The Path to No Path

Ajahn Chah

The monastery at Amaravati was founded by Western monks who had lived in Thailand with Ajahn Chah (affectionately known as Luang Por Chah), Painting of Ajahn Chaha highly venerated monk from the long-revered tradition of the Thai forest monks.

The picture is of a painting of him. The original hangs in the sala (the main hall) at Amaravati. Click on the picture to see a much larger version.

I think that Ajahn Chah seems very serious in this painting, yet I can't believe that he was in any way serious in day-to-day life.

However, it appears that monks in the Thai forest tradition used to deliberately put on a glum appearance when they had their pictures taken.

I have seen very old photographs of some of Ajahn Chah's predecessors, and some of them looked very miserable indeed. (But in Victorian times, people in the West also looked very serious in their photographs. Perhaps it is simply easier to look serious for long periods in a fixed pose, than it is to keep up a fixed smile.)

Here is Ajahn Chah talking about the practice of meditation and observing the mind:

You can compare it with looking after water buffalo. There is a buffalo, its owner and some rice plants. Now normally, buffaloes like to eat rice plants; rice plants are buffalo food. Your mind is like the buffalo, the mind-objects which you experience are like the rice plants. That part of the mind which is 'that which knows' is like the owner of the buffalo.

The practice isn't really any different from this. Consider it. What do you do when you are looking after a water buffalo? You let it wander freely, but try to keep an eye on it the whole time. If it walks too near the rice plants, you shout a warning and when the buffalo hears, it should stop and come back.

However, you can't be careless. If it's stubborn and doesn't take heed of your warnings you have to take a stick and give it a good whack, then it won't dare to go anywhere near the rice plants. But don't get caught taking a siesta. If you can't resist taking a nap, the rice plants will be finished for sure.

This extract is taken from his talk, The Key to Liberation.

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