The Teaching and the Training – Eleven interviews with Ajahn Pasanno
Ajahn Pasanno
Abhayagiri Winter Retreat, Mar. 12, 2018 to Mar. 29, 2018
Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California
11 sessions, 84 excerpts, 7:15:43 total duration

Towards the end of Winter Retreat 2018, Tan Suhajjo and the Abhayagiri Community ask Ajahn Pasanno questions related to monastic life.

External website

Session 1: The Teaching and the Training

Session 2: Celibacy, Symbol, and the Transcendent

Session 3: From Restraint to Confidence

Session 4: The Monastic Form in the West

Session 5: Being Your Own Refuge

Session 6: Caring for Monks in Aging, Sickness, and Death

Session 7: Serving, Bowing, Images

Session 8: The Role of Community

Session 9: Dhutangas, The Ascetic Practices

Session 10: The Relationship Between Study and Practice

Session 11: Foundations, Community, Rebirth, Nibbana

Session 1: The Teaching and the Training – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 12, 2018 Download audio (34:08)
[Monastic life] [Dhamma] [Vinaya]

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1. [0:00] “The Buddha described his teaching as Dhamma-vinaya. Can you explain why it wasn't just Dhamma? What does this term mean?” [Middle Path] // [Recollection/Buddha]

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2. [4:51] “In order to come to the training as Westerners, we often had to not follow cultural traditions and authorities. Monastic life has so many rules and the traditions are well established. How do we switch gears?” [Culture/West] [Attachment to rites and rituals] // [Recollection/Dhamma] [Faith]

Download audio (11:32)
3. [11:55] “How do we expand our faith into other aspects of training?” [Faith] // [Dependent origination] [Recollection/Buddha] [Ajahn Chah] [Ajahn Liem]

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4. [23:27] “Is vinaya about taking responsibility for your actions and mental states and how that affects other people?” // [Dependent origination] [Recollection/Buddha]

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5. [28:22] “Can you talk about skillful means to become more sensitive to the nuances of monastic training?” // [Requisites] [Mindfulness] [Respect for elders] [Upatakh]

Session 2: Celibacy, Symbol, and the Transcendent – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 13, 2018 Download audio (31:57)
[Monastic life]

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1. [0:00] “Can you talk about respect in the context of horizontal and vertical relationships in monastic life?” [Respect] [Respect for elders] // [Conscience and prudence]

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2. [7:57] “Are their multiple levels of brahmacariyā (celibacy)?” [Celibacy] [Christianity] [Sensual desire] // [Becoming]

Sutta: AN 7.50 Sexual Intercourse

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3. [13:59] “Can you speak to the development of respect for the symbols of monastic life as opposed to respect for individual teachers?” [Respect] [Teachers] // [Almsbowl] [Buddha] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Ajahn Chah] [Human]

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4. [23:09] Comment: I notice that you sometimes don't react to the seemingly disrespectful behavior of visitors. [Respect] [Teaching Dhamma]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Buddha]

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5. [25:32] “Western culture seems to have no context for celibacy as a good thing.” [Celibacy] [Culture/West] // [Christianity]

Session 3: From Restraint to Confidence – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 19, 2018 Download audio (35:46)

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1. [0:00] “Why are the precepts worded as things not to do rather than as aspirations?” [Precepts] [Vinaya] // [Dhamma]

Quote: “You can't mandate goodness.”

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2. [2:27] “How does the Vinaya encourage monks to keep rules?” [Vinaya] [Monastic life] // [Dhamma]

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3. [9:59] “What is the role of confession and other tools for recifying offenses?” [Vinaya] [Confession] // [Ajahn Chah] [Volition] [Kamma] [Dhamma]

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4. [16:24] “When the Buddha mentions stream entry, he often mentions both sīla (virtue) and view.” [Stream entry] [Virtue] [Right View]

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5. [17:56] “What about Sarakāni (SN 55.24-25), the stream enterer who took to drink?” [Stream entry] [Intoxicants] // [Ajahn Chah] [Precepts]

Story: Ajahn Chah takes in a gangster. [Crime]

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6. [23:03] “Can you talk more about "Skillfully contributing to an upredictable situation"?” [Impermanence] [Skillful qualities] [Ajahn Pasanno] // [Teaching Dhamma] [Clear comprehension]

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7. [28:16] “Have you been in situations where you didn't know what to do?” [Ajahn Pasanno] [Impermanence]

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8. [30:05] “I appreciate your saying "The trancendance of doubt isn't getting the answers to your doubt, it's being comfortable with the doubt."” [Ajahn Pasanno] [Doubt]

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9. [31:17] “When the suttas describe a practitioner as "having gone beyond doubt," (e.g. DN 3) what do they mean?” [Doubt] [Sutta] // [Four Noble Truths] [Teaching Dhamma] [Ajahn Chah]

Story: An Ajahn Chah monk accused of a heavy offense. [Vinaya]

Session 4: The Monastic Form in the West – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 20, 2018 Download audio (44:03)
[Monastic life]

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1. [0:05] “What is the role of mentors and teachers in learning to use the monastic form skillfully?” [Teachers] [Mentoring] [Vinaya] // [Saṅgha] [Ajahn Chah] [Wat Pah Pong] [Teaching Dhamma] [Long-term practice] [Ajahn Pasanno]

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2. [7:02] “Who were imporant mentors for you?” [Ajahn Pasanno] [Teachers] [Mentoring] // [Ajahn Chah] [Ajahn Jun] [Ajahn Mahā Amorn] [Ajahn Liem] [Ajahn Sumedho] [Ajahn Mahā Boowa] [Ajahn Baen] [Ajahn Buddhadāsa] [P. A. Payutto] [Wat Pah Pong]

Story: Ajahn Mahā Amorn goes to study with Ajahn Chah. [Learning]

Download audio (27:35)
3. [13:36] “Two questions: 1) What strengths do you see in other Buddhist traditions and Western culture that our tradition could benefit from? 2) How have you decided which aspects of korwat (protocols) from Thailand to adjust and which to maintain?” [Mahāyāna] [Vajrayāna] [Culture/West] [Culture/Thailand] [Vinaya] [Protocols] // [Abhayagiri] [Women in Buddhism] [Robes] [Cultural context] [City of Ten Thousand Buddhas] [Dōgen] [Zen] [Ajahn Sumedho] [History/Western Buddhism] [Simplicity] [Christianity] [Renunciation] [Eight Precepts] [Not handling money] [Cittavivieka] [Ajahn Amaro] [Communal harmony]

Quote: “There are so many good things to do that you could be running around the country doing good things. I'd rather focus my attention here.” [Pace of life]

Quote: “There's no reason to fit into American culture.”

Story: The monastic jacket is vindicated in England. [Culture/Natural environment] [History/Western Buddhist monasticism]

Quote: “As Buddhist monastics and Buddhist practitioners, we're trying to set conditions that give us the opportunity for learning.” [Lay life] [Learning]

Download audio (1:42)
4. [41:11] “Have you had strong relationships with Buddhist lay teachers in the West?” [Lay teachers] [Ajahn Pasanno] [History/Western Buddhism]

Session 5: Being Your Own Refuge – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 21, 2018 Download audio (30:09)
[Monastic life]

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1. [0:00] “What can we learn when we pay respects to mentors?” [Respect for elders] // [Ajahn Mahā Boowa] [Almsround] [Ajahn Pasanno]

Story: Ajahn Mahā Boowa visits after Ajahn Chah's death. [Ajahn Chah]

Story: Ajahn Baen admonishes Ajahn Pasanno at Ajahn Chah's cremation. [Ajahn Baen] [Fierce/direct teaching]

Quote: “You don't have to visit me! You know what to do already! It's all right here (pointing at his heart).” — Ajahn Baen to Ajahn Pasanno

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2. [11:57] “How many monks are with Luang Por Baen?” [Ajahn Baen]

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3. [12:35] “What about senior monks who don't meet our expectations of conduct or practice?” [Respect for elders] // [Ajahn Chah] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Ajahn Mahā Boowa]

Sutta: AN 4.192 Facts

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4. [20:05] “Do you remember the sutta that compares people's behaivor to a puddle?” [Sutta] [Similes] // [Ill-will]

Sutta: AN 5.162 Removing Resentment

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5. [21:10] “Do you have any reflections on the "Do or die" attitude?” [Monastic life/Motivation] [Ardency] [Middle Path]

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6. [23:49] “Can you talk about the dangers of misplaced or wrongly directed faith in a teacher?” [Faith] [Teaching Dhamma] [Respect for elders] // [Recollection/Dhamma] [Middle Path]

Quote: “A good teacher encourages people to practice and figure this out rather than telling them exactly what to do.” [Discernment]

Session 6: Caring for Monks in Aging, Sickness, and Death – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 22, 2018 Download audio (49:17)
[Monastic life] [Saṅgha]

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1. [0:00] “How does upatakhing fit into our training and what can we learn from it?” [Upatakh] [Vinaya] [Respect for elders] // [Culture/Thailand] [Conceit] [Generosity] [Protocols] [Discernment] [Mindfulness]

Vinaya: Cv 8: Vattakkhandhaka - Protocols

Story: Ajahn Lee upataks Ajahn Mun. [Ajahn Mun] [Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo]

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2. [11:26] “I assume at Abhayagiri the upatakh sleeps in his own dwelling place? (in contrast to the previous story of Ajahn Lee)” [Abhayagiri] [Upatakh] // [Sickness] [Ajahn Chah] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Other Thai monastics]

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3. [26:25] “What is the value of living in community?” // [Self-identity view] [Continuity of mindfulness] [Ajahn Chah] [Ajahn Tongrat] [Views] [Requisites] [Not handling money]

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4. [38:07] “Do you think it's true that how we treat others is in large part how we treat ourselves?” [Community] [Discernment]

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5. [40:18] Comment: It's important for the Saṅgha to look after all members in terms of sickness and ageing. [Sickness] [Ageing] [Death]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Ajahn Pasanno] [Wat Pah Nanachat] [History/Western Buddhist monasticism]

Vinaya: Kd 8.26.1-8: The Monk with Dysentery [Buddha/Biography]

Session 7: Serving, Bowing, Images – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 23, 2018 Download audio (42:26)
[Monastic life]

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1. [0:00] “Why do upatakhs do things for their ajahns that the ajahns can do better themselves?” [Upatakh] // [Self-identity view] [Generosity] [Relinquishment] [Culture/Thailand] [Culture/West]

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2. [6:25] “In Thailand, dāna (generosity) usually means giving food to a monk. But is dāna more of a mindset?” [Generosity] [Culture/Thailand] // [Chanting] [Upatakh] [Wat Pah Pong] [Ajahn Chah] [Cleanliness]

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3. [13:50] “Can you talk about Ajahn Chah's use of bowing, communal pūjās, and chores?” [Ajahn Chah] [Chanting] [Saṅgha] [Work] [Bowing] // [Becoming] [Mutual lay/Saṅgha support] [Respect for elders]

Story: A Westerner asks Ajahn Chah, "Why do we bow?"

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4. [20:36] “Can you clarify what "field of merit" means?” [Saṅgha] [Recollection/Saṅgha] [Generosity] [Recollection/Generosity] [Merit]

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5. [23:26] “Why do we bow to images?” [Buddha images] [Bowing] // [History/Early Buddhism] [Abhayagiri]

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6. [30:08] “What about relics?” [Relics] // [Ajahn Mun] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Ajahn Khao] [Mae Chee Kaew] [Master Hsuan Hua] [Ajahn Chah]

Story: Ajahn Pasanno's mother observes multiplying relics.

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7. [40:46] “What do you think might have happened to the few relics in my house when it burned down?” [Relics]

Session 8: The Role of Community – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 26, 2018 Download audio (49:02)
[Monastic life] [Saṅgha]

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1. [0:00] “Ajahn Chah encouraged his monks to all come together for communal chores and stay until the chores are finished. Why is that?” [Ajahn Chah] [Work] // [Communal harmony] [Relinquishment] [Clinging] [Culture/West]

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2. [5:57] “What does morning pūjā contribute?” [Chanting] // [Devotion to wakefulness]

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3. [8:06] “Will practice as a group help us in solitude?” [Seclusion] [Meditation/General advice] [Community]

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4. [9:53] “How do we balance solitude and communal aspects of practice?” [Seclusion] [Community] [Meditation/General advice] // [Ajahn Pasanno]

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5. [12:30] Comment: Some deep-seated patterns may be more visible to others than ourselves. [Community] [Outflows]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Aversion] [Self-identity view]

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6. [13:30] “Is there a place to point out others' difficulties?” [Admonishment/feedback] [Right Speech] [Community] // [Ajahn Chah] [Teaching Dhamma]

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7. [16:29] “What is the role of admonishement? How do we admonish skillfully?” [Admonishment/feedback] [Right Intention] // [Respect for elders]

Story: Ajahn Amaro waits a year before giving feedback. [Ajahn Amaro]

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8. [22:35] “Does the proper timing of admonishment depend on the severity of the offense?” [Admonishment/feedback] [Vinaya]

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9. [24:29] “When and how should one respond to offenses of middling severity?” [Admonishment/feedback] [Vinaya]

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10. [26:51] “I've heard that someone asked Ajahn Chah if he could read his students' minds. He replied that he didn't need to; he just watched how they walked in the door and bowed. Do you get a feel for this over time?” [Ajahn Chah] [Psychic powers] [Teaching Dhamma] [Mindfulness of body] [Bowing]

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11. [28:14] “When is it skillful to try to help people who are suffering?” [Compassion] [Suffering] [Teaching Dhamma]

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12. [31:38] “Have you found it necessary to recommend psychotherapy or medication for monks who have deep-seated ruts of suffering?” [Western psychology] [Suffering] [Long-term practice] // [Ajahn Pasanno]

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13. [33:51] “Is the Dhamma sufficient for ordinary neurosis or do I need a psychotherapist?” [Western psychology] [Dhamma]

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14. [37:10] “A senior lay teacher I respect has started seeing a psychotherapist. Any reflections?” [Western psychology] [Dhamma] [Lay teachers]

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15. [41:16] “Does the stability of monastic community help prevent spiritual bypassing?” [Spiritual bypass]

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16. [42:28] Comment: When one visits different monasteries and sees the same thing happening over and over, it's harder to believe "It's not me." [Delusion]

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17. [42:56] “Abhayagiri's daily and yearly schedule provide a good balance of individual and communal practice. How did this happen?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Abhayagiri] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Ajahn Amaro] [Seclusion] // [History/Western Buddhist monasticism]

Session 9: Dhutangas, The Ascetic Practices – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 27, 2018 Download audio (40:58)
[Monastic life] [Ascetic practices]

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1. [0:00] “What is the purpose of dhutaṅga practices?” // [Simplicity] [Renunciation] [Almsround] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Almsfood] [Abhayagiri] [Impermanence] [Devotion to wakefulness] [Wat Pah Pong] [Wat Pah Ban Tat] [Long-term practice]

Download audio (7:35)
2. [14:28] “How do we discern the benefit of dhutaṅga practices and how much is too much?” [Discernment] [Middle Path] // [Ajahn Pasanno] [Devotion to wakefulness] [Almsround] [History/Early Buddhism] [Gladdening the mind] [Ajahn Chah] [Master Hsuan Hua]

Story: Ajahn Jayasaro determines sitter's practice until Ajahn Chah dies. [Ajahn Jayasaro] [Respect for elders] [Determination]

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3. [22:09] “What do you recommend when we make a determination and either realize that it's not working out or break it? How do we continue from there?” [Determination] // [Ajahn Pasanno] [Moderation in eating] [Precepts]

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4. [25:23] “Can adhiṭṭhānas be made in a formal way?” [Determination]

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5. [27:16] Story: Ajahn Ñāṇiko takes on too many adhiṭṭhānas as an anagārika. Told by Ajahn Ñāṇiko. [Ajahn Ñāṇiko] [Determination] [Abhayagiri]

Download audio (3:32)
6. [28:02] “How do we perceive which ruts we are stuck in and which tools to use to get out of them? Are there tools besides dhutaṅgas to use when we're stuck in strong habits?” [Delusion] [Craving] // [Ajahn Pasanno] [Faith] [Three Refuges] [Self-identity view]

Download audio (7:34)
7. [31:40] “What is the importance of the brahmavihārās in balancing out dhutaṅga practices?” [Divine Abidings] // [Recollection/Buddha] [Gladdening the mind] [Attachment to rites and rituals] [Discernment] [Compassion] [Learning] [Arahant]

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8. [39:18] “What are the results of making good use of the ascetic practices?”

Session 10: The Relationship Between Study and Practice – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 28, 2018 Download audio (47:09)

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1. [0:00] “The Krooba Ajahns often deemphasize study. What is the context in which they said this and how should we work with this?” [Culture/Thailand] [Thai Forest Tradition] // [Ajahn Chah] [Right View] [Culture/West] [Faith]

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2. [9:22] “Ajahn Piyadhammo encourages study to develop a personal relationship with the Buddha, cultivating Buddhanussati. Does this make sense?” [Ajahn Piyadhammo] [Recollection/Buddha] // [Faith]

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3. [10:31] “In Thailand, is the only way to study the suttas to go to a study monastery?” [Culture/Thailand] [Sutta] // [History/Thai Buddhism] [Ajahn Buddhadāsa] [Ajahn Mahā Boowa] [Ajahn Mun]

Download audio (2:16)
4. [16:45] Comment: We're blessed to have study guides in English to learn the basics of Pāli and then go straight to the suttas. [Culture/West] [Pāli] [Sutta]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Ajahn Buddhadāsa] [Chao Khun Upāli] [Ajahn Mun]

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5. [19:05] “How do we use sutta study in our practice and what are the pitfalls?” [Sutta] [Views] // [Non-contention] [Self-identity view] [Culture/India] [Relinquishment]

Sutta: MN 18

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6. [25:08] Comment: Another major danger of over-intellectualizing is overestimating our progress. [Progress of insight]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Views] [Relinquishment]

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7. [27:40] “Have you done much memorization practice?” [Ajahn Pasanno] // [Eightfold Path] [Pāli] [Right Mindfulness] [Chanting] [Energy]

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8. [34:38] “What encouragement or adjustments in their lives have you given struggling monks that have helped them remain in robes?” [Monastic life] [Disrobing] // [Tudong] [Teaching Dhamma]

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9. [37:50] Comment: I've heard that you advise monks contemplating disrobing to recollect their initial intention why they became a monk. [Monastic life] [Disrobing] [Monastic life/Motivation]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno.

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10. [39:06] “What role does spending time at other monasteries play in our training?” [Monastic life] [Abhayagiri] // [Wat Pah Nanachat] [Saṅgha]

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11. [45:06] “What are guidelines you might advise monks as to where to go for their third or fifth Vassa?” [Monastic life] [Sequence of training] [Long-term practice] // [Culture/Thailand]

Session 11: Foundations, Community, Rebirth, Nibbana – Ajahn Pasanno – Mar. 29, 2018 Download audio (35:27)
[Monastic life]

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1. [0:00] “How can those just entering monastic life lay a good foundation?” // [Vinaya] [Right View] [Ajahn Chah] [Virtue] [Stream entry] [Four Noble Truths] [Kamma] [Generosity] [Greed] [Communal harmony] [Happiness] [Gratitude]

Sutta: SN 55.1: Sīla of a stream enterer

Sutta: MN 117: The Great Forty

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2. [15:11] “Would you be willing to speak on the importance of having faith in rebirth?” [Faith] [Rebirth] // [Culture/West] [Right View] [Ajahn Chah] [Ajahn Pasanno]

Sutta: MN 117: Definition of right view

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3. [20:25] Comment: It sounds like teachings about rebirth and teachers speaking about their experience of rebirth are out there. Whether people pick it up or not, you leave it up to them. [Rebirth] [Teaching Dhamma]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Ajahn Pasanno] [Ajahn Chah] [Faith]

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4. [21:55] “At the beginning of this retreat, Tan Ajahn Anan advised us, "Don't forget Nibbāna." How do we orient ourselves towards Nibbāna?” [Nibbāna] [Ajahn Anan] // [Dispassion] [Cessation of Suffering] [Etymology] [Stream entry]

Sutta: AN 10.60: Girimānanda Sutta [Cessation]

Sutta: SN 56.11: "Whatever is of the nature to arise, that is of the nature to cease." [Conditionality]

Quote: “[The goal] is incredibly worthy, and it is not beyound our capability and means to experience.” [Direct experience]

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5. [26:59] “I was reading the book Hooked about desire, consumerism, and society. The author writes about the desire to know things. How does the desire to know relate to practice?” [Desire] // [Cause of Suffering] [Cessation of Suffering] [Bases of Success] [Sensual desire] [Craving]

Sutta: SN 51.15: The path has an end. [Great disciples]

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6. [32:35] “Do the Four Iddhipādas apply to the way we develop sammā sati and sammā samādhi?” [Bases of Success] [Right Mindfulness] [Right Concentration] // [Progress of insight]

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7. [34:00] “So you've asked all your questions?” [Questions] [Teaching Dhamma] [Ajahn Pasanno]