Report on the talk by Marcus:
Ajahn Jayasaro started his talk last night, to over 200 people in the Baan Aree Library, with the story of a scholar willing to go through any hardship to find the perfect teaching. Eventually he’s directed to a great Master and he bows before him. “Tell me” he asks, “the highest, the most profound Dharma, the one single verse that encapsulates all that we ever need to know”.
The Master looks at the scholar and says, in the Pali with which they were most familiar, “Sabbapapassa akaranam. Kusalassa upasampada. Sacitta pariyodapanam. Etam Buddhana sananam. Avoid evil. Do Good. Purify the mind. This is the teachings of all Buddhas”. “That’s it?” the man complains. “That’s it? What kind of answer is that? Even a child of five can recite that verse.”
“Yes” replies the Master. “But even a man of fifty finds it hard to practice”, and the rest of Ajahn Jayasaro’s talk focused on that practice. He started with the part about training the mind, saying it is best done in what he called the ‘classroom’ of the present moment, but also said that it is inseperable from the earlier part about avoiding evil and doing good.
In fact, he suggested, sila is itself a perfect practice. Mindfulness needs to be mindful of something and what, in daily life, could be better than the precepts? “Keeping the precepts” he taught “is not just the foundation of practice, keeping precepts is itself the practice of liberation”, and he went on to give an example.
“By taking on as a life principle the intention not to harm” he said, “we immediately illuminate the intention to harm”, and he explained that by observing the precepts we can more easily see when our intentions run contrary to them. This, in itself, he said, is mindfulness meditation. It is not a preliminary to practicing the Dharma, but is the actual practice of the Dharma.
Talking about his own efforts over the past thirty years following rigorous monastic precepts, precepts that include, he said, rules over even such things as how to place your bag when sitting down, Ajahn Jayasaro compared keeping precepts to playing music. Watching a violinist in concert, we don’t think “you poor musician, every note was decided for you hundreds of years ago”.
Rather, we see how the notes, far from restricting him, are the means to his creativity, and Ajahn Jayasaro emphasised again that the practice of sila is liberating, not least in the way it eliminates remorse and builds confidence and self-respect. Only then did he turn to look specifically at the practice of samadhi.
Through meditation, he said, we can find inner refuge, stability, and integrity. Not, he said, by looking for blissed-out states, but by seeing things as they actually are. And not, he said, through studying theories, but through stepping into the classroom of the present moment. You can even do this, he said in response to the first question, for just a single minute, any time you like.