Knowing the World

Ajahn Liem

Knowing the World

“They are the Blessed One’s disciples who have practised well. Who have practised directly. Who have practised insightfully. Those who practice with integrity.”

These four attributes, or ways of referring to the Sangha, are like the ‘footsteps of the Enlightened Ones’. We show our reverence and respect for these virtuous qualities of Sangha which follow on from the Noble Triple Gem.

Within these qualities are the virtues we aspire to develop in ourselves through good conduct and practising Dhamma. This is a kind of developing which proceeds to lift us up and lead us onwards to the state of completeness and perfection. However, the extent to which it is thus fulfilling depends on our commitment to the practice. We can say that all these virtues we aspire to develop converge in the quality of sallekha, or effacement. Sallekha is the wearing away of kilesas — the abandoning of defilements leading to freedom from dukkha. The heart free from kilesas experiences a peaceful sense of seclusion, a calm and cool mind. It thus makes us a true ‘field of merit’ for anyone who encounters us. ‘Samananan ca dassanam’ — the sight of a samana, ‘a peaceful one’ is indeed a blessing, something which is good.

Regarding the developing of our Dhamma practice, it’s important not to have craving or desire as part of that process. We must avoid having craving or desire in the mind when we take up the practice. Our primary task is to become established as one who is free from heedlessness — one who is appamado. You can compare it to planting a fruit tree. We begin with a fruit tree sapling and a well-chosen place for planting. Then we dig a hole, provide the right mix of soil and fertilizer and plant the sapling tree. Next we give the right amount of water and sunlight, taking care to optimise growing conditions. In addition we need to protect the sapling from harmful insects and other dangers. Now, after having provided the optimum causes and conditions, the growth and maturity of the fruit tree is something we cannot determine for ourselves.

We can’t force it to grow in any way. As long as we have done our duty well by optimising growing conditions, then the fruit tree will grow in balance with nature and mature accordingly. In the meanwhile, we continue to protect it from insects and other dangers or obstacles to growth. It will grow in accordance with and to whatever extent there is this balance of nature in the causes and conditions. Eventually our mature fruit tree will flower and bear fruit. So regarding our development in Dhamma practice, we have to consider it in this way.

This reflection by Luang Por Liem is from the book, Knowing the World, pp. 1-2, 4.