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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
buddhadharma| 15 |fall 2007 tool to cut a path through the jungle, explains Ajahn Chandako. When I was a young monk, a common meditation method used in Thailand was reciting the mantra “buddho” in the mind. I tried that for a while, but somehow it didn’t stick as easily as another word that I came up with, which was “peace.” So I just started using “peace” as a mantra. When I was sitting, I would say “peace,” silently repeating it to myself, feeling it reverberate – “peace, peace, peace.” Then when I was doing walking medita- tion, with each step I’d say “peace, peace, peace.” Whether I was working or on alms round, eating, or even in conversation, I found that every time I could bring my mind back to the center of “peace, peace,” then everything started to come back into balance. I realized it was a quality that I needed. So it was a reminder. Before I went to Wat Pah Nanachat [a forest monastery in Thailand for English-speaking for- eigners, established by Ajahn Chah], I was doing a long meditation retreat in Thailand, and it was more of the vipassana style. I was told, “Well, you’re welcome to do samatha meditation if you want, but it’s basically a waste of time. It makes you a little peaceful, you get a little happiness, but you get attached to it and then you end up just as stupid as you ever were. But vipassana, that’s the essence of wisdom, that’s the thing that is going to liberate you.” So I said, “Great!” and put all of my energy into it. But by the time I got to Wat Pah Nanachat, I realized, “Actually, what I need is some peace.” And Luang Por Chah [Ajahn Chah], he didn’t make this big distinction between sama- tha and vipassana. I think it was Ajahn Buddhadasa who first came up with the simile of samatha and vipassana being very much like a knife. In this simile, the practi- tioner is someone who’s carving a way through a dense jungle, a dense thicket. He doesn’t need to cut down the whole jungle; rather, he just needs to cut a path through the jungle to get to the other side. The tool to work with is the meditation, but in order for it to be an effective tool, it’s got to be both heavy and sharp. Trying to get through the jungle with just a razor blade clearly is not going to work. Neither is trying to get through the jungle with just a dull stick. But when you combine the sharpness and the heaviness then you get one of these Thai machetes, and, with systematic effort and persistence, you can make your way through the jungle bit by bit, vine by vine, tree by tree. This was Ajahn Buddhadasa’s simile for sama- tha and vipassana. Vipassana was that sharp- ness, that clarity of mind, that investigative edge, whereas samatha was the weight behind it, the oomph, the power. From FearLess mountain newsLetter, sPring 2007. anthonyruSSo moment, is an extremely skillful means of focus- ing on our aliveness in all of its glory, with all its wrinkles, its hang-ups, its beauty. It is a practice, not a concept. Taking thirty seconds to be fully and completely present with one another is to touch deeply our life right here and now. From the minDFuLness BeLL, sPring 2007. lama learns to drive Adele Hulse recounts the late Lama Thubten Yeshe’s eager quest to get his driver’s license and the high-speed, hairy moments along the way. Lama Yeshe was determined to get his driving license. Brad Snower, a used car dealer from Chi- cago who sat at the back of the gompa making malas out of children’s plastic pop-beads, gave Lama driving lessons in his luxuriously fitted win- dowless red van with racing flames painted along the sides. Lama practiced whenever time allowed, and with anyone he could get to go with him. With Peter Kedge, he drove at one hundred miles an hour, eyes fixed on Peter rather than the road. He also liked to floor the accelerator and fishtail out of the car park in a cloud of dust. A ter- rified Robbie Solick was in the car one day when Lama drove right off the road into the desert at great speed. “Don’t worry, dear. You watch your mind, I’ll watch the driving,” Lama told him. Brad Snower accompanied Lama to his written driving test and somehow managed to persuade the authorities to let him sit beside him “to help with the English,” he explained. Not surprisingly, Lama passed. The actual driving test proved a little more dif- ficult and Lama failed it twice – first, for driving in the right-hand lane of a four-lane highway; then, when the instructor said to move left, he swept across three lanes without signaling. The trouble was he had no fear. The third time, he presented himself for the test dressed in a maroon sweatshirt and trousers, telling his students he was visualizing himself as a very tough truck driver. He was deter- mined to pass this time. The instructor had him out on the roads for an hour and a half, after which he informed Lama Yeshe that although he was obliged under Californian law to grant him a license this time, personally he would rather not. Finally, Lama had his driving license. “When he showed it to the geshes at Kopan, that was the only time I ever saw him show personal pride,” said Jimi Neal. From manDaLa, June/JuLy 2007. the Perfect machete Finding the right balance between shamatha and vipassana practice is a lot like having the right