Notes on a Buddhist path


July 18, 2020 By | 2 Comments

Few among men are those who cross to the farther shore. The rest, the bulk of men, only run up and down the hither bank.

But those who act according to the perfectly taught Dhamma will cross the realm of Death, so difficult to cross.

~ Dhammapada, V. 85- 86.

This morning I wrote to Ajahn Sona, my dear teacher and kalyanamitta, to ask him a question:
“Sipping another cup of coffee in the dining area, I’m feeling awash in passaddhi and upekkha. Since this is my day off from the office, I think I will set my efforts to writing another blog post (we’ll see if I’ve run out of gas.)
Any subject you might suggest?”
His reply was quite simple: “I think the blog will start with just this letter to me. Then let it run as it will.”
Awash. That word resonates for me in such a profound way, especially in these times of the pandemic. When I read the news each day, I see time and again people awash in fear, in anger, in greed, in delusion. The early edicts of self isolation and social distancing are being abandoned across the world in a herd mentality of lemming-like behavior: people seeking consolation in the sense realms, even to the point of choosing the possibility of death over being separated from what they hold dear. The mass exodus from solitude to beauty salons, bars, sporting events, even mass protests, speaks to an innate and inane compunction to return to what we deem to be “normal”. 
Yet that pull towards so-called normalcy is what the Buddha defines as the root cause of our troubles, our relentless suffering in samsara, this endless cycle of death and rebirth. It essentially comes down to this: “I don’t like now.” A basic craving for something other than what we feel in this moment is what drives the world. In these few short months we have seen billions of people thrown into chaos because their lives and their way of being have been upended. They can’t do the things they used to do; can’t see, touch, taste, smell, hear, or think what they used to think. This seeking and searching for something beyond the next sensory hit, something outside of ourselves, does nothing more than empower the ignoble tendencies of the majority of humanity and further the pernicious flood of ignorance.
This virus has been a kind of global warming in itself, a wake-up call to truly see the rising tides of samsara, which have always been lapping at our ankles and inundating our precarious lives, lives that for some mysterious reason we thought would continue unabated. This wake-up call is what the Buddha’s teachings are all about. He devoted his life to showing us how to cross the rushing waters of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and insubstantiality, urging us to look inward and seek the way to a mind which is always at ease, always at peace. A mind that doesn’t look for a new hairstyle or a new restaurant to find fulfillment, but instead experiences joy, serenity, and stillness for no reason other than because that is the mind’s intrinsic, luminous nature. It’s only through the practice of meditation and embracing each step of The Noble Eightfold Path that we can find our way to this luminous mind, to true freedom and safety.
The Buddha shared a marvelous simile of a raft and crossing beyond to that state of safety. While others continue to run up and down on the side that will always flood (the near shore of samsara), others will cross over on a raft of Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings, to the other side, to the far shore of Nibbana, the realm beyond death, beyond the flood of existence.
Perhaps it was a glimpse of the far shore this morning that caused me to be awash in passaddhi (tranquility) and upekkha (equanimity). A glimpse is all I need to know that I’m tired of the flood, tired of running up and down on this side of the river, tired of the nonsensical oblivion of samsara.
Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, far shore…here I come.
Photo Credit: “Cabini” by snopup is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


  1. Calm nourishing words for this time awash in agitation; agitation of the mind and agitation of the body.

    Your wisdom, once again, offers us the raft. How wonderful to be awash in your passaddhi and upekkha.

    Thank you Piyadassi !

    May you be content, may you be peaceful, may suffering slip from your life as raindrops from a favoured anorak (we’ve had a wet spring here on the west coast!).

    • Bless you, dear David, and thank you for your nourishing words as well. Yes, a very wet spring and summer here in the interior as well. Metta, metta, metta…

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