On making progress and reading scriptures
Excerpts from a Q&A with Ajahn Chah ( Living Buddhist Masters, pp. 38-39). He offers a healthy perspective on spiritual practice, with an emphasis on keeping things simple. True to the teachings of the Buddha, Ajahn encourages his students to test things out, and to not rely too much on gurus.
Q. I’m trying very hard in my practice but I don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
A. … Don’t try to get anywhere in the practice. The very desire to be free or to be enlightened will be the desire that prevents your freedom. You can try as hard as you wish, practice ardently night and day, but if it is still with the desire to achieve in mind you will never find peace. … Watch the mind and body mindfully, but don’t try to achieve anything. Don’t cling even to the practice or to enlightenment.
Q. Is it advisable to read a lot or study scriptures as part of practice?
A. The Dhamma of the Buddha is not found in books. If you really want to see for yourself what the Buddha was talking about you don’t need to bother with books. Watch your own mind. Examine to see how feelings come and go, how thoughts come and go. Don’t be attached to anything, just be mindful of whatever there is to see. …
Q. What about other methods of practice? These days there seem to be so many teachers and so many different systems of meditation that it is confusing.
A. It is like going into town. One can approach from the north, from the southeast, from many roads. Often these systems just differ outwardly. Whether you walk one way or another, fast or slow, if you are mindful it is all the same. There is one essential point that all good practice must eventually come to. That is not clinging. In the end all meditation systems must be let go of. Also, one cannot cling to the teacher. If a system leads to relinquishment, to not clinging, then it is correct practice. You may wish to travel, to visit other teachers and try other systems. Some of you have done so already. … Eventually you will get bored. You will see that only by stopping and examining your own mind can you find out what the Buddha talked about. No need to go searching outside yourself. Eventually you must retum to face your own true nature. Here is where you can understand the Dhamma.