Rule of Thumb

Ajahn Jayasaro

Rule of Thumb

The profound teaching is whatever you can’t do yet. It’s not something that’s always intellectually difficult, but it’s profound if you haven’t yet penetrated it, you haven’t yet reached it. Indeed, it’s often the simplest and most straightforward teachings which are the most effective and produce the most meaningful change in our lives.

This is a point to observe about the Dhamma - that the study and the practice of the Dhamma changes you. It leads somewhere. In the Pali it is called ‘opanayiko’ that is it leads onwards - or it leads inwards, depending on how you translate the term.

In contrast, accumulating normal worldly knowledge often leads to an increase of complexity. Perhaps we can take knowledge from here and there and put it all together and come up with something new that somebody hasn’t thought of before, but whether it actually leads onwards or leads inwards is questionable.

The practice of Dhamma, the Dhamma itself, is something which stands up to scrutiny. It’s something which invites investigation, invites scepticism, invites questions - delights in them. This is not a teaching in which we adopt a certain book and use its teaching as a code by which we translate the meanings of experience, and take refuge in the sense of security that comes from having a book that explains everything.

In Buddhadhamma we’re encouraged to be brave enough to challenge ourselves, challenge what monks say, challenge the things that we read. As we practice more and more, we have this confidence that the Dhamma stands up to intense scrutiny and intense investigation.

There is a principle, a simple rule of thumb which I’ve always found very useful in deciding what is true and what is false - if something is false, the closer you look at it the more diffuse, the less clear it becomes. Whereas if something is true, the closer you look, the clearer it becomes.

So the teachings of the Buddha need to be brought within, need to be looked at closely and put to the test.

This reflection by Ajahn Jayasaro is from the book, Mindfulness, Precepts, and Crashing in the Same Car,
(pdf) pp.8-9