And so I immediately bought this book and it was as refreshing as a still forest pool indeed. More than his refreshing simplicity, though, I loved his sheer and vast openness—how he allowed his students to go study meditation under different teachers outside his tradition—because he believed all pointed back to the same destination, as long as they helped them practice non-attachment—and how he allowed his Christian students to celebrate Christmas. Quotes: "Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator.
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Introduction Suppose you were to go to Asia in the s in search of living teachings of the Buddha, to discover if there are still monks and nuns practicing a life of simplicity and meditation, supported by alms-food, and dwelling in the forest. Perhaps you had read descriptions of the Buddha himself wondering with his monks in the forests of India, inviting men and women of good families to join him in cultivating wisdom and universal compassion, inviting them to live the simple life of a mendicant, to dedicate themselves to inner calm and awareness.
Would you find this way of life alive today, twenty-five centuries later? And would its teachings still be applicable and relevant for-our modem society, our modem minds? You would land at a modem airport near Bangkok or Colombo or Rangoon. In your taxi you would drive through Asian city streets, passing cars, crowded busses, sidewalk vendors of tropical fruits.
Every few blocks you would see the golden pagoda or spire of an urban Buddhist temple. But these are not the temples you have come to search for. They contain monks and nuns who study the ancient texts, who can chant and preach, and from this they teach. But to find the simple life of dwelling in the forest, the meditative living with robe and bowl, as old as the Buddha himself, you would have to leave the cities and their temples far behind.
If it were Thailand, the country with the greatest number of monasteries and monks, you would board the train at busy Hualampong station, leaving early in the morning for the provinces of the far south or northeast. Vast plains of central Thailand would roll by, the green rice bowl of Southeast Asia. Mile after mile of paddy fields, checkerboarded into lots by small dikes between fields and rhythmically divided by canals and waterways.
On the horizon of this sea of rice, every few miles in four or five directions you would see islands-dense clusters of palm and banana trees.
If your train rolled close enough to one of these palm islands, you would see the glint of an orange-roofed monastery and cluster of wooden houses on stilts that make up a Southeast Asian village. Every settled village, whether with five hundred or two thousand residents, has at least one monastery. It serves as the place for prayer, for ceremony, as the meeting hall, and for many years also served as the village school.
Here is the place where most young men of the village will ordain at age twenty, for one year or three months, to learn enough of the ways of the Buddha to "ripen" into mature members of their society.
The monastery is probably run by a few older, simple, and well-meaning monks who have studied some of the classic texts and know enough of ceremonies and of the basic teachings to serve as village priests.
This monastery is an integral and beautiful part of village life, but it is not the temple you have come to search for. The spirit of these magnificent ruins remains in the enormous stone Buddhas, imperturbably weathering the centuries. Now your train turns east for the long journey toward the Lao border, across the reaches of the Korat Plateau.
Hour after hour the land passes. Still you see rice paddies and villages, but they gradually become sparser and poorer. The canals and lush gardens of Central Thai villages, mango trees, and tropical greenery turn into a simpler landscape. Houses are smaller. Village monasteries still gleam, but they too are smaller and simpler.
Here an older, more self-sufficient way of life is preserved. You can see women weaving hand loomed blankets on their porches, while rice farmers work and children tend the water buffalo in wet gullies alongside the railroad tracks. The rural countryside in these lesser developed provinces holds much of what remains of the tradition of forest monks and nuns. It still has regions of forest and jungle, small thickly covered mountains, and unsettled borderlands.
And for many centuries it has supported forest monks and monasteries dedicated to the preservation and realization of the enlightenment of the Buddha. For the most part these monks do not function as village priests, nor do they teach school, nor study and preserve the language of the ancient written scriptures. Their intent is to live fully and realize in their own hearts and minds the insight and inner peace taught by the Buddha.
If you left the train and made your way by bus or hired car down some dirt road to such a monastery, one of dozens in northeast Thailand, what would you find? Would the teachings and way of practice be relevant in the s? Would the insight and awareness training address the needs of one coming from a modern and complex society? You would discover that many Westerners had come before you. Since hundreds of Europeans and Americans like you have come to visit and learn in the forest. Some came to study for short periods and then returned home to integrate what they learned into their household life.
Some came to train more thoroughly as monks for one, two, or more years and then return home. Another group found life in the forest to be a rich and compelling way to live, and these remain in monasteries to this day. For each of these groups the teachings have spoken directly to their hearts and minds, offering them a wise and conscious way to live. At first the way may seem almost easy, deceptively simple. From the moment of your entry into a forest monastery like Wat Ba Pong, the spirit of practice is evident.
There is the stillness of trees rustling and the quiet movement of monks doing chores or mindful walking meditation. The whole monastery is spread over a hundred acres, divided into two sections form monks and nuns. The simple unadorned cottages are individually nestled in small forest clearings so that there are trees and silent paths between them. In the central area of the Wat are the main teaching hall, dining area, and chapel for ordination. The whole forest setting supports the atmosphere of simplicity and renunciation.
You feel that you have finally arrived. The monks who live in those monasteries have chosen to follow this uncomplicated and disciplined way of practice called dhudanga. The tradition of forest monks who voluntarily choose to follow a more austere way of life dates back to the Buddha, who allowed a supplementary code of thirteen special precepts, limiting the robes, food, and dwellings of monks.
At the heart of this life style are few possessions, much meditation, and a once-daily round of alms-food begging. This way of life spread with the rest of Buddhism into the thick forests of Burma, Thailand, and Laos, places filled with caves and wild terrain, ideal for such intensive practice. These ascetic monks have traditionally been wanderers, living singly or in small groups, moving from one rural area to another, and using handmade cloth umbrella tents hung from trees as their temporary abode.
Practical Dharma teachings from one of the greatest forest monasteries, Wat Ba Pong, and its master Achaan Chah have been translated and compiled and are offered to the West in this book.
Achaan Chah and his teachers, Achaan Tong Rath and Achaan Mum, themselves spent many years walking and meditating in these forests to develop their practice.
From them and other forest teachers has come a legacy of immediate and powerful Dharma teachings, directed not toward ritual Buddhism or scholastic learning, but toward those who wish to purify their hearts and vision by actually living the teachings of the Buddha. As great masters emerged in this forest tradition, laypersons and monks sought them out for teaching advice.
Often, to make themselves available, these teachers would stop wandering and settle in a particular forest area where a dhudanga monastery would grow up around them. As population pressures have increased in this century, fewer forest areas are left for wanderers, and these forest monastery preserves of past and current masters are becoming the dwelling place of most ascetic and practice-oriented monks.
Wat Ba Pong monastery developed when Achaan Chah, after years of travel and meditation study, returned to settle in a thick forest grove near the village of his birth. The grove, uninhabited by humans, was known as a place of cobras, tigers, and ghosts-the perfect location for a forest monk, according to Achaan Chah.
Around him a large monastery grew up. From its beginnings as a few thatched huts in the forest, Wat Ba Pong has developed into one of the largest and best-run monasteries in Thailand. This way of mindfulness or insight meditation has become a rapidly growing form of Buddhist practice in the West. Taught by monks and laypeople who have themselves studied in forest monasteries or intensive retreat centers, it provides a universal and direct way of training our bodies, our hearts, and our minds.
It can teach us how to deal with greed and fear and sorrow and how to learn a path of patience, wisdom, and selfless compassion. This book is meant to provide guidance and counsel for those who wish to practice. He laughingly recalls how, even as a child, he wanted to play monk when the other children played house and would come to them with a make believe begging bowl asking for candy and sweets.
But his own practice was difficult, he relates, and the qualities of patience and endurance he developed are central to the teachings he gives his own disciples.
By his own account, he held nothing back, giving up everything for the Dharma, the truth. He encountered much hardship and suffering, including doubts of all kinds as well as physical illness and pain.
Yet he stayed in the forest and sat-sat and watched-and, even though there were days when he could do nothing but cry, he brought what he calls a quality of daring to his practice. Out of this daring eventually grew wisdom, a joyful spirit, and an uncanny ability to help others.
Given spontaneously in the Thai and Lao languages, the teachings in this book reflect this joyful spirit of practice. Their flavor is clearly monastic, oriented to the community of men who have renounced the household life to join Achaan Chah in the forest. Hence frequent reference is made to he rather than he or she, and the emphasis is on the monks an active community of forest nuns also exists rather than laypersons.
Yet the quality of the Dharma expressed here is immediate and universal, appropriate to each of us. Achaan Chah addresses the basic human problems of greed, fear, hatred, and delusion, insisting that we become aware of these states and of the real suffering that they cause in our lives and in our world.
This teaching, the Four Noble Truths, is the first given by the Buddha and describes suffering, its cause, and the path to its end. See how attachment causes suffering, Achaan Chah declares over and over. Study it in your experience. See the ever-changing nature of sight, sound, perception, feeling, and thought.
The forest tradition works directly with our understanding of and our resistance to these truths, with our fears - and anger and desires. Achaan Chah tells us to confront our defilements and to use the tools of renunciation, perseverance, and awareness to overcome them.
He urges us to learn not to be lost in our moods and anxieties but to train ourselves instead to see clearly and directly the true nature of mind and the world. To be around him awakens in one the spirit of inquiry, humor, wonderment, understanding, and a deep sense of inner peace.
If these pages capture a bit of that spirit in their instructions and tales of the forest life and inspire you to further practice, then their purpose is well served. So listen to Achaan Chah carefully and take him to heart, for he teaches practice, not theory, and human happiness and freedom are his concerns.
In the early years when WatBa Pong was starting to attract many visitors, a series of signs was posted along the entry path. To study these in an immediate and wakeful way and cultivate mindfulness is the path of insight prescribed by the Buddha. It has been kept alive and followed by those monks, nuns, and laypeople inspired to devote themselves to practice in the centuries since.
Achaan Chah speaks as a contemporary living representative of this ancient teaching. His wisdom and mastery have not come through study or tradition but are born of his years of practice, his diligent effort to employ meditation to calm the heart and awaken the mind. His own practice was inspired and guided by the wisdom of several great forest masters a generation before him.
And he invites us to follow their example and his. Look at what makes up your world-the six senses, the processes of body and mind.
AJAHN CHAH A STILL FOREST POOL PDF
Widely employed in traditional shamanic societies, entheogens figure prominently in the origins of religion and their use continues today throughout the world. They alter consciousness in such a profound way that, depending on the set and setting, they can produce the ultimate human experiences: union with God or revelation of other mystical realities. Gordon Wasson and Jack Kornfield, this book explores ancient and modern uses of psychedelic drugs, emphasizing the complementary relationship between science and mystical experience and the importance of psychedelics to the future of religion and society. Revealing the mystical-religious possibilities of substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, and LSD, this book exposes the vital need for developing an organized spiritual context for their use in order to fully realize their transformative and sacred value. Stressing the importance of academic and religious freedom, the authors call for a revival of scientific and religious inquiry into entheogens so they may be used safely and legally by those seeking to cultivate their spiritual awareness.
A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah
Kajiran Your mind is like this too — your awareness observes all the comings and goings of all the wonderful people and animals that enter and go out of your life. Understanding the impermanent, insecure, and selfless nature of life is the message he offers for human happiness and realization. As It Is, Volume I. When I began reading Buddhist writings awhile ago, I was interested in Buddhism as a way to help deepen my practice of meditation and prayer. See all 42 reviews. Aug 28, Benjamin Barnes rated it really liked it.
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