(A brief talk
given as final instruction to an elderly Englishwoman who spent two
months under the guidance of Ajahn Chah at the end of 1978 and beginning
short talk is for the benefit of a new disciple who will soon be
returning to London. May it serve to help you understand the Teaching
that you have studied here at Wat Pah Pong. Most simply, this is the
practice to be free of suffering in the cycle of birth and death.
In order to do this practice, remember to regard all the various
activities of mind, all those you like and all those you dislike, in the
same way as you would regard a cobra. The cobra is an extremely
poisonous snake, poisonous enough to cause death if it should bite us.
And so, also, it is with our moods; the moods that we like are
poisonous, the moods that we dislike are also poisonous. They prevent
our minds from being free and hinder our understanding of the Truth as
it was taught by the Buddha.
Thus is it necessary to try to maintain our mindfulness throughout
the day and night. Whatever you may be doing, be it standing, sitting,
lying down, speaking or whatever, you should do with mindfulness. When
you are able to establish this mindfulness, you'll find that there will
arise clear comprehension associated with it, and these two conditions
will bring about wisdom. Thus mindfulness, clear comprehension and
wisdom will work together, and you'll be like one who is awake both day
These Teachings left us by the Buddha are not Teachings to be just
listened to, or simply absorbed on an intellectual level. They are
Teachings that through practice can be made to arise and known in our
hearts. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we should have these Teachings.
And what we mean by "to have these Teachings" or "to have the Truth," is
that, whatever we do or say, we do and say with wisdom. When we think
and contemplate, we do so with wisdom. We say that one who has
mindfulness and clear comprehension combined in this way with wisdom, is
one who is close to the Buddha.
When you leave here, you should practice bringing everything back to
your own mind. Look at your mind with this mindfulness and clear
comprehension and develop this wisdom. With these three conditions there
will arise a "letting go." You'll know the constant arising and passing
away of all phenomena.
You should know that that which is arising and passing away is only
the activity of mind. When something arises, it passes away and is
followed by further arising and passing away. In the Way of Dhamma we
call this arising and passing away "birth and death"; and this is
everything -- this is all there is! When suffering has arisen, it passes
away, and, when it has passed away, suffering arises again. There's just
suffering arising and passing away. When you see this much, you'll be
able to know constantly this arising and passing away; and, when your
knowing is constant, you'll see that this is really all there is.
Everything is just birth and death. It's not as if there is anything
which carries on. There's just this arising and passing away as it is --
This kind of seeing will give rise to a tranquil feeling of
dispassion towards the world. Such a feeling arises when we see that
actually there is nothing worth wanting; there is only arising and
passing away, a being born followed by a dying. This is when the mind
arrives at "letting go," letting everything go according to its own
nature. Things arise and pass away in our mind, and we know. When
happiness arises, we know; when dissatisfaction arises, we know. And
this "knowing happiness" means that we don't identify with it as being
ours. And likewise with dissatisfaction and unhappiness, we don't
identify with them as being ours. When we no longer identify with and
cling to happiness and suffering, we are simply left with the natural
way of things.
So we say that mental activity is like the deadly poisonous cobra.
If we don't interfere with a cobra, it simply goes its own way. Even
though it may be extremely poisonous, we are not affected by it; we
don't go near it or take hold of it, and it doesn't bite us. The cobra
does what is natural for a cobra to do. That's the way it is. If you are
clever you'll leave it alone. And so you let be that which is good. You
also let be that which is not good -- let it be according to its own
nature. Let be your liking and your disliking, the same way as you don't
interfere with the cobra.
So, one who is intelligent will have this kind of attitude towards
the various moods that arise in the mind. When goodness arises, we let
it be good, but we know also. We understand its nature. And, too, we let
be the not-good, we let it be according to its nature. We don't take
hold of it because we don't want anything. We don't want evil, neither
do we want good. We want neither heaviness nor lightness, happiness nor
suffering. When, in this way, our wanting is at an end, peace is firmly
When we have this kind of peace established in our minds, we can
depend on it. This peace, we say, has arisen out of confusion. Confusion
has ended. The Buddha called the attainment of final Enlightenment an
"extinguishing," in the same way that fire is extinguished. We
extinguish fire at the place at which it appears. Wherever it is hot,
that's where we can make it cool. And so it is with Enlightenment.
Nibbana is found in Samsara. Enlightenment and delusion (Samsara) exist
in the same place, just as do hot and cold. It's hot where it was cold
and cold where it was hot. When heat arises, the coolness disappears,
and when there is coolness, there's no more heat. In this way Nibbana
and Samsara are the same.
We are told to put an end to Samsara, which means to stop the
ever-turning cycle of confusion. This putting an end to confusion is
extinguishing the fire. When external fire is extinguished there is
coolness. When the internal fires of sensual craving, aversion and
delusion are put out, then this is coolness also.
This is the nature of Enlightenment; it's the extinguishing of fire,
the cooling of that which was hot. This is peace. This is the end of
Samsara, the cycle of birth and death. When you arrive at Enlightenment,
this is how it is. It's and ending of the ever-turning and
ever-changing, an ending of greed, aversion and delusion in our minds.
We talk about it in terms of happiness because this is how worldly
people understand the ideal to be, but in reality it has gone beyond. It
is beyond both happiness and suffering. It's perfect peace.
So as you go you should take this Teaching which I have given you
and contemplate it carefully. Your stay here hasn't been easy and I have
had little opportunity to give you instruction, but in this time you
have been able to study the real meaning of our practice. May this
practice lead you to happiness; may it help you grow in Truth. May you
be freed from the suffering of birth and death.