Speaker: Ajaan Geoff

Mastering Our Inner World

What is your relationship to strict rules or codes of conduct? Is there a particular rule you have resisted subjecting yourself to, but now have come to see its value in creating space for your growth and inner mastery? Share Reflection

**Please note special time for this call.

"Each of us lives in many different worlds. There's the world of work, the world of our family, and our inner worlds. These worlds inside are the ones we're most responsible for, because no one else can take care of them." - Ajaan Geoff

Thanissaro Bhikku, an American Buddhist monk of the Kammatthana (Thai Forest) tradition and more commonly known as Ajaan Geoff, embarked on a path outside his mainstream American upbringing soon after graduating from Oberlin College in 1971. Having eschewed the campus activism of his day because he didn't want to follow a crowd, Ajaan Geoff once described the defining issue of the day for him not as being the Vietnam War, but a friend's attempted suicide. When the opportunity to meditate in a religious studies class arose for him, he said "I was ripe for it. I saw it as a skill I could master, whereas Christianity only had prayer, which was pretty hit-or-miss."

Born in 1949 as Geoffrey DeGraff, he grew up in Long Island where his father had a potato farm. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1971 with a degree in European Intellectual History, he traveled to Thailand, where he eventually came to study meditation under Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, and then proceeded to become an ordained monk in 1976. His life in the Thai jungles was spartan and the rigorous schedule and training in meditation was a hard one; but it was one that forged monks of a high standard of knowledge and skill in the practice. 

The Thai Forest tradition is known for upholding the strict standards of 200+ precepts of external conduct for monks as originally laid out by the Buddha, called the Vinaya. For example, the monks don't handle money and cannot ask for anything that is not freely offered; eat only one meal a day, before noon; do not spend time alone with a woman, or drive. In his early days as a monk, Ajaan Geoff himself didn't think much of the Vinaya. "They were just rules I had to put up with if I wanted to stay in Thailand and meditate. But then I began to see that every time something went wrong in the community, it was because someone had broken a rule. I also began to see the rules as protection for me in my practice."

Five years after this teacher’s death, he left Thailand and came to San Diego County, USA, in 1991 at Ajaan Suwat’s invitation to help establish Metta Forest Monastery. It is the first monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition in the U.S. Ajaan Geoff was appointed as its Abbott in 1993. Nestled among groves of avocado trees with a spectacular view of Mt. Palomar, the monastery serves as a place of apprenticeship for the monks to master their inner worlds through meditation and the practice of vinaya.

For thousands of outsiders who come to the monastery for visits and stays each year, it offers an opportunity to engage and live around monks who have dedicated their lives to cultivate virtue, concentration and discernment. They meditate, receive the teachings and make offerings. All of this happens in a completely non-transactional way, that Ajaan Geoff calls an economy of gifts, "an atmosphere where mutual compassion and concern are the medium of exchange; and purity of heart, the bottom line." This also helps them keep the practice and teaching in its pure form without getting commoditized in accordance with popular likes and dislikes. "In this country of ours, where democracy and the marketplace are all-powerful, the question of what sells determines what's Dhamma, even if it can't walk or fly. And who loses out? We lose out. The Dhamma doesn't lose out; it's always what it is."

Ajaan Geoff is also a prolific author of books and essays on both Buddhist practice and theory. The topics range from those that have everyday use, such as meditation guides (With Each And Every Breath), to how to deal with aging, illness and dying (Undaunted), to more niche topics, such as the Buddha's use of humor in his teachings (The Buddha Smiles), and the influence of Western Romanticism in the way Buddhism is taught in the west (Buddhist Romanticism). In addition, he is a well-respected scholar and Translator of the original Buddhist Pali scriptures. In keeping with the Forest Tradition, all his books, essays and daily dhamma talks are offered freely through their website.

Join us for a wisdom talk with this inspiring teacher, moderated by Jay Patel and Rahul Brown.


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