Ajahn Chah Quotes and Similes

"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering."
"If you listen to the Dhamma teachings but don't practice you're like a ladle in a soup pot. The ladle is in the soup pot every day, but it doesn't know the taste of the soup. You must reflect and meditate."
"Just know what is happening in your mind - not happy or sad about it, not attached. If you suffer see it, know it, and be empty. It's like a letter - you have to open it before you can know what's in it."
"Read yourself, not books. Truth isn't outside, that's only memory, not wisdom. Memory without wisdom is like an empty thermos bottle - if you don't fill it, it's useless."
"Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a moustache. You won't be able to find it. But when your hearty is ready, it will come looking for you."
"All religions are like different cars all moving in the same direction. People who don't see it have no light in their hearts."
"Dhamma is in your mind, not in the forest. Don't believe others. Just listen to your mind. You don't have to go and look anywhere else. Wisdom is in yourself, just like a sweet ripe mango is already in a young green one."
"Know and watch your heart. It's pure but emotions come to colour it. So let your mind be like a tightly woven net to catch emotions and feelings that come, and investigate them before you react."
"With even a little intuitive wisdom we will be able to see clearly the ways of the world. We will come to understand that everything in the world is our teacher."
"How does the dhamma teach the proper way of life? It shows us how to live. It has many ways of showing it - on roots or trees or just in front of you. It is a teaching but not in words. So still the mind, the heart, and learn to watch. You'll find the whole dhamma revealing itself here and now. At what other time and place are you going to look?"
"Once there was a layman who came to Ajahn Chah and asked him who Ajahn Chah was. Ajahn Chah, seeing that the spiritual development of the individual was not very advanced, pointed to himself and said, This, this is Ajahn Chah."
"Once there was a layman who came to Ajahn Chah and asked him who Ajahn Chah was. Ajahn Chah, seeing that the questioners capacity to understand the Dhamma was higher, Ajahn Chah answered by saying Ajahn Chah? There is NO Ajahn Chah!"
"A visiting Zen student asked Ajahn Chah, How old are you? Do you live here all year round? I live nowhere, he replied. There is no place you can find me. I have no age. To have age, you must exist, and to think you exist is already a problem. Don't make problems, then the world has none either. Don't make a self. There's nothing more to say."
"Why are we born? We are born so that we will not have to be born again."
"You say that you are too busy to meditate. Do you have time to breathe? Meditation is your breath. Why do you have time to breathe but not to meditate? Breathing is something vital to peoples lives. If you see that Dhamma practice is vital to your life, then you will feel that breathing and practising the Dhamma are equally important."
"What is Dhamma? Nothing isnt."
"First you understand the Dhamma with your thoughts. If you begin to understand it, you will practice it. And if you practice it, you will begin to see it. And when you see it, you are the Dhamma, and you have the joy of the Buddha."
"Only one book is worth reading, the heart."
"If you want to wait around to meet the future Buddha, then just don't practice (the Dhamma). You'll probably be around long enough to see him when he comes."
"We don't meditate to see heaven, but to end suffering."
"Whatever we do, we should see ourselves. Reading books doesn't ever give rise to anything. The days pass by, but we don't see ourselves. Knowing about practice is practising in order to know."
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it."
"If you have time to be mindful, you have time to meditate."
"Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with moustache. You won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you."
"Do not be a bodhisattva, do not be an arahant, do not be anything at all. If you are a bodhisattva, you will suffer, if you are an arahant, you will suffer, if you are anything at all, you will suffer."
"A woman wanted to know how to deal with anger. I asked when anger arose whose anger it was. She said it was hers. Well, if it really was her anger, then she should be able to tell it to go away, shouldnt she? But it really isn't hers to command. Holding on to anger as a personal possession will cause suffering. If anger really belonged to us, it would have to obey us. If it doesn't obey us, that means it's only a deception. Don't fall for it. Whenever the mind is happy or sad, don't fall for it. Its all a deception."
"You are your own teacher. Looking for teachers can't solve your own doubts. Investigate yourself to find the truth - inside, not outside. Knowing yourself is most important."
"A madman and an arahant both smile, but the arahant knows why while the madman doesn't."
"Outward scriptural study is not important. Of course, the Dhamma books are correct, but they are not right. They cannot give you right understanding. To see the word anger in print is not the same as experiencing anger. Only experiencing yourself can give you the true faith."
"These days people don't search for the Truth. People study simply in order to find knowledge necessary to make a living, raise families and look after themselves, that's all. To them, being smart is more important than being wise!"
"Once a visitor asked Ajahn Chah if he was an arahant. He said, I am like a tree in a forest. Birds come to the tree, they sit on its branches and eat its fruits. To the birds, the fruit may be sweet or sour or whatever. The birds say sweet or they say sour, but from the trees point of view, this is just the chattering of birds."
"Someone commented, I can observe desire and aversion in my mind, but its hard to observe delusion. You're riding on a horse and asking where the horse is! was Ajahn Chah's reply."
"If it isn't good, let it die. If it doesn't die, make it good."
"Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha."
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment, the effort to overcome laziness and merit, the effort to make each activity of our day meditation."
"Do not find fault with others. If they behave wrongly, there is no need to make yourself suffer. If you point out to them what is correct and they do not practice accordingly, leave it at that. When the Buddha studied with various teachers, he realised that their ways were lacking, but he did not disparage them. Studying with humility and respect, he benefited from his relationship with them, yet he realised that their systems were not complete. Still, he had not yet become enlightened, he did not criticise or attempt to teach them. After he found enlightenment, he respectfully remembered those had studied with and wanted to share his newfound knowledge with them."
"Do everything with a mind that lets go. Do not expect any praise or reward. If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end."
"The Buddha taught us to give up all forms of evil and cultivate virtue. This is the right path. Teaching in this way is like the Buddha picking us up and placing us at the beginning of the path. Having reached the path, whether we walk along it or not is up to us. The Buddha's job is finished right there. He shows the way, that which is right and that which is not right. This much is enough, the rest is up to us."
"It's like a child who is learning to write. At first he doesn't write nicely -- big, long loops and squiggles -- he writes like a child. After a while the writing improves through practice. Practicing the Dhamma is like this. At first you are awkward...sometimes calm, sometimes not, you don't really know what's what. Some people get discouraged. Don't slacken off! You must persevere with the practice. Live with effort, just like the schoolboy: as he gets older he writes better and better. From writing badly he grows to write beautifully, all because of the practice from childhood."
"If you want to understand suffering you must look into the situation at hand. The teachings say that wherever a problem arises it must be settled right there. Where suffering lies is right where non-suffering will arise, it ceases at the place where it arises. If suffering arises you must contemplate right there, you don't have to run away. You should settle the issue right there. One who runs away from suffering out of fear is the most foolish person of all. He will simply increases his stupidity endlessly."
"So resolve yourselves. It's not just by sitting with your eyes closed that you develop wisdom. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are constantly with us, so be constantly alert. Study constantly. Seeing trees or animals can all be occasions for study. Bring it all inwards. See clearly within your own heart. If some sensation makes impact on the heart, witness it clearly for yourself, don't simply disregard it."
"Just know yourself, this is your witness. Don't make decisions on the strength of your desires. Desires can puff us up into thinking we are something which we're not. We must be very circumspect."
"Actually in my own practice I didn't have a teacher to give as much teachings as all of you get from me. I didn't have many teachers. I ordained in an ordinary village temple and lived in village temples for quite a few years. In my mind I conceived the desire to practice, I wanted to be proficient, I wanted to train. There wasn't anybody giving any teaching in those monasteries but the inspiration to practice arose. I traveled and I looked around. I had ears so I listened, I had eyes so I looked. Whatever I heard people say, I'd tell myself, 'Not sure.' Whatever I saw, I told myself, 'Not sure,' or when the tongue contacted sweet, sour, salty, pleasant or unpleasant flavors, or feelings of comfort or pain arose in the body, I'd tell myself, 'This is not a sure thing'! And so I lived with Dhamma."
"Just consider...Suppose we came to possess a very expensive object. The minute that thing comes into our possession our mind changes...'Now, where can I keep it? If I leave it there somebody might steal it'...We worry ourselves into a state, trying to find a place to keep it. And when did the mind change? It changed the minute we obtained that object -- suffering arose right then. No matter where we leave that object we can't relax, so we're left with trouble. Whether sitting, walking, or lying down, we are lost in worry."
"But this is like some sort of sweet fruit: even though the fruit is sweet we must rely on contact with and experience of that fruit before we will know what the taste is like. Now that fruit, even though no-one tastes it, is sweet all the same. But nobody knows of it. The Dhamma of the Buddha is like this. Even though it's the truth it isn't true for those who don't really know it. No matter how excellent or fine it may be it is worthless to them."