then it dies. This is a great
you are presently encountering. Look at the body with wisdom and
Even if your house
flooded or burnt to the ground, whatever the danger that
let it concern only the house. If there's a flood, don't let it
your mind. If there's a fire, don't let it burn your heart. Let
merely the house, that which is external to you, that is flooded
burnt. Allow the mind to let go of its attachments. The time is
You've been alive a
time. Your eyes have seen any number of forms and colours, Your
have heard so many sounds, you’ve had any number of experiences.
that’s all they were -- just experiences. You’ve eaten de-
foods and all the good tastes were just good tastes, nothing
unpleasant tastes were just unpleasant tastes, that's all. If
sees a beautiful form that’s all it is, just a beautiful form.
form is just an ugly form. The ear hears an entrancing,
and it's nothing more than that. A grating, disharmonious sound
The Buddha said
or poor, young or old, human or animal, no being in this world
maintain itself in any one state for long, everything
and estrangement. This is a fact of life that we can do nothing
remedy. But the Buddha said that what we can do is to
body and mind so as to see their impersonality, see that neither
is "me" or "mine." They have a merely provisional
reality. It's like this house, it's only nominally yours, you
take it with you anywhere. It's the same with your wealth, your
possessions and your family -- they're all yours only in name,
don't really belong to you, they belong to nature. Now this
doesn't apply to you alone; everyone is in the same position,
Lord Buddha and his enlightened disciples. They differed from us
one respect and that was in their acceptance of the way things
saw that it could be no other way. So the Buddha taught us to
examine this body from the soles of the feet up to the crown of
and then back down to the feet again. Just take a look at the
sort of things do you see? Is there anything intrinsically clean
Can you find any abiding essence? This whole body is steadily
degenerating and the Buddha taught us to see that it doesn't
us. It's natural for the body to be this way, because all
phenomena are subject to change. How else would you have it be?
there's nothing wrong with the way the body is. It is not the
causes you suffering, it's your wrong thinking. When you see the
wrongly, there's bound to be confusion.
It's like the water
river. It naturally flows down the gradient, it never flows
that's its nature. If a person were to go and stand on a river
seeing the water flowing swiftly down its course, foolishly want
flow back up the gradient, he would suffer. Whatever he was
wrong thinking would allow him no peace of mind. He would be
because of his wrong view, thinking against the stream. If he
view he would see that the water must inevitably flow down the
and until he realized and accepted that fact the man would be
The river that must
down the gradient is like your body. Having been young, your
become old and now it's meandering towards its death. Don't go
it was otherwise, it's not something you have the power to
Buddha told us to see the way things are and then let go of our
to them. Take this feeling of letting go as your refuge.
even if you
feel tired and exhausted. Let your mind dwell with the breath.
few deep breaths, then establish the mind on the breath using
"Buddho." Make this practice habitual. The more
exhausted you feel, the more subtle and focused your
be, so that you can cope with the painful sensations that arise.
you start to feel fatigued then bring all your thinking to a
the mind gather itself together and then turn to knowing the
Just keep up the inner recitation "Bud-dho, Bud-dho."
Let go of all
Don't go grasping at thoughts of your children and relatives,
grasp at anything whatsoever. Let go. Let the mind unite in a
point and let that composed mind dwell with the breath. Let the
be its sole object of knowledge. Concentrate until the mind
increasingly subtle, until feelings are insignificant and there
inner clarity and wakefulness. Then when painful sensations
will gradually cease of their own accord. Finally you’ll look on
breath as if it was a relative come to visit you.
When a relative
follow him out and see him off. We watch until he's walked or
of sight and then we go back indoors. We watch the breath in the
way. If the breath is coarse we know that it’s coarse, if it's
we know that it’s subtle. As it becomes increasingly fine we
following it while simultaneously awakening the mind. Eventually
breath disappears altogether and all that remains is the feeling
wakefulness This is called meeting the Buddha. We have that
wakeful awareness that is called "Buddho," the one who
knows, the one who is awake, the radiant one. It is meeting and
with the Buddha, with knowledge and clarity. For it was only the
historical flesh-and-blood Buddha that entered parinibbàna; the
Buddha, the Buddha that is clear radiant knowing, we can still
experience and attain today, and when we do so the heart is one.
So let go, put
down, everything except the knowing. Don't be fooled if visions
sounds arise in your mind during meditation. Put them all down.
take hold of anything at all. Just stay with this non-dual
Don't worry about the past or the future, just be still and you
reach the place where there's no advancing, no retreating and no
stopping, where there's nothing to grasp at or cling to. Why?
there's no self, no "me'' or "mine." It's all gone. The
Buddha taught us to be emptied of everything in this way, not to
anything with us. To know, and having known, let go.
path to freedom from the round of birth and death, is a job that
have to do alone. So keep trying to let go and to understand the
teachings. Really put effort into your contemplation. Don’t
about your family. At the moment they are as they are, in the
they will be like you. There‘s no one in the world who can
fate. The Buddha told us to put down everything that lacks a
abiding substance. If you put everything down you will see the
you don't you won’t. That's the way it is and it's the same for
so don’t worry or grasp at anything.
Even if you find
thinking, well that’s all right too, as long as you think
Don't think foolishly. If you think of your children think of
wisdom, not with foolishness. Whatever the mind turns to, then
know that thing with wisdom, aware of its nature.
If you know
wisdom then you let it go and there's no suffering. The mind is
joyful and at peace, and turning away from distractions it is
Right now what you can look to for help and support is your
This is your own
nobody else's. Leave others to do their own work. You have your
and responsibility and you don't have to take on those of your
Don't take anything else on, let it all go. That letting go will
your mind calm. Your sole responsibility right now is to focus
and bring it to peace. Leave everything else to others. Forms,
odours, tastes -- leave them to others to attend to. Put
behind you and do your own work, fulfill your own
Whatever arises in your mind, be it fear of pain, fear of death,
about others or whatever, say to it: "Don't disturb me. You’re
not my business any more." Just keep saying this to yourself
you see those dhammas arise.
What does the word "dhamma"
refer to? Everything is a dhamma. There is nothing that
dhamma. And what about "worlds"? The world is the very
mental state that is agitating you at this moment. "What will
person do? What will that person do? When I'm dead who will look
them? How will they manage? "This is all just "the
world." Even the mere arising of a thought fearing death or pain
the world. Throw the world away! The world is the way it is. If
allow it to arise in the mind and dominate consciousness, then
becomes obscured and can't see itself. So whatever appears in
just say: "This isn’t my business. It's impermanent,
unsatisfactory and not-self."
Thinking you’d like
on living for a long time will make you suffer. But thinking
to die right away or die very quickly isn't right either;
suffering, isn't it? Conditions don't belong to us, they follow
own natural laws. You can't do anything about the way the body
is. You can
prettify it a
little, make it look attractive and clean for a while, like the
girls who paint their lips and let their nails grow long, but
age arrives, everyone’s in the same boat. That's the way the
you can't make it any other way. But what you can improve and
is the mind.
Anyone can build a
wood and bricks, but the Buddha taught that that sort of home is
real home, it's only nominally ours, it's a home in the world
follows the ways of the world. Our real home is inner
An external material home may well be pretty but it is not very
peaceful. There's this worry and then that, this anxiety and
So we say it's not our real home; it's external to us, sooner or
we'll have to give it up. It's not a place we can live in
because it doesn't truly belong to us, it's part of the world.
is the same; we take it to be self, to be "me" and
"mine," but in fact it's not really so at all, it's another
worldly home. Your body has followed its natural course from
now it's old and sick and you can't forbid it from doing that,
the way it is. Wanting it to be different would be as foolish as
a duck to be like a chicken. When you see that that's
impossible, that a
duck has to be a duck, that a chicken has to be a chicken and
bodies have to get old and die, you will find strength and
However much you want the body to go on and last for a long
won't do that.
The Buddha said:
Tesam vùpasamo sukho.
subject to rise and fall.
Having arisen they cease --
their stilling is bliss."
The word "sankhàra"
refers to this body and mind. Sankhàras are impermanent
unstable, having come into being they disappear having arisen
away and yet everyone wants them to, be permanent. This is
Look at the breath. Having come in it goes out; that's its
that's how it has to be. The inhalation and exhalation have to
alternate, there must be change. Sankhàras exist through
You can’t prevent it. Just think: could you exhale without
Would it feel good? Or could you just inhale? We want things to
permanent but they can't be, it’s impossible. Once the
has come in, it must go out, when it's gone out it comes
again, and that’s natural, isn't it? Having been born we get old
sick and then we die, and that’s totally natural and normal.
because sankhàras have done their job, because the
and out breaths have alternated in this way that the human race
As soon as we're
dead. Our birth and our death are just one thing. It’s like
tree: when there's a root there must be twigs. When there are
there must be a root. You can't have one without the other. It's
little funny to see how at a death people are so grief-stricken
distracted, tearful and sad, and at a birth how happy and
It's delusion, nobody has ever looked at this clearly. I think
really want to cry then it would be better to do so when
For actually birth is death, death is birth, the root is the
twig is the root. If you've got to cry, cry at the root, cry at
birth. Look closely: if there was no birth there would be no
you understand this?
Don't think a lot.
think "this is the way things are." It’s your work, your
duty. Right now nobody can help you, there's nothing that your
and your possessions can do for you. All that can help you now
So don't waver. Let
Throw it all away.
Even if you don't
everything is starting to leave anyway. Can you see that, how
different parts of your body are trying to slip away? Take your
when you were young it was thick and black, now it's falling
leaving. Your eyes used to be good and strong and now they're
your sight is unclear. When the organs have had enough they
isn't their home. When you were a child your teeth were healthy
firm, now they're wobbly, perhaps you've got false ones. Your
ears, nose, tongue -- everything is trying to leave because this
their home. You can't make a permanent home in a sankhàra,
can stay for a short while and then you have to go. It’s like a
watching over his tiny little house with failing eyes. His teeth
so good, his ears aren't so good, his body’s not so healthy,
everything is leaving.
So you needn't
any thing because this isn’t your real home, it's just a
shelter. Having come into this world you should contemplate its
Everything there is, is preparing to disappear. Look at your
there anything there that's still in its. your original form? Is
skin as it used to be? Is your hair? It's not the same, is it?
everything gone? This is nature, the way things are. When their
up, conditions go their way. This world is nothing to rely on --
endless round of disturbance and troubles, pleasures and pains.
When we have no
we’re like an aimless traveler out on the road, going this way
while and then that ways stopping for a while and then setting
again. Until we return to our real home we feel ill-at-ease
doing, just like one who’s left his village to go on a journey.
when he gets home again can he really relax and be at ease.
Nowhere in the
world is any
real peace to be found. The poor have no peace and neither do
Adults have no peace, children have no peace, the poorly
no peace and neither do the highly-educated. There's no peace
That's the nature of the world.
Those who have few
possessions suffer and so do those who have many. Children,
aged, everyone suffers. The suffering of being old, the
being young, the suffering of being wealthy and the suffering of
poor -- it's all nothing but suffering.
things in this way you'll see anicca, impermanence, and dukkha,
unsatisfactoriness. Why are things impermanent and
because they're anattà, not-self.
Both your body that
lying here sick and painful, and the mind that is aware of its
and pain, are called dhammas. That which is formless, the
thoughts, feelings and perceptions, is called nàmadhamma.
which is racked with aches and pains is called rùpadhamma.
material is dhamma and the immaterial is dhamma.
live with dhammas, in dhammas, we are dhammas.
truth there's no self anywhere to be found, there are only dhammas
continually arising and passing away, as is their nature. Every
moment we're undergoing birth and death. This is the way things
When we think of
Buddha, how truly he spoke, we feel how worthy he is of
reverence and respect. Whenever we see the truth of something we
teachings, even if we've never actually practised Dhamma.
even if we have a knowledge of the teachings, have studied and
them, but still haven't seen their truth, then we're still
So understand this
that all people, all creatures, are about to leave. When beings
lived an appropriate time they go their way. The rich, the poor,
young, the old, all beings must experience this change.
When you realize
that's the way the world is, you'll feel that it's a wearisome
When you see that there's nothing stable or substantial you can
you'll feel wearied and disenchanted. Being disenchanted doesn't
you're averse though. The mind is clear. It sees that there's
be done to remedy this state of affairs, it's just the way the
Knowing in this way, you can let go of attachment, let go with a
that is neither happy nor sad, but at peace with sankhàras
through seeing with wisdom their changing nature.
-- all sankhàras are impermanent. To put it simply:
is the Buddha. If we see an impermanent phenomena really
see that it's permanent, permanent in the sense that it’s
to change is unchanging. This is the permanence that
beings possess. There is continual transformation, from
through youth to old age, and that very imper-manence, that
change, is permanent and fixed. If you look at it like that your
will be at ease. It's not just you that has to go through this,
When you consider
thus you'll see them as wearisome, and disenchantment will
delight in the world of sense pleasures will disappear. You'll
if you have a lot of things, you have to leave a lot
you have few, you leave behind few. Wealth is just
life is just long life, they're nothing special.
What's important is
should do as the Lord Buddha taught and build our own home,
by the method that I've been explaining to you. Build your home.
Let go until the mind reaches the peace that is free from
free from retreating and free from stopping still. Pleasure is
home, pain is not our home. Pleasure and pain both decline and
The Great Teacher
all are impermanent and so he taught us to let go of our
attachment to them. When we reach the end of our
have no choice anyway, we won't be able to take anything with
wouldn't it be better to put things down before that? They're
heavy burden to carry around; why not throw off that load now?
bother to drag them around? Let go, relax, and let your family
Those who nurse the
grow in goodness and virtue. 0ne who is sick and giving others
opportunity shouldn't make things difficult for them. If there's
or some problem or other let them know and keep the mind in a
state. One who is nursing parents should fill his or her mind
warmth and kindness, not get caught in aversion. This is the one
when you can repay the debt you owe them. From your birth
childhood, as you've grown up, you’ve been dependent on your
That we are here today is because our mothers and father have
in so many ways. We owe them an incredible debt of
today, all of you children and relatives gathered here together,
your parents become your children. Before you were their
they becomes yours. They become older and older until they
children again. Their memories go, their eyes don't see so well
their ears don't hear, sometimes they garble their words. Don't
upset you. All of you nursing the sick must know how to let go.
hold onto things, just let go and let them have their own way.
young child is disobedient sometimes the parents let it have its
just to keep the peace, to make it happy. Now your parents are
child. Their memories and perceptions are confused. Sometimes
muddle up your names or you ask them to give you a cup and they
plate. It's normal, don't be upset by it.
Let the patient
the kindness of those who nurse and patiently endure the painful
feelings. Exert yourself mentally, don't let the mind become
and agitated, and don't make things difficult for those looking
you. Let those who nurse the sick fill their minds with virtue
kindness. Don't be averse to the unattractive side of the job,
cleaning up mucus and phlegm, or urine and excrement. Try your
Everyone in the family give a hand.
These are the only
you've got. They gave you life, they have been your teachers,
nurses and your doctors – they’ve been everything to you. That
have brought you up, taught you, shared their wealth with you
you their heirs is the great beneficence of parents.
Buddha taught the virtues of katannu and katavedi,
knowing our debt of gratitude and of trying to repay it. These
virtues are complementary. If our parents are in need, if
or in difficulty, then we do our best to help them. This is katannu-katavedi;
it is a virtue that sustains the world. It prevents families
breaking up, it makes them stable and harmonious.
* * *
Today I have
the Dhamma as a gift in this time of illness. I have no
things to give you; there seem to be plenty of those in the
already, and so I give you Dhamma, something which has a
worth, something which you'll never be able to exhaust. Having
it from me you can pass it on to as many others as you like and
never be depleted. That is the nature of Truth. I am happy to
able to give you this gift of Dhamma and hope it will
strength to deal with your pain.
Chah was born into a large and comfortable family in a rural
Northeast Thailand. He ordained as a novice in early youth and
reaching the age of twenty took higher ordination as a monk. As a
monk he studied some basic Dhamma, Discipline and scriptures.
practised meditation under the guidance of several of the local
meditation masters in the ascetic forest tradition. He wandered
number of years in the style of an ascetic monk, sleeping in
caves and cremation grounds, and spent a short but enlightening
with Ajahn Mun, one of the most famous and respected Thai
masters of this century.
After many years of
and practice, he was invited to settle in a thick forest grove
village of his birth. This grove was uninhabited, known as a
cobras, tigers and ghosts, thus being, as he said, the perfect
for a forest monk. Around Ajahn Chah a large monastery formed as
and more monks, nuns and lay people came to hear his teachings
on to practise with him. Now there are more than forty mountain
forest branch temples throughout Thailand and in England and
On entering Wat Pah
one is likely to encounter monks drawing water from a well, and a
on the path that says: "You there, be quiet! We're trying to
meditate." Although there is a group meditation twice a day, the
heart of the meditation is the way of life. Monks do manual
and sew their own robes, make most of their own requisites and
monastery buildings and grounds in immaculate shape. Monks here
extremely simply following the ascetic precepts of eating once a
from the almsbowl and limiting their possessions and robes.
throughout the forest are individual huts where monks live and
in solitude, and where they practise walking meditation on
under the trees.
strict enabling one to lead a simple and pure life in a
regulated community where virtue, meditation and understanding
skillfully and continuously cultivated.
Ajahn Chah's simple
profound style of teaching has a special appeal to Westerners,
have come to study and practise with him, quite a few for many
1975 Wat Pah Nanachat was established near Wat Pah Pong as a
training monastery for the growing number of Westerners
undertaking monastic training. Since then Ajahn Chah's large
of senior Western disciples has begun the work of spreading the
in the West. Ajahn Chah has himself travelled twice to Europe
America, and he has established a thriving branch monastery in
Wisdom is a way of
and being, and Ajahn Chah has endeavoured to preserve the simple
lifestyle of the monks in order that people may study and
Dhamma in the present day.
simple style of teaching can be deceptive. It is often only
has heard something from him many times that suddenly one's mind
and somehow the teaching takes on a much deeper meaning. His
means in tailoring his explanations of Dhamma to time and place,
the understanding and sensitivity of his audience, is marvellous
Sometimes on paper, though, it can make him seem inconsistent or
self-contradictory! At such times the reader should remember
words are a record of living experience. Similarly, if the
seem to vary at times from tradition, it should be borne in mind
the venerable Ajahn speaks always from the heart, from the
depths of his
own meditative experience.