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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
SPRING 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 25 the work, it doesn’t mean you won’t get your reward; you’ll still get your wage. It just doesn’t have to be constantly on your mind. This can be your attitude toward meditation too. So it’s not, “Oh, I’ve been meditating for so long and I still haven’t got this and haven’t reached and realized that...” The question is, are you someone who can put forth effort consistently? Can you find joy and interest in putting forth effort? For children, preferences are understood as a kind of moral imperative; for a child, it makes perfect sense to say, “Because I like it, I will do it” or “I shouldn’t have to do it because I don’t like it.” We can garnish and camouflage it a bit as we get older, but in fact, this is often the rationale of the adult as well. We have things that we like and we find reasons to explain why we like them, while not really being honest enough to recognize that usually the sense of like or dislike comes first and the reasons come afterward. The very simple observation is that some things we really like are to our detriment in the long term; they can be harmful to us and others. Similarly, some things we dislike can in the long term be for our benefit and happiness. Therefore we can’t assume that our sense of like and dislike is an adequate or reliable indication of whether or not we should spend time doing something or associating with particular people or things. So what we’re learning from meditation is the ability to stop and look and not be carried away by these fleeting feelings of liking and disliking. We’re learning to put forth effort. In Ajahn Chah’s words, “When you feel diligent and enthusiastic you meditate, and when you feel lazy you meditate.” You’re recognizing those feelings, but you’re not allowing them to condi- tion your effort. As I mentioned, the ability to put forth effort depends a great deal on chanda. When you start any meditation period, it’s important to recog- nize that chanda is not always there. Even for monks and nuns, people who are giving their lives to this practice, the sense of chanda fluc- tuates. If you lack that sense of interest and chanda—that uplift and enthusiasm for prac- tice—the meditation can very quickly grind to a halt or run into quicksand. You have serious problems. That’s why I think it’s worth check- ing the amount of interest at the beginning of a meditation, and if it’s lacking, you need to be willing to spend some time cultivating it, bring- ing it up. The more you apply yourself in this way, the more fluent you will be in cultivating chanda, and the more easily you can do it, until it becomes almost automatic. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to reflect on two subjects. The first is the suffering inherent in the lack of mindfulness, inner peace, and wisdom. We can draw upon particular areas or events in our lives that have caused us great distress, or distress to others, and see very plainly their results, such as a lack of inner awareness, mindfulness, and inner discipline. We can also draw upon the experiences of the people we know and how they have particularly affected us. The second way of using the thinking mind is to reflect upon all the blessings of mindfulness, inner peace, wisdom, and compassion. Perhaps we can call to mind the examples of great monks, nuns, and teachers whom we admire, and how much we revere their peace, calm, kindness, com- passion, and wisdom. We can remind ourselves that they are not the owners of these qualities, that they weren’t born with these qualities, but rather that these qualities manifested in them through effort and that great teachers are ves- sels for beautiful, noble qualities. And just as they are vessels, so too can we be vessels. Having been born as a human being, we have within us the capacity to manifest every noble quality and must try to do so. There are many different ways of reflecting on the disadvantages and suffering inherent in a lack of mental training and development. Similarly, we can reflect on the advantages and blessings of mental training and development. As you do this more and more, and become more fluent, the process can become very rapid. But the point is we are recognizing that the groundwork, the AJAHN JAYASARO was ordained as a monk by Ajahn Chah in 1980. From 1997 to 2002 he served as abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat, an international monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition. Currently he lives in a hermitage in central Thailand. PHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN