Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

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Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby tsurezuregusa » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:53 pm

Hello,

Ajahn Brahm is one the notables students of Ajahn Chah and well-known for his meditation teachings. For quite some time, I have been wondering, if Ajahn Brahm's meditation teachings are representative of how Ajahn Chah taught meditation. Are they essentially the same or is Ajahn Brahm's approach to teaching meditation rather distinct from his teachers?

Is anyone familar with both teachings and willing to shed some light on this question?

Kind regards,
Florian
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby Holdan » Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:51 pm

Hello. I sense Ajahn Brahm's meditation teachings are often not representative of how Ajahn Chah taught meditation. I sense Ajahm Brahm emphasises jhana & Ajahn Chah emphasised wisdom. Ajahn Chah emphasised Dependent Origination as a meditation object about 'birth' & 'death' of clinging. I sense Ajahn Brahm emphasises Dependent Origination as a doctrine of rebirth/reincarnation. I have heard Ajahm Brahm explains Nirvana as the cessation of perception & feeling. I have read Ajahn Chah taught jhana can be clung to but Ajahn Brahm teach jhana cannot be clung to because jhana is a state of non-clinging.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby reflection » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:48 pm

Hi,

As I've never knew about Ajahn Chah until he already passed away and can't understand Thai, I'm not in the best position to judge this. All I can trust upon is written translations of some of his talks. Of course there were a lot of teachings he gave to individual students, but were never recorded. Teachers say different things to groups of lay people than to an individual, for example. So in a better position is Ajahn Brahm himself who often quotes his teacher when speaking about meditation, saying he taught the same things. He also borrows a lot of Ajahn Chah's similes.

That apart, I've read quite a lot of Ajahn Chah's translated teachings and have followed Ajahn Brahm's teachings for a long time, and I am convinced both teach towards the same results, but with a slight different approach on the level of words. On this level things can seem to be different while they really aren't, especially with Ajahn Chah who to me seems to be using words in varying ways - rather being helpful to his students than being 100% consistent in his choice of words. But still you will find many similarities between Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah.

If you get down to the gist, the meditation 'method' of both is letting go. I think there are very little if any other teachers who emphasize this so much. It's all about letting go with both these teachers. They also both place a huge importance on stilling the mind, because they say insight and calm are strongly connected.

If you read "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond" and compare the states of meditation leading up to the nimitta, and compare these with Ajahn Chah's teachings on the progress of meditation, you'll probably also find them nearly identical. Ajahn Chah seemed not to have spoken too much about the jhanas directly, though. I think that's at least partly because he also places so much emphasis on getting beyond the intellectual or conceptual level and has seen people get stuck there.

With metta,
Reflection
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:57 pm

Like Reflection, I have no direct experience with Ajahn Chah, but I would agree with the above assessment, that Ajahn Chah taught a variety of things to different students. I've heard that related many times by a number of his Western students, including Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Tiradhammo. Likewise, his students teach in a variety of ways, all good in their own way.

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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby tsurezuregusa » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:49 am

Thank you everyone for your interesting replies so far.

I imagined, an answer would not be so clean cut. But, would you say Ajahn Chah taught (a) using a nimitta as meditation object and (b) very deep absorbtion states that Ajahn Brahm is known for?

Kind regards,
Florian
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:38 pm

Ajahn Chah seems to place more emphasis on general awareness and so do some of his Western disciples, but this emphasis could of course have been shaped by the talks that were recorded in contrast to those that were not. Or, by the talks I happened to have read.

But I'd say yes to both questions. Ajahn Chah occasionally did refer to nimitta and described deep states of mind; for example here is one talk you can find online: http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Evening_Sitting.php. It describes the arising of a nimitta and how meditation goes into a place where the external senses are not active and "all that remains is the knowing". This is exactly how Ajahn Brahm describes the (way into) jhanas. And although in other places Ajahn Chah seems to contradict himself on this, as I've said earlier, we can say at least he referred to these states at times.

Another interesting similarity is they both talk of taking away the 'controlling' or 'willpower' to reach these states. In Ajahn Chah talks I've seen it occasionally, and in Ajahn Brahm says this maybe once every hour. ;) But in essence it is letting go I mentioned earlier, which Ajahn Chah also used a lot.

Again, I'm very convinced myself, but am not in the best position to convince others. ;) So apart from the reading I did, I also trust Ajahn Brahm when says Ajahn Chah did teach these jhanas. And also, while they may have a different emphasis, I've never heard or read of any of his other disciples contradict this. As far as I know, people who do try to contradict this (you can find some if you use Google) are people who -like me- only have second hand contact with the teachings of venerable Chah, or perhaps only met him occasionally.

With metta,
Reflection
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby tsurezuregusa » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:45 pm

Thanks Reflection,
Florian
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby Mr Man » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:00 pm

Ajahn Brahm's interest in samatha meditation predates his time with Ajahn Chah.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:25 pm

tsurezuregusa wrote:Thanks Reflection,
Florian

Happy to help.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:50 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Like Reflection, I have no direct experience with Ajahn Chah, but I would agree with the above assessment, that Ajahn Chah taught a variety of things to different students. I've heard that related many times by a number of his Western students, including Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Tiradhammo.

Here's an example:
A Western monk at WatBa Pong became frustrated by the difficulties of practice and the detailed and seemingly arbitrary rules of conduct the monks had to follow. He began to criticize other monks for sloppy practice and to doubt the wisdom of Achaan Chah's teaching. At one point, he went to Achaan Chah and complained, noting that even Achaan Chah himself was inconsistent and seemed often to contradict him self in an unenlightened way.

Achaan Chah just laughed and pointed out how much the monk was suffering by trying to judge others around him. Then he explained that his way of teaching is very simple: "It is as though I see people walking down a 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 to him, '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 Dharma. "
http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Ajahn ... tm#Lessons in the Forest

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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby Holdan » Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:53 am

reflection wrote:All I can trust upon is written translations of some of his talks. Of course there were a lot of teachings he gave to individual students, but were never recorded. Teachers say different things to groups of lay people than to an individual, for example.

I would say the esteemed teachers of Ajahn Chah's era rarely spoke on video/film. So when a video/film was made of them, to be distributed to a general audience, I would say they imparted their essence. I would say this video at the link is the essence of Ajahn Chah, as found in his written talks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu7mtlbV ... 5B2FCF61A9
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Re: Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah on meditation

Postby jameswang » Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:29 am

Mr Man wrote:Ajahn Brahm's interest in samatha meditation predates his time with Ajahn Chah.

Yeah... One monk I know asked Ajahn Brahm where he learned it, since Ajahn Chah didn't seem to teach it. AB said from Samatha Trust when he was a lay man.
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