I’m experiencing a very worldly delight in non-involvement, non-responsibility. It’s very lovely to be visiting and not having to feel responsible for making all the threads come together. But, it’s also important, and the thing I like to reflect on a lot, that the complications that are difficult are not the external ones, like the logistical nightmares of the work monk. It’s more the logistical nightmares inside, that are the real troublemakers. It’s always good to bring that to mind. It’s not the external complications that really make the essential difference but the way we pick things up, how we create the complications and the tangles within ourselves. That’s the real cause of tension, of dukkha, of stress within.
Particularly on an occasion such as this, every monastery is the same during this festival season. It draws together this large complex array of different tasks that need to be taken care of with so many extra people lending a hand while also being part of the mix. The possibilities for getting caught up and creating more inner complication are very great. Just as Luang Por Pasanno was saying yesterday, in a way you need to sort of lean into the wind because there’s such a greater potential for getting caught up, busy, resentful or excited. You almost have to lean into the wind to counteract that in a very conscious way.
Yesterday, when we were walking around with Tan Thitabho in the morning, we saw so many new kutis and the new workshop which all were built over the last couple of years since I departed. Many of the things that Luang Por Pasanno, myself and others fantasized about – such as, it’d be a nice place to have a kuti there, or we could do this here, or maybe we should put the workshop there –have suddenly become a reality. Of course, these physical changes took place slowly and steadily over time. So much has evolved since June 1st, 1996 when Ajahn Karunadhammo, Debbie, a gang of others and I rolled up to the newly purchased property. And I remember thinking on that very first evening when we arrived and had cleaned up the house, gotten ourselves settled and sorted out, and set up the domed tents in which we would be living: “Now the monastery is complete, now it is done.”
With those words, I was taking a mental leaf out of Luang Por Liam’s book. This is a teaching that we would often refer to here, and it’s been a valued guide over the many years. I reflect back to the time when preparations were underway for Luang Por Chah’s funerals. A whole new eating hall was under construction, the cetiya for Luang Por Chah’s cremation, the whole road system, water towers, over 630 toilets – all under construction simultaneously. There was someone who had been going around the monastery, finished the tour, and saw all these different projects going on. He was quite amazed and bewildered. Then he turned around and saw that Luang Por Liam – who was running the whole show - had come down off of the roof of the sala that was under construction, with his welding torch, and the man said to Luang Por, “this is incredible, this is amazing, there’s so much happening here, I bet you’ll be really glad when it’s finished.” Luang Por Liam said in his inimitable Luang Por Liam way: “I finish it every day.”
That is a very simple observation, but coming from Luang Por Liam its is not just a nice thing to say, it’s not just sophistry, but its the actuality. Yeah, okay, we have bare girders here and wet concrete over there and so many pits for the concrete rings to go in under all of these toilets, they are all sitting out there in heaps - but it’s completely finished, just as it is. This is what it is, right now.
When there’s a lot of activity going on – going from here to there, finding this and taking it over there, picking up these gas bottles and moving them over there, taking them to the wrong place and then taking them back – there can be a current of becoming, the flood, the ogha of becoming, which can become very intense. So it is more important than ever, during the flow of activity and doingness, to be leaning into the wind, to be leaning against that. When we fill up the gas tank, “Okay now, Abhayagiri is complete. Everything is fully completed, everything is done.” We reflect in that way, even though part of our worldly instinct might say, “Yeah but, but, but, look at my list, I have so many things to do and they are important and they have my name on them and I can’t just sort of brush things away.” With such a reflection, we can keep that worldly perspective in its appropriate place and recognize within a larger context, just as Luang Por Liam was expressing, it’s finished, even when the gas tank is half filled, it’s finished. As you’re carrying along the carpets or untangling the flags, it’s finished, even though the knot is still there, it’s finished.
That’s because the Dhamma is here and now, the Dhamma is akaliko, it’s timeless, sanditthiko, its apparent here and now. The Dhamma doesn’t just happen when the knot is untangled or when the carpet is laid out and all of the food is cooked; it’s not then, “Okay, here’s the Dhamma and it wasn’t here before.” The Dhamma is always here. During the morning reflection, it’s here already. It’s not even once the reflection is finished, then we can get on to doing the practice during the day. It’s now.
And if we remember that and really let the mind awaken to that, then that presence to the Dhamma informs every action and we are able to attune the citta, the heart, to that quality, that fundamental timeless presence of Dhamma, in the midst of activity. So then, in this way, the involvement and engagement and complications externally don’t contribute to any internal complication, to any internal papañca.
So without further ado I offer these thoughts for consideration today. Enjoy, as they say.