I went to see Thanissaro Bhikkhu at CIMC in Cambridge last Wednesday with some trepidation. As Tim said, he is a scholar monk, and I’ve found some of his writing a little dense — but he’s visiting from the west coast. It seemed like an opportunity, so I went.
I was pleasantly surprised. Ajahn Geoff (as he was introduced) was warm and sweet, and funny! He had a wonderful deep and soothing voice and presence. And spoke very simply on the subject of ‘Becoming’ — ‘Maha’ in Pali. So even though he is grounded in a deep study of Pali (and Thai for translating the teachings of Ajahn Chah and his teacher Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro and others), when he was speaking to us, he was speaking of quite ordinary struggles of practice. He had the same kind of quiet luminosity in his face that I saw in Larry Rosenberg. He talked about clinging being part of the path. That it’s not bad to cling to good habits, and to blissful experiences you may have along the path — because it motivates us to stay on the path. In the end, he said, even that clinging just naturally lets go, but it is a not a bad part of the path.
Just a side note. ‘Maha’ is sometimes translated as Existence. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering if that’s related to the name of the Cambodian monk Maha Ghosananda, who died last year in Massachusetts.
So there you go — things are often not what you expect. I was expecting an ‘eat-your-peas’ kind of dharma talk — I’m not sure why — I don’t think I’ve ever heard a dharma talk I would call an eat-your-peas kind of dharma talk! But instead I heard a great talk by a great teacher. I’ll never read his writing or translations the same way again….