Letting Go

The Wisdom of Ajahn Chah

ajahn_chah_1A Western monk at a Buddhist monastery becomes frustrated by the difficulties of practice and the detailed and seemingly arbitrary rules of conduct the monks had to follow. He began to criticize other monks for sloppy practice and to doubt the wisdom of the teaching. At one point, he went to Ajahn Chah the master and complained, noting that even Ajahn Chah was inconsistent and seemed often to contradict himself in an unenlightened way.

Ajahn Chah just laughed and pointed out how much the monk was suffering by trying to judge others around him. Then he explained that his way of teaching is very simple: “It is as though I see people walking down the road I know well. To them the way may be unclear. I look up and see someone about to fall into a ditch on the right-hand side of the road, so I call out, ‘Go left, go left!’ Similarly, if I see another person about to fall into a ditch on the left, I call out, ‘Go right, go right!’ That is the extent of my teaching. Whatever extreme you get caught in, whatever you get attached to, I say, ‘Let go of that too.’ Let go on the left, let go on the right. Come back to the center, and you will arrive at the true way.”

From Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart, ©1991. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollinsSanFrancisco.

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