Following Rules: What’s the Point?

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Following Rules: What’s the Point?

Yesterday, in Vinaya class, we were talking about how we relate to rules. As monastics, we have so many rules that are a part of our lifestyle. There are countless rules that define the way we live and the way we do things. It’s interesting to see how Western monks like us often relate to the rules in a fearful way. There’s a sense of all these different rules in place, and we’re trying to control…

The Path of Non-Contention

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The Path of Non-Contention

Often when we practice loving-kindness, mettā, it involves an active well-wishing to all beings, such as when we repeat the phrases, “May you be happy, may they be happy, may all beings be happy, healthy, safe, at ease,” and so forth. Certainly that’s an important part of loving-kindness meditation. But in a more essential, practical way, the quality of mettā is not only a well-wishing toward ot…

Working To Let Go

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Working To Let Go

The work period is a good time for learning about how to let go. During these periods the mind is constantly thinking, I have to do this and I have to do that and this needs to get done before I do that. But when the mind lets go, it’s malleable and as the Buddha said, “fit for work.” If we only meditate and don’t challenge the mind with difficult and unpredictable situations, then the chances are…

The Protective Power of Truth

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The Protective Power of Truth

In quite a few of our paritta chants there is the line “etena sacca vajjena sotthi te hotu sabbadā,” which is roughly translated as, “by the utterance of this truth may there be safety, protection.” About a month ago I was on my solo retreat reading a book about the stories behind the parittas, the protective chants. There was this touching tale from the Quail’s Protection Chant for warding off f…

Putting the Four Noble Truths Into Action

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Putting the Four Noble Truths Into Action

As we bring the practice into our daily lives, it’s immensely beneficial to use the Four Noble Truths when viewing experience— in our formal meditation, interactions with others, and engagements with various duties. This is not something to save for later—after studying the suttas, developing all the states of concentration and the psychic powers, we finally contemplate the Noble Truths and become…

Clean Kuṭi, Clear Mind

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Clean Kuṭi, Clear Mind

Keeping our kuṭis, our dwelling places, in order helps to keep our minds in order as well. So anytime we leave our kuṭis, we should make sure everything is put away, neat and tidy. It’s easy to let things slide, to tidy up only once a week, or whatever. But if we have a habit of letting things get a bit messy before tidying up, we’re apt to develop a somewhat lax attitude about everything, which…

The Mango Picking Pole Is Too Long

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The Mango Picking Pole Is Too Long

Sometimes we feel compelled to think, figure things out, analyze what we’re doing, and marshal all the logical reasons for directing our practice in a particular way, but in the end, it’s simply busyness. And an important part of our practice is developing skills that prevent the mind from being trapped in busyness. Ajahn Chah used the example of picking mangoes. In Thailand, mangoes are picked by…

Mangala Sutta

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Mangala Sutta

THE HIGHEST BLESSINGS (Mangala Sutta) (Thus have I heard that the Blessed One) Was staying at Sāvatthī, Residing at the Jeta’s Grove In Anāthapiṇḍaka’s park. Then in the dark of the night, a radiant deva illuminated all Jeta’s Grove. She bowed down low before the Blessed One, then standing to one side she said: “Devas are concerned for happiness and ever long for peace. The same is true for humank…

The Generosity of Respect

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The Generosity of Respect

When we are working together and interacting with each other, it’s important for each of us in the community to have mutual respect for one another and to recognize that everybody is here because they have the intention to do something good, something wholesome. On the level of personality, it’s easy to exercise our critical faculties—we’re pretty adept at that. Especially when we live together ov…

The Breath Through the Fog

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The Breath Through the Fog

Ajahn Chah said that when watching the breath, it’s important to understand that our thinking doesn’t have to stop. This is a very useful point. Often when we’re watching the breath, we get lost in a train of thought and eventually remind ourselves to come back to the breath. In many guided meditations, we often hear the phrase, “Come back to the breath.” We can start to feel that thinking is a pr…