The Raft

Ajahn Sumedho

The Raft

Sometimes we get lost – we blow up at each other, or we do things that aren’t very nice – but that’s not our intention; these are the heedless moments. I conduct myself in a moral way not only for my own benefit, for my own practice, but out of respect for you and towards the Sangha, and towards the community around us: to be someone who lives within the restraints of the moral precepts. Then my intention is towards my relationship with you, towards metta, kindness and compassion, joy, calm and serenity. At least the intention for every one of us is to do good and refrain from doing evil.

In a community with this kind of aspiration, we can really look at the suffering we create despite that. A lot of you really suffer here, and this is to be understood. It’s the First Noble Truth, dukkha, the suffering of not getting what we want; the suffering of things not being the way want them, of separation from what we like; the suffering of having to do that which we don’t want to do, of having to be restrained when we want to be unrestrained.

I think of how easy it is to create you in my mind. ‘The nuns are like this, the Anagarikas are like that, bhikkhus are like this,’ and so forth. One can have these biases:’ Women are this way, men are that way; Americans are like this, and the English are like that.’ We can believe that, but these are perceptions of the mind, views that arise and cease. And yet we can create a lot of suffering through them. ‘This one doesn’t come to the morning chanting’ or ‘that one isn’t doing their share of the work’, and ‘this one thinks they’re too important’; but the important point is the suffering, the dukkha, because when we have that, we create despair in our minds. We get annoyed and indignant and that all takes us to despair. If we don’t understand dukkha here, then we’re not going to understand it wherever we are: in London, Bangkok, or in Washington DC; on a mountaintop or in a valley; with the good people or the bad people. So it’s really important to observe suffering to know the dukkha.

This reflection by Ajahn Sumedho is from the book, Direct Realization, pp. 49-50.