So today, we’ve come to use the new place, which is still under construction. But it’s still a convenient place. It still makes for a convenient place for gathering. Because without a suitable place, then we cannot all gather together like this. But then we’re adapting to a new place we have to adapt ourselves to new conditions, particularly the weather conditions, which are a bit cooler. But then we remind ourselves, that to whatever extent that we are able to use warm clothing to keep away some degree of cold, that we’re still always in touch with nature and experiencing the weather and changing conditions of nature. And also gathering together in this place, then we remember respectfully the way that the Buddha was enlightened by understanding nature which he achieved through developing wholesome qualities within his heart and also then practiced great kindness towards all beings.
He was the one who knows, the Awakened One, and the Radiant One. The one who had achieved peaceful happiness. And we have heard and learned the stories in the years since that time that the Buddha lived a very natural life. And he lived close to nature. He was born in nature in the forest in Lumbini Park. And then when it came to the time in his life that he was going to, when the unenlightened Boddhisatta was going to seek enlightenment, then he sought refuge in the forest to provide the quiet place for that, close to the Niranjana River in a park nearby the village of Uruvela and was enlightened under the tree that we now call the Bodhi Tree.
So these are natural places where the Boddhisatta, who was to become the Buddha, studied and learned from nature until he became enlightened and achieved a fully healthy perfect condition for his heart. And then for those of us with hearts that are still not awakened, still not fully adjusted to nature, then we apply these dhammas which the Buddha taught for the sake of awakening. And that’s sati, or mindfulness, and sampajañña. It’s clear understanding. So when we’re in contact with the environment, with nature, then with mindfulness and clear awareness, we can learn from nature. We can learn by studying our own bodies. Our bodies, as we know as time passes, they’ll continually change and then they’ll die and break down and go back to their original state.
So this is true of every life. And it’s the way of nature that all objects in the world are conglomerations of smaller elements which are gathered together for some lifespan and throughout the course of that lifespan undergo change and then come to an end. So, this body as we know is made of four elements—earth, water, fire, and wind—which will break back down to their original condition and go back down to nature, go back into the earth. This was a truth that the Buddha understood and therefore felt fully at peace with nature, fully accepting the way that nature is. And his heart was free of bonds, free of worries, and fully purified.
So therefore, associating with nature, learning to accept and understand the truth of nature is what will lead us to true knowing and seeing, and it’s nature as the basis that made that possible. So, therefore if we accept nature and the way that it is, then we’ll be free from worry, free from danger and harm. And we’ll be content. A content person experiences peaceful happiness, whereas a person who’s not content experiences fear and worry and causes others to fear and worry. A person without contentment is a person with wrong view and is a person who’s not free, always pulled along by unwholesome dhammas. Therefore, it’s appropriate for us to think and reflect on ourselves and establish our mindfulness, focus on knowing, focus on looking and seeing, to clearly know and see. And adjusting our view from view which is not quite right to view which is right. This straightening of view is called, ditthuju-kamma and it leads to right view, samma-ditthi. And that’s a part of our process of developing wisdom. Because through developing wisdom, we abandon desire and gradually our hearts become free of desire and then we can experience the best taste that nature has to offer, which is the taste of freedom—freedom from worries and freedom from anxiety. And therefore living fully at peace in happiness with nature.
Ajahn Liem gave this reflection in the partially-built Reception Hall before the meal on July 11, 2015 at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery. This is a transcription of Ajahn Thāniyo’s on-the-spot translation (audio).