Ajahn Jayasāro


It would seem obvious that any detailed discussion of a person’s life must, sooner or later, focus on his or her personality. It tends to be assumed that it is in the personality that the essence of a person is to be found. But this apparent truism requires certain qualifications in the case of liberated beings, or those practising for liberation. In such cases, the personality is fluid. Personality traits based on defilements, such as greed and anger, shrink and disappear; those traits free of defilement, like kindness and compassion, grow and mature.

In the case of liberated beings, those character traits, eccentricities and elements of personality that are not sustained by defilement survive their enlightenment. Inarticulate aspirants become inarticulate arahants, stern aspirants become stern arahants, charismatic aspirants become charismatic arahants. There is no fixed mould. And just as bright and radiant people may occasionally prove to be deluded or mentally unbalanced, so too the most unprepossessing figures may, in fact, be fully liberated. Luang Por once compared enlightened beings to birds of different species, differing in size, wingspan, colouring, sound and so on, but all recognizably members of the bird family.

The second qualification that must be made in speaking of the personality of enlightened beings is that they do not have the same relationship to their personality as a normal person: liberation in the Buddhist sense means freedom from all identification with personality and personal history.

This reflection by Ajahn Jayasaro is from the book, Stillness Flowing, (pdf) pp.184-185.