Letting the Mind Be at Peace
When you think in this way, it’s disenchanting. Nibbida arises. It cures you of your lust and desire for sensuality, for the world, for the baits of the world. If you have a lot of them, you abandon a lot. If you have a little, you abandon a little. Look at everyone. Have you seen any of these things since you were born? Have you seen poor people? Have you seen rich people? Have you seen people who die young? Have you seen people who die old? We’ve all seen these things. They’re no big deal.
The important point is that the Buddha has us build a home for ourselves, to build a home in the way I’ve described to you.
Build a home so you can let go, so that you can leave things be. Let them go and then leave them be. Let the mind reach peace. Peace is something that doesn’t move forward, doesn’t move back, doesn’t stay in place. That’s why its peace. It’s peace in that it’s free from going forward, free from moving back, free from staying in place.
Pleasure isn’t a place for you to stay. Pain isn’t a place for you to stay. Pain wears away. Pleasure wears away. Our foremost Teacher said that all fabrications are inconstant. So when we reach this last stage in life, he tells us to let go and leave things be. We can’t take them with us. We’ll have to let them go anyhow, so wouldn’t it be better to let them go beforehand? If we carry them around, they weigh us down. When we sense that they weigh us down, we won’t carry them around. Wouldn’t it be better to let them go beforehand? So why carry them around? Why be attached to them? Let your children and grandchildren look after you, while you can rest at your ease.
When Parents Become Children
Those who look after the sick should be virtuous. Those who are sick should give others the opportunity to look after them. Don’t give them difficulties. Wherever there’s pain, learn how to keep your mind in good shape. Those who look after their parents should have their virtues, too. You have to be patient and tolerant. Don’t feel disgust. This is the only time you can really repay your parents. In the beginning you were children, and your parents were adults. It was in dependence on them that you’ve been able to grow up. The fact that you’re all sitting here is because your parents looked after you in every way. You owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
So now you should understand that your mother is a child. Before, you were her children, but now she’s your child. Why is that? As people get older, they turn into children. They can’t remember things; their eyes can’t see things; their ears can’t hear things; they make mistakes when they speak, just like children. So you should understand and let go. Don’t take offense at what the sick person says and does. Let her have her way, in the same way you’d let a child have its way when it won’t listen to its parents. Don’t make it cry. Don’t make it frustrated.
It’s the same with your mother. When people are old, their perceptions get all skewed. They want to call one child, but they say another one’s name. They ask for a bowl when they want a plate.
They ask for a glass when they want something else. This is the normal way things are, so I ask you to contemplate it for yourself.
At the same time, the sick person should think of those looking after her. Have the virtue of patience and endurance in the face of pain. Make an effort in your heart so that it isn’t a turmoil. Don’t place too many difficulties on the people looking after you. As for those looking after the sick person, have the virtue of not feeling disgust over mucus and saliva, urine and excrement. Try to do the best you can. All of the children should help in looking after her.
Heartfelt Benefaction and Gratitude
She’s now the only mother you have. You’ve depended on her ever since you were born: to be your teacher, your nurse, your doctor — she was everything for you. This is the benefaction she gave in raising you. She gave you knowledge; she provided for your needs and gave you wealth. Everything you have — the fact that you have children and grandchildren, nice homes, nice occupations, the fact that you can send your children to get an education — the fact that you even have yourself: What does that come from? It comes from the benefaction of your parents who gave you an inheritance so that your family line is the way it is.
The Buddha thus taught benefaction and gratitude. These two qualities complement each other. Benefaction is doing good for others. When we’ve received that goodness, received that help: Whoever has raised us, whoever has made it possible for us to live, whether it’s a man or a woman, a relative or not, that person is our benefactor.
Gratitude is our response. When we’ve received help and support from benefactors, we appreciate that benefaction. That’s gratitude. Whatever they need, whatever difficulty they’re in, we should be willing to make sacrifices for them, to take on the duty of helping them. This is because benefaction and gratitude are two qualities that undergird the world so that your family doesn’t scatter, so that it’s at peace, so that it’s as solid and stable as it is.
Today I’ve brought you some Dhamma as a gift in your time of illness. I don’t have any other gift to give. There’s no need to bring you any material gift, for you have plenty of material things in your house, and over time they just cause you difficulties. So I’ve brought you some Dhamma, something of substance that will never run out.
Now that you’ve heard this Dhamma, you can pass it on to any number of other people, and it’ll never run out. It’ll never stop. It’s the truth of the Dhamma, a truth that always stays as it is.
I’m happy that I’ve been able to give you this gift of Dhamma so that you’ll have the strength of heart to contend with all the things you face.
Source: “Our Real Home”, by Ajaan Chah, translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/chah/our_real_home.html .
Note: ©2011 Metta Forest Monastery.
The text of this page (“Our Real Home”, by Metta Forest Monastery) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. To view a copy of the license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions. Transcribed from a file provided by the translator. Last revised for Access to Insight on 2 November 2013.
Phra Ajaan Chah was born in 1918 in a village in the northeastern part of Thailand. He became a novice at a young age and received higher ordination at the age of twenty. He followed the austere Forest Tradition for years, living in forests and begging for almsfood as he wandered about on mendicant pilgrimage. He practiced meditation under a number of masters, including Ajaan Mun, who had an indelible influence on Ajaan Chah, giving his meditation the direction and clarity that it lacked. Ajaan Chah later became an accomplished meditation teacher in his own right, sharing his realization of the Dhamma with those who sought it. The essence of the teaching was rather simple: be mindful, don’t hang on to anything, let go and surrender to the way things are.
Ajaan Chah’s simple yet profound teaching style had a special appeal to Westerners, and in 1975 he established Wat Pah Nanachat, a special training monastery for the growing number of Westerners who sought to practice with him. In 1979 the first of several branch monasteries in Europe was established in Sussex, England by his senior Western disciples (among them Ajaan Sumedho, who is presently senior incumbent at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, England). Today there are ten branch monasteries in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Ajaan Chah passed away in January, 1992 following a long illness.
Biographical Source: Adapted from A Tree in a Forest (Chungli, Taiwan: Dhamma Garden, 1994) and Bodhinyana.
This article was prepared by Alexander Peck based on the original material cited above, with sub-headings added to aid readability.