Saturday, April 18, 2009

Inspiring Books from the Thai Forest Tradition

The great teachers from the Thai Forest Traditions have provided profound and valuable teachings, some that get translated into English, thanks to translators like Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff) and Ajahn Pannavaddho.

Here are a few e-books on the teachings of various Ajahns. You can print out and read when you are away from the PC:
Teachings of Ajahn Maha Boowa (Luangta):

Teachings of Ajahn Lee:

Teachings of Ajahn Fuang Jotiko:

Teachings of Luang Phor Liem (disciple of Ajahn Chah):

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Basis of Buddhist Practice by Ajahn Panna (Part 4)

My apologies to all- this part 4of the talk had not been properly edited- there are some missing sentences and phrases. I will do my best to make the correction and adjustments later:

(continue from part 1, part 2, and part 3):

Q: I have another question on another type of practice where people are also consider rather strange. It is the contemplation of the body. Can you say something about the purpose contemplation of the body?

A: Oh yes, the contemplation of the body is very important. Here again we come back to people know about the world. They are going to science and if you ask the reason they do it in science and the way something works, they can go in to great detail. Even if they do not really control, they can easily find out or point to the right book.

But when it comes to themselves, what do they know? In physiology or the medical sense, all they come to contemplate is another’s body or the body in the text book, not their own. But surely this body is extremely important. If they do not have this body, then where is the world? This is the body that knows the world. This is sort of one’s outlet into the world, so to speak. And surely the West knowing this thing – it seems to me to know its nature is very important. And when one knows its nature, one should question what sort of thing it is? Is it a nice thing or not? Now one does not need to have a preconceived idea about it. Is it beautiful.
And most people in the world tends to think it is most beautiful and the most desirable thing of themselves but look at it and see for it really is.

What happens if we don’t wash it for a few days? We gotta keep washing it, otherwise it stinks before long. You got to feed it with food which if you examine the nature of food, hardly very nice stuff. And the food you eat, if it is smeared all over the outside of your body, will you like it? See, you put it inside. And there are all sorts of things you have to look at this body. See if it is a nice thing or not. If it is beautiful or not. So let’s get to the truth in it. After all, most people think that they are the body. But surely you should know that something about yourself. If you know all this about the world, why do you leave out the one thing that is the most important of the lot? Yourself. Why not try to get to know yourself. And the first thing is to question the body because the gross stuff
And to question that and to see the nature of this body

Again, in Buddhism, we come to practice the contemplation of this body with the idea that we come to see that this body is in fact not myself. It comes from this world, it returns to this world. It is a part of this world. It is all made from atomic structure, atoms, molecules, all the rest of it, chemicals and it doesn’t go beyond that. It is nothing apart from these things. So when one can see if one looks properly, this in fact isn’t me. Isn’t myself. Doesn’t even really belong to me because I can’t even control it completely. I mean the body is derived from the world, it goes back to the world, I can’t stop it going back to the world. If I say that I don’t agree to it

So you can only keep that up for a short while, at most a few weeks, without constraint to it. This body is like a prison house. It keeps us in certain conditions that we are not free from. Now we should see the body is not me, it is holding me in the situation which may or may not be desirable. We got to see what the truth is. After all, why not look at the body? The person who has examined the body and realized it is not himself, if anything happened to his body, he is not concerned. Like the person who thinks that the body is coz he knows it is not happening to him. He knows that although it is happening to this body, it is not me. Although it is unpleasant, the unpleasant is the unpleasantness of this body. It’s not me that is affected. And the person who can see that, know that, got great strength. And when the body dies, they know it is not me that dies. They contemplation of the body can show this up and can give one a great one a great deal of moral and emotional strength.

Q: There is one type of practice that you haven’t mentioned. And that’s the repetition of the mantra buddho. Can you say a bit of how it practices?
A: Yeah, it’s not really a mantra at all. It’s something rather different. Usually it is repetition and it is use exactly the same way as the breathing practice. You’ve got an object and you keep that attention on. In this case, it is a sound object. The Buddha used the concept of the Buddha to help. I am not sure how suitable is this concept to the West. Mainly because we are not brought up as Buddhists as children. People who have got an emotional side to the idea of the Buddha which in the west most people have not got. And because they haven’t got that, the Buddha does not mean the same thing to them as what it means to the people in the East or being Buddhist from birth. But it can be a very good practice. But they must be thai people or Burmese..

Q: It is often said that listening to the Dhamma calms one mind and tonight listening to you talk have a very calming effect. And do you have anything to say about that?
A: Yes because the thing that knows the truth within one, the thing that realizes the truth even though it does not realize it in the conscious way, is the heart or the citta. It’s the heart in the sense. Now when there is talk in the dhamma, it does not rouse one. It is not disturbing. It cools one down. It’s the truth, the truth is there. And because of that, there is tendency to feel relaxed. Many people who listened to Dhamma talk feel like going to sleep. It is almost that they get absorbed in the sound and they can go into any sleep state. Thisis the state of calm. It’s not a wrong thing. If it actually goes to sleep, it’s a bit too far into the state of calm.

Q: Just now you mentioned last time that you have a lot of fear. He said last time he had a lot of images that caused him to fear that he will grow crazy.
A: You see, this is the part of trouble that people have. Is that they don’t know what drives them crazy. Images don’t drive them crazy. Seeing images, hearing things will not drive one crazy. How can it be? I mean, if you see something, you see it. If you hear things, you hear it. But if you believe in Jesus Christ doing that, he is crazy. This one is believe, on thoughts that makes one crazy. Not images. Even people in szekios states, they see the strange images- if they could realize that the image is just the product of my mind, just image, just color, form, nothing very important, they will get past the stage straight away. Of course they can’t because they create the images suitable to their own state. I mean they can’t. but the fear of these images- there is nothing wrong with these images. It’s the fear that’s the trouble. This is why the trouble comes.

And whatever fear comes up, one have to learn to deal with it. The best thing to do is to face it. Not to give way to it. Whatever feelings that are inside continues. More like Than Ajahn Chob – twice, tiger came right to him. They came up close to him. He talked to them, he said ‘why are you frightening me?’. Then he walked deliberately towards it. And it leapt away. Now that’s the way to overcome fear. The worst thing to do is to run. I mean when one sits into an armchair and listen to the story of someone walking to the tiger, it may seem just rather interesting. But if you picture yourself actually in that situation. you realize what it means. I mean you haven’t got a security of a nice warm room, nice chair and all the rest of it. You are out in the jungle and probably the nearest person is 5 miles away. And all the wild animals. Not only the tigers but the others are all out there. And maybe the night that is dark and you’ve got a small latern, few candles.

Q: You mentioned that there is 2 ways to look at fear. Is there another way?
A: Yes there’s another way. When fear comes up, request to know what is fear? How do I know it is fear? What tells me? And you will find that it is inside yourself--- feeling. When you look inside yourself and you want to find exactly where is that feeling, you are not satisfied until you find that feeling inside you- what that fear is- you must know. Because of that, you try to keep it going. To find out what it is. And you can’t, the fear is there.

Q: So you are saying that you focus on the fear and just look on the fear itself.
A: Yes. Because from whatever you learned, or the feeling that caused that fear, it’s harmless. Maybe if it is a tiger then but people in the West or new york or wherever it is probably need not worry about tiger.

Q: Is there any other approach in dealing with fear?
A: Yes, the other approach is to go on doing what everyone else has been doing- in other words, if you are walking congkom (walking meditation), you go on walking. You do whatever meditation practice you are doing
Pay attention on whatever you are doing. The message in the suttas is to recall to The Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. Now unless one has faith in the Buddha, it is not likely to be effective. But it can be effective to those who have.

There are many ways of dealing with fear. But the thing we have to realize that sometimes the fear will arise internally. When it arise internally, you search for something to call a cause to that fear. Now if fear starts arising, what happened? What I am afraid ? look for a cause. Now the thing is whatever factors happened, it could be one’s meditation practice
And it gives rise to the meditation experience that one calls fear. But there are not external object that causes it. It is merely just a change of state internally. And because of that, what one fear is merely a feeling. It is merely a situation it’s not because of any object that are threathening or
And this one got to realize, and if I find fear coming up and there is really no objects that I can see, I must realize that it is just a change in the state.
Fear come quite strongly.

(this part of the talk is not completely transcribed and I hope I will have more time to transcribe more talks in future)