What was Ajahn Chah's approach to Commentaries?

What was Ajahn Chah’s approach to Kuddhaka Nikaya, Abhidhamma and Commentaries?
I have read him advising in his book ‘Clarity of Insight’ on khanika, upacara, appana samadhis and parami.
Did he believe the whole tarditional Tipitaka with all commentaries and sub commentaries?
Was his meditation technique based on Abhidhamma?

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you can read the new book on his life for details. “still water flowing”, or something like that, by ajahn jayasaro. but in general he didn’t follow abhidhamma or teach according to that, although occasionally he may have used a few terms that don’t occur in EBT. That’s generally true of most of Ajahn Mun’s disciples I believe.


From my understanding (partially based on “Stillness Flowing” and Ajahn Jayasaro’s talks), Luang Por Chah had studied the commentaries (and went through formal training in them) when younger, and probably the abhidhamma too, but didn’t use them to teach very much.

As Frank said, these are not regarded very highly in the Thai Forest Tradition. Some teachers even say there isn’t much point to reading either of them.

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-Ajahn chah: Clarity of Insight-

You also need the continuous support of your past good actions and development of the ten spiritual perfections (parami).

The calm mind is the mind that is firm and stable in samadhi (concentration). This can be momentary concentration (khanika samadhi), neighbourhood concentration (upacara samadhi) or absorption (appana samadhi).

If you practise meditation focusing on an object to calm the mind and reach a level of calm where the mind is firm in samadhi, but there is still some mental movement occurring, that is known as upacara samadhi. In upacara samadhi the mind can still move around. This movement takes place within certain limits, the mind doesn’t move beyond them.

In khanika samadhi (momentary concentration) the mind unifies for just a short space of time. It calms down in samadhi, but having gathered together momentarily, immediately withdraws from that peaceful state. As concentration becomes more refined in the course of practice, many similar characteristics of the tranquil mind are experienced at each level, so each one is described as a level of samadhi, whether it is khanika, upacara or appana.

The important thing is to repeatedly put effort into developing insight through investigation of the three characteristics. Everything can become a cause for wisdom to arise, and that is what completely destroys all forms of defilement and attachment. This is the fruit of vipassana meditation.

The mode of vipassana meditation is what develops wisdom. Training with the different objects of samatha meditation—whether it is the recitation of a mantra such as Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho or the practice of mindfulness with the breathing—results in the mind experiencing the calm and firmness of samadhi. In samatha meditation you focus awareness on a single object and let go of all others temporarily. Vipassana meditation is similar because you use the reflection “don’t believe it” as you make contact with sense objects. Practising vipassana, you don’t let any sense object delude you. You are aware of each object as soon as it converges in on the mind, whether it is experienced with the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind and you use this reflection “don’t believe it” almost like a mantra.

I personally think that this is a complete non issue.

From all accounts, Ajahn Chah was an exceptional teacher of the Dhamma.

It’s obvious from reading his talks that, there is plenty of abhidhamma and commentarial terminology and ideas in his teachings (and the teaching of the vast majority of Thai monks). Sutta, Abhidhamma and Commentary are simply part of the curriculum…


I am with you. Masters such as Ajahn Chah made use of the lexicon he found around.

As far as I know, monks in Thailand who decide to stay for long in the Sangha are expected to take some exams which would accredit them as teachers. I remember reading that Ajahn chah only got a basic certificate.

Maybe that exposed him to the minimum of abhidhamma terminology to later on be used when communicating and teaching his disciples.

Although this has been said in a few places to emphasize how modest Ajahn Chah’s background was, it is not the case that he only had rudimentary training in the suttas. He had more official schooling on average than most of his peers, and sought out becoming a meditation monk only after seeing that academia was limited in terms of actually practicing the dhamma. Ajahn Jayasaro’s book Stillness Flowing fairly conclusively rebuts these statements about only having a little training.


Thanks for the information. Would you be able to share more on what level of study he went through?
That should help inform the conversation to what extent he was exposed to commentaries.

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Nyanaponika Thera, in his “Abhidhamma Studies…”, mentions that, at least in some Burmese circles, abhidhamma is considered necessary training for dhamma teaching (i.e. designation as Sayadaw). This, he points out, means not necessarily to teach abhidhamma per se, but rather such training adds to deepened understanding which benefits teaching at any level, to any audience.

Note: Important to keep in mind a distinction between skill in teaching and overall skill in practice. Limit case, as I understanding it, being that of a paccekabuddha.