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The thoughts of Ajarn Chokchai
by Kittirat Yothangrong
2015-04-13 11:48:28
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Ajarn (teacher or monk in the Thai language) Chokchai is a Korat born monk and teacher who holds his enlightenment sessions under the shady trees in a courtyard, in one of the many wats or temples in the Issan region of Thailand.  Ajarn Chokchai is one of the new generation of monks who views Buddhism from a contemporary perspective, rather than follow the traditional methods of learning and teaching in temple settings. He is out in society at sports and music events, interacting with the community, where the community is, rather than wait for people to formally go and seek spiritual knowledge at a wat in a retreat. This makes him popular with many people today, who seek a remedy and lessons about how to apply spiritual principals to everyday life.

thai01_400For those who have been on retreats with Ajarn Chokchai, they will know the unconventional ways of how points are made through experiential spiritual learning in a quest to help people find their own personal mastery. Yes it's not about seeking enlightenment or nirvana in any traditional sense, but rather seeking self discipline, self control, and freedom from emotional bondage which inhibits seeing the world clearly. Instruction, or rather mentorship is made up of facing one's own fears, envy, greed, needs for self gratification, lust, and ego.

Ajarn Chokchai believes that we all have inherent wisdom within ourselves, which if accessed will provide the basis of personal mastery. Thus, if this knowledge is already inherently within us, as Ajarn Chokchai explained to me, then one can accept his claim that he is nothing more than the alter ego of past teachers and monks who understood and taught this self wisdom over the centuries.

According to Ajarn Chokchai, our inherent self is made up of love, compassion, and concern for what is around us. It's just hidden by our life experiences and emotions. Thus by our own nature, we are the only ones who can make the discovery about what is inherent within us, in contrast to what many say, that a teacher and instruction is needed.

The reward for accessing our own practical wisdom is an enlightenment of a mastery within us that will assist in seeing one through life and the many situations that one comes across through their own life journey.

Ajarn Chokchai goes onto say that a sense of practical wisdom is the highest reward that any education can bestow upon anybody.

Here are a few snippets of Ajarn Chokchai's philosophies that I found very interesting over the 10 or so days I spent with him in Korat. I have categorized them under "Personal Nature", "Relationships and Community", "Nature and Environment", and on "Purpose".

Personal Nature

Attitude is a hindrance to learning.

Experience is a necessary ingredient to learning. Mistakes are therefore expected.

Emotions are the most disorientating force upon us. They mostly confuse us.

Expectation can be a curse. It isn't reality or how things ought to be. Expectations cause attachment and disappointment.

Anger is something one day you will regret.

Don't over anticipate as most worries never eventuate into anything.

Coming to conclusions based upon emotions is potentially dangerous.

Self reflection is one of our most powerful tools in achieving personal mastery.

We think that we understand things. However any single perspective understanding just fools us. We basically only see the 'shadows and reflections' cast upon the world, missing the larger nature of things, that provide deeper meanings. This is where we need time to develop real understandings.

Our soul is the footprint of our total life experiences, so our own nature is very much social and environmental. Yet these are the areas we seem to fail most.

Most often, seeking perfection prevents us from achieving. Life is very much about balance.

Understanding ourselves is very much about movement, i.e., dancing, running, cycling, yoga, work, and play, etc.

Time is an illusion of consciousness. Consciousness is a wave of our existence flowing through our lives where all our moments are interconnected through the memory of our experiences and how we express them.

Relationships and Community

We are who we define ourselves as - a parent, a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a teacher, a process-worker, a housewife, a writer, or a poet, etc.

Be careful who you pretend to be, because one day you will become that person.

Labels lead to misunderstandings.

Love is not a destination or form of completeness. We mistake it for a state, when in actual fact love is a process of personal growth. Love is not self peace. If you take away the object of love, personal peace will quickly be lost.

A simple smile is accepting that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. A simple frown is a rejection of everything around us.

The best of us are not the ones who work the hardest.

Problems are not solved by walking away from them. However sometimes the best solution is to do nothing.

Empathy ensures our humanity and this should be reflected in how we treat others in life.

Nature and Environment

We often forget that or life is finite.

Many of the greatest forces cannot be seen, i.e., we can never see gravity but only feel its effects. Change is an inevitable part of life so, be prepared and flow along with it. So many forces are outside our control.

We tend to think we are the centre of things. This is how we think, which creates so many unnecessary expectations. Learn that the world doesn't owe you. The world is just the world.

Let nature be nature. Don't have contrary expectations about the 'laws of nature' and you won't become disappointed.

We cannot control nature, we are only part of nature, and one day nature will claim us back.


If we don't push ourselves we don't grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we may regress.

It is so easy to destroy, but terribly difficult to create. That's why most people destroy.

Trying too hard without knowing our own limits is often disappointing.

Thinking into the future is so often just layered with pure hope.

Thinking into the past is how we rekindle old fears.

Moving on means letting go of past experiences.

Fear is something that dehumanizes us. Living in fear is not living.

 Be aware that faith is a form of hope.

The ego is so geared up to looking beyond death in convincing one of immortality.

There isn't immortality outside our existence. We are just the expression of our mind, body, spirit, ego, and our life's doings. Once we leave our being, we aren't a person anymore. However what is left is our expressions.

Finally, Ajarn Chokchai said to all of us that ...."life is not about religion, but the personal journeys you are all taking".

Ajarn Chokchai believes that much of the above goes into making up our personal 'software' or mental maps which guide us through our thoughts, interactions, and daily life. If we can discover our faulty assumptions and replace them with our inherent ones that we have lost through life experiences then we can become empowered with practical wisdom.

Ajarn Chokchai's methods of helping people 'see themselves' and becoming enlightened about how to apply the above inherent natural assumptions to everyday life are certainly unconventional for a temple. His lessons are more like active workshops that are physical rather than the traditional chanting, praying, and meditation one would expect.    

But as Ajarn Chokchai repeatly says, he is not the teacher, so much as each individual must become one's own instructor, as only the self knows what is deep inside of them. He can only facilitate.

What is important here, is that spirituality, philosophy and religion is for the benefit of each and every individual. There is no point being spiritual, philosophical, or religious if we don't develop any further self understanding and make a contribution to humanity in some way.

The crux is self understanding and contribution which makes us at peace, not love, possession, or envy. None of these states work.

Ajarn Chokchai at the end of any discourse just challenges everyone to think of a world that is enlightened through self understanding, and deeply aware to the outside environment through compassionate empathy.

Society would work within a set of high ethics that no philosopher or religious leader ever imagined.

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