Ajahn Chah had four basic levels of teaching, and each one, although at times very difficult for the students, was taught with a lot of humour and a lot of love. Ajahn Chah taught that until we can begin to respect ourselves and our environment, practice doesn’t really develop. And that dignity, the ground of practice, comes through surrender, through impeccable discipline. A lot of us in the West understand freedom to mean freedom to do what we want, but I think you can see that to follow the wants of the mind isn’t terribly free. It’s actually rather troublesome.
A deeper freedom, taught through Dhamma, is the freedom within form: the freedom we can find while relating to another human being, the freedom of being born in a body with its limitations, and the freedom of a tight monastic form. What Ajahn Chah did was create a situation of dignity and demand. He really asked a lot from people, probably more than they’d ever been asked in their whole life – to give, to pay attention, to be wholehearted. Sometimes practice is wonderful: the mind gets so clear that you smell and taste the air in ways that you haven’t since you were a child. But sometimes it’s difficult. He said, ‘That’s not the point; the point is somehow to come to inner freedom.’
This reflection by Jack Kornfield is from the book, Recollections of Ajahn Chah, pp. 85-86.