Having Faith in the Training

Ajahn Yatiko • September 2012

As monastics, it’s worth keeping in mind where our focus is. It is not on worldly skills such as well-honed public speaking. The Buddha said that in former times, the monks who were respected and praised were those who lived and trained in the forest and put effort into practice, but later, respect and praise went to the monks who had good speaking skills. Skills, talents, and even an ability to give good Dhamma talks are praiseworthy, but what we are here for is the training. We are here to train the heart, and training the heart doesn’t necessarily result in anything remarkable in terms of the external world. Training the heart results in sincerity, openness, peace, and mindfulness. We should keep in mind that this is why we’re here. There’s no other reason.

We need to have faith in the training—faith that the training works, faith that it will bear fruit. We might come across obstacles which could be with us for a long time, maybe for most of our lives. But the training will bear fruit—it doesn’t make sense that it would not. We’re putting sincere effort into cultivating mindfulness, restraint, and understanding, and we’re dedicating ourselves to the principles of the holy life. The training has to bear fruit sooner or later, in this life or future lives. If those principles don’t hold true, then as far as I’m concerned, life has no meaning. But because life does have meaning—because those principles do hold true—the best thing for us to do is give ourselves to the training, to the best of our capacities, and bear with the difficulties that arise.

When an obstacle to our practice arises, we need to remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We do not have to disrobe or leave Buddhist practice forever. Something may have to change, and that might be a radical change in our views or in the way we approach practice. To deal with obstacles, we need to think creatively, outside the box, especially when we come up against a very persistent problem. Most importantly, the way through an obstacle is not to give up the struggle. Instead, we try to see it from a radically different perspective and carry on with the training. It’s the training that gives meaning to life.