Recollections of Ajahn Chah – His Life and Teachings
Ajahn Pasanno
Spirit Rock Daylong, Sep. 19, 2010
Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California
11 sessions, 48 excerpts, 3:10:53 total duration

During this daylong retreat, Ajahn Pasanno shares teachings and memories of his beloved teacher, Ajahn Chah. By the time of his passing in 1992, Ajahn Chah had become one of the most highly revered Buddhist meditation masters in Thailand. The readings come from a draft version of Ajahn Jayasaro's biography of Ajahn Chah that was published as Stillness Flowing in 2018.

External website

Session 1: His Life and Teachings Part 1

Session 2: Meditation Instruction 1

Session 3: Walking Meditation

Session 4: Meditation Instruction 2

Session 5: Alms Reflection

Session 6: Mealtime Blessing

Session 7: His Life and Teachings Part 2

Session 8: Meditation Instruction 3

Session 9: Purpose of Walking

Session 10: Short readings

Session 11: His Life and Teachings Part 3


Session 1: His Life and Teachings Part 1 – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (52:08)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:30] Recollection: My connection with Ajahn Chah. [Ajahn Pasanno] // [Wat Pah Pong]

Quote: “If you want to stay here, you have to stay at least five years.” — Ajahn Chah [Sequence of training]

Jack Kornfield arrives with a large picture of Ajahn Chah.

Story: The needlepoint Ajahn Chah portrait at Abhayagiri. [Abhayagiri] [Wat Pah Nanachat] [Devotional practice]


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2. [5:30] Outline of the day; progress of Ajahn Jayasaro's biography of Ajahn Chah. [Ajahn Jayasaro] [Dhamma books]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro


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3. [9:11] Reflection: The impact and inspiration of Ajahn Chah // [Thai Ajahn Chah monasteries] [Western Ajahn Chah monasteries] [Ajahn Chah Remembrance Day] [Wat Pah Pong]


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4. [12:08] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah's birthplace and early life. [Culture/Thailand] [Family] [Children]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 22


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5. [16:41] Reading from the draft biography: At the age of nine, Ajahn Chah asks to go to the village monastery. [Family] [Novices]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 25


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6. [19:20] Story: Novice Chah disrobes at age 16. [Disrobing] [Culture/Thailand]


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7. [20:56] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah falls in love. [Relationships] // [Culture/Thailand] [Sense of urgency] [Sensual desire]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 34


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8. [25:06] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah ordains at age 20. [Ordination] // [Culture/Thailand] [Military] [Merit] [Sense of urgency] [Learning] [Pāṭimokkha]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 37


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9. [29:21] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah obsesses about food. [Food] [Sensual desire]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 39

Quote: “Close the doors. I'm going to eat noodles today!” — Ajahn Chah. Quoted by Ajahn Pasanno.


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10. [31:14] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah accepts his dying father's request to stay as a monk for life. [Family] [Monastic life/Motivation] [Sickness] [Death] [Determination] // [Mindfulness of body] [Sense of urgency] [Saṃsāra]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 40

Quote: “I dedicate my body and mind, my whole life, to the practice of the Lord Buddha’s teachings in their entirety. I will realize the truth in this lifetime … I will let go of everything and follow the teachings. No matter how much suffering and difficulty I have to endure I will persevere, otherwise there will be no end to my doubts. I will make this life as even and continuous as a single day and night. I will abandon attachments to mind and body and follow the Buddha’s teachings until I know their truth for myself.” — Ajahn Chah [Ardency] [Patience] [Doubt] [Continuity of mindfulness] [Relinquishment] [Knowledge and vision]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 42

The singular quality of Ajahn Chah's resolution. Reflection by Ajahn Pasanno.


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11. [37:41] Story: Ajahn Chah begins wandering in search of teachers [Tudong] // [Culture/Thailand] [Ajahn Mun] [Wat Khao Wongkot]


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12. [40:08] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Mun's character and legacy [Ajahn Mun] [Thai Forest Tradition] // [Culture/Thailand] [Perception of a samaṇa] [Great disciples] [Ascetic practices] [Rains retreat] [Almsround] [Psychic powers] [Discernment] [Liberation] [History/Thai Buddhism]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 52

Suttas: Dhp 65, Dhp 92

Story: Ajahn Mun disappears after being appointed abbot. [Abbot] [Seclusion]


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13. [45:12] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah visits Ajahn Mun. [Ajahn Mun] [Tudong] // [Relics] [Cleanliness] [Perception of a samaṇa] [Personal presence] [Vinaya] [Conscience and prudence] [Teaching Dhamma] [Knowing itself] [Nature of mind] [Conventions] [Unconditioned] [Faith]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 54


Session 2: Meditation Instruction 1 – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (6:24)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:22] Aware of the in-breath, aware of the out-breath. Guided meditation from Ajahn Chah.

Reference: Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, p. 255 "Just Do It!"


Session 3: Walking Meditation – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (7:41)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:00] Teaching: The role of walking meditation. [Posture/Walking] // [Thai Forest Tradition] [Continuity of mindfulness] [Shelter] [Sloth and torpor]

Quote: Ajahn Chah admonishes the monks: "I've looked at the huts in the forest where you monks live. I see the walking meditation paths, and I don't see human tracks. All I see are dog tracks!" [Fierce/direct teaching]


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2. [5:33] Walking meditation instructions by Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Pasanno. [Posture/Walking] // [Buddho mantra] [Tranquility] [Continuity of mindfulness]

Reference: Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, p. 258 "Just Do It!"

Quote: “Where we really start to see the Dhamma or taste the Dhamma is in that continuity of awareness.” [Dhamma]


Session 4: Meditation Instruction 2 – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (11:15)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:08] Reflection: Context of Ajahn Chah's early efforts at meditation. [Meditation] // [Thai sects] [Ajahn Mun] [Practicing in accordance with Dhamma]


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2. [2:20] Teaching by Ajahn Chah Subhaddo: Skillful effort in meditation. [Meditation/General advice] [Determination] [Right Effort] // [Conceit] [Posture/Sitting] [Relinquishment] [Equanimity] [Tranquility] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Restlessness and worry] [Clinging] [Craving] [Judgementalism]

Reference: Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, p. 467 "Unshakeable Peace"


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3. [8:58] Teaching by Ajahn Chah Subhaddo: The contemplation of conditionality leads to the Dhamma. [Conditionality] [Dhamma] // [Characteristics of existence]


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4. [9:52] Teaching by Ajahn Chah Subhaddo: Meditation is like a single piece of wood. Insight is one end of the stick, and serenity is the other. [Similes] [Insight meditation] [Calming meditation] // [Naturalness]


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5. [10:28] Quote: “I sacrificed my life for the Dhamma because I had faith in the reality of enlightenment and the path to get there.” — Ajahn Chah [Spiritual search] [Dhamma] [Faith] [Eightfold Path] // [Practicing in accordance with Dhamma] [Determination] [Courage]


Session 5: Alms Reflection – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (12:20)

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1. [0:00] The tradition of almsround. Reflection by Ajahn Pasanno. [Almsfood] [Almsround] [Generosity] [Almsbowl] // [Ajahn Chah] [Vinaya]


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2. [3:49] The monks' requisites sustain our livelihood and are a focal point for our cultivation of mindfulness and attention. Reflection by Ajahn Pasanno. [Requisites] [Almsbowl] [Mindfulness] // [Robes]


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3. [5:00] Story: A group of military generals ask Ajahn Chah to bless amulets to create a kitchen fund. [Amulets] [Ajahn Chah] [Military] [Almsfood] [Wat Pah Pong] // [Culture/Thailand] [Saṅgha decision making] [Festival days] [Almsbowl] [Stupas/monuments]

Quote: “The Buddha set up the foundation 2,500 years ago with just one baht.” — Ajahn Chah [Buddha] [Saṅgha]


Session 6: Mealtime Blessing – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (3:17)

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1. [0:00] Explanation of the meal blessing chant. [Chanting] [Almsfood] // [Pāli] [Gratitude] [Merit]

Reference: Amaravati Chanting Book, p. 50


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2. [1:03] Anumodana chanting: "Yathā vāri-vahāpūrā..." and "Bhavatu sabba-maṅgalaṃ..." (Amaravati Chanting Book, p. 50) offered by the Abhayagiri Saṅgha. [Chanting] [Almsfood] [Pāli] // [Gratitude] [Merit]


Session 7: His Life and Teachings Part 2 – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (29:43)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:19] “You talked about having lost a gread deal of institutional knowledge in the Forest Tradition through not having monasteries. Do you think Ajahn Chah wanted to have the knowledge from Ajahn Mun passed down? Is that why he had lots of monasteries?” [Thai Forest Tradition] [Tudong] [Ajahn Mun] [Thai Ajahn Chah monasteries] [Learning] // [Culture/Thailand] [Commerce/economics] [Environment] [History/Thai Buddhism] [Politics and society]

Quote: “Nowadays there aren't any tudong monks left. There's only taludong (through the forest) monks.” — Ajahn Chah


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2. [6:06] “When you and other Western seekers went to Thailand [and returned to teach], are the teachings of lay and monastic disciples of Ajahn Chah the same or different? How can we as laypeople relate to the teachings and tradition of the monastic establishment?” [Teaching Dhamma] [Ajahn Chah lineage] [Lay teachers] [Mutual lay/Saṅgha support] // [History/Thai Buddhism] [Military] [History/Western Buddhist monasticism] [Ajahn Sumedho] [Virtue] [Right View]

Story: Abhayagiri's bell is an American bomb casing. [Abhayagiri]

Diligent lay meditators attend Wat Pah Pong's all-night vigil on the lunar observance days. Recollection by Ajahn Pasanno. [Lay life] [Ardency] [Wat Pah Pong] [Devotion to wakefulness] [Lunar observance days]


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3. [13:55] “What characteristics differentiate Thai Buddhism from Tibetan Kadampa or Japanese Zen?” [Culture/Thailand] [Vajrayāna] [Zen] // [Community]


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4. [17:42] Reflection: Why Ajahn Chah spent only three days with Ajahn Mun. [Ajahn Mun] // [Thai sects] [Politics and society] [Psychic powers] [Dreams]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 61

Quote: “Mahānikāya needs good monks as well.” — Ajahn Mun to Ajahn Chah


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5. [21:30] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah's mentors: Ajahn Tongrat and Ajahn Kinaree [Mentoring] [Ajahn Tongrat] [Ajahn Kinaree] // [Personality] [Respect for elders] [Upatakh] [Tudong] [Visiting holy sites] [Robes] [Relinquishment] [Monastic crafts] [Pace of life] [Craving]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 73

Story: Ajahn Chah meets Ajahn Tongrat.

Story: Ajahn Mun teaches his teacher, Ajahn Sao. [Ajahn Sao] [Ajahn Mun] [Liberation]


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6. [26:39] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah leaves his companions and stays alone. [Tudong] [Seclusion] [Culture/Thailand] // [Spiritual friendship]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 89

Quote: “Where is the good person? He lies within us. If we're good, then wherever we go, the goodness stays with us.” — Ajahn Chah [Virtue] [Blame and praise]


Session 8: Meditation Instruction 3 – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (15:32)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:00] Guided meditation: Resolve right now is the time for training the mind and nothing else. From "The Key to Liberation" by Ajahn Chah. [Calming meditation] [Proliferation] [Determination] // [Mindfulness] [Discernment] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Body scanning] [Relinquishment] [One pointedness] [Restlessness and worry] [Concentration] [Present moment awareness] [Clear comprehension] [Impermanence] [Continuity of mindfulness] [Sense restraint]

Quote: “Sitting and walking meditation are in essence the same, differing only in the posture used.” [Posture/Sitting] [Posture/Walking]

Simile: Chicken in a coop. [Similes]

Simile: Mindfulness, clear comprehension, and wisdom are like three workers lifting heavy planks.


Session 9: Purpose of Walking – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (5:33)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:00] Guided meditation: The rythym of the sensation of the body as it is walking. [Posture/Walking] [Mindfulness of body] // [Calming meditation] [Present moment awareness] [Proliferation] [Tranquility] [Investigation of states]


Session 10: Short readings – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (9:59)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:00] Reading: Beyond Doubt. [Doubt] // [Hearing the true Dhamma] [Teachers] [Buddha] [Spiritual search] [Relinquishment] [Present moment awareness] [Emptiness] [Characteristics of existence] [Conditionality] [Practicing in accordance with Dhamma] [Liberation]


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2. [5:23] Reading: Everyday. [Everyday life] // [Ardency] [Sloth and torpor]

Simile: A child learning to write. [Similes]


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3. [6:13] Reading: Catching a Lizard. [Similes] // [Meditation/General advice] [Sense restraint] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Mindfulness] [Clear comprehension]


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4. [7:53] Reading: One Seat. [Similes] // [Mindfulness] [Buddho mantra] [Volitional formations]


Session 11: His Life and Teachings Part 3 – Ajahn Pasanno – Sep. 19, 2010 Download audio (44:48)
[Ajahn Chah]

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1. [0:12] Question about how Ajahn Chah taught to deal with people externally. [Community] // [Ajahn Mun] [Virtue] [Doubt] [Monastic life] [Views]

Story: A ghost tries to align the visitors sleeping in his hall. [Culture/Thailand] [Shelter] [Ghost] [Communal harmony]

Quote: “You have to have an anchor in your own practice.” [Similes]


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2. [7:28] “Did you as a Westerner have any difficulties meeting Ajahn Chah either with Buddhism or with Thailand? How did it get resolved or did it get resolved?” [Culture/West] [Theravāda] [Culture/Thailand]

Story: Ajahn Chah replies evasively when asked three straightforward questions to teach his translator (Ajahn Pasanno) a lesson. [Ajahn Pasanno] [Aversion] [Questions] [Simplicity] [Teaching Dhamma] [Food] [Suffering]


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3. [15:06] “As an abbot taking care of a community, how do you handle it when a kerfluffle comes up?” [Abbot] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Community] [Conflict] // [Patience] [Views] [Skillful qualities] [Four Noble Truths]

Follow-up: “What are the antidotes to the next two Noble Truths?”


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4. [18:42] “When I'm mindful, then I become more aware of suffering. I could just go into story and not know that I'm suffering, so why would we choose to become aware of the suffering?” [Mindfulness] [Suffering] [Proliferation] // [Cessation of Suffering] [Clinging]

Quote: “The flavor of the end of suffering—I like that.”


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5. [20:41] Story: Ajahn Chah's practice matures and he receives permission to teach. [Teaching Dhamma] // [Wat Pah Pong] [Rapture] [Almsround] [Ajahn Kinaree]


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6. [23:17] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah in the early years: spare, stern, and vigorous. [Personality] [Personal presence] [Ardency] [Ascetic practices] // [Similes]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 137

Quote: “Nibbāna lies on the shores of death.” — Ajahn Chah [Nibbāna] [Death]


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7. [26:22] Reading from the draft biography: Building the road to Tam Sang Pet. [Wat Tam Saeng Pet] [Work] // [Culture/Natural environment] [Ajahn Anek] [Patience] [Perception of a samaṇa] [Ardency]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 428

Quote: “Patient endurance is the general of practice.” — Ajahn Chah


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8. [29:28] Reading from the draft biography: Ajahn Chah's ability to draw people in and respond with compassion. [Personal presence] [Compassion] [Generosity] // [Wat Tam Saeng Pet] [Rains retreat] [Sickness] [Almsround] [Teaching Dhamma] [Similes] [Upatakh]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 705


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9. [35:31] Reading: Ajahn Chah's first Western disciple. [Ajahn Sumedho] [History/Western Buddhist monasticism] // [Military] [Humor] [Monastic life] [Wat Pah Pong]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 486


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10. [40:53] Reading: Ajahn Gavesako's first impressions of Wat Pah Pong. [Ajahn Gavesako] [Wat Pah Pong] // [Almsround] [Perception of a samaṇa] [Cleanliness] [Humor] [Unwholesome Roots] [Dhamma] [Gratitude] [Upatakh]

Reference: Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro, p. 502