Streams

The streams, lakes, and rivers that flow down to the ocean, when they reach the ocean, all have the same blue color, the same salty taste.

The same with human beings: It doesn’t matter where they’re from β€” when they reach the stream of the Dharma, it’s all the same Dharma.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Chickens don’t know

We live like a chicken who doesn’t know what’s going on. In the morning it takes its baby chicks out to scratch for food. In the evening, it goes back to sleep in the coop. The next morning it goes out to look for food again. Its owner scatters rice for it to eat every day, but it doesn’t know why its owner is feeding it. The chicken and its owner are thinking in very different ways.

The owner is thinking, “How much does the chicken weigh?” The chicken, though, is engrossed in the food. When the owner picks it up to heft its weight, it thinks the owner is showing affection.

We too don’t know what’s going on: where we come from, how many more years we’ll live, where we’ll go, who will take us there. We don’t know this at all.

The King of Death is like the owner of the chicken. We don’t know when he’ll catch up with us, for we’re engrossed β€” engrossed in sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas. We have no sense that we’re growing older. We have no sense of enough.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

The tail of the snake

We human beings don’t want suffering. We want nothing but pleasure. But actually, pleasure is nothing but subtle suffering. Pain is blatant suffering. To put it in simple terms, suffering and pleasure are like a snake. Its head is suffering; its tail is pleasure. Its head contains poison. Its mouth contains poison. If you get near its head, it’ll bite you. If you catch hold of its tail it seems safe, but if you hold onto its tail without letting go, it can turn around and bite you just the same. That’s because both the head of the snake and the tail of the snake are on the same snake.

Both happiness and sadness come from the same parents: craving and delusion. That’s why there are times when you’re happy but still restless and ill at ease β€” even when you’ve gotten things you like, such as material gain, status, and praise. When you get these things you’re happy, but your mind isn’t really at peace because there’s still the sneaking suspicion that you’ll lose them. You’re afraid they’ll disappear. This fear is the cause that keeps you from being at peace. Sometimes you actually do lose these things and then you really suffer. This means that even though these things are pleasant, suffering lies fermenting in the pleasure. We’re simply not aware of it. Just as when we catch hold of a snake: Even though we catch hold of its tail, if we keep holding on without letting go, it can turn around and bite us.

So the head of the snake and the tail of the snake, evil and goodness: These form a circle that keeps turning around. That’s why pleasure and pain, good and bad are not the path.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Two sides of a coin

Any happiness there is in the world ultimately turns to pain. Why? Consider the two sides of a coin: just because what we desire is to be seen on the front does not mean that dislike won’t soon appear on the back. Likewise, hope and fear are a single coin, one entity with two facesβ€”on the other side of a moment in which we hope for more happiness will be our fear of more suffering. Until attachment is eliminated, we can be certain of having both hope and fear. As long as there is hope and fear, the delusions of samsara will be perpetuated and there will be constant suffering. Thus attachment is the nature of both hope and fear: looking at the ultimate emptiness of the self-envisioned magical illusion of hope and fear, we should hang loosely in the flow.

– Tulku Pema Rigtsal, Nyingma, Tibetan Buddhism.

A Sense That Your Arm is Short

The Buddha’s teachings are direct, straightforward, and simple, but hard for someone who’s starting to practice them because his knowledge can’t reach them. It’s like a hole: People by the hundreds and thousands complain that the hole is deep because they can’t reach to its bottom. There’s hardly anybody who will say that the problem is that his arm is short.

The Buddha taught us to abandon evil of every kind. We skip over this part and go straight to making merit without abandoning evil. It’s the same as saying the hole is deep. Those who say their arms are short are rare.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Picnic

A monk keeps promising his student that he will take him on a picnic but is always too busy to do so. One day they see a procession carrying a corpse.

“Where is he going?” the monk asks his student.

“On a picnic.”

– The 14th Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayāna.

Real home

Your external home isn’t your real home. It’s your supposed home, your home in the world.

As for your real home, that’s peace. The Buddha has us build our own home by letting go until we reach peace.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Orphan

Our mind, when there’s no one looking after it, is like a child without parents to look after it β€” an orphaned child, a child with no protector. A person without a protector suffers, and it’s the same with the mind. If it’s not trained, if its views aren’t straightened out into right views, it’s put to a lot of difficulties.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

Simile of the Lute

“Suppose there were a king or king’s minister who had never heard the sound of a lute before. He might hear the sound of a lute and say, ‘What, my good men, is that sound β€” so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling?’ They would say, ‘That, sire, is called a lute, whose sound is so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling.’

Then he would say, ‘Go & fetch me that lute.’ They would fetch the lute and say, ‘Here, sire, is the lute whose sound is so delightful, so tantalizing, so intoxicating, so ravishing, so enthralling.’

He would say, ‘Enough of your lute. Fetch me just the sound.’ Then they would say, ‘This lute, sire, is made of numerous components, a great many components. It’s through the activity of numerous components that it sounds: that is, in dependence on the body, the skin, the neck, the frame, the strings, the bridge, and the appropriate human effort. Thus it is that this lute β€” made of numerous components, a great many components β€” sounds through the activity of numerous components.’

“Then the king would split the lute into ten pieces, a hundred pieces. Having split the lute into ten pieces, a hundred pieces, he would shave it to splinters. Having shaved it to splinters, he would burn it in a fire. Having burned it in a fire, he would reduce it to ashes. Having reduced it to ashes, he would winnow it before a high wind or let it be washed away by a swift-flowing stream. He would then say, ‘A sorry thing, this lute β€” whatever a lute may be β€” by which people have been so thoroughly tricked & deceived.’

– Gautama Buddha

A leaky basin

If we do evil and then try to plug the leak by doing good, it’s like plugging a leak in the bottom of a pot and pouring water in. Or like plugging a leak in the bottom of a basin and pouring water in. The bottom of the pot, the bottom of the basin, isn’t in good shape. Our abandoning of evil isn’t yet in good shape. If you pour water in, it all still seeps out and the basin goes dry. Even if you pour water in all day, it still seeps out bit by bit, and eventually there’s no water left. You don’t gain the benefits from it that you wanted.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.