How to Stop | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
How to Stop | Ajahn Brahm

The truth is not something found in a book or passed on from someone else, but is something that is found within one’s own experience. But the deeper truth is not found in thoughts, but rather in silence. This teaching by Ajahn Brahm is about how to find one’s own way into silence and to seeing the truth directly for oneself. In short: how to stop doing things and to invest our energy into just knowing.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 25th July 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

How To Stop –
Ajahn Brahm
[Robot generated transcription – expect errors!]

As many of you know that this evening will be the the Last Talk, which I give here for a couple of months as concentrate more on my monastery at Serpentine. This year, there’s 33 people there 32, as well as myself, needed to be taught, instructed to help with their meditation. So that’s what I’ll be doing the next couple of months. So the Last Talk, which I’m going to be giving here for a couple of months, make it a nice deep one, how to not need to come here ever again, because I keep telling people that the job of a teacher is to get rid of disciples. I must be doing a very, very bad job because people keep coming. Every week you say to go and get rid of disciples. In other words, to try and get people independent so they know themselves, or rather, as all teachers understand these days, that the job of a teacher is to instruct the students how to access knowledge so they can become independent. People who can find out the answers for themselves, they don’t need to come to school. So that’s a job of a teacher, how to find out truths in your life. Because people always sending emails, asking questions, ringing up, asking questions, coming before the talk, after the talk, asking questions. I’m not doing my job because really I should be teaching and instructing how you can find out those questions, the answers, those questions all by yourself, how to gain truth, how to gain insight, how to gain knowledge. So this evening’s talk will be on that subject, on the path to truth. We call it truth because it’s something which is undeniably correct. But some of the problems with truth is that so much is presented in the world as truth and how can we select between what’s really correct and what’s wrong? And this is why the world is confusing with many different philosophies and religions, but more than that, many different ideas on what’s right and what’s wrong. We got to cut through all of those. In other words, put them all aside, bud
hism included, and your own ideas included, to be able to find what we call truth. Because truth is not something which you’ve heard from somebody else. It’s not what you’ve read in somewhere else. Truth, as everyone should know, is only to be found in your heart, in your mind, in your experience. But more than that, the truth is always found in silence, never in thought. When we think, we think around the subject. The mind is moving too much to really know what’s going on. There’s one of the great things in Buddhism that we have this path of meditation which is learning how to stop the mind moving in thought so it can actually see in stillness. It’s in that knowing where one comes closest to the truth. If you observe the process of thought which deceives many people, the process of thought is never pure and by saying it’s never pure is. We think old thoughts is conditioned from our past. We think in ruts in old ways. We think according to paradigms ideas which we have already fixed and our thoughts are supposed to fulfill all those views and ideas. To give that example, a Christian thinks in the way a Christian would think conditioned by their beliefs and so could a Buddhist as well. To think in terms of Buddhist ideas. An atheist thinks in atheist ways. We’re all conditioned just to think in ways which fulfill what we expect. In psychology we always know this as just seeing what we want to see and being in denial to what we don’t like. I was just reading in an article to somebody led me just last week. They did a survey of people asking whether they were above average intelligence or not. 98% of people believe they were above average intelligence. We showed that 50% of those people in denial about their stupidity. So you here. Do you think you’re above average intelligence or not? I’m sure that everyone here will say, yes, I’m above average intelligence. And actually, you are correct it’s. Those 50% are watching the football match tonight. Subiaco Oval. They’re the ones blind. I got caught in a traffic jam going past there today. So what we’re actually saying is that we all think in ways which are obviously not truthful, not right, they’re not correct. But we believe those thoughts. And this is our problem. Always saying there’s an example of our thoughts are untrustworthy. I hate you is a thought which we cannot trust. But because we trust that thought, we can go to war with our ex or countries can go to war with sort of their enemies. You can see just how this thinking, when we trust it so much, can create so much problems for us in our life. Imagine if you didn’t trust the thoughts which run through your head. You saw somebody do something, maybe your husband, your wife. You thought about that. You say, I’m not going to trust this thought of anger. I’m not going to trust this thought of ill will. I’m not even going to trust this thought, oh, I love you. The best person in the world. Each of those thoughts you can see is manufactured from conditioning. You think what you want to think. You don’t think what you don’t like to think. These thoughts are conditioned. There’s many experiments have been done about the way that we use thinking, and the way that thinking is, again, what we expect to see, but not what is really true. Some years ago, those of you who have heard this before, you can actually please keep a little bit quiet. Because some years ago in this hall here, I made a confession. I made a confession because at that particular time, there were many monks, budhist monks, especially in Thailand, who were involved in scandals then sexual scandals. And I decided to make a confession in front of everybody. I told people in all humility that once, when I was young, I spent some of the most happiest hours of my life in the arms of another man’s wife. I did that in the arms of another man’s wife. Spent some of the happiest hours of my life when I first said that, people were shocked. I almost saw a few people going out the door saying, oh, no, not Ajam Brahm as well. Until I explained what I really meant. That that woman, another man’s wife, in whose arms I spent many of the happiest hours of my life, was my mother when I was a baby. Make him think of it. When I was young, I spent some of the happiest hours of my life in the arms of another man’s wife. So did all you as well. It was my mum. Now, the point is, I’m not quite sure how many of you remember that story, but those who did remember that story, you think, oh, my God, that’s adultery. He’s supposed to be a monk. He’s supposed to be an upstanding example. He’s supposed to be teaching us what’s he done. You can see how thought can be deceptive. Which is why I tell that story, how we can jump to conclusions which seem reasonable and rational. Yeah, he spent some loving moments in the arms of another man’s wife. But we don’t realize that there can be another way of looking at it. This is a problem with truth so much that we can jump to conclusions. Not just about what I just said. We can jump to conclusions about our partner, we can even jump to conclusions about ourself, our life, truth, everything. Which is why it is so difficult to see truth in our lives, to be able to actually to see that truth is as if we have to put aside all the old ways we usually look at life, the old conditionings, the old ways we’ve been taught. It’s amazing just how much we’ve been brainwashed into thinking certain things. I remember as a young man, the first time I took alcohol, I was about 14 years of age, sneaking into a pub, pretending I was 18 and drinking a beer with my friend. It was very exciting, but very wrong. But the person the thing which I always remember was as soon as I took this British beer, I couldn’t believe how disgusting it tasted. It was terrible stuff. And I couldn’t understand why people made such a fuss and bother about going to the pub and having a glass of beer, why people spent so much time there, why there was more pubs in London than there were churches. In fact, every time I’ve gone back to visit now, my old places where I grew up, in West London, I see many of the churches disappeared. But I never see the pubs disappear. They never get sort of sold off. They get busier and busier and more built all the time. What’s the big deal? I was thinking about beer being tasty because it tasted awful. That was the truth of it. But what I noticed over the next three months, six months, year or whatever, two years, three years, the beer started to be tasty. I started to like it and I started getting caught up like everyone else in going out to parties, going out to the pub and drinking the stuff. What was happening that I was reconditioning myself to like something because I was told to like it. The whole society, the whole condition was saying, this is fun, and I was buying into it. I’d actually bend the truth to fit in. It’s called conditioning. And I was bending the truth afterwards to think that when you go and have a party and you go and get drunk oh, what a great night we had. Oh, what a great piss up that was last night. Oh, yeah. I got stone drunk. AHA, yeah, great. And it took a while, actually, because I started getting interested in meditation and budhism. You were told to be truthful, and what that truthfulness meant was being reflective, using mindfulness and asking the toughest of questions and challenging no sacred cows at all. Nothing should be taken on face value just because the Buddha said it, just because your parents said it, just because the teacher said it, just because you believed it, that didn’t make it true. It. You had to pull all that aside and actually look and see whether it was true or not to go according to your experience. But it had to be mindful, clear experience and this became my path in life. When you started looking clearly at what you were doing in life, you weren’t following what other people were telling you. You were getting all that information, all that wisdom from your own experience. It became so clear to me that, say, drinking alcohol was a complete waste of time. It was expensive, it didn’t really make you happy and you could actually have more happiness without the stuff. I still used to go to those parties and had even more fun and all. So I remembered that fun afterwards. I remembered exactly what I was doing when I woke up in the morning I was fresh. What a wonderful way it was. Example of how to Live a Life I went against the stream I went against what was expected of me. I went against what it was expecting of a student. Even drugs as well. You saw. What do you want to do that for? You could get high. You can get happy without the stuff. In fact, you can get more happy. And this was not because I was being some sort of puritan Buddhist. It wasn’t because I was trying to prove anything except proving truth itself. Experimenting, testing out, and seeing whether it was right or not. These were my experiences. And this was actually the path of actually finding out truth. So much of what people do is following fashions, following what’s expected of you, living up to some expectation of your partner, your parents, your teachers, your friends, your religion, or living up the expectations of your atheism, of your rebelliousness. We always attempted to just not be ourselves, but to accept roles and to play up to those roles, be actors. Never really be free human beings. And after a while, we realize just how acting a role, living up to other people’s expectations or our own expectations, puts us in this terrible prison we call life. What’s expected of you? What do you have to do? What do you have to do to please the person you live with? What do you have to do to please the people you work with? What do you have to do to please your friends? What do you have to do to live up to your own expectations? I think you all know where that leads to. Your expectations and other expectations cannot be lived up to. You end up getting frustrated, you end up feeling inadequate. You end up getting depressed. You if I wanted to be the best monk, live up to everyone’s expectations, to be the great abbot, the great teacher, I’d go crazy. So instead, you just whatever you do? I just do it. If people like it, great. If they don’t like it, great. I just was filling out a form for our main monastery in Thailand. And I wanted to say, when I first became sort of abbot of this joint, that was about nine years ago. Eight and a half years ago in 1980 519 95. Sorry. And I remember that time because the previous abbot sort of disrobed, he left me literally holding the baby. The big baby has grown a lot. Sad time. But I looked at myself, Do I want to do this? Do I want to sort of take on all this responsibility? And at the time, I remember just thinking about it clearly, and I came to the conclusion, give it a go. If I end up being a decent teacher, that’s great. I can help other people. But if I end up being a complete hopeless teacher and no one actually comes, listen to the talks, I thought, that’s even better, because then people leave me alone. I can be a hermit because monks like being hermit, living by themselves. So that way, when there was no pressure on me, you can just go out there and enjoy yourself and don’t care if nobody comes. I wasn’t teaching to try and please anybody. And that’s why it became very easy just to get up and give a talk. You were relaxed because you weren’t having this pressure on you to try and live up to some expectation. It’s the freedom which comes from knowing your own truth rather than always expecting other people ‘s truths to control you. When you look upon that, it’s an expression of what we keep on saying in this place here, of letting go. Contentment, lovingkindness, compassion. You’re being compassionate to yourself, allowing yourself to be, saying to yourself with all of your faults, the door of my hearts open to me. Despite all my silly jokes, despite my so called failures and successes, despite who I am, I’m okay. It’s being at peace with oneself. What that’s actually being is actually being true to yourself and. You can you understand just how letting be contentment, compassion, and truth become the same word. You’re being true to how you feel. You’re being true to who you are in this moment, rather than trying to be true to somebody else’s ideas and expectations. Too often, we take our cues from others, which is why I always encourage people to be rebellious. I don’t mean being rebellious against society. I mean being rebellious in order to find out truth. I’ve always noticed that the great leaders of religions, the people who started all of this, were all rebels. The budha was a rebel. He went against the brahmanical system in India at that time. He spent his whole lifetime teaching against caste systems and saying people, no matter what gender, no matter what, was only one race, which he knew about at that time. No matter sort of what sexual orientation, no matter where they came from, how wealthy they were, no matter what caste they were, they should not be judged just because of who their parents were. They should be judged by how they behaved. So no castes. And he spent his whole lifetime fighting that. He failed, as we all know now, because there’s a big caste system in India and sometimes there’s even caste systems in Sri Lanka as well, which I think the Sri Lanka should be ashamed of. People should be judged not by who their parents were, but by their behaviour, by who they are. It was the same way that we could actually see that we have to rebel against these ways of looking and measuring which are imposed upon us by somebody else. And not true. Jesus Christ was a rebel. All the great leaders were rebel. Even my teacher, Ajian Cha was a rebel. He was a great rebel. In that time in Thailand, most of the monks were not really practicing very well at all, accepting money, being lazy, not doing much meditation. And she said, no, I don’t think that’s the right way to go. He rebelled against, though, went to live in the forest and started and he joined a great tradition of monks who are rebels. I rebelled against society when I was 23. My mother wanted me to go and get married and have kids. I rebelled. Society wanted me at a good degree to go and get rich and enjoy money. I rebelled. I said, no, I don’t want sex, I don’t want money, I want something else. The reason why I rebelled was because I had some experiences in meditation which showed me that there was something much more to life. The money and power and sex and family and all that sort of stuff. And. And that experience meant more to me than what other people wanted. People thought you were crazy at that time. 30 years ago, wanted to become a monk. Most of my family thought I’ll just let him sort of go through that stage. You grow up later on, I’m stood in that stage, and I’m very happy. What, you mean you a rebel? You actually go against even what your friends wanted? When I told them I was a Buddhist, they could accept that. But I remember when I said I was going to become a monk, they said, Hang on, you’re going too far. They didn’t mind me being a Buddhist and being a vegetarian and not taking alcohol, but being a monk, that was really challenging. You know why it’s challenging? Because it’s challenging other people’s ideas of what life is all about. You. It’s not just me rebelling. The very fact that I’m sitting here enjoying myself with no sex, with no TV, with no money, with no family, I’m having a great time, challenges the way you think about life and what’s important in life. The fact that I have no money and are happy having no money means maybe money’s not so important in life. Look at money. What is it anyway? It’s just the value which people put on it, that’s all. That’s why one of Adrian Charles’great stories, he made a prediction once. He said that in the future there will come a time when society will run out of paper to print coins. It’s almost happening now. Where? Nothing. Australia’s printing on plastic now. Plastic money. There’ll be a time when there’ll be no metal left for coins. So the governments of the world would have to find something else to use as currency. And he predicted that in the future, instead of using paper and metal, the governments will use chicken shits. And you get paid every Friday in a big bag of these little pellets of dun and you’d be looking to see who’s got the biggest bag of dung. And you’d be going to the bank and putting all this chicken shit into the bank and worrying whether you got enough to pay your bills. And it’s all just chicken shit, that’s all. And people will be fighting over chicken shit. They’ll be robbing your house to try and pinch some more chicken shit. And the IMF will become the International Manure Fund. It. What’s the difference between paper and coins and chicken shit? Nothing. It’s just a value we we give on it, isn’t it? So why are you so concerned about working your butt off to try and get more chicken shit every week? That’s a bit coarse, but I like being a rebel. As I’m telling you what it is challenging some of the assumptions we make about life, what’s really important. After all, you don’t take any chicken shit with you when you die. So those assumptions really cut to what is actually truth, what we’re here for. So instead of actually following our society, which is a very silly thing to follow, what other people are doing look at the houses which you live in. Look at the house which I live in. Who’s the more sensible? I ask you, how many rooms can you stay in at one time? How? And how how much time do you spend cleaning? And how much money does it take to actually to build those houses? It’s bigger and bigger and bigger every year. Look at the old houses in Perth. Look at those houses 20 years ago, ten years ago, five years ago. You can see them getting bigger and bigger and bigger, but at the same time, the number of people who live in them get smaller and smaller and smaller. Doesn’t that tell you something? We’re going in the wrong direction. Huge houses, but no family and friends. We can’t live with each other. So build these big prisons for us to stay in. It cost us all this money to keep these prisons called our homes going. And they’re prisons because they take so much time to clean and so much money to pay off the mortgages. How many years do you have to spend paying off your mortgage? You had a house half the size. You could be able to retire by the time you’re 40 or even 30, but. But we always have to have bigger houses. Why? Because everyone else is doing it, that’s why. Because we’re always measuring ourselves against somebody else. We want to make it in the world. And to make it in the world, we have to have a big house. We have to have a car, a big car or one of these sports car. We have to have the holidays overseas. We have to have do you really need all of that? What do you really need? Truth is asking that question. What do you really need in life? Not what you want, but what you need. Where everybody says all they need is peace, they need contentment, they need happiness, that’s what we need. And so often we’re sold this old bomb of a life by used car salesmen called politicians, called teachers, even parents sometimes who know no better. We should question and ask ourselves so the whole point of truth is actually questioning yourself, not following others, not following me. Do not believe what I say. Now you’re believing that already? I did that once with someone and said whatever I say. Don’t believe it. Said yes. Yes, you’re believing it. Thinking just gets you in knots. But knowing is much more clear. Knowing when we practice mindfulness, alertness, awareness, we actually feel what’s going on. We understand what’s going on. We’re getting much closer to truth. Just simple examples of the psychological well being of a human being. When we think what’s expected of us, we tie ourselves in knots. When we think we just think around things, we get so restless, we don’t understand anything. When we stop and look, we see everything we need to know. We’re being aware, alert. When you get upset, how do you feel? When you get angry at somebody, how do you feel? What’s going on inside? Be alert. Be awake. Be aware. It’s an interesting thing when people start practicing. Mindfulness of their inner state, they realize just how much they torture themselves with desire and with ill will. And you wonder, why on earth do I allow other people to control my happiness? Which is what you do when you have craving or ill will. Someone triggers a button in you, they call you a fool, they call you an idiot. You know, a lot of the time they do that on purpose to try and get you upset. And you let them do it. Why do you allow other people to control your happiness? So people can call me anything. You can call me a dog. You can call me an idiot. You can call me much worse. And I am not going to allow that to control my happiness. You know why? Because I don’t believe you. If someone calls you an idiot, if your partner calls you a fool, the only reason why it upsets you is because you believe they might be right. It because if you had that understanding, awareness and you said, actually, I am a fool, you say, oh, thank you very much. You’re right, you know, it’s all right to be a fool, to make a mistake. That’s another part of wisdom. Life says we’re not allowed to make mistakes. Society, he says that you’re a failure if you make mistakes. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if he said it’s all right? It’s allowable. It’s permitted to make mistakes in life. Hands up anyone here who’s never made a mistake and anyone who puts their hand up. I say that’s another mistake. But it we’ve all made mistakes in life. So can’t we accept those mistakes and be at peace with it? Understand that’s life. When we accept those mistakes, it’s like loving those mistakes. The door of my heart’s open to your mistakes. Come in. I can be with this. What we’re doing is we’re being real, allowing ourselves to be with our mistakes. You know, a great partnership if you’re lucky enough to have a partner who’s wise, they’ll love you together with your mistakes. Have this beautiful sense that another person understands I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. Sometimes I get upset, sometimes I drop my load. But I know that you understand that it’s nothing to do with you. It’s just me. I’m a human being. I make mistakes from time to time. So do you. We don’t feel just this great pressure on us always to be perfect. The harder you try to be perfect, the more mistakes you make. When you allow mistakes to happen, you make so few because you’re allowing yourself to be you’re, relaxing, being yourself. You understand other people love you for who you are. You don’t have to be perfect when you’re actually mindful of that. In such a state of freedom, a state of peace. And you realize why am I always allowing to snort other people’s ideas of me and criticisms of me to control my happiness? When other people think you’re the greatest person in the world, you get so high, next moment they think you’re the biggest idiot of the world and you feel just so terrible. Why do you allow other people to control that happiness inside of you? Isn’t it better just to be yourself and be at peace where people say, I can enjoy the joke. You have great fun being a monk. Not so much these days because people are used to you, but in the good old days when you were really weird and strange used to have some great fun being a monk walking around in robes. I think I told a story last week of like being propositioned by a homosexual. Oh, you do look beautiful in those robes. I thought it was really good fun. I remember the other day that I was visiting some family who’s going to become to visit me just in October in Stoke on Trent in the Midlands of England. And so that morning we went for a walk because I like a bit of exercise. So we went for a walk and there was a circus in town. And they thought I was one of the act. Think they thought I was one of the clowns, I think. Side joy. That was good fun. One of my best stories. There’s a whole stash of these. But once, going down each highway in a car one hot afternoon, we had the windows open, going down Leech Highway, three lane highway on both sides. We were going down on some sort of business or other and a car of hoons saw me. They saw me, this bald headed, brown robe, weirdo. And so they decided to sort of draw alongside. And so there was our car, our van, and this carload of, like, young hoons, 20 year old, 21 year old, having a good time. And they shouted at me. My window was down. They pulled up right along at each highway, right next to our car, very close, quite dangerous. And they called over to me, all of them. I had a look. And they pulled up this magazine and started pointing at it. Hey, look at this. It’s Playboy. And. It. They’re going around each highway sort of trying to get me to look at these pictures of nude women because they knew I was a muck. I didn’t look. I didn’t look, but I laughed because I thought, that’s unique, okay? If I was 20, I’d have probably done the same if I’d have seen a muck. So I never allowed them to upset me. I laughed with them. As I was once taught as a school teacher, if you make a mistake in class and the kids start laughing, you laugh as well. That way, no one ever laughs at you. They always laugh with you. Isn’t that lovely little saying? So if you make a mistake, you fall over and you sort of make an idiot of yourself. You laugh as well. To be able to laugh at yourself is accepting yourself is understanding. Yeah, I make mistakes, and it’s all right to make mistakes. So I can laugh at my mistakes. So I can laugh with other people. Then no one ever laughs at. It’s a lot of difference there. You never allow other people to control your happiness and if they sort of say silly things about you, you can just understand that sometimes when people say those things that you understand the truth of the matter is it’s nothing to do with you. If they call you an idiot, a dog or whatever, it’s not nothing to do with you. It’s usually because they are really feeling upset, they’re in pain, they want you to be in pain as well. It’s usually what happens because you can see yourself doing that as well. You’ve had a hard day, something’s gone wrong. The last thing you want is other people to be happy. It’s a strange thing about human nature. When I’m suffering, I want the whole world to suffer. When I’m suffering grief because the loss of a loved one, I want everyone else to cry as well. Can’t understand if I’m feeling so miserable, why anyone else should be happy. It that’s the nature of human beings sometimes. So when people get angry at you, they try and upset you. Don’t take it personally, it means that they’re suffering. So when somebody really says oh, you’re an idiot, they get really upset at you, just go and give them a big hug oh, you must be really hurting. That really upsets them. I’m trying to get you upset and all you do is love me. That’s really what they need. They need a bit of understanding, that’s all. So this is actually truth. Now there’s one person who always gives you a hard time and that’s you. How often are you always calling yourself a dog? Stupid and idiot. I’m hopeless. You remember you’re only doing that to yourself because you’re hurting and you want yourself to hurt even more. Give yourself a hug. If you make a mistake inside, laugh at your mistakes. Laugh at your stupidity. Laugh with the world when the world can never laugh at you. Don’t try and live up to some stupid ideas. Which where do they all come from anyway? Know it’s much nicer just being yourself. And this is like knowledge of truth, being mindful, being alert. When you are mindful and alert, you just see the way you work and the answers are just pretty obvious. Just same answers people have been saying for years and years and years just be kind, be gentle, be forgiving. Then you become happy. Simple teachings which all religions actually teach, all wise people teach, actually, you teach yourself if you can only listen to it. So a lot of times I feel a bit of a ford sitting up here and just telling you what you already know. But people still keep on coming anyway, so it keeps me in business. But you can actually take that noddish deeper, because when you really want to find out the big truths, the truths which the philosophers argue about, which is one of the reasons they do come to places like this, you all know how to keep yourself happy about what is the real truth. Who are you? And what’s really going on. You find this awareness, this mindfulness, has different levels. The ordinary awareness which people have is actually pretty dull. When you think you know life and you’re experiencing what’s going on, you’re just experiencing a fraction of what’s going on. Really what one needs to do is to become silent and quiet. To be able to build up this inner awareness. You build it up and build it up and build it up until it gets really strong. This is why we meditate. Because when you meditate, you’re building up alertness, awareness, knowing the power of knowing. That power of knowing is something which is very profound. It’s not ordinary knowing. In fact, the more you think, the less you know. The reason is because all your energy goes into thinking and not much energy is left for knowing. These are two parts of the mind and these two parts of the mind are almost in competition for the energy of your life. And if you do a lot, you know so little. This is what happens in our meditation. I just taught this actually, at my monastery last or a couple of Wednesdays ago. Putting energy into the knowing, taking away from the doing. By that I mean. Just be be alert. Don’t manage, don’t control, don’t change. Don’t try and get rid of this, don’t try and get that, which is all doing, but just know and no but. Don’t move, don’t do anything, don’t change anything. Don’t try and control. Just know. Strange thing happens when you do this. It’s called meditation. When you put all your energy into knowing, nonreactive knowing, passive awareness, silent knowing, you find that knowing starts to get brighter and brighter and brighter. The knowing starts to get energy. People experience this very often after good meditation by just knowing the beauty of things. They go outside and they see like a plant and the leaf looks as it’s been polished. The green looks so deeply green. It’s brilliantly green. It’s beautifully green. You look up the stars at night in the heavens and my goodness, they’re just twig thing as if they too have been polished. Even ordinary things which you see your old wooden meditation stool. That’s not just an ordinary piece of pine, that’s a work of art. Wow, look at all those colors in there. The shapes strange happens when you put all the energy into the knowing. The knowing becomes powerful and incredibly sensitive. You see much more. You see more deeply. You see more richly. You know one of the old similes which are given about this those of you who come to the meditation retreats or come on a Saturday afternoons will know this very well, but it’s a brilliant simile. My monastery in Serpentine is 2.2 km on the top of a hill. For ten years, I think, or roughly about that time, I’d always gone up and down that hill in a vehicle. One day I decided, because it was a lovely, lovely day, to walk up that hill is quite a steep hill, but say two and a half kilometers. And what struck me was walking up that hill for the first time and. That hillside looked completely different than anything I’d ever seen before. Through the through the window of a car I couldn’t understand. Hang on. I’ve been going up and down this road for ten years. Why does it look so different? By say different, I was seeing things I’d never noticed before. The whole thing looked much more beautiful than I’d expected. And after a while off I stopped. I just stood and looked to that hillside and when I saw that stood and was still, it changed once more and become even more beautiful and more rich and more detailed. It was such a strange experience. I reflected upon it afterwards what was going on. I soon figured it out. When you’re going through fast car, your senses haven’t got time to really pick up what’s really going on. You see life in shades, almost like shadows. It’s not rich, it’s not deep. You haven’t got time to pick up the detail. When you slow down, all the senses have got more opportunity to see more. And what it sees has a deeper impression on you because you got time. When you stop, you have all the time in the world that hillside to show completely what’s there. All this detail, all this richness. My goodness, it was beautiful. When is stopped, this is what we mean by knowing too often we don’t know truth because we’re just moving too fast. Life is like being in a fast car from one thing to the next, even from one thought to the next. Our thoughts go so quickly. Responding to the speed of our life and all the things which we have to do and fit into one day is huge. We have to run so fast. That’s why what we see of life is just a shade of what’s really there. It never looks so beautiful at all. But then comes a time when you learn a bit of meditation, slowing down, stopping, being, not running around, not thinking, not giving things names. Not doing, just knowing. When you slow down, you become aware of things you never thought were there before. You become aware of yourself, how you work. As you slow down even more, you see yourself in greater detail, in more richness. There’s things which were going on there you never noticed before. Now you see them. One of the wonderful things is it’s a very reassuring things. When you slow down, that hillside looks more beautiful, not more ugly. It looks more inviting, not more fearful. The same happens with you when you slow down. You look much more beautiful, much more inviting. You find you’re nowhere near as bad as you thought you were. And as you slow down even more and come to a state of stillness when you can see that hillside fully, perfectly my goodness, it’s so beautiful. It. It. Everyone who has these spiritual experiences, when they stop, always come back with thinking the world is perfect and so am I. Strange. How can you say that? People say when there’s so much problems or troubles in the world, this is just what happens. The hillside, when you stop, looks the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s the nature of knowing. What’s happening is your knowing is increasing in its intensity, its ability to see. And I was telling you that this whole talk is about how to know truth. Strange thing. People think truth might be something you don’t really want to know. You might think truth is all theories and ideas. Truth is none of that. Truth is the clear seeing in the moment with power. Or sometimes I call power mindfulness, power awareness. So you see so deeply into things when you stop. The more you stop, the more you see the. Advanced meditators can stop so much. They see so deeply into things. They see through time, through the world, into their mind, through the mind, into nothing. The ultimate. So you got to really stop to be able to see that. The interesting thing is the BPC, the more beautiful it becomes. Which is why these states of stopping in Buddhism are also called states of bliss and ecstasy. Like I keep on saying here, just the happiness you get in meditation exceeds anything in the world. It keeps getting better and better and better. And it’s not something which is against the seeing of truth, but is part of the truth. The truth is beautiful. You find when you stop, you might get overwhelmed by the beauty. But what you’re seeing is the most real thing in the world. More real than thoughts and ideas which are just conditioned from outside, which are just taught to you. This is actually seeing something which is real and true for yourself. And sometimes all these ideas of what the world is, gods and religions and rebirth or one life, you start to see that for what it really is is the mind moving, allow the mind to be still. That’s where you find truth. And the most important truth which a person needs is the truth of contentment, of happiness, of freedom, of peace. Sometimes we don’t know how powerful freedom and peace it is, the truth of love. All these great religious words and spiritual words, but people don’t understand what they mean. In those deep, blissful experiences, somebody was telling me the other there they managed to get one of these somewhere else. And another time when they were very young, afterwards they were just they loved the whole world for a month or something. So, yeah, of course, that’s what happens because love is peace. Love is letting go. This contentment is freedom. These are all the same word, pointed to the same thing. And. What is love? The door of my heart’s always open to you no matter what you do. It’s not nonjudgmentalism. Allowing things to be, allowing yourself to be, allowing the whole world to be that’s peace. Making your peace with the world, the armistice with things you hate. Learning to live with things. Not always fighting them, not trying to get rid of the thoughts in life, but embracing the thoughts in yourself and in others. Being at peace with yourself. Being content rather than always wanting more. Love, peace, contentment, freedom. These great words which you can’t think, you can’t make, they all come when you stop thinking, when you stop making, when you stop doing me. They were all there in the middle of your heart. There’s an old simile which I’m going to finish off with. This is a dinky dai ajam brahm simile which I always tell in meditation retreats towards the end. Because when people do retreats or when they work in life, they’re always searching and chasing for happiness, or chasing for enlightenment, or chasing for what actually, Ajian Chai used to say was the tortoise with a mustache. Chasing for things which don’t exist. But the one thing we are always chasing for is happiness, fulfillment, peace, truth. And it’s like the simile of the donkey chasing the carrot. Because in Southern Europe, anyone who’s ever been to Southern Europe, they still even these days, or perhaps it’s just for the tourists, but they used to use as their transport donkey carts. And donkeys are some of the most stubborn fellows. They will not move unless you really have to force them or use psychology it. So what they usually do is to put a piece of wood, tie it to their back, and on the front of the piece of wood, on the end of a string, they dangle a carrot. Maybe a foot or 2ft in front of the donkey. And the donkey sees that delicious carrot and moves towards it. And because it’s tied to their back, tied on the end of a stick, which is tied to their back, when they move forward, the carrot moves forward. And so as they try and catch the carrot, they always moving forward. The carrot moves forward, they move forward. They never quite catch the carrot, but they pull the cart as they’re going along. That’s how they get the cart to be pulled. They can understand, as a simile of life, that you’re always trying to catch the carrot. The perfect relationship, the best marks at school, the happiness, the fulfillment, the truth, the enlightenment. Whatever it is, it’s always like they’re trying to catch the carrot. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes you can see it there. It’s so close. And you move towards it and it moves away from you. You run towards it and it runs away from you. It’s no matter how fast you walk, it always runs away from you. Because it’s attached to the end of a string or the end of a stick, which is tied to. Now it seems that donkey will never catch that carrot. However, there are a few budhist donkeys in the world who are smart. And this is the way those donkeys catch the carrot. And this is a story of your life in your enlightenment. That donkey sometimes gets so frustrated, he runs as fast as he can after that carrot. This is how to catch the carrot. And then, like your life, how hard are you trying to run, trying to get the carrot, fulfillment, love, whatever else you want in your life. Riches. You’re running really fast. But the donkey comes to the Buddha said to one Friday night, and he hears the magic word stop. So his donkey, running so fast, stops, but he needs courage and faith, because as soon as that donkey stops, that carrot, because of momentum, goes even further away from the donkey. In fact, it goes further than it’s ever been before. But the donkey’s got wisdom. Because it waits. And that carrot goes as far as it’s ever been in its whole existence. And the donkey is still just waiting there. It’s not doing anything, it’s not chasing the carrot. And then the carrot starts moving very slowly at first and comes closer and closer to the donkey when it’s at its usual distance. Now it’s actually coming towards donkey very fast. And all the donkey needs to do as it swings to the other end of its pendulum is open its mouth and the carrot comes to the donkey. That’s how the carrot is won by the donkey. You run as fast as you can, then you stop. You have faith, encourage as it goes away, and you wait. And the carrot comes to you when you stop. Carrots come to you when you race. The carrot goes further away. Understand about life the more you strive run after things crave want, desire. The carrot just goes away. But you stop and the carrot starts coming to you. It’s not easy thing to stop. To stop, you have to be in a present moment. You have to stop thinking, stop doing, stop wanting anything. Be absolutely still, like standing on the road of a hillside. And enlightenment, peace, joy, love, it all comes to you. That’s the way to find truth, to stop. And truth, happiness comes to you. I’m going to stop now. Going to stop coming here for two months. So happiness is now going to come to you. Thanks very much. Okay, any questions about this evening’s talk, including the donkey Simile? No questions going. Okay. This has some announcements from I got a question about yeah. You. AHA. This is one of the most difficult things in the world to learn how to stop. Imagine that you’re in a car, you’re going down the highway and you take your hands off the steering wheel and feet off the pedals. Stop.
It’s scary. Yeah, because you’re not in control. A lot of times we’re all control freaks. We can’t even stop thinking. We can’t stop listening, we can’t stop doing things. We always get involved rather than standing back and just absolutely still. Meditation is the art of stopping. It’s a difficult thing to do. We think it should be so easy. So we tell ourselves, stop. That’s not stopping. That’s more doing things. Like the old simile, which I give. Someone says, Stopping is letting go. So say let go. Come on, let go. I’m telling you, let go. That’s not letting go, that’s controlling. I know love. Come on, love yourself. Come on, you stupid thing, love yourself. It’s completely opposite of that. You allow things to be, you let go, you relax. You don’t control things, you don’t manage it, you don’t measure it, you don’t say good, you don’t say bad. Because controlling comes from that. So stop all this measuring and comparing. Who’s the best, who’s the worst. I’m better than him, but worse than her. Stop all of that. You can’t compare yourself. You can’t compare this moment with the next moment. You stopped. When you do that, the mind stops moving. It stays at home, comes inside and mindfulness starts to get very bright. You get blissed doubt. Not only just blissed out, but wisdom doubt as well. That’s what they always say, that the truth is inside. Inside the moment, the present moment. It’s not the next moment, it’s not the last moment, it’s now. It’s in silence in the middle of this. It’s in the middle of the moment, the middle of the silence, the middle of the mind. So hard to find that middle always moving somewhere else because we’re always doing it’s a mental training in meditation in the silent times to have a nice home where you can just do nothing at all and really relax. Absolute no doing, just being. Moments of peace. Many times people have those moments and just sitting by the beach, nothing to do. All the problems in the world, all the things that need to be done later on, but not now. But moments of silence, moments of peace, moments of acceptance. Moment moments when they love the world for as it is. They’re not trying to fix it. Not trying to fix themselves or fix their partner or fix the house or fix the world. Not fixing anything, then you’re not in a fix anymore. Okay, thanks for that question.

MN24. Prepared Chariots – Rathavinīta Sutta

The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
MN24. Prepared Chariots - Rathavinīta Sutta

This episode is the 24nd sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the Rathavinīta sutta which is known in English the “prepared chariots”. This teaching principally involves the Venerable Sariputta and the Venerable Punna from Mantani engaging in a discussion about the purpose of living the holy life.

This translation of the Rathavinīta sutta is by Bhikkhu Sujato and was sourced from Sutta Central.

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MN24. Prepared Chariots

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha, in the Bamboo Grove, the squirrels’ feeding ground.
Then several mendicants who had completed the rainy season residence in their native land went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to them:
“In your native land, mendicants, which of the native mendicants is esteemed in this way: ‘Personally having few wishes, they speak to the mendicants on having few wishes. Personally having contentment, seclusion, aloofness, energy, ethics, immersion, wisdom, freedom, and the knowledge and vision of freedom, they speak to the mendicants on all these things. They’re an adviser and instructor, one who educates, encourages, fires up, and inspires their spiritual companions.’”
“Puṇṇa son of Mantāṇī, sir, is esteemed in this way in our native land.”
Now at that time Venerable Sāriputta was meditating not far from the Buddha. Then he thought:
“Puṇṇa son of Mantāṇī is fortunate, so very fortunate, in that his sensible spiritual companions praise him point by point in the presence of the Teacher, and that the Teacher seconds that appreciation. Hopefully, some time or other I’ll get to meet Venerable Puṇṇa, and we can have a discussion.”
When the Buddha had stayed in Rājagaha as long as he pleased, he set out for Sāvatthī. Traveling stage by stage, he arrived at Sāvatthī, where he stayed in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Puṇṇa heard that the Buddha had arrived at Sāvatthī.
Then he set his lodgings in order and, taking his bowl and robe, set out for Sāvatthī. Eventually he came to Sāvatthī and Jeta’s Grove. He went up to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha educated, encouraged, fired up, and inspired him with a Dhamma talk. Then, having approved and agreed with what the Buddha said, Puṇṇa got up from his seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on his right. Then he went to the Dark Forest for the day’s meditation.
Then a certain mendicant went up to Venerable Sāriputta, and said to him, “Reverend Sāriputta, the mendicant named Puṇṇa, of whom you have often spoken so highly, after being inspired by a talk of the Buddha’s, left for the Dark Forest for the day’s meditation.”
Sāriputta quickly grabbed his sitting cloth and followed behind Puṇṇa, keeping sight of his head. Puṇṇa plunged deep into the Dark Forest and sat at the root of a tree for the day’s meditation. And Sāriputta did likewise.
Then in the late afternoon, Sāriputta came out of retreat, went to Puṇṇa, and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to Puṇṇa:
“Reverend, is our spiritual life lived under the Buddha?”
“Yes, reverend.”
“Is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification of ethics?”
“Certainly not.”
“Then is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification of mind?”
“Certainly not.”
“Is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification of view?”
“Certainly not.”
“Then is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification through overcoming doubt?”
“Certainly not.”
“Is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification of knowledge and vision of the variety of paths?”
“Certainly not.”
“Then is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification of knowledge and vision of the practice?”
“Certainly not.”
“Is the spiritual life lived under the Buddha for the sake of purification of knowledge and vision?”
“Certainly not.”
“When asked each of these questions, you answered, ‘Certainly not.’ Then what exactly is the purpose of leading the spiritual life under the Buddha?”
“The purpose of leading the spiritual life under the Buddha is extinguishment by not grasping.”
“Reverend, is purification of ethics extinguishment by not grasping?”
“Certainly not.”

“Is purification of knowledge and vision extinguishment by not grasping?”
“Certainly not.”
“Then is extinguishment by not grasping something apart from these things?”
“Certainly not.”
“When asked each of these questions, you answered, ‘Certainly not.’ How then should we see the meaning of this statement?”
“If the Buddha had declared purification of ethics to be extinguishment by not grasping, he would have declared that which has grasping to be extinguishment by not grasping. … If the Buddha had declared purification of knowledge and vision to be extinguishment by not grasping, he would have declared that which has grasping to be extinguishment by not grasping. But if extinguishment by not grasping was something apart from these things, an ordinary person would become extinguished. For an ordinary person lacks these things.
Well then, reverend, I shall give you a simile. For by means of a simile some sensible people understand the meaning of what is said.
Suppose that, while staying in Sāvatthī, King Pasenadi of Kosala had some urgent business come up in Sāketa. Now, between Sāvatthī and Sāketa seven prepared chariots were stationed ready for him. Then Pasenadi, having departed Sāvatthī, mounted the first prepared chariot by the gate of the royal compound. The first prepared chariot would bring him to the second, where he’d dismount and mount the second chariot. The second prepared chariot would bring him to the third … The third prepared chariot would bring him to the fourth … The fourth prepared chariot would bring him to the fifth … The fifth prepared chariot would bring him to the sixth … The sixth prepared chariot would bring him to the seventh, where he’d dismount and mount the seventh chariot. The seventh prepared chariot would bring him to the gate of the royal compound of Sāketa. And when he was at the gate, friends and colleagues, relatives and kin would ask him: ‘Great king, did you come to Sāketa from Sāvatthī by this prepared chariot?’ If asked this, how should King Pasenadi rightly reply?”
“The king should reply: ‘Well, while staying in Sāvatthī, I had some urgent business come up in Sāketa. Now, between Sāvatthī and Sāketa seven prepared chariots were stationed ready for me. Then, having departed Sāvatthī, I mounted the first prepared chariot by the gate of the royal compound. The first prepared chariot brought me to the second, where I dismounted and mounted the second chariot. … The sixth prepared chariot brought me to the seventh, where I dismounted and mounted the seventh chariot. The seventh prepared chariot brought me to the gate of the royal compound of Sāketa.’ That’s how King Pasenadi should rightly reply.”
“In the same way, reverend, purification of ethics is only for the sake of purification of mind. Purification of mind is only for the sake of purification of view. Purification of view is only for the sake of purification through overcoming doubt. Purification through overcoming doubt is only for the sake of purification of knowledge and vision of the variety of paths. Purification of knowledge and vision of the variety of paths is only for the sake of purification of knowledge and vision of the practice. Purification of knowledge and vision of the practice is only for the sake of purification of knowledge and vision. Purification of knowledge and vision is only for the sake of extinguishment by not grasping. The spiritual life is lived under the Buddha for the sake of extinguishment by not grasping.”
When he said this, Sāriputta said to Puṇṇa, “What is the venerable’s name? And how are you known among your spiritual companions?”
“Reverend, my name is Puṇṇa. And I am known as Mantāṇiputta among my spiritual companions.”
“It’s incredible, reverend, it’s amazing! Venerable Puṇṇa son of Mantāṇī has answered each deep question point by point, as a learned disciple who rightly understands the teacher’s instructions. It is fortunate for his spiritual companions, so very fortunate, that they get to see Venerable Puṇṇa son of Mantāṇī and pay homage to him. Even if they only got to see him and pay respects to him by carrying him around on their heads on a roll of cloth, it would still be very fortunate for them! And it’s fortunate for me, so very fortunate, that I get to see the venerable and pay homage to him.”
When he said this, Puṇṇa said to Sāriputta, “What is the venerable’s name? And how are you known among your spiritual companions?”
“Reverend, my name is Upatissa. And I am known as Sāriputta among my spiritual companions.”
“Goodness! I had no idea I was consulting with the Venerable Sāriputta, the disciple who is fit to be compared with the Teacher himself! If I’d known, I wouldn’t have said so much. It’s incredible, reverend, it’s amazing! Venerable Sāriputta has asked each deep question point by point, as a learned disciple who rightly understands the teacher’s instructions. It is fortunate for his spiritual companions, so very fortunate, that they get to see Venerable Sāriputta and pay homage to him. Even if they only got to see him and pay respects to him by carrying him around on their heads on a roll of cloth, it would still be very fortunate for them! And it’s fortunate for me, so very fortunate, that I get to see the venerable and pay homage to him.”
And so these two spiritual giants agreed with each others’ fine words.

Buddhism and Sexuality | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Buddhism and Sexuality | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm explains with kindness and wisdom where Buddhism stands on issues related to sexuality, starting from the basis of Buddhist morality which is about refraining from harming oneself or others.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 18th July 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

Buddhism and Sexuality | Ajahn Brahm

[ Robot generated transcription – expect errors! ]

Hello. As usual, when I come here on a Friday night, I don’t bring a talk with me. Usually I haven’t got a clue what I was going to talk about, but this evening somebody just whatever’s fresh in your mind, I suppose, what you talk about. The last question that was somebody asked me before I came in here was an interesting question is you may have seen in the newspapers there was in the Anglican church there was a person who’s about to become a bishop, but he was a homosexual and he got knocked back. And so somebody was asking me if that happened in budhism, what would happen? And so it made some nice little start of a talk about Buddhism and sexuality. Should have mentioned that talk before budhism and sex and then wouldn’t have gone out the door. Oh, this is interesting. But we start off with like sort of homosexuality. It brings us an example of how we apply Buddhist wisdom and budhist values to things of the world. And whenever we put Buddhist values, especially moral values, and the Buddhism has many moral values. The Buddhism is known for its morality, for its tolerance, for its peace, for its nonviolence, which are very strong moral values. It’s known for its compassion, its kindness. But in particular, it’s known for its wisdom, especially in the terms of morality. And that wisdom what’s always guided me throughout my life as a senior monk, when people have asked me to actually pronounce on moral issues, first of all, I say I haven’t got the right to pronounce for you. I’ve only got the right to pronounce for me. No monk speaks ex cathedral like a pope, not even sort of the senior monks. All a monk can do is actually to try and help a person make the decision for themselves on what is good and what is wrong. But in particular, there’s one teaching which the Buddha gave to his son. His son was called Rahula, which was interesting, means feta. Imagine you call your son ball and chain. I think you could understand why he called him Paul and Shane. Because once you have a son or a daughter, then you’re in prison for 1820 years, maybe longer. But once he sort of told his son that, never do anything which hurts yourself or hurts another person. And that was the basis of what we mean by morality. Why? What’s wrong? What’s bad? Anything which hurts another or hurts oneself. And so you can actually see whether it’s with sexuality or with euthanasia or with, like, an animal who’s sick. And you take them to the vet, that story. The person who took his big Labrador dog to the vet, he only had an eye trouble, and the vet picked him up, turned him upside down, had a look this way and that way, and said, I’m very sorry, you’re going to have to put your Labrador down. What? He’s only got a bad eye. It’s not because he’s bad. I’ve got to put him down. I’ve got to put him down because he’s heavy. That’s today’s joke, folks. It. It. But sometimes we face these more these more problems of putting something down or the problem of homosexuality or the problem of euthanasia and always go back to harm is it harming somebody or harming oneself? And these are basic the basic two precepts which I ask people to keep. Sometimes people can’t we have budhist five precepts sometimes people can’t keep five precepts somehow they can’t count to five especially the fifth precept, which is alcohol. They can’t count that far. So I tell people at least keep two precepts and those two precepts are not doing anything which hurts yourself or hurts another person and from that actually you can draw out what’s good and what’s bad and it makes a reason why we have morality because what sensible, wise person would hurt themselves or hurt someone else? If you’re wise and sensible, you never do that. But sometimes, because of what we call the defilements of the mind things like greed, hatred, ill will which sometimes obsess us or because of like drunkenness sometimes we do do things hurt other people or hurt ourselves out of craziness. So by checking am I doing this? Is it hurting somebody or hurting someone else? That’s the basic check. And if you find it’s not hurting, it’s not harming, but it’s actually helping somebody, helping the world, then that’s okay. Go ahead, do it. That’s basic morality, basic virtue in Buddhism. So when we come to something like homosexuality, you say, is it hurting or harming? And then it makes the answer very, very clear. It doesn’t really depend on whether it’s homosexuality, heterosexuality celibacy. It’s not. The thing in itself is the problem. It’s how people behave within that framework. And just homosexuality, heterosexuality celibacy. That’s not the point. It’s what you’re doing with it is the point. As a monk. So before, as a monk, sort of, I was a heterosexual, not a homosexual at all. But having come to know this of homosexuals, it’s interesting. It’s like, as a man, most heterosexuals become afraid, first of all, of homosexuality. It’s a barrier you have to go across. I remember one occasion early on in my life here in Perth. One of the anagarikas, the drivers, because in Mark I’m not allowed to drive myself. So we had one of the drivers took me into town one day. I had some business in Perth and we parked in one of the multi story car parks in HayStreet, I think it was. And the anagarika with me insisted on going to the toilets, but he refused to use the toilets in the a car park. He said they were dirty, but he said he knew there’s one toilet in the foyer of one of the cinemas, I think. I’m not sure. It was in Hay Street or Murray Street somewhere. And so I said, okay, fair enough. I’m an easy going monk. So when he went in the toilet in one of these cinemas, I stood outside waiting for him to finish. I was standing outside there in my mug robes. He was taking a bit of a while and this young man came up to me and said, excuse me, have you got the time? I’ve been a monk a long time, and sometimes I’m very, very naive. And as a monk, you don’t wear watches. So I said, I’m sorry, I haven’t got the time. Then he looked at me in a very strange way and started walking away. And then the penny dropped. I realized that. Have you got the time? Is one of the oldest pickup lines in the world. I later found out that that particular cinema was a wellknown pickup place for gays. And there I was, standing outside the it, and I started to sweat as this man turned around. He looked at me and in the most effeminate voice said, oh, but you do look beautiful in that robe. The suspense was about to have a heart attack, and fate forced me. The anagarika came out the toilet and rescued me just in time. I really told him off. I’m never going to allow any anagarika to use that toilet ever again, especially with me standing outside. But that was my gay experience as a monk. So a lot of the time there is actually a fear which comes up and sometimes you can actually see where all of the problems come from and not facing that fear of something different, something which you don’t know. And because of that, that some sometimes people do have problems when maybe their children turn out to be gay or turn out to be lesbians. And I’ve got many letters from people, especially in more what you might call conservative societies in Malaysia and Singapore, and saying, I’ve just found out that my son is gay. What should I do? And it’s really a sad thing that we should even have to ask that question. And I said, as a Buddhist, you should always remember that the Buddhist loving kindness where we say that may all beings be happy and well. Remember writing this answer to this, lady, don’t you chant every week? May all beings be happy and well. The door of my heart is open to all beings. Isn’t your son one of those beings? Doesn’t matter if he’s a homosexual, heterosexual, celibate or whatever he is. The door of my heart goes out to everybody, no matter who they are. So I said, doesn’t matter if he’s a homosexual, heterosexual or whatever. Love your son. That’s your duty. The point is that once we have that encouragement we realize that this is what our heart tells us. What sometimes society tell us or what conventions tell us is something that’s wrong. We get embarrassed, we get upset. But that’s going back to the basic morality of Buddhism. If you’re going to be rejecting your son or rejecting somebody just because of a name, because of a convention, is that really kindness? Is that really helping someone or harming them? And straight away we find out that’s actually harming somebody by not accepting them for who they are. When we actually have a child or a friend or accomplice not accomplice. We’re not burglars. We have someone we know sort of who’s a homosexual. It doesn’t matter sort of what their preferences are. What is important is actually how they deal with that. Whether they’re a good person or a bad person. Whether they are someone who’s trustworthy, faithful, responsible. So as far as I’m concerned, my idea of that sort of morality, it doesn’t matter if you’re a heterosexual, homosexual or whatever you are, as long as you make use of that in a wise, compassionate, virtuous way, you’re not harming others with your sexuality. Obviously somebody who is like a paedophile because it’s quite clear that so children who’ve got not that much control and certainly there can be the problems with power, a person in power who’s older, more mature, with somebody who’s much younger and more immature, the older person can very easily have control over the younger person. That’s not right because there’s not a sense of fairness there. People might say it’s consensual, but it’s not consensual in the case of, like, pedophilia. And so that’s some in which you can say is harming and it’s hurting others. And we all notice the results of people who have been sexually abused as children it creates a huge amount of hurt and harm. So it’s very clear that in Buddhism that is immoral, that’s wrong. It’s the same with, like, students and their teachers. That also is wrong because again, it’s the power just makes your relationship sort of unfair and wrong. It does again create a lot of problems and difficulties. So that’s why that you can actually make it very clear why these things are wrong, why they’re immoral, because of the harm and the hurt which it gives in life. This is the same with a person who just runs around from relationship to relationship or cheats within relationships. That hurts the other person because in a relationship, we trust each other. We trust each other to be doing the right thing. That’s one of the most important parts of a relationship. Now, maybe in the world, in business especially, people say they can’t keep that fourth precept. They have to lie, they have to tell Porcupines every now and again because of business. But okay, I don’t really agree with that. I think that even in business, actually you can be honest. And actually in the long term, that would do well for your business, for your career. You’ll be like an honest person. Other people trust, and trust is important for business confidence. But at least if you think you can’t actually be honest in your business, if you can’t be honest with other people, at least be honest with one person in your life and that’s the person you live with. Because if there’s no trust between two people, then it becomes a very, very lonely life. You can’t open up to another person and to have that trust in, like a relationship, the other person has to have that love and that forgiveness to actually to allow you to open up and to say things which some times you feel embarrassed about. It’s one of those things in a relationship that you know there’s one person you can actually open your heart up to and even admit to tell them terrible, terrible things which you’ve done and be understood and not be criticized. Sometimes you haven’t got that person in your life as in the relationship. Sometimes you adopt a monk because monks are great. You can tell all sorts of things to monks and we never tell anybody else. And also, we’re very uncritical about what you say. Because a lot of times that the monks understand, just like in life we do make mistakes sometimes and those mistakes, if we we keep them inside can become so great and so huge they cause us an enormous amount of suffering. We’re guilty. We’re afraid of other people finding out. A lot of times those mistakes which we make the things which we think are very terrible about ourselves are actually very, very small more but we keep them to ourselves. They grow to immense know. Usually I tell it’s like the simile know the times as a monk. I don’t think I told a story just a few weeks ago, but I’ll tell it again. The time as a monk when he used to sit meditation in the jungles alone in the middle of the night when it was dark. And in the jungles in Thailand there are elephants. And elephants are not like the elephants in the zoo. The elephants in nature they sort of pick you up with their trunk and they bash you around all over the place. It happened to a monk in Sri Lanka who nearly came very close to dying attacked by a rogue elephant. There’s also tigers which eat you. They look upon monks as dinner. So there’s all these and it speaks snakes in Thailand, which also can swallow. You remember the hundred species? I was told this when I first went to Thailand by a very I thought he was a very, very kind person. But I changed my opinion of him after he told me this. He said there’s hundred species of snake in Thailand. 99 are venomous. They bite. You in big trouble on the hundredth. One strangles you to death. They’re all dangerous. So the forest in the jungle is a very dangerous place. And so you’d be meditating alone at night with no protection, and you’d hear these sounds, the jungle sounds, when it gets dark and you can’t see anything, you can’t see to the end of your nose. You hear these sounds of the animals walking through the jungle. You most of them would be small animals, but every now and again you’d hear the sound of a big animal. And sometimes that big animal will come towards you. You’d hear its footsteps approaching. And as it’s approaching, you forget your breath and you start thinking about the animal. What is it? Is this one a tiger? You think, no, no, it’s just too small for a tiger. Their footprints, you know, the footsteps are just too soft. But then you’ll listen a bit more closely and hang on. That’s not a small animal at all. That’s a big animal. And you’d actually check it out. That’s not even just a middle sized animal. That’s a huge animal. If that’s a tiger, that’s a big one that’s coming right towards me. And out of fear, you’d open your eyes to look at the tiger. You know how big the tiger would be? It’d only be a tiny mouse. Not even a big mouse. It’d be a tiny mouse. And you look at it and that was your tiger, because you’d exaggerated it. It’s amazing the way the mind amplifies things. Small things become huge. Little mice become huge tigers because of fear, because of the negativity of the mind. It’s the same way that small thoughts in a human being become huge faults. Which is why it’s wonderful to be able to actually just talk them out with another person, to take them out in the open. Like opening your eyes in the jungle and you see it’s not such a big thing after all. That’s why we have relationships, to be able to open ourselves up to other people, so we can hear what we’re saying, so we know what we’re doing. We realize it’s not such a big thing after all. But of course, we need that trust in that other person. And that trust in the relationship is most important. And that’s why if we play around outside of our relationship, it hurts the other person. It’s a breach of trust. It’s a break of these two people who come together and say, well, you’re going to be my partner. Not just a sexual partner, but spiritual partner, an emotional partner, a heart partner, somebody I can actually be with, who will never criticize me. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Someone who will actually listen to me and understand me. Someone who can actually say, there’s those words which I keep on repeating. Here the door of my heart’s open to you. No matter who you are, no matter what you do with all your mistakes, I’ll always be your friend. I will never criticize you, put you down. I will understand you. I’ll never measure you or compare you. I’ll accept you as who you are. That’s like the trust of a relationship. I think that’s important to have that in any relationship. Which is why when people actually break relationships and they sleep around with other people or do this and do that, I don’t think it’s really. Something which helps, but I think it’s something which harms it harms this trust until sometimes people become so mistrustful they don’t open themselves out to anybody in life. They keep everything inside and they fester as a result. Because of they fester, they get all these terrible psychological problems lack of self esteem, guilt, fear, all this whole wage of difficulties which stops them being happy and being free in life. So if we have any sexuality, it’s very good. So keep it with a person we can trust to make it much more than just simple getting pleasure out of life, but having relationships. And that actually brings me up to the other part of Buddhism and sexuality, the pleasures in life which we have, okay, that’s part of the lay life to have those physical pleasures. But actually, after a while you start to investigate those things, to know those things. And after a while sometimes there’s a sense of bit of boredom comes in, a sense of being there done that comes in. And this is actually important as a Buddhist, actually, to realize that there is another way other than that sexuality. First of all, we have to restrain that sexuality because it comes unrestrained. It just creates more pain and difficulty for us when we do restrain it. From time to time, we find a sense of like peace inside of ourselves and. Because there’s one thing which the Buddha said about sexuality there is happiness there, but the happiness is very short lived and there’s lots of problems afterwards, difficulties in the sexuality. And sometimes we think, isn’t there something else in life other than this? And there is something more than that. So after a while with people messing around with sexuality, sometimes they want something more in life, a deeper happiness, a deeper sense of peace. Which is why, after a while, the people start to do meditation. And anyone who actually goes on a meditation retreat, have you ever noticed that one of the things you have to do on a meditation retreat is keep these things called eight precepts, which is celibacy for the time of the retreat? And the reason one does this is because it actually helps put all that energy, which you’d usually waste in sexuality, into some other place, into the mind, inside rather than outside. And. It’s a way of developing a deeper happiness. We all need to restrain our sexuality. When you’re married, you have to keep your sexuality within your marriage. As a young man, a young woman, you have to restrain yourself. Otherwise you get into big trouble. So there’s always a sense of restraint. In a retreat, you take that restraint a bit further of like no sexuality, to see what that is like. Sometimes when we want to know sexuality, sometimes we want to know its opposite of no sexuality to get a perspective on it. This is all the time when we need to know things. We need to know sometimes when those things aren’t there, to get the perspectives. And so after a while, if one just restrains that sexuality for a little one and has no sexuality, no one understands what sexuality is all about. Which is why Monks can actually talk like this, because we’ve taken ourselves out of the game. We’re like the umpires who neither play for Fremantle Dockers nor the West Coast Eagles. We’re the umpires. We stand in the middle outside of the game. Which is why you can actually see both sides. And as you take yourself out of the game of sexuality, you find there is another way, which is like the peace of the mind through meditation, which is why, like, monks are celibate. But if monks are going to be celibate, you have to have some support for that celibacy, which has to be like the meditation. Which is why that sometimes when you see especially like, Catholic priests who have to be celibate I remember many years ago, I used to go and teach in a prison in Bunbury, and the only way I could actually do that was actually to spend a night in Bunbury. And the Catholic priests in Bunbury were compassionate and kind enough to actually let me stay in their parish house. So for a couple of years I used to go there once a fortnight, I think it was, and stay overnight with the Catholics. I used to joke at the time I’d infiltrated the headquarters of the opposition in Camp Bumbury, but they weren’t the opposition. They were my friends used to have some good fun there. Remember one time that all the other priests had gone out that night. Because they have to be on call if anyone needs any special attention. And I was the only one in the house, and there was a knock on the door because somebody needed a priest in emergency. So I answered the door, and this poor Catholic lady, they saw me and just went into shock. I told the priest after I said, please never do that again. Just let a knock on the door. And they’ve respected a Buddhist monk at a Catholic next to the Catholic cathedral. Well, I had good fun then. They’re very kind, very kind to me. But I also had some good chats with them, especially after I finished off, finished teaching in the jail and come back in the evening just about what it’s like to be a Catholic priest, what it’s like to be a monk. And I thought I was very actually moved with compassion that as a Catholic priest, they never had any support for their celibacy. They had to be celibate, but they never really knew why or how they could remain celibate. They were always out there with the people, never have any time really in retreat, never have any meditation to really get them something which was much more deeper than sexuality. So it was a lot of endurance, which they had to make, I felt, sort of a lot of compassion. And for those who actually made it, I thought, well done. It’s something which is very hard to do. But especially for a Buddhist monk. Not only do we have, like, rules which help us with the celibacy, we have the beautiful meditation which actually takes away the need for sexuality. It’s a different way of living. The reason is that after a while in your meditation, like what you were doing just a few moments ago when you were meditating here, you get some peace and a quietness which is so beautiful and so lovely that it’s better than sex. And that’s one of the selling points which we have for meditation these days, happiness better than sex. With none of the problems in meditation, never have babies. And actually, a lot of people, actually, even though they may not get into the very deep meditation, they can actually feel what we’re meaning. There it is, a very, very beautiful happiness, a beautiful peace which gets more and more, which gets into no real big bliss status. And the reason is that you’re letting go of one happiness to get a happiness which is much more, much deeper. And. It. So when a person is actually celibate, especially as a Buddhist monk, you’re not doing this out of frustration, out of tension, out of trying to subdue the natural urges in the body. You’re fighting some other natural urges which are still right there, but even actually more profound than, like, sexuality. So it’s not a suppression. It’s a joy in celibacy, a joy in something else, which gives you the perspective. And what that sort of perspective means is actually you can be with people of opposite genders without any of that sexuality interfering. And it’s not a repress, it’s not playing games. It’s a reality. It makes it very helpful as a Buddhist monk to actually to be beyond that sexuality. So you can actually talk to all sorts of people. And it’s not that sort of that sexuality interferes with the exchange too often, especially if a woman is talking to a man, they never know whether that’s a possible sexual encounter there, whether it’s a partnership maybe happening there, whether the relationship possible. And so because of that, sometimes the opening up towards one another is done on different levels. If it’s like a monk, an asexual sort of person, an asexual friend, then there’s a different type of relationship possibility, a different type of opening up, a different way of talking with each other. It is knowing that the person is like the umpire, the referee. They’re not playing on either side. Also, the things you can say you won’t be able to say to others. And I find it very wonderful being in that situation where you can actually talk to people and then realize there’s not a potential sexual partner there that makes it much more free, much more rewarding. It’s like as a counselor, as a friend. That’s one of the advantages of actually that type of celibacy. But also it’s the advantage of being able to share one’s kindness out not just with one person, but with many people, without the problems which one can have in the lay life. With that sort of sharing, there’s actually like a trust can be built up with many people rather than just with one. A relationship with many rather than just with one. A love which can go to many, many people rather than just with one. Because sometimes when there’s sexuality, we have to have a sense of commitment to one sort of person rather than just an involvement. And because of that, that all of our energies are focused on one person. With celibacy, because that’s taken away, you can actually focus on many people and. And so that’s why we have this beautiful ideal of love in Buddhism, like the door of my heart’s open not just to you, but to everybody, whoever you are. So it’s in the sense of like having that love not just towards one particular partner in the world, which is what happens with sexuality, but actually spreading it out to many, many people and without the problems of sexuality. So that way, in the celibacy of monasticism, it has many, many advantages there as long as it’s becoming natural, obviously, that if that meditation doesn’t really gel for a monk or for a nun, and they don’t get into the deep meditations. If they don’t get happiness from their meditation after a while, you find that people who join monastic life after a while believe simply because that their happiness in meditation is not there. So they go back to the happiness of the world and sexuality. And it’s much better, as you all know, that if you’re going to be an unhappy monk, it’s best not to be a monk at all. If you’re going to be a nun who’s not happy, then best to go back to the laylife. There’s no sense of failure or a sense of blame if a person does this. In fact, usually there’s a sense of, oh, well done, you’ve given it a try, you’ve really given a few years and you’ve done quite a lot. That’s good karma, well done. So there’s no sense of like, judging or putting a person down because of that. And it’s one of the nice things about particular type of Buddhism or monasticism which we practice here, is one of the things which actually attracted me to become a monk in this tradition. Because when you become a monk, you don’t have to become a monk forever. You can become a monk however long you feel comfortable being a monk and you can disrobe whenever you like. And because of that, it meant that people weren’t going to stay as monks because of some vow they made many, many years ago, which now doesn’t really make sense for them. And so because of that freedom to disrobe whenever you want, it means that you only stay as a monk if you’re enjoying it, if you’re having fun, if you’re having satisfaction with your celibacy, not only with your celibacy, but with other things which you’re doing a monastic life. So because of that, that we have like a happy monk would. And a happy nunhood. And that’s actually quite fascinating in this world to have that, to have examples of people who are not sexual at all but still having very, very fulfilling lives. Because what it does, it takes away this idea in the Western world that sexuality is necessary and that you have to be sexual. What it’s doing is that those people in this world or in this hall right here who feel that sexuality is not so important for them. It shows you a group of folks, a group of women at Damasar Monastery who are saying, well, if you want to be sexual, go for it. If you want to be celibate, go for it. Both are possible. So often in this world, we tend to be compelled by the fads, the fashions of our society, the fashions of our world, people who say, if you haven’t got a partner, something’s terribly wrong with you. That if you can’t have a relationship, then you’re some sort of deviant, that you’re not the right in the head or whatever it is. And because of that force of fashion, force of what we’re expected to be, what we expected to live up with that causes so much suffering in ourselves and. The point. What I’m trying to make is actually by seeing people who are celibate happy, it’s giving you another opportunity. If you feel like being celibate as well, you can actually also be happy as well. You don’t have to actually follow what people expect of you. When you see a much wider range of possibilities presented before you, you can actually choose whichever one you feel appropriate at that time in your life. So if you want to be celibate, you can say, well, there’s a Bukham monks over there. They’re having a great time, so it can’t be all that bad. If you want to be sexual, fine. There’s a group of people in our Buddhist society and with their wives and with their husbands who are doing a lot of good work, that’s okay too. What you’re doing is actually freeing up the parameters of your life, giving yourself more options and being proud, being happy with the option you’ve taken in life. What it’s actually doing there is giving people responsibility and be given pride in their lives, giving themselves self acceptance, which is what really Budhism is trying to do for each one of us, whether one is homosexual, heterosexual or celibate. To be proud of that, to be accepting of that, not to compare it, not to say it’s better, it’s worse, it’s the same. We have a teaching in Buddhism about the word conceit. And it was a very powerful teaching which the Buddha gave about conceit, about pride. He said what pride is, is not just thinking I am better than the person next to me or that person over there, but pride is also thinking I’m worse than that person or even I’m the same. All judging and comparing of yourself with someone else, the Buddha said, is called conceit because if you actually look at actually how it works in your mind, as soon as you say I’m better than that person over there, you also think you’re worse than somebody else. That’s probably why you even think I must be better, because you also at times think you’re worse or you’re the same. Well, the Buddha was saying we don’t compare ourselves with other beings. We don’t say I’m better, we don’t say I’m worse. We don’t say I’m the same. Because how can you compare yourself with somebody else? Instead you accept yourself as you are without that comparison. If you are homosexual, be at peace with yourself as you are. You’re not better than anybody else, you’re not worse than anybody else, you’re not the same as anybody else. We don’t even actually any of those things. We don’t accept you’re, just you, that’s all. When you actually allow yourself to be, you give yourself immense amount of freedom. And when you’re not comparing yourself with other people, straight away you’re undermining this terrible thing we call lack of self esteem. Inside of us, guilt, fear, all these things coming. When we compare ourselves with other people, when we compare our sexuality with other people, when we afraid because we go against the conventions of some dogmatic people in the world, we’re not allowing ourselves to be we’re not loving ourselves, we’re not allowing ourselves to be free. And because of that we have lack of self esteem, depression, sometimes even suicide. So one of the wonderful things about Buddhism is actually giving oneself a sense of acknowledgment, a sense of acceptance, a sense of peace. As long as you’re not doing anything which harms another person or harms yourself, be at peace with yourself as you are. Don’t compare yourself with others. Don’t judge and. Even as a monk, you don’t judge. I’m the best monk in the whole monastery. I’m much better than a monk sitting over there. We don’t do that. We don’t judge at all. You know what it’s like sometimes in life. You’re always competing with others. That competition is one of the terrible things of our society. It’s so bad that even in school we compete with our fellow students to try and get the best marks, to get the places in university, to get the best jobs in life. We all know that competition sometimes does not help the school, does not help the business, does not help the society we’re in. That’s why, a long time ago, because I was a school teacher myself and I saw that in the schools kids competing against each other, trying to get the best marks. And in organizations, maybe in Buddhist societies, competing to be the best, which means, like, stabbing each other in the back, wasting a lot of time when you could be working together. I always thought that if ever I had any influence in education we should have a way of examinations at the end of the year. Year or testing a person, grading them the end of the year. Maybe sort of 60% your own personal efforts. And the other 40% averaged over the whole class. So if the whole class did well, you did well. If the whole class did poorly, you did poorly. Because that way it would be in the students interest, actually for the strong ones to help the weak ones, for them to have not just competition, but cooperation. It because we all know that in any organization, it’s not just competition, but cooperation is also important. To be able to succeed in a business, to succeed in life. Without that teaching our kids cooperation, when they go into the workforce, they’re just thinking about their own career, what they want, what they need. That their needs. Never think about the other people in the office when you go into a family. Just my needs. Never thinking about the other people in the family. We learn not to cooperate, but to compete all the time. Because competing is all about being the best. I’m better, I’m worse. I’m the same. Conceit again, cooperation is lovingkindness. Door of my heart’s open to you. Come in and we can work together. Which is why that sometimes that we need much more like cooperation. Working together with homosexuals, heterosexuals celibates with Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Islam, Muslims, whoever. Working together, cooperation is important. We have time for competition as well. We see who’s the best religion. But that’s only half of it. A third of it, a fraction of it. Because sometimes I think that’s good in our present society, when all the different religions have to come together, when we’re all, as it were, competing on the spiritual marketplace of our world, then every religion has to get up their game, as they say. And because there was only just one religion which was available in our society, then there wouldn’t be that need to actually what I call market forces to really, actually get your religion together, to present it well, to meet the needs of the people and to do a good job. I think it’s one of the great things of our society that in one city we have all the different religions, even in Buddhism, many different Buddhist societies. So if we can actually keep the Buddhist society of West Australia in this place full, we have to make sure we meet the needs of the people. That competition can be very important, but we also need a cooperation to work together. One of the things which I have seen with religions in this world that people will not tolerate anymore, people putting down other religions they will not tolerate anymore. Just no religions putting up barriers against each other. They want people of religion actually not being hypocrites anymore. If we talk about love, we should start practicing it, which means we do say not just to fellow Buddhists, but to everybody. The door of my heart’s open, really with meaning. So not just playing around, but actually finding those bridges, making those bridges. Once those bridges are made, actually walking over those bridges to meet people on the other side, to be friends with them. When religions start to do that, when we start to teach not just by words, but by example, when we show people of different beliefs can work together in harmony. We can cooperate, we can be friends. We’re also showing the different sexualities of the world. We also can be friends. We can cooperate, we can work together. Are that everybody is included in in the one religious family. In the one sexual family. Homosexuals, heterosexuals and celibates. Sometimes you understand what homosexuals feel about being rejected, because even more deviant these days than homosexuality is celibacy. And it people think the monks must be really, really deviant. Can understand about a man looking for a girl, a girl looking for a man. I understand men are men and women are women these days having no sexuality at all. Wow, you guys must be really frustrated. That’s what actually they say celibacy is the most deviant of all. I’m very proud of being the most deviant. We deviate from this enjoyment of the sensory world, but what we’re actually saying is that bring everybody in together so which we can cooperate rather than compete. We can live together in peace and harmony that way that we can actually do something for this world. When I see that, whether it’s celibates or whether it’s homosexuals or any portion of the society being rejected like that, it sort of hurts my heart. I actually was hoping that the Anglican Church could make a strong stand and say, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a homosexual, whether you’re from Mars or you’ve Planet Zog, wherever you’re from, if you’re a good bishop, come in, you can be a good bishop. So in Buddhist monasticism, even if you’re an alien, if you’re a good monk, you can come out of space actually saying that it’s like an inclusiveness. And I think people can actually understand that that is the way we find peace and happiness inside ourselves as well, because it’s part of ourselves which sometimes doesn’t fit the standards of society. Part of ourselves now, which if we brought out into the open, we might be very embarrassed about. Part of ourselves which needs outing, as they say in Gay language. And the part of ourselves which we hide from others our secrets which we’re afraid to allow other people to hear those are the parts of ourselves in which there is much pain and much suffering. It’s wonderful for one day to feel that there’s one person or two people or many people or the whole world would accept even that part of you as well to accept you as you are, the whole of you with your faults. Because in that acceptance, in that peace in that acceptance, there is that peace who’s that sense of coming home, that acceptance of I’m okay. Sometimes you may think you’re weird. Sometimes that people have actually come up and told me of their weirdness. Sometimes they come up and say, but you’ve never heard this before. And I say, Listen, sir, I’ve heard that so many times. We all think we’re different. We all think we’re unique. We all think we’re original. It’s one of the things which I found out when I was a monk and people started telling me their problems. First time I heard that problem, it was unique. The second person who came up, I’ve heard that before somewhere. Third person. Here we go again. The same problems. Maybe dressed in different clothes, but the same problems. Something about oneself which one rejects, one doesn’t feel at ease with, or rather, which you feel society doesn’t feel at ease with. The idea you’re trying to live up to some ideal of a society. And you can’t do that because part of you is rejected by society, rejected by your parents, rejected by your loved ones, rejected by somebody or other. So you can’t feel free with yourself. Because this part of you which you feel if you’d really express would not be acceptable to others, you have this war inside of yourself, this tension. This is how I am. This is how I can’t be after a while, that’s of war. That tension inside causes immense psychological damage, immense psychic hurt. After a while, there comes a time when you let go, you let yourself be. You allow yourself to be. And that’s called love. That’s called freedom. That’s called contentment. All these words are coming from this pointed to the same object, the same thing. This is why I love these three words contentment, love. Letting go. Love is where you say the door of my heart’s open not just to a person, but to a state, to a thing, to a mind state, to part of you. The door of my heart’s open to this thing inside of me which I’m afraid of. Come in. I’ll embrace you, I’ll be with you. You can be my friend, I can be who I am. The door of my heart’s open to me. That’s called love. Letting go is stopping all this. Trying to be different. Trying to be the great monk. Trying to be the great wife. Trying to be the great father. Trying to be the great president. Trying to be the great this or that. How much time and pain have you had in your life? Trying to live up to somebody’s expectations, or even worse, trying to live up to your expectations. You never you never reach those expectations. After a while, you let go, allow yourself to be as you are. That’s why I’m never tense when I give these talks. I’m never afraid when I give these talks. This is who I am. I tell silly jokes. I’m not afraid of doing that. If you don’t like it, that’s who I am. I can’t do anything else. That’s that’s me. Those of you who’ve known me a long time, you know that. That’s all I am. So you relax with yourself. You allow yourself to be. You let go. People like it, don’t like it. You’re not doing this to try and live up to somebody’s expectation. You’re not doing this to please others. How much of your life have you spent trying to please others? You now the time to let go and be, to take off all those barriers, all those force, and just be. Let go. Let yourself be, which is being content with who you are, being at peace with who you are, when you can be content with who you are and. Then you can be content with others. When you’re content with others, you can be content with life. When you’re content with life, then you’re enlightened. You’re not craving for something different anymore for those people. Homosexual, be content. If you’re sexual, heterosexual, be content. If you’re celibate, be content. Learn to be at peace with yourself. Come home. Don’t worry what other people think of you. Don’t worry what you think of you. Don’t measure yourself against others. Better, worse, the same. And that way we can all find our place in this world, a place of peace. And as Buddhists, try and have a wide heart. Which is why the Buddha said that may all living beings be happy and well. Not just the human beings. Even those beings which irritate you to the cockroaches in your kitchen, the mosquitoes are landing your arm. May all beings be happy and well. Because those beings, even the little mosquitoes, are only looking for a bit of blood, something to eat. You’ve got plenty left. They don’t take it all. They always leave you some mosquitoes, being mosquitoes. That’s all. One of the things I found as a monk in Thailand, if you just leave them alone, they just take a little bit of blood. And also if you leave them actually to drink properly, then they actually take all that little stuff they put in there and it doesn’t itch so much if you disturb them, they leave some of this chemical or whatever it is stuff in your blood and it itches much more over if you actually just try and disturb them. They just go and sort of go and bite you somewhere else. They bite somebody else. They’d like two bits of suffering rather than just one bit of suffering in life. So just out of compassion for others, say, come bite me. Bite me, please bite me. Come on, bite me. And that and that way they’re irritating mosquitoes. Cockroaches. They’re troublesome. That’s why we love them. That’s why we accept them. Your husband is troublesome. Your wife is irritating. That’s why we love them. It’s just too easy to marry and love a perfect person. There’ll be nothing in that at all. That’s why we’re testing out ourselves. This is life, this is growth. The great university of learning just how much we can love and tolerate and accept and cooperate rather than compete. So if you got a very difficult husband, a very hard wife to live with, you are very lucky. You got the opportunity to learn the best. You got the best teach is you’re in the best class, the far stream to nibbana. So what we really mean there is, like, we have this wonderful sense of acceptance, encouragement of ourselves, to be at peace with things. And this is actually what I meant with just the rejection of some people in society or the rejection of some part of ourselves all coming from the same place. It’s hatred and ill will rejection judging long ride, the monk the harder it is to judge others so hard for me to say anyone you’re evil or your good I never actually met anyone who’s absolutely evil, never met anyone who’s absolutely good. I just met people, that’s all. Just met cockroaches, mosquitoes and kangaroos. Can you judge a kangaroo for being a good one or a bad one? They’re just kangaroos, that’s all. Just people are the same, that’s what you are. So that means where we can love ourselves and we can forgive ourselves, we can be at peace with ourselves, we don’t reject ourselves. When you can be at peace with yourself, you can be at peace with the world. And then there’ll be none of this silliness anymore. This guy cannot be a sort of a bishop because he’s a homosexual, or because he’s heterosexual, or because he’s celibate or whatever else. If he can do the job, then do it. It’s a good person. Let him be the bishop, let him be the monk, let him be the wife, let him be the husband or whatever else it happens to be. If it’s a job description, great, go for it. So we don’t go around judging people just on silly things. We don’t go around judging ourselves. I think that’s the way we can get some more peace and harmony in this world and stop all this silliness where we reject some people because of their gender, because of their age, because of their race, because of their religion. Surely that religion should be wide, is enough, should be far, seeing enough to overcome all of that. Religion should be spreading love, not hate. Creating more harmony rather than divisions, bringing people to be at peace with their neighbors. Religion says in the Bible to love your neighbor as yourself. If your neighbor happens to be a homosexual, well, that doesn’t matter. He’s your neighbor. Love him as yourself. No more, no less. Whoever it is you’re living with, be at peace with them, whether it’s your neighbor or whether yourself. Allow all these things just to disappear and fade away so you can be at peace in your life, in your work. We can cooperate rather than going around always judging all the time you so I’ve run out of time now, out of speaking about all sorts of things. I don’t know if it really was about Buddhism and sex and sex, or Buddhism and sexuality, or about homosexuality, or what it was, but I enjoyed the talk. I hope you did too. Thank you for listening. Bye. Okay, has anyone got any questions about the subject? Yeah, we’ve got one from the back. Yes. Go. I remember meeting a fellow in UWA a couple of years ago who started a therapy group called Racist Anonymous in the United States. And he put an advert, any racists, please come up. And all these racists would meet together and said, I’m a racist. Who are you? So I’m a Jew. I hate you. But it was interesting. Many of the people who are racists, they were racist. They were acknowledging it as a problem. They didn’t want to be racist. We didn’t want to hate people. And so those people actually are racist. I think there’s a part of them which would acknowledge that they’re not at ease and at peace with that state of affairs. It’s like a person being a drunkard, being an alcoholic, or a drug addict. They realize inside themselves there’s a problem there. They got to fix something. And. And this is actually, I suppose, appropriate way to deal with people with closed minds. All those closed minds are because of conditioning and actually to open those minds up with wider conditioning for people of all walks of life and to make friends with each other. The only thing I can actually say is maybe my own upbringing, because I went to a very poor my family were very poor in West London, and West London was supposed to be the rich part of London, but not part I grew up in, and I went to, like, a very poor, you know, just the local school. But there was people from all different ethnic backgrounds there. It was like a migrant community. There was Chinese people, Pakistani people, African people, people from Eastern Europe, and you played soccer with them all. And I didn’t care what colour their skin was or where they came from, if they were a good center half or a good right winger, they were my team and. And I became colorblind because of that. By colorblind, I mean, you couldn’t really see any difference between sort of the nature of a human being because of their gender or because of their race or their religion. And that was actually a marvelous conditioning for me. I think one of the things which we could do is to lease no stop no single religious schools. So not all the Buddhists don’t all hang out together. All the Muslims don’t hang out together. All the Catholics don’t hang out together, but we’re forced to live with each other, work with each other, that we deghettoize society. By that, I mean, once you start to play soccer with people from other races, religions, with gays, with lesbians, with whatever, I don’t know, that way all that conditioning of somehow they’re different than us disappears. So I think that’s one sort of practical way of trying to stop all of this. Remember after September the 11th, it was a beautiful article in the Guardian. I know you read the Guardian about and so was it declassing or taking really, in outer schools for. Because there was too many times that one particular group, one particular religion, would just go to their own church, go to their own school, marrying within the religion, and they would never have any sort of broad idea of what happens outside of their religion, outside of their class, outside of their country. And because of that, there did become that racism and that tribalism. You got a marvelous opportunity now of our present age to be able to travel, intermarry, go to each other’s churches, meet with each other, enjoy each other’s company, play on the same soccer team with people from all different races and religions. I think that’s marvelous, because when we meet each other, we can’t have that same prejudice. It oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. If you get angry at racist, actually, you’re buying into exactly what they want. You should put a little sticker on your car. Love a racist. Today it. No, it doesn’t say. It completely undermines a good example. This one of the monks in England, he told me he was on this train journey and he was going to give a talk some about three or four hour train journey. He had like a born again Christian came up to sit next to him to try and convert him. Which really sort of laying it on hard about Buddhism being evil. You’re just a child of the devil. You’re going to go to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus. Really giving it hard. And this poor monk could hardly say a word because this got harangued the whole journey. It was time for the monkey to actually get off of the station. He just put his arm around this man and said, didn’t Jesus say to love each other? I love you. And that completely flawed. The born again Christian. And so he didn’t know what to say after that. So people who want to convert you change you. It’s all the politics of hate, of ill will. So if you love a racist rather than hating them, you’re completely undermining sort of the fuel of their racism. They can’t handle that. They get confused and they think again. They feed on hate. If you give them hate, they get stronger. Okay, so I think that’s enough for this evening. So please go out and laugh. A racist this evening. Okay, so any announcements this.

The Abandoning of Anger | Ajahn Plien

The Forest Path Podcast
The Forest Path Podcast
The Abandoning of Anger | Ajahn Plien

This episode is a talk given by the Thai forest meditation master Ajahn Plien and is titled “The Abandoning of Anger”. In this talk Ajahn Plien outlines the many causes for anger and conflict to arise in human relationships, why it’s important to overcome anger and how to abandon anger.

This teaching was translated and made available for free distribution as a gift of Dhamma by the Sangha at Wat Aranyavivek.

The Abandoning of Anger
I would like to share the teachings of the Lord Buddha with you to help clarify your wisdom and enhance your faith and confidence. Why do human beings born in the world so often live in conflict, argument and with suffering? We see it among our friends, family, and relatives, amongst all classes and in all countries. The Lord Buddha advised us to look in our own hearts and minds to find the causes of this unhappiness and conflict.
To live together happily requires us to be mindful of how we think, speak and act towards one another. It is a fact that unwholesome mind-states like greed, anger, and confusion have been causing us suffering for many lifetimes. Therefore we must be mindful – in what we say, think, or do – or these unwholesome states will overcome us. Being dominated by them, it will be very difficult to abandon these old habits and thus train ourselves properly.
Anger can arise in many different ways. For instance, it arises when one is dis- pleased by another’s actions that are opposed to our desires. Suppose we give some- body a nice watch and then see that person not take care of it properly. We might become annoyed and upset. Or in the case of a parent who allows their child to drive the family car, instructing the child to drive it from here to there. But the child does not use the car properly, driving it carelessly or going elsewhere. Consequently, the parent becomes furious because the child did not properly follow their instructions.
One can become angry by seeing others act in ways perceived to be inappropriate. For example, some people may talk behind another person’s back, saying that they are bad, ugly, messy, or behave poorly. When that person hears what has been said, they get outraged, even uncontrollably so. Their minds can go on and on, asking over and over why these people gossiped about them, saying such hurtful things.
Other people can trigger our temper as well. Let’s say that we hear critical things said about us, but remain composed. Then a third person comes and provokes us, saying, “Why, I wouldn’t stand for that sort of treatment if I were you!” Then we find ourselves infuriated. Thus hatred can be caused by instigation. Another example of this is when anger is aroused by indulging in gossip and discussing the intolerable behavior of some third person.
Aversion can often arise in family situations. A husband might say something to his wife who then reacts abruptly, without patience, to what has been said. Both then get emotionally worked up and begin to exchange harsh and bitter words.
Anger arises between parents and children as well. Parents advice, their children to be good, but if the child answers back or otherwise reacts improperly, the parents can become irritated and upset.
Misunderstandings and conflicts can occur between friends as well. This can gen- erate negativity and destroy friendships. When one thoroughly contemplates anger, it is easy to see how dangerous it is and the misery it causes.
From the above examples it can be seen that there are numerous ways that anger can arise. Some people easily get upset over minor matters. Others are able to tolerate intense situations before they get to a point where they can’t take it any longer and then anger explodes through speech or action.
Anger has many causes. The root cause however is defilement in the mind. Also, a lack of enough mindfulness and wisdom to restrain anger with patience. People allow their minds to dwell on unwholesome thoughts and this becomes the cause for angry outbursts. Invariably they lose the ability to remain mindful, and to practice patience and humble endurance.
We need to realize just how dangerous aversion is. Suffering arises the moment we get annoyed or aggravated. The Lord Buddha said “Nahi Sathu Kotho,” meaning “aversion is not good.” If we cannot see the disadvantages of anger and the harm it causes, then we will not be able to restrain our anger. We will not be able to purge it from our minds. When anger dominates our minds, all it yields is suffering for us and harm for others.
There are numerous ways and circumstances in which aversion can arise and com- pletely dominate our minds. For example in the workplace: co-workers can become so upset with each other that all cooperation ends and they end up as antagonists shout- ing at each other. Riling in this way is harmful both to those who indulge in it as well as to those who bear the brunt.
Anger can be a strongly ingrained tendency in certain people or between certain individuals that has developed over many lifetimes. When they meet each other again in this life either as husbands, wives, brothers or sisters, then those habits of resent- ment, which have built up over these past lives, will make it easy for them to get on each other’s nerves again, even over little things.
Sometimes one has spent a number of past lives with the same group of people. Some families always seem to be upset and argue with one another. There is no har- mony in their lives. The power of their kamma, their past deeds, is such that they are pulled to live with each other.
In some cases parents and children may live together, yet not be able to get along. Their lives are filled with sorrow, a sorrow which repeats itself over and over again, lifetime after lifetime. For such people even to look at the other or hear the other’s voice can cause resentment and negativity. When people are inter-linked in this way, just thinking about that person can cause so much suffering and ill will that the mind whirls out of control. Fighting and even killing can be the result.
So it is evident that those with clouded minds experience sorrow and suffering. They find themselves in constant conflict with others and their vexation is expressed through speech and actions. The Lord Buddha said that being angry is like being stabbed with a sword in the heart. The pain of anger penetrates the heart and perpetual suffering is the consequence. Kamma is created by this habitual action.
If two people are always getting in a row, it may be that in former lives they adopted this tendency to get irritated every time their paths crossed. Even when they attempt to talk together amicably, trying to be considerate, they misunderstand each other and get into arguments. This is because of unskillful habits formed in previous lives. In those past lives they might have fought and squabbled, constantly provoking and counter- attacking each other.
There is another kind of anger that can arise because of love or lust. Consider the case of a husband and wife who love each other very much. However, if they allow possessiveness to stain their love then feelings of ownership and jealousy arise. If one of them returns home late, then the partner worries until feelings of jealousy and mistrustaregenerated. Whenoneofthepartnersfeelsignoredornotheard,asenseof resentment and frustration can result. This type of anger arises from love, attachment, lust and jealousy.
Similarly, sometimes the more parents love their children, the more they expect them to comply with their words. Parents can become very upset when their child does not behave in the way they expect. A parent may have taught the child to speak kindly, but then they speak rudely or swear – such disobedience can exasperate the parent. Their ire is actually rooted in love and attachment. The beloved child is expected to be considerate and well behaved, fulfilling the parent’s expectations by following their advice. The child receives much love and care from the parent, and the parent in turn wants the child to be sensitive and caring to others. When this doesn’t happen, the parent is angered.
We see that anger can easily spring out of love, be it between husband and wife, parents and children or between friends. A lover can fly into a rage if their loved one does not follow their wish, criticizes, blames, or gossips about them. It is a ubiquitous and ingrained impulse in beings that have been born together in this world, to feel hurt and piqued when those they love do not fulfill their wishes and desires.
Hatred is the most intense form of anger and can be very difficult to control. Re- venge is even more intense than hatred. At the other end of the spectrum, negativity or minor feelings of frustration are among the less challenging facets of anger, and can usually be restrained. If these milder forms of resentment arise and agitate the mind, but are then not allowed to express themselves through one’s speech, expressions or gestures, they will more easily run their course and fade away. However if a person’s rage intensifies, they may completely lose control. Minor fuming may turn into abu- sive utterances and actions and end up in a fight.
Resentment or aversion is a mood that forms in a mind which has lost its ability to be patient and humble. The inevitable result is pain and suffering. It can grow into
a craving for revenge and even to thoughts of murder. When unwholesome thoughts totally dominate the mind, a person is can even feel a sense of elation at successfully murdering another. Unrestrained thoughts lead to unwholesome courses of action, and yield enormous physical and psychological suffering.
Remember, anger is a choice – a negative emotion allowed to run amok in one’s mind. Nobody actually “makes” another person angry. Anger arises in oneself. Anger can even be directed towards oneself. For example, if an activity undertaken does not yield the desired outcome, one might be disappointed and disgruntled at one’s own performance.
Whether anger is directed at another or at oneself, it is the same mechanism at work. An unwholesome thought arises in the mind – such as self-criticism because something didn’t happen the way one wanted – and that unwholesome thought is then perpetuated and clung to. Before long the person becomes angry, perhaps even to the point of losing self-control, because he is not able to get what he wants.
If one has not learned how to check and discipline the mind, then one may say wrong things at the wrong time, or say something nasty or otherwise act inappropri- ately towards someone else. Later, one feels guilty and regrets behaving in that way. This causes one to get even more upset with oneself. But nobody else makes one angry. One makes oneself angry.
Some people get upset as a consequence of their own self-critical and judgmental attitudes. Let’s say a person falls seriously ill and gets so enfeebled that traveling or doing things with others is no longer possible. They may start to feel sorry for them- selves and wonder why they have such weakness and bad health. Thinking, “What bad luck or kamma I have,” they might become extremely frustrated and angry with themselves.
The process of anger is important to contemplate and understand. To see how it works is very interesting. If this dynamic is not clearly understood, ignorance and confusion will result rather than clear comprehension. One must closely note that anger arises through one’s own thoughts, not through anyone else’s.
Dissatisfaction arises from craving for unwise things, talking unskillfully, or work- ing in a careless way. For example, one may get upset when ill, or feel frustrated over not being as good looking as someone else. Why does dissatisfaction arise like this? It is because of a lack of self-awareness, and of breaks in mindfulness. When mindfulness and clear comprehension are not present, dissatisfaction can arise.
Some people can even get angry at themselves over their meditation! During med- itation, they try very hard to calm and concentrate the mind but fail to do so. Their mind wanders here and there, thinking of many things other than the task at hand. The mind refuses to settle down and stay with the meditation object no matter how hard they try. Finally, they give up, exasperated because their mind is so out of con- trol.
Each one of us intimately knows the face of anger. We believe that external things
trigger it, but actually we have to understand that it is self created. A person who does not behave correctly, who does not speak gently, nor knows the right time and place to say things, will inevitably find he cannot be tranquil and concentrated when med- itating. When a person lets unwholesome states inhabit the mind, the latent agitation easily swells into anger. One’s self-awareness disappears when this happens. Only misery and bad effects follow. People really suffer because they don’t understand this process.
When a person is really furious, everyone can see it written on their face and punc- tuated in their words and actions. The mind of wrathful person is clouded, withered, and filled with suffering. Like a rotten egg, it’s of no use to anybody. Even if a person dresses smartly in expensive clothes and fine jewelry, but then allows anger to adorn their heart, there will be only misery, ugliness and pain for that person. The Lord Bud- dha said that “anger is like a fire burning our heart,” and that very fire can inflame our speech or actions. He said “Nahi Sathu Kotho,” meaning anger is totally blameworthy and ignoble.
Contemplate whether anger is good or bad. How many times since our youth have we lost our temper? It has happened many times to all of us. Now we are getting older. Some of us may be even grandparents, and we still get incensed by those around us.
Every time anger arises, nothing beneficial comes from it. We go on getting pro- voked over and over again. Aren’t we fed up yet? Will we just go on letting this unworthy, unwholesome substance fester in our hearts, making us so sad and miser- able? Why can’t we just kick out anger? It’s because we lack mindfulness and wisdom and thus fall under the sway of negative thoughts.
Anger is unwholesome. In our lifetime, we have gotten angry over and over again for such a long time that you would think we would be tired of it. Why have we not changed? It is because our minds are still unhealthy. As if our minds are diseased and constantly feverish, burning us and causing endlessly agony. This disease just keeps on making us get sick over and over again while we grow older by the day. We keep accumulating these rotten, unwholesome thoughts. Defilements are foul and cause misery for ourselves and others! But instead of purifying our minds, we allow all this rubbish to stay, never making an effort to get rid of it.
The Lord Buddha said we are not wise if we do not relinquish anger and negativity: these are useless emotions and do not yield happiness. It is like storing a fermented, foul smelling thing in our house or carrying it in our pockets wherever we go. Wher- ever we go everything smells awful. Why do we carry such things around with us? We lack wisdom! Carrying something foul around is a simile for holding on to anger.
Sometimes people get annoyed at their friends, children, nephews or nieces, spouse, grandparents and then they catch themselves and regain mindfulness, realizing that they are doing an unwholesome thing. They understand that they have to live together with these people and they should not be averse to them. Even so, they feel incapable of avoiding such behavior. Few are the people who are able to exercise caution, and thereby train themselves to not be overcome by anger.
Please reflect: is anger a good thing? How long have we been holding on to our aversions? Aren’t we fed up with negativity? Does the burning rage inside make you happy? Don’t you want to purify your mind of it? Don’t you want to live happily? Or would you rather hold on to it and lead a miserable life? If you want your life to move in a positive direction, then inwardly reflect and look at the consequences of anger. You will see that its conquest is the most important thing.
So now that we have exposed anger as a really bad thing, how can we cut it out of our lives to live happily? To answer this question, we must closely introspect in order to understand things clearly. If we fail to do this, we will live an unhappy life. It’s that simple. The Lord Buddha taught us to never respond to an angry person with anger. If we respond in the same way, we are even worse than them, even more foolish and certainly not in any way better than them. It is useless to respond to aversion with aversion. Let us find a way to avoid, abandon, and purify ourselves of this foolishness. Reflect on ways to abandon this stupidity.
Now, how can we do this so as to be happy? If we realize the worthless and painful nature of anger, it is easier to give it up. We need to wisely reflect with mindfulness: “I have been caught in this endless ongoing cycle of anger which has perpetuated itself since beginning less time”. So what should we do first to curb this emotion and then completely abandon it, banishing it from our hearts and minds? This is achievable through the practice of patience and humility. Here’s an example: Let’s say we want something to be done in a particular way and instruct an appropriately skilled person on the specifications. Despite meticulous instruction it does not get done that way. This may rile us. But rather than getting irritated, we can develop composure and remain silent, containing any arisen frustration within ourselves. By acting in this way it just ends there.
A parent may give a child a new toy and then later find it broken. Rather than getting infuriated, the parent can reflect on the impermanent nature of all things. It is natural that things like toys will wear out and eventually break, regardless of how they are treated by the child. If the parent merely focuses on the child’s carelessness with the toy, they will no doubt be upset. Would that be of any use? They would still have to accept the truth that all objects wear out and break.
In whatever social setting we are, we should endeavor to abandon feelings of vex- ation. If we do get upset and can no longer endure a situation, then it’s best to remove ourselves from that situation. Not having contact with those who annoy us will help subdue the resentment. This is a means of temporarily abandoning ill will. It will check the anger until we meet that person or situation again.
Sometimes when a couple is conversing, they speak in a way of “point scoring” creating arguments and disagreements thereby. They do not even listen to each other. Instead they ceaselessly hurl verbal barbs at each other. In the same way children will argue and contend with their parents, not obeying their advice. So then parents get angry even though they love them.
What should parents do? When they are extremely annoyed, then that’s the time to let go of the situation, to drop it. This gives a chance for the anger to subside. Even
though it may reappear when the same situation occurs again, they’re getting some breathing space by subduing the process for a short time. Please understand though that this is not a permanent method for preventing anger from arising.
We tend to have a lot of self-hatred. Even when we try to develop loving kindness we can end up frustrated with ourselves. We may become very self-critical when we make a mistake. For example we make an unsound decision at work or when shopping make an unsuitable purchase. This can leave us discontented and mired in self blame. We condemn ourselves as foolish and get upset. This focusing on faults is how anger arises and is sustained.
Rather than getting caught in self-condemnation, we should reflect that making a mistake is normal. No human being can avoid making some mistakes. If we are upset because we have made a bad purchase, or are dissatisfied with how something has turned out, there is unwholesome craving and desire at the source of our thoughts and actions. While it is extremely hard for human beings to not at times be overcome by such anger, remember to be patient and humble. A mind that has not been well trained is difficult to control. So contemplate and reflect wisely in order to develop an understanding of how anger works.
In the same way that we can’t control our own mind, we can’t control the minds of others, such as our children. They will not always follow our wishes because they are somebody else. Our children don’t belong to us. We can’t force them to only do as we want, so it is useless to fret over them. Instead, we need to learn from them, to know their temperament and character and understand how they react and respond in various situations. When we can discern other people’s temperaments and character traits then we better equipped to deal with them.
Avoidance of people who anger us cannot resolve the situation. Instead, we try to cultivate forbearance towards those who trigger such feelings in us. Endeavor to find skillful ways to see things from their perspective, their point of view. By understanding them more completely, we learn to live together amiably, communicate harmoniously, with less argument, anger, ill will or prejudice.
This is a crucial point. If we do not understand those around us, we cannot avoid getting angry. We will only be able to subdue these feelings in a temporary or in- termittent manner. Instead, we need to abandon anger by cultivating patience and persistently letting go of the arisen negativity.
We need to develop our skills of listening and communication. When a husband is speaking, then a wife should endeavor to listen quietly without criticism. Similarly, if a wife is speaking, a husband should be patient, and not just answer back abruptly. By being patient, the couple will not get annoyed with each other. They will acquire the skill of harmonious communication. When a couple continually squabbles, the conflict can become so intense and loud that the neighbors know all about it. Everyone knows for sure that there is no happiness in that house, and they become the talk of the neighborhood. If that couple knew what the neighbors thought, then they might have a sense of conscience and shame. Perhaps some reflection on why they married will help: they had loved each other. Living together over time, things changed, and
they began to argue. If they really reflected in this way, they would be ashamed at the way they have been treating each other.
If the members of a family ponder how much harm disagreements cause, they would be wary of perpetuating arguments. As a result, heated tempers would cool down. By comparing themselves with other families around them, they might observe how others are able to live peacefully and happily. “Why can’t our family live with trust and understanding?” If we look at things clearly like this, separating the good from the bad, we will realize that our thinking has been inferior to that of our neigh- bors! Contemplating this, anger will be calmed.
Instead of reacting to improper treatment by our family members, we can look upon them with loving eyes. We may be temporarily upset, because they did not do as we wanted. But we should ask ourselves: “Is there any use getting annoyed about it?” We may want our children to be well behaved, thoughtful, caring, and sincere, but we have to accept the fact that people are born with different characters and behave differently. It is natural that people living together have disagreements. We need to learn about each others temperaments and character traits so as to understand each other’s actions. Some people work hard, have pleasant manners, speak well, and are quick learners. Others are dull, slow, untidy and speak crudely. People are very different. When there is understanding, then it is much easier to forgive and not get caught in negative reactions. One should use common sense to remedy difficult situations.
To understand our children’s behavior, we need to understand their temperaments and characters and to know that each has their own personality. Even though we may wish that our children always behave well, some will perform better than others.
We need to closely study our children’s habits and character traits. If a child mis- behaves, then as parents we need to instruct and counsel them. They are children and not yet as wise as adults. We love them dearly and wish them well. Through such observation, we can work out how to approach them and teach them how to achieve their very best. We also need to encourage them, showing them by example how to behave well and speak kindly.
Counsel your children. Teach them to understand the consequences of how they be- have and speak. If they do something wrong, we should practice forgiveness, knowing they are still lacking in self-awareness and wisdom. We teach them how to improve by having understanding and patience ourselves. They are our children, not objects of our anger.
Explain to them the difference between right and wrong. Point out the results of actions, and patiently show them the consequences of doing the wrong thing. We should not exhibit any annoyance while instructing them. Rather, develop friendliness and kindness and be filled with acceptance. They are still in need of our advice and guidance – and our love.
People tend to get angry at those closest to them – their husbands, wives, children or friends and co-workers. Try to constantly reflect on the fact that people are very different. Develop the ability to study and observe people whoever they are, regardless
of their sex or age. We can teach and train ourselves in this way. We observe, for example, that it is natural that when people get older, they tend to complain more. Sometimes they get upset about things without reason. If we understand this, then instead of getting frustrated, we can change our outlook and attitude towards them. We act with kindness, first discovering our own weaknesses, and then carefully, with love, dealing with the situation. If we work on ourselves rather than trying to change others, then the positive changes in us will become evident to them. When they notice this, they will be at ease and have fewer grounds for complaint.
To see the danger and pain associated with anger is the very method for abandon- ing it. Self-hatred can arise in our hearts to the point where one loathes oneself even while trying to do loving kindness meditation. The mind wanders and we end up getting annoyed at ourselves. What’s the use of that? We are angry and this is a defile- ment of the mind. The mind wanders due to a cause – the lack of mindfulness, clear self-awareness and wisdom to guide the thinking mind to calm and concentration. We shouldn’t be upset with this wandering mind. When you reflect on it, it’s laughable that we get angry even at ourselves. Anger and negativity are in the mind and that is where they are overcome and abandoned. There is no logic in getting angry at oneself.
During times of meditation our minds are sometimes elsewhere. What do we gain then by getting exasperated? That only increases our lack of mindfulness, making the mind even more unstable and prone to wandering. Self anger is ridiculous – there is no reason for such emotions.
We should develop a lot of awareness around speech. Sometimes we allow sharp words to slip out without thinking. We say hurtful things because first we think hurtful thoughts. Anger has originated in the mind. The harsh words come out because we havelostourmindfulness,wisereflectionandpatience. Havingsaidsomethingwrong or offensive, we can often suffer from guilt and self loathing. If we train ourselves to develop more awareness around speech, then we can eventually overcome these negative speech patterns.
Unwholesome thinking will affect our work, making it disorganized and lacking quality, resulting in our goals remaining unachieved. We may wish to do something well, but if the outcome does not comply with our expectations, we get angry at our- selves. Why? There is no point in getting upset. Anger is an unwholesome state and unbeneficial. Is there any sense in getting incensed? It’s worth recognizing and ac- knowledging how much self-criticism and anger we are filled with. Think about it.
Whatever we do, whether we are standing around, walking, sitting down, or even when asleep, the mind can get caught up in unwholesome, negative thoughts. These defilements are in the mind. Defilements seek satisfaction and fulfillment of desire, but when those desires are frustrated, discontent results. Aversion leads to unskillful speech and action. We need self-awareness, mindfulness and wisdom to investigate and contemplate the causes of anger. We need to carefully look inward. Consider your character and personality – how do you speak to people? How do you do things? How do you think? Use wisdom to catch your own bad habit patterns. It’s only after having understood these patterns that can we abandon them. This is how we come to reduce the intensity of anger in the mind.
What should we do when we try this but fail? One thing we can do is to really study the disadvantages of anger. Carefully notice how it has a gross negative effect on our relationships. We can then see the suffering arise right here and now as a result of aversion.
Use intelligence and wisdom to clearly comprehend the ill effects of hatred. By doing so, we will gradually find it easier to refrain from getting outraged. Learn to observe other people and study their habits and idiosyncrasies. We may see that their mannerisms of body and speech that upset us are the norm for them. They are who they are. This understanding can enable us to give up being annoyed by them.
It is important to note the way we react and to the process of our reaction. For example, when criticized, sound is heard by the ears and it is recognized by the minds. Then it is stored in memory and becomes a part of consciousness. This is how it is known in the mind. If we are angry we also know this in the heart and mind. Why cling to that memory of a sound? It has ceased to exist. It is not-self. Why do we hold on and attach to things? Why do we attach to unwholesome thoughts and moods? When we consider this process of what’s happening it helps us abandon anger and ill will. The more we let go, the less intense these defilements get. The next time we are criticized, we will be even less bothered by it. We don’t want to react with aversion because we have seen how dangerous and painful it is for our hearts. We no longer attach to things that allow anger to arise.
All criticism, abuse and condemnation can be looked on as not-self. Contemplate these things according to their true nature, that they are impermanent, suffering and not under self control. We can see these three characteristics of all experience. We cannot control things. Other people are not us and not under our control.
We have no power over the sound that comes out of other peoples’ mouths. People are composed of the four elements. If someone is alive, they talk and gossip. Only the dead do not talk. The sound of talking cannot be controlled. This is a logical fact. Criticism and gossip are just conventional forms of expression.
If someone criticizes us as being a bad person when we have been good, why get indignant? We can just carry on doing the right thing. But if we have actually done something wrong and someone points that out, then we shouldn’t get upset. They are pointing out a true fault. When we see they are right, think of them as our teachers. When they point out our shortcomings, they want us to improve, so we can be a better person. Why be angry at them?
Unfortunately, people don’t want to look at themselves. They always think they are right, having the attitude that they are better than others. If anyone disagrees with them they become furious. If we really are right, then continue acting correctly, doing what’s right even through criticisms. The more good acts we can do, the less we will incline to anger.
If we are actually misbehaving and people point that out, then we should accept that criticism so as to improve and mature. We should aim at self-development. If
someone helps to point out areas in which we can grow, then have appreciation instead of sulking about it. A parent should teach a child by example and practice non-anger if they want their child to also be composed and not easily angered. The child will emulate the parent and improve their behavior.
When we say or do something wrong, we are often disappointed with our so called inadequacies. We are frustrated with ourselves because of the fault finding mind. As a result, we are not in the right frame of mind to meditate peacefully. If we observe this situation with awareness and wise consideration, we will see that it as obviously unskillful. That anger has many disadvantages and ill effects, and is due to lack of self-awareness will become evident.
There is no happiness in anger. At all times it only brings affliction and suffering to us and others. With enough self-awareness and wisdom, one can see that anger is suffering, a self inflicted pain. It burns the mind every moment that it is present. At such times there can be no contentment whatsoever.
Who could possibly consider anger as good? Just view its effect on our minds and hearts to see the damage it causes! Then it is easy to see that we have been in a state of suffering for a long, long time. It can persist until our last breath and then continue to saddle us in future lives as well. This can be of no use at all. If everyone understood the harm caused by anger using the clear understanding of Dhamma, then we would all give it up and live with light hearts and minds.
In the case of a quarrelsome couple, they should refrain from behaving impulsively, on the spur of the moment. Instead, they should wait until the situation calms down. Then they can sit down together and talk reasonably. This is true for parents and children as well. When anger begins to arise, parents should compose themselves for a moment before saying anything to their children, and then advise them calmly.
Actually, everyone should be treated this way whether its great-grandparents, grand- parents, parents, children, brothers and sisters, and friends. When anger occurs, the emotion should be allowed to cool down before acting. Try to be patient and hum- ble. Don’t express unskillful feelings. Have forbearance. Don’t show your negativity through facial expressions. Instead of scrunching our eyebrows together, we can smile, or at least look at the other person without saying anything nasty or expressing our emotions. Be calm. If we can be equanimous in the face of difficulties, then we will be happy.
If we reduce and then abandon anger, we will all live together in peace and har- mony, whatever our race, creed, sex or religion. The whole of society can live in hap- piness. If we remove aversion from the mind we will be blessed with contentment and serenity. We will experience a cool refreshing ease of the mind at all times. We won’t be walking around with a pulled face and a frown, but rather be joyous and cheerful. This is the reflection of a blissful mind. It is the result of the conquest of anger. Each one of us should strive to overcome anger so it can never poison us again.
Actually, we don’t have that much anger in our hearts that it can’t be overcome. Anger however, has an inflammable quality, so it can easily flare up. We must have
large reserves of patience. We can see by observing others that once anger grows into rage it can lead to physical abuse, conflicts, and great suffering. Nobody really wants to experience pain themselves or to cause others pain. No sensible person wants to torment themselves or others.
Pain is a direct consequence of anger. If we don’t let go of it, then revenge festers. Fights and even murders can result. The perpetrator will then also suffer the conse- quences in their next life. Now that is suffering! If we intend to kill others, they will come back and kill us! We reap what we sow. Sorrow starts from simple, unchecked emotions: someone got upset, felt their sense of indignation was justified, and then got carried away. That is how violent acts occur.
We should learn how to quell our anger. We need to tackle it before it arises. Devel- oping mindfulness and wisdom is the way to do so. With patience and humility, we can improve, little by little. Gradually we will become more aware and will be able to prevent being overcome by anger.
We can abate the cause of anger just as we can abate the cause of a fire. If just one match is lit, it is both simple and quick to put out. Don’t let the fire get to the stage of destroying a house, property or even a city. By not adding fuel, the fire dies by itself. Preventing anger is just like preventing a fire. Whenever anger flares, we put it out right away through patience and humility. But we have to be extremely mindful so as to see unpleasant feeling as it arises before it develops into anger, resentment or pain. If we can do that, all of us, family, friends or whoever, will live a happily.
If we want to live together in peace and solidarity in society, we can all learn to work together harmoniously, intelligently, and with kindness. We need to learn to be aware of each other’s characters and to easily forgive and forget. We should always have benevolence and kindness in our hearts and look at each other with smiling, happy faces, speak to each other using kind, gentle words, and think in friendly, generous ways. This positive outlook is something we practice and develop throughout our lives.
When we base our life in goodwill and kindness, then all human beings, no matter what their circumstances, can live on this same planet Earth in happiness. Should they suffer, we wish them freedom from suffering. If they are happy, we wish their happiness to continue. We focus our every word and deed on goodness. As we do this, we begin to experience great calm and peace. When we learn to think and act wisely, we can live happily. If others are still appear to act unwisely, we can be happy anyway, and learn to share our happiness with them.
We have understood that anger arises because of the defilements of aversion and clinging just as greed arises because of the defilement of sensuality. The problem is to overcome these defilements. Not understanding the problem is delusion. We must abandon these defilements and strive for goodwill and kindness. Then we will live happy lives. The Lord Buddha said that anyone who can give up anger will live a happy and joyful life. He went on to say that anyone who abandons anger can stand, walk, sit or sleep anywhere without sorrow, living with physical and mental joy.
So let’s summarize the ways to abandon anger. First, we can just walk away from a situation or the person who is provoking angry feelings before we speak or act un- skillfully. Second, we can watch and learn from the people around us to understand their habits and characters. Next, we can learn our own habitual anger patterns, to see which gestures, words, and thoughts bring us to losing our temper. Also, make the effort to analyze oneself and others as described. Then with greater understanding, we will see how useless anger is. We will see how it only bestows unhappiness. Then as intelligent beings, we will be able to abandon it. As we succeed in this, our minds will know peace.
After hearing this teaching of the Lord Buddha, we must remember to apply this Dhamma in daily practice. In what we think, say or do. This way we can completely rid ourselves of anger and learn to live joyfully.
I wish all of you well. Before you heard this Dhamma today, you may have lived with resentment filling your hearts. Now we have comprehended that anger is a com- pletely unwholesome quality. Thus if we are able to follow these teachings and aban- don anger in our daily lives, we will all live comfortably and at peace. Please try to do this.
I have been speaking for an appropriate length of time. It is time to end.

MN23. The Ant Hill – Vammika Sutta

The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
MN23. The Ant Hill - Vammika Sutta

This episode is the 23nd sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the Vammika Sutta which is known in English the “ant hill”. In a curious teaching full of evocative imagery, a deity lights up the Dark Forest to present Venerable Kassapa the Prince with a complex riddle. He goes on to seek an explanation of the riddle from the Buddha.

This translation of the Vammika Sutta is by Bhikkhu Sujato and was sourced from Sutta Central.

If you’d like to hear commentary on this teaching, you can listen to Ajahn Brahmali discussing this sutta.

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Vammikasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato

Middle Discourses 23

The Ant-Hill
So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at that time Venerable Kassapa the Prince was staying in the Dark Forest.
Then, late at night, a glorious deity, lighting up the entire Dark Forest, went up to Kassapa the Prince, stood to one side, and said:
“Monk, monk! This ant-hill fumes by night and flames by day. The brahmin said, ‘Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a bar: ‘A bar, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the bar! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a bullfrog: ‘A bullfrog, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the bullfrog! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a forked path: ‘A forked path, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the forked path! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a box: ‘A box, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the box! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a tortoise: ‘A tortoise, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the tortoise! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw an axe and block: ‘An axe and block, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the axe and block! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a lump of meat: ‘A lump of meat, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Throw out the lump of meat! Take up the sword and dig, O sage!’
Taking up the sword and digging, the sage saw a dragon: ‘A dragon, sir!’ The brahmin said, ‘Leave the dragon! Do not disturb the dragon! Worship the dragon!’
Mendicant, go to the Buddha and ask him about this riddle. You should remember it in line with his answer. I don’t see anyone in this world—with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans—who could provide a satisfying answer to this riddle except for the Realized One or his disciple or someone who has heard it from them.”
That is what that deity said before vanishing right there.
Then, when the night had passed, Kassapa the Prince went to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what had happened. Then he asked:
“Sir, what is the ant-hill? What is the fuming by night and flaming by day? Who is the brahmin, and who the sage? What are the sword, the digging, the bar, the bullfrog, the forked path, the box, the tortoise, the axe and block, and the lump of meat? And what is the dragon?”
“Mendicant, ‘ant-hill’ is a term for this body made up of the four primary elements, produced by mother and father, built up from rice and porridge, liable to impermanence, to wearing away and erosion, to breaking up and destruction.
Thinking and considering all night about what you did during the day—this is the fuming at night. The work you apply yourself to during the day by body, speech, and mind after thinking about it all night—this is the flaming by day.
‘Brahmin’ is a term for the Realized One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha. ‘Sage’ is a term for the trainee mendicant.
‘Sword’ is a term for noble wisdom. ‘Digging’ is a term for being energetic.
‘Bar’ is a term for ignorance. ‘Throw out the bar’ means ‘give up ignorance, take up the sword, sage, and dig.’
‘Bullfrog’ is a term for anger and distress. ‘Throw out the bullfrog’ means ‘give up anger and distress’ …
‘A forked path’ is a term for doubt. ‘Throw out the forked path’ means ‘give up doubt’ …
‘Box’ is a term for the five hindrances, that is: the hindrances of sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. ‘Throw out the box’ means ‘give up the five hindrances’ …
‘Tortoise’ is a term for the five grasping aggregates, that is: form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. ‘Throw out the tortoise’ means ‘give up the five grasping aggregates’ …
‘Axe and block’ is a term for the five kinds of sensual stimulation. Sights known by the eye that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. Sounds known by the ear … Smells known by the nose … Tastes known by the tongue … Touches known by the body that are likable, desirable, agreeable, pleasant, sensual, and arousing. ‘Throw out the axe and block’ means ‘give up the five kinds of sensual stimulation’ …
‘Lump of meat’ is a term for greed and relishing. ‘Throw out the lump of meat’ means ‘give up greed and relishing’ …
‘Dragon’ is a term for a mendicant who has ended the defilements. This is the meaning of: ‘Leave the dragon! Do not disturb the dragon! Worship the dragon.’”
That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, Venerable Kassapa the Prince was happy with what the Buddha said.

Scratching In The Wrong Place | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Scratching In The Wrong Place | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm starts by addressing the question, “Is Buddhism a religion or not?” He goes on to talk about what Buddhism as a living practice is trying to achieve, which has nothing to do with dogmatic beliefs or adherence to a social hierarchy. The point of religion should be to develop our hearts and minds to become happier, more harmless and a benefit to others. Ajahn Brahm goes on to point out the need to see things in life clearly so that we “don’t scratch our bottoms when we’ve got an itchy head”. In other words, we understand cause and effect and we seek to deal with the causes of problems in life rather than blaming others.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 11th July 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

Scratching In The Wrong Place – Ajahn Brahm
(Robot generated transcription – expect errors!)

So this evening’s talk is probably a mishmash of many, many things decide to title afterwards when we find out what we’re going to talk about. But the just a couple of people have been asking me this question the last week and this is going to be the start of the talk. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to work out in the middle and the end, asking me about sort of is Buddhism a religion or not? It’s such not a common question. I thought I’d just answer it as I usually answer most people to say that Buddhism is regarded as a religion or one of the major world religion these days it’s different than many other religions. But what it’s actually doing is actually succeeding in changing the meaning of the word religion and actually giving religion a good name. Because in the past people have associated with religion, with religion, with dogmatic beliefs, with actually adherence to a hierarchy of being told what to believe, being told what to do and also with like wars and sort of fundamentalism and terrorism and. And of course that those of you who’ve been here a long time that know that there’s no terrorists in the Buddhist society of Western Australia and that we’re far from fundamentalists. And there’s also the hierarchy is not really there because instead of like a hierarchy, there’s like a heart hierarchy. In other words, the final authority is not myself or some other book or teacher. But the final authority in Buddhism has always been your heart, your own understanding, your inner knowledge. And very often I’ve described like the old forms of religion, of old forms of Christianity and Islam and other such religions compared it with Buddhism in that story of when I was 30 years ago, when I was traveling in India, was going up to Kashmir and overland. And in those days, the roads were very narrow, only single lane dirt roads going through the mountains. And the driver of the bus in which I was on was a Muslim. And every time that he went speeding around these blind corners with a cliff on one side and a ravine on the other side, it was very, very dangerous. And every time we asked him to slow down, he always would say, if it’s Allah’s will, we go over it’s. Allah’s will said, thank you very much. We’re not Muslims. And after that experience, we survived. Thank goodness, that’s obviously Allah’s will that I became a Buddhist and was managing to teach. And these days, what we actually say, that a difference. Well, one of the major differences is if that buz did go over, the Muslims would say it was Allah’s will. The Christians would say it was God’s will. As Budhists, we would say it was a bad driver. I think most Christians and most Muslims will now agree with that. The responsibility is with. We don’t go around blaming other beings. We don’t go around blaming our teachers. We don’t go around blaming anything. If we have had a bad meditation, we don’t blame the people who coughed. It’s not their fault. It’s your fault. Got an email from somebody who was raped when she was five years old. If you’re suffering, it’s not the person who raped you. Fought. Now, that’s a hard one, isn’t it? But this is actually Buddhism. Putting the responsibility right back on yourself, not blaming others. One of the favorite teachers teachings of Rajyancha. Very simple. But be careful with the most simple teachings. They can be the most profound. And you can use that one teaching to get you all the way to enlightenment. That your whole life. Solve all your problems. Every problem you can solve by this one simple teaching. Bye. It’s a teaching about complaining. Complaining about what happens to you in life. Complaining that somebody else’s fault is like having an itch on your bottom and scratching your head. What a powerful, deep teaching that is. If you go if if you got an itch on your bum and you scratch your head, does the itch go away? Of course it doesn’t. It’s so obvious. If you complain to other people, complain about life, complain about this, complain about that does the itch ever go away? Never does. In fact, the more you complain, the more you itch you, the more you scratch your head. As well as eating on your bum, you also start eating on your head as well. This is the problem with life. We create more suffering than we need to. So Zajan Cha’s. Great teaching. If you’ve got an itch on your bum, that’s the place to scratch. Nowhere else. The itch, the unhappiness, the suffering, the pain of our lives. If that’s inside of us, that’s where we’ve got to do the scratching, not somewhere else. So Buddhism is a religion? Yeah, but it’s changing the meaning of religion. It’s giving the responsibility squarely on oneself. One’s own happiness and one’s pain does not rely upon other people. And it’s a great teaching of Buddhism. It actually gives, like, hope, an opportunity. No matter what has happened to you in your life, you can still be fully enlightened. You can still be free. You can still be happy. You can still be at peace, no matter what has happened to you in the past. Now, the way to actually achieve that we have all this beautiful Buddhist psychology, buddhist understanding of the mind. As I was saying last week, the mind is the forerunner of all things. Your mind is the forerunner of all things. So you don’t need to go around looking to change other people’s minds, to change the whole world. The mind is the forerunner. Your mind is in control, full control of your happiness and suffering. That’s why you can become enlightened no matter what’s happened to you. Some monks come up to me and say, oh, well, yeah, maybe it’s all right. Vajam brahm. Maybe he was born maybe he was born sort of with a bald head. Maybe he came out of his mother’s womb in full lotus position. But I didn’t. People think that you’re born enlightened, let’s know. If you were enlightened, you wouldn’t be born. Everyone is born stupid. That’s why I have to come back here. No one in their right mind would get born again. Would you want to be born again? Would you really want to be in Nappies again? Would you want all those of you think you’ve done with school, do you want to go back to school again and go through all this all over again? Haven’t had enough yet. You know, one of those famous stories, people actually kids who were speaking when they were born, as it’s two or three examples which people have told me their children, when they were born, one or two weeks spoke. And the best one was reported in United States in a maternity ward when a baby came out of the mother’s womb and in front of the doctors and nurses spoke clearly. And the words it said were, oh, no, not again. It. Great bay with a sense of humor. I like that. Usually the babies, after speaking just the first time, they don’t speak again until they speak in baby language later on. Just a remnant of a past life. But anyway, sort of going back to sort of like being responsible for our happiness, it gives us the opportunity to be come enlightened. It gives us the opportunity to be free. If our freedom, if our happiness was dependent upon others, if it was dependent upon good luck, good fortune, being wealthy, being brilliant, being beautiful, being talented if it was dependent upon that, then most of you think, oh, I’ve had it. I’m old, I’m ugly, I’m stupid, I’m not really talented, I’m not wealthy, certainly not wealthy. So poor me. But the point is that no matter what’s happened to you in your life, no matter how you were born, where you were born, what race, what gender, sexual orientation, whatever, everyone. Can become enlightened. Everyone can become free because it’s your mind is the forerunner, the chief. It doesn’t depend upon other people. And that’s why that sometimes we use extreme examples of people who had terrible life, terrible history who have been the victims of sexual abuse when they’re very young who have been the victim of poverty, who have been the victims of violence who have been the victims of deaths in the family tragedies in their life. We use these as examples of how even though terrible things has happened, they can still be free and happy. Because a few people sent me emails on such things. How can we be happy? They can’t sleep at night because their mother died breast cancer. How can I be happy when I meditate and record all these terrible things which happened to me as a child being sexually abused? How can I be free and happy again? This is how. Well, Buddhism says that first of all, your mind is the forerunner of all things. That’s where you look at the problem. You don’t try and solve the problem by seeking revenge, getting your own back, punishing the person you think has caused you pain, that’s scratching in the wrong place. Let them be dealt with by their karma. Again, in all religions, if you’re a Christian, you think that God will settle things after they die. God will settle a matter when they sort of go up to heaven or hell or wherever. If you’re Muslim the same that Allah will look after things, you don’t need to punish them. And if you don’t believe in any if any, if you believe in Buddhism, you say that karma will deal with it in the next life. They’ll have to suffer the consequences of their ill actions. You don’t need to punish them. And if you don’t believe in any religion, believe in psychology. Wow. For what they’ve done, they’re going to have to be in therapy for lifetimes. Whatever we know there’s consequences of our deeds and there’s consequences of other people’s deeds. So that’s, first of all, no need to try and punish the person who’s hurt. That is scratching in the wrong place. So you scratch in your own place. You start to look, say, okay, this has happened to me. One of the first things which we do is and I mentioned this actually in a talk I gave two or three weeks ago about obsessions. We actually focus on the rotten thing which happens to us to the exclusion of everything else. So it completely fills our mind in every moment of the day. The death of our son, the death of our mother, what happened to me when I was young. That’s all we ever see is the simile of the hand being right in front of your eyes. So close to your eyes you can’t see anything else in the whole world. For those of you ever listen to this on the internet or on tape, I’ve got my hand right over my eyes. In this hall there’s maybe 300 people. I can’t see any of you. All I can see is my hand. This is what happens to us when we get obsessed with something in our life. Something which has happened to us, some terrible tragedy which has happened. And. Because of our delusion, the wrong way of thinking. We hold it so close to us. It’s my mum who’s died, it’s my daughter who’s committed suicide. It’s my body which has been violated by this terrible person because it’s mine. It’s so close to us. It’s like putting your hand right in front of your eyes. Literally. You cannot see anything else of the whole world. Day after day, month after month, sometimes year after year, you’re consumed with the grief, with the pain, with the tragedy. You cannot see anything else. And with a simile of the hand, you understand just how to overcome that pain, that grief, that victimization. It’s not the actual act which is the problem. It’s not the bent which is a difficulty, it’s where you’re holding it. Perspective is wrong. All I needed to do to be able to see you all is not to actually get rid of my hand, not actually to get rid of the problem and think it didn’t exist, but to put it in the correct position. My hand belongs at the end of my arm. So I can see my hand, but I can also see each one of you as well. I can see the beautiful budha statue outside in the entryway. I can see the garden. I can see life as well as my hand. When we see the sexual abuse when we were young and all the other things which happened as well when we see the death of our mother and all the other happy moments we’ve had as well. If we see the cancer in our body and all the wonderful other things which lie in front of us, which lay behind us, which are happening now when we see the whole thing in perspective, we put it in perspective, then we find that we can cope, tolerate, learn, grow and even be happy in spite of what’s happened. Because we see the big picture too often. People have the problems. The cough which is disturbing our meditation, it obsesses our mind. And people actually sometimes complain afterwards. Ajan Brahm, can we get that camera to screen everyone before they come in here? So no one with coughs is allowed in. And anyone who coughs gets 50 lashes of the cat. Not for those nose. 50 strokes of the cat. You got a cat lives next door. You have to stroke it 50 times. You. That’s a Buddhist punishment. Can we do that? And of course not. The point is that, okay, so some people coughed. How many moments did people not cough it? And that’s the most important thing. Put it in perspective. At the time you had a tragedy, how many moments wasn’t there a tragedy in your life? When you put things in perspective, it gives the full picture of your life. It gives a full picture of the world you find yet tragedies do happen, but happiness happens in between as well. When we focus on the whole picture, then we find out, hey, it’s not so bad. It’s not so good either. It’s just life. Welcome to life. This is what happens. What do you expect of life? The thing is that when we only see the false, we just can’t tolerate it. It’s just too bad when we see the good things and only see the good things, we’re just being stupid. When we see the full picture. Yeah, there’s the good and the bad and they side by side. We can tolerate and we can learn. This is, again the thing with Buddhist psychology. We actually use the problems of life as learning experiences to free our mind. We learn from all of the pain and trouble of our lives. These things. Whenever there’s suffering in life, whenever there is a tragedy, whenever you have been raped, abused, mistreated, cheated, really bad, badly, real great pain. In Buddhism, we always call them growing pains. Opportunities to become enlightened, opportunities to learn and. To let go and to realize that there’s two sufferings in life. First suffering is physical suffering. The second suffering is mental suffering. And of those two, physical suffering is so small, the mental suffering is the important one. Physical suffering. You got little control about life. You get coughs, you get colds, you get sicknesses, you get cancers, you do die. It’s part of life. Welcome to our life. But the mental part, you have got some control there. And that control is learning how to let go and accept. And you find that when you let go and accept, you can be so peaceful, so happy, and have some of your best meditations when people are coughing. I had a wonderful meditation and thank you for all those people who coughed, because they reminded me that you can’t control. You have to let go. And that’s the way to peace. And that’s the way to freedom. That’s the way to happiness. I remember my teacher, Ajan Cha, had one of the greatest meditation experiences of his life when there was a big festival in the nearby village. And years ago, when they had these festivals, they got generators which made enough noise, but those generators were there to power speakers and those speakers were there to broadcast this music for kilometers around. And there was a so, noisy. And it was during one of those ceremonies or those festivals in the village that he had one of his deepest meditations in the noisiest of situations he couldn t stop the noise so he let go of the noise not the noise outside, but the noise inside. I don’t want this. I don’t need this. Can’t we get a quiet a monastery? Can’t we sort of get individual meditation cubicles air conditioned where you can actually control the temperature so you can just get just nice that is what we call the stream of the world of wanting, controlling, getting it just nice, getting it just perfect. Called it the stream of the world but I also called it I gave meditation retreat and I made a slip of the tongue. I said Buddhism is going against the stream of craving going against the stream of the world. And I said it’s going against the scream of the world. And I thought hey, that’s very profound and. Because Buddhism does go against the scream of the world. I want this or I don’t want this. Those are the two screams of the world. I want to be rich, I want to meet the most beautiful person in the world, someone who really cares about me, who likes me, who always understands me. I want to meet the perfect partner in the world. I want to be rich, I want to be successful and be famous. All the wants you want in the world. I want my footy team to win. I want to win the lotto. I want my kids to do well at school. Want that’s called the scream of the world. That’s one of the screams of the world. The other scream of the world is I don’t want. Why did this happen to me? This is unfair. This is really mean. Why do you do this to me? Why did she say that to me? Why is life so tough? Why do I fail my exams? Why don’t people like me? That’s a scream of the world. You know those two screams of the world I want, I don’t want. Buddhism goes against the scream of the world. And says, shut up. Stop complaining. Scratching in the wrong place. Even when terrible things happen to you, you use lovingkindness. You say thank you. You say, the door of my heart is open to you. The rape, the violence, the sickness to death. Thank you for coming to visit me. Strange thing happens when you do this. The most beautiful expression of this is the old story from the Udana. This is part of the Buddhist scriptures. If you read the Udana, it’s not quite the same as I say it. I’ve changed it a little bit. But the heart of the story comes from the Buddha himself, the old story of the demon who came into the emperor’s palace. It’s a great story to remember and tell your friends, because it solves again many problems. A demon once came into an emperor’s palace. The emperor was away doing some business elsewhere. This demon was very ugly, very terrifying, very smelly. And his language was extremely offensive. In fact, it was so frightening that all the guards, the ministers, the people who worked in the palace froze out of fear, allowing this terrible monster to go right into the heart of the palace and sit in the emperor’s chair. The. As soon as it sat on the throne, all the people in the palace came to their senses and said, who do you think you are? Get out of here. You don’t belong here. This is our emperor’s chair. If you don’t get out soon, you’ll be in big trouble. They started threatening this demon. Now, this is the important part. Every unkind word, every unkind deed, even every unkind thought that demon grew an inch bigger, more ugly, more smelly. And the language got worse. And that really made them even more upset. They got out their swords, they got out their sticks. They started threatening this demon, saying terrible things would happen to if it doesn’t move its butt right now. It. But at every unkind word, deed, or thought, the demon just again grew an inch bigger, more ugly, more smelly, and more offensive and. According to the story, this had been going on a long time before the emperor came back. And by this time, that demon was so huge, it was taking up half of the throne room. It was monstrous in size and also monstrous in appearance as well. In fact, as I usually say in the story at this juncture, it was so terrifying that even somebody like Steven Spielberg couldn’t even imagine anything so terrifying and ugly. And the smell coming off this demon would even make a maggot sick.
And the language would be worse than you’d hear on the terraces of footy match on a Saturday afternoon when everyone was drunk. It was terrible. And at that point, the emperor came back. Now, the reason this was the emperor was because he was smart, he was clever, he was wise. He knew exactly what to do as soon as he saw this terrifying demon sitting in his chair and. He said, welcome, oh demon, thank you for coming to visit me. Why has it taken so long for you to come? Are you comfortable in that chair? Do you want some more cushions? Has anyone got anything for you to eat yet? Or drink? Thank you for visiting me. And those few kind words and kind thoughts that demon grown each smaller, less ugly, less offensive, less smelly. And at that all the people in the palace knew their mistake and knew exactly what to do. They had to be kind. So they went around and asking the demon what it would like to drink. We’ve got fruit juice, we’ve got tea, we’ve got herbal tea, we’ve got Earl Grey. What would you like? Would you like some sandwiches, seeing as you’re a monster? We’ve got some deviled ham or are you a vegetarian? Would you like a pizza? We’ve got monster size we can get out for you. Somebody gave him a foot massage. No reflexology. It really relaxes you and makes you feel good. And the monster actually said, well, can you massage my back? Because the scales were very, very sore with such a big head on the tailpine. So someone gave him a massage. And every kind act, kind word, kind deed that demon just go an inch smaller, less like, less offensive, less melly. And it didn’t take long with all this kindness. In fact, even before the pizza boy came back with his delivery, the demon was back to the original size when he came in. But did they stop? No. They kept on with the kindness until that demon got so tiny, so infinitesimally small. The one more act of kindness, and that demon vanished completely away. That’s how they got rid of the demon. And when the Buddha told that story, he said, we call those things anger eating demons. What a beautiful concept, an anger eating demon. The more anger it receives, the more and more monstrous it becomes. The more ugly, the more smelly, and the worse the language comes from it, the harder it is to endure. Can you recognize anger eating demons in your life? Your husband, your wife. The more anger you give them, the uglier they get, the worse their language becomes. The boss at work. Cancers. Their anger eating demons. They live on tension, ill will anger. Do you? Get out of here. You don’t belong because they’re sitting in the throne of your body. That’s why sometimes they don’t disappear, because you get angry at them. Your past, your history. The rape which happened to you when you were young, the death which happened in your family, the terrible tragedy which happened in your life. Get out of here. You don’t belong in my life. They’re sitting in the throne room of your past and you want to try and get rid of them. If you give those things anger, you find they go an inch bigger with every angry thought. They become more offensive, more smelly, harder to bear. Those are called anger eating demons as well. It takes incredible amounts of guts and courage, but it’s the only way to say to your past, no matter what happened, including the rape, including the violence and abuse, including the death of a loved one, and say, welcome. I welcome you into my life. I’m not trying to get rid of you. I can’t get rid of you. This is a past, an event which has happened. The more you try and get rid of it, the more it grows as a big problem. When you say welcome when. How can I incorporate and embrace you in my life then? That’s when that problem starts to grow, and each smaller and less offensive, less ugly, easier to bear, you start to incorporate it in your life, allowing it to be working it into your life, embracing it, saying the door of my heart’s even open to you as well. Unconditional lovingkindness means no fault finding. This has happened. I’m going to be with this. I’m going to make it my friend. When you make it your friend, you don’t necessarily like your friends, but you learn from them. You appreciate them, like your teachers. You’ve heard me say before Rajyan Shah’s, great advice. I hated mosquitoes. They would bite you to death in Thailand, especially when there was no mosquito coils. There was no mosquito repellent. There was no mosquito nets. And you had all this bare skin as a monk, bald head, no protection. We didn’t have these jackets on bare shoulders. And you were supposed to be tough and just sit there and allow these mosquitoes to bite you. And I was taught to spread lovingkindness to all beings. We used to chant every evening may all beings be happy and well. But that’s not what I said. And it I said may all beings be happy and well, except mosquitoes. I could spread lovingkindness to other people, but not to them. Just like some people here. They can do loving kindness to everybody except their wife. Everybody except their husband. Especially everyone except their ex. May all beings happy and well. But not my ex, not what they’ve done to me. But that’s not lovingkindness. Has to be the door of my heart’s open to every being mosquitoes. Even though they’re biting you unconditional lovingkindness even towards those people who’ve hurt. It’s incredible when you can actually make that jump of courage, faith, whatever you call it, and you can make your enemies your friends. Some years ago, I described this in a meditation for having a circle in your mind. Inside a circle in your mind is all the people you like, all your loved ones, and all the things about life you like, and all of your past which you like, and all the future which you think is going to be good. Everything you like past, future, friends, about yourself, life all is inside your circle and all outside of what you don’t like. And the further away from your circle, the worse you hate them, the worse you dislike them. I said in your circle. Imagine this circle inside is all stuff you really like, just on the edges you don’t really like. But it’s not such a big problem. And the further ways, the more the enemies, not just personal enemies, but the enemies you have in life, the enemy of the past, are those things which really happened to you, which really hurt your enemy in time, and all your fears of the future, your enemies of the future, and. The more you hate, the more you dislike them, the further away you are from your circle. And then your meditation. Start expanding that circle, imagining it enlarging, until it starts to incorporate all the things which you don’t really dislike, you don’t really like, which is sort of in the middle. Incorporate them into what you like, what you accept, what you embrace. Expand the circle even other, until you start embracing those people you don’t really like at all. You dislike them, but not all that much, expanding it until you start including the things which actually you don’t like at all, and expanding it until you get to the things you really hate, expanding it into the things you really, really hate, the terrible things which have happened to you. When you expand it, all that circle gets so big you can’t see its edges, until it includes and embraces the whole of your past, the whole of your future, the whole of life, the whole of the universe. You allow it to come into the circle of your heart and. Lovingkindness. The door of my heart is open to everybody. All beings, all events, all of life. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, the door of my heart’s open. You get incredible sense of freedom that way. All you’re doing is giving lovingkindness to the demon. The door my heart’s open to you. And you find the biggest part of the problem gets smaller and smaller and smaller until it completely vanishes away. The rape which happened to you, the death in your family, the tragedy which occurred, the thing which you hate most about life, starts to get less and less of a problem. You’re including it in you’re, taking away what the Buddha called the mental part of the problem. I don’t want this. Why did this happen to me? You’re destroying that part of suffering, the worst part. And the demon just starts to vanish away. You incorporate that into your life and you don’t become a worse person, but actually you become a better person as a result of those experiences. You may find this hard to believe, but actually you become enriched by experiences which other people think have just been so terrible and you become enriched spiritually. What we call it in Buddhism is like dung. Offensive, smelly, terrible stuff. As soon as you get any dung, let’s call it straight shit on your hands. You want to wash it off straight away. But that dung, that manure, is great fertilizer. You dig it into your garden and you get beautiful flowers and trees. That’s why those experiences in your early life or this life or whatever, when you learn how to enrich or dig them in, to your wisdom, to your compassion, to your understanding, to you dig them in. Don’t throw it away. It’s great fertilizer. It’s smelly, it hurts. It’s a terrible thing to endure. Your we all know that you dig that stuff in, really dig it in, and I can guarantee you’re going to get some flowers. You’re going to get some fruit and your fruit will be much sweeter than those people who didn’t have those problems. Your flowers are going to be really fragrant because of what you’ve endured. And the fruit is so sweet. Not only did you give it to the monks and the nuns, I hope you give it to all your friends and they really enjoy it. Your hours not only go on the great shrines of the world, their fragrance is smelt by all your neighbors, they also enjoy, enjoy what you’ve achieved. What you’ve done is not just for you, it’s for the happiness and well being of other people as well. When you’ve dug those experiences into your life, when you’ve been raped, under, stood, forgiven, let go gone on. You can really give to other people. You can give compassion, wisdom. You can give a way out to this terrible problems and suffering which people feel when you’ve gone through grief, terrible grief. You’ve understood the way out. You’ve done that. You’ve been there. You’ve walked the distance. You’ve come out with understanding, with freedom. Understanding life, love, kindness. Imagine what you can give to other people. Those are the fruits, those are the flowers of your life. The spiritual gift of wisdom, which can let go. Compassion, which is so strong you can love even the most unlovable events of your life. And freedom. Freedom, which is not when you get what you want, but freedom, no matter what happens. Real freedom. Freedom from the vagaries of the world. Freedom from the ups and downs of life. Freedom from happiness and pain. Real freedom. You’re above and beyond all of that. You found the way out because this is what happens in life. Disasters do happen. Life is a mess. But your mind doesn’t need to be. When we know the way out, the power of the mind, we know the spiritual meaning of life. The world is one thing. Your heart is another. Other people have done there, done that. They’ve been through such terrible situations. They found their way out and they’ve told other people how to also find their way out. They’ve given beautiful teachings like the simile of the demon in the emperor’s palace about welcoming the pain of life in order that it disappears. Of loving the mosquitoes, of loving your past. No matter what’s happened, you find you can do that. You find that’s the way to freedom. Look, you can’t change your past. You can’t wish it never happened. You can’t somehow go back into the past in some time machine and just solve all the problems. What you can do is stop scratching in the wrong place, stop complaining me start loving in the same way. You could complain all you liked about the people coughing during the meditation and all it would do would be adding to the noise of the meditation with your noise and. It. Instead, we let go. We’re grateful for all those coffers, all those people who made the noise, for teaching us about life. The door of my heart’s open to you all. That’s why I can be at peace. You’re allowed to cough. You’re allowed to die. Life is allowed to go wrong. When I allow it to go wrong, it always goes right. It. That’s what I expect. So when I expect things to go wrong, it’s not wrong anymore. It’s right that it’s wrong. But I think that’s a nice place to stop this evening’s talk. It’s right that life is wrong. Thank you. So that’s a nice deep talk there about Buddhism is a religion or it’s a psychology, a practice or whatever. I don’t know what it is, but I certainly like it. Any questions? Yes. Quick one up here. Yeah. Beginning of your you mentioned about not seeking to find more suffering. Curious for an understanding of why the Tibetan Buddhist side tries to get a blade followers to go become Bodhisattva. I think the more I actually go to other places, associate with other monks, the more I see in the theories. There’s lots of differences, but in the practice there’s so much similarity even in different religions of the world. And really what we’re doing in there with the idea of Bodhisattva is like focusing on the compassionate part of Buddhism. And you know, you’ve heard me say before that even within Terravada, some people say you should do Samata sometimes we passionate, you do Karma, do insight. There’s no difference between the two. Even within a terravada religion. It’s the same practices, it’s just the emphasis. And when you do one, the other one comes as well. When you do Bodhisattva practice, you have to do the calm practice, the Arahat practice as well. You do one, you have to do the other really the same. It’s just what we’re really doing, that’s all. When you realize that if you really cultivate your own mind in these ways, overcome your problems, as I said, then you’re so rich that you have all this wonderful fruit and flowers to give to other people. She would become enlightened for the sake of all other beings. To help them, to serve them, to really show them the way out of the problems of life. Rape happens. It shouldn’t happen. We should try and stop it and limit it. But no matter what you do, it happens. Cancers happen. We try and live a nice lifestyle, eat good food, exercise, but it still happens. Accident and sickness happens. So we have to somehow learn how to work with life as it is. When we work as life as it is, we can actually understand that this is for our happiness, our freedom. We understand how to overcome those problems. And then once we’ve understood then we can really teach others. We can help others. How can any one try and help somebody else if we haven’t overcome the problems ourselves? We’re just big hypocrites. Now, one of my favorite stories about Mahatma Gandhi when he was studying law in London and. This was in his biography even in those days was a very impressive person. The landlady where he was staying came up to him one day and said sir, Mr. Gandhi, my son is eating too much sugar. He doesn’t listen to me but for some reason he respects you. Don’t know why, but can you tell him not to eat so much sugar? He said, certainly madam, I will tell him today days went by. Two weeks later the landlady came up to him again and said mr. Gandhi, I’m surprised that you’re usually so honest and so straightforward. Don’t you remember that two weeks ago I asked you to take my son aside and tell him to not to eat so much sugar and you haven’t done so why not? He said, I’m sorry ma’am, but I have told him but only this morning why did you wait so long to tell my son not to take sugar? Cause madam, said Gandhi, only yesterday I gave up eating sugar and such was the strength of that person. He would never tell anyone not to do what he was doing himself. He had to give up the sugar first before he felt he had the right to tell someone else not to take it. That’s why he’s such a strong and influential person. If you’re going to be kind and help other people, you have to done it to yourself first. One of the reasons why we can’t be kind to others, why we find we do get angry at others, is because we haven’t been kind to ourselves. We haven’t shown ourselves kindness. That’s why we find impossible to be kind to others. We only play at it. But it’s not real. Why we can’t forgive others. It’s basically because we haven’t learned how to forgive ourselves. This is where we start. Once you enlightened yourself, then that’s the greatest gift you can give to other people. And the greatest thing you could do to other people is to be kind, to be wise, to be compassionate yourself. There is no difference between the Arahat path and the Bodhisattva path. There’s no difference. The best thing you can do for others is be aligned. The best you can do for yourself is the best for others. Best for others is best for yourself. So there’s no real difference here. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to overcome all the problems of your life to be free? You don’t become free by getting rid of the demons. You embrace them. You become one with them. You love life. Not the nice part, not the bad part, but both parts. Then you’re free. No problems anymore. It’s easy, isn’t it? If it was easy, you wouldn’t have to come back again. So thank you for the talk, for listening to talk this evening. And I expect to see you back next Friday. If you really understood the talk this evening, you wouldn’t need to come back ever again. So thank you for listening to the talk. Now we get some announcements from our president saul. Oh, sorry. Yeah, please. Yes, sorry. Yeah, I agree with you. Thank you for that comment. I did actually try and say at the beginning when I was given a story of the simile about the bus going over the cliff, I did actually mention maybe it wasn’t strong enough or just didn’t hear it, but that’s only some religions or some parts of religion. And again, that many parts of what I’d call, like, modern Christianity and modern Islam sort of don’t go towards that, blaming other people, but take more responsibility for themselves. And it’s a very good sort of symbolism of going through a terrible experience and a resurrection is actually coming from oneself, not coming from another being transforming understanding what the problem and transforming the demon into your best friend. That sort of transformation is where freedom comes from. It doesn’t depend upon a religion, because I started off with, like the religious idea is an authority of somebody else. The authority is yourself, your experience, your heart, and doesn’t really matter what gender you are, what race you are, what sexual orientation you are, or what religion you are, what you ascribe to the human heart, whether you’re a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or no, believe whatever is the same. Whether you’re a woman or a man, okay? They say men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but the mind is from the same place. It’s just the icing on the cake is from different bakeries. But what’s actually underneath all that icing just, you know, the human heart is exactly the same. Doesn’t matter what religion or race. That’s why when you talk to the heart, you actually transcend all of the differences between human beings and even difference between animals and other beings as well. Call that heart the mind, the chitter, the essence of a person. And that’s why you do get beautiful similes from different religions, different cultures, which you can always embrace as you put all together. So I really apologize if you thought I was putting down other religions, but I do put down other parts of religion, including other dogmatic, which are always like, holy to the now, which are always like, telling you what to believe rather than encouraging you to find out for yourself. So thank you for asking that question, a very nice question. And I apologize if I was offensive, because that wasn’t my intention at all.

Developing Brahma Viharas | Ajahn Dtun

The Forest Path Podcast
The Forest Path Podcast
Developing Brahma Viharas | Ajahn Dtun

This episode is a talk given by the Thai forest meditation master Ajahn Dtun Thiracitto and is titled “Developing the Brahma Viharas”. In addition to discussing the divine emotions and how to develop them, this talk also deals with questions relating to body contemplation and contemplations on death as a means of developing the mind.

This was a talk given as part of a meditation retreat for lay people in Australia. It was first published as part of the book “This is the Path” which was sponsored by the Katanyuta group of Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. You can find links to the original text in the description below.

Developing the Brahma Viharas

We have all come together here to keep precepts, to develop meditation and to cultivate wisdom in our hearts. This intention is something very hard to find in the minds of people in this present day. When we have mindfulness and wisdom, we can see the harm there is in acting in unskillful ways and doing things which transgress the precepts. In keeping the five precepts, always maintaining them in one’s daily life, one will come to see the benefit of the precepts. Within the heart of each person there has to be a moral conscience, along with a fear and dread of the consequences of one’s unwholesome actions. The maintaining of the five precepts is considered as being a quality of a consummate human being. People who do not keep the five precepts can be considered as not being truly human, since the least humans can do is to keep these precepts.
When we have this sense of moral conscience and a dread of the consequences of our actions, it truly elevates our minds – it is like having the mind of a devata, or a celestial being. And when we wish to further develop and cultivate our minds, we should then practice the Brahma Vihāras, or the four sublime states, nurturing them in our hearts: firstly, having mettā or loving kindness; secondly, karunā or compassion; thirdly, muditā or sympathetic joy; fourthly, upekkhā or equanimity. All these are the states of mind or properties of a Brahma.1
Having loving kindness, mettā, means that we have friend- liness and kindness towards our friends as well as all living beings, not wishing to harm or hurt them, or to take the life of any being.
Compassion, karunā, is the quality that arises when we see other people, animals or any kind of beings experiencing suffering. If we are able to help them, we try to do so with the best of our ability, according to our level of mindfulness and wisdom. This means that we have an attitude of kindness and the wish to help one another.
The quality of sympathetic joy, muditā, means that if we see any person experiencing happiness, we as a consequence, are happy for them. We feel happy too, having no envy or jealousy for the happy person, because in reality we all wish for happiness and so when we see other people experiencing happiness, we are happy for them and feel pleasure too.
As for the quality of equanimity, upekkhā, if we see other beings or animals experiencing suffering or hardship and we are unable to be of assistance, we must then let the mind rest with equanimity by feeling neither happy nor unhappy with the situation.
In our daily life, as we experience things, we can develop and cultivate these qualities of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, as appropriate to the situation. These are the qualities that nourish the heart, bringing about continual peace, happiness, coolness and tranquility. This peacefulness and happiness will create the conditions for one to have the mindfulness and wisdom to clearly see the suffering in one’s own life, and therefore look for the way and the practice that will enable one to let go of this suffering.
Therefore in observing the five precepts (the main quality of a human being), having this moral conscience and dread of the consequences of our bad actions (the property of a celestial being) and having these four Bramha Vihāras, (the state of mind of a Brahma god), all of these qualities when they are combined with our practice of developing sīla, samādhi and pañña (virtue, concentration and wisdom) will help us in developing correct view. As a consequence, when one dies, one’s heart will not drop into a lower, unfortunate realm. There will only be continuous growth and development taking place in one’s mind. Happiness and benefit will arise, as a result, both in this present life as well as in one’s future lives.
Therefore I ask all of you to have the confidence to go about performing virtuous deeds.
If anybody has any questions, please feel free to ask.

You have spoken a lot about training the mind and you have made some reference to the heart. How do the heart and the mind work together in meditation and in life?
Actually these two words have the same meaning. The Pali word is citta. Sometimes we use the word ‘mind’ and sometimes the word ‘heart’. We are just making use of conventional language. Some may use the word ‘mind’ and others the word ‘heart’, but they are talking about the same thing. Except for when we are talking about the contents of the mind, or the heart, then the heart and the mind are one thing, but their contents are another thing.

Since ordaining, what and how much have you studied? How much reading and studying do you recommend for others?

Since beginning the practice, I have mainly just studied this body and mind. As for reading, I have hardly done any and I do not recommend a lot of formal Dhamma study. It is not necessary, whereas bhāvanā (meditation practice) is necessary. If you can use reading as a means for making the mind peaceful, that is fine. For example, if the mind will not settle down, maybe reading a few pages of an appropriate book will help to make it calm. But then, go back to meditation. If you do too much theoretical study, this can become an obstacle for developing meditation. While sitting, the mind may start to wonder if this is upacāra samādhi (access concentration) or jhāna (meditative absorption). The mind tries to compare the present experience with what has been studied in the scriptures and this can hinder insight or prevent the mind from deepening in calmness.
However I do recommend reading the biographies of the Forest meditation masters, as it can be both inspirational and educational to see how they practiced and how they lived their lives.

How essential is body contemplation? Didn’t the Venerable Ajahn Chah teach ‘letting go’?
It is essential to investigate the body to see the mind clearly. Sometimes people take Luang Por Chah’s teachings from the end of the path and forget about the instructions for the beginning. If one has not passed beyond all attachment to the body, it is impossible to clearly investigate the mind. The investigation of citta and dhamma satipatthānas (the four foundations of mindfulness: the body, feelings, mind and dhammas) is the path of practice for anāgāmis. Before that, they can be investigated, but only superficially. Sometimes you hear people say, ‘Kilesas are in the mind, not in the body, so it is the mind that should be contemplated.’ But it is only by passing beyond attachment to the body that the other khandhas (the five physical and mental components of personality:
body, feeling, memory, thinking and consciousness) become clear. Without investigating the body as elements, as asubha, as thirty- two parts, one will not be able to realize sotāpanna. Even those with great pāramī, such as Luang Por Tate and Luang Ta Mahā Boowa, had to go through the body to realize the path.
It is important to note that in the higher ordination ceremony to become a Buddhist monk, the preceptor must instruct the candidate for ordination on the five principal objects of meditation: hair, body hair, nails, teeth and skin. To not give this instruction invalidates the whole ordination. And why? Because the Lord Buddha knew that by not instructing a candidate on such an essential topic would be the cause for those persons Holy-Life to be unfruitful, or more precisely, they will not realize the noble paths to awakening, their fruitions, nor Nibbāna.

How deep can one go with the practice of being mindful in daily life?
Being continuously aware of mental objects throughout the day is an essential support for one’s meditation practice, but it is samādhi that gives sati (mindfulness) the strength to be firmly established. If we are mindful throughout the day, letting go of mental objects as they arise, then when we sit in meditation, the mind becomes deeply peaceful more easily. However, this kind of awareness and letting go is like trimming the branches of a tree: no matter how much you trim them, they keep growing again. To uproot the tree altogether, you have to uproot the attachment and identification with the body as ‘me’ or ‘mine’. I experimented with simply watching mental objects for a while: one day attraction to sense objects would arise and I would focus my awareness upon it, causing the delight to cease. But the next day, there would be delight with other objects. There is no end to it. However, with body contemplation, it comes to an end.

When I have recommended body contemplation to others, some answered: “That is only one valid way of practice, but other ways are equally good. To say that only one way will lead to path attainment is narrow-minded. Luang por Chah taught to practice more openly and broadly than that, using reflections such as ‘Don’t attach’ or ‘It’s not sure.’” How would you answer this, Ajahn?
If I did not feel the people were open and receptive to being taught, I would not say much at all. It is easier to remove a mountain than to change people’s attachment to their views. In twenty or thirty years you can gradually blow up a huge mountain, but people’s views can remain steadfastly fixed for a lifetime, many lifetimes. Those who say body contemplation is a narrow path, are themselves trapped in narrow thinking. In truth, body contemplation is very broad and leads to great freedom due to true insight.
From my experience and from seeing the results of others in their practice, to realize Dhamma, to attain at least sotāpanna, is impossible without thoroughly and deeply uprooting the identification with the body. Even the likes of Luang Pu Tate and Luang Ta Mahā Boowa, monks with enormous pāramī and refined awareness throughout the day, had to go back and contemplate the body before they realized the Dhamma. It is not enough to do it just a few times either. The great Forest teachers had to contemplate over and over. They would then get results in accordance with their pāramī and effort. It is not enough simply to be aware of postures of the body. You must train yourself to be an expert at seeing the body as asubha (not beautiful). When one who has mastered this sees other people, especially someone of the opposite sex, the asubha perception is immediately brought up to counter any kilesas that appear. The body must be
repeatedly broken up into parts or deeply seen as impermanent for real insight to arise. It is possible to realize the first stage of the path through contemplating the death of one’s own body. When mastered, body contemplation is amazing and wonderful in all sorts of ways – not narrow at all. Wherever Luang Pu Mun went, he would rely on body contemplation to keep his heart light and at ease
There are many monks with a lot of pāramī who claim that their mind is continually light and bright, that kilesas do not arise at all or only in subtle ways and that Dhamma is clear to them. They claim that they see everything arising and passing away and that they do not attach to any of it – so they do not see any need to investigate the body. However, this is just samādhi, being stuck in samādhi, being attached to a self-image of being enlightened, of being someone who understands Dhamma. But they are still stuck in saṁsāra without anything preventing them from falling into lower realms in the future. Kilesas are very tricky, very clever. If you look at the practice of truly enlightened people, you will see that they all followed the path of body contemplation.
Luang Por Chah himself practiced this way. He taught asubha practice – especially investigation of hair, body hair, nails, teeth and skin or seeing the body as a rotten corpse – but he would teach this more in private to specific individuals. Publicly he tended not to emphasize it as much as some of the other Forest teachers. I think this was because he saw that the majority of people were not ready for it. They still needed to work with general mindfulness as a base for developing samādhi, so he taught general ‘letting go’. It is not correct to say that Luang Por Chah did not teach body contemplation.
If the mind is not concentrated, body contemplation will only be superficial. However, it is still necessary to become acquainted with it from the beginning. Then gradually nimittas (images and
perceptions of the asubha, anicca, dukkha, anattā nature of the body) will arise.

When should one investigate one’s own body and when the body of others?
In the beginning, it is usually easier to contemplate the bodies of others because there is so much upādāna (clinging or attachment) bound up in our relationship with our own body. However, having become skilled with external contemplation (e.g. through looking at skeletons or seeing others as skeletons), you bring it back into your own body. If you already have nimittas (mental images/ visions) of your own body, there is no need to look at the bodies of others. Going to an autopsy has much less impact on the mind than internal nimittas.

How does one know when one has enough samādhi (concentration) for contemplating the body?
Samādhi is the fundamental support upon which wisdom is developed. When developing concentration, bring your awareness to focus upon a meditation object that you feel comfortable with, without having any expectation or desire for results. Make the mind as calm as you can without having any thoughts as to what degree of concentration you have achieved: ‘Is this the first or second jhāna…?’ Believe me, there are no signs that come up and tell you, so don’t look for any. If you are able to make your mind peaceful, then allow the mind to rest in that peace. When the mind starts to withdraw from this peaceful state, the thinking process will gradually resume. It is at this moment that we can take up the body for contemplation instead of allowing the mind to think aimlessly. Some meditators are not able to make their mind quite as peaceful as this, but still they are able to contemplate upon the body.

Actually, the easiest way to see if you have sufficient concentration is by simply trying to contemplate. If your mindfulness is firm enough to keep the mind on its object of reflection, without it wandering away with any passing thoughts, then this shows one has sufficient concentration, or the strength of mind for the work of contemplating. If, however, the mind keeps straying off with all kinds of thoughts, then this clearly shows the mind is not yet strong enough to be put to work. One must then return to further developing concentration to help strengthen one’s mindfulness.
Developing concentration is no different to an athlete that has to do weight training to make their body strong. They start off with light weights and as they become stronger gradually move up to heavier weights. Likewise, the meditator frequently practices sitting and walking meditation to develop strong mindfulness and concentration in order to have the strength of mind needed for contemplation.
Alternatively, you could compare developing concentration to the act of sharpening a kitchen knife. Having sharpened one’s knife, one takes some vegetables or meat that requires cutting. If the knife cuts through the food with great ease and little effort, this tells one that the knife is sharp enough for the task at hand. But if cutting the food requires great effort, with many attempts, one will conclude that the knife isn’t up to the task, and so one should re-sharpen it. Developing concentration is just the same. If one’s samādhi is strong, it is comparable to a sharp knife. When one comes to contemplate the body, the mind will cut incisively into its object of contemplation, enabling the mind to clearly see and understand that object. However, if one’s attempt at contemplating proves to be a difficult struggle due to the mind not accepting its given task, or there are still too many unrelated thoughts moving through the mind, then this clearly shows that one’s mindfulness and concentration are lacking in strength. One must therefore strengthen them by further developing concentration; that is, we sharpen the knife again. Always remember that if all you ever do is sharpen your knife but never use it, that knife is of no real use. However, if all you ever do is use your knife but never re-sharpen it, then ultimately that knife will also be of no use to you either.

Could you please explain death contemplation, like how to do it and how often? Can one realize the Dhamma by death contemplation, and if so, up to what stage?
Regarding the practice itself, we may consider death many times a day, depending upon the time and opportunity, but at the very least we should contemplate death once a day. This can even be done in daily life. For example, if we are traveling in a car and we seen an animal which has been run over, laying dead at the side of the road, we will see that it is made of flesh and bones and other different things and that it will eventually decompose and break apart. Then we can turn this contemplation inward to oneself, one’s own body, realizing that we are of the very same nature. If a friend or relative were to die and one attended their funeral, we should not go thinking that it is a party where we will meet up with old friends. We should think of the life of this dead person, think of the course their life had taken and see that ultimately they have ended up in this state. They are going to be buried in the ground or burnt to ashes. Some people are older than we are, others are younger, and still they die. So we must come back and contemplate ourselves and realize that ultimately we will end up the same – awaiting burial or ready to be burnt.
We contemplate death so as to remember not to be heedless in our lives, therefore attempting to develop and practice virtue to its utmost for as long as we still have life. So, in the course of our practice of keeping precepts, developing virtue, meditation and wisdom in our minds, if we include death contemplation and we give it a lot of emphasis, we shall be able to know and see the Dhamma to the level of sotāpanna, the first stage of enlightenment, without having to contemplate the thirty two parts of the body, the loathsomeness of the body, or the four elements of the body. However, if we wish to go on to a higher attainment, we must revert to contemplating either the thirty-two parts of the body, the loathsomeness of the body, or the four elements.
There was a time when I was still a layman, when I contemplated upon death. This actually hastened my coming to ordain. I thought that if I continued my studies and then started a career, if it happened that I should suddenly die, either due to sickness or accident, I would not have developed virtue and goodness to any real extent. There was this fear that if death came to me, I would not have done enough wholesome deeds, or cultivated enough virtue in my life. So finally, having reflected upon my life like this, and having previously given the possibility of future ordination some thought, it happened that all by coincidence, late one evening, I picked up a Dhamma book that opened at the last words of the Buddha. The Buddha said, ‘Take heed monks, I caution you thus: all things that arise are of a nature to cease. Therefore, strive on ceaselessly, discerning and alert both for your own benefit and the benefit of others.’ Reading this, and contemplating its meaning, I decided to renounce the lay life and come to ordain.
Once ordained I was very resolute, extremely determined in my practice. Everyday I would consider death, at least once. The contemplation of death and making this awareness very real within my mind was something that I firmly established. Sometimes in the morning when I awoke, I would think to myself, ‘So I have still not died’ and then just tell myself that I would only have life for this one day and one night. For example, if I was going to take my rest at 10 p.m., then that is when I would die – at 10 p.m.; or if I was going to take my rest at 11 p.m., then I would die at 11 p.m. This is something which really stimulates the mind to get energetic about the practice. In those days at Wat Pah Pong they would ring the morning bell at three in the morning and we would have morning chanting at either 3.30 or 4 a.m. depending on whether we had sitting meditation before or after the chanting. And in the evenings there was a meeting that started at 7 p.m. However, I wished to profit from the situation, so I got up at 2 a.m. and I contemplated and focused upon death until there was a clear awareness of it present in my heart.
In those days I did not take a rest during the day. We came together in the mornings to sit in meditation as a group, but the time outside of that was free time for individual practice which, for myself, I would use by alternating between sitting and walking meditation. Normally I would take a rest at 10 p.m., just resting for four hours. Some days I rested at 11 p.m. and would wake up at 3 a.m. In those days at Wat Pah Pong, on the Uposatha2 we would practice throughout the night, standing, walking or sitting in meditation, without lying down.
This is the way I used to practice meditation about eighty percent of the time. Another ten percent was when I was even more diligent in my practice, I would only take two or three hours rest at night. And the other ten percent was when, after keeping up a period of maybe five to ten days of strenuous practice, my body would feel tired and weak, so I would take a rest in the afternoon for maybe thirty to forty minutes.
The contemplation of death made me never want to think about tomorrow. Even though, when I first ordained, there were still thoughts about the future, there was always this awareness reminding my heart that I may die tonight, so what is the point of thinking about tomorrow? Such thoughts bring us back to the present moment. As a consequence, the mind’s proliferation about
the future – tomorrow, next week, next month and so on – gradually slows down and lessens till eventually we just have mindfulness firmly established in the present moment.
It could be compared to having a ball which we throw against a wall. When thrown, the ball does not penetrate the wall. In our case, when we allow the mind to keep thinking off into the future would be like the ball penetrating the wall and going on and on. But if we have a strong wall, that is, the awareness of death, once the ball hits it, it just comes back, and so the mind is always coming back to the present moment.
This was the cause of my being able to make my mind quiet very easily and it was peaceful nearly all the time. Therefore I ask of all of you to develop this practice of maranānussati, death contemplation. Give it some consideration each day. The contemplation of death is not done so as to give rise to fear, but to make us heedful. In doing so, we will no longer be lost in, or deluded by the world; we are no longer heedlessly caught up in the world.

I told my mother that I would be with her, to help her when she is about to pass away. Can you please advise me as to how I can help her in her dying moments?
At this moment, while she is still alive, you should be taking the best possible care of her. In doing so you would be repaying some of your debt of gratitude to her, for she has taken great care of you right from when you were in her womb and throughout your life up until adulthood. This debt of gratitude that we have to our parents is immense. Sometimes we may try to repay it for our whole life and still be unable to fully do so.
Before I ordained, I sometimes thought that I would work and then try to financially assist my father; however, I came and ordained and so I would sometimes think, ‘How will I ever repay my debt of gratitude to my father?’ I felt that even if I was to find money, wealth and possessions to give him, I would still be unable to fully repay my debt to him. So I found a shortcut: I encouraged him to come and ordain, so that I would be able to take good care of him, meet his needs as he got older and also give advice on the Dhamma. I felt that if I could give him good advice about his Dhamma practice, this would be fully repaying my debt of gratitude to him. My father was a person who had wholesome views and a strong faith in the Buddha’s teaching, so he ordained and lived with me for sixteen years. He died about two years ago and I was able to talk to him until the very last moments. I do feel that I was able to truly repay my debt to him.
If we look for material things and wealth to repay our debt to our parents, we cannot completely repay it. The way to do so is to give the Dhamma to our parents and to set them on the right course in Dhamma practice. This is the way to repay our debt of gratitude towards them.
If you feel a sense of gratitude towards your mother, this is very good. You should take the greatest care of her. Right now, you should teach her to practice meditation. If she shows strong attachment towards her body, teach her ways to gradually let go of this attachment. Teach her to contemplate the truth that these bodies of ours are not within our command, and that it is the elements of the body going out of balance that causes aging, sickness and death to occur. She should contemplate like this to make her mind quiet, practicing as time avails. When the moment of death comes, you should instruct her to use her mindfulness and wisdom to contemplate the body so as not to attach to it, but rather just let it go on its natural course. Having made the mind be at peace, she should then focus upon her meditation object.
All of us here in this room should be practicing this contemplation of death, not leaving it until the moment of death comes. Just look at boxers: they have to train before going up into the ring for the real fight, they do not just go up there unpracticed. Athletes also
must train before competing. The same goes for us: we have to practice and get an understanding of death before death actually comes to us. Consequently, we have to practice contemplating the body and death every day.

Could you please explain all the stages of letting go of the kilesas? Also, can you please explain the state of mind of one who has attained to these stages of awakening, and what should the meditation object be for each of these stages?
To explain all this would require a lot of time, so I will just do so briefly.
We say letting go of one portion of the kilesas is the attainment of sotāpanna, one who has entered the stream; letting go of the second portion is the attainment of sakadāgāmī, the once-returner; letting go of the third portion is the attainment of anāgāmī, the non-returner; and the letting go of the fourth, and final, portion of the kilesas is the attainment of arahant, a fully enlightened being.
Now for the second part of the question: ‘Explain the state of mind of one who has attained to these states.’ A sotāpanna is one who, to some extent, has let go of attachment to the body by clearly realizing that this body is not the mind and the mind is not the body. The kilesa of greed has been lessened to some extent by the fact that one’s actions and speech will always be within the bounds of the five precepts or, if one is a monastic, within the bounds of the eight, ten or 227 precepts. Sotāpannas are content with what they already have. That does not mean that they have no interest to do anything, but rather, that they will apply their mindfulness and wisdom towards any duties, work, or responsibilities that they may have by doing them to the best of their ability. The kilesa of anger is also weakened on account of its strongest properties, that of ill-will and vindictiveness, being completely let go of – never to return. For
the sotāpanna anger will manifest in the form of dissatisfaction or displeasure. This they can let go of very quickly due to there being no residue of anger’s intensity, ill-will, remaining in their heart. Within the heart they are continually cultivating loving-kindness and forgiveness.
A sotāpanna has no fear of sickness or death for they have contemplated death before it actually comes to them. This is similar to what Ajahn Chah used to teach when he would say to see something as being broken before it actually breaks. For example, if somebody gives you a very nice cup, you have to realize that one day, sooner or later, this cup will eventually break. You know it is a very beautiful object, but at the same time you have the awareness that this cup will break someday. So you use this cup, you take good care of it, you clean it and so forth, but the day it breaks, you don’t have any feelings of sadness or regret because you had conceived the cup breaking before it actually broke. The mindfulness and wisdom of a sotāpanna works in just the same way: it sees the breaking apart, or death of the body before death actually occurs.
Also a sotāpanna will not intentionally break any of the five precepts. Suppose somebody brought a chicken or a bird, put it down beside them and tried forcing them to kill it, saying ‘If you don’t kill this bird I am going to kill you.’ The sotāpanna will choose not to kill the animal, but rather accept to be killed. This is one of the characteristics of a sotāpanna: the strong conviction that they will not do any unwholesome, immoral deeds, for they know the harm or danger that comes from performing unwholesome kamma. So this quality of keeping the five precepts is automatic or natural for them. The mental defilements that have been let go of do not come back. Laypeople can also attain to this level if they keep developing the path of virtue, concentration and wisdom. Monks have exactly the same practice: developing sīla, samādhi and pañña – virtue, concentration and wisdom.

To achieve the second level of attainment on the noble path to awakening; that is, sakadāgāmiphala, the fruition of once-returning, the path of practice is to further develop sīla, samādhi and paññā so as to let go of attachment to the body by another portion. To become a sotāpanna one may use the contemplation of death, but to realize the level of sakadāgāmī one’s contemplation and investigation have to be more refined by either contemplating the thirty-two parts of the body or using the asubha reflections on the loathsomeness or unattractiveness of the body. At this second level of path development, one’s mindfulness and wisdom need to see and understand the body more clearly so as to enable the mind to let go of a more refined degree of attachment and clinging towards one’s self. For the sakadāgāmī, greed and anger have been further weakened. For example, anger will manifest in a subtle form of dissatisfaction. It will arise infrequently and can easily be let go of. Sometimes one may not have the time to contemplate this emotion due to it quickly ceasing all by itself. At other times, mindfulness and wisdom are able to contemplate this dissatisfaction at the very moment it arises, thus letting it go, putting it down quickly. In summary, at this second level of attainment, one has let go of one more portion of greed and anger, due to the lessening of one’s deluded attachment to one’s self. If one is to see or realize this for oneself, one must cultivate the path of sīla, samādhi and paññā to its respective degree.
To realize the third level of attainment, that of an anāgāmī, a non-returner, one must further develop the path of sīla, samādhi and paññā. At this third level of path development, anāgāmīmagga, one’s contemplation of the body becomes even more refined, requiring one to contemplate on either the asubha reflections or upon the four elements. One’s investigation probes so deeply and subtly that one’s mindfulness and wisdom will eventually penetrate right through its meditation object to enter into the emptiness of the mind. Practicing in such a way, one’s heart will begin to develop
a very thorough understanding about the nature of the body. One can now begin to let go of the final portion of attachment towards one’s own body, for one clearly realizes that the body, be it one’s own or that of others, is merely an aggregate of earth, water, air and fire coming together temporarily. These are the two themes of investigation: asubha and the four elements. The taking of them into emptiness is what we call magga, the path, or the course of practice leading to the attainment of anāgāmīphala, the fruition of non-returning. Through frequently seeing the true nature of the body in such a subtle way, one’s heart will obtain a complete understanding about one’s own body until there will be no doubts of any kind remaining within the heart as to the body’s true nature. The body of the past is known to be merely elements; likewise, the body of the future when it breaks apart and one’s present body are also known to be merely elements that conform to the laws of nature. The mind can now uproot all remaining attachment towards the body. The bodies of other people are seen to be just four elements that comply with nature. All material objects; that is, inanimate objects without consciousness, are even more readily seen to be just combinations of the four elements that bind together temporarily in conformance with nature.
The human mind is deluded into attaching to one’s own body as being or belonging to oneself, into viewing the bodies of other people as being something beautiful or attractive, and also into considering material objects as having ownership. Consequently, greed, anger and delusion arise within one’s mind. We are therefore obliged to contemplate one’s own body so as to see its true nature of being merely the four elements that function in compliance with nature, and that the bodies of other people and all material objects are of the same exact nature. Thus all attraction and pleasure with the sensory world falls away. Greed and anger no longer exist. When the fires in one’s heart have been extinguished, only coolness will remain. There is peacefulness and coolness all through the day and night. The kilesas that have been let go of will never come back again. The mind moves down the middle, down the center, never moving to either side of attraction or aversion. The mind is not attached to anything at all in the world. Even if the world was to change into gold, or if it became a huge piece of diamond, the mind would not be moved or attracted by this, for the mind has realized the truth and knows that these things are merely the four elements. The mind is not attached to the conventions of conditioned reality. This is the state of mind of one who has attained to the level of anāgāmī.
However, an anāgāmī still has some subtle delusion remaining within the heart, in so much as they still attach to the subtle processes or modes of the mind; that is, the four mental khandas: feeling, memory, thinking and consciousness. So the practitioner must cultivate mindfulness and wisdom, to see these four khandas as being fleeting, a source of suffering or discontent, and that they are completely without any abiding essence that could be called a ‘self’. When the mind fully accepts this it will let go of its attachment towards everything within it. Even the mental formations or the thinking processes are not the mind: that which thinks is not the mind; that which does not think is the mind. The purity of heart that has gradually increased, stage by stage, by eliminating all traces of greed, anger and delusion from within the mind, will at this point, completely and permanently suffuse the heart of the practitioner. Letting go of this final portion of the defilements is what is called arahattaphala or the attainment of arahantship.
It is only for the first three levels of attainment that one must contemplate the body. Body contemplation is a truly amazing practice. It can give rise to many marvelous natural phenomena or conditions arising within the mind. For example, sometimes seeing the whole body as just being a pile of earth (earth element), or seeing the whole body as being a flowing stream of water (water element). These natural phenomena may arise in the mind in many,
many forms. Those who have mindfulness and wisdom will be wise to the truths that these phenomena reveal.
When people start contemplating the body, some may have a natural inclination for contemplating the loathsomeness of the body. They may be able to see the people in this room as corpses in various stages of decomposition, or see everybody as skeletons. Sometimes when other people are seen, they will completely break apart, separating out into pieces, only then to reconstruct themselves back into their original form – before one’s very eyes. These are just some of the natural phenomena that arise within the mind of one who is cultivating the contemplation of the loathsomeness of the body.
For one whose practice is at the level of arahattamagga, the course of practice leading to arahantship, these amazing states will not arise because their practice is to cultivate a very refined degree of mindfulness and wisdom so as to give up the subtle delusion that still remains within the mind. We could compare one who has attained the third level of anāgāmī as having filtered dirty water to make it clean whereas the arahant filters clean water to make it pure. They have made their own heart pure. This is what the Buddha called the ‘Dhamma element’ – the absolute purity of mind. The Buddha said, ‘There is no happiness greater than peace’, meaning the peace experienced within a heart freed from all greed, anger and delusion.
Ok then, that’s probably enough for tonight.

MN22. Simile of the Snake – Alagaddūpama Sutta

The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
MN22. Simile of the Snake - Alagaddūpama Sutta

This episode is the 22nd sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the Alagaddūpama sutta which is known as the “simile of the snake”. In this teaching one of the monks denies that breaking the rules of conduct is really a problem. The monks go to great lengths to persuade him to change his views. Then the Buddha compares someone who understands only the letter of the teachings to someone who grabs a snake by the tail, and also invokes the famous simile of the raft.

This translation of the Alagaddūpama Sutta is by Bhikkhu Sujato and was sourced from Sutta Central.

If you’d like to hear commentary on this teaching, you can listen to Ajahn Brahm discussing this sutta.

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The Power of the Mind | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
The Power of the Mind | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm talks about the power of the mind and how the mind can be further empowered for the benefit and happiness of ourselves and those around us. Meditation is a way of feeding and strengthening the mind, not just in this life but for many lives.

The problem these days is that people know how to feed the body and keep it healthy, but don’t know how to feed the mind. People have material wealth but lack happiness and inner well-being. This is why it is so important that we seek to develop our minds so that we know how to overcome the inner obstacles and find inner happiness.

You can find the text transcription and other related information on the Ajahn Brahm Podcast website.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 4th July 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page. 

Ajahn Brahm – Power of the Mind

(Robot generated transcrition – expect errors!)

For this evening’s talk, just something which has came up. I’m just going to talk about the power of the mind. A nice interesting topic, because while we’ve been meditating, that’s what we’ve been doing, empowering the mind. I’m going to talk about the mind, its power, and how that power can be used for the benefit of happiness of not just yourselves, but all other beings as well. Just wait for the last people to come in and then start talking about the power of the mind. Sometimes when people look at religions, sometimes they wonder what the purpose of religions are, what the purpose of past like Budhism are. And I just was thinking earlier on today that there’s an old saying that it’s not a very good Buddhist saying. They say you give a person a fish, you feed them for one day. You teach a person how to fish and you feed them for life. They also make lots of bad karma at the same time. But if you teach a person meditation, actually you don’t just feed their body, but you feed their heart for many, many lives. And. And sometimes we don’t realize this. That the power of actually feeding the mind. One of the problems with our modern society, modern world, is we’re so materialistic. We feed the body, we train the body, we look after the body. But we’re still not happy. There’s still people with great emotional problems, social problems, who can’t hold a relationship together, who can’t even hold a relationship with themselves together, let alone with another person. They’re not at peace with themselves. They’re not happy. They have problems inside, they have guilt, they have anxiety, they have depression, they have loneliness. Even though they may be wealthy. I always remember that time I went to do a blessing ceremony in a house in Shelley on the riverfront, a huge mansion. And there was only one person staying in there alone, had no friends. Very wealthy woman, but had no one to share her wealth with. You could see. It was just so sad. Be much better to live in a small home’s, west apartment in Bentley somewhere, and police have some friends there. At least that’s how I would think. And so sometimes we look too much on the superficial nature of happiness in the world, thinking that happiness only lies in wealth and health. Not realizing that there’s something much more important, which is our mind, our inner world, our heart, that which lies in the center of all of this. Because if that’s not right, if that is hurting, doesn’t matter how much wealth you have, no matter how healthy your body, no matter how good your prospects, you will kill yourself, you will die. Because the heart of the mind is sick. Which is why that we recognize in Buddhism, and you recognize this for yourself the biggest pain, the biggest suffering is always the suffering inside. Which is why that you can even teach a person how to fish. You can make them wealthy. But that still doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is with the mind. And if people’s minds are happy, if their minds are content, if they get it over the sicknesses of the mind, such as like ill will and anger towards themselves or others or towards life. Anger towards themselves is called guilt. Anger towards others can be envy. Jealousy or just plain old agro. Anger towards life is depression. All of these negative states of mind which come because we haven’t learned how to feed the mind, how to train the mind. Now, first of all, that people even doubt in our western world that the mind exists. Which is why I have my party trick, which you can always play at parties when you’re starting to have a discussion about spiritual matters. When people say that the mind is just part of the brain, you can ask them are you happy or are you sad? And if they say they are happy, then you ask them with the index finger. Can you please point to that happiness for me? I’ve done that here before, so I’m not going to repeat it again. But you can try it at home. Are you happy now? Point to that happiness for me. And people can’t do that. I’ve done this in auditoriums in Malaysian, Singapore and have all these thousand people waving their hands up and trying to point to happiness, or trying to point to sadness, trying to point to anger, trying to point to depression. Are you depressed? Where is it? You don’t imagine these things. These things are real, but you cannot locate them in space. You cannot locate them in your body. Why? Because these things belong to the mind. They don’t belong to the body. The body lives in space. The mind lives in its own space, mind space, if you like. You know you’re happy, but it doesn’t exist in your body. It’s not your brain is happy. You know, you feel, say, guilty, but it’s not your brain feels guilty. It’s not your nose feels guilty. It’s your mind feels guilty. That mind is that mind is what contains happiness, sadness, envy, depression, lack of self esteem, peace and contentment. Also a part of the mind. It that’s why when we start to understand the nature of this mind and its importance to our life and other people’s lives, we learn how to train the mind to feed the mind, to empower the mind. Because once a mind is empowered. Then it can do huge amounts of things, not only for your own happiness, but can serve the world, can help, can do amazing things. Which is why I’m calling this talk the power of the mind. We come across the power of that mind, especially when we start meditating, because this is what meditation is doing. It’s empowering it. Mateacher Rajyan Cha always used to say, and it’s a very profound saying, that to exercise, to bring health to the body, you have to exercise it, train it, and feed it well, but especially exercise. That’s why sports people have to do long hours in the gym, pushing up weights, training, running, because that’s how you make your body fit and healthy. And that’s why in schools and colleges, we always put a lot of effort into training the body to make it fit and healthy so it lasts long and we can do things with it. But we don’t train our mind, because to train the mind, my teacher Ajan Chai, used to say, you don’t train the mind by exercising it. You train the mind by stilling it, by calming it, by giving it rest. That’s the way you train the mind and make it fit and healthy. The more you think, the more you move the mind, the weaker it gets. You try to gain wisdom by thinking. All thinking is like a satellite orbiting the object. You think about things, around things you never actually penetrate to the heart of things. The more you think, the less you see. It’s an old saying, but when we stop the mind, when we make it still, not only do we see deeply, but we gain great power of the mind. I understand this because when we meditate, what we’re actually doing and this is an important part of understanding what meditation is all about, what we’re doing, we’re calming half of the mind and we’re keeping the other half very, very active and powerful. The two parts of the mind which you’ve heard me say before, the two parts of that which we call the mind are the passive and the other one is the active mind. The passive mind is sometimes called mindfulness awareness, alertness, knowing, consciousness. All these words which point to that part of you inside which can hear these words, that which is seeing when you’re looking at me, that which is feeling, and that which can hear the thoughts going through your mind. That’s a passive part of the mind. If you call it mindfulness alertness, knowing, consciousness, you can understand what I mean by the knowing mind. And there’s another part of the mind which is the reactive mind. That which reacts to what I say, that which reacts to what I do, that which moves into thoughts, into ideas, into complaining, liking, controlling, managing, manipulating all that active doing part of the mind, which is why I called it the doer, the active part of the mind. With most people these days in modern Western society, the active doing mind takes up all of your energy. You spend so much of your energy thinking, managing, fixing up faults, controlling, manipulating, getting by doing this, because there’s so much to be done, so much of the energy goes into that doing, controlling, managing, fixing the active part of the mind that literally this heart. Anything left for the knowing, for awareness, for alertness. So much so that our alertness, our knowing, is very, very dull. Not only are we only half awake when we’re seeing, we’re only half seeing, half hearing, half knowing, half feeling, because the energy in that part of our mind is so depleted. Not only we are only half knowing and half seeing and half feeling, we’re not really fully, deeply knowing and seeing because the knowing has got no energy, but also the knowing, the knowing, the energy of the knowing is what we call in mind science inner pinas. It’s a strange thing that people who are depressed, people who have a lack of inner happiness, are dull in their senses. When you’re depressed, what you see, you see dullly. What you feel, you feel dullly. What you know is like known in a mist. You cannot penetrate deeply. But when you’re alert, when you’re happy, when you’re uplifted exhilarated, then what you see, you see far more richly, far more deeply. The more energy goes into the knowing, the more happiness you have in the mind and the more clarity as well. Inner happiness is energy of the mind. Which is why that sometimes one monk in Thailand said this. It’s not a very good saying, but I’ll repeat it. He said that life looks so good after a strong cup of coffee. What he meant was he was borrowing energy and putting into the mind. And when the mind was energized, everything looked so nice and so wonderful. But unfortunately, that caffeine or coffee is just borrowing energy, which you have to pay back later. And this is the problem. But with meditation, you are actually empowering the mind. And the mind is getting brighter, seeing more deeply, but also becoming more happy. This is actually why, a few weeks ago, the University of Wisconsin found that Buddhists were the happiest people in the world. Science proved. So if you say, why I’m a Buddhist because Buddhists are the happiest people in the world. And why is that the case? Because more and more the energy goes into knowing and less goes into doing. Buddhists are notorious for their passivity, for the ability to let things go and not to react so strongly to the difficulties in life which come along from time to time. We become more accommodating, more peaceful, more passive. And because of that passivity not always controlling, manipulating, complaining you find you have much more mental energy to know and to see. As a young man, I must have been certainly a Buddhist in my previous life because I knew, even as a young man that I was very alert and a very happy young man. In fact, I remember once when I was about to become a monk and I was going to this Thai temple in London and I was wondering where I can become a monk. And one of the monks in the Thai temple said, Go and speak to this guy. He’s just come back from Thailand. I spoke to him, and he didn’t really give me much information. I found later on he’d actually come from Ajan Char’s monastery. When I saw him a few years later, I said, Why didn’t you tell me about this monastery? And he said, Because I never thought you were serious. Not serious? I’ve been in bulk almost 30 years now. Why do you think I was serious? He said, Because you were too happy. You’re always smiling. You thought you had to be in great pain and suffering to want to become a monk. The only reason to leave the world because you’re having a hard time. No, that’s not the point. I left the world because I was having a good time. But I wanted a better time, that’s all. And that’s why I keep staying as a monk. But he thought I was so happy even then. I was happy as a layperson. One of the reasons was because I was very alert, had natural mindfulness, not such a controller. This is one of the reasons why I’ve found out the power of the mind. Even at school I was alert when the teacher was giving a lecture. I was actually listening, fully listening, without thinking about the party coming up later on that day. Without complaining, complaining, without controlling, without manipulating. I could listen with full alertness, in quietness. And that’s why I got a great memory. I thought every kid had a good memory. That’s what you think, that yours are normal and natural. But afterwards you find out what memory is all about and. Memory is like having a sponge, like your brain being a sponge. The only way it can soak things up is if it’s dry. It’s got no more water in there and it’s very, very dry. It soaks up everything. And that’s similar of being like a dry sponge is that you’re not thinking anything yourself. You’re not adding to what the lecturer is saying. You’re open, quiet, silence, listening, mindful, with all the energy going into knowing and no energy at all going into reacting, sitting there with complete listening, passive. That’s the way you learn. That’s the way you’re open to the world. You can’t be talking back to the world and listening at the same time as a similar I give in meditation retreats now. Modesty and serpentine. Many years ago, six Thai people were cooking food for us in the kitchen. When I went past, I saw six Thai ladies talking. There’s only six ladies in the kitchen. And I started figuring out if six people are talking, who can be listening? And the answer was no one was listening. This is what happens in life. Everybody is talking, but no one is listening. They’re talking inside. So when the teacher is teaching something, people are thinking they’re talking inside. That s why they never listen. That s why we never remember. Listen to the times when you always remember things. It’s called traumatic incidents in your life. If you have a terrible accident, isn’t it the case that you actually see it happening in slow motion before the car hits? Isn’t it right that you always remember that occasion? You’re traumatized. You can’t get it out of your mind. Why is that? Is because at that time you’ll pay full attention to what’s going on. You have to, because this is dangerous and. The more attention you pay, the easier it is to remember. This is actually why you can see the power of the mind. When you put all the energy into knowing, it means it’s very, very easy to remember. Not only easy to remember, but easy to recall for those people doing examinations or the examinations of life, remembering the instructions and what to do. This is why people who meditate empower the mind, have great memories, but so not only just to get great memories, also the more that we empower the mind just through stillness, through silence, just the more the mind can do things, the more malleable it is, the more workable it is. In particular, one of the most important things of our mind is actually to understand and to know exactly what’s going on in this world. Why is it that we have all the problems in life? And what should we do about them? So often that the suffering of life, according to Buddhism, comes from they call it ignorance, I’m a bit more gross. I call it stupidity. I always remember that one of the great sayings of Voltaire, this French philosopher and playwright who once said the only way to really understand, to fully understand the mathematical concept of infinity. Is to contemplate the extent of human stupidity. He was acidic, but people laugh because that’s very true. That’s how stupid we are as human beings. Have you been stupid? I’ve certainly been stupid many times in my life. I try and control things which are completely beyond my control. I try and do things which are completely beyond me. And some times when I fail, you suffer thinking it was me who done this and I’m hopeless, I’m useless. A lot of times that is what we call stupidity. And the way to release from the pain of life is through wisdom, through understanding, through knowing, through understanding what’s going on in our life. All the times that you suffer. Why, when you look at sort of life, when things go wrong, what do you expect? Thing is, our expectations are not in line with reality. We expect all of our loved ones to always like us and sometimes they don’t. What do you expect, people? We expect our husbands, our wives always to be just what we like them to be. What do you expect? We expect people to live forever. What do you expect? As we taught here many times before, even sickness, we always expect to be healthy, which is a silly expectation. When anyone is sick and they go to the doctor, they should never say, there’s something wrong with me today, Doctor. I’m sick. They should say, there’s something right with me, I’m sick again. There’s nothing wrong with being sick. It’s not against the law. So why do we say, there’s something wrong with me? When we understand the truth of the things this is part of life. We get sick. The sickness is actually the body trying to heal the viruses or is trying to sort of mend a broken bone or to do whatever else it is. It’s just the reactions of the body. This is the body. Does it’s natural to be sick? It’s also natural to die. What do you expect? You can’t just expect people to live to 60, 70, 80 years of age. People die at all ages. So when anyone rings you up and say there’s a close relation of you has just died, you should say, yeah, I expected that. Shock me. It’s true, isn’t it? If you actually understand the truths of the world, people die at all times. And it’s the stupidity, the ignorance would think, no, this doesn’t happen. When you go to the doctors and they give you an examination and say, you’ve got cancer, why does it surprise you? Are you somehow different than other people? It happens to others. Why shouldn’t it happen to you? Instead of why me? The Buddhists say, why not now? You can actually see that a lot of times the pain and suffering of our lives is coming from not accepting and understanding the reality of our life, instead of actually knowing it clearly. Passively. When we react to our knowing, we distort it all the time. We don’t see what is there. We just see what we want to see. We see life as it should be rather than it is. And that’s where the problems of life come. So when we take away the energy from the controlling, the knowing, the manipulator, that which bends life to try and suit us, we stop and just know passively. Let’s find out what life is all about. With no vested interests, with no preconceptions, with no wanting it to be this way and wanting to be that way. Let’s see it as it truly is. That is actually what passive awareness does. And it’s a very, very powerful mind state because it starts to see things as they true are not as we want them to be. When we see things as they truly are, there’s a great relief comes to us freedom from the stupidity of life. The reason why we suffer is because of the war which goes on. I call it the war inside. It’s the war between the way we want things to be, the way we want our to be, the way we want our children to be, the way we want life to be, the way want the weather to be, the way we want our footy team to be, the way want me to be and the way things are. You what happens in that war, the way things are and the way we want them to be. We try and change the way things are, the way life is. To suit ourselves, to suit our wants and desires. We actually try and change the world. We don’t want death to be. We don’t want sickness to be. We don’t want the world to be cold so we have heaters. We don’t want the world to be hot so we have coolers air conditioners. What I was saying when I went to Japan a week or two ago, they even sort of got to the point and they don’t want the toilet seats to be cold, so they’ve got hot toilet seats over there. You sit down on the toilet seat and it’s preheated for you. It’s very nice. You don’t want to get up again. That’s why there’s a lot of queues in public toilets. You too comfortable. Want to control the whole world. And where does that get you? Just gets you constipated. So the way the world is, the way we want it to be, that’s where the war become war is. And so we always want to change the world rather than change our wants. What passive awareness? US, this way of meditation? Just knowing. Just knowing. Not trying to change things. See how it actually is. We actually change our wants to the way things are. We come in line with the world rather than trying to force the world into line with us. When we do this, we come to a sense of peace with the world. Ah, this is the way the world is. We don’t want to control. We don’t want to make things this way and that way. That old Chinese story I remember from some time ago, which comes to my mind, are these two Chinese hermits, two Buddhist hermits who lived up in the mountains. One lived on top of the mountain, and the one lived halfway down. And there were such wise people, such moral people, that when the Emperor of China was having trouble trying to find a prime minister, trying to find a wise and honest person to help him run his government when he’d gone through all of these mandarins and important people, all corrupt politicians never change and all stupid out for themselves. He thought, who can I trust? Who is wise? Who is moral, who is incorruptible? I can get as my prime minister? And he thought of these two hermits, these guys were moral, these were upset, and also they were really, really wise. So he went with a few of his soldiers up to the mountain to the top hermit and said oh, great hermit, oh wise one, o moral one, please, can you take up the honorable position of Prime Minister of the Chinese Empire? Can you please sort of help me run my nation? And as soon as he heard this, the Hermit never replied. He just went to the stream and washed out his ears. The Emperor got the message. That’s not the sort of thing a hermit wants to hear. So he thought, uhoh, well, there’s still another hermit halfway down the mountain. So he tried the second hermit. He went down there and he was about to ask the second hermit the same question. For the sake of the empire, for the sake of the people of China, can you take up the responsibility to control and to help manage our empire? But before the second hermit could even answer, the attendant of the first hermit came running down the mountain and told the second hermit say, please, hermit, don’t use the water. There’s something filthy in it. This at which the Emperor realized he’s not going to convince any of these hermits and went back and got somebody else to be the Prime Minister. Because hermits wise, people know, just like controlling, managing others is just suffering. Imagine trying to control your children. Now imagine trying to control an empire. Oh, that’s big suffering you. So why do you want to control yourself? Why do you want to control life, the great empire of life? When you do, you’re trying to sort of go against the stream, the stream of old age, sickness and death, the things going wrong. Life is a mess, as I was saying that last week about life is a mess. There’s always you tidy things up. What is actually the whole movement of life is actually mess it up again. You fix one thing and it breaks again. You fix up part of your body and something else goes wrong. You fix up one part of the relationship and there’s other problems. Life seems to be going into, like, messiness all the time and. So a lot of times that we try and control too much and we never get any happiness that way. And also because we put all that power, all that energy into doing, controlling we get worn out, burnt out, we get worn out, burned out. We get sort of levels of depression and the results of depression are sort of ill will and anger. And when you’re really depressed and having a hard time, as I say, you get up in the morning, you kick the dog. If you haven’t got a dog, you kick the cat or you kick your husband or you kick your wife or whatever, you kick why do you do that? Because you’re upset and unhappy so much. Ill will, anger, negativity always comes because you’re burnt out, you’re tired. Now imagine instead of putting all that energy into controlling, doing things, you put all that energy into this the knowing, the passivity, meditating, just sitting there, doing nothing, just being and being and being and being until after a while you find that being ness, the awareness, mindfulness, passive awareness gets stronger and stronger and stronger. Not only do you know more deeply what’s going on, think oh, I’m stupid. Why did I do that? I wasn’t seeing clearly enough. I was doing something else at the time. You, but also you get this huge amounts of energy coming up in the mind. Mind energy. You become empowered. Not only is this the secret of Buddhist monks being the happiest people in the world, because they’re passive to put all the energy through meditation into their mind, that knowing gets empowered and the mind becomes bright and happy. But it’s not only happy you can do was last Tuesday night, I think in Armadill, I was telling people about an experience which I had when I was going to visit Canberra to do some teachings many years ago. Canberra is very, very cold, and this was a cold time of the year. After a couple of days there, I got a cold. And that particular day, somebody was going to take me up to a tour of the part of New South Wales. I wish they hadn’t have taken me, but they’d made all the arrangements. I just wanted just to go into bed and curl up and just try and sort of get rid of the cold. They took me all up here and up there all day. And we were late coming back to a Vietnamese temple. I was supposed to give a talk that evening. By the time I returned, I’d been out all day, no time for a shower. About ten minutes before, I had to give a talk, and all these people had come, maybe 60 people, 70 people, and I was coughing, sneezing, my eyes were running. And, you know, it’s like when you start a cold, you feel terrible. You got no energy at all. I asked them for a cup of tea and all they had was a bit Chinese jasmine tea. I couldn’t get a cup of coffee because it was a Vietnamese Mahayana temple. I like Teravada tea. In other words, tea from Sri Lanka. I call that Teravada tea. I got this jasmine tea and I felt really, really weak. And I started giving this talk and it was hopeless. Every sort of few seconds I had to sneeze or cough or just wipe the water from my nose was dribling out in public. It was very embarrassing. But worst of all, you just couldn’t keep your train of thought because you felt so tired and weak. So after ten or 15 minutes of this, I said, let’s stop. Let’s meditate, let. And everyone was quite happy to do that because they couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. And so we meditated for half an hour and so I relaxed, I let go, just went into the moment, went into silence, went into my breath. I’d completely put all my energy into the knowing and not into the doing at all. And after half an hour, not exaggerating half an hour, the cold had gone and I gave this really brilliant talk, smooth, articulate. All the ideas were flowing on quite lovely without sort of any break, and it really impressed people. So how’d you do that? The power of the mind. This is what you can do. You put all the energy into the knowing, the mind becomes bright and powerful and the mind can do some amazing things, especially when you have to give a talk and all these people have come and you really feel tired or you’ve got a sickness, you can stop that and just give a beautiful talk. The mind becomes powerful in this way. It becomes bright. And it’s not only just to start to control some of these things in the body. You can actually start to heal some of these sicknesses in the body. The Buddha says the mind is the forerunner of all things. It’s the most powerful. It’s a chief. The mind is sick. You know how that makes the body sick? The mind is depressed, upset the body’s love to get all these illnesses. The happiness of the mind increases the immune system, so they say. It strengthens it. It gets all these endorphins flowing through the body. Now, medicine knows that happiness is the way for good health. What is that? Happiness is the energy of the mind. You put lots of energy into the mind through your meditation. It’s a great way to be healthy, to be energetic, to be powerful in this mind. So if you have any sicknesses many times people practice meditation and they use the power of their mind actually to focus on parts of the body which are sick and. And the way you do that is once you’ve got energy in the mind, you feel its power, because you’ve been very, very still, very, very quiet, and you start to feel the mind brightening up and getting some happiness, even some bliss coming up. Then you can focus that energy on that part of the body. Maybe a knee, which is hurting, or maybe your heart or a breast with a cancer or anything else like that. You can focus on that area. Only when you’re still you got energy and power and you can just bathe it in beautiful energy, not with negativity, but with this beautiful, like, kindness, acceptance, peace. The power of the mind. You can feel you can do this. The mind has got that energy. When you put it down there, it’s amazing what it can do. The mind is that powerful. I remember when I was young, if I was playing soccer in the streets of London and I sort of fell over and grazed my knee, I’d always go to my mum and she would kiss it better. She’d put all the germs of her mouth on it, but it would never get infected, it always get well. Why was that? Because the power of belief and kindness. I believed it would work. It was an act of kindness and always got better, never got infected. This is actually what happens. The power of the mind is that strong. So if you can actually use that power of the mind, this is what you can do. There’s old stories I told of that people who taught themselves to death. A story of that guy who got caught in the back of truck in the United States some years ago. Refrigerated truck. On a Friday night. He was cleaning up a wind caught the door of the truck, slammed it shut. He was caught in the back of refrigerated truck all weekend, banging on the doors, shouting out. But he was the last one out in the yard. No one heard him. And he wrote his last words on the piece of paper because no one can stand more than a couple of hours in such subzero temperatures of a refrigerated truck. They found him on the Monday morning dead. But he’d written all these letters. He said that he realized very quickly when he couldn’t escape, that he was going to die. And he wanted to give something back to medical science. He wrote he wanted to tell people what it was like to freeze to death all the symptoms. So in great detail, he recorded the symptoms of somebody freezing to death. And that’s actually what they found written on a piece of paper on the Monday when they opened the the truck and found him in there dead. And those symptoms were classic symptoms medical science knew those symptoms very well already. The only strange thing was that the refrigeration unit wasn’t turned on it was ordinary temperatures but he’d thought himself to death. It that happens. The other case, which I thought I told these stories before, but people I think this is the first time you’ve heard that for a while. The other story was a very famous story which was done in England about 103 years ago, just the turn of the century as a man who was condemned to death by hanging in a jail in Brisk. Still, the day before the execution. The evening before, two psychologists had permission from the government to go into his cell and to lie to him and say that the law had been changed. He was still to die, but he would have his throat cut in the morning. He wouldn’t be hung. The poor fellow was faced without all night the following morning he would die by having his throat cut probably never slept all night. In the morning they came for him, tied his hands firmly behind his back, put a hood on him, a blindfold, and led him to the place of execution. What he didn’t know was the place of execution was just the prison washroom s there the two psychologists and a few prison warders and the governor of the jail and a priest, or someone acting as a priest asking for his last words gave him the solace of his religion. And then they carried out the execution. One of the psychologists drew the blade of one of the old razors people used to use to shave their face. Used to call them actually cutthroat razors. Only he drew the blunt edge of the blade across the man’s throat. It didn’t even scratch him. At the same time, one of the other psychologists turned on a tap close by. A man felt coal steel across his throat. He heard the sound of liquid running and he fell to the ground and died. He believed he was having his throat cut and he died as a result. Nothing wrong with him. This is the power of the mind. The power of belief, the power of the energy of the mind. If it can actually kill you, imagine how it can heal you. Imagine what it can do for you. That’s why recently, when I was in Singapore, during the SARS crisis, I told people, look, fear is the biggest killer of human beings. If you believe you’re going to get SARS, you will do it. Fear is what kills people. Because fear is a negative part of the mind. The positive part of the mind can be extremely strong. Just as it can kill you, it can also heal you and save you. But it’s not only just for that. That power of the mind can also liberate. It can liberate you. Especially from those negative emotions which cause so much problem in our society. Why is it that too many people are angry? Why is it too many people feel such guilt inside themselves? Why do so many people just really get upset when somebody dies and have grief? Tell you why. Because they’re lacking the energy of of mental energy, of happiness, of joy, of passivity. The more we manipulate and control our world, the more we’re subject to the negative emotions. Because we are weak minded. All our energy goes into surviving, doing, making, controlling. You’ve got no energy left where it counts. That’s why if you give yourself a few moments of peace all your anger and negativity will be lessened enormously. All the sense of lack of self esteem, depression, anxiety, grief, fear, anger, envy, jealousy. You give yourself a few moments of peace, real peace. The energies will come up in your mind, happiness will come and you’ll find there’s no cause for ill will. Ill will is a reaction to the unhappiness inside our hearts. When you’re feeling good, when you’re feeling happy, when you’re feeling elated, you can’t get angry at anybody. When you have a really good meditation, you feel on top of the world. People can tell you anything. Wives run away, children have all died, lost all your money, the house has been destroyed. Don’t mind. Easy come, easy go. But when you’re really tense, when you’ve had a bad day, when you’re tired, you’re depressed, one small little thing happens and you blow up. Because there’s no power in the mind beyond becomes very, very weak, and the small vagaries of life just blow you around so hard. That’s why the more one meditates. The Buddha symbol is like of one of these big stone pillars which I used to have in India years ago, still left there because they’re so strong, buried deeply into the ground, which cannot be moved even by storms. Because you’re buried deep in inner happiness, your own happiness, your own power, your own bliss of mind. So things of the world, they just cannot shake you. That’s why you don’t get ill will, you don’t get anger, you don’t get grief, you don’t get despair, because you got this source of inner happiness within you which keeps you like a rock. But the greatest power of the mind, as I was saying earlier, is the power of seeing deeply these truths. The only reason why Magnus or Nun sit up here and have got the authority to teach like this is because the years that we’ve spent in meditation empowering our minds. So we can see deeply into the nature of things. You don’t get wisdom from books. You don’t get wisdom from listening to people like me. You get wisdom by shutting up, by being still, by going inside that stillness of your heart, by making the mind is so quiet that all the truths of the world become come reveal to you the important things. Whatever the mind looks there, it can see just so deeply, so powerfully. Recently, I think here or somewhere, I’m not quite sure where, I’ve been giving these talks, talking about that clump of bamboo after a meditation retreat. Every time a person gets into a deep state of meditation, when their mind become become still, when they become blissed out and there’s enormous happiness inside, when they go outside afterwards, if they say, look at the stars in the sky, those stars are more beautiful than they’ve ever seen before. And. You look at a brick on the wall. My goodness, that brick is a work of art. Everything you see, you see in greater richness depths and beauty. It’s a weird experience when this first happens to you what’s going on? Why is the world look so beautiful? Why is it so rich? Because the mind is empowered through stillness. It’s as if you’ve got muscles in the mind which you’ve never had before. You can see deeply into things. And those things, when you see deeply into them, you see their richness and their beauty. That’s why sometimes when saying that clump of bamboo. My first meditation retreat in Cambridge as what was I, a 19 year old, I think, 18 year old, maybe, I’m not sure. Just after every morning, I was allowed to go for a walk. I went to the botanical gardens close by. I was supposed to be a walk, but all I could do was stand and stare at this beautiful clump of bamboo. Which looked so beautiful I couldn’t move from it. After retreat was finished, maybe a week or two later, I decided to go back and visit my clump of bamboo which had given me so much happiness, which had entranced me for hour after hour for nine days. When I went back there couldn’t see anything. It’s just a bamboo or me. What’s going on? Why now did it look me? But when I was on meditation retreat, it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. There was a bench next to it. I sat down on that bench and just stared. People must have thought I was mad and crazy. So on some sort of drug just open mouth, just staring. This beautiful club of bamboo mao couldn’t see it anymore. I was realizing the power of the mind. Actually can see deeply into things and can see beauty where you never saw beauty before. You look at a carpet during a meditation retreat, like a little carpet like you’re sitting on right now, and that becomes amazing. How wonderful that is. What’s going on? It’s not the carpet. It’s your mind. Your mind is becoming powerful. Energized decides to see deeply into things. That’s why after station people get into this amazing experience when everything becomes wow, look at this. This is amazing. And. But that’s only just seeing the beauty of the world as who was it Yates said to see a world in a grain of sand, see a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, an eternity in an hour. See what happens when you meditate. Even a grain of sand becomes a whole world. An a small, tiny wildflower is a whole heaven which you can explore for days, years. Eons. There’s so much going on there. So what happens with the power of the mind? But it’s not just seeing the beauty in things. It’s also seeing the truth in things. Most important thing about the power of the mind is if you really want to find out the truths of this world, the truths of this existence, what this world is all about, what you are all about, you need to have that power of the mind to find out. The way of Buddhism is a way of enlightenment. And how does that enlightenment happen? You don’t get enlightened by reading books. You don’t get enlightened by talking about Buddhism or talking about things. You don’t get enlightened by listening to talks. You get enlightened by going in your mind. And by using the powerful mind to look inside and find out who you really are, or rather what you really are. What is this mind? Where does it come from and how does it work? Here you are going to what we called in budhism, the jewel in the heart of the lotus, the most valuable thing in the whole world. It is truth. Because the promise of truth is it liberates you once and for all from all the suffering and pain of life. Liberation. Freedom. That’s why these words liberation and freedom, which people tout in philosophies, in sociologies and even in political ideas. Freedom. Freedom. Was Itzi in the French Revolution? Liberty. Egality. Fraternity. Freedom. Justice. Brotherhood. But freedom. What actually is then, with all of the movements of the world, with all of your movements towards being free? Have you ever felt being free? Do you really feel that you’re a free person? The only time you really feel free, you’ll find, is when you’re at peace. Because because we’re always under the control of our desires, our wants, our needs. So we never feel free. Have you ever got a free moment? Every moment is free if you let go of the past and the future. It’s the past and the future which imprison the present moment, which squash it into being just a tiny area of time. But when you let go of the past and the future, you’ve got all the time in the world. Strange thing, the present moment looks as if it’s only a tiny fraction of a moment long. But when you get into the present moment, you find it lasts forever. This is what freedom is. When you let go of things, you find freedom. The more you have, the more enclosed you feel. The more you do, the less freedom you feel. That’s why we talk about the free world in the west. It’s not free at all. You find with the power of mind what freedom true really is, is not the freedom of desires, but the freedom from desires. Small change, but makes all the difference between enlightenment and suffering. We think that to get all our desires met, to change the world according to our ideas, the freedom of desires is taken in the world to be real freedom. That’s why the west tries to take away all of the obstacles to fulfilling your desires, to make every desire possible. It’s called the freedom of desires. In those worlds, no one ever feels free. Even the millionaires and the billionaires have got all the power to get whatever they want, whenever they want. They never feel free. But you let go of desires and have moments of contentment. Moments sitting by the beach at sunset where you don’t want anything in the whole world. It’s called freedom from desires. And that is real freedom. That is where the power of the mind sees where happiness truly lies. Freedom is that power. Freedom from desires is the mind being passive. Freedom from desires, the contentment in the moment is where you’ll find the happiest times of your life. It doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t need to get anything to be there. You don’t have to do anything or go anywhere or get anything. All you need to do is to stop. And there you are. The power of the mind. And that’s a nice place to end the talk this evening. So thank you very much for listening to the power of the mind. Okay, anyone got any questions about this evening’s talk? Yes. When you go to sleep, okay, first of all, what happens to mind when it goes to sleep? It’s still actually acting, but it’s on a sort of very low, dull state. That’s why sometimes we have dreams, but we can’t remember them. Reason why we can’t remember them is because the mind is very, very dull. In the sleep state. If you really sleep deeply, then you can just actually slow the mind down, actually stop it for a few hours. That’s why you can really sleep deeply. And when you wake up in the morning, you’re really refreshed. But a lot of times people wake up in the morning, they’re not refreshed at all. They’re just really tired again. No matter how much they sleep, they still feel tired because they don’t know how to sleep well. That’s why, if you really want actually to sleep well, sleep efficiently. When you go to bed at night, laying down there, do a little bit of meditation, present moment awareness, letting go of all the past and the future, everything which has happened today, good, bad, the whole lot, just throw away what’s going to happen tomorrow morning when you wake up and leave that till tomorrow. Who knows? You might not wake up, you might die in your sleep. What’s the point of worrying about it? People do die to sleep, you know, leave it all alone, say don’t worry about anything and then be silent, stop thinking. Just doing those first part of the meditation, present moment awareness and silence. You sleep very, very deeply and very well because you go to bed quietly and you go to sleep carrying no baggage into your sleep. When you’re thinking, worrying about past and future, you carry so much baggage into the sleep state, no wonder you’re tired, because you carry that throughout the night, tossing and turning, thinking, worrying. So this is how you actually can sleep well then the mind can actually rest in the morning when you wake up, you’re refreshed again, you feel good how do you control your dreams? That’s the best way controlled by letting go. I don’t know why people want to control the dreams. Sometimes they want to sort of think of when we get old, we want to think we’re young again. So we can play around with fantasies in our dream states. It or you can play around being rich or whatever. I don’t know. But why do you want to control your dreams for? Isn’t it much better just to be peaceful and quiet, have a really good rest? Especially we have to do so much in our world and our life. We’re so busy, so much is asked of us that we really haven’t got the time to waste time in sleep. We have to sleep well otherwise is that we won’t perform well when we go to work the following day. So see if you can do just that. The first part of the meditation present moment awareness and silence the. It’s like having a little child. They go to sleep they go into sleep very, very calm and peaceful. That’s the best way to control your dreams, by having none? Is that what you’re asking? Okay. Yeah. It’s also actually that when you empower the mind with lots of peace during the day, you don’t to sleep very much. Quite naturally, you tend when you do lots of meditation, you actually lessen your sleep needs. Because when the mind can rest in awareness, it doesn’t need to rest in sleep. So the more you have a powerful mind, the less you need to sleep. You empower the mind in meditation? Yeah. The main difference is they cost a lot of money to go in there. This is two. This is free. They wear sharp suits and nice hairstyles. I’m bald without any with just an old pair of robes. And this is much higher quality as well. Because some people do that and some people succeed in that, but only if they’ve got supporting conditions. It’s okay to will yourself for a goal, but you need supporting conditions as well. This is actually like the similar I say if you want to say to go to Paris, you can will, I’m going to go to Paris, I’m going to go to Paris. But you haven’t got an air ticket. No one’s going to let you on the plane. So you can have the great its goals, but you need the supporting conditions. Example I’ve known you for a long time. If you say, right, I’m going to sort of play footy for the West Coast Eagles, no matter how much you want to do that, I’m afraid you’re too old, you haven’t got a supporting condition. So this is the problem there with, like, goal setting. It has to be reasonable. You have to have supporting conditions. Not everyone can be rich, but everyone wants to be rich. And people actually these guys, actually, they exploit people’s fantasies and dreams of wanting things which they can never have and. This is exploitation. That s why whenever people actually charge for these things, you can always say, what are they charging for? If these guys were so, so good at setting goals and being wealthy, why would they have to go all over the world working? It’s like even people telling fortunes. My saying is, never trust a poor fortune teller. That so a lot of times people are stupid. And again, it’s just a lot of those motivational. They’re getting people to have some sort of power, but they’re not using it for the right purposes. Instead of being wealthy, how about being happy? Instead of looking at the outside world, how about like empowering and sort of helping the inner world? Which is what? Buddhism, the Kubo ajans, these are the teachers of our tradition. Keep on saying you don’t need to have a big mansion to be the happiest person in the world. You don’t need to sort of have the most beautiful partner to actually to have a happy marriage. You don’t need to have children who always become doctors and engineers to have a very lovely family. You can actually the happiness and the quality of society comes with contentment with the love the door of my heart is open. No matter who you are, no matter what you are, no matter who you are, no matter what you are it’s letting go of design are kids children I love you no matter who you are, no matter how you turn out there’s a love which doesn’t control and you love yourself even though you’re imperfect. Doesn’t matter who I am, no matter how I do give a good talk a bad talk. I’m a great guy, I’m a stupid guy, I make mistakes, I’m successful or whatever be able to love yourself no matter who you are is contentment it that is where motivation should be going to the real happiness within wealth you leave behind happiness you’ll always take with you wherever you go. Okay, so thank you for that question you just squeezed in. Go on.
Okay. They can only project anger in securities onto you. If you’ve got sort of a place where those anger insecurities can rest. If you’ve got, like, a perch inside where the bird can actually settle for a while, if they try and project things onto you and you just literally let it go in one ear of your mind and out the other ear of your mind, it doesn’t settle there. So the insecurities, the anger, and the ill will, you just are at peace with it. When people actually project onto you, they need a screen to project onto, to find an image you can’t project into thin air. And this is actually the less you have inside of you to react to these things, the more peace and more happiness, the less these things can stick. You get what we call like a teflon mind. People can shout at you and you can be at peace. They can be unhappy. You can soak up that unhappiness without keeping any of it. It’s like if you’re ever in counseling and listening to people’s problems and troubles, as my teacher entirely used to say, you have to be like a dust bin for your friends. Allow them to put all their rubbish into you, but be a dust bin with no bottom in it so all all goes right through and you never keep any of it. So when people project or they chuck the insecurities, the problems, the difficulties into you, don’t keep any of it. So you can dump as much as you like in here, but I’ve got no bottom in my dust bin. It just goes right through the bottom. So my dust bin is always empty. Always empty to receive more people’s problems. Can’t ever keep any of them. That makes sense. So be like a dust bin, but with a hole in the bottom. Okay? So thanks for listening to the talk to.

About Being Careful | Ajahn Chah

The Forest Path Podcast
The Forest Path Podcast
About Being Careful | Ajahn Chah

This episode is a talk given by the Thai forest meditation master Ajahn Chah and is titled “About Being Careful” . It was first publish as part of the book “The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah” which is made available by Aruna Publications. You can find links to the original text in the description below.

The full translated text and more information can be found on the Forest Path Podcast webpage.

This audio version is narrated by Sol Hanna. If you’d like to support my work by making a donation to help cover the costs of hosting and other services that make this possible, click on the “Buy me a coffee” link below (or go to ).

More information about this episode can be found on the Forest Path Podcast website.

The Forest Path Podcast is part of the Everyday Dhamma Network.


THE BUDDHA TAUGHT TO SEE the body in the body. What does this mean? We are all familiar with the parts of the body such as hair, nails, teeth and skin. So how do we see the body in the body? If we recognize all these things as being impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self, that’s what is called `seeing the body in the body’. Then it isn’t necessary to go into detail and meditate on the separate parts. It’s like having fruit in a basket. If we have already counted the pieces of fruit, then we know what’s there, and when we need to, we can pick up the basket and take it away, and all the pieces come with it. We know the fruit is all there, so we don’t have to count it again.
Having meditated on the thirty-two parts of the body, and recognized them as something not stable or permanent, we no longer need to weary ourselves separating them like this and meditating in such detail; just as we don’t have to dump all the fruit out of the basket and count it again and again. But we do carry the basket along to our destination, walking mindfully and carefully, taking care not to stumble and fall.

When we see the body in the body, which means we see the Dhamma in the body, knowing our own and others’ bodies as impermanent phenomena, we don’t need detailed explanations. Sitting here, we have mindfulness constantly in control, knowing things as they are. Meditation then becomes quite simple. It’s the same if we meditate on Buddho1  if we understand what Buddho really is, we don’t need to repeat the word `Buddho’. It means having full knowledge and rm awareness. This is meditation.
Still, meditation is generally not well understood. We practise in a group, but we often don’t know what it’s all about. Some people think medi- tation is really hard to do. `I come to the monastery, but I can’t sit. I don’t have much endurance. My legs hurt, my back aches, I’m in pain all over.’ So they give up on it and don’t come anymore, thinking they can’t do it.
But in fact samadhi is not sitting. Samadhi isn’t walking. It isn’t lying down or standing. Sitting, walking, closing the eyes, opening the eyes, these are all mere actions. Having your eyes closed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re practising samadhi. It could just mean that you’re drowsy and dull. If you’re sitting with your eyes closed but you’re falling asleep, your head bobbing all over and your mouth hanging open, that’s not sitting in samadhi. It’s sitting with your eyes closed. Samadhi and closed eyes are two separate matters. Real samadhi can be practised with eyes open or eyes closed. You can be sitting, walking, standing or lying down.
Samadhi means the mind is rmly focused, with all-encompassing mindfulness, restraint, and caution. You are constantly aware of right and wrong, constantly watching all conditions arising in the mind. When it shoots o to think of something, having a mood of aversion or longing, you are aware of that. Some people get discouraged: `I just can’t do it. As soon as I sit, my mind starts thinking of home. That’s evil (Thai: bahp)’. Hey! If just that much is evil, the Buddha never would have become Buddha. He spent ve years struggling with his mind, thinking of his home and his family. It was only after six years that he awakened.
So, some people feel that these sudden arisings of thought are wrong
or evil. You may have an impulse to kill someone. But you are aware of it in the next instant, you realize that killing is wrong, so you stop and refrain. Is there harm in this? What do you think? Or if you have a thought about stealing something and that is followed by a stronger recollection that to do so is wrong, and so you refrain from acting on it  is that bad kamma It’s not that every time you have an impulse you instantly accumulate bad kamma. Otherwise, how could there be any way to liberation? Impulses are merely impulses. Thoughts are merely thoughts. In the rst instance, you haven’t created anything yet. In the second instance, if you act on it with body, speech or mind, then you are creating something. Avijja has taken control. If you have the impulse to steal and then you are aware of yourself and aware that this would be wrong, this is wisdom, and there is vijja instead. The mental impulse is not consummated.
This is timely awareness, wisdom arising and informing our experience. If there is the rst mind-moment of wanting to steal something and then we act on it, that is the dhamma of delusion; the actions of body, speech and mind that follow the impulse will bring negative results.
This is how it is. Merely having the thoughts is not negative kamma. If we don’t have any thoughts, how will wisdom develop? Some people simply want to sit with a blank mind. That’s wrong understanding.
I’m talking about samadhi that is accompanied by wisdom. In fact, the Buddha didn’t wish for a lot of samadhi. He didn’t want jhana and samapatti. He saw samadhi as one component factor of the path. Sla, samadhi and paÒÒa are components or ingredients, like ingredients used in cooking. We use spices in cooking to make food tasty. The point isn’t the spices themselves, but the food we eat. Practising samadhi is the same. The Buddha’s teachers, Uddaka and Alara, put heavy emphasis on practising the jhana, and attaining various kinds of powers like clairvoyance. But if you get that far, it’s hard to undo. Some places teach this deep tranquillity, to sit with delight in quietude. The meditators then get intoxicated by their samadhi. If they have sla, they get intoxicated by their sla. If they walk the path, they become intoxicated by the path, dazzled by the beauty and wonders they experience, and they don’t reach the real destination.
The Buddha said that this is a subtle error. Still, it’s correct for those on a coarse level. But actually what the Buddha wanted was for us to have an appropriate measure of samadhi, without getting stuck there. After we train in and develop samadhi, then samadhi should develop wisdom.
Samadhi that is on the level of samatha  tranquillity  is like a rock covering grass. In samadhi that is sure and stable, even when the eyes are opened, wisdom is there. When wisdom has been born, it encompasses and knows (`rules’) all things. So the Teacher did not want those rened levels of concentration and cessation, because they become a diversion and then one forgets the path.
So it is necessary not to be attached to sitting or any other particu- lar posture. Samadhi doesn’t reside in having the eyes closed, the eyes open, or in sitting, standing, walking or lying down. Samadhi pervades all postures and activities. Older persons, who often can’t sit very well, can contemplate especially well and practise samadhi easily; they too can develop a lot of wisdom.
How is it that they can develop wisdom? Everything is rousing them. When they open their eyes, they don’t see things as clearly as they used to. Their teeth give them trouble and fall out. Their bodies ache most of the time. Just that is the place of study. So really, meditation is easy for old folks. Meditation is hard for youngsters. Their teeth are strong, so they can enjoy their food. They sleep soundly. Their faculties are intact and the world is fun and exciting to them, so they get deluded in a big way. When the old ones chew on something hard they’re soon in pain. Right there the devaduta2 are talking to them; they’re teaching them every day. When they open their eyes their sight is fuzzy. In the morning their backs ache.
In the evening their legs hurt. That’s it! This is really an excellent subject to study. Some of you older people will say you can’t meditate. What do you want to meditate on? Who will you learn meditation from?
This is seeing the body in the body and sensation in sensation. Are you seeing these or are you running away? Saying you can’t practise because you’re too old is only due to wrong understanding. The question is, are things clear to you? Elderly persons have a lot of thinking, a lot of sensation, a lot of discomfort and pain. Everything appears! If they meditate, they can really testify to it. So I say that meditation is easy for old folks. They can do it best. Everyone says `When I’m old, I’ll go to the monastery.’ If you understand this, it’s true all right. You have to see it within yourself. When you sit, it’s true; when you stand up, it’s true; when you walk, it’s true. Everything is a hassle, everything is presenting obstacles  and everything is teaching you. Isn’t this so? Can you just get up and walk away so easily now? When you stand up, it’s `Oy!’ Or haven’t you noticed? And it’s `Oy!’ when you walk. It’s prodding you.
When you’re young you can just stand up and walk, going on your way. But you don’t really know anything. When you’re old, every time you stand up it’s `Oy!’ Isn’t that what you say? `Oy! Oy!’ Every time you move, you learn something. So how can you say it’s dicult to meditate? Where else is there to look? It’s all correct. The devaduta are telling you something. It’s most clear. Sankhara are telling you that they are not stable or permanent, not you or yours. They are telling you this every moment.
But we think dierently. We don’t think that this is right. We entertain wrong view and our ideas are far from the truth. But actually, old people can see impermanence, suering and lack of self, and give rise to dispassion and disenchantment  because the evidence is right there within them all the time. I think that’s good.
Having the inner sensitivity that is always aware of right and wrong is called Buddho. It’s not necessary to be continually repeating `Buddho’. You’ve counted the fruit in your basket. Every time you sit down, you don’t have to go to the trouble of spilling out the fruit and counting it again. You can leave it in the basket. But someone with mistaken attachment will keep counting. He’ll stop under a tree, spill it out and count, and put it back in the basket. Then he’ll walk on to the next stopping place and do it again. But he’s just counting the same fruit. This is craving itself. He’s afraid that if he doesn’t count, there will be some mistake. We are afraid that if we don’t keep saying `Buddho’, we’ll be mistaken. How are we mistaken? Only the person who doesn’t know how much fruit there is needs to count. Once you know, you can take it easy and just leave it in the basket. When you’re sitting, you just sit. When you’re lying down, you just lie down because your fruit is all there with you.
By practising virtue and creating merit, we say, `Nibbana paccayo hotu‘, (may it be a condition for realizing Nibbana). As a condition for realizing Nibbana, making oerings is good. Keeping precepts is good. Practising meditation is good. Listening to Dhamma teachings is good. May they become conditions for realizing Nibbana.
But what is Nibbana all about anyway? Nibbana means not grasping. Nibbana means not giving meaning to things. Nibbana means letting go. Making oerings and doing meritorious deeds, observing moral precepts, and meditating on loving-kindness: all these are for getting rid of dele- ments and craving, for not wishing for anything, not wishing to be, or become anything; for making the mind empty  empty of self-cherishing, empty of concepts of self and other.
Nibbana paccayo hotu: make it become a cause for Nibbana. Practising generosity is giving up, letting go. Listening to teachings is for the purpose of gaining knowledge to give up and let go, to uproot clinging to what is good and to what is bad. At rst we meditate to become aware of the wrong and the bad. When we recognize that, we give it up and we practise what is good. Then, when some good is achieved, don’t get attached to that good. Remain halfway in the good, or above the good  don’t dwell under the good. If we are under the good, then the good pushes us around, and we become slaves to it. We become slaves, and it forces us to create all sorts of kamma and demerit. It can lead us into anything, and the result will be the same kind of unhappiness and unfortunate circumstances we found ourselves in before.

Give up evil and develop merit  give up the negative and develop what is positive. Developing merit, remain above merit. Remain above merit and demerit, above good and evil. Keep on practising with a mind that is giving up, letting go and getting free. It’s the same no matter what you are doing: if you do it with a mind of letting go it is a cause for realizing Nibbana. What you do free of desire, free of delement, free of craving, all merges with the path, meaning Noble Truth, meaning saccadhamma. The Four Noble Truths are having the wisdom that knows tan. ha,2 which is the source of dukkha. Kamatanha, bhavatanha, vibhavatanha: these are the origination, the source. If you are wishing for anything or wanting to be anything, you are nourishing dukkha, bringing dukkha into existence, because this is what gives birth to dukkha. These are the causes. If we create the causes of dukkha, then dukkha will come about. The cause is vibhavatanha: this restless, anxious craving. One becomes a slave to de- sire and creates all sorts of kamma and wrongdoing because of it, and thus suering is born. Simply speaking, dukkha is the child of desire. De- sire is the parent of dukkha. When there are parents, dukkha can be born. When there are no parents, dukkha can not come about  there will be no offspring.
This is where meditation should be focused. We should see all the forms of tanha, which cause us to have desires. But talking about desire can be confusing. Some people get the idea that any kind of desire, such as desire for food and the material requisites for life, is tanha. But we can have this kind of desire in an ordinary and natural way. When you’re hungry and desire food, you can take a meal and be done with it. That’s quite ordinary. This is desire that’s within boundaries and doesn’t have ill effects. This kind of desire isn’t sensuality. If it’s sensuality, then it becomes something more than desire. There will be craving for more things to consume, seeking out favours, seeking enjoyment in ways that bring hardship and trouble, such as drinking liquor and beer.
Some tourists told me about a place where people eat live monkeys’ brains. They put a monkey in the middle of the table and cut open its skull. Then they spoon out the brain to eat. That’s eating like demons or hungry ghosts. It’s not eating in a natural or ordinary way. Doing things like this, eating becomes tanha. They say that the blood of monkeys makes them strong. So they try to get hold of such animals and when they eat them they’re drinking liquor and beer too. This isn’t ordinary eating. It’s the way of ghosts and demons mired in sensual craving. It’s eating coals, eating re, eating everything everywhere. This sort of desire is what is tanha. There is no moderation. Speaking, thinking, dressing, everything such people do goes to excess. If our eating, sleeping, and other necessary activities are done in moderation, there is no harm in them. So you should be aware of yourselves in regard to these things; then they won’t become a source of suffering. If we know how to be moderate and thrifty in our needs, we can be comfortable.
Practising meditation and creating merit and virtue are not really such difficult things to do, provided we understand them well. What is wrong- doing? What is merit? Merit is what is good and beautiful, not harming ourselves or others with our thinking, speaking, and acting. If we do this, there is happiness. Nothing negative is being created. Merit is like this. Skilfulness is like this.
It’s the same with making oerings and giving charity. When we give, what is it that we are trying to give away? Giving is for the purpose of destroying self-cherishing, the belief in a self along with selfishness. Selfishness is powerful, extreme suffering. Selfish people always want to be better than others and to get more than others. A simple example is how, after they eat, they don’t want to wash their dishes. They let someone else do it. If they eat in a group, they will leave it to the group. After they eat, they take off. This is selfishness, not being responsible, and it puts a burden on others. What it really amounts to is someone who doesn’t care about himself, who doesn’t help himself and who really doesn’t love himself. In practising generosity, we are trying to cleanse our hearts of this attitude. This is called creating merit through giving, in order to have a mind of compassion and caring towards all living beings without exception.
If we can be free of just this one thing, selfishness, then we will be like the Lord Buddha. He wasn’t out for himself, but sought the good of all. If we have the path and fruit arising in our hearts like this we can certainly progress. With this freedom from selfishness, all the activities of virtuous deeds, generosity, and meditation will lead to liberation. Whoever practises like this will become free and go beyond  beyond all convention and appearance.
The basic principles of practice are not beyond our understanding. For example, if we lack wisdom, when practising generosity, there won’t be any merit. Without understanding, we think that generosity merely means giving things. `When I feel like giving, I’ll give. If I feel like stealing something, I’ll steal it. Then if I feel generous, I’ll give something.’ It’s like having a barrel full of water. You scoop out a bucketful, and then you pour back in a bucketful. Scoop it out again, pour it in again, scoop it out and pour it in  like this. When will you empty the barrel? Can you see an end to it? Can you see such practice becoming a cause for realizing Nibbana? Will the barrel become empty? One scoop out, one scoop in  can you see when it will be finished?
Going back and forth like this is vatta, the cycle itself. If we’re talking about really letting go, giving up good as well as evil, there’s only scooping out. Even if there’s only a little bit, you scoop it out. You don’t put in anything more, and you keep scooping out. Even if you only have a small scoop to use, you do what you can and in this way the time will come when the barrel is empty. If you’re scooping out a bucket and pouring back a bucket, scooping out and then pouring back  well, think about it. When will you see an empty barrel? This Dhamma isn’t something distant. It’s right here in the barrel. You can do it at home. Try it. Can you empty a
water barrel like that? Do it all day tomorrow and see what happens. `Giving up all evil, practising what is good, purifying the mind.’ We give up wrongdoing rst, and then start to develop the good. What is the good and meritorious? Where is it? It’s like sh in the water. If we scoop all the water out, we’ll get the sh  that’s a simple way to put it. If we scoop out and pour back in, the sh remain in the barrel. If we don’t remove all forms of wrongdoing, we won’t see merit and we won’t see what is true
and right. Scooping out and pouring back, scooping out and pouring back, we only remain as we are. Going back and forth like this, we only waste our time and whatever we do is meaningless. Listening to teachings is meaningless. Making oerings is meaningless. All our eorts to practise are in vain. We don’t understand the principles of the Buddha’s way, so our actions don’t bear the desired fruit.
When the Buddha taught about practice, he wasn’t only talking about something for ordained people. He was talking about practising well, practising correctly. Supatipanno means those who practise well. Ujupatipanno means those who practise directly. Nyayapatipanno means those who prac- tise for the realization of path, fruition and Nibbana. Samcipatipanno are those who practise inclined towards truth. It could be anyone. These are the Sangha of true disciples (savaka) of the Lord Buddha. Laywomen living at home can be savaka. Laymen can be savaka. Bringing these qualities to fullfilment is what makes one a savaka. One can be a true disciple of the Buddha and realize enlightenment.
Most of us in the Buddhist fold don’t have such complete understanding. Our knowledge doesn’t go this far. We do our various activities thinking that we will get some kind of merit from them. We think that listening to teachings or making oerings is meritorious. That’s what we’re told. But someone who gives offerings to `get’ merit is making bad kamma.
You can’t quite understand this. Someone who gives in order to get merit has instantly accumulated bad kamma. If you give in order to let go and free the mind, that brings you merit. If you do it to get something, that’s bad kamma.
Listening to teachings to really understand the Buddha’s way is difficult.

The Dhamma becomes hard to understand when the practice that people do  keeping precepts, sitting in meditation, giving  is for getting something in return. We want merit, we want something. Well, if something can be obtained, who gets it? We get it. When that is lost, whose thing is it that’s lost? The person who doesn’t have something doesn’t lose anything. And when it’s lost, who suers over it?
Don’t you think that living your life to get things, brings you suffering? Otherwise you can just go on as before trying to get everything. And yet, if we make the mind empty, then we gain everything. Higher realms, Nibbana and all their accomplishments  we gain all of it. In making offerings, we don’t have any attachment or aim; the mind is empty and relaxed. We can let go and put down. It’s like carrying a log and complaining it’s heavy. If someone tells you to put it down, you’ll say, `If I put it down, I won’t have anything.’ Well, now you do have something  you have heaviness. But you don’t have lightness. So do you want lightness, or do you want to keep carrying? One person says to put it down, the other says he’s afraid he won’t have anything. They’re talking past each other.
We want happiness, we want ease, we want tranquillity and peace. It means we want lightness. We carry the log, and then someone sees us doing this and tells us to drop it. We say we can’t because what would we have then? But the other person says that if we drop it, we can get something better. The two have a hard time communicating.
If we make oerings and practise good deeds in order to get something, it doesn’t work out. What we get is becoming and birth. It isn’t a cause for realizing Nibbana. Nibbana is giving up and letting go. Trying to get, to hold on, to give meaning to things, aren’t causes for realizing Nibbana. The Buddha wanted us to look here, at this empty place of letting go. This is merit. This is skilfulness.
Once we have done practice  any sort of merit and virtue  we should feel that our part is done. We shouldn’t carry it any further. We do it for the purpose of giving up defilements and craving. We don’t do it for the purpose of creating defilements, craving and attachment. Then where will we go? We don’t go anywhere. Our practice is correct and true.

Most of us Buddhists, though we follow the forms of practice and learning, have a hard time understanding this kind of talk. It’s because Mara, meaning ignorance, meaning craving  the desire to get, to have, and to be  enshrouds the mind. We only nd temporary happiness. For example, when we are filled with hatred towards someone it takes over our minds and gives us no peace. We think about the person all the time, thinking what we can do to strike out at him. The thinking never stops. Then maybe one day we get a chance to go to his house and curse him and tell him o. That gives us some release. Does that make an end of our defilements? We found a way to let o steam and we feel better for it. But we haven’t rid ourselves of the affliction of anger, have we? There is some happiness in defilement and craving, but it’s like this. We’re still storing the defilement inside and when the conditions are right, it will are up again even worse than before. Then we will want to and some temporary release again. Do the defilements ever get finished in this way?
It’s similar when someone’s spouse or children die, or when people suffer big financial loss. They drink to relieve their sorrow. They go to a movie to relieve their sorrow. Does it really relieve the sorrow? The sorrow actually grows; but for the time being they can forget about what happened so they call it a way to cure their misery. It’s like if you have a cut on the bottom of your foot that makes walking painful. Anything that contacts it hurts and so you limp along complaining of the discomfort. But if you see a tiger coming your way, you’ll take o and start running without any thought of your cut. Fear of the tiger is much more powerful than the pain in your foot, so it’s as if the pain is gone. The fear made it something small.
You might experience problems at work or at home that seem so big. Then you get drunk and in that drunken state of more powerful delusion, those problems no longer trouble you so much. You think it solved your problems and relieved your unhappiness. But when you sober up the old problems are back. So what happened to your solution? You keep suppressing the problems with drink and they keep on coming back. You might end up with cirrhosis of the liver, but you don’t get rid of the problems; and then one day you are dead.
There is some comfort and happiness here; it’s the happiness of fools. It’s the way that fools stop their suffering. There’s no wisdom here. These different confused conditions are mixed in the heart that has a feeling of well-being. If the mind is allowed to follow its moods and tendencies, it feels some happiness. But this happiness is always storing unhappiness within it. Each time it erupts our suffering and despair will be worse. It’s like having a wound. If we treat it on the surface but inside it’s still infected, it’s not cured. It looks okay for a while, but when the infection spreads we have to start cutting. If the inner infection is never cured we can be operating on the surface again and again with no end in sight. What can be seen from the outside may look ne for a while, but inside it’s the same as before.
The way of the world is like this. Worldly matters are never finished. So the laws of the world in the various societies are constantly resolving issues. New laws are always being established to deal with different situations and problems. Something is dealt with for a while, but there’s always a need for further laws and solutions. There’s never the internal resolution, only surface improvement. The infection still exists within, so there’s always need for more cutting. People are only good on the surface, in their words and their appearance. Their words are good and their faces look kind, but their minds aren’t so good.
When we get on a train and see some acquaintance there we say, `Oh, how good to see you! I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately! I’ve been planning to visit you!’ But it’s just talk. We don’t really mean it. We’re being good on the surface, but we’re not so good inside. We say the words, but then as soon as we’ve had a smoke and taken a cup of coee with him, we split. Then if we run into him one day in the future, we’ll say the same things again: `Hey, good to see you! How have you been? I’ve been meaning to go visit you, but I just haven’t had the time.’ That’s the way it is. People are superficially good, but they’re usually not so good inside.
The great teacher taught Dhamma and Vinaya. It is complete and comprehensive. Nothing surpasses it and nothing in it need be changed or adjusted, because it is the ultimate. It’s complete, so this is where we can stop. There’s nothing to add or subtract, because it is something of the
nature not to be increased or decreased. It is just right. It is true.
So we Buddhists come to hear Dhamma teachings and study to learn these truths. If we know them, then our minds will enter the Dhamma; the Dhamma will enter our minds. Whenever a person’s mind enters the Dhamma, that person has well-being, that person has a mind at peace. The
mind then has a way to resolve difficulties, but has no way to degenerate. When pain and illness aict the body, the mind has many ways to resolve the suffering. It can resolve it naturally, understanding this as natural and not falling into depression or fear over it. Gaining something, we don’t get lost in delight. Losing it, we don’t get excessively upset, but rather we understand that the nature of all things is that having appeared, they then decline and disappear. With such an attitude we can make our way in the world. We are lokavidu, knowing the world clearly. Then samudaya, the cause of suffering, is not created, and tan. ha is not born. There is vijja, knowledge of things as they really are, and it illumines the world. It illumines praise and blame. It illumines gain and loss. It illumines rank and disrepute. It clearly illumines birth, ageing, illness, and death in the mind of the practitioner.
That is someone who has reached the Dhamma. Such people no longer struggle with life and are no longer constantly in search of solutions. They resolve what can be resolved, acting as is appropriate. That is how the Buddha taught: he taught those individuals who could be taught. Those who could not be taught he discarded and let go of. Even had he not discarded them, they were still discarding themselves  so he dropped them. You might get the idea from this that the Buddha must have been lacking in metta to discard people. Hey! If you toss out a rotten mango are you lacking in metta? You can’t make any use of it, that’s all. There was no way to get through to such people. The Buddha is praised as one with supreme wisdom. He didn’t merely gather everyone and everything together in a confused mess. He was possessed of the divine eye and could clearly see all things as they really are. He was the knower of the world.
As the knower of the world he saw danger in the round of samsara. For us who are his followers it’s the same. Knowing all things as they are will bring us well-being. Where exactly are those things that cause us to have happiness and suffering? Think about it well. They are only things that we create ourselves. Whenever we create the idea that something is us or ours, we suffer. Things can bring us harm or benefit, depending on our under- standing. So the Buddha taught us to pay attention to ourselves, to our own actions and to the creations of our minds. Whenever we have extreme love or aversion to anyone or anything, whenever we are particularly anxious, that will lead us into great suering. This is important, so take a good look at it. Investigate these feelings of strong love or aversion, and then take a step back. If you get too close, they’ll bite. Do you hear this? If you grab at and caress these things, they bite and they kick. When you feed grass to your bualo, you have to be careful. If you’re careful when it kicks out, it won’t kick you. You have to feed it and take care of it, but you should be smart enough to do that without getting bitten. Love for children, relatives, wealth and possessions will bite. Do you understand this? When you feed it, don’t get too close. When you give it water, don’t get too close. Pull on the rope when you need to. This is the way of Dhamma: recognizing impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and lack of self, recognizing the danger and employing caution and restraint in a mindful way.
Ajahn Tongrat didn’t teach a lot; he always told us, `Be really careful! Be really careful!’ That’s how he taught. `Be really careful! If you’re not really careful, you’ll catch it on the chin!’ This is really how it is. Even if he didn’t say it, it’s still how it is. If you’re not really careful, you’ll catch it on the chin. Please understand this. It’s not someone else’s concern. The problem isn’t other people loving or hating us. Others far away somewhere don’t make us create kamma and suffering. It’s our possessions, our homes, our families where we have to pay attention. Or what do you think? These days, where do you experience suffering? Where are you involved in love, hate and fear? Control yourselves, take care of yourselves. Watch out you don’t get bitten. If they don’t bite they might kick. Don’t think that these things won’t bite or kick. If you do get bitten, make sure it’s only a little bit. Don’t get kicked and bitten to pieces. Don’t try to tell yourselves there’s no danger. Possessions, wealth, fame, loved ones, all these can kick and bite if you’re not mindful.
If you are mindful you’ll be at ease. Be cautious and restrained. When the mind starts grasping at things and making a big deal out of them, you have to stop it. It will argue with you, but you have to put your foot down. Stay in the middle as the mind comes and goes. Put sensual indulgence away on one side; put self-torment away on the other side. Put love to one side, hate to the other side. Put happiness to one side, suffering to the other side. Remain in the middle without letting the mind go in either direction.
Like these bodies of ours  earth, water, re and wind  where is the person? There isn’t any person. These few different things are put together and it’s called a person. That’s a falsehood. It’s not real; it’s only real in the way of convention. When the time comes the elements return to their old state. We’ve only come to stay with them for a while so we have to let them return. The part that is earth, send back to be earth. The part that is water, send back to be water. The part that is re, send back to be re. The part that is wind, send back to be wind. Or will you try to go with them and keep something? We come to rely on them for a while; when it’s time for them to go, let them go. When they come, let them come. All these phenomena, sabhava, appear and then disappear. That’s all. We understand that all these things are owing, constantly appearing and disappearing.

Making offerings, listening to teachings, practising meditation, what- ever we do should be done for the purpose of developing wisdom. Developing wisdom is for the purpose of liberation, freedom from all these conditions and phenomena. When we are free, then no matter what our situation is, we don’t have to suffer. If we have children, we don’t have to suer. If we work, we don’t have to suffer. If we have a house, we don’t have to suer. It’s like a lotus in the water. `I grow in the water, but I don’t suer because of the water. I can’t be drowned or burned, because I live in the water.’ When the water ebbs and flows it doesn’t affect the lotus. The water and the lotus can exist together without confliict. They are together yet separate. Whatever is in the water nourishes the lotus and helps it grow into something beautiful.
It’s the same for us. Wealth, home, family, and all defilements of mind no longer dele us but rather help us develop param, the spiritual perfections. In a grove of bamboo the old leaves pile up around the trees and when the rain falls they decompose and become fertilizer. Shoots grow and the trees develop, because of the fertilizer, and we have a source of food and income. But it didn’t look like anything good at all. So be careful  in the dry season, if you set res in the forest, they’ll burn up all the future fertilizer, and the fertilizer will turn into re that burns the bamboo. Then you won’t have any bamboo shoots to eat. So if you burn the forest, you burn the bamboo fertilizer. If you burn the fertilizer, you burn the trees and the grove dies.
Do you understand? You and your families can live in happiness and harmony with your homes and possessions, free of danger from floods or fire. If a family is flooded or burned, it is only because of the people in that family. It’s just like the bamboo’s fertilizer. The grove can be burned because of it, or the grove can grow beautifully because of it.
Things will grow beautifully and then not beautifully and then become beautiful again. Growing and degenerating, then growing again and degenerating again  this is the way of worldly phenomena. If we know growth and degeneration for what they are, we can nd a conclusion to them. Things grow and reach their limit. Things degenerate and reach their limit.

But we remain constant. It’s like when there was a re in Ubon city. People bemoaned the destruction and shed a lot of tears over it. But things were rebuilt after the re and the new buildings are actually bigger and a lot better than what we had before, and people enjoy the city more now.
This is how it is with the cycles of loss and development. Everything has its limits. So the Buddha wanted us always to be contemplating. While we still live we should think about death. Don’t consider it something far away. If you’re poor, don’t try to harm or exploit others. Face the situation and work hard to help yourself. If you’re well o, don’t become forgetful in your wealth and comfort. It’s not very dicult for everything to be lost. A rich person can become a pauper in a couple of days. A pauper can become a rich person. It’s all owing to the fact that these conditions are impermanent and unstable. Thus, the Buddha said, `pamado maccuno padam. ‘: heedlessness is the way to death. The heedless are like the dead. Don’t be heedless! All beings and all sankhara are unstable and impermanent. Don’t form any attachment to them! Happy or sad, progressing or falling apart, in the end it all comes to the same place. Please understand this.
Living in the world and having this perspective, we can be free of danger. Whatever we may gain or accomplish in the world because of our good kamma, is still of the world and subject to decay and loss; so don’t get too carried away by it. It’s like a beetle scratching at the earth. It can scratch up a pile that’s a lot bigger than itself, but it’s still only a pile of dirt. If it works hard it makes a deep hole in the ground, but it’s still only a hole in dirt. If a buffalo drops a load of dung there, it will be bigger than the beetle’s pile of earth, but it still isn’t anything that reaches to the sky. It’s all dirt. Worldly accomplishments are like this. No matter how hard the beetles work, they’re just involved in dirt, making holes and piles.
People who have good worldly kamma have the intelligence to do well in the world. But no matter how well they do they’re still living in the world. All the things they do are worldly and have their limits, like the beetle scratching away at the earth. The hole may go deep, but it’s in the earth. The pile may get high, but it’s just a pile of dirt. Doing well, getting a lot, we’re just doing well and getting a lot in the world.

Please understand this and try to develop detachment. If you don’t gain much, be contented, understanding that it’s only the worldly. If you gain a lot, understand that it’s only the worldly. Contemplate these truths and don’t be heedless. See both sides of things, not getting stuck on one side. When something delights you, hold part of yourself back in reserve, because that delight won’t last. When you are happy, don’t go completely over to its side, because soon enough you’ll be back on the other side with unhappiness.

MN21. Simile of the Saw – Kakacupama Sutta

The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
MN21. Simile of the Saw - Kakacupama Sutta

This episode is the 21th sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the Kakacūpama Sutta which is known as the “simile of the saw”. This teaching has several memorable similes on the importance of patience and love even when faced with abuse and criticism. The Buddha finishes with the simile of the saw, one of the most memorable similes found in the Suttas.

This translation of the Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta is by Bhikkhu Sujato and was sourced from Sutta Central.

If you’d like to hear commentary on this teaching, you can listen to Ajahn Brahmali discussing this sutta.

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by Bhikkhu Sujato

Middle Discourses 21
The Simile of the Saw

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.
Now at that time, Venerable Phagguna of the Top-Knot was mixing too closely together with the nuns. So much so that if any mendicant criticized those nuns in his presence, Phagguna of the Top-Knot got angry and upset, and even instigated disciplinary proceedings. And if any mendicant criticized Phagguna of the Top-Knot in their presence, those nuns got angry and upset, and even instigated disciplinary proceedings. That’s how much Phagguna of the Top-Knot was mixing too closely together with the nuns.
Then a mendicant went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and told him what was going on.
So the Buddha addressed a certain monk, “Please, monk, in my name tell the mendicant Phagguna of the Top-Knot that the teacher summons him.”
“Yes, sir,” that monk replied. He went to Phagguna of the Top-Knot and said to him, “Reverend Phagguna, the teacher summons you.”
“Yes, reverend,” Phagguna replied. He went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to him:
“Is it really true, Phagguna, that you’ve been mixing overly closely together with the nuns? So much so that if any mendicant criticizes those nuns in your presence, you get angry and upset, and even instigate disciplinary proceedings? And if any mendicant criticizes you in those nuns’ presence, they get angry and upset, and even instigate disciplinary proceedings? Is that how much you’re mixing overly closely together with the nuns?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Phagguna, are you not a gentleman who has gone forth from the lay life to homelessness?”
“Yes, sir.”
“As such, it’s not appropriate for you to mix so closely with the nuns. So if anyone criticizes those nuns in your presence, you should give up any desires or thoughts of the lay life. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘My mind will be unaffected. I will blurt out no bad words. I will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate.’ That’s how you should train.
So even if someone strikes those nuns with fists, stones, rods, and swords in your presence, you should give up any desires or thoughts of the lay life. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘My mind will be unaffected. I will blurt out no bad words. I will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate.’ That’s how you should train.
So if anyone criticizes you in your presence, you should give up any desires or thoughts of the lay life. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘My mind will be unaffected. I will blurt out no bad words. I will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate.’ That’s how you should train.
So Phagguna, even if someone strikes you with fists, stones, rods, and swords, you should give up any desires or thoughts of the lay life. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘My mind will be unaffected. I will blurt out no bad words. I will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate.’ That’s how you should train.”
Then the Buddha said to the mendicants:
“Mendicants, I used to be satisfied with the mendicants. Once, I addressed them: ‘I eat my food in one sitting per day. Doing so, I find that I’m healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably. You too should eat your food in one sitting per day. Doing so, you’ll find that you’re healthy and well, nimble, strong, and living comfortably.’ I didn’t have to keep on instructing those mendicants; I just had to prompt their mindfulness.
Suppose a chariot stood harnessed to thoroughbreds at a level crossroads, with a goad ready. Then a deft horse trainer, a master charioteer, might mount the chariot, taking the reins in his right hand and goad in the left. He’d drive out and back wherever he wishes, whenever he wishes.
In the same way, I didn’t have to keep on instructing those mendicants; I just had to prompt their mindfulness. So, mendicants, you too should give up what’s unskillful and devote yourselves to skillful qualities. In this way you’ll achieve growth, improvement, and maturity in this teaching and training.
Suppose that not far from a town or village there was a large grove of sal trees that was choked with castor-oil weeds. Then along comes a person who wants to help protect and nurture that grove. They’d cut down the crooked sal saplings that were robbing the sap, and throw them out. They’d clean up the interior of the grove, and properly care for the straight, well-formed sal saplings. In this way, in due course, that sal grove would grow, increase, and mature.
In the same way, mendicants, you too should give up what’s unskillful and devote yourselves to skillful qualities. In this way you’ll achieve growth, improvement, and maturity in this teaching and training.
Once upon a time, mendicants, right here in Sāvatthī there was a housewife named Vedehikā. She had this good reputation: ‘The housewife Vedehikā is sweet, even-tempered, and calm.’ Now, Vedehikā had a bonded maid named Kāḷī who was deft, tireless, and well-organized in her work.
Then Kāḷī thought, ‘My mistress has a good reputation as being sweet, even-tempered, and calm. But does she actually have anger in her and just not show it? Or does she have no anger? Or is it just because my work is well-organized that she doesn’t show anger, even though she still has it inside? Why don’t I test my mistress?’
So Kāḷī got up during the day. Vedehikā said to her, ‘Oi wench, Kāḷī!’
‘What is it, madam?’
‘You’re getting up in the day—what’s up with you, wench?’
‘Nothing, madam.’
‘Oh, so nothing’s up, you naughty maid, but you get up in the day!’ Angry and upset, she scowled.
Then Kāḷī thought, ‘My mistress actually has anger in her and just doesn’t show it; it’s not that she has no anger. It’s just because my work is well-organized that she doesn’t show anger, even though she still has it inside. Why don’t I test my mistress further?’
So Kāḷī got up later in the day. Vedehikā said to her, ‘Oi wench, Kāḷī!’
‘What is it, madam?’
‘You’re getting up even later in the day—what’s up with you, wench?’
‘Nothing, madam.’
‘Oh, so nothing’s up, you naughty maid, but you get up later in the day!’ Angry and upset, she blurted out angry words.
Then Kāḷī thought, ‘My mistress actually has anger in her and just doesn’t show it; it’s not that she has no anger. It’s just because my work is well-organized that she doesn’t show anger, even though she still has it inside. Why don’t I test my mistress further?’
So Kāḷī got up even later in the day. Vedehikā said to her, ‘Oi wench, Kāḷī!’
‘What is it, madam?’
‘You’re getting up even later in the day—what’s up with you, wench?’
‘Nothing, madam.’
‘Oh, so nothing’s up, you naughty maid, but you get up even later in the day!’ Angry and upset, she grabbed a rolling-pin and hit Kāḷī on the head, cracking it open.
Then Kāḷī, with blood pouring from her cracked skull, denounced her mistress to the neighbors, ‘See, ladies, what the sweet one did! See what the even-tempered one did! See what the calm one did! How on earth can she grab a rolling-pin and hit her only maid on the head, cracking it open, just for getting up late?’
Then after some time the housewife Vedehikā got this bad reputation: ‘The housewife Vedehikā is fierce, ill-tempered, and not calm at all.’
In the same way, a mendicant may be the sweetest of the sweet, the most even-tempered of the even-tempered, the calmest of the calm, so long as they don’t encounter any disagreeable criticism. But it’s when they encounter disagreeable criticism that you’ll know whether they’re really sweet, even-tempered, and calm. I don’t say that a mendicant is easy to admonish if they make themselves easy to admonish only for the sake of robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick. Why is that? Because when they don’t get robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick, they’re no longer easy to admonish. But when a mendicant is easy to admonish purely because they honor, respect, revere, worship, and venerate the teaching, then I say that they’re easy to admonish. So, mendicants, you should train yourselves: ‘We will be easy to admonish purely because we honor, respect, revere, worship, and venerate the teaching.’ That’s how you should train.
Mendicants, there are these five ways in which others might criticize you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, beneficial or harmful, from a heart of love or from secret hate. When others criticize you, they may do so in any of these ways. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart full of love to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train.
Suppose a person was to come along carrying a spade and basket and say, ‘I shall make this great earth be without earth!’ And they’d dig all over, scatter all over, spit all over, and urinate all over, saying, ‘Be without earth! Be without earth!’
What do you think, mendicants? Could that person make this great earth be without earth?”
“No, sir. Why is that? Because this great earth is deep and limitless. It’s not easy to make it be without earth. That person will eventually get weary and frustrated.”
“In the same way, there are these five ways in which others might criticize you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, beneficial or harmful, from a heart of love or from secret hate. When others criticize you, they may do so in any of these ways. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart like the earth to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train.
Suppose a person was to come along with dye such as red lac, turmeric, indigo, or rose madder, and say, ‘I shall draw pictures on the sky, making pictures appear there.’
What do you think, mendicants? Could that person draw pictures on the sky?”
“No, sir. Why is that? Because the sky is formless and invisible. It’s not easy to draw pictures there. That person will eventually get weary and frustrated.”
“In the same way, there are these five ways in which others might criticize you …
Suppose a person was to come along carrying a blazing grass torch, and say, ‘I shall burn and scorch the river Ganges with this blazing grass torch.’
What do you think, mendicants? Could that person burn and scorch the river Ganges with a blazing grass torch?”
“No, sir. Why is that? Because the river Ganges is deep and limitless. It’s not easy to burn and scorch it with a blazing grass torch. That person will eventually get weary and frustrated.”
“In the same way, there are these five ways in which others might criticize you …
Suppose there was a catskin bag that was rubbed, well-rubbed, very well-rubbed, soft, silky, rid of rustling and crackling. Then a person comes along carrying a stick or a stone, and says, ‘I shall make this soft catskin bag rustle and crackle with this stick or stone.’
What do you think, mendicants? Could that person make that soft catskin bag rustle and crackle with that stick or stone?”
“No, sir. Why is that? Because that catskin bag is rubbed, well-rubbed, very well-rubbed, soft, silky, rid of rustling and crackling. It’s not easy to make it rustle or crackle with a stick or stone. That person will eventually get weary and frustrated.”
“In the same way, there are these five ways in which others might criticize you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, beneficial or harmful, from a heart of love or from secret hate. When others criticize you, they may do so in any of these ways. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart like a catskin bag to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train.
Even if low-down bandits were to sever you limb from limb with a two-handled saw, anyone who had a malevolent thought on that account would not be following my instructions. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart full of love to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train.
If you frequently reflect on this advice—the simile of the saw—do you see any criticism, large or small, that you could not endure?”
“No, sir.”
“So, mendicants, you should frequently reflect on this advice, the simile of the saw. This will be for your lasting welfare and happiness.”
That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants approved what the Buddha said.

Addictions and Obsessions

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Addictions and Obsessions

Ajahn Brahm gives a talk on addictions and obsessions, including the skillful means to overcome them to to have freedom from them. This talk is not just about addictions to alcohol and drugs, but also about obsessive behaviours of body, speech and mind which are the source of suffering for both others and for ourselves. By overcoming our addictions and obsessions we become internally at peace, and a person who doesn’t create problems for ourselves and others.

Addictions and Obsessions – Ajahn Brahm

(Robot generated transcription – expect errors!)

Okay, just again, I’ve been traveling around, so I’m not quite sure what I’m going to be talking about this evening, but somebody mentioned a subject I haven’t really talked about for a long time. And that’s actually how in Buddhism, we deal with addictions and obsessions and what are the skillful means of overcoming those addictions and obsessions so we can feel a sense of freedom from these things. Because certainly that Buddhism is incredibly strong on its psychology in a way of making use of our mind, working with it to training it, to free it from all some of those obsessions addictions ways of dealing with the world which don’t really cause much happiness for ourselves and others. Obsessions and addictions are one of those parts of the mind which can cause enormous problems and difficulties for people. What are the skillful means of overcoming those addictions and obsessions? It’s not just addictions and obsessions addictions to drink or obsessions with smoking. It’s also some of the other obsessions we have, some of the ways we speak to the people we love, some of the ways we act in our family or in our workplace, even in some of the ways we think with our mind. These are all sometimes addictive, obsessive behavior, physical behavior, verbal behavior, or mental behavior which can cause us so much suffering and cause so much pain to others. So it’s worthwhile finding out about these things and knowing how to deal with them. So become a person who is internally at peace, happy with oneself, someone who doesn’t have many problems inside, nor someone who creates problems for others. We become like a person who’s kind to themselves and kind to others. So this is actually the end when we give up. Find a way to release our cells from addiction and addictions and obsessions. The reason why Buddhism is strong in this area is because it understands the cause and effect relationship of our mind. Now, how the mind actually works as a process and how it gets into these ruts, these dead end streets of obsessions and addictions. A dead end street is a very good simile because you get into these dead end streets and you can’t get out of them afterwards, you get stuck. You don’t know how to sort of remove yourself from this situation. But one of the great things which we have with understanding these things is understanding actually where they came from and how we get out of them. One of the great practices which we have in Buddhism, it’s part of meditation, but it’s part of ordinary life as well is the understanding, the practice of mindfulness. It and again, this mindfulness is this awareness of the inner workings of the mind. It’s as if we put a spotlight into our mind, into our thinking process, into our emotional process, into the way we react to situations in life. We put a spotlight onto all of that inside of ourselves to understand how it all works and why it all works and. It and just actually putting that spotlight of mindfulness inside and seeing what’s happening and how it works. That by itself is a huge help to overcoming addictions and obsessions. You see how it all works. There’s a whole process, there a whole route of thinking and emotional responses which we keep getting sucked into again and again and again and again. The same old habits, the same old processes, the same old ways of reacting to some of the difficulties in life. Whether we react to those difficulties by taking a bottle and getting drunk, whether we take to those respond to those problems in life with drugs or with other obsessive behavior like our bad speech or being hurtful and harmful to the people we love, or even being hurtful and harmful to ourselves, we see the whole process happening. Once you see this whole process happening. Then it’s not that hard to change the process. Our conditioned behavior of our mind, the way that thinking and emotions run, they run on well worn courses. The same routes we’ve taken before, the same piles, the same condition and responses. We become brainwashed into following. We become creatures of habit. And that’s what obsessions and addictions are. Habits of mind, habits of speech, habits of actions which we see are not going to be conducive to happiness once we see them as habits. We find the way to overcoming habits is always through this marvelous practice of mindfulness. It’s as if, and this is the simile which I’ve used many times it’s as if you’re in a room I know you can only see one door to move from that room to somewhere else. And you always take that same door, that same route and it always leads to the same place. And it’s not a very nice place you go to with some of these addictions and obsessions with mindfulness. You see, there’s a second door, another alternative, even a third door, fourth door, many doors. Mindfulness gives you more choice, more opportunities, different ways of dealing with the same thing. Mindfulness expands your options, gives you different ways of dealing with the same problem. You can see that in just little practices which you can do in daily life. As I keep telling people when they come in here, good exercises in mindfulness are doing things in a different way every time when you come into this hall. People who come into this hall regularly sit in a different place, not in the same chair every week, become creatures of habit. Don’t even come through the same door into this hall. There are three doors into this hall. Now, please don’t look at me as being a hypocrite because I’ve got no choice. I have to sit in this chair and I have to come through that door. Although this evening I was thinking of not coming in it because it was locked. Thinking, going back to Singapore. But I’ve got no choice. But sometimes I like doing things differently, coming through different doors just for the heck of it. I did that, I think, a few weeks ago. I remember, just instead of coming through this door, coming through that door over there, and people really surprised, what’s that jump bomb doing coming from that door over there? What it does, actually, when you do things differently, it wakes you up, it gives you more energy, it gives you more life. If you become a creature of habit, you die slowly. Your mindfulness goes. Those people who get into routines, eventually their mind dies. It’s called Alzheimer’s disease. That’s one of the reasons, I reckon, why people lose their mind. Because they just keep doing things the same old way, watching the same old movies on the TV, the same old self helpers, going to the same Buddhist society every Friday night, live on the wild side. Do things differently. I teach in meditation retreats. It’s great talking about sort of mindfulness. You start doing things a slightly different way and you understand. These are just examples. Well, sometimes I just didn’t actually get onto the breath meditation because I run out of time. I started a bit late. I’m sorry about that. But when we do breath meditation, one of the techniques which I found very effective on getting people interested in the breath is actually breathing backwards. You know how to breathe backwards? Breathing backwards means you breathe out first, then you breathe in. Most people breathe in first, then they breathe out. When you do breath meditation, breathe in, breathe out. When you say, Take three breaths, what breath do you start with? The in breath, don’t you? So you try it the other way around. Speed out first, then breathe in. You just try it. And it should logically, it should be exactly the same, but it’s not. It’s different. You’re doing things slightly differently. And that makes it far more alive, far more sort of new, fresh, and you have to be more alert with it. Or like in the morning when you first get up and. When you brush your teeth, which side of the mouth do you start from? Whether the top or the bottom? I challenge you this evening when you brush your teeth or tomorrow morning, whenever it is your next brush your teeth. Notice where you start your brushing your teeth. Next time start from a different place. Put a bit of variety into your brushwork. It if you start on the top left hand side, then start on the top right hand side. The bottom start in the middle. Do things differently. Then you find actually even brushing your teeth in the morning, simple thing like that becomes more exciting. You have to put more effort and energy. You’re more alert. You’re more aware of what’s happening. What you’re doing is little exercises to increase your awareness of what’s going on in life. Doing things differently. You all know sort of if you always are creatures of habit, especially in your relationships, always do the same thing, completely predictable. Then you find your relationship dies. There’s nothing interesting in there anymore and your relationships to yourself will die. And. It because there’s no life left. Just creatures of habit. The same old routines. Just like a robot. Not like a person anymore. Same old time. You know, people say the same old things all the time, you know, good morning. Have a good day. Somebody told me just when I was in I’d forget where the where I’ve been the last few days. Sometimes I wake up in the morning. I have to check where I am when I wake up. They’re saying that I think it was Peter Usenoff or something. He was in the United States. And people say, have a good day. His response was, I’ve got other plans. A great response. So have other plans. In other words, be mindful, be alive. And this is actually the way we develop this wonderful way of looking inside of ourselves at our mind, at our heart, at our life, which gives us more options. We find we discover that where we always thought there’s only one way to breathe in breath first and outbreath. Now we found there’s another way outbreath. First and in breath. When we first thought there’s only one way to brush our teeth, there’s hundreds of ways to brush our teeth. We thought there’s only one place to sit. There’s hundred hundreds of places to sit. When we thought there’s only one response. When our husband says this and really gives us a hard time, we find there’s many responses and. We find that people can’t push our buttons anymore because we’ve got more buttons than they ever know about. We’ve got secret buttons. Then they can’t press those. We respond in innovative ways suitable for the occasion. If we become a creature of habit, we’re predictable. Other people can control us. Exactly how to make you unhappy. That’s why when somebody starts trying to upset you, when they try and make you angry, when they call you a slob and you say, yeah, actually, that’s quite right. I am a slob. That really sort of upsets them because you’re agreeing with you. I didn’t expect that. When they call you fat, you say, yeah, I’m fat. And they’re trying to upset you, but they can’t do it when somebody’s trying to upset you and makes you unhappy. If you really want to get your own back, agree with them because that really upsets them when they don’t play the game of button pushing. What we’re saying here is there’s other responses. Other responses rather than the ordinary ones of getting upset and allowing yourself to be controlled. Obsessions are like that. You allow yourself to be controlled by your habits. You. When you stop those obsessions and addictions, you find this incredible amount of freedom. You find you don’t have to always respond in the same way to the same stimuli. You can be free to respond in other ways, innovative ways, different ways. And this is how one starts to stop those addictions. If it’s, say, alcohol or cigarettes or bad speech, one sees the whole process happening. One recognizes it because one has been mindful. One has been observed inside what’s actually happening. And after observing it, one see the whole process going, especially at the beginning of the process when it starts, it’s very easy to stop. The forks in the road are at the beginning. But once you get onto the freeway, it’s a long way until there’s the next exit. If you get into the freeway of anger, the freeway of addictions, once you’re on there, you get in the stream of traffic, and it may be many, many kilometers before you can get off that particular habit. But at the beginning, that’s where you have the most power. It’s like a train. Once the train leaves the station, it’s having a lot of momentum. You try and put on the brakes, it’s so hard to stop. Just got this huge amount of weight going so fast, this huge momentum. Or it’s like the tree. When it’s a small sapling, it’s very easy to put out of the ground. But if you leave the sapling there for too long, it’s a huge tree and it’s very difficult to take out. Habits are like that. If you can catch them early, it’s very easy. There was a mong friend who, because of an injury in the Vietnam War, would have epileptic fits us. And the way he overcame that whole process of epileptic fits was actually to use mindfulness to know the whole process which would lead into having a fit. He would watch it because he watched it and observed it and understood the whole process. When he saw the process starting, he could take evasive action. And that’s why he never had those fits anymore. He could see what’s going to happen if he continued on this route. This is what would happen next. So he took other paths. He went through other doors and he got over this. So if it’s an addiction to alcohol or addiction to drugs or addiction to cigarettes or addiction to sort of harmful behavior, we see what’s going to happen. We’ve been down that road before. That’s what Mindfulness tells us. And Mindfulness sees it happening and we stop. We also have to understand the danger it gives to us. Not so hard to see some of the addictive behaviors. We know it hurts, we know it harms. We know it creates problems in our life. Please recognize that and remind yourself of it. And then you can use what I call especially use this in my meditation retreats, The Simile of the Snake. The Simile of the Snake came about from my experiences as a young monk in northeast Thailand, in the jungles of Northeast Done. I went back there recently, just a few days ago. But those jungles have changed a lot. In particular, where there was once many, many snakes, there’s only a few left now. And. So I tell the monks, you’ve got it too easy these days. In the good old days, there are all these snakes around. I remember telling the story a few weeks ago, a week or two ago, and I’ve even peed on a snake. It’s a very dangerous thing to do. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. I’m meditating all night and getting up in the morning used to go to urinate in the bushes. And that one morning it was at dawn and the light wasn’t all that clear anyway, and I was a bit sleepy. And there’s a stick, a branch of a tree in front which I urinated on. And then the branch started to wiggle and I realized it was the branch after all. It was a snake. I moved away very quickly. Part of my anatomy was exposed. But fortunately, sort of I apologized to the snake very quickly. So the snake sort of stood away and sort of didn’t take its revenge. There’s so many snakes in those days, but in particular, these monasteries were very, very poor in those early days. And I remember clearly. We used to have all these meetings in the morning and the evening. And after the evening meeting, you had to walk through the jungle on these very narrow paths, from the hall to your hut where you slept. Maybe it was in quite a few hundred meters. Sometimes from the hall to your hut, sometimes 100, 200 meters. And obviously you try to use flashlights, but it was so poor that many times we had the flashlights, but no batteries. I remember actually going to see my teacher at Jen, Chard, ran out of flashlight batteries. Can I have some batteries? She said, I’m sorry, you can’t. We’ve got none. There’s none here. So I had to walk back from the hall to the place where I was sleeping without a flashlight. And in those jungles, even the starlight, there’s too many trees, so you can’t actually get any light coming into the jungle. It’s really, really dark. And you knew there were snakes? About hundreds of them, as I was first told when I went to Thailand. They told me there are hundred species of snake in Thailand. 99 are venomous, and the other one strangles you to death. In other words, they’re all dangerous. Thank you very much. Thank. So I had to walk back knowing there were snakes around and knowing those snakes were very dangerous. And the nearest hospital was a long way away. There was no phone. If you got bitten, you were in big trouble. So I used the simulator of the snake because I knew they were a danger, because I knew there were many of them around and they were lying on the path. It meant that I was always on the lookout for them. I wasn’t sort of mindless there was a danger there. I had to get from the hall to my hut. I was looking out for them. My mindfulness was very strong and they were focused on the danger which lay on the path because I knew there was a danger and I was focused on that danger and I was alert, awake mindful of it. I never got bitten. Sometimes you see a snake there, you either jump off over it or you sort of go around it, if you could, or you take another pass and. Because I was on the lookout and I knew it was a danger, I always managed to avoid it. It’s called massimile the snake. If an obsession and addiction is a danger to you, where it’s alcohol or anger or depression or whatever, if you identify that as a danger and you know it’s on the path in front of you in your life, it know it’s a danger and be on the lookout for it. If you’re on the lookout for it, you’re aware it’s out there and you’re mindful, you’re careful, you’re alert. You find you can always step over these things. You can go another path. You can jump over them and they never catch you. Say, if it’s alcohol, you can see it coming. You know alcohol. If you take that one glass, you have to take the second and the third and the fourth. And some person said that if you just take one glass of alcohol, that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter, does it? That’s what people ask me over here. One glass of alcohol is okay, isn’t it? Can. Somebody compared it to, like, a fire. Big fires or small fires, they all burn. So even if you hold a match to your finger, it still burns and hurts. Even a small glass of alcohol takes away your mindfulness, your alertness. You’re not as sharp as you were before. Because you’re not as sharp as you were before. You can take that second glass of alcohol as the all saying goal goes. Sort of alcohol makes you crazy. Alcohol can make you angry. Alcohol can make you actually shout at your wife. Alcohol can make you crazy at your wife. Alcohol can make you want to shoot your wife and alcohol makes you miss. That’s an old Australian joke. The dangers of alcohol makes you miss. We’re actually saying that’s not a good Buddhist story, I must admit, but it lightens up the evening. But these are danger to see as a danger. If you see as a danger, you can actually see it happening. You’re on the lookout for, look, this is a danger to me. I want to overcome this. If I see the craving coming up, I’m moving towards this. I’m going to take evasive action quickly. And mindfulness gives you the other opportunities. Same like anger. No, it’s terrible. It’s rotten to you know, when you’re angry at your loved ones, you got to live with them. You’re stuck with them. If you get angry at your mum or your dad or angry at your children, angry at your husband and wife, we all feel terrible, terrible about it after. So why did I do that? Why do I have to keep on relating to my loved ones like this? Why can’t I be at peace with the people in my house? And you realize that that creates so much suffering in your life. And so you start seeing when anger is about to come up or these bad ways of speaking start to arise. You see the whole process coming, and something comes out. Say this is a snake. This is a danger. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want my family to be like this. If I’m bickering with my husband, bickering with my wife, what are my kids going to do? They’re just going to see that as a normal way of living life, and they’re going to bicker and moan about their partners when they get married. And we just have this terrible, terrible way of living our lives. We don’t bicker at our monastery and start talking rotten things about each other and putting each other down at my monastery. And we speak we speak kind words, and we train ourselves to speak kind words. We train ourselves with this snake simile, if that is your nature. And you start you see this coming up? You recognize it. It’s a snake. You make sure you never step on that. You jump over it. Take evade of action. Do another thing. Do another way. So one of the ways of escaping from addictive behavior is remove yourself. Go away from the bottle, go away from the cigarettes, don’t have them in your room. Move yourself away from the irritation instead of shouting at your wife, just go to your room. Even better, come to the Buddhist centre, come to the temple. Especially one thing which I always remember this man came to our monastery in Thailand many years ago when I was there, he just came up to me and asked, can I stay at the monastery for a few days? We had lots of accommodation at our monastery in Thailand those days. Yeah, sure, you can come. Have you come to learn some Buddhism? He said no. Have you come to learn some meditation? He said no. What have you come here for? He said, Because I’ve had an argument with my wife. What a wonderful thing to do. Instead of sort of going down the pub, instead of going out with his mates, instead of going out to kill himself or something, he came to the monastery, said, okay, you can come and stay for a few days. It was no problem at all but after three or four days he came up to me and said, Can I go back home now? He wanted to take leave, said, Why do you want to go? He said, because I miss my wife and I sort of feel cool now. I feel calm. I want to make up what a very skillful way of doing things when people actually you’re angry and upset, instead of actually taking out on other people actually go to a calm place, remove themselves from the trigger of their ill will to a calm place, to a peaceful place to cool down, to take evasive action and. So if you got friends who get you into bad trouble, if you are in with a bad lot, and this is not a bad lot here, when you come to the temple, don’t think if people say you come to a bad lot, this is a good lot in this temple. So you come to a good place, it gives you good energy, you feel good about yourselves and you’re removing yourself from the problem. That’s one of the things to do, remove yourself from those things which trigger your addiction, your obsessions, and there’s bad ways of doing things. And then once you’ve removed yourself, you find it’s a great way of overcoming those things. Once you’ve removed yourself from the problem, then actually you can contemplate it much better. There’s an old saying in Chinese culture, say to love the tiger but at a distance. It to love the tiger but at a distance. So it means what that means is you can’t go loving a tiger by patting them on the head or ticking them under the chin. They’re going to bite your hand off. What you can do is when you’re away from the danger, then you can contemplate it, then you can love it. You can change your attitude towards it. People sometimes very difficult when there’s somebody who’s always again pushing our buttons, making us angry and making us upset, giving us a difficult time. It’s so hard, actually, to understand what’s going on. When you’re too close to it, removing yourself from the problem gives you more options. You can see things in a different way. You can love the tiger at a distance. When they’re close to them, all you have is fear. You have these obsessive of reactions. In Buddhism, I usually use the simile of the hand to understand this. A hand our problem, our addiction. The stimulus which creates these negative responses is like a hand which we’re holding too close to ourselves. Like my hand. Now you can all see it’s so close to me. I can’t see any of you. I can’t see any light, any goodness. All I can see is my hand. The reason is it’s too close to my eyes. Just for the tape here, I’m just actually holding it right above my nose, covering my eyes. I can’t see anybody. It’s not the hand’s problem. This problem is it’s in the wrong place. I should put it out to where it should be at the end of my arm. Then I can see my hand, but can also see all of you as well. I’ve got mindfulness a bigger picture. So often with obsessions we have a stimulus. Say somebody, maybe your wife has left you or maybe your father has died or your child’s got into big trouble. And that’s all one sees in one’s life, just this big problem. And we react in an inappropriate way. It’s like somebody who’s died. We act in grief as if it’s the only person who counts in this world. They’ve died. The only people who die is the one you love. You can’t see the bigger picture. You can’t see anything else in life except this huge problem which you’re holding right in front of you with a grief. You take that problem, you put it out here. Yeah, they died. But what else is going on in the world? What else happens in life? Who else have you got who love you, who you care for, who care for you as well, your other responsibilities. You put the problem where it belongs. You remove yourself from the problem. It’s loving the tiger out of the distance, seeing the hand, but at the end of the arm rather than holding it right in front of you. So you lost your job, but. So you’ve got cancer. If you hold the cancer right up to your hand, it’s the biggest thing in the whole world. You can’t see anything else and you’re in big trouble. You put it out here, you got cancer, but it’s only in part of your body. The rest of your body is healthy. It’s only part of the life. It won’t last forever as other people do this and get cancer and they get better again afterwards. Some die. If you die again, so what? You get reborn again. You get another body next time. Maybe a better one next time. Who knows? Maybe this old one is getting old now anyway. Getting ugly when you get old. Maybe it’s time for a change of model. Hold it out in the hand over here. What is death? It’s only a part of life. It’s no big thing when you get disappointed because things go wrong. So there’s other things have gone right in your life. Somebody dies, somebody gets born. It’s happening all the time. So when you put it out here, you get distance from the problem. When you get distance from the problem, you find you can react in all sorts of different ways. You’re not always reacting in the same way. You’ve got mindfulness, you’ve got more options because you’re seeing the bigger picture of things and. So that’s why that person if they stayed with their wife when this man who went to our monastery years ago if they stayed with their wife all the time they’d be just too close to the problem and they’d be reacting the same way again and again and again. So they just put themselves a little distance apart just for a few minutes, a few hours or whatever and see the big picture. When they see the big picture, they’ve got more ways of responding rather always responding in the obsessive, reactive ways which we call addictions. Remove yourself gives you more wisdom and gives you more ways of dealing with things. Also, when I say love the tiger at a distance it’s also this idea of love and kindness is also crucial to overcoming addictions. A lot of addictions and obsessions are like a self hurt you alcohol. We know it’s hurting us. We keep on doing it. Why now? We say these terrible things to each other. We know it hurts us to say these things. We keep on doing it. We push ourselves, we deny ourselves happiness and freedom and peace. Why we have the pain of losing a loved one. Why is it we sort of keep that grief here? It’s very clear to me as a Buddhist, as a meditator, to know that so many people are afraid of happiness. They just don’t want to be happy. They don’t want to be free of the problem. They don’t want to be free of the addiction. Why? It’s because they don’t love themselves. They don’t really care enough about themselves. Something they did in the past, some guilt, some mistake they keep right there in their hearts. I don’t deserve to be happy for what I’ve done. It basically is the cause of those addictions. Most addictions, most harmful and hurtful behavior start from this deep seated guilt inside of themselves. Ah. The idea that I need to be punished, that I don’t deserve happiness, I don’t deserve to be free. Which is why lovingkindness becomes the next method of overcoming addictions. To start with that, we have to not feel guilty, not feel upset, not to have this terrible feeling of having to punish oneself because of the addictions. I’m an alcoholic, therefore I’m bad, therefore I don’t feel good about myself, therefore I have to take more alcohol. I don’t feel happy myself because of something I’ve done. I feel upset, therefore I have to make other people unhappy, to anger and ill will, which makes me feel even more unhappy. We keep these cycles of unhappiness. I am unhappy, therefore I feel guilty, therefore I want to punish myself, therefore I want to be more unhappy. These cycles of self hurt, they keep on saying in the Western world that lack of self esteem, lack of like, inner happiness is one of the biggest mental problems of human beings. I don’t have a lack of self esteem. I’m quite at peace with myself. I don’t think of myself as a great person, as a medium person, as a small person. This is when Buddhism we call conceit. There’s three conceits in Buddhism. I am better than other people, I am the same as other people, and I am worse than other people. It’s interesting that third part is also a conceit I am worse than others. In Buddhism, we don’t even measure ourselves against others. We’ve stopped that measuring, comparing ourselves to others. So being better or being worse or being the same just as doesn’t even come up. This actually frees ourselves from judging ourselves against others, which again, is the root of guilt. Other people are okay, but not me. So when actually we overcome this sense of guilt, we overcome it with a sense of like lovingkindness, which is a great way of overcoming addictions. You find if you’re giving a bit of kindness, you’re giving a bit of love, and you give that bit of kindness and love to yourself, you find that addictions and obsessions are very easy to overcome. Which is why the meaning of love, as you’ve all heard me say many times, is to say to yourself the door of my heart is open to me no matter what I’m doing, no matter who I am. And even if I’m a drug addict, even I’m an alcoholic, even though I’m sort of do all these terrible things. Still the door of my heart’s open to me. I can be at peace with myself. I can love myself even though I’m doing these things. When you do this, you’re actually undermining the cause of self hurt and self harm. You’re starting the rehabilitation process. You’re facilitating yourself, allowing yourself to be accepting yourself for who you are, being at peace with yourself. This type of Buddhist love we call meta lovingkindness is so important that we keep repeating it again and again in so many different disguises. Lovingkindness the door of my heart is always open to you is called also letting go. You’re letting things be as they are rather than trying to change them. It’s called contentment. In particular, it’s called love. You’re making peace with yourself when you make peace with yourself, with all of your faults if you try and make yourself perfect before you love yourself I’m going to give up my addictions, give up all my old bad habits, give up all the bad speech, give up all the terrible things then I can love myself. You’ll find you’ll never make it. You try and be perfect before you’re at peace. US you will die before you’re at peace. What we have the way of peace is learning how to be at peace in the middle of imperfection. To be able to love someone even though they’re not perfect. To be able to love someone even though they’re far from perfect to even to love someone even they may be even bad. Because that love is what heals the badness and stops it. There’s many, many stories in the world when someone has received some kindness, some affection, some love, some acceptance on all their destructive behavior towards themselves and others stops it. It stops right there. There are many stories of people who have done some terrible crimes, and someone has come along and accepted them as a human being for who they are. And they’ve taken that person as a brother, as a father, as a mother, and would never do anything to harm anyone ever again. That’s the power of kindness and love. And that power of kindness, of love is actually how we overcome those addictions. Instead of hating ourselves for our addictions, for our obsessions, for our bad behavior, we get to this amazing leap of courage, this leap of faith, doing things in a completely different way. Finding a door where there shouldn’t be. A door and saying, in spite of all my alcoholism, in spite of all my addictions, in spite of all of this, the door of my heart is open to me. When you become at peace with yourself, when that love goes to yourself, when that forgiveness goes to yourself, when there’s no reason to harm and punish yourself anymore. You find it so easy to give up those addictions. The reason for self harm is taken away. The reason for punishment has been overcome. The path to freedom is open to you. Addictions and obsessions. Hurtful behavior is like being in a prison. You know you can open that door at any time. No one else puts you in a prison. Only yourself. No one else punishes you. Only yourself. Because you know that you are the owner of your karma. As they say in Buddhism, you’re punishing yourself. You’re imprisoning yourself, no one else. It means you can also free yourself. Let yourself go. Let it be. Be at peace. To love the tiger. Even though the tiger can be very wild, you can tame the tiger through kindness. That tiger inside of you, the heart, the hurt, the critical mind, the fault finding mind, you can tame that. When it’s tamed through lovingkindness the door my heart’s open you find that those addictions are so easy to let go of because the root cause of them, the self hurt and wanted to hurt other people, is gone. You can give up and give up the alcohol, give up the drugs, give up the hurtful behavior. It’s easy to do. People are only angry at others because they don’t love themselves, not at peace with themselves. I’ve seen this so often in the great monks and nuns I’ve known. They just can’t get angry at other people, no matter what other people do or say about them. Why? It’s because they’re at peace with themselves. If you love yourself, you’re at peace with yourself. You accept yourself love, you find you can be so accepting of other people, so at peace, destructive behavior disappears. So those of you who have addictions and obsessions, check that one out. Whether you’re not running on ill will, on negativity and. It. When that’s overcome, you give yourself love and kindness saying to yourself again and again and again until you understand what the meaning of those words are. The door of my heart’s open to me. No matter who I am, no matter what I’ve done, my love still goes unconditionally to myself. Then you know if you can know how to love yourself, you know how to love others. And your hurtful and harmful behavior stops right there. And the wonderful thing is that when you start one stopping, one hurtful, obsessive behavior, you find you start to feel this immense power and freedom. I remember the time when I gave up alcohol as a student. After giving up that alcohol, I felt this surge of energy for about a whole week. I was getting in charge of my life. I realized I could do these things if I saw something was not really helpful for me. I could actually let it go and stop it. You have this immense feeling of power over your life, over your destiny, especially your power over your happiness. When you start to give up obsessive behavior give up some of the addictions, it you find it can be done. You start one little thing. You give up one addiction, one obsession, one subnegative means of behavior and. And then you know how to give up all the negative behavior and you feel surges of power. Those are powers of freedom. You look upon these negative behavior, it’s just, again, like these controllers inside of your mind, these tyrants which make you do things which hurt you, which make you do things which hurt other people. Why do you need to take drugs? Why do you need to sort of take alcohol? Why do you need it costs a lot of money, alcohol very expensive. Be much better to take a cup of tea and give the difference into the donation box. I know it’s not good for the economy, but it’s good for the Buddhist society’s economy. So why do we do these things? And we realize we don’t have to do these things when we don’t do these things. Life is so much freer when you don’t have to have alcohol. You don’t have to have drugs when you don’t have to watch these stupid soap operas. Sometimes people don’t come on a Friday night because there’s an important soap opera on a Friday night or Tuesday evening in Armadillo. They can’t come because All Saints is on. You get all these addictions which people have all these things that stop them really enjoying themselves. They’re not free anymore. They can’t go anywhere because they have to be in for this and they have to be for that, and they have to be for something else. And this is crazy. The addictions people have you’re not free. So when you overcome addictions one by one, you feel this great surge of freedom and power. Yeah, you can watch it if you want to, but you don’t have to. You can watch the footy if you want to, but you don’t have to. Something else is more important. You can stop. You can criticize someone else if you want to, but you don’t have to. You’re not a creature of habit anymore. You’re not predictable. You got no buttons, which you push this one and you got the response that makes you an amazingly free person. People can call you a pig. Instead of getting angry, just go Oink, oink. Make a joke about it. You do all sorts of silly things and makes it like people can’t make you angry. And you won’t get angry. You won’t allow anger in your house. You’re free of it. You don’t have to take alcohol. You can go into the pub and just have an orange juice with your friends. You’re much more in control. You can live your life free from those things, you know, which hurt. Because mindfulness gives you more opportunities. Love, loving, kindness frees you of guilt, stimulus, the snake. You realize what the problem is. You make it sure it’s in your mind so you can overcome it and free yourself from it. Three very simple methods. Ryan also said removing yourself from the problem, from the trigger. Simple methods to overcome addict addictions. Eventually you overcome all those addictions in your mind. Not just the gross ones of like, drugs and alcohol, really self destructive behavior, but also the other ones of like fault finding and ill will. Isn’t it strange that these people we love, we always tend to whenever we speak to them, it’s always pointing out faults. Isn’t that what happens to you when people talk to you? How often is it walk finding, you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that? How often is it praised? Oh, thank you so much for doing this. Thank you for being such a wonderful wife. Thank you for being such a great husband. Those of you have married last week. How many times has your husband actually praised you and said what wonderful wife you are? How many times has your wife said, no, I really appreciate you as a husband. It. And how many times have been fault fighting and critical? You understand what I mean? Those are negative behaviors which don’t create any love and happiness in the world. So please, change those addictions and obsessive behaviors. You feel more freedom and happiness and change that towards yourself. So you praise yourself. You have gratitude to all the effort you’ve put into your lives, all the goodness which you’ve done that makes you free, it makes you happy, gives you energy. Energy to do good in the world. Addictions and obsessions, like put you in prison, harming yourself, and you’re unable to really give service to the world. Be yourself in those addictions and sufferings. And then you can do what life is really all about serving the community, increasing the gross national happiness of our community. I read that about the King of Bhutan. He’s got this program because it’s a poor country, they don’t want it. It was the last country in the world which had televisions. Bhutan only in 2000 they started to have a television service in the country. The Princess of Bhutan, she’s a Buddhist and I’ve seen her a few times. She was telling me this. And the king, her brother has got this new program. Now instead of the Gross National product which is what western countries find is important, the Buddhist king of Bhutan has got this program the Gross National Happiness. He wants to increase the gross national happiness of his country. This is the main thing of his country. That’s why the government is working. That’s why are working for the happiness economy of the people. Really good on him. It’s a wonderful thing to do. Wonderful way of it’s. Only a small country, insignificant in the world. So he can get away with it without having the IMF on his back. This is actually what life is all about. Increasing the Gross National happiness in your family. Increasing the Gross National happiness of yourself and your friends, of our community, of our land, of our planet. That’s why we give up obsessions and addictions. So we can really do what life is all about. The purpose and meaning of life. To increase the GNH, the Gross national happiness of our world. So there’s a little ways of overcoming obsessions and addictions in your life and the reason why we do these things. And also pointing out what life is all about. So there you are. It’s really easy to do. No problem at all. So just do it. Okay? So on that note just do it. Mention this talk this evening is sponsored once again by Nike. Just do it. Just do it. It’s also that when you’re free, it’s just so wonderful. It’s also sponsored by Toyota. Oh, what a feeling. Those are the only two I know, I think. So this is okay. You go sideu now. Yeah. Okay. Go on. Ends the talk.

The Five Spiritual Strengths | Ajahn Tate

The Forest Path Podcast
The Forest Path Podcast
The Five Spiritual Strengths | Ajahn Tate

This episode is a talk given by the Thai forest meditation master Ajahn Tate and is titled “The Five Spiritual Strengths”. This is based on the five ‘bala’ in Pali, and indeed in the book “Words of the Master” translated by Steven Towler the title is “5 Bala (strengths)”, and I have translated the title as the Five Spiritual Strengths for an English speaking audience.

This audio version is narrated by Sol Hanna. If you’d like to support my work by making a donation to help cover the costs of hosting and other services that make this possible, click on the “Donate” button below (or go to ).

The Forest Path Podcast is part of the Everyday Dhamma Network.

Today, I am going to talk about “strengths”. There are two kinds of strength. Physical strength can be developed by maintaining good health. Strength of mind, however, is something much harder to see. It has to be composed of the “5 Bala”. As far as taking care of the mind is concerned, the 5 Bala are not its strengths. Instead, they are the means to develop strength of mind. Taking care of the mind is done via “Saddhā (faith) Bala”. Faith is a great source of strength. “Viriya (diligent effort)” is another source of strength. “Sati (mindfulness) Bala” and “Samādhi (firm concentration) Bala” and “Paññā (wisdom) Bala” are other facets of strength of mind. When these five Dhamma appear together they make the heart bold and fearless. They also have the power to propel us to Magga (path), Phala (fruit) and Nibbāna – cessation (of suffering). It can then be said that one has achieved the goal that one set out to achieve.

In terms of what is sometimes said, such as you don’t have enough Parami (perfection) or your merit is too little, it all stems from these 5 Bala. You simply don’t have them in sufficiency.

Saddhā Bala
Saddhā means faith, strong belief in doing good. Belief that doing good begets good and doing evil begets evil. Belief that no one else can take your place (in this cycle of good and evil). Belief that the perpetrator of the deed is the one who receives the result.

The Lord Buddha was full of energy. So much so that He was able to sacrifice everything and give away all his possessions. Having made this commitment, He was able to sustain it. To begin with, we must be completely satisfied with giving alms. We must lend our full strength to this. Later, we can channel this Saddhā into other things. Reckless people don’t care for Saddhā and become noncommittal when it comes to doing good. Later on, the Saddhā that would be born from Sila (morality), Samādhi and Paññā is also exhausted. Belief in self-sacrifice is gone and so is the merit that goes with it.

I want you to have firm Saddhā in looking after your Sila, regardless of whether you keep 5 precepts or 8 precepts or 10 precepts with good kamma. But don’t set your sights on 227 precepts like monks unless you have strong faith because that would be a waste of time.

The same can be said of Samādhi. If you are not satisfied with having just a little Khanika Samādhi or a little Upacāra Samādhi, you won’t practise further. You will abandon Samādhi. On the other hand, if you are gratified by the amount of Samādhi that you have, you should resolve to develop steadfastly, to the best of your ability. Progress will naturally follow.

Paññā is no different. If we don’t resolve to examine the little insights that we get, if we don’t drive Saddhā to be fearless, then it will all be for naught.
The reason why people cannot be bothered is because they don’t have Saddhā. They are uncertain about what they are doing because they lack Saddhā. They make excuses. They let things slip their mind. They are confused. They forget. This is because their Saddhā is lacking. This is how Saddhā is lost. Because of this you should promote Saddhā. Making Saddhā fearless and nurturing it is the first step.

Develop Saddhā as much as you can. When you have Saddhā, Viriya will be encouraged and this will assist in performing a whole host of tasks, such as being philanthropic and seeking out opportunities to be generous. No matter how small or great that generosity may be, always have it at the forefront of your thoughts. Having Saddhā, supports acts like these.

Viriya Bala
Diligent effort, try to maintain it constantly.

When you have Sila established, work at keeping it and don’t let it lapse. At first, looking after Sila is intermittent. Work hard to keep it for longer. Try to make Sila become your second nature. As its purity increases, keep Sila at the forefront of your thoughts. Know what is flawed and what is perfection. Those that don’t consider Sila can have goodness inside them, but they don’t see the value of it. In the olden days they used to say, this is like a monkey having glass, or a chicken having gemstones. Try to see the value of maintaining Sila. Try to see the value of Paññā and Samādhi.

However much you practise Samādhi, a lot or a little, just think back to the time when you didn’t practise at all. If you’ve meditated a few times, it’s good that you see what Samādhi is. Those who don’t see the value of Samādhi will never practise. Experiencing Samādhi gives rise to perseverance and effort. If you keep trying, one day you will succeed, for sure. Bala are the powers that make things happen.

Sati Bala
Sati means firm mindfulness of various objects.

When Saddhā and Viriya have been present, there may be times when delusion causes you to believe in the wrong things. Your effort becomes ill-directed, towards unwholesome things. If there is no Sati cocooning the heart, there will be nothing watching over it, determining what is proper or improper, right or wrong, or what is in accordance with the Dhamma, the teaching of the Lord Buddha, or not.

Listening to the directions of a teacher or his admonishment must be done with Sati protecting the heart so as to determine if the words are correct. This way, you will travel the right path. Most of us just have Saddhā, but Saddhā must be supported by Viriya in order to provide the most assistance in seeing what is improper.

When we do do something improper, it is not up to someone else to admonish us. Taking responsibility is the right thing to do. It is not appropriate for someone else to reprimand us. Someone else doing so is not the same as doing it ourselves because it is we who have the strong Saddhā and much Viriya.
Those who have Sati walk evenly. They don’t lean to one side or the other. This is called “Majjhima Patipada (the Middle Way)”. Ordinarily, those with Sati don’t see themselves as being good. People are generally not good. Because of this we have to be careful, paying close attention to things when taking instruction from others. As I have said consistently, “Someone who says they are a good person is yet to be a good person. Those who think they are special or super smart, are stupid.”

Samādhi Bala
Samādhi is one of the most important foundations (of Dhamma). Saddhā, Viriya and Sati must come together in order to achieve Samādhi. If these factors don’t come together, then there will be great confusion. Wherever Buddhism goes, it teaches. If that teaching does not penetrate your heart, you haven’t reached the essence of Buddhism. All the factors must coalesce in order for the teaching to enter the heart.

Everything in this world has to have a point of origin. Making a living, whether by trading or working in government, in whatever city, the commonality is we do it to feed ourselves. The point is to make money. We make money and put it all together in a wallet or purse. Even with farming, for example rice farming, the rice has to be carried and mixed together in the rice yard, then it has to be gathered into the barn. It then must be dehusked. Then it has to be boiled before it is concentrated in the mouth and then the stomach. And that is an end of the matter. Buddhism’s teachings are very broad. If the factors don’t coalesce and achieve Samādhi, then you won’t reach the heart of Buddhism23. This is why I have consistently said, “Buddhism teaches that there is a point of convergence that is the ultimate, beyond doubt. The end of the line. This is unlike other philosophies of life which teach eternalism.” Just as the 84,000 stanzas of the Dhamma can be summed up in a single word, “vigilance”. Magga is the path to tread to reach Magga, Phala and Nibbāna, which coalesce at the singularity of Maggasamaṅgi (the coalescence of the Eightfold Path). So, it is said that Buddhism teaches about reaching the end but there is no “traveller24” that follows this path and reaches the end.

Paññā Bala
Paññā investigates our Sankhāra (conditioned phenomena25) and body. Whatever is seen, we focus the magnifying glass on it. Right in front of our eyes we see old age and dysfunctional disintegration; a body withered and wrinkled. This is Aniccaṁ (impermanent), Dukkhaṁ (suffering) and Anattā (void of self). This is all you need to see. There is no need to look elsewhere. Try to focus your attention on this consistently. Through doing so, you will see the root cause of aging and disintegration.

The deterioration of Sankhāra is not so easy to see. Sometimes they go through their whole lifecycle, and we don’t even notice. Even when we are old and near death, we are still intoxicated by the idea of youth. Those who scrutinise aging, dilapidation and withering away see the investigation as wonderful. They see it as being the way to freedom.

Samādhi won’t arise if there is no Paññā. Without Paññā there is no Saddhā, no Viriya. The Saddhā that I am talking about is not some sort of mystical Saddhā. The notion to give alms and make merit is an aspect of Paññā, causing us to seek out such opportunities. This is Paññā. Putting in the effort to make merit is also called Paññā. The reason that the Citta can converge (into a singularity) is because of Paññā. Samādhi is achieved because of Paññā. These types of Paññā are weak types. When convergence26 happens, it’s called Paññā. If the highest level of Paññā is reached, this is called “Vipassana Paññā”.

These Five Bala encourage the heart to have fierce and solid energy. So much so that Samādhi is achieved. This Samādhi is then capable of developing Paññā at the most advanced level, which, in turn, can lead to Magga, Phala and Nibbāna.

How To Overcome Mental Suffering | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
How To Overcome Mental Suffering | Ajahn Brahm

You can’t control your body, feelings, or thoughts. Let go and be happy. The great monk advised against wasting time on things which have no solution, because it creates mental suffering. Mental suffering is the biggest killer, caused by our attitudes and conditioned responses to the world. Buddhism teaches us ways to overcome it. Accept the world as it is and stop trying to control it. This will stop the mental suffering. Sometimes we try and control things which are beyond our control, and that just creates more pain. Mental suffering is when you try to control your life When you let go of control, you stop suffering. The more you can let go, the more you can start loving life.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 13th June 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

Mental Suffering –
by Ajahn Brahm

(Robot generated transcript – expect errors!)

I’ve got another request today for the talk. So the talk coming up is on mental suffering, or rather, how to overcome mental suffering. So I’m not just going to make you mentally suffer, if you could show you what it is and how to overcome it. So this evening’s, talk on mental suffering. We just got an email a few minutes ago asking for this talk. This talk go out on the internet, so this request comes from England. There must be mentally suffering over there. So we’re going to give them a bit of good Buddhist wisdom, how to be happy. Mental suffering is the Buddhist speciality, because the Buddha said there was two types of suffering to be found in the world, the physical suffering and the mental suffering. He called them like two, like thorns or darts or spears, which keep pricking the person. And he said that the physical suffering you can’t do too much about, because this is what’s having a body is all about. You’re going to get old, you get sick, you get coughs. No matter what you do, you always seem to get these things, even if you eat brown rice and exercise every day. Sometimes people exercise a lot. You’ve seen them as I saw this guy cycling up the hill the other day. To me, it looked like that was very dangerous for your health to probably get a heart attack. But whatever, even if you do the right things, you always get sickness from time to time in the body. So the Buddha said the physical dart of pain, suffering you can’t really do much about, that comes with having a body. That’s par for the course. That’s what you buy into when you become born as a human being. However, the mental suffering, he said that’s what you can do something about. And the path of Buddhism becoming enlightened is taking out the dart, the thorn of mental suffering, until it’s no longer there. There. I really love that distinction between the two types of suffering, physical suffering and mental suffering, because it became quite clear to me that the worst of the two is the mental suffering. The physical suffering is nothing compared to the mental suffering. And I’ve seen that many, many times, that you can see physical suffering, people in pain and agony in hospitals and accidents, there s and mental suffering which is the killer. Even when I was a school teacher, or trained to be a school teacher, we got a doctor in to actually give us some advice. What happens if in the science lab, some kid spills the concentrated acid over his hand, or they put their fingers in the electric sockets, boys being boys, or one day it probably happened. What do you do? And so we got a GP in to give us a little demonstration on first aid. And I always remember the thing which he said, first of all, he’s an old GP, an old doctor. He said the worst thing is, was it called shock fear. And he gave us some advice. If you see someone in an accident, no matter how gruesome and gory it looks, always tell them that they’re okay, they’re going to make it. Even if you have to bend the truth a bit, because it’s the fear and. The mental suffering, which is the killer. In accidents, a person going to shock when they think they’re going to die, and they do die as a result. It’s the mental suffering. It’s the greatest. And I’ve also seen that in Western countries, you see that pretty healthy kids, even young people, middle aged people, they’re in good physical health, they’ve got no real pains, they’ve got a healthy body, and then they go and commit suicide. They kill themselves because of mental suffering. More people kill themselves for mental suffering than go to people like Dr. Nietzsche for physical suffering to kill themselves. I think you all know that the mental suffering is the hardest to bear. Unfortunately, the mental suffering is invisible. You can see people and they looked as quite normal, healthy. They can even smile. But their smile masks the pain inside their hearts. The fear, the loneliness, the despair sometimes. Because in our society, we’re not supposed to show our mental suffering. You ask how are you today? I m feeling fine. Liar. You’re just making it up. You feel terrible. But you’re not supposed to say that. You’re supposed to be happy, you’re supposed to be joyful. And it seems to be like you re embarrassment, you’re failure if you re not so. Mental suffering is very often hidden in our society. That s why we can t see it. And so that s why it’s surprising when people do commit suicide or they go crazy. Why are you going crazy for? You got everything to live for. You’re young, you’re beautiful, you’re doing well at school or you got a good job and compared to your money. But still people kill themselves. The point is that the mental suffering is the biggest one. And unfortunately, in our health system we put lots of money, lots of resources in healing people’s physical sicknesses. Whether it’s on breast, cans, prostate cancer, heart disease there’s huge amounts of money and programs trying to heal the external suffering. But the internal suffering of human beings is very rarely dealt with, mostly because it’s invisible. But Buddhism, especially, places like this, this is actually what deals with mental suffering. This is actually helps heal the mental pain, that pain deep inside which other people can’t see. They go to places like this. We don’t get any grants from the government, but we do a heck of a lot of work healing that pain inside, which is the worst of the suffering. That’s why we’ve got Buddhist monasteries and Buddhist places, hospitals of the mind. That mental suffering. What actually is it? That mental suffering is when we fight with the world, where we try and change what is impossible to change. It is his attitude, his conditioned ways of responding to the physical world, which we’ve learned since we were a child, which we’ve encouraged to keep on continuing the same old way. And it just gets us into knots sometimes, knots of despair. And Buddhism shows the way out of that despair, out of the way of that mental suffering with many, many techniques and teachings. One of the powerful teachings, one of the powerful stories which affected me and helps me in my life as an abbot and all these responsibilities I take on that particular story was of the British in statesman and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. He was a prime minister when I was a young man. And at this particular time, I think it was 1967, was that about 36 years ago when there was a big war going on? Guess where? In the Middle East, between Israel against Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt. It was called the 6th Day War. And during that war, when the tanks were fighting each other and people were shooting each other and many people getting killed and injured, a newspaper reporter asked this British Prime Minister, what do you think about the. Problem in the Middle East? And straight away this Prime Minister said there is no problem in the Middle East. What a great answer. But so enigmatic. Because the reporter said what do you mean there’s no problem in the Middle East? There’s a war going on as we speak. People are being killed and wounded as we talk. How can you say that there’s no problem in the Middle East? And this was the answer, the important part. The Prime Minister said A problem, sir, is something with a solution. There is no solution in the Middle East, therefore it’s not a problem. Do you understand? There’s a powerful sort of wise saying which you can apply to many other things. He was a Prime Minister of a country, he had many other things to do, many other decisions to make. Why do we waste time on things which have no solution? He was wise enough to know that that problem was just beyond him. So for him it was no longer a problem, no longer worth worrying, spending time over, creating more mental suffering over. And he was right. There’s still no solution. Or they’re trying to find a solution. But 36 years it’s a long time. It so in our life do we have problems? How many of us actually worry over things which aren’t really problems because there’s no solution to it? We may have some of a difficulty in our life. Maybe we got sacked from work. We’d be made redundant with one thing ever have to worry about as a monk. Never make me redundant. Don’t even get a pension. When I sort of retire, I keep on going, going, going and keep working me in this joint until I’m dead. The older you get, the more wise you’re supposed to be, so the harder you have to work. Anyway, if it’s something I’m not going to complain about that because I can’t change that as part of being a monk. So I complain about things which aren’t problems, which haven’t got a solution there’s other things in life which happen a death in the family, is that a problem? When there’s a death in the family, there’s no solution, is there? You can’t bring them back, therefore the fact they parted is not a problem the fact that you get sick, you may have a cancer, is that a problem? If it’s a solution, you can get some treatment, great, then it’s a problem you can do about it but if there’s no solution, it’s not a problem anymore so what you can do is free yourself from the mental suffering which goes along with making a problem of things which you cannot change and. This is actually part of letting go. When we realize much of life we can do nothing about. Much of life is just nature doing its thing. Just like it’s cold, we want it to be warm, it’s warm, we want it to be cool. It’s dry, we want it to be wet, it’s wet and we want it to be dry. All of that controlling which we do in life, does it really get us anywhere? Sometimes it does. When there is a problem some of you can do, then do it. Give everything you’ve got. But the problem is, as human beings, we know how to do things. We know how to put forth energy and effort in our lives. We work very hard. We’ve been taught that at school, at university, at our jobs. But the one thing we haven’t been taught is how to leave things which we cannot change alone. That is why we have mental suffering. So when there’s something to do, we give it everything we’ve got. One of Adjun Charles teachings, an Australian man went to see him many years ago. Came all the way from, I think, Sydney. He heard about this great monk living in the forests of northeast Thailand. Wanted to ask him some questions about life, about Buddhism, about truths. When he got there, all that way to the very northeast of Thailand, found a genchar in his heart in this monastery surrounded by a couple of hundred people. He waited at the edge for his chance to ask his question. Waited and waited and. Soon realized after two or 3 hours, there’s no way that the great teacher at Genchar could notice this Westerner at the edge of the crowd. He realized he’d made that trip all the way from Australia in vain. He wouldn’t be able to see the great teacher, so he walked away. When he was walking away, he realized the taxi was not going to come for another hour or two to take him back to town. He saw the monks were doing some work in the monastery. They were sweeping the paths, tidying up the grounds. He thought he’d come all this way, he might as well do something good. Do some good karma. He picked up a broom and started sweeping, helping the monks. Sweeping. Sweeping for many minutes. When he told me this story many years ago you don’t find this in Ajan Char’s books because no one, not many people know this story. He was sweeping when he felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned round. It was Ajan char, the great monk and. Even though Jenchao was very busy, he was incredibly compassionate and very aware. He’d noticed a Westerner he’d never seen before on the corner or the edge of the crowd. He couldn’t attend to him because he had so many other people. Now he was actually leaving the monastery to go to another appointment. He saw this Westerner doing some good act of karma, helping the monastery. He decided did to give him a teaching through an interpreter. He told this Westerner very quickly, if you’re going to sweep, give it everything you’ve got, and then turned around and left. That was the teaching this young Australian got. If you’re going to sweep, give it everything you’ve got. Now, that might seem a simple teaching to you, but he told me in monastery several years ago that changed his life and made him such a successful and happy person, because he realized when great monks like that say these words, they’re not just taken on face value, they have much deeper meanings. They’re simple teachings which go to the core. What it really meant was not just when you’re sleeping, when you’re working, or whatever job, you give it everything you ve got. Put 100% into your work. When you’re resting, give it everything you ve got. Rest fully. When it’s time to sleep, give it everything you ve got. It’s not the time for worrying about the work, or thinking about tomorrow, or complaining about what happened to you today. It’s sleep time to give sleep everything you’ve got. When it’s playtime and you’re going out enjoying yourself, then give your partying everything you’ve got. It was living life to the full. When it’s meditating time, you give meditation everything you’ve got. And eventually, at the end of your life, when it’s time to die, you give dying everything you’ve got. That is the way to live a life. When there’s something to do, you do it fully. When there’s nothing to do, you do nothing fully. Give it everything you’ve got. And that’s why he said he was went back to Sydney, was successful in his business, successful in his relationships, successful in his health. Because he gave everything full effort. Even letting go, he gave a full effort to. When it’s something to do, you give it everything you’ve got. That’s how I’ve lived my life. When I’m working at the monastery, just fixing up the roofs the last week, I give it everything I’ve got. When I m talking, giving a talk on a Friday night, I give it everything I ve got. When I m meditating, I completely let go of don’t even think of you. I give meditation everything I ve got. When it’s time to sleep, go to bed at night, I give sleeping everything I’ve got. It’s time to have lunch. I give that everything I’ve got. I eat too much, that’s a trouble. I’m fat. I give eating everything I’ve got. It that’s a way to live a good life, a happy life and a fulfilling life. How many of you do things half hearted? You’re not really there when you’re doing things, it’s time to rest, you’re working. When it’s time to work, you want to rest. You’re never really doing some things half heartedly. When you’re driving in your car, you’re already at work. When you’re at work, you’re thinking about driving home. And you’re never giving things everything you’ve got. So this is actually just one of the reasons why we have mental suffering. We know how to work. Sometimes we’re not ready. We don’t know how to relax and let go. Letting go means not trying to change the world, leaving it alone. What you can’t fix, you leave alone. Why not? This is how we ease the mental suffering. Because too much of our mental capacity is taking up with doing things which we can t really change. It’s the control freak which we want to control everybody and everything, and that just creates more suffering, more pain. Have you ever noticed when the traffic lights go out because of a storm? In most cases, that’s when the traffic flows freely, when there’s no control. I was told in Israel there was a strike of doctors some years ago. For about two weeks, the doctors went on strike, and in the hospitals in Israel, they found during that period when there was no doctors on duty, the death rate went down. Not as many people died. Your kids, if you try and control them, what happens? There’s a story about controlling children. You’ve heard it before, but it’s very powerful. Comes from a monastery in northeast Thailand when a local farmer, he was taking his water buffalo out to graze one morning. The water buffalo got scared and started running away. The farmer tried to stop the water buffalo. Water buffaloes are huge. They’re very, very strong. They all ploughs. Stupid trying to stop a water buffalo. But he tried, and the string or the rope curled around his finger and tore the top of his finger off. It was right next to our monastery. So he came into a monastery with half a finger in quite a lot of pain, with blood streaming down his arm. So we took him to the hospital to get him bandaged up and the monastery paid for it. We’ll use that story a lot afterwards. US. It’s stupid trying to stop a water buffalo. They just pull your fingers off. It’s like stupid trying to stop your husband. If you’ve got a husband like a water buffalo or a wife like a water buffalo, they’re both genders or children like water buffalo. There’s young water buffalo as well. You try and stop them. And you’re asking for mental suffering. They just pull your happiness off, and you sort of you come to the monks just, you know, with with blood streaming out of your brain in your mind, oh, he’s done this, he’s done that. It’s not what I wanted him to do, and it’s not what she should do. Kids aren’t supposed to be like this, blah, blah, blah. Just mental suffering again. But what you should do for water buffaloes is just let them go. What happens when a water buffalo those who know sort of water buffaloes in Thailand and any parts of Asia where they use water buffaloes, the water buffalo runs away. They don’t run too far, maybe half a kilometer, a kilometer at the most, up the road, because the water buffalo knows who’s going to feed them and look after them and care for them. They run off, and then they realize what they should be doing, and they just wait there just a man just walks after them and then just gets on the rope and pulls them away again. They don’t go that far of. So that’s what we mean by letting go if you try and stop water buffalo stopping things which you can t really stop you’re just asking for half a finger missing. This is what we mean by mental suffering. We try and control things which are beyond our control, thinking that if we don’t control these things, we don’t do something, it get tail be toe wrong. It doesn’t get terribly wrong. You let go a little bit, and then when there’s something you can do when the water buffalo stops, then you can bring it in again. You’ve got to wait to when you are possible to act so this is actually why we have lots of mental suffering in the world what is actually the biggest parts of mental suffering? What we got grief. I talked about grief last week. It’s a city of mental suffering because you can’t can’t stop do anything about it. The person’s died and gone. You can’t actually run after them before them back again. Not like water buffalo. It’s gone. You can’t do anything about it. And it’s just our conditioning which makes us have grief. I did a funeral last yesterday. Yesterday morning, thursday morning I did a joint Christian Buddhist funeral. I love doing these joint funerals. I do my few words and then the priest comes along and does a bit but it was hard for me because I was trying to cheer everyone up. The priest was just making one miserable again, basically. So, so hard. And it’s just our conditioning, some sort of some ways of presenting religion. We actually encourage people to grieve. We encourage people to have mental sufferings if you’re supposed to suffer when somebody dies and because people get that in their brains when they’re very young, they do suffer when somebody dies. The point is, you don’t have to. There’s another way around it. And if we can only condition people, especially the young people who so I’ve still got an open mind to such things as death, we can actually condition them. You don’t have to have mental suffering when somebody dies. Celebrate their life. What a wonderful concert that was. How wonderful it was to have known you. Isn’t that wonderful? When we see somebody off after a beautiful visit are. They visited our lives for those many years. Now we’re seeing them off at the airport. It’s great, wonderful visit, thank you for coming. And then you let them go and then somebody else comes to visit afterwards. This is our life. And when we actually realize it’s not a problem because we can’t change it, there’s nothing, it’s not got a solution, accept solution inside of us to let go and accept and free the person. This last words I said at the funeral, which I say very often, there’s two types of love. There’s a love which frees the other person and there’s a love which attaches, which clings onto them and controls them. Know what controlling love is? Because sometimes you have that in your relationships. Husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, controlling. But these you should control your mobile phones anyway, so let them go, throw them out. And you know, being on the receiving end of a controller and controlling relationship. And it can’t last very long. The best type of relationships, the best types of love, and you may have had those relationships when it’s a freeing love, that love, you know the words, the door of my heart surpass you no matter what you ever do. That’s a freeing love. And that’s where growth happens. And people love that sort of freeing love. And that’s the of same freeing love, of no controlling, which is the antidote to mental suffering, to be able to say to life, life the door of my heart’s open to you no matter what you ever do. It’s loving life rather than hating life. It’s just a change of attitude, that’s all, which stops the mental suffering. So it’s accepting like life as is like being part for the course. When I was a school teacher, I was a young school teacher, only 23 when I or 22, when I started teaching at school, it was so hard for me to discipline the kids because I used to do the same thing they did only a couple of years earlier. I knew all the tricks and I could see them, see what they were doing. And I couldn’t bring myself to discipline the kids because I felt just a big hypocrite. All you parents can’t even remember what you were like as kids. Why try and discipline your kids when you did the same or probably worse? And in fact, if you really want the kids to grow sometimes, give them understanding. Give them the benefit of the other experience, but allow them to experience it themselves. It’s the only way we learn. Instead of trying to control, love should free the other person. And also, instead of controlling the world, love should free the world. Free the world. Which means that this is the way the world is. We have the storms and we have the beautiful days. Now we have the happy moments in our life. We have the unhappy moments in our life. In fact, we wouldn’t appreciate at the happy moments. We didn’t have the unhappy moments. In Christian theology they used to say that in heaven, once a year you go to visit hell. Otherwise you would not appreciate what heaven was like. If you just had happiness, happiness, happiness every day, after a hundred years you’d take it for granted. You wouldn’t realize it and appreciate it anymore. That’s why it’s good to have at least one day a year of suffering so you can really appreciate what heaven is really about. How many of you take your happiness for granted? Sometimes suffering is what gives has an understanding of the importance of happiness and what happiness truly is. This is why suffering has a part of life. I’m talking about physical suffering. When we accept this, we accept the world doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. When we stop trying to control, then we find a heap of mental suffering just disappears. We don’t try and control our body. Sometimes it gets painful. We want it to get healthy again. If you more you try and control, the more mental pain you have. I think brings to mind that story which was again one of the crucial stories of my monastic life when I had a terrible toothache at night. This toothache was driving me insane. It was so strong I couldn’t stand the pain. I was in a monastery in northeast Thailand where there was no doctors. There was no dentists for miles around in those days. And those dentists which were in the town nearby, they were very dangerous to go to and not recommended. They’re more like vets and dentists where they pull things out all the time. But anyhow, there was no dentists around. There’s no painkillers around and there’s nobody to cry to and say I’m hurting. There’s no email, no telephone, no nothing. There remote part of Northeast Thailand 30 Years Ago so I had a terrible toothache and I tried to meditate on my breath. Couldn’t do it. I was so restless. I couldn’t get away from the pain. There’s no way you could sleep because the pain was just throbbing. The whole jaw was on fire. It was the worst toothache I’ve ever had. So I decided I couldn’t sit meditation. I decided to try and do walking meditation. The walking meditation we do. I had to stop that because I was doing running meditation. I was in agony. And that s all you can do. You can’t do things slowly when you re in agony. So I went up to my hut in the middle of the jungle late at night. It always gets worse late at night. The only thing I could think of doing is doing chanting. Remember, I was a theoretical physicist before I became a Buddhist because I liked the meditation, some of all the other sort of magical stuff I didn’t believe in at all. I was a cynic. Now I believe. Now I’ve seen it in some of it works, but in those days I didn’t believe in it at all. That was just the old traditions. And I was supposed to be a modern Buddhist. So I tried doing the chanting. I was desperate and I had to stop doing the chanting, trying to magic away my pain. The reason was because I was shouting at the top of my voice, the chanting. I was that much in pain. I was desperate again. But the point was that after doing all those little bits and pieces, trying to get rid of the pain, I came to the amazing brick wall, which sometimes mental suffering takes you to. The place where you can’t stand it any longer. Have you been to those places? The pain is just too great. You can’t stand it any longer and I’ve exhausted all the possibilities, which I knew. Nothing worked there’s. What Adjan Charles said it’s a beautiful time of your life when, the way he put it, you can’t go forward, you can’t go backwards and you can’t stand still. Fortunately, though, I was a monk and I’d heard teachings of Buddhism. They were only on the surface. They hadn’t really gone deeply yet. Like many of you, you can come listen to these talks week in, week out. You can read it in the books, you can listen to it on the CDs, on the Internet is only superficial until one day you remember a little part of the teaching. It sinks in and it does its work. That’s what it did that evening in Thailand many years ago. The words I remember were just let go. Two words which you’ve heard many times yourself, and that was probably the first time I did let go. I let go of controlling and trying to get rid of the pain. An amazing thing happened which I’ll always remember for the rest of my life. As soon as I let go, and I meant really let go, the pain vanished immediately. Lee it was replaced with bliss. One moment you were just out of your mind in agony, the next moment, just waves of bliss and ecstasy just running through your body and mind. Oh, so good. And the only thing I could think of doing was just crossing my legs and meditating and meditated just so peacefully. No effort at all. Just the mind was just so still and so joyful. And then maybe about 02:00, I think it was, I laid down because you’re supposed to get up at 03:00 to do the chanting in these monasteries in Thailand. Laid down, just have a bit of a sleep. About half an hour, 45 minutes. Just so peaceful. I woke up before the bell. A quarter to three brightest the button just went to meditate. It’s amazing just how all that physical pain and suffering just disappeared. I realized that there was two parts to that suffering of a toothache of mine the physical part and the mental part. There was the mental suffering which I dealt with the I don’t want this. This is horrible. I’ve got to escape from this. I’ve got to find some way of overcome this pain. It was all control, trying to get rid of things. When I’ve taught that to people, they still haven’t understood, they go with their pain, with their aches, and say, let go. Let go. Why haven’t you gone yet? They’re letting go to try and get rid of something that’s not letting go, that’s doing business. Letting go means pain. The door of my heart’s open to you. Whether you will stay here for my whole life, whether you get worse, I’m at peace with. That’s what letting go means. Not trying to get rid of it, not trying to escape from it, not trying to go somewhere where that pain isn’t, but fully accepting it and being with it, realizing that it hasn’t got a solution, therefore, it’s not a problem. I’d accept it. I’ll be with it. I’ll bring it into my life and make friends with it. That’s where the mental suffering ends. What do we mean by letting go? It’s a hard thing to do, to press that letting go button, which is why we teach Budhist meditation to trade in letting go. You’re sitting here and do you have mental suffering? When you meditate, you think you’re sitting there. I can’t meditate. I tried the breath. It that work. I tried watching the present moment. It doesn’t work. I tried doing loving kindness. It doesn’t work. Maybe I should go somewhere else. Look, the reason why it doesn’t work, if it hasn’t worked yet, is because you are trying. You’re controlling. You’re trying to make things different. Last Tuesday at our Armadale group, I was so tired. I’ve been working all day really hard. I should be working for the last month, maybe 30 years, really hard. I work seven days a week. On the weekend, you work here. On the weekdays, you work down the monastery. I do two jobs. Actually, more than two jobs. When I go to Singapore, I work down there like a dog when I go up to Thailand and just work really hard over there. So sometimes you get really, really tired. I was really, really tired that night, and I had to go give a talk to the group at Armadale. Just after giving a little bit of an introduction, I sat down there and did my meditation. I did nothing for half an hour. I was so blissful, just doing nothing, just going to wonderful, deep meditation. Just so happy, and came out and gave a nice talk afterwards. The reason was because for half an hour, I’d done nothing, and. Really let go. Not controlling. The reason why I teach this way of meditation about these stages present moment awareness, silence, watching the breath, getting to bliss states because that’s the nature of what happens when you let go. However, if you try and make those stages happening happen, that’s when you get into trouble because you’re not really letting go. You’re more controlling thing. I’ve got to be in the present moment. I’ve got to be in the present moment. Have you noticed that? That’s planning the future. I’ve got to be in the present moment. Be quiet. There you’ve spoke the silence. You’ve done it again. That old joke about those four monks. Four monks making a vow of silence. One monk sneezed and the first monk said, Bless you. The second monk says, You’ve broken your vow of silence. The third monk said, So have you? The fourth monk said, I’m glad I’m the only one here who can keep my vows. They all bloke their vows. It’s so hard to keep silent because we keep telling ourselves to be silent. You can’t be silent by telling yourself to be silent because that’s not being silent. You can’t say shut up because then you’re not shutting up. You’re talking again. Now you understand what goes on in your mind here. Control, control, control. That’s not letting go. That s why it’s a hard thing to learn meditation because it goes against the stream of the world which is controlling and doing, which causes mental suffering. Sometimes you think you’re going crazy. When somebody comes up to me and says, I think they’re going crazy and mad, the usual answer is say, what’s wrong with being crazy? What’s wrong with being mad? Join the club. As soon as you say that, they stop trying to control their mind and they don’t get crazy anymore. They relax and let go and have a peace with themselves. People are in grief. What’s wrong with being in grief? They don’t add to the grief. You see? Sick. What’s wrong with being sick? You’ve heard me say this before. Sickness is normal. Sickness is usual. If there was somebody in here who was never sick, that would be really weird. But. What do you call them? You call them mutants. I’ve been reading newspaper about X Men. Everyone gets sick. So it’s usual to be sick. It’s normal to be sick. So how can you say there’s something wrong with you when you’re sick? As a Buddhist, as a wise person, if you go to the doctor with an album, you should say, doctor, there’s something right with me again, I’m sick. Do you get the point? Because we say there’s something wrong with sickness, because we say there’s something wrong with grief. We can say there’s something wrong with this and wrong with that. We try and control the world and that’s where we get suffering, mental suffering. Trying to change something which we can’t change, making a problem as something which is beyond us, which really hasn’t got a solution, which is not really a problem at all. This is where we call letting go. When it’s something to do, we get everything we’ve got. When there’s nothing we can do, we just let go and. I’ve given up trying to control my monastery, the serpentine. It’s beyond my control. I controlled it a little bit, but not very much. They asked the monks, they called me a soft abbot. And the reason is because I enjoy my own sort of letting go, rather than trying to control things. If you’re a control freak, you just create more suffering. If you’re a letting go freak, create trust. The trust is understanding. You don’t need to control your kids, your wife, your husband, you don’t even need to control yourself. You can trust. So we give that trust, that confidence and faith into others instead of controlling them. And you find they do much better, they work much hard, other, they fulfill themselves much more, because they’re not acting out of this trying to fulfill somebody else’s desires and ideals. They’re not trying to work under this terrible way of being controlled. This is like the flower, the tree which has got this forced fertilizer. They never grow as well as beautiful as when they’re growing naturally, freely. Kids will grow much better if you don’t try and force feed them with this no fertilizer of your will. Instead you give them love, the freedom, the kindness, us as you grow much more if you give yourself that freedom, that kindness, that forgiveness, basically to be yourselves and respect each other for being yourselves. Someone was talking today about the weeds in the garden. Why do we so negative and call these things weeds? I call flowers flowers. I call weeds natives. Both are welcome. So why are they always so so judgmental about the weeds in ourselves? Sometimes we say they’re weeds. They’re little quirks of character. All the city jokes, which I say I worked out actually why I say silly jokes. I gave a talk at this at my monastery many years ago and somebody recorded it and they gave it the title why ajam. Brahm says it tells terrible jokes. And the reason is because my my father told terrible jokes and he gave me those genes. It’s in my genes that tell silly jokes. I can’t really can’t really help it. Genetically programmed. So you’re genetically programmed to get sick. Your children are genetically programmed to get sort of really hard to cope with in their teens. You can’t really stop that, can you? You can guide it a little bit, but most of the time you can’t do anything about it. So why not let go of those things which you can’t control? You? When the Buddha enlightened his first five disciples, this is the deep stuff. Now, he gave the talk called the Anata lakhanasuta, the second sermon of the Buddha. And that was where his first five disciples changed from being stream winners, the first stage of enlightenment, to being fully enlightened the first five Arahuts in the world. Next. The Buddha. He’s talked about that which makes up the human being, the five candidates of the physical body, feeling, perception, mental formation, such as thought and will and consciousness itself. He says, these things are not yours. They’re beyond your control. And. Your body is beyond your control. If it was yours, you’d be able to control it and say, be healthy, be fit, be beautiful, be strong. You can’t do that. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible. Therefore, it’s not yours. It belongs to nature. So don’t try and control it. Let go. It your feelings. The happiness, the pain, the beauty, the ugliness nice feelings in the body, unpleasant feelings in the body. All those feelings the Buddha said, are not yours. If they were yours, you’d be able to control it. Only happiness. Please, no suffering. Can you do that? Can anyone do that? You can’t. That’s why there’s this beautiful saying of the enlightened person happiness at last or Sorry. Joy at last. Joy at last. To know there’s no happiness in the world. Do you understand? Joy at last to know there’s no happiness in the world? So I don’t have to try anymore to be happy? Are you trying to be happy? Struggling for happiness? Trying to run away from pain? Joy at last to know I can’t do that anymore. And that’s happiness? Understanding that this feelings the body beyond your control. You let go now you’re happy. Now you’re sad. Now I’m happy again. Now I’m sad. Now it’s night, now it’s day. Now it’s winter. Now it’s summer. Now. Monks giving a talk. Now. Sister’s giving a talk. Now. Someone else is giving a talk. Now no one’s giving a talk. That’s life. So we let go of what we can’t control perception. So where we look at things beyond our control it’s thought and will. It’s not ours. Beyond our control. Why even try and control? I gave a simile of the driverless Buz many years ago. It’s one of my best similes. It’s as if. Mental suffering is like this. You’re being driven in a bus. Sometimes you go through this very unpleasant territory. You go through toxic waste, dumps so hard to see and through fields of dung and manure just so offensive on the nose. And you just want to get out of there as soon as possible. So you tell the coach driver, the bus driver, speed up. Get out of here as soon as possible. This is unpleasant. Sometimes a bus driver speeds up. Often it doesn’t take any notice and sometimes even goes slower. So you have to endure the pain even longer than you should. Other times the bus goes through this beautiful scenery, beautiful rolling hills and waterfalls and beautiful foliage. Oh, this is beautiful. Lovely. Please slow down. Even stop. You tell the bus driver, what does the bus driver do? Speed up. Well, sometimes he slows down a lot of times and take any notice of you. And because this bus drive is out of control, he. Because it doesn’t do what you tell him to do. You really want to find out who this buz driver is? You know, in this simulator, the buz driver is called Will Choice. The source of controlling your life is like the journey in the bus. Why is it we get suffering and it lasts too long? It shouldn’t last this long. Why is when I get some happiness, it goes too quickly? Buz driver, slow down. I’m going to enjoy this. I’m having a good time. This is fun. Why is it that you try and extend your moments of happiness and very often they are much shorter than they should be? Why is it you try and get out of suffering in life and it just lasts longer than it should? You want to soar out this person inside of you called the bus driver, the one in control of you, the soul, the self, the one in charge. And so the spiritual life is finding where that one in charge lives, finding the bus driver’s seat and. Of you. And eventually, through lots of meditation, through lots of reflection, lots of practice, you finally find the buz driver’s seat. The center of you, the source of all doing. The controller, the one in charge. When you’ve come to that bus driver’s seat, there you get the shock of your existence. Not of one life, but of many lives, because you find that bus driver’s seat is empty. There’s no one sitting in there. When you find that out, you go back to your seat and you shut up and stop complaining. How can you complain to anybody when there’s no one in there? Nice terror tree, unpleasant territory. Who cares? There’s no one to complain to anymore. That’s where controlling stops. You realize you can’t it’s a waste of time. Complete illusion. And with that all mental suffering stops. Nice territory par for the course. Unpleasant territory, par for the course. What do you expect from this life? To expect it to be perfect temperature all the time? Do you expect it to be getting married to things? Honeymoon for 30 40 years? What do you expect? Come on, get real. What do you expect having kids? Do you expect your kids are going to be angels? You decide to have kids. It’s your fault, your karma. We park you result of your karma. So don’t complain. You decided to get married, didn’t you? So don’t come to the mics and say oh, my wife is like this. My wife is like that. It’s not my fault. I didn’t tell you to get married. Actually, I tell you not to get married. Come become a monkey and that’s what I tell you. And you can’t complain to me about your marriage problems. That’s unfair. Now you’re all fine. So this is part of the course. So when we stop complaining. That’s when we stop suffering, we stop controlling. We let go. The more you can let go, the more you can stop complaining, the more you can start loving life rather than hating it all of life. The more peace you can get with this world, the less mental suffering you have. This is the way to overcome mental suffering until it overcomes completely realizing even this consciousness of ours is not mine. Not mine to control. It’s not my business anymore. I’m not going to control my wife, my husband, my children. I’m not going to control my monks. I’m not even going to control myself. I’m going to let go. Abandoning. Letting go. Renouncing. When you’re not controlled anymore, you’re free. What is a prison like? Have you been to prison or visited prison? There’s so many rules, so many controllers called the Warders. It’s controlling, controlling, controlling, control. That’s what makes a prison. When you let go, it makes freedom. So which one do you want freedom from? Mental suffering or controlling? There. It s up to you. So this is actually what mental suffering is all about. It was great seeing people who were free from mental suffering. Those great monks I lived with when I was young in Thailand, it they never controlled you. It was great being with them. They were supposed to be these powerful monks, but they would hardly ever tell you what to do. When you did something wrong, they wouldn’t punish you, they just laugh. They thought it was so funny. When you did something stupid, you weren’t controlled, you were encouraged. And giving freedom to grow nurtured encouraged praise when you did something well, just they thought it was so funny when you made mistakes, but you weren’t punished at all. That was a way of love. You wanted to live up to such great teachers, not because they were trying to control you, because you wanted to be in the same realm of happiness that they were in. It’s called letting go. It’s called freedom. It’s called non control. And it’s the end of mental suffering. Every time you’d be happy inside, have you been controlling or have you been letting go? The moments in your life when you felt spiritually free. What’s been happening? Has the world around you been perfect? Or is it just? You’ve stopped trying to make it perfect. You’ve accepted it as it is. You’ve let it go. That’s where you find the freedom, the peace, the end of mental suffering. So we meditate to train our minds to understand the end of mental suffering. The peace, the freedom, the bliss in the mind. Because when mental suffering ends, it’s replaced by mental bliss. The more you let go Earth, the more bliss you experienced. Not only in your meditation, but in your life. Because Buddhist monks and nuns in particular, understand how to overcome mental suffering. That s why we have a lot of mental happiness. As I said two weeks ago, that has been proven now in the University of Wisconsin showed that Buddhist monks are the happiest people in the whole world. That went right off the scale of the happiness meter. It was actually reported in New Scientists, wasn’t it? New Scientists. So is there proven? So you know mental suffering when you know the ending of it and that’s how you end it? So there you go. That’s mental suffering and its end. So hope you all understand that. Let go of mental suffering and have a good time. So there’s any questions, comments or complaints about mental suffering at its end? Mental bliss. Yeah. And what about people that can’t meditate? For example, someone with disability, people who say can’t meditate with a neurological disability? Sometimes I must admit that I’ve got not too much experience as a monk the with such people, although as a student, I used to go and visit people with mental disability once a week. And I must admit that sometimes it’s a bit difficult to say they can’t meditate. Maybe they can meditate in different ways. Maybe just you have to use different techniques, different methods, because people have been able to teach children how to meditate. And in a sense, especially with the philosopher Peter Singer, that children, in a sense, have got mental was it disability? The mental powers haven’t really developed yet when they’re very, very young. And that’s why sometimes people with mental disabilities, we say that they’ve got the mental age of a three year old or four year old, but we can actually teach children how to meditate. And we should maybe try those same methods for teaching people with mental disabilities how to meditate. Simple methods. I’m encouraging people to let go, kids to let go. Sometimes a lot of children actually meditate in invitation of their parents. Many people have told me this. They’ve been meditating in their home and their kids come and sit next to them. They just sit there. You don’t teach a kid how to meditate. They learn how to meditate just by following almost intuitively what their parents are doing and the parents are letting go. The child will let go. Maybe we can teach them just by example. I always like to push boundaries. Say these people can’t do it. They can’t do it. But why not? Maybe they can. Maybe their mental disabilities not being able to think too much might be a great advantage for them. But so let’s turn our disabilities into our advantage. I know it’s worthwhile trying to find out whether it’s possible or not. I don’t like to prejudge and say you can’t do it. Give it a go. Does that make sense? Yes. In the back? Yeah. Becoming true. If you got lots of mental suffering, the body usually follows afterwards and gets into suffering. That’s why a lot of physical problems come from mental suffering, from what we call mental stress, just the struggle to control everything in life. The body sort of wears out after a while and just the lack of happiness in the mind. Everyone knows that if you got lack of happiness in the mind, just so you haven’t got enough endorphins and nature’s painkillers, which always comes when you’re happy in the body. There’s so many stress chemicals get released into your body when you’re angry and upset, which actually basically kill you slowly. So when you got a good mental state, the physical state usually is very healthy. As people are so concerned about their health, but what they do is actually they forget that to look after their mental health much more important than what you eat, is what you think and how you think and how you look at the world. So, yes, certainly mental suffering is a forerunner of physical suffering. And the opposite of that, the mental health, is the therefore run the physical health. That’s why many people come to these places actually to become physically healthy. We get referrals from people who’ve got high blood pressure, people who got cancer. Yet you cure their cancer through meditation. Really what they’re doing is they’re just changing their mental state to a very positive mental state of happiness and well being. And the point is, it doesn’t really matter what’s on the outside, it’s actually what’s on the inside. And which is most important, how we can let go and allow things to be and not make problems out of things which we can’t change. It may have been abused as a kid, sexually abused. Can you change that? You can change your mental attitude towards it. Allow it to be. And don’t feel so guilty and get into all this bad conditioning about it. Learn from it and turn it to your advantage. This is why disadvantaged children, they can always use those disadvantages for their advantage. Turn it around. And so the point is, we get conditioned into thinking this terrible thing happened to me, therefore I must suffer. Therefore I must have this problem, that problem. We buy into it. We don’t have to. We can forgive, we can let go. The mental happiness which comes the mental freedom will make the physical freedom happen. It’s not your own physical freedom. You finding out relationships with other people with ease because you’re a happy person. And when you can love yourself with freedom, say to yourself, the door of my heart’s open to me. No matter who I am, no matter what happened to me. That’s the end of mental suffering. It means your body will be free and you’ll be able to give that same freedom to other people. So I can love you no boyfriend, no matter who you are, no matter what you do. And that way you have great relationships. A love which frees, it creates physical happiness. When you have mental happiness. So the opposite, it works as well. So much physical suffering comes from mental suffering. Even when I was a student, I remember this I was studying one day, I had a terrible, terrible cold. I was in bed. I couldn’t go to class that day. And I was staying in bed in this old house which a group of students had feeling really horrible. My eyes were just streaming. My nose was always I couldn’t even go to sleep because always blowing your nose every 10 seconds. I felt really terrible. There was a knock on the door and I just wish they’d go away. And they kept on knocking. So I dragged myself out of the bed and answered the door. There’s a delivery man. He was delivering my hi fi system. And I was really interested. I was glad I went to the door even though I felt terrible. I took delivery, I took it out to my room and I put it all together. And this was true story. By the time I put my first album on, I noticed my cold had gone. It wasn t just mental because I was actually physically eyestreaming, nose, blowing, it had gone, it disappeared. It and just the happiness, the excitement of getting my hi fi system, having some good music just got rid of all of the cold. It was an extreme example, extreme example how happiness and good mental attitude would actually overcame the physical suffering completely. And it abolished it. You can’t do that on purpose. If you say, I’m going to be happy to get rid of my cold again, it’s controlling again. So we can’t change, please. Let go. Yeah. How do we go about. Yeah. Www dot BSWA, was it? Sorry, the important word is BSWA. Buddhist society. West Australia. That’s the important one. O-R-G it. And it’s all free because it’s not free, it’s priceless is what you should say, which is very, very good. So if you can’t come here, you can always listen to it on the Internet, especially if it’s a cold, miserable day. You can always stay at home and log in at home. So it’s on the on the audio streaming. So there we go. Thank you for coming. And hopefully you have no mental suffering. And if you really don’t have mental suffering, you wouldn’t need to come here again. You wouldn’t even need to turn on the internet. You’d be free. So may you all be free and happy and.

Creating Strong, Supportive Buddhist Communities – NeeWern Khoo

Treasure Mountain Podcast
Treasure Mountain Podcast
Creating Strong, Supportive Buddhist Communities - NeeWern Khoo

In this episode I wanted to talk about the importance of community when it comes to both finding the Path of Practice, but also in terms of having the support to stick with it and to grow with it. I’ve been practicing Buddhism for thirty years and I have a lot of contacts in Western Buddhist groups. And whilst these groups and these individuals are doing amazing work to establish the Buddha Sasana in the West, no group that I’ve seen has really got the amount of social coordination and support as groups in traditional Buddhist communities in the East.

So for this episode I’ve invited NeeWern Khoo who has been involved with the Buddhist Gem Fellowship in Malaysia for many years, and more recently with the Centre for Research and Dhamma Leadership Enhancement.

NeeWern first encountered Buddhism in his early teens whilst reading about the Life of the Buddha in a bookstore. His interest led him to join the Subang Jaya Buddhist Association, and subsequently played a pioneering role in the setting up of the Youth Section of the SJBA. He has participated in and taken the lead in various Buddhist youth programmes and is a past Chairman of the Inter-College and Varsity Camp by the Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGF). He was also a committee member of the BGF in charge of the Learning & Development portfolio.

NeeWern is currently Head of Dhamma Leadership Development under the Centre for Research and Dhamma Leadership Enhancement (CRADLE for short) which aims to bring transformation to the Buddhist community through developing and enhancing Buddhist leadership. As you can see NeeWern has decades of experience in terms of being involved in and supporting Buddhist communities in Malaysia. So join us as we learn about creating and sustaining strong, supportive Buddhist communities.

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Thank you for listening to the Treasure Mountain Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode please share it with you friends. If you’d like to support me to produce this type of content in future, you can support my work by offering a tip via the Ko-fi payment applet or via my Patreon.

NeeWern Khoo
Robot Generated Transcription
Welcome to Treasure Mountain, the podcast that inspires and guides us to find the treasure within human experience. I’m your host. Sol hannah in this episode, I wanted to talk about the importance of community when it comes to both finding the path of practice, but also in terms of having the support to stick with it and to grow with it. I’ve been practicing Buddhism for 30 years, and I have had a lot of contacts in Western Buddhist groups. And whilst these groups and these individuals are doing amazing work to establish the Buddhist Asana in the west, no group that I’ve seen has really got the amount of social coordination and support as groups in traditional Buddhist communities in the east. So for this episode, I’ve invited NeeWern Khoo, who has been involved with the Buddhist Gem Fellowship in Malaysia for many years, and more recently with the center for Research and Dhamma Leadership Enhancement. NeeWern first encountered Buddhism in his early teens whilst reading about the life of the Buddha in a bookstore. His interest led him to join the Subangjaya Buddhist Association and subsequently played a pioneering role in setting up the youth section of the SGBA. He has participated in and taken the lead in various Buddhist youth programs and is a past chairman of the Inter College and Varsity Camp of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship, the BGF. He was also a committee member of the BGF in charge of the Learning and Development Portfolio, and we’ll be learning more about the BGF in this interview. NeeWern is currently the head of Dhamma Leadership Development under the center for Research and Dhamma Leadership Enhancement, or Cradle for Short, and this aims to bring transformation to Buddhist community through developing and enhancing Buddhist leadership. And as you can see, NeeWern has decades of experience in terms of being involved in and supporting Buddhist communities in Malaysia. So join us as we learn about creating and sustaining strong, supportive Buddhist communities.
You. Welcome to Treasure Mountain Podcast. N
ern, how are you today?
I’m good, Saul. Thank you for having me. It’s privilege and honor to be on your show here. We’re
so pleased that you’ve taken the time to join us, and I’m really looking forward to finding out what you know about building strong Buddhist communities. Look, I’m glad that you’ve joined us today because I think the Buddhist communities in Malaysia, in my experience, are a great example of how a thriving community can support people at different stages of life and to support people to engage more deeply with the practice of the Eightfold Path. You’ve been a member of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship in Malaysia for many years now. Could you give us an overview of the kinds of services, activities, and resources that the BGF offers its community?
Yeah, thanks for that recognition. I think you’re right to say in Malaysia, we organize, or rather Buddhist groups are organized in a very community kind of approach. We tend to be very social in the way we organize our activities, not just one organization, but I think most organizations in our country, in my country at least, organize it in a very community based approach. I’m not sure about the west. I’ve not been direct contact with the Western Buddhist that much. But here we do a lot of community activities. So, for example, we tend to focus a lot more on, say, coming together on a Sunday for what we call a puja service. And everybody do will come and participate, and we’ll be very happy to participate in a very elaborate, perhaps chanting of the various chantings. And then we will probably have some Dharma talks, and we’ll probably end with some good Dhana or offering food, offering to the monks, and then we will eat, and then we’ll disperse, and we’ll keep repeating those things. So my little involvement in the Buddhist Gem Fellowship and other societies in general has been a lot more focused on reaching out to the community to make sure that we bring them in, and then we give them the Dharma, and then they will then go back, and hopefully there’s some takeaway for them in their daily practice. So, yes, that’s in general how we organize ourselves.
Now, I know that Buddhist organizations in the west are usually fairly basic because often they’re quite new. They may or may not support resident sangha. They offer a place where people can hear teachings and learn about meditation, which, of course, is fantastic. But the Buddhist Gem Fellowship offers groups that cater to community members at different stages of life. And I note that you’ve been involved, particularly in youth groups in the past. Could you explain a bit more about that approach which targets different stages of life or different stages in society?
Yeah, sure. I think in Malaysia, one of the things that we well, to give you a bit of context, the Malaysian Buddhists are largely Chinese, or Malaysian Chinese. Because of our heritage, we brought with our forefathers, brought with them the whole Chinese culture, which includes Buddhism, is one of them. And so when we bring ourself and also our families to, say, a Buddhist temple, we tend to bring the entire family. So normally, most centers would try to cater for different age groups. Like, for example, if you’re a parent, then you will have activities for those parents. If you are working adult, your activities for the working adults. If you are children, then we have the Dharma schools, which is quite a big thing here, because we do have parents who actually send their children to the center for Dharma education. And then you do have activities cater for retirees. So you can see that most societies, or Buddhist societies, are organized to cater for different levels of the community, and that includes also catering for visiting monks or monastics. So you would find that most Buddhist centers here, the way we built them, is that if we have the space, we will normally in most cases, you reserve at least one or two rooms for monastics. So any visiting monks, that will be for them, and nobody’s allowed to go in there to use their things. So that’s how we organize ourselves. It’s a very traditional kind of spirit, but in a very Malaysian way as well, because one of the things that we have in Malaysia, very unique is we somehow are very comfortable with all different Buddhist traditions from the various lineages. We have the Burmese tradition, we have the Sri Lankan tradition. We have the Thai tradition. We also have the Chinese traditions that are very much ingrained in our society itself. So you can see that that’s the kind of variety we have in our country already. We are already a multiracial, multireligious country. And even among the Buddhists, we also have this multi traditions and different kinds of so we do cater for different communities in general. Yes, I
think just a bit of a side point. But I do think that’s an important point to mention is that Malaysia is such a crossroads geographically and culturally and I really feel that the BGF in particular was able to take on board teachings from Burma and Thailand and Sri Lanka and and to have different visiting teachers and then also even to the. Influences from Mahayana and so forth. There’s much more openness there. And that really has come across, I feel, in some of the work you’ve done in free distribution books and those kinds of things. Did you want to elaborate upon that a little bit more?
Yeah, sure. Well, the Buddhist Gem Fellowship was one of the early societies that were quite focused on dharma out each, and they took a very early position to be non sectarian, meaning that it didn’t have to be bound to any traditions. Like, if you were to have a very traditional temple, per se, it could be a Thai temple, Burmese temple, or Sri Lankan temple. Usually there is a lot of traditions attached to those. There’s a traditional identity attached to it. But I think when we organized the Buddhist Gem Fellowship or other my predecessors, I mean, the seniors who organized themselves, they decided upfront that it was non sectarian. So, yes, they welcomed teachers from Mahayana. I think I did remember one of those years, the Plum Village monastics came, and we organized a retreat, and they would hear, and we did that. We also had monastics from Tibet, the Llamas, and then the Zen tradition, the Koreans as well as the Chinese, and then we had also the various Terravada groups as well. So from the very beginning, we took a very non sectarian position. So that actually helped to have a wide reach, especially for people who didn’t want to be too bound by a certain tradition. So, by and large, we actually catered a lot more for those who are professionals who wanted maybe Buddhism to be more accessible rather than the usual following the traditional approach. So that was a fortunate thing for us, I would say.
It’s an interesting mismatch of things insofar as you’ve got that openness and that kind of in terms of how open the world is. I mean, Malaysia is right there at the forefront of that, of globalization. And of course, as I say, because it’s a largely English speaking community, you’ve done all this translation work and put all these teachings, which are available now in other English speaking countries, which has been fantastic. But at the same time, you’ve still got those traditions. When I go to Malaysia, I’ve really felt like there’s a very strong Buddhist traditions there at the same time. And I did want to step back a little bit because I wanted to talk about those groups. What do you know of in terms of could you give us a little idea of what would happen at a Dharmer school for children that’s different for a youth group, which is like, I guess, just out of high school? Into the university years. What kind of ways would you cater for those different groups, those different age groups,
for example? Yeah, well, I think there are two things here. On one hand, we have the various traditions. That means in general, most Malaysians I would say in general there are exceptions, but in general, most Malaysians are quite comfortable with the different traditions. I don’t think we have much problems assimilating ourselves quite flexible in that sense. There is a preference for a southern tradition, though. So somehow it happened that somehow, rather, the English speaking Chinese communities in Malaysia tend towards the Terravada, the Pali traditions, whereas the Chinese speaking have a tendency to be on the Mahayana. That seems to be a very peculiar kind of, I would say evolution. So I can only say that my involvement a lot more from the English speaking side. And therefore, when they organize, let’s say, Dharma school and children come on a Sunday, just like going to a Sunday school, and they will learn and they will have probably a syllabus or rather kind of a session guide, I would say that they were probably taken from some tradition somewhere. So usually our references are largely Terravada, mainly. And then, of course, they will learn the basic things such as the seala and then do some Dhana and all the various values. And they learn that when the children graduate, after they finish maybe completed the high school, they will probably go to college universities. And then you need to establish them differently. And that’s the challenge because for youths, they want to have their own identity and therefore youth sections or youth groups are organized quite differently. They don’t necessarily learn Dharma the same way as the children will learn. And so we do have to cater very differently. Very interesting is that for the youth sections, they like to organize it themselves, so they like to have more independence. They want to do with things their way. And therefore many of the activities have to be catered to whatever they want to do. Yeah.
Mmhmm. And you mentioned also that there is some support for retirees. Do you know anything about the work that’s being done there? Because often that’s a big issue in the west is people get to retirement age and they become quite lonely. It’s really good that you’ve actually got something to activities to support people of
that age. Yeah, some centers do cater for that age group retirees, especially when they have large population there. So my center that I live nearby, Subanjaya Buddhist Association, they do classes like Chicong, they have ping pong, very social activities. They do have, say, calligraphy classes and line dancing. And some of them even volunteer to do traditional Thai Chinese medicine. So some centers do function like a community center catered for the retirees that are maybe members of that Buddhist society. Normally they offer this for free so that people can come and be part of that community. So it’s not unusual to find that even a lot of these places do cater for such things. If the population is quite they have a large retiree population there, although at the same time, they do try to offer some dharma talks and some dharma sharing. But by and large, the retirees do come because you do offer those services for them.
Right now it seems to me that there’s an emphasis on engaging people. Does this kind of translate into also, like, for instance, getting people to practice more assiduously, like going on a meditation retreat or something and or does it lead them to doing volunteer work we mentioned, like doing translations and getting pre publication books or other types of giving? Does that lead to that?
I it’s interesting that you mentioned that because whilst we yes, we engage the community, the people do come and then they do have things they can do, but it depends on the interest level. So I can only say from my own observations that many of them are interested in providing some service of sort. So if you’re a retiree or if you’re belonging to certain interest levels, they like to go into cooking. They like to cook and offer some lunch for devotees, people who come for upusata practice. And then they will just and every Sunday, for example, they will be the one that do the Dhana, do the offering to monks and sing, things like that. And then there will be some people who are very interested in just helping out to clean the center and so on and so forth. I would say there’ll be lesser interest, say, in things like doing I don’t think we do lot of translations that maybe certain groups of people we do have our venerable Agachita, one of our Malaysian local monks who does good talks and then somebody will record and they do some editing as well as transcribing those talks. So there are groups that do that today. So we do cater for people who want to do some voluntary work as well. And I just want to mention the other one is maybe they do Dharma talks. So some of us who have that capacity, they would offer and do some Dharma talks and they get Dhamma learning sessions organized so that you can bring people together. So I think the whole idea is we want people to come we always like to build people to come to the center, to be part of us. And then we want to engage them, we want to get to know them. And then after that we follow up with them and then we engage them in many other activities as well. So that seems to be our pattern. We don’t necessarily want to look at the individuals, but just also as a community. Even if we do long meditation retreats, we have a tendency to organize it for a large
group. How many would often go on a retreat?
That depends on the teacher. Popular, popular teachers like Ajam Brahm, you got to be on the waiting list all the time. You don’t have a space. So you normally have to book Buddhist monastery that it has that space so that people can be there. But there are also some retreats that are maybe lesser. You have lesser crowd, but also well attended by some of the people who want to go for those retreats. So, yes, when we organize retreats, we tend to like to have more people to come on board and be part of those
retreats. Well, we’ve mentioned that the Buddhist TEM Fellowship is located in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, and it’s principally an English speaking community. Now, I want to bring up this question because a lot of the people who are listening, many would have a local temple or a local monk. But there are many people out there online. They don’t have a local temple or a local monastery or a monk or a nun that they can go to. Now, it’s quite interesting that the BGF does tend to invite teachers from across the region. Could you explain how that’s worked, inviting lots of different teachers and what impact having a range of visiting teachers has had on the recent development of Buddhism in Malaysia?
MMM. I think Malaysian Buddhist community also has evolved over the years. I must give credit to our late Dr. K Sri Dhamananda, venerable K Sri Dhamananda who was we fondly remember him as Chief Reverend or the late chief now we call him, and he was a Sri Lankan. He came to Malaysia, Malaya, actually, before independence, before our country’s independence, he was already here. And he was instrumental in bringing the interests of Buddhism to Malaysians in general because I think before him and before some other venerables from the Chinese speaking groups in the early or rather mid 19 hundreds, they didn’t have or rather a lot of Malaysians Buddhists didn’t have that Buddhist literacy, I would call it. We don’t have a lot of knowledge about Buddhism. But along came people like him who brought the Dharma learning to interest to the community. And today, thanks to him, we do have a thriving, at least a knowledgeable and practicing Buddhist community. So if not because of his effort to bring Dhammad to the people in a very practical way, I would say we’ll still be doing the usual rituals go to the temple, put, adjustics bow three times and then we leave the temple. That seems to be what our parents and our grandparents have been teaching us to do all these years. But then we had this resurgence in Buddhist learning interests. So today what we are trying to do is to keep that interest alive. Now, back to your question about the BGF or how they were organizing. They wanted to keep this kind of dharma learning alive. The late chief is no more around, but we now can get different teachers from all over to be giving sessions, teachings and all that and a lot more, I would say. They don’t stay long, but they do give a teaser of what the Dharma is here and there. And then people do pick it up and then they will go back to their respective centers. They will probably practice on their own.
I wanted to ask about in terms of the mechanics of that. So you have a teacher that you’re interested in. It could be in, I don’t know, Sri Lanka or it could be Thailand or it could be. I don’t know, Australia. And then you invite them. Do you have a place where they can stay? And a program of teaching during when they’re there? How does that just work? Just the mechanics of
it? Yeah. So if a monk comes to visit, normally they will have a program. And that program would include either they will organize a retreat or they’ll organize series of Dharma talks, or they will do, say, short engagement sessions. That depends on the monastics preference and also their competency. So if I have, say, Ajam Brahmali, who comes from Perth, and every year, the BGF would organize this Suta retreat, which is very well attended, and then we’ll learn, and then he’ll go and then we will engage other teachers along the way. We don’t have that continuation of, say, dhamma learning in the long term by one teacher. We do have a continuation of Dharma learning by different teachers. So they offer these things, and then it depends on the individuals, practitioners.
That’s just very interesting. I think some people out there, if they’re thinking, like, where can I get a muck? Maybe that’s the first option is to invite them for a weekend or something like that and see if you can support them for that weekend. And that’s always a very good start. Rather than thinking you’ve got to establish a monastery, which is a pretty daunting prospect. Absolutely. Now, the BTF, we’ve mentioned that they have very good social programs. We’ve also mentioned that I guess there’s that traditional sense of respecting the rituals and so forth, forth. Now, in many religious communities, not just Buddhist communities, that’s where things stop. That’s all they focus on, is rituals and socializing. But the BCF has really actively sought to engage people in the practice of Buddhism. How has it done, then, in recent decades?
Yeah. Yes. Again, it’s generalizing. It but I think I do agree that we do have this tendency to lean towards the rituals, the ceremonies and also the festivals and yeah, Dharma practice probably will take a secondary thing. But I think the BGF, because most of the early leaders were students of the late venerable Caseri Dhamananda. And I think the impact he had on the people was that the focus was back to Dharma learning. So when the lay community who now organized the BGF and also other centers today has taken on this kind of direction to say let’s focus a lot more on helping people to learn tama so when we shifted that focus, there’s a little less emphasis on the rituals per se. So the rituals will still be there because we do respect our rituals, we do respect the traditions and the cultural aspect of it. So before any sessions, we always have a pooja. We will never start even a simple meeting before we start a meeting, we will do the usual chanting and then we will end with the traditional pali chanting just to do the aspirations and dedications. But the session itself is a lot more focused on Dharma learning. So there are groups that are today, in fact, thanks to those influences, have today tried to make Dharma learning a lot more the focus rather than the ceremonies by itself. I would say Malaysians in general when it comes to Dharma learning. Maybe it’s not as well attended as you compare to, let’s say you organize those big events. So, for example, if it’s Katina. Katina is a very big event here today. It’s huge. Right. You have people who sponsor the robes and they offer the robes and it’s a massive event every year. So we do love these things at the same time. So we do have a mix of these kinds of very traditional approaches. But at the same time, there are groups, including BGF and many others who will also focus a lot more on deepening our understanding of the Dharma. Yeah,
right. Including could
you a mix of it’s kind of a mixed bag of all these at the same time? It is a
mixed bag, but at the same time, those things are not necessarily. Antagonistic. They can be supportive of one another. And also, I know that you really do emphasize doing meditation a lot as well. That would be a common feature of many of your sessions, would be doing meditation as well, is that right? Yes, there are groups that are quite meditation focused. I wouldn’t say that we’ll do meditation every single session. I think that doesn’t seem to come across. We’ll definitely do a puja, we’ll do a talk, we’ll answer some questions, and we’ll go back. But there are groups that are quite meditation focused, and they do have regular meditation practices as well as maybe meditation retreats. And usually these are the people that are a little bit more focused on doing meditation retreats. So you do have a contrast. There are very much intellectual learners on one hand. On the other hand, you have the meditators. It’s very seldom you find both at the same time.
But if you do it, it’s a blessing.
Yeah. Okay. Now, at the moment, you have become head of Dharma Leadership Development for a new organization that was founded in 2019 that’s called Cradle, the center for Research and Dharma Leadership Enhancement. What is the main aim of Cradle in Malaysia?
Okay. The cradle. The acronym is Cradle. C-R-A-D-L-E-N-S. There’s a d apostrophe in the beginning. So we call D Cradle. The D is just our tribute back to Dhamananda, actually, Venerable Damananda, we pay tribute to him because he is one of the founding fathers of Malaysian missionaries work, malaysian Buddhist missionary work. So we want to dedicate this center to him. The cradle was founded by our DD Dan Hua Chai. Hua Chai is our founding today’s founding director. And the main focus was really one of the gaps. Just to give you the context again, the gaps we notice in the Buddhist community is that we do have a lot of people organizing activities. Various Buddhist centers today are quite active organizing lots of activities. But we do notice that every year the activities just keep repeating themselves. So at the right time, you do the WESA, you do the Katina, you probably do a few other kind of big things, and then you probably do a few other Sanghi Kadana along the way. And that seems to be their main focus. But what we notice is that many Buddhist societies don’t have necessarily a kind of a sense of direction and mission in a way that brings the transformation to the individuals in the community. So we felt that this gap need to be addressed from a leadership perspective. And so the center is set up to enhance the leadership of the Buddhist leaders. So people who come to the programs will be kind of trained and developed in terms of their leadership of the community so that when they go back and lead those communities, maybe with a different sense of focus and mindset, that could be one of the things that we intend to do. So really, it’s all about transforming and taking the Buddhist community to another level. That’s in a nutshell, what we are trying to do.
Right. You’ve got a special program that you mentioned when we were talking prior to the interview to help people in various leadership roles. I mean, they’re already in these roles. And you called this glad. What is glad. Could you tell us about
that? Glad is a program. We call it another acronym. It’s called great leadership. Awakening with Dharma. So it’s a four day leadership program, but this is not a type of leadership program where we talk about how do you delegate, how do you lead, and things like that. This is a very Buddhist one. We try to go back to the Buddha as a source of inspiration, and we try to remind the people who come to this program that the Buddha was a great leader. And so he led this, a multinational national corporation called the Sangha. And he had structures, he had systems, he had direction, he had focus. And so if we take on the Buddha as a great leader, then perhaps we can do what we need to do in the community with that sense of leadership. And therefore, that, in essence, is what glad program is about. And we like the word glad, because glad means gladness of the heart. And a dharma leader, in our opinion, needs to have gladness because often we find that some people who have served in a Buddhist center of Buddhist society for a good number of years, they will have a tendency to have burnout. So they say, okay, I do not want to be the president anymore. Next person, can you please be the president? And then good luck to you, and I wish you all the best. But that’s a sign that maybe they didn’t really know that. What’s their purpose? I’m not just a president, but I have a role to play in the community. And that playing a role. Whether you’re a president, you’re a teacher, you are a volunteer. That role is a leadership role. So what we’re trying to do really is to impress on everyone that that role needs to be played so that the community will have that benefit.
MMM. Right. That’s amazing. Actually, a four day program for leaders. My experience is that people who end up in the leadership roles are the ones who can’t get away from doing it because no one else wants
you end up having to do most of the work yourself and you don’t get support. And that’s the ho problem we find in the community in general. So we are trying to address that by saying, look, you need to have a purpose. And that purpose is a higher purpose than just being the committee member. That purpose is a leadership role that you need to play. And we are trying to give a sense of mission. And again, taking on the Buddha as an example, he was on a mission. He wasn’t just here just to do some teachings here and there, but he was really on a mission to transform the community, to change the community. But I must say, what we are trying to do here is quite ahead of its time, because I don’t think many Buddhist organizations do have this focus. Not sure about the west, but here, we don’t have such things here.
No, I do think it’s ahead of its time, and I do think it’s meeting a need. I mean, when I was on the president of the Buddhist society at WA, I had no idea what I was doing, and I did burn out. And you had to keep yourself going. But I think that emphasis also on connecting not just with the nuts and bolts of organization, but also the purpose and that need to people do see you as a leader, and you do need to act in a way a which is a good example, and a support. But of course, sometimes leaders need support as well. So I think what you’re doing is fantastic in that regard. Um, look, you’ve been engaged, actively engaged in the Buddhist community for many years now. What do you see as maybe some weaknesses or what are you hoping to develop further in the years ahead?
Yeah, I think our very strength here in Malaysia is also our very weakness at the same time and also our blind spot. I must be very candid to say that whilst we are a very community based kind of approach, we do bring people closer in the community. But I think in contrast with maybe where you’re coming from, we have maybe less emphasizing on the deepening, the tamale learning aspect. We tend to be quite good in supporting the monastics and the community in general. So there is a risk that we may tend to be too focused on the traditions and running of our activities and getting to the routines, rather than being critical. So perhaps one characteristic you’ll find in a lot of us in our community is that we tend to be less critical. We are quite accepting of things. So if we hear something from certain teachers, we are quick to accept. We may ask a few questions to clarify, but we don’t necessarily cast a critical eye on things. That’s the same with methodology. So we are not necessarily quite very good in critically evaluating methodologies. So we tend to follow whatever has been done in the past. I think this is something we can probably learn from our Western counterparts, where for you, perhaps, the education system has led you to be quite critical of methodologies, of methods, and quite structured in the way you present your views and ideas. And that’s something we can learn from, because I find sometimes the very strength of being very accepting alone can be a very weakness when it comes to casting that critical eye on methodology, on structure, on process. So that’s the thing that I find we should pick up as a community.
I think the very fact that you’re thinking about it and aware of those issues is a very good sign. And, I mean, I think we could all do that. I mean, can only improve if we’ve kind of investigated and try to work out, well, how can we improve? What are our weaknesses? And very often, I think, in general, religious communities aren’t necessarily very good at that. So the fact you’re even thinking about it and talking about it is a good sign. 5s
I think that’s probably where we want to leave it. Is there any final words that you think you could offer our listeners in terms of think of the person who’s out there. Maybe they don’t have much of a community around them. What it’s something that you think that they could do to get started?
Yeah, I think drawing from the Buddhas himself in the Mahaparinibana Sut, the Buddha does mention what are the principles of building harmonious or social community. And one of those guidelines was about if the community were to meet frequently, coming together as a community frequently, and I think he of course, that becomes one of the key things. And then also in other places, the Buddha does mention that the whole of the Holy Life is about being with good friends. So taking the cue from there, it’s about hanging out with the right people. And personally, I find if you do not have a community out there, it’s a little harder, I suppose, to maintain the kind of interest and practice of the Dhamma. And so what keeps us going, really, is to have a group of friends to sort of sustain this kind of interest in the practice. Because even for us, we can get very complacent to say, oh, I know the Dharma already, so leave me alone, let me do my own practice. But then we slip back into our daily routines, and that’s about it. We don’t normally go further. And then after that, we get into trouble. Then we find, okay, let’s go back and find the Dharma again. So maybe one of the things I can point out is that on my own, I also organize a very small group that meets at my house once a month. I call it the cell group or whatever. So the group will come together and we’ll do some Dharma learning, Dharma practice, and I’ll lead them through, and it’s a regular meeting. And keeping that kind of group going will be very essential. So if you have a community, even a small one, few individuals who show similar interests, I suppose, getting them together, getting them to come together on a regular basis, whether it’s monthly or weekly, it doesn’t matter to discuss, to share, and also to experience and to reflect. And that, I think, keeps the interest and the momentum going. For Dhamma practice, which I find is very useful for me, we can learn Dhamma on our own, that’s not a problem. But the one that sustains us in the practice, really, is to have that group of friends that we hang out with. And that becomes very crucial because if we don’t have that, then we always run a risk of going back to our usual routines, which may not sustain our Dharma interests in the long term. So, yeah, building a community, I think very essential. Whether it’s a small community or a large community, I think community becomes an important word. And I think we are not too far from the Buddha when we try to do this. That’s just my little reflection that I can have.
Thank you. That’s and very wise advice and an excellent place to end the interview. Thank you. Thank you so much. Neo and. For joining us on the Treasure Mountain podcast.
You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me.
And thank you to all our listeners for joining us for this inspiring episode of Treasure Mountain, and we learnt about creating strong, supportive Buddhist communities with NeeWern Khoo. There will be more links in the show notes to this episode, and if you enjoy this podcast, I’d appreciate if you could share this episode with your friends and other the people who could benefit from its Sage advice. Treasure Mountain podcast is part of the Everyday Dharma Network. You can find out more about Treasure Mountain podcast by going to the links in the show notes to this episode. You can also find out on the Treasure Mountain website information about all previous episodes and guests, as well as transcriptions of our interviews. If you go back to the Everydaydharma Net homepage, you can discover more about the three other podcasts on the network and links to subscribe to any and all of them. I hope you’ll join us again for our next episode of Treasure Mound Podcast as we seek for the treasure within.

Following the Path of a Forest Monk | Ajahn Pasanno

Treasure Mountain Podcast
Treasure Mountain Podcast
Following the Path of a Forest Monk | Ajahn Pasanno

Joining us on this episode is a humble, yet trail-blazing monk from the forest tradition lineage of Ajahn Chah who is now the senior most bhikkhu at Abhayagiri Forest Monastery in California. I’m speaking of course of the Venerable Ajahn Pasanno.

Ajahn Pasanno took ordination in Thailand in 1974 with Venerable Phra Khru Ñāṇasirivatana as preceptor. During his first year as a monk he was taken by his teacher to meet Ajahn Chah, with whom he asked to be allowed to stay and train. One of the early residents of Wat Pah Nanachat, Ajahn Pasanno became its abbot in his ninth year. During his incumbency, Wat Pah Nanachat developed considerably, both in physical size and reputation. Spending 24 years living in Thailand, Ajahn Pasanno became a well-known and highly respected monk and Dhamma teacher. He moved to California on New Year’s Eve of 1997 to share the abbotship of Abhayagiri with Ajahn Amaro. In 2010 Ajahn Amaro accepted an invitation to serve as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England, leaving Ajahn Pasanno to serve as sole abbot of Abhayagiri for the next eight years. In spring of 2018, Ajahn Pasanno stepped back from the role of abbot and now serves as a guiding elder for the community.

A quick note to listeners: I had a lot of problems with delayed echos across the original recording. I did a lot of editing to remove that echo, and I believe I’ve removed all of that which can be removed without changing the flow of the interview. I think it’s turned out quite well, but there are a few points at which we have echo or less than optimal audio.

In any case, I think it’s a really interesting interview in which one of the most senior Western disciples of Ajahn Chah reflects upon life and the changing times as Buddhism comes to the West. I hope you all enjoy this interview with Ajahn Pasanno.

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AjahnPasanno interview – Following the path of a forest monk
Mon, Jul 03, 2023 1:31PM • 
Ajahn Pasanno, Sol Hanna

Sol Hanna  
Ajahn Pasanno, welcome to the podcast. And thank you so much for taking the time to join us. How are you today?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Very good. Thank you. Good to be here.

Sol Hanna  
Look, I’d like to get stuck into understanding your early life, I believe you grew up in Manitoba in Canada, up in the air up in the north of Manitoba indeed. And I was wondering what it was like growing up in such an isolated place. And whether this influenced you towards a spiritual theorist philosophical inquiry from a young age.

Ajahn Pasanno  
I don’t know that it influenced me other than drove me to it and

Ajahn Pasanno  
you know, Northern, I was about, say, about 600 miles north of the American border. Small Town. Pretty rough. As really, and not much as spiritual kind of examples really. So that into, so it just, I think it ignited certainly in me, it ignited a kind of a yearning.

Sol Hanna  
So you felt like you just wanted to get away and maybe see the world? Or did you feel like there must be something something different?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Yeah, exactly. I say there’s got to be something more than this.

Sol Hanna  
Yeah. Okay. After you grew up, and you went to college, in Winnipeg, you traveled around the world and ended up in Thailand, what sets you off on this journey around the world?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, it was both. It was a really yearning for something other than, than what I grew up with. And even what I was, was found at university just sort of looking for something. And, but then, even when I was at university, I did get introduced to Buddhism, I did. I mean, I took courses in, in, in religion, a couple courses, and that that really stimulated my interest and Eastern religion. But what really stood out to me was Buddhism. And then I started reading, I there was no, I really never ever found a place to learn meditation, or anybody who was meditating. It was it was really just from the books. And so I did. Mostly books. And in those days, most of the books were about Japanese. And so I had formulated an idea in my mind that I would like to go to Japan, and study Buddhism, because that was the main thing that I came across. In my readings, although I did read both Tera Vaada Buddhism, I did read about Tibetan Buddhism. But the, you know, the most popular thing in those days, because that was late 60s, was the and into early 70s. Most popular thing was was was in and it did have an express inclination to meditation. And that seemed intuitively I was drawn to the meditation element. But of course, I mean, if I really wanted to go really quickly, I was really for a really motivated I could have gone from Vancouver or to Japan, but I didn’t I went I went the long way around and started in in Europe and traveled through Europe, Middle East, India, Nepal, Overland.

Sol Hanna  
And he never did. He never did make it to Japan. You stopped at Thailand.

Ajahn Pasanno  
I still haven’t made it.

Sol Hanna  
So why, why Thailand? What? What was it that attracted you to Thailand?

Ajahn Pasanno  
One you just had to pass through Thailand. I didn’t really know anything about Thailand. I didn’t really know that it was a Buddhist country even and, but then you get there and it’s it’s obvious that Buddhism is everywhere. And then the elements of the society and culture that I found really attractive and the just the kind of warmth of the people and easygoing nature of the of the culture is just that Well, you know the major conditioning influenced in in there, here is the is Buddhism. So I should study Buddhism. And you know, there is there were monasteries everywhere and I started checking and asking and there was opportunities to learn about meditation

Sol Hanna  
did you go on a retreat there? Or because you ended up ordaining in Bangkok? How did that all come about?

Ajahn Pasanno  
did what I did go on a retreat My, my, the first, my introduction to meditation was a one month long, Mahasi Sayadaw intensive sort of, in a room by myself for, you know, for Yeah, it was, and, but I loved it. So I felt really drawn, I felt Oh, this is something I really can explore and, and really have to explore. So then I went, I had to where I did this, this retreat was up in the north of Thailand, and I had to go back down to, to Bangkok, because of some embassy business for a passport and I had to renew my passport. So I was there, I’d heard about a monastery in the outskirts of Bangkok that had a very good English Library, as well as a meditation section as a part of the monastery. So I went there, and yes, studying meditating. And then the monks, after a while seeing me sort of practicing and staying there that, that I, they kind of said, well, why why not ordain? Are you gonna ordain? And and no, I couldn’t order, you know, I can’t live like, couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life. And which was my assumption from say, like, from Kathy tradition. But then they say, oh, no, in Thailand, you don’t need to ordain for the you know, for your whole life, you can just do it for a short period of time of, of a few months, if you’d like, that’s ordinary for time time men to do that. So then, a few months, I can do that. And that was the extent of my, my, my commitment. And so then I, I took that ordination. And, you know, they didn’t really give me any training. But then I started hearing about the forest monasteries, in, especially in the northeast of Thailand, and then heard about Ajahn Chah. And it was that that really piqued my interest.

Sol Hanna  
So, how did it come to be that you ended up with Ajahn Chah? What was it like that first time that you met Ajahn Chah?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, the first time I met Ajahn Chah was really intimidating. Because I did, I was really newly ordained. My teacher at where I took ordination encouraged me to go up. He says Ajahn Chah is a very good teacher, go up and pay respects and spend a bit of time. So then I did, I took his suggestion went up there. And I arrived, and it’s your pay respects, to this senior month, a teacher when you, you arrive, so I did that. And then Jen charges kind of looked at me, you know, with no real expression. And then he just said, if you want to stay here, you have to get at least five years.

Sol Hanna  
What was your reaction to that to be intimidating?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Oh, yeah, that was intimidating. Yeah, exactly. Five years, five years. You know, I’m in my early 20s. I mean, yours is the rest of your life.

Sol Hanna  
For sure, yeah.

Ajahn Pasanno  
And so I just couldn’t quite get my mind around that. Even though I did love the monastery and the him as a teacher and the common community and the example of the of the Lake community as well. I mean, there’s just seemed to be such sincerity. that I was really drawn to it. But just that idea of, of, of a long term commitment was just too much. So I left after a month. And then and then I went and stayed in a hose, a small meditation monastery in central Thailand. And the teacher there was he taught a particular method, he was quite well known at the time, he had a few Western disciples. So it wasn’t too strange. And he did have a monk who could do some translation and Indian monk was, could translate his teachings. So I, I stayed there and practiced, although at that early few months of that, then he was, he wasn’t there so much he was he was back and forth, he was in the process of kind of winding down a monastery that he had lived at as a teacher for a while, and he was building his own place. So I was in this new, quite small place. So it was very quiet. And so in the countryside, and I was able to do a lot of practice, and I really enjoyed it. And then I was there for longer and longer than I just kept thinking of Ajahn Chah that we’ve got to go about. I’ve got to go back and get myself in Cha know, five years. You’ve got to do it.

Sol Hanna  
Wow. Yeah. That’s a big decision for such a young man as well. And I think Westerners we don’t necessarily like the idea of committing certainly not for life, you know,

Ajahn Pasanno  
commitment is anathema. You know,

Sol Hanna  
we want to go and have a good time. And yeah.

Ajahn Pasanno  
And that’s quite natural that that that age. That’s what that’s what one you know, it’s about that’s the one who’s drawn to, but the pole to the example of Ajahn Cha and the example of the monastics in the monastery. It that was really, really pulled me.

Sol Hanna  
So you went back to agencia and what Bapaume what was were there any many memories from that period of training with Ajahn Shah that really stand out in your mind?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, I was just how difficult it was.

Sol Hanna  
Yeah, right. The way in what way some people who are listening may not know what ways did you find it? Well, I mean,

Ajahn Pasanno  
that was the early 70s. So that what conditions were very austere, the northeast of Thailand is extremely it’s the poorest part of Thailand. And and so that yuck conditions were very austere. There just wasn’t like we oftentimes you wouldn’t have flashlights for your battery to to you know, go back and forth from you your dwelling your your dwelling place in the forest. You have to at night, it’s dark and it’s tropical nights, they get really dark it’s in the forest and and sometimes there would be batteries and sometimes they wouldn’t sometimes there’d be candles and sometimes there wouldn’t. So just basic things where sometimes you’d get your you go to the store to get say something like a bar soap for for bathing and and and the stores monk would be cutting bars of soap in half so that each month could get some conditions where we’re quite simple the food in the northeast of Thailand is is is not an odor but especially in those days. Over time, then there was much more of a gardens and and more so far more vegetables being grown and a lot more of the Yep, just some basics were more more available in time the economy was was being developed. Yeah. And also besides the the, the kind of the physical conditions so Like, I never saw such a thing as as awful until, you know, like a cushion to sit meditation on. For years and years. Yeah. You know, you just sit on the floor, all of the northeasterners you know, they grew up, they grew up on the floor, so they’re comfortable sitting sitting on the floor. And yeah, it was was that as a Westerner with a body that, you know, not very flexible, had to just just that physical hardship. And then there was a, there was a rigor, rigorous schedule a time. So that was, but it was, the thing is this, you know, you’re young and it’s, it’s all a challenge. So it was was, yes, it was difficult, but it’s also very satisfying. It felt like really exactly what I wanted to be doing and should be doing.

Sol Hanna  
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Because it was many, quite a few Westerners that went to train with Thailand at the time. Not all of them made it what, what got you through that period of time, what kept you going?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, I think probably certainly at a trust in at Ajahn Cha. But then also an increasing trust and confidence in the, in the efficacy of the of the teachings, that this was a really true teaching that that really pointed to a way of peace and and freedom. So it was it was a confidence in the both in the teacher as well as the as well as the the teachings themselves being firmly grounded in in truth.

Sol Hanna  
I’d like to move forward to when, in early 80s, you became the abbot of Nanachat, which for those who don’t know, was a branch Monastery of adventures was Wat Pah Pong, which catered to Western bhikkhus. How did you come to be evitable?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Oh, what is it a series of unfortunate, unfortunate circumstances you I wasn’t Yeah, it was. It was very, very young at the time, although in those days, you know, we just we were all reasonably when our Ajahn Sumedo became the, the the but I mean, he was just in his going into his ninth year as well. So, but it was more. I mean, in those days, there were a few more senior monks around but then it was when Ajahn Cha, and that’s when when it was right at the time when Ajahn Jocko was leaving to go to he’d gotten permission from agencia but the group in Perth, Western Australia had had gotten Ajahn’s blessing to that he would send say like a jock roll with one other month to go. And so that first monk who went was a monk called Puriso who went for a year and then Ajahn Brahm went after that. So but anyway, Ajahn Jagaro was leaving and he had been in the habit of, of what Ajahn Chah and so then Ajahn Cha, I was out at a kind of a remote branch monastery along the the border of Laos. I’d spent the rains retreat there and I absolutely loved it. There was a huge forest about 1000 acre forest that still had plenty of wild animals and it was on it was in a reservoir from a power down so it’s very beautiful conditions. And and I found it very conducive to meditation. So I was making plans to stay. Which you should never make too many plans. And then the letter came to the abbot telling me to this after the rains retreat, telling me to go back to what Nana chaat to prepare to take all the duties of of Abbot of Wat Nana Cha because a Ajahn Jagaro was going to be leaving. So that was Ajahn chars initiative and Amin it wasn’t a request, it was it was sort of he let me know that’s what I was going to be doing.

Sol Hanna  
Because that’s a huge change. And I think, coming from our Western culture, we’re not used to that idea that you’re gonna get ordered. More or less to do something. How did you feel it? How do you feel about it?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, I felt terrified. You know, the idea of, of taking on that responsibility and having that duty and, and, you know, I felt I felt that agenda. I also felt that if adventure, I felt I couldn’t do it, he wouldn’t ask me to do it. So, because I had a lot of trust in Him, and felt that that, you know, he really understood human nature and, and understood. Yeah, us as human beings. So I, I had that. I had the confidence that he knew what he was doing. I didn’t have the confidence and I knew what I was doing. I felt okay, I think I can I can I can just have to make this work.

Sol Hanna  
It worked out really well done. In the sense that you and your leadership at the what Nana chat grew in size. There was more monks coming to practice there.

Ajahn Pasanno  
Yeah, yeah, I think I did. Okay.

Sol Hanna  
It’s very modest, very modest. Did you want to say anything else. But that

Ajahn Pasanno  
was just just the, that sense of of right at the timing was also when John Chow was was, was becoming quite ill. So it was a period when he was getting more sick. And so on a certain level. You know, it couldn’t it wasn’t a negotiable situation, because he was, it was a you know, don’t want to bother him or, or put too much onto his plate, because he was, you know, his health was really falling apart at the top. Right, right. So I feel like okay, I just got to, I got to do it.

Sol Hanna  
Yeah, and when agencia did pass away, you were quite involved in the funeral as well. So that’s quite a big position of trust, because I believe, you know, I heard a million times people came and visited during the funeral period. 10

Ajahn Pasanno  
Yes. I mean, the funeral period was quite long. And but yeah, so we’re, you know, yeah, just on the actual day of the funeral, there was about a beach somewhere between three and 400,000 people. Incredible. And, and over that period of the of the funeral. Yeah, people were streaming in from all over the country. And, and, but, um, you know, we did, one of the things that, that we did, it started probably four or five years before John Shaw passed away was we, you know, we, you know, agencia is not going to get better. And there’s going to be a funeral and it’s going to be huge. We’ve got to start figuring out how to make this work. So there was a lot of a lot of planning that went into developing the infrastructure to receive that situation. Although I think None of us none of us could have conceived of how big it was going to be. But one of the things I did do and I I, I talked with a couple of the senior monks and said, you know, we should really take a group of this of senior monks up there was a very senior disciple of at John Martin, who passed away very respected. And his funeral was taking place. I said, we should go up and observe that to see what we can learn from that. And what we learned was that we had to be organized because it was chaos everywhere and then everybody came back with a real strong consensus that, okay, we’ve we’ve got to do something that would honor Agim Cha, and, and having a chaotic funeral ceremony happen is not a dedication to all of us goodness.

Sol Hanna  
And how did how do you feel a wind?

Ajahn Pasanno  
I would, you know, I mean, of course, I know all the things that went wrong, but you can’t see. But but in terms of, of overall, it was absolutely magical. And, you know, it really was able to provide an atmosphere of peace and faith and, and introducing teachings and practice to, to so many people. I mean, just the right around the time of the actual cremation there were about, I think it was about five to 6000 monks living in what proportion but 1000 nuns. And then a little over 10,000, laypeople actually camped out in the monastery. And we were able, we were able to provide toilets and showers and food for everybody. As soon as you want in the monastery, there was no monetary exchange for anything. And we had, that’s just incredible books for free distribution for everybody who wanted them we had. Yeah, so. And I remember, I remember we had it was it was like, it was just, it wasn’t quite open yet. And and I think it was about 4540 45 kitchens that were volunteer people had only to different groups and communities volunteered to have free kitchens, and they would serve different things and make it available to everybody. And, and we, a bunch of us who were the organizers, we came up with the idea that it’d be really good for everybody to keep the eight precepts and and then make it easier on the kitchens. They just need to provide food in the morning. And then there just need to be some drinks in the afternoon. And we we sort of let let people know. That’s what we’re thinking. And then we had By that evening, we had a pro step protest march coming down from all the kitchens coming up to meet us and no way are we are we not going to read there’s going to be people coming day and night and they should be receiving food. They should be looked at Yeah, we had to give in sort of this. That wasn’t that wasn’t negotiable.

Sol Hanna  
That’s incredible. I’d like to move on and just ask a little bit more about your time as Abbot of what pan on a chart. One of the things you were involved in was a model reforestation project. How did this come about and what motivated you to promote reforestation in Thailand?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, I mean, I mean, I was a forest monk living in a forest and so and it’s and you go around to different monasteries, branch monasteries, and you and, and that was at a time of really rapid transition and even on the end of a quite a rapid transition of, of Thailand turning from a very rural agrarian economy to a more of an intern trying to get an international economy going that had something that so that that that but part of that was built on, on agriculture and that was cash crops and a lot of forests were were completely cut down just for the cash crops of say of sugarcane or tapioca or jute products and, and so that and especially the northeast of Thailand has very poor soil, so that the soil be depleted and the forest to be gone. So it was a real loss for everything. So wanting to try to reestablish areas of of nature and and look after the places and as well as expanding the just the monastery itself, so that it’s a bit more of a refuge for people because that’s in Thailand and and for those people who are safe in Western Australia and familiar with with what Bojan means the refuge for so many people just a peaceful refuge. And having these so that that extending the boundaries of the monastery planting forests and like I probably quadrupled the size of, of the monastery and did all sorts of planting and then got involved with other areas of land and, and forests that were, were being protected as well as also because the thing is, it’s not just, it’s not just forests that you want to pay attention to. It’s also you know, the villagers, the villagers need to make a living and, and you want to, especially when you live in the say live in a forest living, you’re dependent on the village, very close contact with the local community and you really get to know the problems that they face. And and you know, part of it is is just sometimes a lack of, of knowledge or education or so simple resources. So that trying to introduce livelihoods that would help supplement the income, their their income. And that creates a stability in the village culture that is good for everybody. And so you’re trying to get them in and also like taking taking them out to different development projects and get them thinking what would work in our village what would work in our area? And so yeah, I am when they’re doing that, then they they’re able to look after the forest, so a lot more because especially in the northeast of Thailand, the traditionally the forests were really that that was their kind of their that was their market though is there you go, they would have a traditional diet or way of life in northeast of Thailand is they would plant a single rice crop. And then they would have a small gardens close to their houses with just you know, garlic and chilies and spices and whatnot. And, and and the rest of the food was gathered from the forest. And, and so that’s, that’s, that’s gone now. So then trying to introduce ways of of that the villagers could be planting things in areas that would give them either supplemental income or Supplemental Nutrition.

Sol Hanna  
Yeah. That’s a really interesting, like the holistic way of thinking about how everything is connected and yeah, it’s like everyone wins.

Ajahn Pasanno  
Everyone wins. Everyone wins. Yeah. And

Sol Hanna  
yeah, fantastic.

Ajahn Pasanno  
Yeah. Yeah. And I have good, good people helping me out. It wasn’t just me.

Sol Hanna  
Of course. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’d like to turn next to a time when you’re invited to join John Amaroo. As co abbot of the newly established abbia Giri monastery in California. How did that come about?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, the, in America, they were the group in in the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area, had the commitment to establish a branch monastery and, and they knew adjuncts tomato. Because of of his connection to California, his parents were in California, he’d go back about once a year to visit them, he was they were elderly. And so then he was in that was in Southern California, where he come up, Jack Kornfield, when invited him up and to, to teach and so that a group of people started to gather who wanted to have a branch Monastery of, of Amravati. In, in, in the in Northern California. And John semedo, felt he couldn’t really take it on. So he designated as an admiral to, to do that. So I John amaro would come boat about once a year and visit and visit the Bay Area, but visit other areas of Buddhist groups in America trying to get a feel for what this strange thing called America was. And so people there started to be a groups of people and then but they and then it gets into say, like early 90s. And say, our communities in in Europe where they went through a whole period of upheaval, and, and and, and everybody said, it’s not commit at all to the place in America, it’s just too much. We’ve gotten enough on our plate already, we need to consolidate what we have and make sure our communities are stable, which is the right thing to do. And so one of the things one of the conditions was that they wouldn’t start anything until they had a a group of monks at least for to start the this new venture in America around that time in the beginning in the early 90s. And some of the group from the Bay Area were also coming to Thailand. And I was getting to know them and then which was an ICER good they’re very sincere, solid practitioners. So that was amusing, inspiring to see this and then there was a period where I went on retreat and ended up in and stayed in England for a year in in chitters forests for a year yeah.

Ajahn Pasanno  
And and I had already started to conceive think in terms of in long term of my life, I don’t know that maybe I should be trying to be somewhere else and help in some other way. And but it wasn’t really clear in my mind. And then after being in retreat for almost a year, then agile Lamoreaux came back from it. his one of his trips to, he just spent the winter with a group in, in California, and he was relating the, what was happening and how it was going. And, and, and also one of the senior monks from chitters where I was was, he had spent the time there. So they were saying what they’re doing and then saying how it’d be, you know, it’s just kind of when are we ever going to be able to get enough monks to, to help and, and, and then then it sort of football, you know, maybe I can help with that. And so then I approached Ajahn, Admiral and, and said, Would you like me to help out? And an admiral? When he relates the story, he said, it’s it was I was talking with him, but I was very hesitant and sort of wasn’t quite direct. And he said, what’s going on with as impossible is usually really straightforward. And, and, and then what I said was broach the subject of maybe helping him out. He said, he was, he said, he just about leaped up and kiss me. And that was, but I said, The only thing is, is I don’t have permission, I haven’t got I’ve got to go back to Thailand. I’ve got to get permission from the elders at what Paul I’ve got to make sure that I can pass on the abbot ship of what Nana chat, so it’s not a done deal. And you just you can’t say anything, until that happens. So that and he always he felt a lot of confidence as he went forward. And developing plans to keep going because he always felt he had this ace in the back pocket of gym class and ready to help out. So. So yeah, it ended up a wonderful collaboration between the two of us, because I know now John amaro since basically since the day he wandered into what’s known as as a hippie off the beach.

Sol Hanna  
I’d like to ask about what is it like establishing a forest monastery with strict veneer of the forest tradition in the rather war libertarian if not libertine California in the 1990s

Ajahn Pasanno  
Yeah, some interesting juxtaposition. But but, you know, the thing is, is I just say it’s strict, but it’s not unreasonable. And and and there is there’s an integrity and clarity there that I think inspires the trust in people because that’s you know, that’s also at a time when and of course continuing into you know, just how many spiritual communities had been just torn apart by by by fundamental lack of precepts and integrity so yeah, we were the new guys on the block but but there was a certain pull there that that that was was it was was trusted. They might not even like it at some times, but at least it could be okay they’re doing something here that’s special that’s different.

Sol Hanna  
Even though Abby Giri monastery is not near a major city, there has been plenty of interest from both lay people and from those wishing to ordain What do you credit for the successful establishment phase of avea Giri monastery Well,

Ajahn Pasanno  
you know, I just think the, you know, the clarity of of the teachings clarity of the lifestyle it’s you know, It’s, it’s clear. We’re, we’re, we are what we say we are. That helps. And, you know, we can’t really be more than that. But but it’s really good to not be less than that. And, and that, you know, I think it engenders a certain trust and, and interest and, and, and there is a there is a fidelity to the tie for if there’s, there’s obviously because we’re in the west and we’re in America, there are certain adaptations that one needs to make in the same way that that, say, the podium Now Jim Brown in the community there, there’s adaptations that are made, but there’s a there’s, there’s a fidelity to the, to the, to the tradition from Thailand is and the greater Buddhist tradition from the time of the Buddha. So it’s founded on venia. And, and the teachings are, are not, hopefully not straying from, from the Buddha’s word too far.

Sol Hanna  
Yeah. Out of interest. How many monastics are there at a girI right now?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Right now, we’ve just had a little bit of an exodus of, of monks starting a movement, but there’s about there’s 15 But 15, and then there’s three pasturelands in training and a lot of us continuing the training,

Sol Hanna  
it’s going very well. During your time in the United States, how do you think the knowledge and practice of Buddhism has changed?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Personally, I think it’s really maturing a lot. Of course, it’s America, you can’t say one thing about America. I mean, it’s it’s just everyday it’s a real mishmash. But the people that are drawn to a by Gary are the people that I come into contact with. minute, there’s a maturity that I see and a sincerity that is, is really, really quite wonderful. And, and, and people are getting into like, like, right, like, say today in the monastery. It was theirs. I think I’m not 100% Sure there’s a brother and sister came to spend a few days in the monastery, which I mean, there’s always people coming to stay and coming and going. And, and I think she’s maybe 18 and the brother is 1617. And they’re already practicing Buddhism and want to come up here and it’s just this to me, that’s amazing. And so there’s a range of of people, the range of ethnicities, range of ages, people coming to, to practice and they, I mean, we don’t we don’t advertise when people show up because they’ve heard of us or They’ve tracked us down through our website through or through YouTube channel. And, and and then they they show up here

Sol Hanna  
in 2018, you stepped away from the role of Abu Dhabi to carry us in the roll on to Ajahn, Karina, Damo and Generico. Both of these monks are American and mostly trained in the United States and indeed, mostly at abbia. Giri. I wanted to ask you how you feel about this milestone and what do you think it signifies for Buddhism in the US in general, that you can now be transferring leadership to monks who have trained mostly in the US.

Ajahn Pasanno  
I mean, I’m really happy about that. I think it’s a real sign of the Yeah, the maturing of of, of dhamma here in and Buddhism here in In America, that that such a thing is taking place and, and, you know, I think it bodes well for for, for the future so that yeah, just having having the home grown and that’s kind of being, you know, a by Gary has has you were so far away from everything that you know we have had some Thai monks come but but but not so many and not and it’s not so easy for them and we have had some monks from time to time say from England who come and spend some time but the vast majority have all been monks who have begun their training here and, and have continued and, and we tried to send people out as part of their training to have the experience of being in other monasteries, whether it’s in Europe or oriental Thailand and and and it’s very heartening that most of them want to come back and help out here.

Sol Hanna  
Coming out to the end of the interview, you’ve lived a life dedicated to the spiritual quest of a Buddhist monk. What advice would you give to someone who’s starting out on the Eightfold Path? And who may have an interest in ordaining as a monk or nun?

Ajahn Pasanno  
Well, I mean, if you’ve got an interest, go for

Sol Hanna  
simple advice, simple advice. Simple advice.

Ajahn Pasanno  
I mean, just just don’t, don’t think about it too much. Don’t try to don’t want it don’t try to find the perfect monastery. Don’t try to find the perfect teacher. Just try this out, try that out. Try that plays out try and see what what feels like a fit. And, and. But as I said, don’t, don’t think that there’s going to be some perfect place somewhere with a perfect teacher where all you need to do is go there and then you’ll awaken full awakening will be bestowed on you that doesn’t hurt. It’s not how it’s like agian chars are saying yes, people looking for the perfect place. It’s like, a turtle with a mustache.

Sol Hanna  
He’s never gonna find it. 

Ajahn Pasanno  
Never going to find where you’re looking for a turtle with a mustache and never going to find it. But you have to keep putting the attention on the practice and the training the inner reflection, the inner contemplation and, and, and then and also, I think one of the things that’s really important cuz you know, especially in Western culture, we’re so we’re such a success oriented, what success and failure oriented culture that that the but more measuring one’s development, not in terms of some idea or ideal of success, but just how does it feel? Do I feel more comfortable? Do I feel more happy in myself? Do I for feel more peaceful? Are there more skillful and beneficial qualities arising in me? That’s, that’s, that’s what one wants to be cultivating. And, and sometimes that’s difficult and sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s slow. One really has to be patient with the process.

Sol Hanna  
That’s very wise advice. Thank you, John, for taking the time to join us on the podcast. I really appreciate it. And best wishes.

Ajahn Pasanno  
Wonderful talking with you. Yes, and best wishes to you

Guilt | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Guilt | Ajahn Brahm

We are taught to forgive so that we can free ourselves from the past and move on to happier times. Guilt only makes you unhappy and makes you do bad things. Talking about forgiveness creates peace and prevents guilt. You can’t be happy if you don t think you deserve happiness. Guilt comes from judging, from treating someone as if they’re inherently bad. Guilt is a by-product of revenge, you don’t need it, and there’s a way to get rid of it. Punishment seldom works and often does more harm than good. Instead, try to acknowledge your faults and learn the ‘AFL code’ of Buddhism, which is to ‘Acknowledge’, ‘Forgive’ and ‘Learn’ from your mistakes.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 30th May 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

Guilt –
by Ajahn Brahm

(Robot generated transcript – expect errors!)

Okay. This evening’s talk, I’ve got another request. People always give me requests about the talks, which is great because it means that I can aim the talk according to people’s wishes. And the talk this evening is on guilt. Do you feel guilty for what you’ve done this last week? What have you been up to? Some monks can read minds. Do you want to head for the door quickly? It’s amazing that even though there are some monks who can read minds and all these great monks I used to live with in Thailand that some of them could read minds, they’re great. Actually, when it happens that I’m just going to go off the off the off the track of guilt for a moment be because I was telling one of the young visitors to our monastery who wants to become a monk he was having trouble with lust. So I told him the occasion when Ajan Chah read somebody’s mind once. This is why you got to be very, very careful traveling with great monks because sometimes you do that. And that was that time. I was in the back of the car and Ajan Chah was in the passenger seat being driven somewhere in Thailand. And in the back seat, together with myself, was a young American novice and a more senior American monk. And halfway in the journey, Ajan Chah turned round and he looked at this young American novice and said, which was translated into English as, you’re thinking about your girlfriend and this poor American novice. His jaw dropped almost to the floor. Ajahn Chah had been reading his mind. And at one of the most embarrassing moments, it was true. He’d been thinking about his girlfriend. And so a Genshaw laughed and said, doesn’t matter. We can fix that. And some of you know what’s coming, and said, what? How can you fix that? And he said. Look, you’re in Thailand and your girlfriend is in the United States somewhere. It’s a long distance away. Why don t you ask her to send something of hers? Something personal, something which can remind you of her. So anytime you feel lonely, you can look at that or get that out and remember her. It when I was translated, this American monk said is that allowable for a monk to do that? Can you do that? And I just oh, yeah. That’s okay. We’re compassionate. This is like modern Buddhism. And he decided to get interested. And so did we. We wonder what Ajan Shah was up to. And the next thing Ajan Shah said in Thai the American monk the translator just burst out laughing. It was really hysterical laughter. It took him about five minutes to calm down and actually translate what Ajan Shah had said. And Ajan Shah said, yeah, you can ask her to send something personal, something of hers. Ask her to send a little bottle of her shit. Then whenever you miss her, you can always open up the little bottle and you can think of her. That’s my girlfriend. That s a Jad char. He really got down to the point of things. And that can work for nuns and their boyfriends as well. This is not gender specific. It s truth. Why do you ask for some of her dress or some of her perfume or some want to get something which really reminds you that s mug s sense of humor? It but the point was that sometimes people read your minds. Are you ready to have your minds read? When I used to go and visit these great monks, I was afraid because I thought maybe they catch me thinking about things I shouldn’t be thinking about. One of the amazing things, though, about being around such great people was you felt so safe. And that if they did point out something to you, it wasn’t to punish you or make you feel bad. It was actually to help you. Because there was no idea of punishment in Buddhism. Doesn’t matter if you’re messing around and doing silly things. You weren t being punished for it. And this actually is part of the difference in Buddhism with the West Western ways of thinking when it comes to punishing people for doing bad, or rather punishing yourself for doing bad, which is what we mean by guilt. There was actually no real place for guilt in Buddhism. There’s remorse, but not guilt. And the difference between that remorse and the guilt is that remorse is there to help one grow, to learn someone doesn’t make the same mistake. But guilt is there to punish oneself, almost like revenge against oneself, as it is that we want to punish other people to get revenge. They hurt me, therefore I’m going to hurt them back. I’m going to give as good as I get. They deserve to be punished for what this terrible thing they did. How can they do that to me? I’ll teach them and. And that sort of attitude, which happens in many places in the world. You notice how that creates so much pain and so much difficulties in life. I remember reading in the newspaper about people going through divorces. You know, how much we want to punish each other. It s his fault, it s her fault. I m going to get back at him. What does she think she s doing? I remember this divorce which was going on in the US. This lady, she had the key to his apartment still. So she went in there on the weekend knowing he was away, and she picked up the phone and she rang, I think, England, London on the automatic timer time. At the first stroke, you’ll be 02:10 and 30 seconds and the next stroke could be ten plus two and 40 seconds. And she left the phone off the hook all weekend. So this was his phone call, which went on for about 48 hours and cost him about $5,000 in those days. Just out of spite. And that s actually sometimes the way we think to each other and think just what a sad mind that is. You re doing that just to hurt somebody because you think they ve hurt me, I ve got to hurt them back. But that same attitude of like, revenge was actually pointed out by the Buddha so many times. Hatred doesn’t cease with hatred, ill will harm doesn’t cease with more ill will and harm. If someone’s harmed you and hurt you, treated you wrong, treated you badly, then we got, like in Buddhism, we got Karma. Karma will sort it out. If they’ve done something really mean and horrible to you, you don’t need to punish them. Karma will sort it out if you’re a Christian, God will fix it if you’re a Muslim, so the Allah will fix it. So you don’t need to be the fixer to teach them a lesson. And if you don’t believe in any of that, if you’re a psychologist, you know, they’ll be have to be in therapy for years for what they’ve done to. So sooner or later it gets back to them. So you don t need to be the punisher. That s why we have this beautiful, like compassion where a forgiveness doesn t matter what a person has done. Your job, your part of the thing is actually to forgive and let go and let karma, let therapy take its toll and sort out the thing. And that’s the same with yourself as well. We look at ourselves some times and we treat ourselves even harder than we treat others. I’ve done something wrong, therefore I need to be punished. That’s what guilt is all about. Punishing oneself for someone’s done in the past. As I’ve mentioned before, that the guilt we know is a word which comes from the law. When somebody has committed a crime and they’re found guilty, what happens next? Sentencing. Punishing. Penance. And that’s been part of our Western legal system for a long time. As soon as guilt comes, next thing is penalty. Penance, punishment. And unfortunately, that doesn t work because what happens if someone has done something wrong and they get penalized or punished? All it really teaches them is, number one, not to get caught again because it’s not really telling them why they should be doing that in the first place. What the reason is, why. That is a law, why you should do these things. There is a very important part of like training somebody, as in training yourself. This is a great tip for mothers or fathers, a great tip for bosses or for adverts of monasteries. And it’s a great tip for you, the boss of yourself, especially in your meditation. It comes from the Chinese Art of war. It’s the story of the general who had perfect discipline in his army, in his regiment, much better than any other general. And the emperor wanted to find out what his secret was. And the secret was I only tell my troops, my soldiers to do what they want to do. That’s why they always follow my orders. But. Imagine that with your husband only telling him what he wants to do. Then he ll always do what you do, what he s told. Or telling your child, your son, your daughter, only telling them to do what they want to do. Then they ll always do what they re told, won t they? They’ll be the perfect son and perfect daughter. You can tell your friends, oh, my son, my daughter. He always does what he s told because I only tell him to do what he wants to do. Now, of course you think that must be stupid, but there’s something more profound in that saying. How can those soldiers want to get up so early in the morning? Because discipline in an army is very strong. How can they want to go and train hard all day, go on long marches? How can they want actually to go into battle and fight and get wounded? How can anybody want to do that? And the point was, what the General was really pointing to was inspiration, motivation and. He d motivated his soldiers actually to want to do this out of patriotism or whatever. It was a motivation came first inspiration, teaching, encouraging. So when it came the time that he asked them to go into battle, they wanted to with your child. When it comes to time to them to clean up their room, if you motivated them, encourage them, inspire them, think, oh, wonderful, I’ve been waiting for you to ask me to do that. What a wonderful thing. Now, they’ll always follow orders. You got to motivate, give them the reason why to do good. Punishment hardly ever works. And same with yourself. When we do make a mistake punishing ourselves, does that really make you any better? Does that really help you not make the same mistake again? Or does it? Put you into denial. I didn t do that. It wasn t me. It was somebody else. He made me do this. I remember when I went to visit my mother in England some years ago. I saw in the newspaper there was this televangelist, I think, Jerry Falwell, and he d been sort of all this firing brimstone about you have to be a good person and leaving Jesus and all this sort of stuff. And he’d just been caught with a prostitute. He’d actually been cheating on his wife. And I heard about this and I asked my mother to turn on the news and I saw him in there. He said, the devil made me do it. The devil made me do it. Just did, nigh, you did it. Don’t blame anybody else. And that but isn’t it the case that so often we sort of when we have guilt or when we have this guilt as part of our response to our mistakes, so often we just blame somebody else and. We re actually we re not really getting to the heart of things. Punishment just makes us actually push the blame onto somebody else s his fault, is her fault, it’s somebody else s fault, it s the government s fault. This is all part of the guilt thing and the punishment thing. So instead of having that, there s another way of dealing with these things in Buddhism, this is traditional Buddhism from 26th century is of when there’s a mistake made. There’s what we keep calling in Australia, the AFL code. Acknowledge, forgive, learn the AFL code. What we really mean here is that there’s no punishment involved. There’s no sort of trying to beat someone or give them a penance or make them wash the dishes all week because of what they did there’s. Acknowledge, first of all, and acknowledging is half the battle. When is guilt so often because of the fear of punishment and the fear of guilt, we just don’t even acknowledge what we’ve done. Sometimes you can’t even see it. What have I done? Why me? One of the prisoners I used to go and see in jail, he told me he only robs houses, he doesn’t rob people. You see how we, like, shift it away from actually what we’re really doing, sort of well. So they were poor, they were rich, I was poor. Why not? So it’s not actually lifting the burden. This is what happens when we have this punishment business. We don’t even acknowledge what’s actually happening. So in Buddhism, we have the idea of, like, acknowledging our faults, bringing them up to the surface, not through fear, because it’s fear of the punishment. Fear of what will happen is actually what stops us acknowledging the truth of what we’ve done them. It’s marvelous when you have people you can go to and you say, I’ve made a mistake, I’ve done something wrong, and you know, they’re not going to punish you, they’re going to understand and. Then you don’t fear going up to a person and telling them, acknowledging to them so often there’s too much fear. At least in a family. We should have enough love and trust, which is part of love, to not fear each other. So if you’ve made a mistake and done something wrong, you can go up to your partner and expect to be understood, good, I’ve done something terribly, terribly wrong. This is what I’ve done. And not to expect to have punishments, because when there’s punishment, there’ll always be fear. That’s why we don’t open up to each other. This is what would always happen with monks, like a gencha. You go up and say the stupid things you’ve done. And he’d usually he wouldn’t punish you, he’d laugh. He’d think, what amazing, wonderful, funny thing this was. Then he’d tell everybody in the next sermon and make everyone else laugh as well. That little stupid things. I remember once I went up to his hut once. I was just learning Thai. And it s a very poor monastery in those days and I needed some soap to sort of wash myself and the word for soap in Thai is something like saboo and the word for pineapple is SAPO. And I got them mixed up and so actually when I went up to Agenda, I asked for a pineapple and he looked at me and said, what do you want a pineapple for? And I said, oh, no, to wash myself. And he cracked up laughing, almost fell off his off his seat. He told everyone else, these Western monks, especially him, bam Wang, so he likes washing with pineapple. So instead of telling you to go back or punishing you, whatever, he just made big joke about it and it was just so funny. And I learned the difference between soap and pineapple as a result. So first of all, it’s like acknowledging bring it up to the surface and. And it s important thing to be able to do that. So much of the pain of our life, the mistakes of our life, we hide. We can’t tell anybody about that. That’s why we have, like, confessors people we can go to, who we can tell these things to, knowing that we’re not going to get punished, know that it’s not going to be to our disadvantage, just people we can open up to. Monks and nuns are like that. You can go and open up to monks and nuns. And usually they don’t tell anybody, but sometimes we do, because I remember one of these stories, this lady who was dying of cancer, and very often that sort of when they’re dying of cancer, they want a bit of help about how to die. And monks are great at knowing how to die. We died many times, so we’re pretty good at it. So I was helping her how to die and giving her a bit of counseling. And one of the things we do as like as a mug, as a counselor, I asked her, what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life? It s a great thing to ask that question if you got that trust between you. What s the worst thing? What s the worst thing you ve ever done in your whole life? What is it? It s very hard sometimes. You wouldn t like to tell anybody, but she s about to die. So she told me. I actually promised her I wouldn t tell anybody, but I Veken that promise. I told thousands because it s a very funny story. It s actually quite sweet and quite moving. I thought it’s really nice because after a while I got it out of her. She said that once she kissed somebody else’s husband. I said only once. She said only once. I said no for about 65 years. Said that’s not bad. That’s the worst thing you’ve ever done, kissing somebody else’s husband when he actually she said that, and it came out and I sort of laughed and I wasn’t sort of giving her some sort of penance or punt penalty. I could see she had so much relief because she was so afraid of that. But. That it was something terribly, terribly wrong. That she was hiding that inside of herself. And it was part of her she would never acknowledge and never be at peace with. And as soon as she acknowledged it by telling me straight away, it was a sense of, like, forgiveness. There it was, realizing it wasn’t that bad, what she d done. And she could let go and be at peace so she you could die peacefully. This is what happens sometimes. There’s some things inside of us which we’ve suppressed, beaten down. It’s those things we feel guilty about. And sometimes the guilt is so deep inside of us, we’re not quite sure why we feel guilty. We haven’t even acknowledged the reason why. But guilt was built up over the years and we feel basically guilty, but we’re not really sure why. It. The problem is, once it’s guilt there’s, the punishment there. And that punishment is not wanting to be happy, not deserving happiness. Why should I be happy when I feel so guilty? And this is the big problem. Why aren t more people happy? Happiness is out there. Why not be happy? One of the main reasons why people aren’t happy is because they don t think they deserve to be happy. Once one of the nuns not the nuns here, this nun was only visiting, she was talking to me about her meditation. You know, we talk about very deep meditation here, get into bliss states, wonderful states, most extreme happiness you could imagine. She got so close once, and I was sort of talking to her about her meditation, giving her some instructions, and she said she got so close, it was like the doors were completely open to her. But she couldn’t go further because the thought came up, I don’t deserve such happiness. And the doors to deep meditation closed straight away. And that was a symptom which I ve come across with so many other people in this in this world. Happiness is almost right there for the taking. And something deep psychologically inside of us think, I don’t deserve happiness, therefore I m not going to take it. It can t be right. Happiness comes to our door knocking and we don’t allow it in because of guilt. And that’s so sad. So sad that it’s great to give a talk on guilt, acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, build it up to the surface so you haven’t got this suppressed sort of backlog of fear and punishing oneself. One of the friends, Buddhists, I haven’t seen him for quite a while now, but he told me that he was brought up in Sydney and you know, that Sydney to being on this beautiful bay and all these inlets. He was playing with one of his friends who lived next door on a Pierre. Just for a joke. As boys being boys, he pushed his best friend into the water. Unfortunately, the boy drowned. He d killed his best friend. He was only about six years old or five years old at the time. And he had to face the next door neighbors, the parents of this young boy who he’d killed. And he felt so terrible seeing the pain he’d caused, seeing the deep imagine, like losing a sort of five or six year old son. And he couldn’t get away with that. He was next door and seeing just the pain for so long after, he felt terrible. He had all this amazing guilt inside of him, even though the parents told him, look, it wasn’t your fault, you didn’t mean to kill him. It was just boys playing, that’s all. But he couldn’t let that go. And because he couldn’t let that go, he never did well at school, even though he was a very intelligent man. And he could never really have a good relationship. Why? Because he thought if he d done that to somebody else, he didn t deserve to be happy. He didn t deserve peace, he didn’t deserve joy. He punished himself for years. That s why he didn’t do well at school, didn’t have a happy school time at all. But he said once that it came, the time he was 16 or 17 or something, and he just realized, almost like an insight and understanding came to him. He didn’t need to feel guilty anymore. He understood what guilt was really about and how it was like a cancer eating at his happiness. It didn’t help the boy who died. His guilt didn’t help the parents. It certainly didn’t help himself. It just made one more miserable person in the world, one more maladjusted student in the school. And so he managed to forgive himself, understanding the reason why. It was for the happiness of himself and the happiness of everybody else to let go of guilt. It was the most compassionate. Worthwhile thing to do. And it s important that we remember that. Because sometimes we think, oh, I must feel guilty if I forgive myself, that won t help anybody. We think I ve got to punish myself as a service for the rest of humanity. But please understand, it doesn’t help anyone by you not being happy, by you punishing yourself. Who does it help? Who does it serve? What purpose does it fulfill? You certainly don’t become a better person. Guilty people have so much unhappiness inside of them because they’re punishing themselves, they tend to do bad things again and again and again. A lot of times we do bad things because of unhappiness. Because of unhappiness us, we say terrible things to others. Because of unhappiness, we do cruel things to others. As a happy person, can you ever speak ill of another? Of another? If you’re happy, you can only help and be kind to others. Look, every time you ve done something mean and spiteful, how do you feel? Where s that come from? It’s all come from unhappiness inside. That s why I understand when someone s spiteful to me, they’re mean to me. If they’re cool to me, I think, poor thing, they must be suffering today. I never think of what they re saying. I think of where they re coming from. I don’t really think of what they’re doing to me. I think of the pain which must be in their heart. They can do something like that because I know you can only do mean things when you’re unhappy. And this is what happens through guilt. You make yourself more unhappy so you make yourself do more bad things and you get guilt upon guilt upon guilt. You’re always doing bad things and stupid things. So instead of guilt we have acknowledging bring it up to the surface what have you done? And then forgiving forgiving is giving yourself an amnesty. But first of all you have to acknowledge that’s why in Buddhism. For the monks. If ever we break any of the rules of monks, all we do is go up to another monk and we just say, I’ve done such and such a thing. I’ve had a cake in the afternoon, not supposed to eat in the afternoon. And all the monk would say, I acknowledge that. Do better next time. Share it with me. Don’t say that. They don’t say that. No, we’re very good monks. What we actually say this is even the time of the Buddha, the people actually tried to kill the Buddha. And these assassins came up to the Buddha. They were sort of paid by somebody to kill the Buddha. When these assassins came up with their swords, I mean, a Buddha is just such a kind, soft, beautiful person. You can’t beg yourself to kill somebody like that. When they came up to sort of try and kill the Buddha, they sort of got all softened and got all woozy, and they sort of said, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have even thought about killing you. And what the Buddha, they actually asked forgiveness, just, I’m sorry. And all the Buddha did was say, anyone who acknowledges their faults. Ask forgiveness and aspires to do better next time, because that’s called growth. That’s how we grow in Buddhism. That’s how we grow in psychology. That’s how we grow as human beings. We acknowledge, we forgive and try and do better. We learn from it. So all these people who were trying to kill the Buddha, the assassins he just for gave them he didn’t DOB them into the police and get them arrested. He just acknowledged their faults forgave them. Said, like, learn from this. Understand what it’s like to want to kill somebody and what’s happening. Don’t punish yourself, but learn from it. Somebody asked me today that just 15 year old son got caught for stealing. Please don’t make him feel guilty about what he’s done, because guilty make him feel really rotten about himself. Think he’s, like, hopeless and useless and a bad person. If he thinks he’s a bad person, he’ll become a bad person. You know that story about those I keep on saying about those two types of school children? Two classes very quickly, two classes of kids? Gave them the same exam at the end of the year, split the classes into two separate classes. The person who came first came in one class. Second and third went in the other class. Fourth and fifth went in the same class as the kid who came top. They split the children up into two equal classes. They gave them equally capable teachers rooms in the school with equal resources, made everything equal as possible, except for one thing. They called one Class A and the other one Class B. Even though they were absolutely equal from the exam, they just gave them a different name, class A and Class B. And it was only the head mistress, and a couple of psychologists knew this. So even the teachers for one year, they were teaching some children children in Class A. And they assumed that Class A was the top half from the year’s exam. So they taught 30 of those kids as Class A kids and they taught the others as Class B kids. The Class A kids were told by their parents oh, you’ve done very well actually. You’ve been so lazy. I don t know how you ve done so well, but never mind. Here s some extra pocket money. The ones in Class B do better next year, otherwise or else. The parents treated half the kids as Class A and half the kids as Class B as if Class B was the worst. And even the kids began to think of themselves as class children or Class B children, to the point where after one year they gave the children an exam again. And as you would probably surmise, the children in Class A did so much better than the children in Class B as if they were indeed the top half. It was a very, very devastating experiment done in educational psychology against the idea of streaming. When actually you do stream kids into Class A and Class B, they actually become Class A kids or they become Class B children. Which is why, if you re guilty, you feel that guilt. You become that offense. You become a Class B person. This is why judging and that s was where guilt comes from. Judging. Really. It can be so mean, so destructive of people s growth and happiness. What we do here is actually okay, you’ve made a force, so what now? Learn from it. Grow from it. And even if a person has actually stolen as a kid, please acknowledge that. Make sure that child knows what they’ve done. But no punishment. Forgive. I remember reading this story, another story of a Buddhist who was actually growing up in the United States some years ago. Many years ago, he’d lied to his father, and his father was dragging him to the bathroom to beat him with the razor strap. And. And the boy was just confused. He d lied. He d made a mistake. But why was his father going to cause so much pain to him? Fortunately, his grandfather was in the house his grandfather thought was going on and told his father, the grandfather s son, stop. Don t do that. And the father said, this is what you used to do to me when I lied. I’m doing it to my son now. The grandfather said I was wrong. Go away. He sent his son away. The father of this boy is about to be whipped. Sent the father away and took this little son and just gave him the big, biggest hug of his life. And the two of them cried. And he never lied to his father again. That is a way to learn. You don’t need to whip people, to beat people, to punish people. He knew he d made a mistake. He needed to acknowledge, have forgiveness and learn from this. That’s how we learn. My own father would told me. I remember this. He was a great man. He was very poor. The old joker used to say that we’d always leave our door open hoping that some burger would come in and leave us something. He’s really poor. Remember, actually, that there was one when I was very young. This was part of my family folklore that we used to have these open fires in England because it was very cold. Had a pound note on the shelf above the fire and the draught caught the pound note and it flew into the fire and burnt. My father sort of tried to reach out and save it and burnt his hand. My mother burst out crying because money, a pound note, meant so much to them. But my father told me once, he said, son, if you want something that bad, you want to steal it, don t steal it. Ask me, I ll buy it for you. When I realized how poor he was, and I realized he would do that if I wanted something that bad, I was willing to steal it. He said, Don t steal it. I ll buy it for you. When he told me that there s no way I was ever going to steal it, actually, I stopped wanting things because I knew he couldn’t buy it. But I realized if that’s how important it was for him that I wouldn’t steal. I would never would. That’s how we learn, because we learn just what it does to other people when we make mistakes, how it hurts others. Which is why all morality, all goodness and bad in Buddhism, it’s very, very simple, just really to the heart. Keep it simple, keep it truthful, and keep it easy to understand what ethics is. They know they have professors of ethics who write all these big books and what the Buddha did, he just cut right through all of this and said, if it hurts another person and it hurts yourself that’s bad, don’t do it. If it hurts. We know what hurts and harms. If it gives happiness, if it helps another person or helps oneself, that’s good. That’s basic of ethics. So all we really need to do if we’ve done something bad, we notice how it hurts others if I stole how it would hurt my father, how it hurt my mum, how it hurt the owner of that goods who I stole it from I know how much it hurts I acknowledge that I understand it. How can I ever steal? How can I ever hurt myself and hurt others? How can I really hurt the people who love me? What are we really doing there? We’re following that great general in the Chinese army you motivate, inspire, encourage, teach people why one shouldn’t do these things not through punishment we understand I don’t want to hurt anybody I don’t want to hurt myself that’s where ethics come from. We’re motivated and encouraged never, never to want to hurt another person, encouraged wanting to help another person, because helping another person, being kind, being compassionate, being generous is happiness. Hurting is depression, is unhappiness. So when we understand this, we don’t need to use pan to actually to teach people. We use acknowledgments, understanding, learning. When we’re learning, we don’t actually be goody goodies because we’re afraid of getting caught. We’re actually goody goodies because we understand why one shouldn’t actually harm another person. It says on that statue the teachings of the Buddha that which is good to avoid, that which is harmful, to cultivate the mind. This is a teaching of all the Buddhists. We do this because we want to bring happiness into the world and happiness to ourselves. We want to sort of somehow heal the pain in the world, to stop the suffering in the world. This is actually how we do it. So we start with ourselves. Whatever we ve done in the past, acknowledge it. Don t sort of hide it and think it didn’t happen. Face it courageously, not fearing you’re going to be punished for this. Acknowledge it and then take this huge step of faith and forget. Give no punishment. It takes courage to do that because it goes against the culture of the west. Forgive just like that. Grandfather forgave his grandson is about to be beaten. Absolute forgiveness. Far more effective. When one gives that sort of forgiveness and learning, we understand the stupid things we’ve done. There’s no need for guilt anymore. We have remorse. We’re sorry what we’ve done. But we use it as a learning to try and do better next time. Can’t you see that’s? The way we become better people. We actually free ourselves from the past. And that opens the door for happiness to us. We realize we don’t need to be punished anymore by the little boy who pushed his best friend into the water. The insight, the understanding, the enlightenment came up. I don’t need to punish myself anymore. It’s all right that I’m happy. When it’s all right that you’re happy, you find you can have relate relationships with other people in this world. Open ones. You can be open yourself up to other people because you don’t fear of opening up these black corners of your heart because you’re afraid of punishment. You can say these things to other people and you can be accepted with kindness and love. You know, you don’t need to be told off, retelling yourself off for years. You need forgiveness, acknowledgment forgiveness and learning that way that we don’t have to stop ourselves enjoying this world, enjoying happiness. So instead of actually allowing sort of guilt to keep on going on in our community and giving it as our inheritance to other people and thinking you have to feel guilty about this, do you feel bad about this? Do you feel bad about this? And only allowing a person off the hook if they feel bad about it. I was actually saying this in a law lecture in the law school in UWA a couple of years ago. I say that as a Buddhist, they get in big trouble, even bigger trouble than others if they get sort of sentenced. Because one of the things which the judge is taking into consideration is whether you feel guilty or not. Imagine some no Buddhist has done something bad. That’s how we’ve let that go. See, you don’t feel remorse an extra couple of years. Really unfair. But the point is, we can give forgiveness, forgiveness to ourselves. And sometimes a way to do that, if you have got something you feel very guilty about, you don’t need to go and even see a monk or a nun to tell them. Just tell yourself, Bring it up. Acknowledge what you’ve done. Think about it. Make it clearly conscious, and then do an act of forgiveness by saying to yourself, whatever I’ve done by body, speech or mind, intentional or unintentional, which has hurt or harmed somebody else, I ask forgiveness. S and I give myself forgiveness. I will learn from this. I will use it as what I call like dung fertilizer for the garden of my heart. I will grow from this. I will learn from this. And that way you can use all those experiences, all those mistakes, to become a better human being, not a worse one. We want more happy people in this world, not more miserable ones. We don’t need to punish people. Punishing people by putting them into jails. We all know that jails don’t work, but. So don t put yourself in the jail of guilt. Give yourself that freedom to let go of the past. So whatever you ve done in the past you know, one of the worst things which I did in the past may have seemed silly to you, but as a student trying to get a few extra pounds that help with my studies, I started setting encyclopedias from door to door. Children encyclopedias. It was all just based on a bunch of lies, basically. And I went out selling these encyclopedias and the worst thing which happened was I sold one and there was this poor little family, they just had like a child. I was taught to do this by the sales reps and make them feel guilty if they don’t buy this encyclopedia. Make them feel like they’re depriving their child of a decent education. Make them feel like they’re rotten parents if they don’t buy this book. And this poor family were just so soft and had their first child and I tricked them basically into buying this book. Oh, I felt so guilty after that for years I felt bad about that. I felt guilty I d done something rotten and bad. You know what happened? I told that here in sort of Nalamara about ten years ago and someone came up to me and said I don t know if it was you, the chances are it wasn t but when I was small a person came round my house saying encyclopedias to encyclopedias. My parents bought one and that was the best books I ever had. I love those books. I feel so good after that I’ve been torturing myself for years and years and years thinking I’ve done something really terribly wrong and actually it turned out it might have been even good. Have you ever done the same? So acknowledge and forgive and learn from these things so you don’t need to feel guilty about what you’ve done in the past. If you’re going to look at the past, look at all the good things you’ve done in the past. Why is it that when we look in the past we always think about the bad things we’ve done, the awful things we’ve done, the terrible things we’ve done and. If you’re going to actually look in the past at all, how about looking at the good things you ve done, the wonderful things you ve done in the past, the beautiful times you ve had together, isn t that make more sense, creates more happiness? You don’t just learn from mistakes, you learn from successes as well. When we talk about the law of karma as Buddhists, too many people think that the law of karma is I’ve done something bad, therefore I’ve got to be hurt. It’s always a negative side of karma. So you’re having a bit of a headache and you think, I must have hit somebody in my past life, someone has robbed my house, therefore I must have been a thief in my last life. I owe them back. Why that? When we look in karma, even as budhists, we always think about the rotten things which happen. We try and find the cause for the unfortunate things which happen in life. But it’s too few people. They look at the law of karma in Buddhism and thinking, I’m happy, I’ve got a nice relationship, I’m having a wonderful time today, and thinking, oh, yeah, that’s because of my good karma and. We can learn even much more from happiness than we can learn from pain. We learn the causes of happiness. I m well fed today. Had a good meal. That must be because you’ve been generous to starving people in previous lives. That s why you’re well fed now. You deserve this. You’re living in a nice house probably because you’ve helped homeless people before. You’ve reasonably healthy in your body because you’ve cared for sick people. All of these things which you’ve done don’t just look about the causes for your illnesses. Look at the causes for your health. Don’t just look at the causes for your misery. Look at the causes for your happiness. And and then you don’t just avoid doing bad things. You put a lot of effort into doing good things. The causes for happiness in the future. This is actually when we understand that it’s not just guilt looking upon the bad things we ve done in the past. How about looking at the good things you ve done in the past which have created happiness now? The things you’re proud of, the good things which you ve done, which created happiness, prosperity, harmony, peace in the world, or at least in your world. Look at those. Look and praise yourself for it. In Buddhism, we don’t think of punishing people for their faults. We certainly think of praising people for their successes. It’s completely opposite of guilt. We feel good about ourselves for having been good people, done a good thing, being kind, being generous every time been generous because of Buddhism, I haven’t just thought, okay, forget about that, otherwise you get proud. Every time I’ve been generous, I’ve thought about it. When I thought about it, remembered it, it makes me feel happy and makes me feel good. Why not? Don’t you want to feel happy? Don t want to feel good? So you look upon your past and look upon all the good things you’ve done and celebrate them. The old saying flattery gets you everywhere. So about flattering yourself say what a good person I am. Why not? Because mostly you are a good person. People, you’re much, much more good in you than bad when it comes down to it. But why not sort of focus on the good? Instead of feeling guilty about the bad? How about praising the good? So we acknowledge the goodness and we celebrate our goodness and we learn from it. What’s that? The ACL code. Was there anything ACL? I don’t know. Anyway knowledge. Celebrate and learn. Learn to do it again. And that way we become happier, more peaceful. More progressive people. We understand that mistakes are our growing pains. It s how we learn in the world. We have to accept mistakes, allow mistakes, learn from mistakes and don t carry our mistakes like a ball and chain around our heart for the rest of our life. The doors of the prison of guilt are always open at any time. We can walk out and it’s only ourselves. Keep those gates locked and refuse to walk out. That’s why it takes courage and faith to forgive ourselves to let go. That’s why we have these little ceremonies, little forgiveness ceremonies, to be able to say to yourself whatever I’ve done now or whatever the door of my heart is open to me, I forgive, I let go. Come and be at peace with myself when you can let go in those little ceremonies in your heart. Forgiveness ceremonies. You’re free of all that pain which stops you growing. Guilt again is like putting a rock on top of a flower. You can’t grow. Forgiveness is taking that rock off so you can grow to your own delight and for the happiness of others. So be careful of guilt. Understand guilt. Understand that it’s part of our character which is being conditioned, and it’s not a skillful conditioning. Use the code acknowledge, forgive, learn. Use that on other people as well, so you don’t punish others. Acknowledge, forgive, learn. And that way you’ll find you’re creating happiness in others and you’re creating happiness in yourself. Letting go of the guilt means you’re free to be happy. And this is what I wish for others? Surely it’s what you wish for yourself. So whatever you’ve done in the past, you are all forgiven. Everything. And that forgiveness goes from now and into the future. That’s what sometimes when people ask forgiveness, I say, you re forgiven in the past, present and the future. So don t have to ask forgiveness ever again. Isn, t that wonderful? It’s called efficiency. So that s a little talk this evening on forgiveness, the end of guilt. Acknowledge, forgive and learn. May you all be happy and may you all give yourself permission to be happy. That makes me happy to see you happy. So has anyone got any questions about this evening’s talk? Yeah, one. Come up very quickly. Okay, well, first of all, let them acknowledge what they’re doing. Take them aside. What are you doing that for? Because what’s the point of actually going to university is not to learn how to cheat. It’s actually actually to learn how to actually get that knowledge so you can take that into the workforce, so you can actually be empowered and. And getting other people’s information is not going to empower you at all. So tell them why they shouldn’t teach, why they shouldn’t cheat, rather why they shouldn’t cheat. Find out so that you’re teaching them the why. And obviously you got your responsibilities and duties as a teacher. There’s rules you have to keep. So if they cheat, they have to do the exam again, or they have to fail them or something, whatever. But don’t just punish them and just leave it at that. Try and explain and motivate them so they don’t do it again. Unfortunately, our system, it rewards people who pass exams rather than people who learn what the exams are supposed to be testing. And that’s one of the faults of our system. It’d be great if we sort of know. We used to have this graffiti at Cambridge that exams kill by degrees, it said. It’s very neat little saying. And it does sometimes. That s why, I mean, it s better this time when there s like continuous assessment and sometimes electorates assess you because of the whole work you ve done throughout the whole year. And it’s not just on one exam. So it s harder to read, to cheat. But if you do find it, they ve got to take responsibility for that. You got your laws and what you can do, if it s at all possible to turn a blind eye, if it s at all possible, and just tell them, look, please don’t do this again. This is why I’m putting myself on the line here by so turning a blind eye. I’m not doing this out of weakness. I’m doing this. I could fail you just straight away. So why did you do this? You’re here to learn not to cheat. See if you can actually find a different way than always, just the same way of just punishing stuff like that. That’s what I would do anyway. Well, this come to a place like this for a start, because you hear people actually go up and say it’s all right not to feel guilty. And it s allowable. It s not against the law to forgive yourself. And the more people go out there and say that, it s encouraging other people to give forgiveness because sometimes people say, Can I do that? Is that right? Will things get terribly, terribly worse if I forgive all these things? That s the fear. The fear that things will go terribly, terribly wrong. And the more it s encouraged to forgive and the more you see forgiveness happening like I was encouraged by my teachers. You do stupid things and say silly things and they’d be really idiots sometimes. And all they would do, they never punish you, they just laugh. It’s a big joke. You’re giving them happiness. And so encouragement is a way to overcome that fear. Obviously, there is what we call in Buddhism double guilt. You’re guilty and you feel guilty about feeling guilty. And that usually happens for people who come here because they think ajam. Brahm says you shouldn’t feel guilty, but I feel guilty. I feel bad about feeling guilty. That’s called double guilt. And then some people have treble guilt. They feel guilty about feeling guilty, about feeling guilty, and it just goes on and on. A complicated mind. So at least get rid of the double triple guilt. If you feel guilty, just feel guilty. Acknowledge the truth of yourself and then just find at least some of the ordinary things to forgive and just chisel away at the lesser offenses and see other people who’ve also forgiven. You’ve been a murderer and you’ve forgiven yourself. You’ve actually raped somebody and you’ve forgiven yourself. You can do that. And that encourages people. It’s possible, and it’s good, and it’s conducive to the growth and well being of the whole society. Unfortunately, we got a very revengeful society which doesn’t like forgiving at all. That’s where the problem lies. We are afraid to forgive, terribly afraid. It’s got to be positive forgiveness. Have you heard me say before? Not just for forgiving and just allowing it to happen. It’s acknowledged forgiving learning. The learning process is part of it. But forgiveness has to come first before you learn, when you’re still punishing, you’re still denial, afraid, never facing up to what’s happened.

MN20. How To Stop Thinking – Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta

The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
MN20. How To Stop Thinking - Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta

This episode is the 20th sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the Vitakkasaṇṭhānasutta which is about “how to stop thinking”. In this practical teaching the Lord Buddha offers five methods by which to stop thinking and thereby lead into a tranquil meditation.

This translation of the Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta is by Bhikkhu Sujato and was sourced from Sutta Central.

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Vitakkasaṇṭhānasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato

Middle Discourses 20
How to Stop Thinking

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”
“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:
“Mendicants, a mendicant committed to the higher mind should focus on five foundations of meditation from time to time. What five?
Take a mendicant who is focusing on some foundation of meditation that gives rise to bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion. That mendicant should focus on some other foundation of meditation connected with the skillful. As they do so, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. It’s like a deft carpenter or their apprentice who’d knock out or extract a large peg with a finer peg. In the same way, a mendicant … should focus on some other foundation of meditation connected with the skillful …
Now, suppose that mendicant is focusing on some other foundation of meditation connected with the skillful, but bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion keep coming up. They should examine the drawbacks of those thoughts: ‘So these thoughts are unskillful, they’re blameworthy, and they result in suffering.’ As they do so, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. Suppose there was a woman or man who was young, youthful, and fond of adornments. If the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human were hung around their neck, they’d be horrified, repelled, and disgusted. In the same way, a mendicant … should examine the drawbacks of those thoughts …
Now, suppose that mendicant is examining the drawbacks of those thoughts, but bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion keep coming up. They should try to ignore and forget about them. As they do so, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. Suppose there was a person with clear eyes, and some undesirable sights came into their range of vision. They’d just close their eyes or look away. In the same way, a mendicant … those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end …
Now, suppose that mendicant is ignoring and forgetting about those thoughts, but bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion keep coming up. They should focus on stopping the formation of thoughts. As they do so, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. Suppose there was a person walking quickly. They’d think: ‘Why am I walking so quickly? Why don’t I slow down?’ So they’d slow down. They’d think: ‘Why am I walking slowly? Why don’t I stand still?’ So they’d stand still. They’d think: ‘Why am I standing still? Why don’t I sit down?’ So they’d sit down. They’d think: ‘Why am I sitting? Why don’t I lie down?’ So they’d lie down. And so that person would reject successively coarser postures and adopt more subtle ones.
In the same way, a mendicant … those thoughts are given up and come to an end …
Now, suppose that mendicant is focusing on stopping the formation of thoughts, but bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion keep coming up. With teeth clenched and tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth, they should squeeze, squash, and torture mind with mind. As they do so, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. It’s like a strong man who grabs a weaker man by the head or throat or shoulder and squeezes, squashes, and tortures them. In the same way, a mendicant … with teeth clenched and tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth, should squeeze, squash, and torture mind with mind. As they do so, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi.
Now, take the mendicant who is focusing on some foundation of meditation that gives rise to bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion. They focus on some other foundation of meditation connected with the skillful … They examine the drawbacks of those thoughts … They try to ignore and forget about those thoughts … They focus on stopping the formation of thoughts … With teeth clenched and tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth, they squeeze, squash, and torture mind with mind. When they succeed in each of these things, those bad thoughts are given up and come to an end. Their mind becomes stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. This is called a mendicant who is a master of the ways of thought. They’ll think what they want to think, and they won’t think what they don’t want to think. They’ve cut off craving, untied the fetters, and by rightly comprehending conceit have made an end of suffering.”
That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants approved what the Buddha said.

Growing In Goodness And Virtue | Ajahn Dtun Thiracitto

The Forest Path Podcast
The Forest Path Podcast
Growing In Goodness And Virtue | Ajahn Dtun Thiracitto

This episode is a talk given by the Thai forest meditation master Ajahn dtun and is titled “Growing in Goodness and Virtue” . It was published as part of the book “This Is The Path” which was sponsored by Katanyata. You can find links to the original text in the show notes to this episode.

This audio version is narrated by Sol Hanna. If you’d like to support my work by making a donation to help cover the costs of hosting and other services that make this possible, click on the “Buy me a coffee” link below (or go to ).

The Forest Path Podcast is part of the Everyday Dhamma Network.

Growing in Goodness and Virtue
by Ajahn Dtun Thiracitto

Tan Ajahn Dtun (Thiracitto) 2 January 2549 (2006)

Within the teachings of the Lord Buddha, the Buddha instructed the community of his disciples (monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen) to become acquainted with the truths of nature; that is, with regards to one’s own body, the bodies of others and all material objects – all come into being and exist for a period of time before finally ceasing to be. The Buddha was teaching that we should know the nature of things as they truly are: once born, the natural course for all beings is that they must break apart – disintegrate. We must have the sati-paññā (mindfulness and wisdom) to know things as they really are by studying one’s own body and mind, and by contemplating the Dhamma1 so as to totally cleanse one’s heart of the kilesas (defilements) of greed, anger and delusion. These impurities fill the hearts of all beings, bringing with them the endless suffering that comes from the wandering on through saṁsāra (the beginningless cycle of birth, death and rebirth).
Taking a human birth and meeting with the teachings of the Lord Buddha is something extremely hard to come by in this world. People, however are still heedless, deludedly taking pleasure in forms, sounds, odours, tastes and bodily sensations, along with material objects, with there being a never-ending search for wealth, honour and praise. Actually we have previously come across and known all of these things through countless lifetimes. However, the kilesas within the heart of all beings are never satiated, never knowing enough. When we meet with old things, we think they are new, deludedly enjoying materiality which results in an endless succession of dying and being reborn in saṁsāra. Therefore, it is something very rare indeed that we should be born as humans and meet with the teachings of the Lord Buddha.
The human realm is truly an excellent realm for it is the realm in which all the Buddhas have attained enlightenment, hence making their hearts pure. Most of the arahant (fully enlightened being) disciples also purified their hearts here in this human realm. So why is it that, having taken this human birth, we still do not make the effort to work for the heart’s purification here in this very lifetime? Why let time slip by unproductively when time is relentlessly passing by? One’s life is continually diminishing, getting shorter and shorter. One who is heedful will, for this reason, put forth great effort to perform only good, virtuous deeds by observing sīla (moral precepts), practicing samādhi (concentration) and cultivating paññā (wisdom) within their heart, for this is the path of practice for the realization of Nibbāna – the complete ending of suffering.
All the Buddhas pointed to the path of sīla, samādhi, and paññā- virtue, concentration and wisdom – as being the path that will direct one’s heart towards purity; that is, the complete absence of greed, anger and delusion, or in other words, the realization of Nibbāna within one’s own heart.
When the time and opportunity is appropriate, we perform acts of goodness so as to develop pāramī 2 (spiritual perfections) within one’s heart. Having correct or right view, we will wish to make offerings in order to increase our virtue and pāramī. When developing virtue and goodness, however, don’t go delaying or slowing down one’s heart by doing acts that make us ‘lose points’; that is, behaviour that obstructs the development of all that is virtuous. For example, when we do things which are immoral, or improper, this is called ‘losing points’; for such actions interrupt one’s continuing growth in goodness. Whenever we behave improperly or immorally, it will prevent us from performing virtuous acts such as observing moral precepts, developing concentration and cultivating wisdom within one’s heart – for moral and immoral behaviour are mutually obstructive to each other.
When taking birth in each and every lifetime, all the Buddhas would re-establish or continue anew with their aspiration for Buddhahood. They gave up all that is unskillful, bad or immoral. In each lifetime, they cleansed their hearts by performing only good deeds until finally making the heart pure.
The arahant disciples also set their hearts upon building up the spiritual perfections in order to transcend dukkha (suffering, discontentment); namely, for the realization of Nibbāna. They had patience and endurance by not acting upon their kilesas, for doing anything immoral or unwholesome would be a cause for suffering both here in the present and also in the future. They accumulated only goodness by performing the meritorious acts of observing moral precepts, developing concentration and cultivating wisdom. As a result, their store of virtue and pāramī gradually grew until their hearts became strong and unshakeable. They had mindfulness and wisdom investigating, penetrating through to the truth regarding their body or personal condition, realizing that the bodies of all sentient beings are merely aggregates of earth, water, air and fire that come together only temporarily: once born, no-one can go beyond ageing; no-one can go beyond sickness, and so no-one can go beyond death. When there is birth, change then follows, until ultimately the body breaks apart.
If we understand clearly that once having come into being, all natural conditions and phenomena will go through change until eventually disintegrating, and that the mind is unable to dictate that they be otherwise – stable or constant. As a consequence, we will make the effort to have sati-paññā, mindfulness and wisdom, seeing through things to what they truly are, not being heedless in one’s life but rather attempting to progressively build up and increase one’s spiritual perfections and virtue. Sati-paññā investigates any dukkha, or defilements, that are within one’s heart – these being born of delusion, with greed, anger, satisfaction and dissatisfaction as their outcome. One must recognize that all emotions of discontentment or unsatisfactoriness are unfavorable and so must seek out the path that avoids or subdues this dukkha, hence bringing an end to the greed, anger and delusion that are within one’s heart
We should all try, therefore, not to be negligent in our lives. Always have mindfulness and wisdom watching over and tending to the mind in each and every moment by striving to remove any kilesas and harmful thoughts from one’s mind. One’s thoughts do not arise from trees, houses, cars or one’s personal wealth. Rather, all thoughts, or dukkha, originate from within one’s mind. If we hold to incorrect or wrong views, our thinking will, as a result, be mistaken. If we do not have the sati-paññā to restrain our thoughts, we will speak or act in ways that are improper or harmful.
We must have mindfulness guarding over the mind, for the mind is the kilesas’ place of birth. Patiently persevere with any unwholesome thoughts that arise by looking for skilful ways to reflect upon and discard – at that very moment – any greed, anger, satisfaction and dissatisfaction from one’s heart, not keeping or holding to such adverse mental states. One has to know how to let go of one’s attachment towards emotions and thoughts by not acting or speaking unskillfully. If we have mindfulness watching over the mind, staying in the present moment, we will be wise to any defiled emotions, recognizing that they are states of mind, naturally subject to arising and ceasing.
However, if one’s mindfulness and wisdom are lacking in strength, not having the energy or the wisdom to reflect upon one’s emotions or kilesas in order to remove them from the heart, we must then bring mindfulness to focus upon one’s meditation object so as to establish concentration, thus cutting any adverse emotions out from the heart. Constantly recollect the Lord Buddha, or his teachings, by reciting the meditation word ‘buddho, buddho, buddho…’ silently within your mind so as to give rise to samadhi, the peacefulness and coolness of mind. The mind will be still and concentrated – all thoughts, both good and bad, will be absent from the mind.
Once the mind has firm, strong mindfulness, one will have the wisdom to continually reflect upon and abandon any kilesas from one’s heart. Even if the gross kilesas of greed and anger arise, mindfulness and wisdom will be abreast of them. When more moderate or subtle defilements arise, sati-paññā will gradually become wise to them by having the skilful means to see the emotions for what they truly are: impermanent and without any self entity, thus releasing one’s hold of them.
We make an effort, therefore, to remain focused upon growing in goodness and virtue, along with building up the spiritual perfections. What is important is that we don’t go making any bad kamma by performing unwholesome or immoral deeds. We need to have patience and a commitment to following the teachings of the Lord Buddha by refraining from doing anything that is bad or immoral and by practicing only that which is good, for this is what cultivates one’s heart to go beyond all suffering, bringing true, genuine happiness.
To experience true happiness, we must develop the mind by practicing according to the teachings of the Lord Buddha. Once we are familiar with practicing generosity, we can then cultivate the mind even further by keeping the five precepts. If one’s mind grows in strength, we may, on occasion, keep the eight precepts, or even choose to observe them as one’s normal manner of being.
When you have free time, try developing samādhi by practicing meditation. Most people, however, think they don’t have the time to practice, being too busy with their external work and duties along with their family obligations. That people do not have the time to practice is because they don’t see the use or benefit of meditation; consequently, they misguidedly take pleasure with the things of the world.
We practice meditation in order to develop strong mindfulness, wisdom so that it can discard all dukkha from the mind, hence curing one’s heart of its suffering and discontent. Everyday, therefore, we should train and develop ourselves by giving ten or fifteen minutes to quieting the mind, or longer than this if one wishes; work at it, really develop it. We are our own refuge, so we must make an effort to train and develop ourselves, for if they can train elephants and dogs to be tame, or break horses of their wildness, then why can’t we train our own heart to be good? We think that this mind is our own, yet as soon as the mind becomes troubled or distressed, why is it then that the mind only thinks of bad things – things bound up with kilesas? Why is there always dukkha burning within the heart?
For this reason, we must have mindfulness and wisdom rising up to overthrow the kilesas within one’s heart. Look for ways to let go of the defilements, thus lessening and weakening them. We really have to train this mind: train it according to the teachings of Lord Buddha, for his path is the most excellent of ways which makes it possible for the hearts of all beings to be cleansed until purified.
And so, time is passing by. Last year has passed by according to conventional, mundane view or belief, now being considered as the ‘old year’. Today is the second day of the New Year. The old year, along with all of our experiences – one’s joys and one’s sorrows – has passed by. Don’t do again anything that proved not to be good; always regard these things as lessons that educate one’s heart. Anything that was good and wholesome should be gathered together to be further enhanced. The past has gone by; the future has yet to come. One should have mindfulness and wisdom tending to one’s heart, so as to keep it established in virtue and goodness. Everyday, therefore practice only goodness, and one’s heart will, as a consequence, be cool and calm – true happiness will arise.
All conventions and designations are merely mundane concepts or assumptions – that’s all they are. The days are passing by: from days into months, from months into years, this is completely natural. However, months, years, ‘New Years Day’… are all assumed names and concepts; nevertheless, the days and nights remain just the same as ever, but it’s the mind that feels it has to change or improve on things by giving meaning and names to them.
In this that we have assumed to be the New Year, we will have to establish certain wholesome states, making goodness and virtue arise in our hearts. If we are accustomed to practicing generosity, and we desire to enhance this goodness even more, we must then observe the moral precepts. Once observing the moral precepts has become one’s normal manner, and should we wish for an even greater kind of goodness, we then should train and develop the mind in meditation so as to give rise to the mindfulness and wisdom that will be able to see through to the truths regarding one’s own body, the bodies of others, and all material objects: everything in this world comes into being, exists, and ultimately breaks apart.
When the body has broken apart, will one’s mind go to a realm that is high and refined or to one that is low and coarse? Does the heart have a true refuge or not? Or do we only have our homes, our wealth and our possessions, believing these to be one’s refuge? We can, however, only depend on these things temporarily. When the body breaks apart, the mind is completely incapable of taking one’s wealth or one’s physical body along with it. There is only the goodness and virtue that one has accumulated through the practice of sīla, samādhi and paññā that can go along with the mind. So, try establishing correct or right view within one’s heart in order to build up the spiritual perfections, thus effecting a lessening in the number of one’s future lives until finally realizing Nibbāna here in one’s own heart.
At present, you all have faith in this supreme dispensation of the Lord Buddha, routinely coming to make offerings (to the community of monks), even though it may not always be here at Wat Boonyawad. Normally, at the appropriate time and opportunity, you will go and give offerings at various monasteries, some being close and others being far from your homes, due to having practiced such generosity since past lives through into this present life. You have thus developed a strong tendency to further practice generosity and to build up the spiritual perfections. This can be considered to be one’s deep-rooted conditioning, having faithfully practiced like this since the past, hence causing one to live life with right view in one’s heart; and as such, one’s virtue and goodness will continue to grow further.
And so, I would like to call upon the spiritual perfections of all the Buddhas and the greatness of their teaching, along with the spiritual perfections of all the arahant disciples; may their goodness and virtue be your highest object of recollection, together with the virtue of the Sangha, since the past until the present, as well as the goodness they will continue to cultivate in the future, and the goodness of all of you – ever since one’s former lives until the present – so that you will aspire to further practice goodness in order to realize Nibbāna.
May all this goodness create the conditions for you all to experience growth and prosperity in your lives, realizing whatever you may wish for – provided it is within the bounds of correct morality.
May the vision of Dhamma arise in your practice and may you all realize Nibbāna.
May it be so.

Happiness | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Happiness | Ajahn Brahm

The key to happiness lies in contentment and letting go. The happiness that comes from being generous comes from freeing ourselves from our attachments and worries. Buddhism teaches us to let go of negative thoughts and emotions associated with death and sickness, and to be happy in the face of these occasions. Buddhism teaches that true happiness comes from understanding the Four Noble Truths and practicing the eightfold path. This can be achieved by following the basic tenets of the religion, such as detachment, acceptance, control of desires, and contemplation of the moment’s beauty. When tragedies happen, we usually focus on the things that are going wrong. But when we focus on what’s actually going on inside of us, we start to see that life is always changing and that it’s always going to pass. This allows us to be happier and handle difficult situations better. Buddhism teaches that by slowly letting go and becoming more at peace, we can be free of our past.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 30th May 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

| by Ajahn Brahm

(Robot generated transcript – expect errors!)

So for this evening’s talk, I’m going to talk about happiness. Is that a good title for the talk? Yeah. And the reason is because the last week I’ve been got so many letters, emails, all sorts of stuff, because finally they proved that Buddhist monks are actually more happy than others. Listen, I’m enjoying this. This is many extracts here. This was from the Times of London. On scanning the brains of Buddhist monks and others who practice religious meditation, two groups of researchers separately confirmed that it is visibly biologically provable that such people are happier than the norm. And my comment? See, I told you so. All these years we’ve been telling you this. And finally it’s been proved. Those who follow the Four Noble Truths and cultivate detachment, acceptance, the control of the desires and the contemplation of the moment’s beauty are not only serene, but strong. The gymnasts of the mind, said one scientist, admiringly even when not enrapt in formal meditation, they are less likely to be shocked, flustered, angry or even surprised. You can experiment as found fire a gun near them, but please don’t try. And they barely jump. Yet at the same time, they are unusually sensitive to tiny signs of emotion in other human faces. We can now hypothesize with some confidence, said Professor Flanagan of Duke University, North Carolina. That, though, is apparently happy, calm Buddhist. They say souls here calm Buddhist, non souls really are happy and. They say here the basic tenets of Buddhism are easier to turn towards. Live every moment and every act. Fully accept that all things pass. Control your desires without starving them. Do not kill or quarrel. Hatred cannot be ended by more hatred. Forgive others than yourself. Be kind. Contemplate the beautiful. Many of its sayings are superb. I am particularly fond of the maxim that churning water for however long a time does not produce butter. That’s actually from the suitors there. And they really said that. But it’s wonderful. Churning water for however long time does not produce butter. So trying to make money does not produce happiness. There are government ministries that would do well to put that up on the wall. It what is it here. I got here okay. They’re doing about the investigation here of prozac and other things to make you happy. There are safer routes to calm the conducts. We should not need so many of these happiness pills that s POSAC and that stuff. The conduct of consciousness is private to each one of us. And you can t pass laws compelling meditation. Why not? But there are aspects of public policy that help or hinder these intimate, private routes of happiness. Local authorities who tend green, quiet spaces in the midst of noisy cities and spend effort on holding back noise and vandalism may find it hard to justify the cost financially. But they are probably helping as much as if they built another hospital. I want to say that I think I really agree with that. Primary schools which hold a meditation period, or instead a chill out room with soft music and colors, report extraordinary improvements in the behavior and learning of stressed hyperactive children. You see, so all these years I’ve been saying this works. Finally, the scientists, they did brain scans and they actually show that the Buddhist monks meditators are happier. So this is what we are coming here for the sake of happiness. And why is that? So is because this is basic Buddhism. We all know. If anyone asks you what is Buddhism teach? You can say the Four Noble Truths. We just mentioned it in there a few moments ago. The four Noble truths. And you know the way the Four Noble Truths are taught here. The Four Noble Truths are happiness, the cause of happiness, that sometimes there isn’t happiness, and why there isn’t happiness. Some of you have read the books, some what the Buddha said. He said suffering, the course of suffering, the end of suffering, and the way to the end of suffering. But the end of suffering, as I keep on saying here, is happiness. The way to happiness is this eightfold path. And sometimes there’s no happiness. Why? Because of craving desire. That s why there s no happiness sometimes. So this is actually basic Buddhist teachings. This is what the Buddha started teaching right from the very beginning. Away to happiness. If there s no happiness, why there s no happiness? If there is happiness, why there is happiness? The cause and effect of happiness. And so anyone who understands those teachings and starts to put them into practice, if it’s no true teachings, it should make you happier. And so this is actually basic Buddhism, the path of happiness. This is what we’re doing it for. Certainly why I was doing it for. The reason why I started meditating was because it was happy. It was just so much fun. A different type of happiness, a different type of fun. But I’ll come across that later on in this talk. The reason why I kept precepts why kept my five presets because it was fun to do this really struck people. What are you doing this for? You’re trying to go to heaven or trying to be some sort of fundamentalist Buddhist by giving up alcohol in university? It was actually more fun to do that. I keep telling people that when I gave up alcohol at university, it was a courageous thing to do. All my friends were all into alcohol, going to the pub in the evening, having a few beers, getting drunk. I gave it up and I thought that was it. My friends would not like to go out with a wowzer again, I thought invited to any more parties. But you know what happened to me? I got invited to even more parties than I did before. And the reason was because they wanted somebody sober to drive them home afterwards. There’s many advantages in giving up alcohol. Then you enjoyed yourself before when you took alcohol, the first part of the party you remembered the last party, didn’t know what you were doing, was very dangerous. So it’s marvelous to bear. I was happier. I became a happier person. And so what Buddhism was actually encouraging me to do is actually be happier and happier. And it was true. The happiest people I’d ever seen when I was a layperson were Buddhist monks. Actually, when I saw them, I thought, this is very interesting, because I’d seen the theory and I wanted the examples, examples of people who’ve been practicing all these things for so long. Does it work or doesn’t it work? What I saw, my goodness, it worked. When I decided to become a monk, I was so impressed that in this type of Buddhism, that you don’t have to become a monk for every her. As long as you’re happy, having a good time, you can stay as a monk. As a monk, you can disrobe at any moment. There’s not much of a ceremony required. I can just turn to any one of you and just say, right, this is it. I’m leaving. I’m not a monk anymore. Oops but you have to mean it as well. That’s all it needs, actually, to leave. And that really impressed me with Buddhist monasticism, because it meant that you weren’t trying to control a person just because of some vow they made many, many years ago. And it meant because it was so easy to leave the monkhood, the only reason why people were still there was because they must be getting something out of this. There must be some enjoyment, some fulfillment, some fun, and. That actually promised to me that there was something behind this this whole path of Buddhism. And when you went over to when I went over to Thailand, where I studied as a monk, where I became a monk again, those people out there were just so happy. It’s crazy that they weren’t having any alcohol at all. There’s no sex involved. There’s no beer, no movies, no Matrix. And they were just so happy. There’s a Matrix craze at the moment. Stupid. And they were just so happy without all of this. And that really started to sort of show me something. That what real happiness truly was. Certainly there’s a few of the experiences which I had as a young man. I went to, like, a big university, just scholarships. My father was very poor. I was quite bright as a kid. I went to this big college called Cambridge where your designation was called Young Gentlemen. I had long hair, hippie bees, green velvet trousers. I was anything but a young gentleman. And in this particular place you were living because of the college system. You’re actually living and associating with all his professors and lecturers. Some of them were noble laureates and. And you got to know them personally. And one thing which I found out was that just because you’re brilliant in your field of science or whatever, it doesn’t mean you got any idea about life. Some of these people were going through divorces, were going through personal problems. They weren’t happy. And that actually really was one of the reasons why I left academia, because with all of the intelligence, it didn’t seem to be used for the right purposes of being happy. So intelligence just wasn’t seemed to be the way to be happy. When I went to Thailand, I saw these really, really poor people. They were so poor, but my goodness, they were happier than some of the rich people I knew in college. Some of these people were almost millionaires because their parents were very rich and they got good education and sent them to college. And my goodness, some of these were so rich, but they weren’t happy at all. And I started looking, if I was going to sort of live anywhere, I’d rather live as a poor farmer in the northeast of Thailand and as a rich person in London, basically because they seemed happier and. But one of the first things which I found over there was that not all of the Thai villagers were happy. Some were as miserable as the people I knew in the west but some were really happy and at peace with themselves. This is 30 years ago and I soon found out the people who were happy in the village were the people who had the all village. All the families always had water buffalo to plow their fields. That was almost part of the family. The people who were happy were those villagers who had one water buffalo and were content to have one water buffalo. They were as happy as anything. Always ready to smile and to talk with you and to help out in the monastery. Always ready to have a joke. Always light hearted. Just they were happy people. The sort of people you never see or very rarely see in the Western places. But it wasn’t all the people. There were some of the villagers who wanted to get on in life. Those are the villagers who had one water buffalo and wanted two water buffaloes. They were the ones who weren’t happy. And I started to realize it was like rich wealth and poverty has nothing to do with how much you have. Nothing at all. Because I see many people rich in their hearts, happy people who ve got hardly anything. I ve seen poor people who ve got millions and millions and millions and live in big mansions. I remember I tell the story that went as a man. Sometimes one of our jobs is to go house blessing go to people’s houses and just bless them. One family well not family one house I went to once in Perth a big mansion I think it’s in Shelley or something on the riverfront and they’re huge mansion is a by thai lady I think she’s left there now. And during the ceremony, I asked to go to the toilet. And this is no joke. This actually happened. She had to draw me a map. How to get to the toilet in a mansion. It was that complicated and part of the thing we have this little holdy water we sprinkle in all the rooms I love doing that because I actually get to see so have a sticky beak around people’s houses it. And she had took me so long, actually, to bless this house, because so many rooms. What really struck me afterwards was there’s only one person lived in it. Herself. She had no friends, no family, no children. She lived in this huge mansion all by herself. That was just so sad, so lonely. She had huge wealth, but no happiness. So to me, anyway, I realized that being rich doesn’t mean having big houses. Being poor doesn’t mean sort of living in a dirt hut, poor or rich. I’m talking about rich in happiness or poor in happiness. It doesn’t depend on how much you have, but your contentment. Which is why the Buddha kept on saying that contentment is the highest wealth. It’s the richness, it’s the happiness of the heart. And that’s what I actually saw in these monks and these lay people in Thailand. They had this beautiful sense of contentment and happiness. Sure, they worked hard. They didn’t want so much. And this is actually the core of reason why Buddhists are more happy, because we’re encouraged not to want so much. Basically, wanting is the cause of suffering, craving, desire, letting go. Contentment is the cause of the ending of suffering, of happiness. It’s a very powerful teaching because it goes against a lot of what we do in the west, and it’s part of meditation, it’s part of life. We all know if you try and meditate wanting things, you just get suffering. It’s a Buddhist second noble truth, which is why I keep on saying here, there’s two types of meditation in the world we talk second noble truth meditation and third noble truth meditation. Those are two types of meditation people do. Second noble truth meditation is called craving. I want I want to be peaceful. I want to sort of get blissed out. I want to see my past lives. I want to see the lotto numbers for this week. I want to get rid of my pain. I want to get rid of my sickness. All wanting, wanting, wanting just leads to suffering. The Buddha said this, and it’s basic Buddhist teaching. The Buddha said letting go, giving up, craving is the way to happiness. That’s the third noble truth meditation. This is the way I’ve been teaching for the last few years. Just sit there and let go. The door of my heart is open to this moment, no matter what it is. It’s contentment. It’s putting happiness into the moment rather than seeking happiness from somewhere outside. And. Instead of going searching for happiness in somewhere in the future, in somewhere, I get rich, I get win the lotto, become famous, find a beautiful partner in the world, get rid of all my problems. So solve this, solve that, then I’ll be happy. And of course you know that that is never the way to happiness. You’ve been doing that all your life. Is your life, your work finished yet? Have you that happiness yet which you’ve been struggling for all the time? Of course not. There comes a time when you stop all that struggling to try and find happiness somewhere outside of this moment, outside of you, outside of your family. That’s why that happiness lies in contentment and letting go. It’s a strange thing happens. That what craving, what desire, what the promises. If you work really hard, then you’ll be happy. Try and get this, then you’ll be okay. Isn’t that what the adverts say? If you actually go and see the Matrix, then you’ll really be happy. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen that. Go and sort of go overseas, go to Paris. You haven’t been to Europe yet. You haven’t been you haven’t lived, you haven’t been happy. If you haven’t sort of fallen in love, you’ve never been happy yet. You don’t know happiness until you’ve had a child. All this sort of stuff craziness. So what is happiness? You find? So sometimes I ask people, the moment in your life, when have you been most happy? Just ask yourself that question. The time so far in your life when you’ve really, really been happy. Happiest moments of your life, what have those been? I remember just as a student when I was working, trying to save up to go overseas. I got my scholarship to Cambridge when I was only 17 and had nine months off. It wasn’t really a gap year, it was just what happened. So I had nine months between finishing school before going to university. So I got a job and saved up and was going to go to North Africa and United States, Central America. I had a great time opening my eyes to different cultures in the world. Remember at lunchtime I was having this little job somewhere in Kenton, and I go into sort of Hyde Park, just to sit by the lake. It’s interesting. The lake was called Serpentine. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come. And I get so peaceful there, just so content. Hardly worry in the world. I thought, this is really what life is all about. Just sitting by a lake with no responsibilities, free, at ease with my lunch hour. And of course, later on in life, when you were working hard as a school teacher you got all these responsibilities and you lost that sense of peace and discontentment. It was only later on, as a monk, you got that contentment back again. Just when you’re sitting by a lake. Now, as a monk, you sit by the mind which is the beautiful lake inside. Just content. Having your lunch hour. Lunch hour is a very beautiful concept because it’s the space we have between our work where we rest and we relax. It this is what letting go really means. Too many people think that to let go you have to do absolutely nothing. Those of you who’ve been to see the monks in our monastery at Serpentine or go and see Sister at Kichigan you know, just we work really hard. But not all the time. No matter how much responsibilities and duties you have in the world, the monks learn how to put all of that down for a few moments to rest and find their inner happiness. This is the reason why people don’t find happiness. They don’t know how to stop. So much of our lives we keep going hour after hour after hour. In the last week, how often have you just stopped and paused in your week and just allow everything to calm down and come to a stop? Just to sit by the lake for lunch hour, just to be at peace. We’re always moving, always walking, always running, always chasing, never stopping. This is why we find no peace, no happiness, no sense of freedom in our world. We just become just obsessive doers. We’ve forgotten how to just stop from time to time. This is one of the reasons why Buddhist monks are happy, why it’s proven to be so. Do we know how to stop? How to let all those burdens down on. Just for a few moments. It’s called nonattachment, which means letting go. Sometimes we have to contemplate this first, actually, to at least convince ourselves it’s worthwhile doing. Why is it we always worry about the past so much? Why is it we always just concern ourselves about the future over much? It’s just an obsession which we have. It’s got no validity rationally. We all know that. The past is just so uncertain. What you think happened probably never did happen. Just as somebody was telling me just the other day, they’re involved in a car accident when they went to the police station. They put the report in to the police station and afterwards they realized they made a mist sake and they thought, oh my goodness, that they’re going to go to jail for that. They lie to the policeman or to the police station. I tell them, look, it’s well known, ask any policeman, that when two people see a traffic accident and they take the witness statements, five minutes later, those witness statements will be completely different than what actually happened. Even in five minutes ago, we can’t remember exactly what happened. One of the old meditation tricks sometimes we do to see how mindful people were. Your shoes, where did you leave them when you came into this room? Are you sure? You think you’re sure? One evening, after one of these talks has happened, actually many times, someone came in afterwards can we use your phone? Because their car had been stolen after one of the talks. So they called the police and of course, our caretaker went outside and said, what color is your car anyway? Because there’s one car left just on the other side of the car park. They’ve forgotten where they parked the car. They were sure they put it there, but it went actually somewhere else. Now, I think you can all relate to that, can you? The reason why you can relate to it is because our memory is so uncertain. So why do we bother about the past so much? We don’t know what really happened. We think we do and that’s a problem. When we know it’s uncertain, we can actually let it go. Isn t it wonderful to be free of the past? Look at how much pain it causes what happened to you when you re a kid whether you pass the exam or fail the exam whether this happened or that happened, it’s all gone now. You don’t need psychologically rationally. You don’t need to carry around the past because it’s come a habit of ours and because of our habits that we just torture ourselves with the past. If you’re going to remember the past, why do you remember the good things which happened in the past? Why is it we always remember the bad things which happened in the past? Why is it that when we go home after a day’s work how’s your day at work today, A? The boss shouted at me today. What else happened? Why do you always remember the rotten things which happened today? We had a car accident. How many times do you drive and you didn’t have a car accident? Do you go home and you say to your wife, oh, it s wonderful. I didn t have a car accident today. Isn t it wonderful? And no one shout at me in the office today. Why is it we always focus on the faults of life? Or rather, we always focus on the faults of the past? It s just an obsession we have with Buddhism. We actually see through wisdom, through training. We don t need to do that. It we don’t need to focus on the faults, focus on feeling guilty or feeling being a victim. We can actually let the whole thing go. It’s allowed. It’s good. Other people do it. You do it and you’ve become more happy. Become free of your past. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to do? Completely free yourself of all the past gone. So you’ve just got the present moment and the future. All the scary things which we have to think about what’s going to happen next? People get so scared of life. Brisbane Wells in Singapore, so many people were scared of getting SARS. I was telling, look, the chance of getting SARS are just so minimal. When I was there in Singapore, hundred people had SARS. It was in the newspaper, 100 people today, 104 people. My goodness. I was trying to get those newspapers to put in 3,990,000 people. 900 didn’t have SARS today. And. That’s true because it s 4 million population in Singapore. Just think how many people didn’t have that disease. And that actually puts perspective in what? S going on. Why is it that we just focus on the faults all the time? Focus on negativity fault finding. This is why in meditation we train ourselves to seek out beauty. To see the beautiful even in the breath. This simple thing like a breath, just going in and going out, going in, going out. It can be the most beautiful thing in the world. We see the beauty in simplicity. Why do you need a television to see all these nature movies? We got Cotterslow Beach at sunset. We got these beautiful forests. We got the southwest. Why do you need to actually to manufacture beauty when you have all the beauty you like just in the moment right here? Why do you want to seek out happiness somewhere else? We’ve got so much happiness inside of ourselves if we’d only pause and stop to look. This is what actually the Buddha was saying in is to go against the stream of the world which goes to seek happiness somewhere out there in the relationship, in the movie, in the food, in the sex, somewhere out there. Then I’ll be happy. Buddha said, stop, you find you have all the happiness you’ll ever want. Stop looking, stop searching. Stop trying to seek for things. When you stop, happiness is right there with you. This is why the whole path of Buddhism is all about slowly stopping, slowly calming, letting go, being more at peace. That’s the underlying theme of happiness. When we start letting go, how do we start letting go? We start letting go by being generous. We’re doing a little fundraiser today because many of the Buddhists are Sri Lankan, because there’s been huge floods in Sri Lanka. They haven’t been publicized very much, but they’re there and people are dying. There’s a little collection out the back there. Wonderful thing to let go. Little bit of money in Australia, goes a huge way in South Asia. This is why we do this. Maybe not because the people in Sri Lanka, actually, they do need it, but we also need to help to give. It’s like a bit of letting go, a bit of renunciation, a bit of freedom. And if you just give a little, you get so much happiness back. I’ve done that in my manner, in my lay life, even my monastic life. Every time I give something, give my time, give energy, go and help somebody, you just get so much back in return, so much happiness. Why? The reason is because it’s being selfless. Giving up, letting go, not wanting anything, but just giving for the sake of giving, sharing for the sake of sharing. This is why it makes one happy. So we’re not doing this to get to heaven afterwards. We’re not doing this to get brownie points. We’re doing this actually for happiness. That’s why it’s so often that if anyone’s been to our monasteries at Giddy, Ganop, at Serpentine, even this place here on the weekend, have a look at how much food people bring for the monks. There’s much, much more than we can eat. Sometimes. I remember just this one monk the first time he went to England and there s all these people gave him so much food. And this English man came up to never seen a monk before. Looked in his bowl and was actually amazed, actually disgusted, actually, how much food this monk had in this bowl because he looked in and said blimey, that s enough to feed a bloody army. That s what he actually said. So this monk was a bit embarrassed, but he told us a story afterwards because he only eat one meal a day. So it has to be quite a bit. Imagine all your dinners all put in one bowl. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and all that. We eat in between. Of course it’s a lot. But imagine people bring so much for the we ask, Why do you bring so much? It’s not that we need it. Why do people go all the way from Earth all the way to certain town, an hour’s drive there? We’re the only place where people actually bring us dinner, where we have guests and where the guests do the washing up. If you invite guests for dinner, at least you to the washing up. There are guests to the washing up as well. They feed us, they do the washing up and they take it away afterwards. And I asked Cuban, I said, Why do people do that? And all the time the same answer could they get happiness out of this? They get happiness out of caring, looking after, sharing. That is the first type of happiness coming from letting go. The happiness of generosity. Just caring, sharing, giving for others. It doesn’t have to be money. Just giving time, giving energy, giving effort for others. People go and work in hospices, hospitals, just for the sake of it. This is where you get so much happiness out of this. For two years, when I was a student, I spent every Thursday afternoon going to a local hospital, helping out with down syndrome kids. I got so much happiness out of there. So much so that in the last the last time when I was in the last time, one of the last times I went there in the afternoon. I’d been working with these kids for so long that everyone trusted me. They gave me the whole group to look after as two groups. I looked after one whole group myself in the first session. Then we’d stopped at tea and I looked after the second group in the second session. I didn t know what was going on. I was stupid. After the second session, they put all the two groups of kids together with all of the occupational therapists and all the other nurses there, to make a presentation to me. Of all the students who ve ever helped out volunteer there, I’d been there by far the longest, and they wanted to thank me. And so all these kids, these down syndrome kids s had actually tried to make little things, little presents for me. They weren’t sort of very well made because these kids could not do very much. They all presented me with these things and my goodness, you cried. It was so touching. Because I was stupid. I didn’t expect I didn’t know what they were up to. And after making this presentation, they said that you’ve been the student who’s come here the longest. We know that it’s finals week next week. You have to do your exams, so this will be your last session. And I always remember this. I actually asked and said, look, my exams don’t start for another week. Can I please come back next week again? And I actually almost beg to come back again. And I did this because I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I got happiness out of that. It wasn’t doing service in the sense of, you know I was I was trying to sort of sacrifice myself for others. I was getting so much happiness out this it was fun. I was learning about how compassion makes you happy. Our service giving it’s letting go again. That’s actually why I started keeping my precepts because letting go you didn’t need to have alcohol to be happy. You didn’t need to sort of lie to get your way in the world. You didn’t need any of these things. You’re happy quite naturally. Why is it that sort of people have to go and drink to be happy? I can’t understand it myself. Happiness is natural to people if you can just let go and stop worrying about things to be able to let go of the past, not be afraid of the future if you enjoy each other’s company, if you’re in an airplane, so what if it gets hijacked? Nice story to tell people on a Friday night when you come to Perth there’s people in Singapore told me once that if you actually get killed in an aircraft it’s one of the best ways to dying for two reasons like dying in an air crash. The reason is the first of all it’s instantaneous, you don’t feel anything and number two, your relations get a big insurance payout and there’s no need for a funeral. Number three you sort of cremated on the spot saved a lot of problems going to funerals just sort of funeral last Thursday spending hours and hours in this ceremonies and boxes three reasons why it’s a great way to die if you’re on an aircraft crash you see what we’re meaning there is actually sort of making it enjoyable. It. Why not? Because in Buddhism you try and make happiness out of anything. And this is not just saying this. This is true. You get sick and I say, what a wonderful opportunity. You’re sick at last. You’ve got a chance to rest, stay in bed all day. Isn’t that wonderful? Is it wonderful? You got an opportunity for other people look after you. So many people tell me this, that when they’re getting these great sicknesses, they feel so touched how many people care about them. It becomes this beautiful way of people being allowed to express their compassion to other people. That’s why if we really know about sickness and how to deal with it it becomes a beautiful time of our lives for those who can help us and serve us and look after us. That’s why one of those mugs, years and years ago, visiting his parents in Chicago chicago is a very, very cold city, especially in the winter snows. It’s icy. He slipped and broke his leg and. Was put in hospital and he told me that when his mother came into the ward and saw him, she had a big smile on her face he couldn’t understand why. Are you happy that I’ve got broken my leg? His mother said. At last I’ve got you where I want you. Because his mother just wanted to him. And now he was in hospital for a couple of weeks. He couldn’t go anywhere. He was stuck there. Great. I can bother you. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to help other people, to serve and look after them, care for them? It’s a privilege to care. If you know about letting go, you get so much happiness of looking after someone else who’sick in pain. Seeing how I can actually relieve and help that pain. I can be a friend to you, how I can care for you, how I can express my love for you. Sometimes it’s so hard to express love. But when a person’sick we can do that. It’s almost like one of the times we’re allowed to really just show how much we care. That’s why sickness can be such a wonderful moving time. So even in sickness, you can make it good, enjoyable, growing from it. You can make it happy. And that s why, if you bring happiness to sickness, the sickness doesn’t last all that long. Happiness means the endorphins in the bloodstream. Sort of get secreted. Nature s painkiller increases the immune system. This is actually why you keep it happy, even in hospital and even in deaths as well. You’ve seen all the times I’ve done funeral services. Many of you have been to those already. And if you haven’t been to one yet, you will do one day when I go and do yours. And you make them happy. Why not last Thursday? Yesterday was a funeral service for Sri Lankan lady who died. 42. Comes here regularly. You one of the things I noticed there. I gave a nice little sermon there. Little talk about just no, death is okay. Nothing wrong with it. But that is afterwards, just when I had everybody so nice and calm and peaceful. But what happened was when people actually gave their condolences and. It was like Westerners. They weren’t Buddhists. And I sort of really should have gone up and told them look, don’t do that ever again. Everyone was nice and peaceful, but then they came out, oh, you poor thing. Oh, isn’t it terrible? Oh, isn’t it awful? Oh. And of course, they sort of conditioned that response from other people. They made the death sort of a sad occasion just because of unwise responses to what’s going on. It wasn’t their wife who died, but they said, oh, isn’t it sad? Isn’t it terrible? Because we’ve been conditioned to think like that. And Buddhists, when they’ve changed that conditioning, they can actually take all of these occasions in life death and sickness, disappointments and they can handle it with much greater ease, less suffering, even with happiness. After all, when a person dies, their job in this world is over. It’s like retiring. Aren t you happy when you retire? You don’t have to go to work anymore? Just like some of the prisoners I used to see in jail, when they got released from prison, they used to work their custom. They shouldn t be doing this. They’re supposed to be Buddhists but they used to have these champagne breakfast starting javadale. They were free. When you’re dead, you’re free. Free having to go to work in the morning, free from having to sort of all this painful body, which is usually happens when you’re dying, isn’t a wonderful thing. So a lot of times that people have the wrong attitude towards these things and as Buddhists we can see things in a different way. Said here many, many times when you die, do you want other people to be upset and cry? When you die, do you want other people to be miserable that you’re not there anymore? Of course not all human beings, because we love our friends, our relations, our loved ones, we want them to be happy. So why are people just so stubborn and never pay any account to the person who they’re supposed to be paying respects to? If they were really paying respects to the person in the coffin, they wouldn’t be so sad, because paying respects is respecting their wishes and wishes for you to be happy. So it’s just a different way of looking at things. And this is, again, letting go. We know how to let go of each other, then we know how to be happy. This is why, again, Buddhists are happy, because they can let go of some of these things which happen in life which other people think are sad and terrible. Buddhists know many, many times you’ve lived, you’ve been here, done that so many times. We enjoy each other’s company and then we go again, be terrible if we were the same person forever, never and ever. Variety is a spice of life. And not trying to say sort of keep changing your partners, but next lifetime, maybe. Who knows? But what we’re actually saying there is that we don’t take these causes for suffering and causes for pain, which people usually do in the world, as huge problems anymore. There’s another way of looking at it, and Buddhism gave that other way, called letting go. A lot of times it’s because our thought becomes so narrow minded, so conditioned, always thinking in the same way. That’s why when somebody dies oh, isn’t it sad? Or sometimes that when people fall in love. Isn’t it happy when a baby is born? Oh, congratulations. We got our cultural conditioning here. But if you think about it, what does a baby do when it’s born? It cries. And all the relations are laughing. When somebody dies, you can see them smiling and everyone else is crying. We get it the wrong way around every time. Sure. The person is actually being born or dying. They should know, though the point is here that some of our cultural conditioning is not all that helpful and that’s all it actually is, is cultural conditioning. And Buddhists have actually tried to stop that conditioning, stopping it through mindfulness, just seeing what’s going on. It’s marvelous is whenever you have a problem in your life. Actually, instead of looking at the problem outside, look at the person who s reacting to this problem. Look at what’s going on inside of you when somebody s dying or when there’s sickness or when there’s a loss. What’s actually going on inside, not what’s going on outside. Because the problem is that when there’s any tragedy in life, it’s always is. We focus outside of ourself. Oh, that poor thing. Oh, my stock. My stocks have gone down. I’ve lost money. What’s happening actually inside is more important to see. We actually start seeing what’s inside, which is what mindfulness is supposed to do, what contemplation is supposed to do. See some of the silly ways we react to these things and just how we allow these things to create suffering in our mind. It’s big deal. You get money, you lose money. Sickness and health, life and death, the dualities of the world. They come and they go. That’s why part of Buddhism is like just the impermanence. That teaching of the emperor’s ring, which is a powerful teaching. Don’t mind how many times I’ve pete it, because I practiced that myself. The emperor was always getting depressed when things went wrong. Always having parties when things were going right because he got depressed. He would sulk and stay in his room because when things were going well, he’d always hold parties. He never did any work, but. Because of that, the kingdom got worse and worse. And so the ministers met together. How can we teach this young emperor to be wise so he can run a good kingdom? And all they did was give him a ring. A gold ring. But on the outside of that ring were inscribed the words this too will pass. That’s all. So when things were going well in the kingdom, he’d look at a ring. This too will pass. You can’t take it for granted. So he worked even harder. Even when things were going well, he couldn’t afford to have parties all the time because he knew that the good times would pass. They were unstable. They needed work to keep them going longer. And he gave it that work. Now, all your relationships, have you got a good relationship with your partner? That too will pass. Because you know that you put more care, more attention, more effort into your relationship. Because you can’t take it for granted. Are you healthy? Have you got sickness? Remember, this too will pass. So if you’re in good health, look after that. You put effort and care into your health. Because it’s of the nature to get sick. You’ll look after it. You don’t take it for granted. And your life, this too will pass us. So look after this life of yours. Make sure it’s rich. Rich in goodness. Rich in those sorts of things which we talk about at funerals. The goodness, the care, the love of a person. Because this too will pass. And when you’re sick you know that story with Jagan Cha? When I was sick in hospital in Thailand, first time I was sick with typhus fever there about three or four weeks. Couldn’t find out what was wrong with me at first. Then later, what we found out was typhus. You know what it’s like in a third world country in a backwater a third world country in a hospital ward. My first memory of that ward was at 06:00 in the evening. The nurse went after 07:00. Still, the nurse night nurse hadn’t come. So I turned around to the mud sitting in the next bed. When’s the night nurse coming? Should we try and tell someone? The nurse hasn’t turned up. What do you mean night nurse? There ain’t no night nurses here. If you get sick at the middle of the night, that’s just bad karma. And. Thank you very much. And I had this terrible fever week after week. And then Adjourned Char came to visit me. My teacher, this great monk, came to visit little me. I was only a young monk, a baby monk. He s such an important big monk. And he came to see me. Know what it s like when these people come and see you? And I felt so elated for about 1 minute. Because when Ajad Shah came in, you know what he said? He said, Brahma Wang, so you’re either going to get better or you’re going to die. And then he left. Thank you very much. But just how true. That way he didn’t sort of mess around. He just told it as it is. How can you make fault with that? That’s true. Whenever you get sick, it’s not going to last. This too will pass. So you don’t have to worry about being sick. Because it’s either going to die, you’re going to get better. One of the two. So what? It means the pain is not going to last forever. The weakness this is what I mean by this too will pass. So no matter what’s happening, if you’re in grief or whatever, it will pass. Don’t have to worry about it. If you’re depressed, you’re in depression. Don’t worry about it. All pass. Just see how long you can be depressed for. See if you can beat your record, keep notes. See if you can be depressed for longer than you did last time. All you’re doing there is when you’re actually saying that to see how long you be depressed for. It’s reminding you that it won’t last forever. This is trouble with depression or sickness. When you it’s got no end to it, then you can’t handle it any longer and that really becomes suffering. When you know it’s going to end, then you know it’s tolerable. This is actually why when we realize that things will pass, whether it’s sickness, disappointment or whatever, we can actually handle it. It makes much greater happiness. When we know it’s going to pass, we’re letting go. So this is actually why Buddhists are happier than other people. Because we can let go. It will pass. Doesn’t matter what happens. When I first became the Advert of the Monastery in certain time, I made this resolution. I thought, well, it doesn’t really matter if I do really well, then that’s great and can help a lot of people. But it’ll be even better if I really stuff up and make a mess of things because then people can leave me alone. I can become a hermit. That’s even better. It’s always a win win situation. That’s always in life it’s a win win situation if you know the dumber. Doesn’t matter what happens if if I die tomorrow, it’s great, be a peace at last. If I don’t die, then I can actually work harder and do more good karma for other people. Either way, it’s a win win situation. So this is actually just a different way of looking at things in life. If your husband leaves you and. Then it’s a win situation. You can go off and become a nun. It’s so hard with a husband over there because you go look after them and all this sort of stuff. So it’s always a win win situation. If they don’t leave you, then you got a nice companion for your old age. So on to work and pay the rent. So it’s always a win win situation. So looking at the positive side of life and why not? Why is it that human beings, we always tend to look at the negative side of life? There is a positive side there. So have a look at it and incorporate that into your life. What is said in that little essay there about seeing the beauty in things? That’s why it’s so hard for as a monk to get angry at other people, because there’s so much beauty in other people. I ain’t get angry at them for doing things like that. Can I see this stupidity of some of the monks in the monastery? Because I saw myself I used to be even worse than that when I was a young monk. So how can you be sort of critical of others and get angry at others? You just can’t do it because you see the beauty of other people. In Mahayana Buddhism we see that the Buddha nature and now this. How can you be angry at Saddam Hussein? You can see the good side in him. How can you be angry at Adolf Hitler? Can you as a monk? It’s just so hard because you see the goodness in each person. Sure, they got some badness in there, some silly things they do, but you see so much goodness inside of them, so much potential for goodness. That’s why you can’t get angry at them. You know that story which I been telling people about the entire land during the Vietnam War when there was the insurgency there and where they solved that insurgency by giving amnesty, giving forgiveness. And I told that story in Sydney just about a month ago. And in that story, I say the nonviolence. So the Thai soldiers never went and blow up the communists, the insurgents, these were communists inside the country. Thai people number two. They tried to address the real problem by looking after the countryside. Making it sort of prosperous. And number three, they had this forgiveness amnesty. Any of these communist guerrillas terrorists, internal terrorists who were blowing up soldiers, torturing monks, some of the forest monks got captured and actually tortured to death. They had this amnesty. Whenever you wanted to give yourself up, you can go back to your village, go back to your university, wherever. And so eventually all the communists gave themselves up and they were just completely forgiven. And the point came when the leaders of the Communist army gave themselves up. And I told you the story before, you may remember, that they got given good jobs in the Thai government service. That’s as far as I knew. I told that story in Sydney. The Thai consul stood up and asked a question. It wasn’t a question, he said. It’s a very interesting story. They wanted to add an agenda to it. He said, Two of those leaders of the communists. They were given good jobs in the civil servants, civil service. And those two of them are presently ministers in the Thai government. One a very senior minister. I was so impressed. These were people who would normally be actually put in front of a wall and shot dead or they’d be put in jails to rot for the rest of their life or hung for war crimes. They were given forgiveness and they had their chance to use their abilities, organizing abilities, their commitment to a cause for the government. Beautiful sort of strategy. And the Thai government took them in and actually made them work for the Thai people. And now they are actually ministers in the government. Ex communist guerrillas who are trying to overturn the government are now working for it. What I mean about forgiveness, that’s Buddhist attitudes. Isn’t that a wonderful use of our resources? That’s why you can see the good in everybody. There’s potential there. So we can actually change the world by not wasting the great resources, but by turning them into good resources. That’s why I can’t get angry at people, see the Buddha nature, the goodness in everybody. This is actually why you can be happy. So these are many, many little pointers here. Different ideas of actually creating happiness in one’s life, seeing beauty in everything, beauty and sickness, beauty and death, beauty in many things. That’s why Buddhists are happy. And it’s been proven. And there we go. So if you want to be happy, this is the place to come, what I usually call Happy Hour at Dhamaloka Buddhist Center. So thank you for coming to Happy Hour and may you all get happier and happy and happier. So thank you for listening to why Buddhists are Happy.

Kamma and Rebirth | Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
Kamma and Rebirth | Ajahn Brahm


Rebirth can happen into any realm or form, including those which are considered undesirable in human society. In deep meditation you can recall memories from your past lives. This can prove rebirth is a fact. Some people’s character traits come from their past lives, which they can’t remember. The law of karma and rebirth explains how people can come from different species in rebirth, and there’s not that much difference between human beings and some of the other higher animals. In Buddhism, karma is the texture of our lives. The good karma we create in this life carries on to the next life. Karma is the result of your actions in past lives and it can be a source of suffering or happiness, depending on how you use it.

You can find the text transcription and other related information on the Ajahn Brahm Podcast website.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 24th May 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

MN19. Two Types of Thought – Dvedhāvitakka Sutta

The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
The Buddha's Wisdom Podcast
MN19. Two Types of Thought - Dvedhāvitakka Sutta

This episode is the 19th sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya: the Dvedhāvitakkasutta which translates as “two types of thought”. In this teaching the Lord Buddha recollects how he was practicing in the lead up to his Awakening. This teaching recounts how he divided his thoughts into two classes: reflecting upon how sensual, malicious and cruel thoughts lead to suffering, and thoughts of renunciation, good will and harmlessness leads away from suffering. This is a practical teaching which can help meditators to distinguish between harmful and harmless mental states in order to renounce and let go of harmful mind-states, and to cultivate harmless, beneficial mind-states.

This translation of the Dvedhāvitakkasutta Sutta is by Bhikkhu Sujato and was sourced from Sutta Central.

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Dvedhāvitakkasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato

Middle Discourses 19

Two Kinds of Thought

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants, “Mendicants!”
“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:
“Mendicants, before my awakening—when I was still unawakened but intent on awakening—I thought: ‘Why don’t I meditate by continually dividing my thoughts into two classes?’ So I assigned sensual, malicious, and cruel thoughts to one class. And I assigned thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness to the second class.
Then, as I meditated—diligent, keen, and resolute—a sensual thought arose. I understood: ‘This sensual thought has arisen in me. It leads to hurting myself, hurting others, and hurting both. It blocks wisdom, it’s on the side of anguish, and it doesn’t lead to extinguishment.’ When I reflected that it leads to hurting myself, it went away. When I reflected that it leads to hurting others, it went away. When I reflected that it leads to hurting both, it went away. When I reflected that it blocks wisdom, it’s on the side of anguish, and it doesn’t lead to extinguishment, it went away. So I gave up, got rid of, and eliminated any sensual thoughts that arose.
Then, as I meditated—diligent, keen, and resolute—a malicious thought arose … a cruel thought arose. I understood: ‘This cruel thought has arisen in me. It leads to hurting myself, hurting others, and hurting both. It blocks wisdom, it’s on the side of anguish, and it doesn’t lead to extinguishment.’ When I reflected that it leads to hurting myself … hurting others … hurting both, it went away. When I reflected that it blocks wisdom, it’s on the side of anguish, and it doesn’t lead to extinguishment, it went away. So I gave up, got rid of, and eliminated any cruel thoughts that arose.
Whatever a mendicant frequently thinks about and considers becomes their heart’s inclination. If they often think about and consider sensual thoughts, they’ve given up the thought of renunciation to cultivate sensual thought. Their mind inclines to sensual thoughts. If they often think about and consider malicious thoughts … their mind inclines to malicious thoughts. If they often think about and consider cruel thoughts … their mind inclines to cruel thoughts.
Suppose it’s the last month of the rainy season, when the crops grow closely together, and a cowherd must take care of the cattle. He’d tap and poke them with his staff on this side and that to keep them in check. Why is that? For he sees that if they wander into the crops he could be executed, imprisoned, fined, or condemned.
In the same way, I saw that unskillful qualities have the drawbacks of sordidness and corruption, and that skillful qualities have the benefit and cleansing power of renunciation.
Then, as I meditated—diligent, keen, and resolute—a thought of renunciation arose. I understood: ‘This thought of renunciation has arisen in me. It doesn’t lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It nourishes wisdom, it’s on the side of freedom from anguish, and it leads to extinguishment.’ If I were to keep on thinking and considering this all night … all day … all night and day, I see no danger that would come from that. Still, thinking and considering for too long would tire my body. And when the body is tired, the mind is stressed. And when the mind is stressed, it’s far from immersion. So I stilled, settled, unified, and immersed my mind internally. Why is that? So that my mind would not be stressed.
Then, as I meditated—diligent, keen, and resolute—a thought of good will arose … a thought of harmlessness arose. I understood: ‘This thought of harmlessness has arisen in me. It doesn’t lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It nourishes wisdom, it’s on the side of freedom from anguish, and it leads to extinguishment.’ If I were to keep on thinking and considering this all night … all day … all night and day, I see no danger that would come from that. Still, thinking and considering for too long would tire my body. And when the body is tired, the mind is stressed. And when the mind is stressed, it’s far from immersion. So I stilled, settled, unified, and immersed my mind internally. Why is that? So that my mind would not be stressed.
Whatever a mendicant frequently thinks about and considers becomes their heart’s inclination. If they often think about and consider thoughts of renunciation, they’ve given up sensual thought to cultivate the thought of renunciation. Their mind inclines to thoughts of renunciation. If they often think about and consider thoughts of good will … their mind inclines to thoughts of good will. If they often think about and consider thoughts of harmlessness … their mind inclines to thoughts of harmlessness.
Suppose it’s the last month of summer, when all the crops have been gathered within a village, and a cowherd must take care of the cattle. While at the root of a tree or in the open he need only be mindful that the cattle are there. In the same way I needed only to be mindful that those things were there.
My energy was roused up and unflagging, my mindfulness was established and lucid, my body was tranquil and undisturbed, and my mind was immersed in samādhi.
Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, I entered and remained in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.
As the placing of the mind and keeping it connected were stilled, I entered and remained in the second absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of immersion, with internal clarity and mind at one, without placing the mind and keeping it connected.
And with the fading away of rapture, I entered and remained in the third absorption, where I meditated with equanimity, mindful and aware, personally experiencing the bliss of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, one meditates in bliss.’
With the giving up of pleasure and pain, and the ending of former happiness and sadness, I entered and remained in the fourth absorption, without pleasure or pain, with pure equanimity and mindfulness.
When my mind had immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, flawless, rid of corruptions, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—I extended it toward recollection of past lives. I recollected many kinds of past lives, with features and details.
This was the first knowledge, which I achieved in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, as happens for a meditator who is diligent, keen, and resolute.
When my mind had become immersed in samādhi like this, I extended it toward knowledge of the death and rebirth of sentient beings. With clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, I saw sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. I understood how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds.
This was the second knowledge, which I achieved in the middle watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, as happens for a meditator who is diligent, keen, and resolute.
When my mind had become immersed in samādhi like this, I extended it toward knowledge of the ending of defilements. I truly understood: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.’
I truly understood: ‘These are defilements’ … ‘This is the origin of defilements’ … ‘This is the cessation of defilements’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of defilements.’ Knowing and seeing like this, my mind was freed from the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, and ignorance. I understood: ‘Rebirth is ended; the spiritual journey has been completed; what had to be done has been done; there is no return to any state of existence.’
This was the third knowledge, which I achieved in the last watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, as happens for a meditator who is diligent, keen, and resolute.
Suppose that in a forested wilderness there was an expanse of low-lying marshes, and a large herd of deer lived nearby. Then along comes a person who wants to harm, injure, and threaten them. They close off the safe, secure path that leads to happiness, and open the wrong path. There they plant domesticated male and female deer as decoys so that, in due course, that herd of deer would fall to ruin and disaster. Then along comes a person who wants to help keep the herd of deer safe. They open up the safe, secure path that leads to happiness, and close off the wrong path. They get rid of the decoys so that, in due course, that herd of deer would grow, increase, and mature.
I’ve made up this simile to make a point. And this is what it means. ‘An expanse of low-lying marshes’ is a term for sensual pleasures. ‘A large herd of deer’ is a term for sentient beings. ‘A person who wants to harm, injure, and threaten them’ is a term for Māra the Wicked. ‘The wrong path’ is a term for the wrong eightfold path, that is, wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, and wrong immersion. ‘A domesticated male deer’ is a term for greed and relishing. ‘A domesticated female deer’ is a term for ignorance. ‘A person who wants to help keep the herd of deer safe’ is a term for the Realized One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha. ‘The safe, secure path that leads to happiness’ is a term for the noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.
So, mendicants, I have opened up the safe, secure path to happiness and closed off the wrong path. And I have got rid of the male and female decoys.
Out of compassion, I’ve done what a teacher should do who wants what’s best for their disciples. Here are these roots of trees, and here are these empty huts. Practice absorption, mendicants! Don’t be negligent! Don’t regret it later! This is my instruction to you.”
That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the mendicants approved what the Buddha said.

Buddhist Attitude to Death | Ajahn Brahm

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Buddhist Attitude to Death | Ajahn Brahm