Archive for March 10th, 2010

Love Story

A cautionary tale from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

By Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Michael S. Wertz for Tricycle

There is a vast store of energy which is not centered, which is not ego’s energy at all. It is this energy which is the centerless dance of phenomena, the universe interpenetrating and making love to itself. It has two characteristics: a fire quality of warmth and a tendency to flow in a particular pattern, in the same way in which fire contains a spark as well as the air which directs the spark. And this energy is always ongoing, whether or not it is seen through the confused filter of ego. It cannot be destroyed or interrupted at all. It is like the everburning sun. It consumes everything to the point where it allows no room for doubt or manipulation.

But when this heat is filtered through ego, it becomes stagnant, because we ignore the basic ground, refuse to see the vast space in which this energy occurs. Then the energy cannot flow freely in the open space shared with the object of passion. Instead it is solidified, narrowed, and directed by the central headquarters of ego to move outward in order to draw the object of passion into its territory. This captive energy extends out to its object and then returns to be programmed again. We extend our tentacles and try to fix our relationship. This attempt to cling to the situation makes the communication process superficial. We just touch another person’s surface and get stuck there, never experiencing their whole being. We are blinded by our clinging. The object of passion, instead of being bathed in the intense warmth of free passion, feels oppressed by the stifling heat of neurotic passion.

Free passion is radiation without a radiator, a fluid, pervasive warmth that flows effortlessly. It is not destructive because it is a balanced state of being and highly intelligent. Self-consciousness inhibits this intelligent, balanced state of being. By opening, by dropping our self-conscious grasping, we see not only the surface of an object, but we see the whole way through. We appreciate not in terms of sensational qualities alone, but we see in terms of whole qualities, which are pure gold. We are not overwhelmed by the exterior, but seeing the exterior simultaneously puts us through to the interior. So we reach the heart of the situation, and if this is a meeting of two people, the relationship is very inspiring because we do not see the other person purely in terms of physical attraction or habitual patterns, we see the inside as well as the outside.

This whole-way-through communication might produce a problem. Suppose you see right through someone and that person does not want you to see right through and becomes horrified with you and runs away. Then what to do? You have made your communication completely and thoroughly. If that person runs away from you, that is his way of communicating with you. You would not investigate further. If you did pursue and chase him, then sooner or later you would become a demon from that person’s point of view. You see right through his body and he has juicy fat and meat that you would like to eat up, so you seem like a vampire to him. And the more you try to pursue the other person, the more you fail. Perhaps you looked through too sharply with your desire, perhaps you were too penetrating. Possessing beautiful keen eyes, penetrating passion, and intelligence, you abused your talent, played with it. It is quite natural with people, if they possess some particular power or gifted energy, to abuse that quality, to misuse it by trying to penetrate every corner. Something quite obviously is lacking in such an approach—a sense of humor. If you try to push things too far, it means you do not feel the area properly; you only feel your relationship to the area. What is wrong is that you do not see all sides of the situation and therefore miss the humorous and ironical aspect.

Sometimes people run away from you because they want to play a game with you. They do not want a straight, honest, and serious involvement with you, they want to play. But if they have a sense of humor and you do not, you become demonic. This is where lalita, the dance, comes in. You dance with reality, dance with apparent phenomena. When you want something very badly you do not extend your eye and hand automatically; you just admire. Instead of impulsively making a move from your side, you allow a move from the other side, which is learning to dance with the situation. You do not have to create the whole situation; you just watch it, work with it, and learn to dance with it. So then it does not become your creation, but rather a mutual dance. No one is self-conscious, because it is a mutual experience.

When there is a fundamental openness in a relationship, being faithful, in the sense of real trust, happens automatically; it is a natural situation. Because the communication is so real and so beautiful and flowing, you cannot communicate in the same way with someone else, so automatically you are drawn together. But if any doubt presents itself, if you begin to feel threatened by some abstract possibility, although your communication is going beautifully at the time, then you are sowing the seed of paranoia and regarding the communication purely as ego entertainment.

If you sow a seed of doubt, it may make you rigid and terrified, afraid of losing the communication that is so good and real. And at some stage you will begin to be bewildered as to whether the communication is loving or aggressive. This bewilderment brings a certain loss of distance, and in this way neurosis begins. Once you lose the right perspective, the right distance in the communication process, then love becomes hate. The natural thing with hatred, just as with love, is that you want to make physical communication with the person; that is, you want to kill or injure them. In any relationship in which the ego is involved, a love relationship or any other, there is always the danger of turning against your partner. As long as there is the notion of threat or insecurity of any kind, then a love relationship could turn into its opposite.

From “The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation” ©1976 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications.

Image: © Michael S. Wertz

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The pain body

The pain-body is semiautonomous energy-form that lives within most human beings, an entity made up of emotion. It has its own primitive intelligence, not unlike a cunning animal, and its intelligence is directed primarily at survival.

Like all life-forms, it periodically needs to feed – to take in new energy – and the food it requires to replenish itself consists of energy that is compatible with its own, which is to say, energy that vibrates at a similar frequency.

Any emotionally painful experience can be used as food by the pain-body. That’s why it thrives on negative thinking as well as drama in relationships. The pain-body is an addiction to unhappiness.

It may be shocking when you realize for the first time that there is something within you that periodically seeks emotional negativity, seeks unhappiness. You need even more awareness to see it in yourself than to recognize it in another person.

Once the unhappiness has taken you over, not only do you not want an end to it, but you want to make others just as miserable as you are in order to feed on their negative emotional reactions.

In most people, the pain-body has a dormant and an active stage. When it is dormant, you easily forget that you carry a heavy dark cloud or a dormant volcano inside you, depending on the energy field of your particular pain-body.

How long it remains dormant varies from person to person: A few weeks is the most common, but it can be a few days or months. In rare cases the pain-body can lie in hibernation for years before it gets triggered by some event.

– A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

The Pain Body by Eckhart Tolle

This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind. If you look on it as an invisible entity in its own right, you are getting qute close to the truth. It’s the emotional pain body. It has two modes of being: dormant and active….

….The pain body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existance, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, “become you,” and live through you. It needs to get its “food” through you. It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy, anything that creates further pain in whatever form: anger, destructiveness, hatred, grief, emotional drama, violence, and even illness.

So the pain body, when it has taken you over, will create a situation in your life that refects back its own energy frequency for it to feed on. Pain can only feed on pain. Pain cannot feed on joy. It finds it quite indigestible.

Once the pain body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or a perpetrator. You want to inflict pain, or you want to suffer pain, or both. There isen’t really much difference between the two. You are not conscious of this, of course, and will vehemently claim that you do not want pain. But look closely and you will that your thinking and behavior are designed to keep the pain going, for yourself and others.

If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would disolve, for to want more pain os insanity, and nobody is conscioulsy insane.

The pain body, which is the dark shadow cast by the ego, is actually afraid of the light of your consciousness. It is afraid of being found out. Its survival depends on your unconscious identification with it, as well as on your unconscious fear of facing the the pain that lives in you. But if you don’t face it, if you don’t bring the ligt of your consciousness into the pain, you will be forced to relive it again and again. The pain body may seem to you like a dangerous monster that you cannot bear to look at, but I assure you that it is an insubstantial phantom that cannot pervail against the power of your presence.

…..So the pain body doesen’t want you to observe it directly and see it for what it is. The moment you observe, feel its energy field within you, and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of cosciousness has come in. I call it presence.

You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you, and it can no longer replenish itself through you. You have found your own inner strength. You have accessed the power of Now.

Unconsciousness creates it; consciousness transmutes it into itself…..

…. The pin body consists of trapped life-energy that has split off from your total energy field and has temporarily become autonomous through the unnatural process of mind identification. It has turned in on itself and become anti-life, like an animal trying to devour its own tail. Why do you think our civilisation has become so life-destructive?

But even the life-destructive forces are still life-energy.

…..Let me summarize the process. Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain body. Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it – don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge or analyze. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening insde you. become aware not only of the emotional pain but also od “the one who observes,” teh silent watcher.

This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.

…..For many women, the pain body awakens particularly at the time preceding the menstrual flow….If you are able to stay alert and present at that time and watch whatever you feel within, rather then be taken over by it, it affords an opportunity for the most powerful spiritual practice, and a rapid transmutation of all past pain becomes possible.

From: Companion Tape to The Power of Now

The following is a transcript of a section from Eckhart Tolle’s tape, Companion to The Power of Now. It needs to be heard, but for those that don’t have the tape, a second hand transcript is better then none. Eckhart is talking about the pain body – a kind of energetic entity that takes possession of the human body,and uses it to generate more pain.

Eckhart Tolle:

…..It goes deeper then that and we are not running away from the fact that in you there lives a field of residue of past Human pain.

On a personal level, pain from childhood that leaves residues, Energetic residues….different things painful things have happened to you in your childhood and of course far beyond that in time. But lets just talk from the level of your present existence in this form.

The pain that is carried over from your childhood and beyond and leaves residues …doesn’t go away completely, it leaves residues of pain, Energy fields, everything is Energy. And then those Energy Fields get together, because they feel, they vibrate at the same frequency. So emotional pain gathers into one mass of pain, contracted Energy, that isn’t flowing freely. An Energy of (ET make a sound ahhhh, ahhhhh) that I call the “Painbody” that humans carry inside. An Energy Field of Pain.

And if you don’t recognize that, no matter how much Spiritual Practice you do and even what we are doing here if you do not see, if you do not recognize how the Painbody operates, it will trick every time and you will lose consciousness through it.

First we realize “there is an Energy Field of pain in me”, that may manifest either as turbulence, anger, heaviness, depression, tightness, fear …whatever way it manifests its not pleasant its painful its past pain but very much alive still.

You carry it inside. But you are not always conscious of it and I talk about it briefly in one Chapter of the book, so we go a little bit more deeply now, and now that the added Energy of Presence that we take into the Painbody.

The Painbody is sometimes dormant and sometimes active. It becomes active when you suddenly feel it very strongly, when it needs to feed on further experience of pain. As it always has to do regularly like, it’s a little entity almost, it needs Feeding, temporarily on the experience of further pain, and you will know this has happened when a relatively insignificant trigger produces an Incredible out burst, reaction of Pain. A minor thing goes wrong or somebody say something, or your partner says something or does something and there is suddenly a deep or even a thought come in, and suddenly it serves as a trigger for an immense, the arising of deep emotional pain.

At that moment the Painbody this Energy Field has come up out of its dormant state, it is ready to feed on more Pain. It produce ..first ..in two ways …I haven’t put it that clearly in the First Book I will explain it in the next Book…(Laughter) …there are two ways in which it feeds…because that is all it can feed on ..Painbody consists of that energy of pain its needs (ET says) “please where can I get more Pain”.

It feed on your thoughts, when its ready to rise up, it will control your thinking, it rises into the mind and your mind …which is your thought activity …because with the Pain Body every thought you think is destructive and painful.

And the Pain Body loves it!!! It gobbles up the Energy of every thought that you think every destructive and deeply negative thought, it eats it up, so to speak, (ET makes chomping sounds while all laugh) And it’s having a Good Time! It’s feeding and, at that moment, one way of putting it is, one could say “the addictive quality of Human Pain”. Addictive because it loves it’s pain.

When the Painbody has taken you over and has succeeded in pretending that that’s ‘Who you are’, all your thinking is completely aligned with it. And it’s feeding on it. At that very moment the last thing you want is to be free of pain. At that moment pain IS what you want because at that moment, You are the Painbody.

And if I came into your life at that moment and gave you this message, “that Life free from Pain IS possible” You would hit me over the Head!!! (Laughter). Because the Painbody would be there and I would be talking to the Painbody and the Painbody would be talking back at me. So the pain body needs to come in periodically and we all have experienced it with partners…………………

…….now the pain body will use you thinking, it will feed on you negative and destructive thinking.

How long the feeding time lasts of any particular pain body varies greatly from person to person, I could be a brief one, it could be an hour or two; some pain bodies have a feeding time of several weeks, even months. That is the extreme and in very extreme cases there are some pain bodies that have virtually no dormant stage that are continuously feeding and active. But that’s more rare but………….you sometimes meet people and the pain body is looking at you through their eyes and they are waiting for an excuse to have more…they want you to give them a painful reaction. They want you to be angry with them; they want you to attack them. That’s people totally possessed by the painbody.

So Level One: the pain body feed on your thinking.

Level Two: The pain body feeds on the feed back of the emotional pain from other people

So it might not only use your own thinking it might even predominately use somebody else’s reactions.,,……….

So the Painbody feeding on thinking, Painbody feeding on others reactions. Now I mentioned last night the “unhappy me” a mind pattern that people are identified with an unhappy sense of self. This mind pattern, when the pain is active it becomes amplified, the Energy of the Unhappy me when the Painbody moves into that mind pattern that already is telling you “your life hasn’t been good enough” and so on and you may not make it, “life has passed me by”, and so on.

Now the Painbody moves into that mind pattern and its Energy gets amplified, 10 times, 20 times, 50 times, 100 times in other words the “unhappy me”; the Painbody arises, it flows into that mind structure, the emotion flows into that mind structure, the Unhappy sense of me becomes dreadfully Unhappy and Loves it’s Unhappiness because that’s what it consists of.

…Now it is not a foreign body, which lives in you. There is nothing that is not Life Energy.

Even your pain body is life Energy except it isn’t flowing freely …it’s got stuck somewhere.

And when Energy gets stuck and cannot low freely pain arise like a river. If a river cannot flow the water accumulates and pressure accumulates. But really it’s beautiful Life Energy.

The water is still beautiful there is pressure accumulating, inside …that’s what the pain body is. Now, as we bright Presence, this consciousness in to the Painbody, it can no longer fool you into completely identifying with it.

The presence, as the pain arises, from now on, and many of you are already practicing that. The Pain body comes up and at that moment you will recognize it as the Painbody. That is the Beginning of Freedom from it. The recognition, when it comes, slight trigger, provocation, even a thought, deep Pain arises, in whatever form, in some people it is a very active pain, active aggressive pain, in other persons it is a Passive form of Pain, “poor little me” victim pain, doesn’t matter which, pain bodies have different qualities in different people.

It maybe turbulence or tightness or constriction, it doesn’t matter what it is. As it arises you will know there is a witnessing presence ..and you watch..O’ wheres the pain body an you feel the Energy Field of it. In your body. You can feel it in the Solar plexus or stomach area ……..as a dreadful sense of Ohhhhh. Heaviness or, some people perceives it as a Big hole, a gapping hole inside…………or it maybe intense anger.

But whatever it is you watch it, this is why it is so helpful, you sitting here witnessing, is witnessing Presence which is part of this new state of consciousness. It gets so much strengthened by sitting in this Energy Field.

So the Watcher will be there watching the pain so the pain can not use your mind anymore it can not feed on your thinking because you are watching it directly it cannot creep into your mind and then become an “unhappy me”.

So all that’s left of the pain is an Energy Field of heavy feeling of turbulence or heaviness. But the pain has not become an “unhappy me” a sense of self, of who you are. That’s the beginning of the end of the pain. But our practice is allowing “what is” to be. And that also applies as long as the Painbody it there in you allowing the Pain that is there in you Also to be. That is a very powerful practice.

So I am not saying, we are not fighting the pain we are not even trying to get rid of it. You bring the consciousness, which is a very compassionate state of allowing “what is”. It is a very powerful state it implies you are Present. As the one who is able to allow.

You are the one who is able to allow the pain to be. You know you are not creating this pain at this moment because you are practicing accepting “what is”. So it is not pain you are creating, it is old pain. You bring the “acceptance” to the old pain.

A few thoughts on Stop Signs with its eight sides

1. Slow down
2. Pay attention
3. Look around
4. Pause
5. Look within
6. Breathe deeply
7. Appreciate
8. Move consciously

And so… the next time you see a Stop Sign, you may want to remember that you are in the act of receiving a very sacred message.

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Four questions

Whenever you’re troubled by a particularly bothersome train of thought or feeling, or when you’re tempted to say or do something that you’re not sure about, put yourself through these four questions, or “gates,” which will help make you a real team player:

1. Is it truthful?
2. Is it helpful?
3. Is it kind?
4. What is my motivation and genuine intention here?

If you can say yes to each question – if you can pass through each gate – then go ahead. If not, stop and go no further. You do have the ability to control whether you stop or go, even in the deepest recesses of your mind.

Please don’t think you are powerless to do whatever is good for yourself as well as whatever is good for others. Remember: the two acts are one and the same.

– Buddha Is As Buddha Does by Lama Surya Das

A few thoughts on Stop Signs with its eight sides

1. Slow down
2. Pay attention
3. Look around
4. Pause
5. Look within
6. Breathe deeply
7. Appreciate
8. Move consciously

And so… the next time you see a Stop Sign, you may want to remember that you are in the act of receiving a very sacred message.

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This evening i watched Precious the movie.  It was a stun to the heart, and found a stream of tears running from the side of the eyes.  I have often heard that ones tears come from the side of the eyes rather than the tear ducts it means the soul is crying and that is congruent with my experience of the movie.  A   number of years i worked with trauma survivors and have worked with women that have undergone severe abuse such as the central character in Precious and found myself seeing faces as the heart expanded with compassion  like a pot that falls to the ground and is broken there was rupture and then expansion with the embrace of those that have suffered such brutality and abuse.

First Time, Kimberly Austin, 2003

The following article was Tricycle today, it too addressed the relationship of challenging parents and healing issues.

Even if one should carry about one’s mother on one shoulder and one’s father on the other, and so doing should live a hundred years . . . moreover, if one should set them up as supreme rulers, having absolute rule over the wide earth abounding in the seven treasures–not even by this could one repay one’s parents. And why! Bhikkhus, parents do a lot for their children: they bring them up, provide them with food, introduce them to the world.

Yet, bhikkhus, whoever encourages their faithless parents, and settles and establishes them in faith; or whoever encourages their immoral parents and settles and establishes them in morality, or whoever encourages their stingy parents, and settles and establishes them in generosity, or whoever encourages their foolish parents, and settles and establishes them in wisdom–such a person, in this way repays, more than repays, what is due to their parents.

–the Buddha, Anguttara-nikaya 2.32

MY FATHER DIED ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO. He was then ninety years old, and he had never shown love or positive feelings toward me. So from early childhood I had this feeling that he did not like me. I carried this feeling through most of my life. I never had any kind of love, any kind of warm relationship with my father. It was always a perfunctory “Hello son, good to see you.” And he seemed to feel threatened by me. I remember whenever I came home as a Buddhist monk he would say, “Remember, this is my house, you’ve got to do as I say.” This was his greeting–and I was almost fifty years old at the time! I don’t know what he thought I was going to do.

My father was an aspiring artist before the Depression. Then in ’29 the crash came and he and my mother lost everything, so he had to take a job selling shoes to support us. Then the Second World War started, but my father was too old to enlist in the military. He wanted to support the war effort, so he became a ship fitter in Seattle. He didn’t like that job, but it was the best way he could help in the war. After the war he went back to his shoe business and became a manager of a retail store. He never really liked that work either, but he felt he was too old to find another profession. He had sacrificed his own preferences to support my mother, my sister, and me.

When I was at university in the 1950s, it was fashionable to study psychology. At that time the trend was to blame your mother for everything that went wrong in your life. The focus was on mothers and what they had done to cause us to suffer now. I didn’t realize then that suffering was natural. Of course my mother was not perfect, so naturally there were things she could have done better. But generally speaking, the dedication, commitment, love, and care were all there–and directed mainly to making the lives of my father, my sister, and me as good and as happy as could be. She asked very little for herself, and when I think back like this, katannu, Pali for gratitude, arises in my mind for my mother and father.

The Buddha encouraged us to think of the good things done for us by our parents, by our teachers, friends, whomever; and to do this intentionally, to cultivate it, rather than just letting it happen accidentally.

My students who have a lot of anger toward their parents ask me how they can develop gratitude toward them. Teaching lovingkindness, or metta, on too sentimental a basis can actually increase anger. I remember a woman on one of our retreats who, whenever it came to spreading metta to her parents, would go into a rage. Then she felt very guilty about it. Every time she thought about her mother, she felt only rage. This was because she used only her intellect; she wanted to do this practice of metta, but emotionally felt anything but lovingkindness.

It’s important to see this conflict between the intellectual and the emotional life. We know in our mind that we should be able to forgive our enemies and love our parents, but in the heart we feel “I can never forgive them for what they’ve done.” So then we either feel anger and resentment, or we begin to rationalize: “Because my parents were so bad, so unloving, so unkind, they made me suffer so much that I can’t forgive or forget.” Or: “There’s something wrong with me. I’m a terrible person because I can’t forgive.” When this happens, I’ve found it helpful to have metta for my own feelings. If we feel that our parents were unkind and unloving, we can have metta toward the feeling we have in our hearts; without judgment, we can see that this is how it feels, and to accept that feeling with patience.

Once I began to accept my negativity about my father rather than suppress it, I could resolve it. When we resolve something with mindfulness, we can let it go and free ourselves from its power. The resolution of such a conflict leads us to contemplate what life is about.

A life without gratitude is a joyless life. If life is just a continuous complaint about the injustices and unfairness we have received and we don’t remember anything good ever done to us, we fall into depression–not an uncommon problem these days. It is impossible to imagine ever being happy again: we think this misery is forever.

WHEN I BECAME A BUDDHIST MONK in Thailand, I was very fortunate to meet a teacher, Luang Por Chah, known widely as Ajahn Chah, who became the catalyst for the gratitude in my life. At that time I was thirty-three or thirty-four years old, and I must say gratitude was not yet a part of my life’s experience. I was still very much obsessed with myself, what I wanted, what I thought. However, after training as a Buddhist monk for some years, in about the sixth year of monastic life, I had a heart-opening experience that was very much the experience of katannu katavedita, or gratitude to one’s parents.

I had been a Buddhist for many years before I met Ajahn Chah. I had tremendous interest and faith in Buddhism, as well as an eagerness to study and practice it. But it was still coming from the sense of my doing it, my studying it, my trying to practice it. When I became a monk, there was still this tendency: “I want to get rid of suffering. I want to be enlightened.” I was not much concerned about other people, about my parents, or even about Ajahn Chah, with whom I was living at the time. I thought that it was very nice that he was helpful to me, but I did not feel a deep gratitude.

I had the idea that life owed all this to me–an unpleasant kind of conceit. When we are brought up in middle-class comfort as I had been, we take so much for granted. My parents worked hard to make my life comfortable, but I thought that they should have worked harder, and that I deserved more than what they gave me. Even though this was not a conscious thought, there was the underlying attitude that I deserved all I had: people should give me these things; my parents should make my life as good as possible, as I wanted it to be. So from that viewpoint, it was Ajahn Chah’s duty to teach and guide me!

In Thailand, I practiced with diligence and was determined in my monastic life. After participation in five rainy season retreats (vassas), a monk is no longer considered a novice and is free to leave the monastery. I felt that being with a teacher was fine, but I wanted to go away on my own. I left for central Thailand from the northeast. After the vassa I went on a pilgrimage to India. This was in about 1974, and I decided to go as a tudong-bhikkhu, wandering from place to place as part of an austere form of monastic practice. Somebody provided me with a ticket from Bangkok to Calcutta, and I found myself in Calcutta with my alms bowl, my robe, and, abiding by the rules of monkhood, no money. In Thailand it had been easy, but in India the prospect of wandering around with nothing more than an alms bowl seemed quite frightening at first. As it happened, the five months I spent in India were quite an adventure, and I have very pleasant memories of that time. The life of a mendicant worked in India. Of all countries, it should work there, where the Buddha lived and taught.

I began to think of Ajahn Chah and to recognize the kindness he had extended to me. He had accepted me as his disciple, looked after me, given me the teachings, and helped me in almost every way. And there was his own example. If you wanted to be a monk, you wanted to be like him. He was a full human being, a man who inspired me, someone I wanted to emulate–and I must say there weren’t so many men that I had had that feeling toward. In the States, the role models for men were not very attractive to me–John Wayne or President Eisenhower or Richard Nixon were not my role models. Film stars and athletes were given great importance, but none of them inspired me.

But then in Thailand, I’d found this monk. He was very small; I towered above him. When we were together sometimes that surprised me, because he had such an enormous presence. There was this feeling about him that attracted people. So I found myself going over to see him in his hut in the evenings, or whenever it was possible; I wanted to take every opportunity I had to hang around. I asked him once what it was in him that drew people to him, and he said, “I call it my magnet.” He used his magnet to attract people so that he could teach them the dhamma. This is how he used the charismatic quality he had: not in the service of his ego, but to help people.

The Lord Buddha, after his enlightenment, at first thought that the dhamma was too subtle, that no one would understand it, so there was no point in teaching it. Then, according to the legend, one of the gods came forth and said, “Please Lord, for the welfare of those who have little dust in their eyes, teach the dhamma.” The Buddha then contemplated with his powerful mind who might understand the dhamma teaching. He remembered his early teachers but through his powers realized that both of them had died. Then he remembered his five friends who had been practicing with him before, and who had deserted him. Out of compassion he went off to find these five friends, and expounded his brilliant teaching on the Four Noble Truths. This makes me feel katannu katavedita to the Lord Buddha. It’s marvelous: here I am–this guy, here, in this century–having an opportunity to listen to the dhamma, and to have this pure teaching still available.

Just having a living teacher like Ajahn Chah was not like worshiping a prophet who lived twenty-five hundred years ago, it was actually inheriting the lineage of the Lord Buddha himself. Perhaps because of visiting the Buddhist holy places, my gratitude began to become very strong. Then, thinking of Ajahn Chah in Thailand, I remembered how I had thought: “I’ve done my five years, now I’m going to leave. I’m going to have a few adventures, do what I want to do, be out from under the eye of the old man.” I realized then that I had actually run away.

When I felt this gratitude, all I wanted to do was get back to Thailand and offer myself to Ajahn Chah. How can you repay a teacher like that? I did not have any money, and that was not what he was interested in anyway. Then I thought that the only way I could make him happy was to be a good Buddhist monk and to go back and help him out. Whatever he wanted me to do, I would do it. With that intention, I went back after five months in India and gave myself to the teacher. It was a joyful offering, not a begrudging one, because it came out of this katannu, this gratitude for the good things I had received.

From that time on, I found that my meditation practice began to improve. That hard selfishness cracked in me: my trying to get something, my desire for harmony, my desire to practice and have a peaceful life, free of responsibility. When I gave up all that, things seemed to fall into place. What used to be difficult, like concentrating the mind, became easier, and I found that life had become joyful to me.

THE LAST TIME I WENT to see my father, I decided that I would try to get some kind of warmth going between us before he died. In the last decade of my father’s life he was quite miserable and became very resentful. He had terrible arthritis and was in constant pain, and he had Parkinson’s disease. Eventually he had to be put in a nursing home. He was completely paralyzed. He could move his eyes and talk, but the rest of his body was rigid. He was resentful of what had happened to him because before he had been a strong, independent man.

When I saw him, his body needed to be stimulated, so I said, “Let me massage your leg.” “No, no, you don’t need to do that,” he said. “You’ll get bedsores, because you really have to have your skin massaged. I would really like to do it.” He still refused, but I could tell he was considering it. “I think it’ll be a good thing,” I told him. “So you’d really like to do it?” he asked me. “Yes.”

I started massaging his feet, his legs, his neck, shoulders, hands, and face; he really enjoyed the physical contact. It was the first time he had been touched like that. Physical contact is quite meaningful, it’s an expression of feeling. And I began to realize that my father really loved me, but didn’t know how to say it. I had this great sense of relief and immense gratitude.

Written by: Ajahn Sumedho a  recount of the joyful unfolding of a deep appreciation for his teacher and parents. Appearing in Tricycle today.

By Ajahn Sumedho


Ajahn ChahSometimes when teachings are given on birth, aging, illness, and death, people aren’t pleased. Especially in the West, when you talk about this, people get up and walk away. They don’t want to get old. So when people become old, they are abandoned.

In the Western countries this seems to be the custom, to discard the old folks so the youngsters can get on with their lives. Of course the youngsters will get old too, and then they will be discarded in their turn. When we are young, we should look at and reflect on old people. This is karma, isn’t it? I tried to explain this to the Westerners, that if you discard people, you will also be discarded. When we are old, we should think about young people. When we see old people, we should think about young people. They are connected, like links of a chain.

–Translated from the Thai by Paul Breiter

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