Written by:

Updated on:

May 3, 2014

Ajahn Chah was a master at using the apt & unusual simile to explain points of Dhamma. Sometimes he would make an abstract point clear in simple terms.

in simple terms, In Simple Terms

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Your Real Home

Your external home isn’t your real home.

It’s your supposed home, your home in the world.

As for your real home, that’s peace.

The Buddha has us build our own home

by letting go till we reach peace.

To the Ocean

The streams, lakes, and rivers that flow down to the ocean, when they reach the ocean, all have the same blue color, the same salty taste.

The same with human beings: It doesn’t matter where they’re from—when they reach the stream of the Dhamma, it’s all the same Dhamma.


The Buddha is the Dhamma; the Dhamma is the Buddha. The Dhamma the Buddha awakened to is something always there in the world. It hasn’t disappeared. It’s like groundwater. Whoever digs a well down to the level of the groundwater will see water. It’s not the case that that person created or fashioned the water into being. All he’s done is to put his strength into digging the well so that it’s deep enough to reach the water already there.

So if we have any discernment, we’ll realize that we’re not far from the Buddha at all. We’re sitting right in front of him right now. Whenever we understand the Dhamma, we see the Buddha. Those who are intent on practicing the Dhamma continuously—wherever they sit, stand, or walk—are sure to hear the Buddha’s Dhamma at all times.

It’s All Right Here

The Buddha is the Dhamma; the Dhamma is the Buddha. He didn’t take away the knowledge he awakened to. He left it right here. To put it in simple terms, it’s like the teachers in schools. They haven’t been teachers from birth. They had to study the course of study for teachers before they could be teachers, teaching in school and getting paid. After a while, they’ll die away—away from being teachers. But you can say that in a way the teachers don’t die.

The qualities that make people into teachers remain right here. It’s the same with the Buddha. The noble truths that made him the Buddha still remain right here. They haven’t run off anywhere at all.

Elephants, Oxen, & Water Buffaloes

Training the mind well is a useful activity. You can see this even in draft animals, like elephants, oxen, and water buffaloes. Before we can put them to work, we have to train them. Only when they’re well trained can we use their strength and put it to different purposes. All of you know this.

A mind well trained is of many times greater value. Look at the Buddha and his noble disciples. They changed their status from being run-of-the-mill people to being noble ones, respected by people all over. And they’ve benefited us in more wide-ranging ways than we could ever determine. All of this comes from the fact that they’ve trained their minds well.

A mind well trained is of use in every occupation. It enables us to do our work with circumspection. It makes us reasonable instead of impulsive, and enables us to experience a happiness appropriate to our station in life.

The Roots

We’re like a tree with roots, a base, and a trunk. Every leaf, every branch, depends on the roots to absorb nutrients from the soil and send them up to nourish the tree. Our body, plus our words and deeds, our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and feeling, are like the branches, leaves, and trunk. The mind is like the roots absorbing nutrients and sending them up the trunk to the leaves and branches so that they flower and bear fruit.

The Lost Wallet

It’s as if you leave home and lose your wallet. It fell out of your pocket onto the road away back there, but as long as you don’t realize what happened you’re at ease—at ease because you don’t yet know what this ease is for. It’s for the sake of dis-ease at a later time. When you eventually see that you’ve really lost your money: That’s when you feel dis-ease—when it’s right in your face.

The same holds true with our bad and good actions. The Buddha taught us to acquaint ourselves with these things. If we aren’t acquainted with these things, we’ll have no sense of right or wrong, good or bad.

Wagon Wheels, Wagon Tracks

The cycle of rebirth is like a wagon wheel. An ox is pulling the wagon. If it keeps on pulling the wagon without stop, the wagon tracks will keep on erasing the ox tracks without stop. The wagon wheels aren’t long, but they’re round.

You could say that they’re long, but their length is round. We see their roundness but we don’t see their length. As long as the ox pulls without stopping, the wagon wheels turn without stopping.

On a later day the ox stops. It’s tired. It drops the yoke. The ox then goes its way, the wagon goes its way. The wagon wheels stop of their own accord. If you leave them there a long time, they disintegrate into earth, water, wind, and fire, turning back into grass and dirt. It’s the same with people who are still making kamma: They don’t come to closure. People speaking the truth don’t come to closure. People with wrong views don’t come to closure.

A Block of Ice

If you place a large block of ice out in the open sun, you can see it deteriorate—in the same way the body ages—bit by bit, bit by bit. After only a few minutes, only a few hours, it will all melt into water. This is called khayavaya: ending, deterioration.

The deterioration of fabricated things has been going on for a long time, ever since the world came into being. When we’re born, we take on these things as well. We don’t discard them anywhere. When we’re born, we take on illness, aging, and death. We gather them up at the same time. Look at the ways it deteriorates, this body of ours. Every part deteriorates.

Hair of the head deteriorates; hair of the body deteriorates; fingernails and toenails deteriorate; skin deteriorates. Everything, no matter what, deteriorates in line with its nature.

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in simple terms, In Simple Terms

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About the author 

Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]