The Buddha taught us that there is positive thinking and there is negative thinking. The most important thing is to stay above thinking.” [Phra Ajahn Jayasaro]
(Thai text translation)
POSTCARD #160: New Delhi: I feel sad that most children in the West don’t receive the same structured guidance or instruction, as they do in the East, about experiential truths in the lineage of Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Muhammad – some of whom are called Gods and some prophets. I remember, years ago, asking an old Anglican priest in East London how to find God and he said: ‘are you going?’ Just left it at that. What he meant was: are you going to church? I wasn’t. When I was a kid we didn’t ‘go’, nobody ever ‘went’… there were weddings, funerals, and ‘God’ was never a topic of discussion. I’d had some spiritual insight in this godless condition and was asking the question because I couldn’t understand what the loud hymn singing and dressed-up-in-smart-clothes thing was about; what lay beyond the ‘thou-shalt-nots’ and instruction on the fundamentals of social behaviour. Later I began to see that what the priest meant was, ‘are you actively doing something about this?’ But where to begin? I felt slightly excluded and defensive; ‘going’, was something known only to those who ‘go’… an enigma I didn’t feel equipped to tackle. It didn’t compel me to go back and follow up the conversation with the old priest, and it’s possible he was waiting for me to come back… I feel quite sad that I never saw him again.
I was searching for a context for this state of Godlessness for a long time before I discovered Buddhism in Thailand and became immersed in those detailed behavioural teachings. That was more than 20 years ago, so all this is seen in hindsight. What I understood then, was what the old priest was referring to as ‘going’. The focus is on the immediacy of the here-and-now reality – what’s happening? Where’s it at, this mind/body organism, in relation to ‘the present moment’? What are the tendencies, habitualities in thought that cause me to wander off in my own and others’ suffering and unhappiness? What are the practicalities of the sequence? How can I train myself to break the chain of consequences – to not do whatever it is that causes stress or distress?
There isn’t a creator god in Buddhism, it’s an all-inclusive thing – in the same way there isn’t a ‘self’ outside of consciousness. There’s the operating system, Sila (virtue) Samadhi (focus) Panya (wisdom) and some might say this is God – for Buddhists, it’s better not to call it anything. By not giving god a name, I’m not inclined to develop an attachment to an idea of God according to what I’d like it to be. Better to think of it as nothingness – no-thingness, there’s not any ‘thingness’ about it… I’ve read how it’s a wisdom, a gnosis so completely at one with the thing it knows, there’s an absorption into it. No words for it. Maybe that’s what the old priest was thinking…
Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you. [Saint Augustine]
Link to: Publications by Ajahn Jayasaro