By Ajahn Chah
The value of Dhamma isn’t to be found in books. Those are just the external appearances of Dhamma, they’re not the realization of Dhamma as a personal experience. If you realize the Dhamma you realize your own mind, you see the truth there. When the truth becomes apparent it cuts off the stream of delusion.
The teaching of the Buddha is the unchanging truth, whether in the present or in any other time. The Buddha revealed this truth 2,500 years ago and it’s been the truth ever since. This teaching should not be added to or taken away from. The Buddha said, ”What the Tathāgata has laid down should not be discarded, what has not been laid down by the Tathāgata should not be added on to the teachings.” He ”sealed off” the teachings. Why did the Buddha seal them off? Because these teachings are the words of one who has no defilements. No matter how the world may change these teachings are unaffected, they don’t change with it. If something is wrong, even if people say it’s right doesn’t make it any the less wrong. If something is right, that doesn’t change just because people say it’s not. Generation after generation may come and go but these things don’t change, because these teachings are the truth.
Now who created this truth? The truth itself created the truth! Did the Buddha create it? No, he didn’t. The Buddha only discovered the truth, the way things are, and then he set out to declare it. The truth is constantly true, whether a Buddha arises in the world or not. The Buddha only ”owns” the Dhamma in this sense, he didn’t actually create it. It’s been here all the time. However, previously no-one had searched for and found the Deathless, then taught it as the Dhamma. He didn’t invent it, it was already there.
At some point in time the truth is illuminated and the practice of Dhamma flourishes. As time goes on and generations pass away the practice degenerates until the teaching fades away completely. After a time the teaching is re-founded and flourishes once more. As time goes on the adherents of the Dhamma multiply, prosperity sets in, and once more the teaching begins to follow the darkness of the world. And so once more it degenerates until such a time as it can no longer hold ground. Confusion reigns once more. Then it is time to re-establish the truth. In fact the truth doesn’t go anywhere. When Buddhas pass away the Dhamma doesn’t disappear with them.