Practice Is about Purifying the Heart

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

Practice Is about Purifying the Heart

During my years in Thailand, I was often asked why I ordained, why I was interested in Buddhism; but, one time I was asked a more specific version of that question: What was it that Ajaan Fuang taught that attracted me to him particularly?

I didn’t have a ready answer right away; but as I thought about it, I began to realize that there was one teaching that had really struck me when I first went to stay with him, which is that this practice is all about purifying the heart. As he said, everything else in the practice is just games. The real thing, the serious part, the earnest part of the practice, is purifying the heart. That resonated.

When we think in these terms, it helps give a sense of direction to what we’re doing and helps us check what we’re doing. There’s a passage where the Buddha says, “You know another person’s purity by the way that person has dealings with others.”

In other words, when you engage in a trade, are you fair? When you engage in an argument, are you fair? Do you take advantage of other peoples’ weaknesses? Do you make underhanded arguments? Do you take more from others than you give, or do you give more?

You can use the same principle looking at the mind to figure out what is meant by purity of heart and mind. How does your mind deal with itself? How do you deal with the world? Basically, how do you feed on the world? How do you look for your pleasure? How do you look for your happiness? Do you give more than you take, or do you take more than you give?

When the Buddha uses the metaphor of feeding, it has a really deep meaning because you begin to realize that ultimately the only pure happiness is one where you’re not feeding at all, in any way, physically or mentally.

But on the way there, you’re going to have to feed.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Dhamma Talks Section, Meditation Series book, Meditations 8, “Examine Your Happiness.” (Also in audio format at, “Examine Your Happiness,” December 28, 2014.)