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Southern Buddha Statue (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Nakhon Si Thammarat Buddha

Buddha Statue

Buddha Statue

When you see thinking as thinking, then that’s wisdom. Don’t believe any of it! Recognize that all of it is just something that has arisen and will cease. Simply see everything just as it is – it is what it is – the mind is the mind – it’s not anything or anybody in itself. Happiness is just happiness, suffering is just suffering – it is just what it is.

– Ajahn Chah, in Food for the Heart, p. 274.

From: Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Chah. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA, 2002.


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The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Outdoor Buddha (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Buddha Statue in Udon Thani

Stone Buddha Image

Stone Buddha Image

Thailand is, of course, a predominantly Buddhist Country; estimates say 90% or higher of the people are Buddhists. This lovely Buddha image is found at Phu Phrabat Historical Park in Udon Thani Province in northeastern Thailand (Isahn). The aging of the stone is a lovely reminder that everything which is created also eventually passes away.

Now while this discourse was being delivered the spotless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in the venerable Kondanna thus: All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation.

Kondanna had his realization after the Buddha’s first teaching (“Setting Rolling the Wheel of the Dhamma”) to the 5 ascetics that he had been part of before he went his own way to find enlightenment.

This quote is in the Mahavagga 1:6 in the Vinaya Pitaka of the Buddhist Pali canon. I found it on page 44 of The Life of the Buddha by Bhikku Nanamol, published by the Buddhist Publication Society, 2001 edition.


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The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Buddhism, Thailand, Achaan Chah

Michael Babcock, Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I first went to Thailand with Kasma in the fall of 1992. At that time I already knew a bit about Buddhism; I had been an on-and-off meditator for years and the teachers I learned from in the San Francisco Bay Area had been trained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Thailand. On that first trip I did a 10-day meditation retreat at the monastery of  Suan Mokh in Southern Thailand, an experience that I still draw upon, some 17 years later.

Buddha Image at Chaiya

Buddha Image at Chaiya

I still practice meditation. I love the word “practice.” Like “practicing medicine,”  meditation is a process that is never perfected, just practiced over and over again.
 
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Walking Buddha, Sukhothai

Walking Buddha, Sukhothai

I do not call myself a “Buddhist.” What attracts me to Buddhism is my understanding of what the Buddha taught:  that liberation from suffering is found in moving beyond conditioned experience and labels by relying only on what you have experienced and understood.

Most of my study of Buddhism has focused on the teachings of one man, a Thai forest monk by the name of Achaan Chah (or Ajhan Chah; Achaan or Ajahn is an honorific given to teachers), who died in 1992 (ironically, the first year I visited Thailand).

NE Thailand Buddha Image

NE Thailand Buddha Image

What attracts me to his teachings is his simplicity. He’s not one for book study; in his book A Still Forest Pool he says “If you really want to see what the Buddha  was talking about, you don’t need to bother with books. Watch your own mind. Examine to see how thoughts come and go. Don’t be attached to anything, just be mindful of whatever there is to see. This is the way to the truths of the Buddha.” (p. 157) Over and over again he emphasizes studying your own mind, finding the truth within yourself: “You will see that only by stopping and examining your own heart can you find out what the Buddha talked about. No need to go searching outside yourself. Eventually, you must return to face your own true nature. Right where you are is where you can understand the Dharma.” (p. 159) He is an advocate of tireless practice: “Do not put the meditation aside for a rest. Some people think they can stop as soon as they come out of a period of formal practice. Having stopped formal practice, they stop being attentive, stop contemplating. Do not do it that way. Whatever you see, you should contemplate.” (p. 101)

Temple Sign in Chiang Mai

Temple Sign in Chiang Mai

Thailand is a Buddhist country and on Kasma’s trips we visit many of the temples. I tend not to get too involved in the external trappings of Buddhism there. As with Buddhism in other countries, the teachings have adapted to have a particularly Thai flavor. Much of the emphasis in Thailand centers around the concept of “making merit” – doing acts that will produce good karma so that your future life will be more harmonious and peaceful. 

Temple Sign in Mae Hong Son

Temple Sign in Mae Hong Son

From what  I observe, Buddhism in Thailand appears to be much like many other religions: along with the heart of the teaching there are external trappings that seem questionable and it’s easy to find things that appear to be contrary to the tenets of the Buddha. For example, women at times appear to have lower status then men. What I do know is that many of the temples are very peaceful, that they contain numerous Buddha images that are beautiful and inspiring and that it’s a tradition that produced someone like Achaan Chah. 

I commend his teachings to your perusal.

Buddha Statue in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Buddha Statue in Nakhon Si Thammarat

You can find some of Achaan Chah’s teachings available as downloads in PDF format at the Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery website. Also of interest is a series of videos on the life of Achaan Chah by Achaan Jayasaro (an English disciple).

Quotes are from A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah, compiled by Jack Kornfield & Paul Breiter, First edition 1985 by The Theosophical Publishing House in Wheaton, Illinois.  I also recommend Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah, published in 2002 by Wisdom Publications in Boston.

Wikipedia has a short biography of Achaan Chah and his legacy.

You might enjoy Michael’s article and pictures on Buddha Images in Northeastern Thailand.


Written by Michael Babcock, May 2009.