Don't you just love Ajahn Chah!

While many struggle to understand the practical meaning of topics like the mind, dependent origination, consciousness, etc., Ajahn Char as the knack of encapsulating the essence of such subjects in simple words.

In Unshakeable Peace he simplifies a number of the concepts that have taken up many pages of discussion on these threads. Enjoy.

So the Buddha taught us to contemplate these wavering conditions of the mind. Whenever the mind moves, it becomes unstable and impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and can not be taken as a self(anattā). These are the three universal characteristics of all conditioned phenomena. The Buddha taught us to observe and contemplate these movements of the mind.
It’s likewise with the teaching of dependent origination (paṭicca-sam uppāda): deluded understanding (avijjā) is the cause and condition for the arising of volitional kammic formations (saṅkhāra); which is the cause and condition for the arising of consciousness (viññāṇa); which is the cause and condition for the arising of mentality and materiality (nāma and rūpa), and so on, just as we’ve studied in the scriptures. The Buddha separated each link of the chain to make it easier to study. This is an accur ate description of reality, but when this process actually occurs in real life, the scholars aren’t able to keep up with what’s happening. It’s like falling from the top of a tree and crashing down to the ground below. We have no idea how many branches we’ve passed on the way down. Similarly, when the mind is suddenly hit by a mental impression, if it delights in it, then it flies off into a good mood. It considers it good without being aware of the chain of conditions that led there. The process takes place in accordance with what is outlined in the theory, but simultaneously it goes beyond the limits of that theory.
There’s nothing that announces, ‘This is delusion. These are volitional kammic formations, and that is consciousness.’ The process doesn’t give the scholars a chance to read out the list as it’s happening. Although the Buddha analysed and explained the sequence of mind moments in minute detail, to me it’s more like falling out of a tree. As we come crashing down there’s no opportunity to estimate how many feet and inches we’ve fallen. What we do know is that we’ve hit the ground with a thud and it hurts!
The mind is the same. When it falls for something, what we’re aware of is the pain. Where has all this suffering, pain, grief, and despair come from? It didn’t come from theory in a book. There isn’t anywhere where the details of our suffering are written down. Our pain won’t correspond exactly with the theory, but the two travel along the same road. So scholarship alone can’t keep pace with the reality. That’s why the Buddha taught us to cultivate clear knowing for ourselves. Whatever arises, arises in this knowing. When that which knows, knows in accordance with the truth, then the mind and its psychological factors are recognized as not ours. Ultimately all these phenomena are to be discarded and thrown away as if they were rubbish. We shouldn’t cling to or give them any meaning.

And later on.

The mind isn’t born belonging to anyone. It doesn’t die as anyone’s. This mind is free, brilliantly radiant, and unentangled with any problems or issues. The reason problems arise is because the mind is deluded by conditioned things, deluded by this misperception of self. So the Buddha taught to observe this mind. In the beginning what is there? There is truly nothing there. It doesn’t arise with conditioned things, and it doesn’t die with them. When the mind encounters something good, it doesn’t change to become good. When the mind encounters something bad, it doesn’t become bad as well. That’s how it is when there is clear insight into one’s nature. There is understanding that this is essentially a substance-less state of affairs.
The Buddha’s insight saw it all as impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self. He wants us to fully comprehend in the same way. The knowing then knows in accordance with truth. When it knows happiness or sorrow, it remains unmoved. The emotion of happiness is a form of birth. The tendency to become sad is a form of death. When there’s death there is birth, and what is born has to die. That which arises and passes away is caught in this unremitting cycle of becoming. Once the meditator’s mind comes to this state of understanding, no doubt remains about whether there is further becoming and rebirth. There’s no need to ask anyone else.
The Buddha comprehensively investigated conditioned phenomena and so was able to let it all go. The five khandhas were let go of, and the knowing carried on merely as an impartial observer of the process. If he experienced something positive, he didn’t become positive along with it. He simply observed and remained aware. If he experienced something negative, he didn’t become negative. And why was that? Because his mind had been cut free from such causes and conditions. He’d penetrated the Truth. The conditions leading to rebirth no longer existed. This is the knowing that is certain and reliable. This is a mind that is truly at peace. This is what is not born, doesn’t age, doesn’t get sick, and doesn’t die. This is neither cause nor effect, nor dependent on cause and effect. It is independent of the process of causal conditioning. The causes then cease with no conditioning remaining. This mind is above and beyond birth and death, above and beyond happiness and sorrow, above and beyond both good and evil. What can you say? It’s beyond the limitations of language to describe it. All supporting conditions have ceased and any attempt to describe it will merely lead to attachment. The words used then become the theory of the mind.
Theoretical descriptions of the mind and its workings are accurate, but the Buddha realized that this type of knowledge was relatively useless. We understand something intellectually and then believe it, but it’s of no real benefit. It doesn’t lead to peace of mind. The knowing of the Buddha leads to letting go. It results in abandoning and renunciation, because it’s precisely this mind that leads us to get involved with both what’s right and what’s wrong. If we’re smart we get involved with those things that are right. If we’re stupid we get involved with those things that are wrong. Such a mind is the world, and the Blessed One took the things of this world to examine this very world. Having come to know the world as it actually was, he was then known as the ‘One who clearly comprehends the world’.



Not sure if accurate, but I heard a story in one of Ajahn Chah’s ordained senior monks (perhaps Ajahn Jayasaro?) online video lectures, which changed my approach to my highly stressful job: Ajahn Chah was walking with a novice who asked “Ajahn, how do you stay so calm? You have this large forest monastery, all the international temples, all these lay people engaged in meditation retreats, thousands and thousands of Bhikkhus to manage and yet so are so calm and peaceful all the time. I am just a novice but so stressed all the time!”. Ajahn Chah looked around the monastery and replied “Do you see these boulders?”. “Yes”. “Are they heavy?” “Yes, Ajahn, of course they are heavy, very heavy!”. Ajahn replied: “…only if you lift them”.

This simple, yet beautifully elegant teaching honestly changed my life. Even if it was not from him, it is so true and so important for the high stakes life and death work of my livelihood. My non-Buddhist friends have asked me how I stay calm in the middle of our work and they were also blown away by that teaching and immediately understood what it meant.

Truth is truth and doesnt need exorbitant elaborations.


Yes I love and have been listening to “Unshakeable Peace” a lot recently. The opening 2 paragraphs say so much in so few words.

The whole reason for studying the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha, is to search for a way to transcend suffering and attain peace and happiness. Whether we study physical or mental phenomena, the mind (citta) or its psychological factors (cetasikas), it’s only when we make liberation from suffering our ultimate goal that we’re on the right path: nothing less. Suffering has a cause and conditions for its existence.

Please clearly understand that when the mind is still, it’s in its natural, normal state. As soon as the mind moves, it becomes conditioned (sankhāra). When the mind is attracted to something, it becomes conditioned. When aversion arises, it becomes conditioned. The desire to move here and there arises from conditioning. If our awareness doesn’t keep pace with these mental proliferations as they occur, the mind will chase after them and be conditioned by them. Whenever the mind moves, at that moment, it becomes a conventional reality.

Source Unshakeable Peace


His biography, Stillness Flowing, is also wonderful and inspiring. One of my favourite dhamma books.


Some say that the mind not really moves. Like a mirror. It only reflects and when reflections come and go it only appears that the mind moves. Especially when arising formations are grasped at.
But even when formations are grasped and mind spins around in its own projections, it never looses the terrain of the unconditioned. It is more like it is spinning around in circles and has lost all wisdom.

There is also a huge difference, i believe, between a still mind and a peaceful and liberated heart.
Dhamma is not something mental, not some mental liberation. Something going on in the head.
I feel this is very important. One must not practice having an empty head and mistaken that for knowing and realising emptiness. An empty head is just empty headedness :innocent: like me

more from the same

Eventually I did take a break, but it was only the posture of sitting that changed. My heart remained constant, unwavering and unflagging. I pulled a pillow over, intending to take a rest. As I reclined, the mind remained just as peaceful as it had been before. Then, just before my head hit the pillow, the mind’s awareness began flowing inwards, I didn’t know where it was headed, but it kept flowing deeper and deeper within. It was like a current of electricity flowing down a cable to a switch. When it hit the switch my body exploded with a deafening bang. The knowing during that time was extremely lucid and subtle. Once past that point the mind was released to penetrate deeply inside. It went inside to the point where there wasn’t anything at all. Absolutely nothing from the outside world could come into that place. Nothing at all could reach it. Having dwelt internally for some time, the mind then retreated to flow back out. However, when I say it retreated, I don’t mean to imply that I made it flow back out. I was simply an observer, only knowing and witnessing. The mind came out more and more until it finally returned to normal.

Once my normal state of consciousness returned, the question arose, ‘‘What was that?!’’ The answer came immediately, ‘‘These things happen of their own accord. You don’t have to search for an explanation.’’ This answer was enough to satisfy my mind.

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