“Laypeople live in the realm of sensuality. They have families, money, and possessions, and are deeply involved in all sorts of activities. Yet sometimes they will gain insight and see Dhamma before monks and nuns do. Why is this? It’s just because of their suffering from all these things. They see the fault and can let go. They can put it down after seeing clearly in their experience. Seeing the harm and letting go, they are then able to make good use of their positions in the world and benefit others…
The laypeople live in a certain kind of thoroughness and clarity. Whatever they do, they really do it. Even getting drunk, they do it thoroughly and have the experience of what it’s like. So, because of their experience, they may become tired of things and realize the Dhamma quicker than monks can.” Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away,Ajahn Chah, p 145-146
Wow. What an inspiring teaching from a great Master.
Throughout my years of following the teachings and practicing meditation, I have often had a strong desire to leave the world behind and become a Buddhist nun. I understand why this desire comes up. It is because I do see the suffering that worldly life can bring. I can see the suffering in me that results from complicated worldly and self-centered dramas. Drama from my daily activities trying to make a living and raise children. Drama from living in a society where everyone is trying to sell something, whether it be an object or an opinion. Everyone has their own idea of how things should be and that is what causes such conflict and drama in the world. The difference between how we want things to be and how they actually are, causes so much suffering.
This suffering is what causes us all to run to the churches, synagogues, temples, bars… One of my favorite scenes from The Simpsons is when the end of the world is coming to Springfield and all the people at the church run to the bar and all the people at the bar run to the church. We have this error in thinking that relief is somewhere out there. But wherever we are, that is where our practice is. We don’t need to go anywhere. When will we learn this? If we stop trying to escape this suffering, this suffering is what can actually wake us up.
We can take great pilgrimages to India or Thailand, we can go on three month retreats at Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, we can climb Mount Everest or hitchhike across Tibet, we can seek out great teachers and meditation masters in caves, but our lessons are not to be found out there. Peace is not to be found out there. It’s not actually even found in meditation or prayer. These are good tools for preparing the mind for peace, but it is not where it is actually found. Peaceful feelings in meditation are only temporary.
True peace is found in seeing and understanding the truth of the way things are, and having no battle with it. This is Dhamma, the truth of the way things are. And only we can see it for ourselves.
For more of Becca Thielen’s reflections on the mindfulness path, visit her blog, This Is Dhamma.