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

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

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by Paul Breiter, Ajahn Chah
     
 

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Ajahn
Chah (1919–1992) was admired for the way he demystified the Buddhist
teachings, presenting them in a remarkably simple and down-to-earth style for
people of any background. He was a major influence and spiritual mentor for a
generation of American Buddhist teachers, including Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon
Salzberg, and Jack

Overview

Ajahn
Chah (1919–1992) was admired for the way he demystified the Buddhist
teachings, presenting them in a remarkably simple and down-to-earth style for
people of any background. He was a major influence and spiritual mentor for a
generation of American Buddhist teachers, including Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon
Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield.

Previous
books by Ajahn Chah have consisted of collections of short teachings on a wide
variety of subjects. This new book focuses on the theme of impermanence,
offering powerful remedies for overcoming our deep-seated fear of change,
including guidance on letting go of attachments, living in the present, and
taking up the practice of meditation.
Everything
Arises, Everything Falls Away

also contains stories and anecdotes about this beloved master's life and his
interactions with students, from his youth as a struggling monk to his last
years when American students were coming to study with him in significant
numbers. These stories help to convey Ajahn Chah's unique spirit and teaching
style, allowing readers to know him both through his words and the way in which
he lived his life.


Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780834823990
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
12/15/2011
Series:
Shambhala Publications
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
589,933
File size:
871 KB

Read an Excerpt

From
Chapter 16: Understanding Dukkha

Dukkha
sticks on the skin and goes into the flesh; from the flesh, it gets into the
bones. It's like an insect on a tree that eats through the bark, into the wood,
and then into the core, until finally the tree dies.

As
we grow up, it gets buried deep inside. Our parents teach us grasping and
attachment, giving meaning to things, believing firmly that we exist as a
self-entity and that things belong to us. From our birth that's what we are
taught. We hear this over and over again, and it penetrates our hearts and
stays there as our habitual feeling. We're taught to get things, to accumulate
and hold on to them, to see them as important and as ours. This is what our
parents know, and this is what they teach us. So it gets into our minds, into
our bones.

When
we take an interest in meditation and hear the teaching of a spiritual guide,
it's not easy to understand. It doesn't really grab us. We're taught not to see
and do things the old way, but when we hear this, it doesn't penetrate our
hearts.

So
we sit and listen to teachings, but it's often just sound entering the ears. It
doesn't get inside and affect us. It's like we're boxing, and we keep hitting
the other guy but he doesn't go down. We remain stuck in our self-view. The
wise have said that moving a mountain from one place to another is easier than
moving the conceit of self-view, this solid feeling that we really exist as
some special individual.

We
can use explosives to level a mountain and then move the earth. But the tight
grasping of self-conceit—oh man! Our wrong ideas and bad tendencies remain so
solid and unbudging, and we're not aware of them. So the wise have said that
removing this view and turning wrong understanding into right understanding is
about the hardest thing to do.

For
us who are worldly beings
(putthujana)
to
progress on to being virtuous beings
(kalyanajana)
is
not easy. A putthujana is one who is thickly obscured, who is dark, who is
stuck deep in this darkness and obscuration. The kalyanajana has made things
lighter. We teach people to lighten, but they don't want to do that, because
they don't understand their situation, their condition of obscuration. So they
keep on drifting in their confused state.

If
we come across a pile of buffalo dung, we won't think it's ours and we won't
want to pick it up. We will just leave it where it is, because we know what it
is.

Such
is what's good in the way of the impure. That which is evil is the food of bad
people. If you teach them about doing good, they're not interested, but prefer
to stay as they are because they don't see the harm in it. Without seeing the
harm, there's no way things can be rectified. If you recognize it, then you
think, "Oh! My whole pile of dung doesn't have the value of a small piece
of gold!" and you will want gold instead; you won't want the dung anymore.
If you don't recognize this, you remain the owner of a pile of dung.

That's
the "good" of the impure. Gold, jewels, and diamonds are considered
something good in the realm of humans. The foul and rotten are good for flies
and other insects. If you gather fresh flowers, the flies won't be interested
in them. Even if you tried to pay them, they wouldn't come. But wherever
there's a dead animal, wherever there's something rotten, that's where they'll
go. Wrong view is like that. It delights in that kind of thing. What's
sweet-smelling to a bee is not sweet to a fly.

There
were once two close friends. After they died, one was reborn among the gods of
sensual enjoyment, while the other was born as a maggot in a pit of excrement.

The
god was endowed with various powers, and recalling his dear friend from the
past life, he used his clairvoyance to find him. He transported himself to the
excrement pit and was able to get his friend to recognize him. They were joyful
at meeting again.

The
maggot asked the god, "So what's it like where you were reborn?"

The
god said, "It's great! Nothing but pure enjoyment! Everything is clean and
delightful. Whatever you wish for, it appears instantly. I hope you can go
there with me."

But
the maggot started crying, because he pitied his friend. "Listen," he
said. "Life is so much fun right here. I play all day in this pit. I don't
even have to wish for what I want to appear, because it's all right here. You
really ought to stay."

·
· ·

There
is difficulty in practice, but in anything we undertake, we have to pass
through difficulty to reach ease. In Dharma practice, we begin with the truth
of dukkha, the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence. But as soon as we
experience this, we lose heart. We don't want to look at it. Dukkha is really
the truth, but we want to get around it somehow. It's similar to the way we
don't like to look at old people, but prefer to look at the young and attractive.

If
we don't want to look at dukkha, we will never understand dukkha, no matter how
long we live. Dukkha is truth. If we allow ourselves to face it, then we will
start to seek a way out of it. If we're trying to go somewhere and the road is
blocked, we will think about how to make a pathway. Working at it day after
day, we can get through. When we encounter problems, we develop wisdom like
this. Without seeing dukkha, we don't really look into and resolve our
problems; we just bear with them or pass them by indifferently.

My
way of training people involves some suffering, because understanding suffering
is the Buddha's path to enlightenment. He wanted us to see suffering, and to
see its origination, its cessation, and the path that brings about cessation.
This is the way out for all the awakened ones. If you don't go this way, there
is no way out.

If
we know dukkha, we will see it in everything we experience. Some people feel
that they don't really suffer much. But practice in Buddhism is for the purpose
of freeing ourselves from suffering, the unsatisfactoriness that pervades
ordinary experience. What should we do not to suffer anymore? When dukkha
arises, we should investigate to see the causes of its arising. Knowing that,
we can practice to remove those causes. Then once we travel the path to
fulfillment, dukkha will no longer arise. In Buddhism, this is the way out.

Opposing
our habits creates some suffering. But generally, we are afraid of suffering,
and if something will make us suffer, we don't want to do it. We are interested
in what appears to be good and beautiful, and we feel that anything involving
suffering is bad. But it's not like that. If there is suffering in the heart,
it becomes the cause that makes you think about escaping. It leads you to
contemplate. You will be intent on investigating to find out what is really
going on, trying to see causes and their results.

Happy
people don't develop wisdom. They're asleep. It's like a dog that eats its
fill. After that it doesn't want to do anything. It can sleep all day. It won't
bark if a burglar comes—it's too full and too tired. But if you only give it a
little food, it will be alert and awake. If someone comes sneaking around, it
will jump up and start barking. Have you seen that?

We
humans are trapped and imprisoned in this world and have troubles in such
abundance, and we are always full of doubt, confusion, and worry. This is no
game. So there's something we need to get rid of. According to the way of
spiritual cultivation, we should give up our bodies, give up ourselves. We have
to resolve to give our lives to the pursuit of liberation.

If
we speak the subtle Dharma, most people will be frightened by it. They won't
dare to enter it. Even saying, "Don't do evil," most people can't
follow this. So I've sought all kinds of means to get this across, and one
thing I often say is, no matter if we are delighted or upset, happy or
suffering, shedding tears or singing songs, never mind—living in this world,
we are living in a cage. We don't get beyond this condition of being in a cage.
Even if you are rich, you are living in a cage. If you are poor, you are living
in a cage. If you sing and dance, you're singing and dancing in a cage. If you
watch a movie, you're watching it in a cage.

What
is this cage? It's the cage of birth, the cage of aging, the cage of illness,
the cage of death. In this way, we are imprisoned in the world. "This is
mine." "That belongs to me." We don't know what we really are or
what we're doing. Actually all we are doing is accumulating suffering for
ourselves. It's not something far away that causes our suffering, but we don't
look at ourselves. 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 dukkha
itself, here and now.

The
time we can be afflicted with pain or illness is always. It can happen at any
moment. It's like we've stolen something: we could be arrested at any time
because we've done that. That's our situation. We exist among harmful things,
among danger and trouble; aging, illness, and death reign over our lives. We
can't go elsewhere and escape them. They can come catch us at any time—it's
always a good opportunity for them. So we have to cede this to them and accept
the situation. We have to plead guilty. If we do, the sentence won't be so
heavy. If we don't, we suffer enormously. If we plead guilty, they'll go easy
on us—we won't be incarcerated too long.

When
the body is born, it doesn't belong to anyone. It's like our meditation hall.
After it's built, spiders come to stay in it. Lizards come to stay in it. All
sorts of insects and crawling things come to stay in it. Snakes may come to
live in it. Anything may come to live in it. It's not only our hall; it's
everything's hall.

These
bodies are the same. They aren't ours. We come to stay in and depend on them.
Illness, pain, and aging come to reside in them, and we are merely residing
along with them. When these bodies reach the end of pain and illness and
finally break up and die, that is not us dying. So don't hold on to any of
this, but contemplate clearly, and your grasping will gradually be exhausted.


Meet the Author

Ajahn Chah (1919–1992) was a beloved Thai Buddhist master whose teachings were refreshingly uncompromising in their clarity and certainty—the certainty of a meditator who has achieved deep understanding of the Buddha's teachings. He was an important influence and spiritual mentor for a generation of American Buddhist teachers.

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Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away: Teachings on Impermanence and the End of Suffering 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
RedWolfKL More than 1 year ago
It is an excellent book written in plain English to explain the concept in Buddhism about the impermanence of everything which is the basis in Buddhism.