gavesako wrote:Western readers see what they want to see in Ajahn Chah: this quote has been a bit "spiced up" in the English translation to sound like something out of Advaita teachings or similar (because the translators were into that). But if you read it in Thai and put it in the context of Ajahn Chah's teachings in general, there is nothing that strange about it, he is just talking about the way the mind gets conditioned to certain habits which is a normal Theravada explanation. And there are lots of references to Suttas and similes taken from Suttas all through his talks. He only came across Thai translations of some Zen masters at the end of his life.
Is it possible that we have your translation as well, so we can see how far the things have been spiced up?
If you read the original Thai version then you will see how certain Pali words are used which have been given slightly different meaning in the Thai language. Also such expressions as "original mind" are idiomatic in the Thai forest tradition, but the Western translators related it to things they have read in Advaita books and Zen books which had no connection with this tradition.
Here is the revised translation which we have done some time ago (I am not sure which one was used for the latest "standard edition" though):
Training this Mind1
Training this mind... actually there's nothing much to this mind. It's simply radiant in and of itself. It's naturally peaceful. Why the mind doesn't feel peaceful right now is because it gets lost in its own moods. There's nothing to mind itself. It simply abides in its natural state, that's all. That sometimes the mind feels peaceful and other times not peaceful is because it has been tricked by these moods. The untrained mind lacks wisdom. It's foolish. Moods come and trick it into feeling pleasure one minute and suffering the next. Happiness then sadness. But the natural state of a person's mind isn't one of happiness or sadness. This experience of happiness and sadness is not the actual mind itself, but just these moods which have tricked it. The mind gets lost, carried away by these moods with no idea what's happening. And as a result, we experience pleasure and pain accordingly, because the mind has not been trained yet. It still isn't very clever. And we go on thinking that it's our mind which is suffering or our mind which is happy, when actually it's just lost in its various moods.
The point is that really this mind of ours is naturally peaceful. It's still and calm like a leaf that is not being blown about by the wind. But if the wind blows then it flutters. It does that because of the wind. And so with the mind it's because of these moods - getting caught up with thoughts. If the mind didn't get lost in these moods it wouldn't flutter about. If it understood the nature of thoughts it would just stay still. This is called the natural state of the mind. And why we have come to practice now is to see the mind in this original state. We think that the mind itself is actually pleasurable or peaceful. But really the mind has not created any real pleasure or pain. These thoughts have come and tricked it and it has got caught up in them. So we really have to come and train our minds in order to grow in wisdom. So that we understand the true nature of thoughts rather than just following them blindly.
The mind is naturally peaceful. It's in order to understand just this much that we have come together to do this difficult practice of meditation.
The point I am making is echoed in this article as well:
http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.com/2012/ ... odoxy.html
The most ludicruous calumny is committed against Ajahn Chah on this score: quotations from his lectures "Food for the Heart" are taken out of context as if they were a justification for voluntary ignorance. In the fourth chapter he remarks, "For the best practice, as I see it, it isn't necessary to read many books. Take all the books and lock them away. Just read your own mind." What is forgotten in reading such an excerpt is that the lecture was not given to laypeople, and definitely not western laypeople, but to Thai monks who had already completed many years of textual study, and, indeed, written examinations. This is obvious even in the next sentence of the quotation, "You have all been burying yourselves in books from the time you entered school. I think that now you have this opportunity and have the time, take the books, put them in a cupboard and lock the door. Just read your mind." I do not think that anyone could read this set of lectures as a whole and think that Ajahn Chah was endorsing the notion that westerners who already live in ignorance should continue to live in ignorance (I say this explicitly because I have both heard and read Ajahn Chah cited as an authority to this effect). The same set of lectures contains numerous statements about the importance of textual scholarship, and the monks (addressed as the audience) are all presumed to be studiously preparing for Thailand's system of exams throughout (some of the advice emphasizing practice is stated explicitly in terms of the monks' need to recover from the distraction of having memorized and recited so much text for the exams, etc.). Somehow, this is put into the blender of post-Christian western assumptions (along with unexamined assumptions inherited from 1960s American Zen) and an anti-textual (and anti-intellectual) doctrine comes out of the mix.
On the one hand, westerners insist on "the letter of the law" when it suits them, and then, on the other hand, they ignore a huge volume of text (and philosophical text at that) when it contradicts them.