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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
24 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 4 and discouraged, and even assume that they don’t have sufficient spiritual aptitude. In many ways we can say that following the path is the fruit; this is something that I find myself talking about a lot. To make a comparison, let’s say a small child is learning to walk. You could say, “Well, where did the child walk to today? How far did she get?” But that’s not the point. The child wasn’t standing up, walking a few steps, falling down, and get- ting up in order to get somewhere. She didn’t fail because she didn’t get to a particular place. Simi- larly, if you’re learning to ride a bicycle, it’s not important where exactly you go. The question is, can you balance on a bicycle? Can you control a bicycle? Can you ride a bicycle? The goal is not to ride to a particular destination. I suggest that we look at meditation practice in the same way. We say, “Why are we putting forth this effort?” Well, we do it in order to be someone who knows how to put forth effort con- sistently and in an appropriate way, whatever the surrounding conditions are or obstacles might be. This ability to put forth unremitting effort is the goal itself. That’s not to say that there’s no interest in samadhi. But samadhi will come of itself. It’s a natural consequence of this precise, devoted, consistent, and wise effort. In working life, some people consider work a miserable imposition that you have to grit your teeth and get through so that you win the reward of a monthly or weekly wage. This can lead to a lot of unhappiness at work; if work is looked upon as merely a means to an end, it can eas- ily be a cause of sloppiness and even corruption and dishonesty. If you can find an easier means to the same end, then why wouldn’t you? But if you turn your focus toward the work itself, and not toward waiting for some pleasure or hap- piness that will arise in the future as a result of motivation, which the Buddha stressed as being absolutely fundamental to any progress on the eightfold path. Of the four iddhipadas—the four paths to power—chanda is the first. In the presence of chanda, effort, or viriya, arises. Effort is in many ways the characteristic dhamma of this whole school of Buddhism. In fact, the Buddha referred to his teachings not as Theravada but as viriya- vada. It is a teaching of effort, a teaching that there is such a thing as effort, that effort can be put forth, effort should be put forth, and that effort is what is needed for progress on the path. When we lived with Ajahn Chah at Wat Pah Pong, he was able to create around him, and within the hearts of his students, this sense of chanda. One way that we can talk about chanda is by distinguishing it from the unwholesome kind of desire, or tanha. One of the most observ- able differences is that tanha is focused on the result of an action, while chanda is focused on the action itself. So tanha wants to get, wants to be, wants to become, wants to get rid of, wants to be separated from something. Chanda wants to do. As I recall, in those days after evening chanting, Ajahn Chah would often say, “Now is the time to go back to your kutis and put forth effort.” He didn’t say, “Go back and meditate.” So our practice was conceived in terms of effort, and it was the putting forth of effort that was important. The willingness and interest to do that came through chanda. I’ve very rarely taught meditation in the West, but in Thailand a common problem among lay meditators is that they take up meditation prac- tice in order to become peaceful. When people meditate and they don’t become peaceful, or they don’t achieve the kind of peace they imagined they should be achieving, they become frustrated The Buddha referred to his teachings not as Theravada but as viriyavada. It is a teaching of effort—that effort can be put forth and that effort is what is needed to progress along the path. PHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN