Thread: The Forest of the Senses

  1. #1

    The Forest of the Senses

    The Forest of the Senses - an extract from a talk "The Two Faces of Reality" given by the late Thai teacher Ajahn Chah:



    The world with its never-ending ways goes on and on. If we try to understand it all, it leads us only to chaos and confusion. However, if we contemplate the world clearly, then true wisdom will arise. The Buddha himself was one who was well-versed in the ways of the world. He had great ability to influence and lead because of his abundance of worldly knowledge. Through the transformation of his worldly mundane wisdom, He penetrated and attained to supermundane wisdom, making him a truly superior being.

    So, if we work with this teaching, turning it inwards for contemplation, we will attain to an understanding on an entirely new level. When we see an object, there is no object. When we hear a sound, the is no sound. In smelling, we can say that there is no smell. All of the senses are manifest, but they are void of anything stable. They are just sensations that arise and then pass away.

    If we understand according to this reality, then the senses cease to be substantial. They are just sensations which come and go. In truth there isn't any ''thing''. If there isn't any ''thing'', then there is no ''we'' and no ''they''. If there is no ''we'' as a person, then there is nothing belonging to ''us''. It's in this way that suffering is extinguished. There isn't anybody to acquire suffering, so who is it who suffers?

    When suffering arises, we attach to the suffering and thereby must really suffer. In the same way, when happiness arises, we attach to the happiness and consequently experience pleasure. Attachment to these feelings gives rise to the concept of ''self'' or ''ego'' and thoughts of ''we'' and ''they'' continually manifest. Nah!! Here is where it all begins and then carries us around in its never-ending cycle.

    So, we come to practice meditation and live according to the Dhamma. We leave our homes to come and live in the forest and absorb the peace of mind it gives us. We have fled in order to contend with ourselves and not through fear or escapism. But people who come and live in the forest become attached to living in it; just as people who live in the city become attached to the city. They lose their way in the forest and they lose their way in the city.

    The Buddha praised living in the forest because the physical and mental solitude that it gives us is conducive to the practice for liberation. However, He didn't want us to become dependent upon living in the forest or get stuck in its peace and tranquillity. We come to practice in order for wisdom to arise. Here in the forest we can sow and cultivate the seeds of wisdom. Living amongst chaos and turmoil these seeds have difficulty in growing, but once we have learned to live in the forest, we can return and contend with the city and all the stimulation of the senses that it brings us. Learning to live in the forest means to allow wisdom to grow and develop. We can then apply this wisdom no matter where we go.

    When our senses are stimulated, we become agitated and the senses become our antagonists. They antagonize us because we are still foolish and don't have the wisdom to deal with them. In reality they are our teachers, but, because of our ignorance, we don't see it that way. When we lived in the city we never thought that our senses could teach us anything. As long as true wisdom has not yet manifested, we continue to see the senses and their objects as enemies. Once true wisdom arises, they are no longer our enemies but become the doorway to insight and clear understanding.

    A good example is the wild chickens here in the forest. We all know how much they are afraid of humans. However, since I have lived here in the forest I have been able to teach them and learn from them as well. At one time I began throwing out rice for them to eat. At first they were very frightened and wouldn't go near the rice. However, after a long time they got used to it and even began to expect it. You see, there is something to be learned here - they originally thought that there was danger in the rice, that the rice was an enemy. In truth there was no danger in the rice, but they didn't know that the rice was food and so were afraid. When they finally saw for themselves that there was nothing to fear, they could come and eat without any danger.

    The chickens learn naturally in this way. Living here in the forest we learn in a similar way. Formerly we thought that our senses were a problem, and because of our ignorance in the proper use of them, they caused us a lot trouble. However, by experience in practice we learn to see them in accordance with truth. We learn to make use of them just as the chickens could use the rice. Then they are no longer opposed to us and problems disappear.

    As long as we think, investigate and understand wrongly, these things will oppose us. But as soon as we begin to investigate properly, that which we experience will bring us to wisdom and clear understanding, just as the chickens came to their understanding. In this way, we can say that they practiced ''vipassanā''. They know in accordance with truth, it's their insight.

    In our practice, we have our senses as tools which, when rightly used, enable us to become enlightened to the Dhamma. This is something which all meditator should contemplate. When we don't see this clearly, we remain in perpetual conflict.

    So, as we live in the quietude of the forest, we continue to develop subtle feelings and prepare the ground for cultivating wisdom. Don't think that when you have gained some peace of mind living here in the quiet forest that that's enough. Don't settle for just that! Remember that we have to cultivate and grow the seeds of wisdom.

    As wisdom matures and we begin to understand in accordance with the truth, we will no longer be dragged up and down. Usually, if we have a pleasant mood, we behave one way; and if we have an unpleasant mood, we are another way. We like something and we are up; we dislike something and we are down. In this way we are still in conflict with enemies. When these things no longer oppose us, they become stabilized and balance out. There are no longer ups and downs or highs and lows. We understand these things of the world and know that that's just the way it is. It's just ''worldly dhamma''.

    ''Worldly dhamma''4 changes to become the ''path''5. ''Worldly dhamma'' has eight ways; the ''path'' has eight ways. Wherever ''worldly dhamma'' exists, the ''path'' is to be found also. When we live with clarity, all of our worldly experience becomes the practicing of the ''eightfold path''. Without clarity, ''worldly dhamma'' predominates and we are turned away from the ''path''. When right understanding arises, liberation from suffering lies right here before us. You will not find liberation by running around looking elsewhere!

    So don't be in a hurry and try to push or rush your practice. Do your meditation gently and gradually step by step. In regard to peacefulness, if you want to become peaceful, then accept it; if you don't become peaceful, then accept that also. That's the nature of the mind. We must find our own practice and persistently keep at it.

    Perhaps wisdom does not arise! I used to think, about my practice, that when there is no wisdom, I could force myself to have it. But it didn't work, things remained the same. Then, after careful consideration, I saw that to contemplate things that we don't have cannot be done. So what's the best thing to do? It's better just to practice with equanimity. If there is nothing to cause us concern, then there's nothing to remedy. If there's no problem, then we don't have to try to solve it. When there is a problem, that's when you must solve it, right there! There's no need to go searching for anything special, just live normally. But know what your mind is! Live mindfully and clearly comprehending. Let wisdom be your guide; don't live indulging in your moods. Be heedful and alert! If there is nothing, that's fine; when something arises, then investigate and contemplate it.


    https://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Two_Faces_Reality1.php

    Any thoughts about the excerpt?



  2. #2
    I never tire of reading Ajahn Chah's words and the above excerpt reminds me of what the Buddha said in sutta SN35.95. Here's an example:

    In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Malunkyaputta, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipi....095.than.html


  3. #3
    Moderator justusryans's Avatar
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    Another very powerful teaching by the late Ajahn Chah. I have been drawn to his teachings for quite some time, and this is another one. I don’t think he presents a lot new but he does present it in such a way as to be as easy to follow his advice. Meditate... Buddha achieved enlightenment through meditation. Follow the Eightfold Path, Follow his example in a peaceful manner.

  4. #4
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    I like a lot of similar things from Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods,

    “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

    “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

    “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

    “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”

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