Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away: Teachings on Impermanence and the End of Suffering

By Ajahn Chah –

1. Ajahn Chah was an infectiously happy monk, living from 1918 to 1992, in the forests of northern Thailand. He demystified the concepts of Buddhism so that almost anyone who listened could get the point. He gave profound teachings to laypeople, showing real respect for
anyone with a sincere interest.

2. The three characteristics of insight meditation – impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and selflessness (anatta). Other important terms: “metta” – loving kindness and “tudong”, ascetic wandering, supposed to be the practice of utmost simplicity.

3. Whatever we do should be for the purpose of developing wisdom. Developing wisdom is for the purpose of liberation, freedom from all conditions and phenomena.

4. Chah did not recommend a lot of reading or study, especially for his Western disciples. “You have been studying all your lives, and where has that gotten you?”

5. Monks eat once a day. “If the body is too comfortable the mind gets out of control.”

6. Ajahn Chah is in the ‘Forest Tradition’. Not too long ago, Thailand was 70% forested; a present, it is probably closer to 10%. He often praised the simple life in the forest for it conduciveness to meditation: “In the forest, there is quiet and tranquility. We can contemplate
things clearly and develop wisdom.”

7. Karma in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, the quality of somebody’s current and future lives as determined by that person’s behavior in this and in previous lives. Also, destiny or fate. The mind is continuously creating karma and suffering.

8. In meditation practice, we work to develop mindfulness so that we will be constantly aware. Working with energy and patience, the mind can become firm. Then whatever sense phenomena we experience, whether agreeable of disagreeable … we will see them clearly. Phenomena are one thing, and the mind is another. They are separate matters… We have to separate and recognize what the mind is and what phenomena are. Then we can be at ease.

9. We are deluded by phenomena and are following after them; the mind is caught by its objects and follows after its moods.

10. The mind and its objects get mixed together. Then we experience suffering. There aren’t many minds, but there are many phenomena. If we aren’t aware of ourselves, we don’t know our minds and so we follow after these things.

11. Foolishness is in the mind. Intelligence is in the mind. Darkness and delusion exist in the mind. Knowledge and illumination exist in the mind. The original mind is by nature perfectly peaceful; it is something that is already within us.

12. * The causes for not being peaceful are within us.

13. Our emotions of love and hate never bring us satisfaction. We never feel we have enough, but are always somehow obstructed. We aren’t satisfied to be what we are, so our minds waver endlessly.

14. This world of beings actually has no ruler. It is we ourselves who rule our own lives, because we have the power to decide on doing good or doing evil. No one else does these for us.

15. What is there that can be lost by a person? There is nothing at all – all is impermanent.

16. Realization of the truth must be accomplished by each individual – from within.

17. We have to understand the way things really are, the way things contact the mind and how the mind reacts, and then we can be at peace.

18. Impermanence, suffering and absence of a self are the nature of phenomena. They are nothing else but this, but we give things more meaning than they really have.

19. Absolutely everything is uncertain.

20. If we don’t experience the truth of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self, then there is no end to suffering. If we pay attention, we can see it every moment. It is present in mind and body, and we can see it. This is where we find peace.

21. When there is pleasure and happiness, there must be pain and suffering… We suffer because we were born.

22. If there is no mention of impermanence, it is not the speech of the wise.

23. The present is the fruit of the past. It is also the cause of the future. The present is where the past and future come together.

24. Happiness only goes so far, because the mind is under the influence of desire for something that is changeable. Whatever we have will become a source of suffering when we lose it if we aren’t aware of its impermanence.

25. The Buddha taught to look in the present and see the impermanence of body and mind, of all phenomena as they appear and cease without grasping at any of it. If we can do this, we will experience peace. This peace comes because of letting go. If we are letting go, suffering will
not come about.

26. There is a feeling of joy in reflecting on the way we (monks) live, in comparing our lives previously with our lives now.

27. If the mind is always allowed to be thinking and worrying over things, we can never see anything clearly. When the mind is settled and still, wisdom will be able to see things. The illuminating light of wisdom surpasses any other kind of light.

28. Doubt is not something that another person can resolve for us. It is for us to apply to our own experience and come to direct knowledge for ourselves. Do not think that this or that teacher will resolve our doubts for us. Whatever teaching you hear, internalize it and practice to realize
the truth of it, here and now.

29. Realize that truth is within yourself.

30. In anything we undertake, we have to pass through difficulty to reach ease.

31. Suffering is truth. If we allow ourselves to face it, then we will start to seek a way out of it.

32. My way of training people involves some suffering, because understanding suffering is the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. Practice in Buddhism is for the purpose of freeing ourselves from suffering, the unsatisfactoriness that pervades ordinary experience.

33. Opposing our habits creates some suffering.

34. Happy people do not develop wisdom. They’re asleep.

35. However much happiness and comfort we may have, having been born we cannot avoid aging, we must fall ill, and we must die. This is suffering itself, here and now.

36. Be content for what we have.

37. Every day we should do at least one meritorious act. At the very least you can show kindness to an animal. Don’t let a day go by without creating virtue.

38. We have built our safe haven with good deeds.

39. Visakha Puja is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.

40. We have always seen everything in terms of a self.

41. When someone speaks harshly to us, if we don’t get angry, we have transcended suffering. Getting beyond suffering doesn’t depend on others’ opinions of us, but of our individual state of mind.

42. The Buddha posed this question, “Days and nights are relentlessly passing; how well are we using our time?”

43. The terrible sufferings that people experience are only products of their own minds.

44. If we don’t realize the ultimate truth in our hearts, we won’t reach satisfaction.

45. “I think that what it comes down to is that people are afraid of change and afraid of death.”

46. Meditative tranquility is usually divided into peace through concentration and peace through wisdom. Suggestion: seek out the quietest, most remote place to meditate.

47. Wisdom comes from tranquility. We can only escape through wisdom.

48. Stillness is tranquility, and flowing is wisdom. The mind of a true practitioner is like still water that flows, or flowing water that’s still.

49. The Buddha taught that everything happens due to causes.

50. The Buddha taught us to stop wanting to be something, because he realized that all this wanting to get something and to be something is suffering.
51. When you are at your wits end, let go.

52. Liberation means attaining freedom from the taints of craving and ignorance.

53. If the mind is bright and awake, don’t doubt that. It’s a condition of mind. If it’s dark and dull, don’t doubt about that. Just continue to practice diligently without getting caught up in reactions to those states. Don’t make yourself suffer over these conditions of mind.

54. Whatever!

55. On meditation: We will progress on the path because of continuous effort.

56. We have this idea that living very long will bring happiness. That’s really deluded thinking.

57. People’s desires in the present time are constantly in search of more and are never satisfied. Everyone is impoverished by their desires. Wanting brings us such immense suffering. It’s something we really ought to investigate and reflect on.

58. Whatever we may gain or accomplish in the world, it is still of the world and subject to decay and loss, so don’t get too carried away by it. We tend to ‘lean on’ possessions, pleasure, reputation, praise and wealth. These then become the roots of our suffering.

59. If we depend on others to speak and act in ways that are always pleasing to us, can we ever be

60. If you seek a teacher, you won’t find a teacher. If you give up the teacher, you will find the teacher. It seems to me that most of you have probably had enough teaching.

61. Thus the Buddha said, “I am enlightened through my own efforts, without any teacher.” Through practice you come to realize something for yourself. One is enlightened by oneself.

62. One should be one’s own witness. Don’t take others as your witness. It means learning to trust yourself.

63. We should make the most of the opportunity we have. Before we worry about the deficiencies of others, those of us who understand and can practice should do that straight away.

Glenn Detrick