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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
26 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 4 preparing of the mind in order to give it sufficient integrity and maturity to make use of medita- tion techniques, is dependent on this quality of chanda. If we overlook that or just go straight into the meditation practices when our minds lack the readiness to do so, the result can be frus- trating and can lead to a lack of progress on the path. Ajahn Chah gave us this chanda for free. But at the same time, unlike some teachers, he took no pleasure in his disciples’ devotion. He never indulged in it. Indeed, if he saw that a monk was becoming overly devoted to him—becom- ing attached to him, in other words—often he would send him off somewhere, hundreds of miles away, for a year or so to get over it. So though we had this feeling that he always had our best interests at heart, it wouldn’t always be very comfortable for us. He wasn’t someone who just wanted to keep his closest disciples around him and bask in that sense of being loved and respected; not at all. But one important charac- teristic of the way he taught was that he would bring things back again and again to the four noble truths, not as philosophy but as personal experience. Although as monastics we can accept the idea of going against the grain, in practice, very few people are able to do that on a consis- tent basis without becoming overly ascetic and serious, and somewhat twisted. Or else they put forth a lot of effort for a short period, then let it all go and feel guilty. Then they go to the oppo- site extreme again and are superstrict for a while but are unable to sustain it. The inability to go steadily against the stream of tanha, particularly at the beginning of prac- tice, is a formidable obstacle, but one that has to be surmounted. So Ajahn Chah set up his mon- astery and life there in such a way that there was this constant rubbing against your likes and dislikes, and a sufficient amount of discomfort to compel you to look and see where the suffering was coming from. He would famously tell us that as a monk you can cut out a lot of distractions, but you can’t cut out all distractions. Sleep, food, and conversation are three areas in which monks can still indulge, and you have to keep a watch on these. Ajahn Chah said, PHOTO | JOHN GOLDSMITH