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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 53 arises in the present moment, which means that if we’re angry, afraid, or hurt, that’s what the prac- tice is about at that point. I don’t mean indulging a story or wallowing in it; I’m talk- ing about working with it in a skillful way. We’ve all heard stories—and maybe we’ve done this ourselves—of practitioners who are calm on the cushion, then as soon as they go out in the world they holler at someone who crosses them. When practice goes out the window that quickly, it means we’re not getting in touch with the essence of what practice is, so I think it’s absolutely necessary to understand that practice is about learning to respond to life’s blows, to see each and every one of them as our path. Because it’s usually these experiences, the most pain- ful ones especially, that lead to our deepest self-discovery and even to freedom. KAMALA MASTERS: I notice that a lot of new meditators—if not all—are dealing with personal dis- tress and are wounded in some way. I have found that gently attending to whatever students are struggling with can help them engender compassion for themselves. Being open to and gentle with whatever is happening is such an important part of the practice. When we bring metta, or loving-kindness, to our experience, opening to it with a soft and spacious heart, we can turn our suffering into compas- sion. I’m so grateful that in the beginning of my practice, I Meditation is like a single stick of wood. Insight (vipassana) is one end of the stick and serenity (samatha) the other. If we pick it up, does only one end come up or do both? When anyone picks up a stick, both ends rise together. Which part then is vipas- sana, and which is samatha? Where does one end and the other begin? They are both the mind. As the mind becomes peaceful, initially the peace will arise from the seren- ity of samatha. We focus and unify the mind in states of meditative peace (samadhi). However, if the peace and stillness of samadhi fades away, suffering arises in its place. Why is that? Because the peace afforded by samatha meditation alone is still based on attachment. This attachment can then be a cause of suffering. Serenity is not the end of the Path. The Buddha saw from his own experience that such peace of mind was not the ultimate. The causes underlying the process of existence had not yet been brought to cessation. The conditions for rebirth still existed. His spiritual work had not yet attained perfection. Why? Because there was From Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, published by Wisdom Publications THE SERENITY TRAP Cultivating the peace of shamatha without the insight of vipassana creates serious obstacles for your path, explains the late Ajahn Chah. still suffering. So based on that serenity of samatha he proceeded to contemplate, investigate, and analyze the conditioned nature of reality until he was free from all attachments, even the attachment to seren- ity. Serenity is still part of the world of con- ditioned existence and conventional reality. Clinging to this type of peace is clinging to conventional reality, and as long as we cling, we will be mired in existence and rebirth. Delighting in the peace of samatha still leads to further existence and rebirth.