Training the heart by seeing what is and letting go

Here is more on “Training the Heart” by Ajahn Chah.  It is a follow-up and further development of yesterday’s teaching:

Train your heart!  Don’t just follow its moods!

May this teaching help liberate your heart and awaken the mindfulness and presence that lead to liberation and freedom!

Training the heart by seeing what is and letting go

Ajahn Chah

The way of developing the heart as taught by the Buddha is the exact opposite of the way of the world, because his teachings come from a pure heart. A pure heart, unattached to defilements, is the Way of the Buddha and his disciples.

If you practice the Dhamma [the liberating law discovered and proclaimed by the Buddha], you must bow your heart to the Dhamma. You must not make the Dhamma bow to you. When you practice this way, suffering arises. There isn’t a single person who can escape this suffering. So when you commence your practice, suffering is right there.

The duties of meditators are mindfulness, collectedness, and contentment. These things stop us. They stop the habits of the hearts of those who have never trained. And why should we bother to do this? If you don’t bother to train your heart, then it remains wild, following the ways of nature…

Suffering from clinging and grasping

The nature of our heart is such that whenever it clings and grasps there is agitation and confusion. First it might wander over there, then it might wander over here. When we come to observe this agitation, we might think that it’s impossible to train the heart and so we suffer accordingly. We don’t understand that this is the way the heart is. There will be thought and feelings moving about like this even though we are practicing, trying to attain peace. That’s the way it is.

When we have contemplated many times the nature of the heart, then we will come to understand that this heart is just as it is and can’t be otherwise. We will know that the heart’s ways are just as they are. That’s its nature. If we see this clearly, then we can detach from thoughts and feelings. And we don’t have to add on anything more by constantly having to tell ourselves that “that’s just the way it is”. When the heart truly understands, it lets go of everything. Thinking and feeling will still be there, but that very thinking and feeling will be deprived of power.

Our outlook changes and we accept the true nature of things. We let go and our heart becomes more peaceful. We have “right understanding.”…If we have wrong understanding, then even living in a deep, dark cave would be chaos, or living high up in the air would be chaos. The heart can only be at peace when there is “right understanding.” Then there are no more riddles to solve and no more problems to arise.

The way of detachment and letting go

This is the way it is. You detach. You let go. Whenever there is any feeling of clinging, we detach from it, because we know that that very feeling is just as it is. It didn’t come along especially to annoy us. We might think that it did, but in truth it is just that way. If we start to think and consider it further, that too, is just as it is. If we let go, then form is merely form, sound is merely sound, odor is merely odor, taste is merely taste, touch is merely touch and the heart is merely the heart. It is similar to oil and water. If you put the two together in a bottle, they won’t mix because of the difference in their nature.

Oil and water are different in the same way that a wise man and an ignorant man are different. The Buddha lived with form, sound, odor, taste, touch and thought. He was an Arahant (enlightened one), so he turned away from rather than toward these things. He turned away and detached little by little since he understood that the heart is just the heart and thought is just thought. He didn’t confuse and mix them together.

Just let go and let things be what they are

The heart is just the heart; thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings. Let things be just as they are! Let form be just form, let sound be just sound, let thought be just thought. Why should we bother to attach to them? If we think and feel in this way, then there is detachment and separateness. Our thoughts and feelings will be on one side and our heart will be on the other. Just like oil and water—they are in the same bottle but they are separate.

Whenever we see the Dhamma, then there is the right way, the right path. Defilements are just defilements, the heart is just the heart. Whenever we detach and separate so that there are just these things as they really are, then they are merely objects to us. When we are on the right path, then we are impeccable. When we are impeccable, there is openness and freedom all the time.


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

5 Responses to “Training the heart by seeing what is and letting go”

  1. The Buddha was in his 81st year when he departed this life.
    His last words to those assembled were:

    “Be a light unto your self.
    Betake yourself to no external refuge.
    Hold fast to the truth.
    Look not for refuge to anyone but yourself.
    You are complete, worthy and whole.
    You are your own refuge, sanctuary and salvation.
    There is no help elsewhere.”

    Lack of passion and enthusiasm…maybe.
    Buddhism is about truth not about delusions that feel good for the moment
    and leave you with the suffering of doubt. If one is looking for assurance of a permanent
    self, then the Catholic rapture or whatever may be right. Try it and see.

  2. Nobody is going to fall over themselves to get this because what seems to be in the offing a state of emotional and mental stasis or resigned boredom. How come we rarely if ever get a HEY! THE WATER’S GREAT! COME ON IN! from the enlightened. Even the Catholics have their divine rapture. I always find this total lack of passion or enthusiasm for a truth allegedly found to be most disappointing.

  3. Yes, Steven, the Buddha teaches us to see things as they are and not as we or others wish them to be…
    and to accept them so. This is our practice.
    This does not mean that we may not comfort the sick or feed the hungry. These actions flow from compassion which the Buddha also taught. They can be done from moment to moment without grasping or hanging on.
    All things are transitory, changing from moment to moment. To be conscious of this in each moment is also our practice.
    With the greatest respect, I thank you for your blog. Carlos.

    • Carlos, what a great comment and helpful qualification of what the post shared. I couldn’t agree more with what you say. Non-resistance to what is does not, as you say, mean apathy or inaction. Quite the contrary. Getting resistance to what life is showing us out of the way, we are better able to implement the actions of the Eightfold Path, including right action, which will be wise and compassionate.

      Your words reminded me of what my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said about non-violence: “Nonviolence does not mean non-action. Nonviolence means we act with love and compassion.”

      Thank your for your words of wisdom and for sharing them here.

      With warm regards and metta,


      • Thank you, my friend. It does not surprise me that Thich Nhat Hanh is your teacher. As one who knows violence from his own experience, he has much to teach us all. His words have brought me much to learn about love and compassion and I am grateful.

        Constantly mindful of the Eightfold Path, I will watch your blog for kind thoughts and wisdom.

        Please remain as you are in the Unborn Buddha Mind. Carlos Sc.

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: