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Lions Roar : January 2014
truth, cessation of suffering, is a skillful outcome brought about by following the fourth noble truth, an eightfold path character- ized by ethics, stability of mind, and wisdom. Yet even the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha, such as the four noble truths, deserve to be held up to the light of inquiry described in the Kalama Sutta. I learned this in my early days as a Vipassana yogi, when the Thai forest master Ajahn Chah visited the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. At that time, many of us were enthralled with the liberating power of “letting go.” In our discussions, everyone was letting go of this and letting go of that—and often letting go of “merely every- thing.” As he listened, Ajahn Chah seemed to grow skeptical. He encouraged us to slow down, back up, and carefully examine the moments when we were actually suffering. Rather than rush to let go, he urged us to make direct contact with the suffering and to see whether it was caused by some form of craving and attach- ment, of wanting things to be other than the way they were. He felt that the real letting go was learned by seeing the price we paid by holding on and resisting—and the joy experienced when we were free of the burden of attachment. Paying attention to our own experience of suffering, rather than our conceptual notions of letting go, gave us the chance to see the benefits of the four noble truths in the crucible of our own lives. The transformation of suffering that comes from awareness is most powerful when it’s intimate with the experi- ence of your own life. Inquire, question, and test your under- standing of the teachings so that it becomes bone deep. ♦ From Three Steps to Awakening: A Practice for Bringing Mindfulness to Life, by Larry Rosenberg, © 2013. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston. www.shambhala.com