ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

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ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby alan... » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:34 pm

where can i find his explanation of the jhanas? anyone know of a specific article or web site?

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby lojong1 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:51 pm

I read a small something in a tiny book of his recently, about no real need to call them jhanas with this or that ingredient, but to simply experience and explore your own workings...I'll try to find it again.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:30 pm

alan... wrote:where can i find his explanation of the jhanas? anyone know of a specific article or web site?

From what I can tell, Ajahn Chah was not particularly fond of detailed descriptions of Jhana. Usually he just used terms like "a clear mind" or "concentration." As far as a comprehensive explanation, I think you're out of luck.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby alan... » Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:59 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
alan... wrote:where can i find his explanation of the jhanas? anyone know of a specific article or web site?

From what I can tell, Ajahn Chah was not particularly fond of detailed descriptions of Jhana. Usually he just used terms like "a clear mind" or "concentration." As far as a comprehensive explanation, I think you're out of luck.


sounds good to me, i'm looking for a more loose description that is still theravada. what about "food for the heart" anyone read it?

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby Mr Man » Mon Feb 25, 2013 8:45 pm


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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby Nyana » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:12 pm

Ajahn Chah gives instructions on mindfulness of breathing and discusses the jhāna factors in a talk titled Monastery of Confusion:

    It's like this: if we get attached to the ideals and take the guidelines that we are given in the instructions too literally, it can be difficult to understand. When doing a standard meditation such as mindfulness of breathing, first we should make the determination that right now we are going to do this practice, and we are going to make mindfulness of breathing our foundation. We only focus on the breath at three points, as it passes through the nostrils, the chest and the abdomen. When the air enters it first passes the nose, then through the chest, then to the end point of the abdomen. As it leaves the body, the beginning is the abdomen, the middle is the chest, and the end is the nose. We merely note it. This is a way to start controlling the mind, tying awareness to these points at the beginning, middle and end of the inhalations and exhalations.

    Before we begin we should first sit and let the mind relax. It's similar to sewing robes on a treadle sewing machine. When we are learning to use the sewing machine, first we just sit in front of the machine to get familiar with it and feel comfortable. Here, we just sit and breathe. Not fixing awareness on anything, we merely take note that we are breathing. We take note of whether the breath is relaxed or not and how long or short it is. Having noticed this, then we begin focusing on the inhalation and exhalation at the three points.

    We practice like this until we become skilled in it and it goes smoothly. The next stage is to focus awareness only on the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose or the upper lip. At this point we aren't concerned with whether the breath is long or short, but only focus on the sensation of entering and exiting.

    Different phenomena may contact the senses, or thoughts may arise. This is called initial thought (vitakka). The mind brings up some idea, be it about the nature of compounded phenomena (sankhārā), about the world, or whatever. Once the mind has brought it up, the mind will want to get involved and merge with it. If it's an object that is wholesome then let the mind take it up. If it is something unwholesome, stop it immediately. If it is something wholesome then let the mind contemplate it, and gladness, satisfaction and happiness will come about. The mind will be bright and clear; as the breath goes in and out and as the mind takes up these initial thoughts. Then it becomes discursive thought (vicāra). The mind develops familiarity with the object, exerting itself and merging with it. At this point, there is no sleepiness.

    After an appropriate period of this, take your attention back to the breath. Then as you continue on there will be the initial thought and discursive thought, initial thought and discursive thought. If you are contemplating skillfully on an object such as the nature of sankhāra, then the mind will experience deeper tranquility and rapture is born. There is the vitakka and vicāra, and that leads to happiness of mind. At this time there won't be any dullness or drowsiness. The mind won't be dark if we practice like this. It will be gladdened and enraptured.

    This rapture will start to diminish and disappear after a while, so you can take up the initial thought again. The mind will become firm and certain with it - undistracted. Then you go on to discursive thought again, the mind becoming one with it. When you are practicing a meditation that suits your temperament and doing it well, then whenever you take up the object, rapture will come about: the hairs of the body stand on end and the mind is enraptured and satiated.

    When it's like this there can't be any dullness or drowsiness. You won't have any doubts. Back and forth between initial and discursive thought, initial and discursive thought, over and over again and rapture comes. Then there is sukha (bliss).

    This takes place in sitting practice. After sitting for a while, you can get up and do walking meditation. The mind can be the same in the walking. Not sleepy, it has the vitakka and vicāra, vitakka and vicāra, then rapture. There won't be any of the nīvarana, and the mind will be unstained. Whatever takes place, never mind; you don't need to doubt about any experiences you may have, be they of light, of bliss, or whatever. Don't entertain doubts about these conditions of mind. If the mind is dark, if the mind is illumined, don't fixate on these conditions, don't be attached to them. Let go, discard them. Keep walking, keep noting what is taking place without getting bound or infatuated. Don't suffer over these conditions of mind. Don't have doubts about them. They are just what they are, following the way of mental phenomena. Sometimes the mind will be joyful. Sometimes it will be sorrowful. There can be happiness or suffering; there can be obstruction. Rather than doubting, understand that conditions of mind are like this; whatever manifests is coming about due to causes ripening. At this moment this condition is manifesting; that's what you should recognize. Even if the mind is dark you don't need to be upset over that. If it becomes bright, don't be excessively gladdened by that. Don't have doubts about these conditions of mind, or about your reactions to them.

    Do your walking meditation until you are really tired, then sit. When you sit determine your mind to sit; don't just play around. If you get sleepy, open your eyes and focus on some object. Walk until the mind separates itself from thoughts and is still, then sit. If you are clear and awake, you can close your eyes. If you get sleepy again, open your eyes and look at an object.

    Don't try to do this all day and all night. When you're in need of sleep let yourself sleep. Just as with our food: once a day we eat. The time comes and we give food to the body. The need for sleep is the same. When the time comes, give yourself some rest. When you've had an appropriate rest, get up. Don't let the mind languish in dullness, but get up and get to work - start practicing. Do a lot of walking meditation. If you walk slowly and the mind becomes dull, then walk fast. Learn to find the right pace for yourself.

    Question: Are vitakka and vicāra the same?

    Ajahn Chah: You're sitting and suddenly the thought of someone pops into your head - that's vitakka, the initial thought. Then you take that idea of the person and start thinking about them in detail. Vitakka is picking it up, vicāra is investigating it. For example, we pick up the idea of death and then we start considering it: ''I will die, others will die, every living being will die; when they die where will they go?'' Then stop! Stop and bring it back again. When it gets running like that, stop it again; and then go back to mindfulness of the breath. Sometimes the discursive thought will wander off and not come back, so you have to stop it. Keep at it until the mind is bright and clear.

    If you practice vicāra with an object that you are suited to, you may experience the hairs of your body standing on end, tears pouring from your eyes, a state of extreme delight, many different things as rapture comes.

    Question: Can this happen with any kind of thinking, or is it only in a state of tranquility that it happens?

    Ajahn Chah: It's when the mind is tranquil. It's not ordinary mental proliferation. You sit with a calm mind and then the initial thought comes. For example, I think of my brother who just passed away. Or I might think of some other relatives. This is when the mind is tranquil - the tranquility isn't something certain, but for the moment the mind is tranquil. After this initial thought comes then I go into discursive thought. If it's a line of thinking that's skillful and wholesome, it leads to ease of mind and happiness, and there is rapture with its attendant experiences. This rapture came from the initial and discursive thinking that took place in a state of calmness. We don't have to give it names such as first jhāna, second jhāna and so forth. We just call it tranquility.

    The next factor is bliss (sukha). Eventually we drop the initial and discursive thinking as tranquility deepens. Why? The state of mind is becoming more refined and subtle. Vitakka and vicāra are relatively coarse, and they will vanish. There will remain just the rapture accompanied by bliss and one-pointedness of mind. When it reaches full measure there won't be anything, the mind is empty. That's absorption concentration.

    We don't need to fixate or dwell on any of these experiences. They will naturally progress from one to the next. At first there is initial and discursive thought, rapture, bliss and onepointedness. Then initial and discursive thinking are thrown off, leaving rapture, bliss, and one-pointedness. Rapture is thrown off, then bliss, and finally only one-pointedness and equanimity remain. It means the mind becomes more and more tranquil, and its objects are steadily decreasing until there is nothing but one-pointedness and equanimity.

    When the mind is tranquil and focused this can happen. It is the power of mind, the state of the mind that has attained tranquility. When it's like this there won't be any sleepiness. It can't enter the mind; it will disappear. As for the other hindrances of sensual desire, aversion, doubt and restlessness and agitation, they just won't be present. Though they may still exist latent in the mind of the meditator, they won't occur at this time.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby beeblebrox » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:58 pm

alan... wrote:
LonesomeYogurt wrote:
alan... wrote:where can i find his explanation of the jhanas? anyone know of a specific article or web site?

From what I can tell, Ajahn Chah was not particularly fond of detailed descriptions of Jhana. Usually he just used terms like "a clear mind" or "concentration." As far as a comprehensive explanation, I think you're out of luck.


sounds good to me, i'm looking for a more loose description that is still theravada. what about "food for the heart" anyone read it?


Hi Alan,

Ven. Ajahn Chah talks about jhana a couple times in that book. The main chapter for it is in "Inner Balance," complete with vitakka, vicara and all.

Elsewhere he talks about the dangers of attachment:

Samadhi is capable of bringing much benefit or much harm to the meditator. For one who has no wisdom it is harmful, but for one who has wisdom it can bring real benefit, for it can lead to insight.

That which can possibly be harmful to the meditator is absorption samadhi (jhana): samadhi with deep sustained calm. Such samadhi brings great peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness. When there is happiness, attachment and clinging to that happiness arise. The meditator doesn't want to contemplate anything else: they just want to indulge in that pleasant feeling. When we have been practicing for a long time we may become adept at entering this samadhi very quickly. As soon as we start to note our meditation object, the mind becomes calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness. This is a danger.


and how to approach the jhana:

Using the tools of practice entails hardship and arduous challenges. We rely on patience, endurance, and going without. We have to do it ourselves, experience it for ourselves, realize it for ourselves. Scholars, however, tend to get confused a lot. For example, when they sit in meditation, as soon as their minds experience a teeny bit of tranquility they start to think, "Hey, this must be first jhana." This is how their minds work. And once those thoughts arise the tranquility they'd experienced is shattered. Soon they start to think that it must have been second jhana they'd attained. Don't think or speculate about it. There aren't any billboards that announce which level of samadhi we're experiencing. The reality is completely different. There aren't any signs like the road signs that tell you, "This way to Wat Nong Pah Pong." That's not how I read the mind. It doesn't announce.


If you didn't know, Ven. Ajahn Brahm was a student of Ven. Ajahn Chah... though I'm not sure if their teachings are actually similar.

:anjali:

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:10 am

Mr Man wrote:How about this talk alan?

http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/About_Being_Careful.php


this is great! thanks! so he has a totally different attitude than ajahn brahm! very surprising. ajahn chah sounds like he taught direct seeing through insight as opposed to reaching higher and higher states of jhana and that being the culmination of the path which is what brahm teaches. very odd that he was brahms teacher. kind of confusing really.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:41 am

Hi Alan,

Since Ajahn Chah's teaching was famously tailored to the particular student, it is, perhaps, not surprising that his students have gone a variety of ways. Many of Ajahn Chah's students teach some sort of "insight" approach. As you say, some, like Ajahns Brahm and Sujato, teach a jhana-oriented approach.

See this quote where Ajahn Chah responded to a student accusing him of giving contradictory instructions:
http://www.innerdirections.org/journal/ ... etting-go/
Ajahn Chah wrote:"It is as though I see people walking down the road I know well. To them the way may be unclear. I look up and see someone about to fall into a ditch on the right-hand side of the road, so I call out, ‘Go left, go left!' Similarly, if I see another person about to fall into a ditch on the left, I call out, ‘Go right, go right!' That is the extent of my teaching. Whatever extreme you get caught in, whatever you get attached to, I say, ‘Let go of that too.' Let go on the left, let go on the right. Come back to the center, and you will arrive at the true way."


Perhaps the ones he told to go left, teach to go left, the ones he told to go right teach to go right...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:55 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Alan,

Since Ajahn Chah's teaching was famously tailored to the particular student, it is, perhaps, not surprising that his students have gone a variety of ways. Many of Ajahn Chah's students teach some sort of "insight" approach. As you say, some, like Ajahns Brahm and Sujato, teach a jhana-oriented approach.

See this quote where Ajahn Chah responded to a student accusing him of giving contradictory instructions:
http://www.innerdirections.org/journal/ ... etting-go/
Ajahn Chah wrote:"It is as though I see people walking down the road I know well. To them the way may be unclear. I look up and see someone about to fall into a ditch on the right-hand side of the road, so I call out, ‘Go left, go left!' Similarly, if I see another person about to fall into a ditch on the left, I call out, ‘Go right, go right!' That is the extent of my teaching. Whatever extreme you get caught in, whatever you get attached to, I say, ‘Let go of that too.' Let go on the left, let go on the right. Come back to the center, and you will arrive at the true way."


Perhaps the ones he told to go left, teach to go left, the ones he told to go right teach to go right...

:anjali:
Mike


i couldn't have put that better myself even with a time machine to have had the knowledge to write it before you.

perfect post.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:56 am

that also is a really interesting thing that probably happens in the suttas to a degree as well! while all of the buddha's instructions are perfect, they don't all fall in sequentially and not all are appropriate for each practitioner.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:00 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Ajahn Chah gives instructions on mindfulness of breathing and discusses the jhāna factors in a talk titled Monastery of Confusion:

    It's like this: if we get attached to the ideals and take the guidelines that we are given in the instructions too literally, it can be difficult to understand. When doing a standard meditation such as mindfulness of breathing, first we should make the determination that right now we are going to do this practice, and we are going to make mindfulness of breathing our foundation. We only focus on the breath at three points, as it passes through the nostrils, the chest and the abdomen. When the air enters it first passes the nose, then through the chest, then to the end point of the abdomen. As it leaves the body, the beginning is the abdomen, the middle is the chest, and the end is the nose. We merely note it. This is a way to start controlling the mind, tying awareness to these points at the beginning, middle and end of the inhalations and exhalations.

    Before we begin we should first sit and let the mind relax. It's similar to sewing robes on a treadle sewing machine. When we are learning to use the sewing machine, first we just sit in front of the machine to get familiar with it and feel comfortable. Here, we just sit and breathe. Not fixing awareness on anything, we merely take note that we are breathing. We take note of whether the breath is relaxed or not and how long or short it is. Having noticed this, then we begin focusing on the inhalation and exhalation at the three points.

    We practice like this until we become skilled in it and it goes smoothly. The next stage is to focus awareness only on the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose or the upper lip. At this point we aren't concerned with whether the breath is long or short, but only focus on the sensation of entering and exiting.

    Different phenomena may contact the senses, or thoughts may arise. This is called initial thought (vitakka). The mind brings up some idea, be it about the nature of compounded phenomena (sankhārā), about the world, or whatever. Once the mind has brought it up, the mind will want to get involved and merge with it. If it's an object that is wholesome then let the mind take it up. If it is something unwholesome, stop it immediately. If it is something wholesome then let the mind contemplate it, and gladness, satisfaction and happiness will come about. The mind will be bright and clear; as the breath goes in and out and as the mind takes up these initial thoughts. Then it becomes discursive thought (vicāra). The mind develops familiarity with the object, exerting itself and merging with it. At this point, there is no sleepiness.

    After an appropriate period of this, take your attention back to the breath. Then as you continue on there will be the initial thought and discursive thought, initial thought and discursive thought. If you are contemplating skillfully on an object such as the nature of sankhāra, then the mind will experience deeper tranquility and rapture is born. There is the vitakka and vicāra, and that leads to happiness of mind. At this time there won't be any dullness or drowsiness. The mind won't be dark if we practice like this. It will be gladdened and enraptured.

    This rapture will start to diminish and disappear after a while, so you can take up the initial thought again. The mind will become firm and certain with it - undistracted. Then you go on to discursive thought again, the mind becoming one with it. When you are practicing a meditation that suits your temperament and doing it well, then whenever you take up the object, rapture will come about: the hairs of the body stand on end and the mind is enraptured and satiated.

    When it's like this there can't be any dullness or drowsiness. You won't have any doubts. Back and forth between initial and discursive thought, initial and discursive thought, over and over again and rapture comes. Then there is sukha (bliss).

    This takes place in sitting practice. After sitting for a while, you can get up and do walking meditation. The mind can be the same in the walking. Not sleepy, it has the vitakka and vicāra, vitakka and vicāra, then rapture. There won't be any of the nīvarana, and the mind will be unstained. Whatever takes place, never mind; you don't need to doubt about any experiences you may have, be they of light, of bliss, or whatever. Don't entertain doubts about these conditions of mind. If the mind is dark, if the mind is illumined, don't fixate on these conditions, don't be attached to them. Let go, discard them. Keep walking, keep noting what is taking place without getting bound or infatuated. Don't suffer over these conditions of mind. Don't have doubts about them. They are just what they are, following the way of mental phenomena. Sometimes the mind will be joyful. Sometimes it will be sorrowful. There can be happiness or suffering; there can be obstruction. Rather than doubting, understand that conditions of mind are like this; whatever manifests is coming about due to causes ripening. At this moment this condition is manifesting; that's what you should recognize. Even if the mind is dark you don't need to be upset over that. If it becomes bright, don't be excessively gladdened by that. Don't have doubts about these conditions of mind, or about your reactions to them.

    Do your walking meditation until you are really tired, then sit. When you sit determine your mind to sit; don't just play around. If you get sleepy, open your eyes and focus on some object. Walk until the mind separates itself from thoughts and is still, then sit. If you are clear and awake, you can close your eyes. If you get sleepy again, open your eyes and look at an object.

    Don't try to do this all day and all night. When you're in need of sleep let yourself sleep. Just as with our food: once a day we eat. The time comes and we give food to the body. The need for sleep is the same. When the time comes, give yourself some rest. When you've had an appropriate rest, get up. Don't let the mind languish in dullness, but get up and get to work - start practicing. Do a lot of walking meditation. If you walk slowly and the mind becomes dull, then walk fast. Learn to find the right pace for yourself.

    Question: Are vitakka and vicāra the same?

    Ajahn Chah: You're sitting and suddenly the thought of someone pops into your head - that's vitakka, the initial thought. Then you take that idea of the person and start thinking about them in detail. Vitakka is picking it up, vicāra is investigating it. For example, we pick up the idea of death and then we start considering it: ''I will die, others will die, every living being will die; when they die where will they go?'' Then stop! Stop and bring it back again. When it gets running like that, stop it again; and then go back to mindfulness of the breath. Sometimes the discursive thought will wander off and not come back, so you have to stop it. Keep at it until the mind is bright and clear.

    If you practice vicāra with an object that you are suited to, you may experience the hairs of your body standing on end, tears pouring from your eyes, a state of extreme delight, many different things as rapture comes.

    Question: Can this happen with any kind of thinking, or is it only in a state of tranquility that it happens?

    Ajahn Chah: It's when the mind is tranquil. It's not ordinary mental proliferation. You sit with a calm mind and then the initial thought comes. For example, I think of my brother who just passed away. Or I might think of some other relatives. This is when the mind is tranquil - the tranquility isn't something certain, but for the moment the mind is tranquil. After this initial thought comes then I go into discursive thought. If it's a line of thinking that's skillful and wholesome, it leads to ease of mind and happiness, and there is rapture with its attendant experiences. This rapture came from the initial and discursive thinking that took place in a state of calmness. We don't have to give it names such as first jhāna, second jhāna and so forth. We just call it tranquility.

    The next factor is bliss (sukha). Eventually we drop the initial and discursive thinking as tranquility deepens. Why? The state of mind is becoming more refined and subtle. Vitakka and vicāra are relatively coarse, and they will vanish. There will remain just the rapture accompanied by bliss and one-pointedness of mind. When it reaches full measure there won't be anything, the mind is empty. That's absorption concentration.

    We don't need to fixate or dwell on any of these experiences. They will naturally progress from one to the next. At first there is initial and discursive thought, rapture, bliss and onepointedness. Then initial and discursive thinking are thrown off, leaving rapture, bliss, and one-pointedness. Rapture is thrown off, then bliss, and finally only one-pointedness and equanimity remain. It means the mind becomes more and more tranquil, and its objects are steadily decreasing until there is nothing but one-pointedness and equanimity.

    When the mind is tranquil and focused this can happen. It is the power of mind, the state of the mind that has attained tranquility. When it's like this there won't be any sleepiness. It can't enter the mind; it will disappear. As for the other hindrances of sensual desire, aversion, doubt and restlessness and agitation, they just won't be present. Though they may still exist latent in the mind of the meditator, they won't occur at this time.


pretty impressive. did he write or did his students simply record and write down his talks?

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby Mr Man » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:54 am

alan... wrote:
Mr Man wrote:How about this talk alan?

http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/About_Being_Careful.php


this is great! thanks! so he has a totally different attitude than ajahn brahm! very surprising. ajahn chah sounds like he taught direct seeing through insight as opposed to reaching higher and higher states of jhana and that being the culmination of the path which is what brahm teaches. very odd that he was brahms teacher. kind of confusing really.


Ajahn Brahm was practicing samatha before ordaining and living with Ajahn Chah. Possibly the source of his (formal) meditation teaching & meditation practice lies elsewhere.

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Re: ajahn chah explanation of jhana?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:18 am

Mr Man wrote:Ajahn Brahm was practicing samatha before ordaining and living with Ajahn Chah. Possibly the source of his (formal) meditation teaching & meditation practice lies elsewhere.

Yes, that's a good point. It seems that Ajahn Chah didn't insist on any particular approach, and his students teach a diverse variety of approaches, with input from many sources.

Ajahn Tiradhammo, who was Abbot at Bodhinyanarama, in New Zealand, for some time, said that the most useful book he read (I think before he came across Ajahn Chah) was The Heart of Buddhist Meditation by Nyanaponika Thera, and the way he teaches reflects that to some extent.

:anjali:
Mike


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