One Who Sees the Danger in Saṃsāra

Luang Por Pasanno • May 2013

Contemplations and reflections on death and dying are a means of focusing attention, and prioritizing where we choose to put our attention. We can ask ourselves, What is it we are becoming absorbed in? What are we letting the mind run away with? These are essential contemplations because they help us make the practice—including relinquishment and generosity—our first priority.

The literal translation of the word bhikkhu is one who subsists on alms. But in keeping with the commentaries, Ajahn Chah used to emphasize that the meaning of bhikkhu is one who sees the danger in saṃsāra, the danger in the endless round of birth and death, the endless wandering. That’s a useful image for the unfocused, inattentive mind—the mind that does not prioritize, that drifts aimlessly about. It wanders to moods of like and dislike, moods of resentment and attachment, and continues to wander on. This reflection on one who sees the danger in saṃsāra applies to everybody, not only monks. It can encourage us all to make good use of our faculties, to take the opportunities afforded to us through our bodies and our minds.

So we recollect and reflect on our impending death and the endless cycle of saṃsāra, in order to sustain our attention and to keep the practice as our first priority.