Making the Heart Good

sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ,

kusalassa upasampadā;

sacittapariyodapanaṃ,

etaṃ buddhāna sāsanaṃ.

Doing no evil,
Engaging in what’s skilful,
And purifying one’s mind:
This is the teaching of the buddhas.

Dhammapada 183, translated by Gil Fronsdal

Ajahn Chah’s analysis of the first line of this verse continues (from our previous post) with an exhortation to look within rather than outside of ourselves, to monitor our mind states, words and actions.

This is how people are. You have to look closely, look at yourselves. The Buddha taught about having recollection and self-awareness in all situations. Wrongdoing arises in bodily, verbal and mental actions. The source of all good, evil, wellbeing and harm lies with actions, speech and thoughts. Did you bring your actions, speech and thoughts with you today? Or have you left them at home? This is where you must look, right here. You don’t have to look very far away. Look at your actions, speech and thoughts. Look to see if your conduct is faulty or not.

People don’t really look at these things. Like the housewife washing the dishes with a scowl on her face. She’s so intent on cleaning the dishes, she doesn’t realize her own mind’s dirty! Have you ever seen this? She only sees the dishes. She’s looking too far away, isn’t she? Some of you have probably experienced this, I’d say. This is where you have to look. People concentrate on cleaning the dishes but they let their minds go dirty. This is not good, they’re forgetting themselves.
from a transcribed talk titled “Making the Heart Good” by Ajahn Chah (www.forestsanghapublications.org)

Ajahn Chah is encouraging us to notice whether we’re awake or asleep as we go through our day. What is the background music or chatter that we live with? I’m reminded of a fictional family on Saturday Night Live (early 1980’s) called the Whiner family. It hilariously presented long conversations that were one whiney complaint after another. Clearly, the Whiner family wasn’t aware of their baseline mind state. After seeing that show, or hearing about it, I started noticing how many people’s regular conversation had pointless complaining as it’s home base. I caught myself complaining with no purpose and was surprised at how mentally comfortable I found it.

Some people have irritation as their baseline mind state; others have dreaminess, conflict avoidance, fatigue, giddiness, fear or nervousness, cheeriness, confusion, etc. Where does your conversation circle around to regularly? Where is your mind resting when you are most comfortable? Is it in alert reflectiveness?

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