Student: I’ve heard that in the beginning, Luang Por Chah used to lock the doors of the Dhamma hall during the all-night sits.
Luang Por Pasanno: I wasn’t there back then. But he did have us sit in meditation right after the meal in all three of our robes—in the hot season! Over time, however, he came to rely more on wisdom than brute force.
Student: What caused him to make this change?
Luang Por Pasanno: Well, he learned that it was better to create the right environment for practice than to try to turn people who didn’t want to practice into practitioners. He had a simile. He said: “If you created a nice pasture and cows came in, they would eat the grass. If animals went into the pasture and didn’t eat the grass, then you knew they weren’t cows.” That was his way of saying that if you create a good place for practice, real practitioners will practice. Other types of people won’t practice, and there’s no point in trying to change them.
Student: Did he ever provide similes indicating that people can improve?
Luang Por Pasanno: Every simile has a specific point, and it doesn’t work outside of that. Ajahn Chah definitely encouraged people and told them they could do it if they tried. They had the teachings, and they were in a good environment. So if they tried, they could succeed.
Student: I’ve heard that he often encouraged people to stay in robes even when they didn’t want to.
Luang Por Pasanno: That’s right. For instance, there was Ajahn Toon. Every year after the Rains Retreat he would ask Ajahn Chah if he could leave the training, but Ajahn Chah would refuse. This went on for five years. After every Rains Retreat, just like clockwork, there would be Ajahn Toon with his offering of flowers and incense respectfully asking to leave the Saṅgha. Ajahn Chah would always talk him out of it or, sometimes, just get up and walk away. He saw that even though Ajahn Toon wanted to leave, he was capable of persevering in the practice. Ajahn Toon ended up staying a monk, and now he’s a really good teacher in our lineage.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume One, (pdf) pp.81-82.