Wholehearted training

From a talk by Ajahn Chah called “Wholehearted Training”:

What was the Buddha’s advice on how to practise? He taught to practise like the earth; practise like water; practise like fire; practise like wind.

Practise 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.

If someone digs the earth, the earth is not bothered. It can be shovelled, 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 or ugly and foul things – it doesn’t matter to the fire. When wind blow, it blows on all sorts of things; fresh and rotten, beautiful and ugly, without concern.

…Our practice of Dhamma 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 with them we have transcended suffering. If we get angry, we have not transcended suffering.

…So rather than aspiring too high, let’s practise patience and endurance. Exercising patience and restraint in our families is already pretty good. Don’t quarrel and fight – if you can get along, you’ve already transcended suffering for the moment and that’s good. When things happen, recollect Dhamma. Think of what your spiritual guides have taught you. They teach you to let go, to give up, to refrain, to put things down; they teach you to strive and fight in this way to solve your problems. The Dhamma that you come to listen to is just for solving your problems.

…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 practise endurance. Earning a livelihood in the right way is one sort of Dhamma practice, the practice of ethical living. Living happily and harmoniously like this is already pretty good.

When Ajahn Chah encourages us to “strive and fight”, he is NOT referring to anything or anyone external to us; he’s referring to our internal struggles. We fight against our own tendency to take things too personally and to let our own reactions fill our world. We confront our clinging to the need to have things our own way, and challenge our negative reactions when we don’t like things; this is fighting the good fight.

We can also appreciate the “pretty good” state of living harmoniously and ethically. If we can recognize this, we have already solved many important problems.

It may seem anti-intuitive to correct ourselves rather than others (when OBVIOUSLY, they are in the wrong), but in this direction lies inner peace. In the other direction lies perpetual conflict. We have a choice, and should at least consider following the wisdom teachings.

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Filed under General, Patience, Precepts

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