Ajahn Achalo


What is Buddha? Who was the Buddha? What conditions gave rise to the Buddha? What were the qualities of the Buddha?

In taking refuge, we should contemplate these questions sometimes. We can recognise that Lord Buddha demonstrated our ultimate potential. Understanding that refuge in the Buddha is refuge in our ultimate nature, we can then affirm that. Then at the heart of our experience lies an extraordinary potential, one that gives rise to the first of the five spiritual powers.

Faith. When it’s in the right place, faith is extremely powerful and useful. It’s followed by energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.These faculties come up in the thirty-seven wings to awakening as two separate lists. The first list is the five faculties; the second time they’re listed as the five powers. These faculties exist in our minds.

We have a faculty of faith. You will find that if people don’t have faith in Lord Buddha they put their faith in something else. Sometimes that faith is skilful and sometimes it’s not skilful. Sometimes it’s wise and sometimes it’s unwise.

A lot of young people these days can become devoted to singers and actors if they don’t have a spiritual world view, if they don’t have a spiritual mentor, or they haven’t met spiritual practitioners with integrity. They plaster their walls with pictures of movie stars and listen to every silly thing they say on Twitter. For many people, celebrities have become the deities of the modern world.

Unfortunately, we so often see celebrities fall from grace. In many respects, they’re not very sound role models. When you have faith in Buddha, however, you place your faith in Buddhahood, Lord Buddha, and the qualities of a Buddha, and then you recognise it as your potential. It’s sometimes called Buddha nature.

…Faith in Buddha’s liberation is also faith in your potential. Before he was a bodhisattva he started out just the same as us. The starting point of any Buddha is an ordinary mind affected by greed, hatred, and delusion. Through incredible sincerity and a great deal of effort and determination over a very long period of time, the Buddha first became a bodhisattva, and then a great bodhisattva.

At a certain point he would have met a Buddha and committed to becoming such himself. But even before meeting that Buddha, he or she was a being with exceptional compassion, aspiration, and altruism, wanting to help many beings to be free from suffering. At some point, a bodhisattva meets a Buddha, and being so inspired, he makes a lot of offerings, and then makes a vow: ‘Due to this merit may I be a Buddha also’.

Then he would have received a prediction. Through the power of that merit and the power of the bodhisattva’s own significantly developed mind, that past Buddha would have been able to see the future aeon where this bodhisattva would also become a Buddha.

After that point, he spent an incredible amount of time working on the perfections, the pāramīs. If we consider this, we can all feel grateful and even in awe of the millions of extraordinary acts of kindness, the millions of acts of renunciation, and the millions of acts of restraint it would have taken. He would have spent thousands upon thousands of lives in contemplation and meditation, listening to Dhamma, perfecting the wisdom pāramī, the sīla pāramī, and the mettā pāramī. It’s incredible.

In terms of our own Buddha potential or our Buddha nature, we don’t have to develop all of those qualities to the same degree. We can look at Lord Buddha’s teaching, the path of dāna, sīla, bhāvanā. The eight- fold path. We become generous, warm-hearted, good-hearted, and then ethical. We practice meditation and develop our mindfulness. This is putting faith in the right place.

We need faith in the ultimate truth, faith in our ultimate nature, and faith in the path.

These reflections by Ajahn Achalo are from the book, The Process of Realization, “Experiencing and Applying the Five Spiritual Powers,” (pdf) pp. 71, 72-73.