Training to be Overcome Attachment to Praise and Blame

From “Stillness Flowing” Ajahn Jayasaro

Wat Pah PongAjahn Viradhammo spent his first Rains Retreat at a branch monastery and, while he was there, memorized the Pāṭimokkha (a Buddhist text). Chanted at speed, the text takes some forty-five minutes to recite, and learning it by heart is a formidable undertaking. He returned to Wat Pah Pong at the end of the year with a sense of accomplishment. But being a young monk, he assumed it would be a long time before he would be given the honour of reciting the text alone in the midst of the whole Wat Pah Pong Sangha.

“Ajahn Chah light-heartedly asked if I would chant the Pāṭimokkha, fully expecting that I didn’t know it. I surprised him by saying I would give it a go. With considerable performance anxiety, I chanted the rules in a fairly decent style and Ajahn Chah heaped praise on me”.

“Getting so much praise from Ajahn Chah was no small thing, and my heart swelled with happiness and pride at the honour and attention I had been given. A fortnight later, Ajahn Chah commanded me to chant again. This felt a bit strange because it was not a request, but I thought I would be able to show my stuff once again. Nervous as always, I set forth with the introductory chant but, within a few stanzas, Ajahn Chah was tugging at my outer robe and telling the monk beside him that this fellow who is chanting stinks. He said, ‘Doesn’t he wash his robes?’”

“My powers of concentration were limited at the best of times, and this interruption was quite upsetting. I lost my focus, made some errors, regained my focus and started again. For the next hour, Ajahn Chah continued to interrupt my concentration again and again. Each time, I became more confused or angry and had an extremely difficult time finishing the recitation. I can’t remember if the other monks were chuckling to themselves, but it was obvious that Ajahn Chah was offering a very direct and difficult teaching: ‘You like praise and success, but when you are blamed and fail you suffer. Go beyond praise and blame to be free from suffering’”.

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