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INTRODUCTION


'CITTAVIVEKA', the title of this book, is a word in the Pali language meaning 'the mind of non-attachment'. A major theme of the Buddha's teaching – known as the Dhamma – is that suffering is caused by attachment, and that the aim and result of the correct application of the teachings is a mind of non-attachment.

Actually, through the practice of Buddhist meditation, the very impression of a substantial permanent mind is understood as being a mirage, the result of attaching to a sequence of fleeting mental states. As long as that model of permanence is retained – even with the wish to have or be a permanently non-attached mind – it will give rise to further painful (if subtle) I attachment. So the 'cittaviveka' is not another fixed mental state, but a sensitive response in each moment, a non-grasping that Ajahn Sumedho frequently calls 'letting go'. This practice of lightness or 'enlightenment' is not a matter of affirmation or rejection, but of a clear-minded investigation of what we can know through our senses. It is the method that underlies the teachings in this book and the way of life that evolves from these teachings.


'Cittaviveka' is also the name – as an aspiration, and slight word-play – for Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, the first forest tradition monastery to be established in Britain. Forest monasteries, as the prologue indicates, are not what most people consider monasteries to be: they are generally a scattering of simple huts in a remote forest region, with a few communal buildings for meetings and amenities. Such a situation is rare in the West, and when Chithurst Monastery came about, it generated quite a lot of interest in Buddhist circles, an interest that was also based on a respect for Ajahn Sumedho and those men and women who would commit themselves to such a life. As interest grew, supporters of the monastery asked that a book be composed that would bring the image of 'Cittaviveka' across to those who had not seen the monastery or heard the teachings.


The Buddhist monastic life presents the opportunity for the most unambiguous practice of letting go. The life is centred around the relinquishment of personal concern and ambition by means of traditional discipline (Vinaya) established by the Buddha. It is also buoyed up by the moral and practical support of lay people whose co-operation and generosity allow the monastics to live within a clearly defined and supportive lifestyle. The monastics – collectively called 'Sangha' – provide examples and teachings of enlightenment to support the lay person's own cultivation, as well as maintaining the monasteries that facilitate practice and that are open to lay and ordained persons alike. The monk or nun can be likened to a researcher who can go ahead of non-specialists to ascertain information for their use, or as a scout who can find a trail for others to follow. The Dhamma teachings are available to all, but a Buddha discovers and proclaims them, and a living Sangha exemplifies the Way.


The prologue of this book describes how the monastery in West Sussex came to be established. It must be stressed that this was the result of the aspirations and efforts of many people other than the subsequent resident community. The faith and effort of the English Sangha Trust over 20 years of difficulties have been enormous. Also, the contribution to the monastery that has been made in terms of spiritual resources by the Venerable Ajahn Chah cannot be exaggerated. That his approach, worked out through years of practice in the forests of North-East Thailand, could be so immediately accessible to people of urban Britain is in some way an indication of its profundity and universality.


A large amount of the material support for Chithurst Buddhist Monastery and for this book has come from Thai supporters. For them, supporting Buddhism is an obvious and delightful thing to do. For us, it is equally obvious and delightful to express our profound appreciation to the Buddha, to our teachers and to our friends and good companions on the spiritual Path. It is from this spirit of offering that this book has come; may those who wish receive it so.

Ven. Sucitto Bhikkhu
Amaravati Buddhist Centre
March 1992

A NOTE ON THE TEXT

Cittaviveka was first published 1983 and has gone through several editions and some modifications since then. The book was not originally conceived purely as a collection of talks on Buddhism, but as textual and pictorial representation of Chithurst Buddhist Monastery. Hence, some narrative pieces are included.


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