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Ajahn Brahm: Just so people know that we are beginning to video stream these talks, even
those which weren't actually video streamed live. Our president told me, couple of weeks
ago, that we think maybe about 300 people - never really count people here - listen
to these talks live, but about 17 000 listen to it on the Internet. It's a huge number.
17000. And places as far away as Iceland. So to the group in Iceland, good evening to
you all.
This evening's talk is going to be on the Buddhist attitude towards sensuality. Now,
we live in a sensual world, and sometimes some religions, they have a very eccentric
response to sensuality which is around them. We see that with people enforcing their womenfolk
to wear burkas, or even, say, in the Amish community, asking people to wear loose fitting,
unsensual clothes. And you look at the monks and nuns in front of you, and this is our
idea of a burka, or is it? What is it, and what is the Buddhist attitude towards sensuality
in this world?
Certainly that that's an important question, because some people's ideas about the problems
of sensuality, and the joys of sensuality have a huge impact on the way that they live
their lives, and the way they act upon other people. So, this is why I wanted to talk about
this and Buddhism. Certainly, you see from the people here that we don't ask people to
come and wear non-sensual clothes. Sometimes there are some of you here who think, oh,
we have some very young monks here. We don't want to lose those monks. And it has happened
in the past, that maybe a skimpily clad young girl comes in, and they're ushered outside.
Please don't do that. Simply because that's going to offend somebody, and you should have
more confidence in your monks. And you wouldn't do that if a hunky man came in here when Sister
Ajahn Vayama was giving a talk. [Laughs].
So that point is, here, you see in Buddhism, we don't have anything like veils, and there's
a good reason for this. Certainly, that sensuality is there and sensuality can cause problems
in the world. Now, we do have problems with pedophiles. We do have problems with sexual
predators. We do have problems with, even, rapists. We do have problems with other addictions,
not just sexual addictions, such as overeating or people who are addicted to pornography,
or people who eat too much, or gamble too much. There are many addictions in this world
which are concerning sensuality. There is a problem there, but sometimes there's a problem
if we try and suppress it just too vigorously, because that impinges upon our freedoms and
our wishes to enjoy the world in which we are born into. And so, what is the Buddhist
attitude toward these problems, so that we can live and enjoy our life, at the same time
try and avoid, as best as we can, some of the extremes of sensuality? I think just the
way I've defined this talk tonight, I think you've already got the clue that the Buddha
was always talking about a middle way, not to go to extremes. And it's the extreme parts
of this which have caused the problem.
But, with sensuality, we can actually understand, just when we watch our mind, especially, that
it's not so much what's out there, but the way we respond to what's out there, which
is the biggest problem in life. And one of the key stories which I grew up with, was
coming from my own teacher Ajahn Chah, who being a monk, obviously you have a different
value system when it comes to sensuality. Now, monks and nuns are celibate, and to live
a celibate life you-know in the world, obviously the monks and the nuns cannot really escape
from the sensual objects out there, whether it's food, or whether it's sex, or whether
it's movies or whatever. So, you actually had you deal with this, and one of Ajahn Chah's
stories was that when he was a young, lusty novice, you-know, 18, 19 years of age, with
all the hormones running through him, he wanted to become a monk, but, obviously, he saw young
Thai girls, and he would have lust towards them. And so for three months, during a period
of what we call Rains Retreat, the time when I don't come here, Sister Vayama doesn't come
here. Those of you who have been coming here for a long time know for three months we always
go back into our monasteries. He was staying in a town monastery, so for three months,
he decided he would not look at any girl at all. He would keep his eyes down, and not
even look at anybody, thinking that that type of restraint would overcome his lust. So for
three months, he refused to even look at a girl. And he said what happened, for those
three months he was fine, but after his resolution was completed, the first girl he looked at
he went crazy with lust.[Laughter].
And this is one of the problems, that just not looking, not facing up to the problem
is actually not overcoming it. Actually, it makes it much worse. And that's why that asking
people to cover up, so the monks or the nuns don't see anybody. They want you to cover
up. It doesn't really help the situation, because as soon as the covers are taken off,
people actually go crazy. It's actually almost suppressing something. If you suppress it
and don't understand it, usually there's a bigger explosion later on. The simile which
I've often given, if anyone here is meditating, if you feel like coughing, please cough straight
away, because if you don't cough straight away, and you suppress it, when you do cough
it's like a volcano going off, and you just disturb everybody. [Laughter].
Sometimes, that type of suppression is typical of some of the ways in which we deal with
the problems in our world.
And so that, since we live in such a world, we have to instead of trying to cover up the
triggers with burkas, or with veils, or with people dressing up in sort-of loose fitting
clothing, and not accentuating you-know your bodies, and not wearing scents and make-up
and goodness knows what else. That won't solve the problem. The problem has to be solved
actually in one's relationship with the sensory world. And that certainly is the Buddhist
attitude. It's again, not just with sexuality, it's with food. Sometimes people come to our
monasteries, both the Gidgegannup and to Bodhinyana monasteries at Serpentine, and think, "My
goodness! Look at all the delicious food that you monks eat!" We had complaints in the first
years when I was a monk because sometimes we had these Thai ladies married to Australians,
and they'd come and bring food to the two monks who were there. This was before Sister
Vayama came. And sometimes the Australian men, the husbands, would complain. They'd
say, "My wife never cooks anything like that for me! This is unfair!" And the Thai women
would say, "You should become a monk. Then I'll cook for you." [Laughter]. We got the
most delicious food. And so sometimes people would complain to the monks, "You're supposed
to be monks. Why are you eating such delicious food? You should just eat ordinary food, just
like bread and water. That's probably the best for you. Then we'd respect you even more."
But sometimes I tried that. My first year as a monk, for a practice, I put all the food
together which was disgusting anyway, and I got the spoon and mixed it all up. I only
had one meal a day. It was a sludge, it was a slop and if you saw it, you'd actually pour
it out straight away. It wasn't even fit for pigs, let alone for monks. But the trouble
was it was an interesting experiment which I did. Every food no matter what it was, the
sweets, everything in one bowl and stirred it up so it was absolutely consistent. After
a while, it actually started to taste nice. It was a weird thing but the way that sensuality
works. After a while no matter what it is, you start to like it. It starts to become
attractive, delicious and tasty. So what it made very clear to me - it was not the food
which was the problem. No matter what food you have there, after a while it becomes delicious
and you crave it. It doesn't matter what, if it's a man or a male monk what women you
see, after a while, even if they are in burkas, after a while even the burkas start to appear
sort-of attractive. Whatever it is, so the attraction is not on the object out there.
You can like anything after a while. So it's quite clear that the reaction to the dangers
of sensuality should never be concerned with the triggers of sensuality. Even in Singapore,
they are just going to be opening up a couple of casinos. And obviously, that the sensuality,
it is sensuality, of gambling, the thrill of it, the excitement of it is also problematical
but we don't solve that problem by banning all the casinos because what happens when
you ban the casinos then you have illegal casinos. It's not really the thing outside
which is the problem. It's the way we react to them. It's our attitude towards these things
and so, it's actually quite glad that I had... because I have a group in Singapore and they
showed me some of these documents and they asked me my opinions about those casinos in
Singapore. And I told them, and I'm very glad that the Singapore government was actually
following, it didn't really follow advice really, I understood what they were going
to do anyway, was actually not to stop these things but actually to contain the worst parts
of gambling by having legislation in place which can stop the addictive gamblers. And
for other people, who are addictive, to show some restraint. And that is actually what
is going to be happening in Singapore. So that loan sharks, the money lenders, can't
be on the casinos exploiting people's addictions. Now if a person is going to that casino too
often their family or even themselves can voluntarily ask themselves to be banned if
it's going to be causing financial trouble or social trouble, they can be put on the
blacklist. Sometimes, they volunteer themselves. It's a way of actually dealing with worst
parts of gambling because other than that... I remember as a kid that I would sort of have
a bet on. In England, it was called the Derby or the Grand National, two races, horse races,
you would bet on every year and it was only like two shillings or whatever. It was for
fun and you never expected to win anything. If you did you just shared it with your friends.
And that to me never seem to be like a problem but of course, sometimes, the addictive gambling
is a problem. In the same way that sensuality which ordinary human beings have in the world.
I'm not talking about monks now. I'm talking about lay communities. Now, having a partner
in life, having relationships, having sex, the ordinary type of stuff is usually not
problematical except if it gets too far or get addicted or get too far under the power
of one's sensuality. And this is actually where we have to have ways of not dealing
so much with a trigger out there because you can't really control that trigger out there
but dealing with our attitudes towards these things.
And so, as Buddhists, sometimes people will think we're so tolerant. You know in Buddhist
countries like Thailand which have a lot of prostitutes and in Singapore like gambling
or have like people wearing skimpy clothes or whatever. And anything goes sometimes,
they said in Buddhism. I think that was Tina Turner when she became a Buddhist. Why become
a Buddhist? I think she was quoted as saying because you can do anything you like in Buddhism.
That's not quite true. I hope I didn't misquote her but, it's the triggers outside we are
not so concerned with. So, the Buddhist response is actually just try to work to one's attitude
towards these things in life. And in order to work on those attitudes, we have something
we call mindfulness. We are aware of how these things affect us.
And we also understand with some wisdom about the dangers in these things. So, like gambling,
it can be fun but there's obviously a danger there. And we use our awareness, our mindfulness
to actually know how far we can go, what the danger is. The same with the relationships
and sex, of sensuality, of lust, we know what the advantage are. We know what the dangers
are of it. And also, whatever else whether it's eating, whether it's watching movies,
whether it's watching the Internet or whatever, we know the dangers which are there. And this
is not stopping the things out there. It's actually stopping the way we relate to them
when it gets too far. And obviously, like sexuality, we know there's dangers there.
When we're talking about dangers, there was never ever in Buddhism, that's one of the
reasons why I was inspired to Buddhism, there is never anything like evil or sin or you're
bad boy because you had sex with a girl or something. That badness and evil, that ultimate
bad thing was never there, instead it was always this almost like a precursor of utilitarianism
because Buddha would say the basic ethics and I repeat this many, many times. It's not
just anything goes in Buddhism but it's - what you are going to do or say or even think is
it going to be harmful to others or harmful to yourself. If it is, it's called not bad,
not evil - unskillful. It's a great word, unskillful, because it doesn't have any like
moral judgment as if it comes from some absolute. This is bad and this is good. Because if it
says this is bad this is good and you're told it by someone else, you don't have to think
it out for yourself, you believe in. Because of those blind beliefs, we get into terrible
troubles in this world. We don't even think it out for ourselves and so, because we believe
that blowing ourselves up is going to send us to heaven, we do such stupid things. Or
because we believe that say sex is bad, we get these puritans. But what we actually say
is what is skillful in these circumstances? By skillful, I mean, is it going to be conducive
to the goal we're searching for? Is it really going to be help? Is it going to be purposeful?
What the consequence are going to be for ourselves and other people? That's what mindfulness
has behind it. Just like what you think what's the consequences. Where is this going to lead?
And so, if we say with sensuality, there always has to be some restraint. Whether a lay person
or a monk, we have restraints so we are not going to have any partners or any sex. That's
our restraint because we have a goal of developing very deep meditation. We might come up with
that later on but as lay person in this world, your restraint has to be, I would hope, just
with your partner.
Because you should know that if you have... if you're already having a relationship and
you have sex outside of that relationship that's really going to hurt someone. Now don't
think you... I maybe wrong here but I don't think you can actually say, the other person
would say "oh you go ahead, go and do that. Go and sleep with my best friend. I don't
mind." I think that most people would mind. I could be wrong there but please tell me.
But most people would mind if you cheat in that relationship. So that's obviously an
example of like harming someone else. So, if our aim is not to harm another person certainly
if that was like an underage child. We know that's going to harm that person. I mean these
psychologists, sociologists, know that pedophilia, which is having sex with someone underage,
is going to be harmful. In the same way that misusing your position of authority as a teacher,
as a counselor with your students there's just too much transference going on there,
it's not a very clear relationship to complicate with any sexual or emotional, or other entanglements.
So, that's usually a no-no as well. Why is it a no-no? Not because it's evil or because
it says so in some sort of book it's an abomination. Simply because it's going to be harmful and
against that on the opposite side when Buddhism talks about like homosexual relationships
and sex, we ask what's the harm in that? And, of course, there is no harm in it. At least
no harm which I can see, and therefore OK, off you go, enjoy your relationship together.
So when we actually see that it's not evil, not bad, but it's not that you can do anything
you like. We are wise about this. Is it going to harm another person? Is it going to harm
ourselves? What's going to be the result of this? It's the same with like unprotected
sex. If you're, obviously, wanting to have a baby, fine but if you don't want to have
a baby, you know, have protection. So, the idea of like in some religions condoms being
bad or any type of contraception being evil that's certainly not around in Buddhism, because
it's not what you are doing so much but why you are doing it and what the effect is. You're
not harming anybody, you are not harming yourself, it's for the greater good, fine that is called
skillful. Just like a carpenter is skillful because they're making a piece of wood and
they make it well. They make an effort and they make a beautiful furniture afterwards,
that's skillful. Unskillful is if they don't know what they're doing, they take a piece
of wood and make a big mess of it. So, not good, not bad but skillful and unskillful.
So, with the way of sensuality, we always have to have some restraint because we know
it's going to be harmful so first of all we should be wise to know what's harmful, what
isn't harmful to us. And obviously, just underage sex or sex outside of your relationship, that
probably would be harmful. So what happens? How can we have some strategies to actually
stop that harm or limit that harm? And this is where the Buddhist idea of mindfulness
comes in because with mindfulness, when you are aware of what's going on, you find you
do have much more control in your life. It's just like the carpenter learns more about
their tools so that when they are sawing, when they are planning, they are much more
sensitive so they don't make so many mistakes and that sensitivity to your inner world,
to your mind, to your lust, to your anger, to your desires, to what you want, is an important
part of Buddhist practice.
So, we don't just say no, don't do it. We don't say that's bad or that's unskillful.
One of the nicest thing about Buddhist practice is we help you find out what you are doing,
why you are doing it, and how to lessen the problems which is why that when we have these
trainings of the mind in meditation to increase your mindfulness, awareness, you start to
see your whole mental processes and what happens. Where does lust comes from anyway? What actually
is happening there?
One of the problems is, when a person does.., you might might be in a nice relationship.
When you do see some other person, there will always be people who are attractive. Wow,
she's nice. He's hot. Whatever it is, there will be an attraction and of course that's
natural, you can't stop that. And just to think that I'm not going to look at another
girl not when I am married, only you dear. I'm not going to look at anyone else for the
rest of my life. That's a lie, isn't it? You can't do that. Or I'm not going to like anyone
else. Well, that's a lie because you will have lust for other men and other women once
you get married, once you have that relationship. So, be realistic and then say what are we
going to do about this. And obviously, that mindfulness is very important because that
mindfulness sees that whether it's lust, whether it's anger, whether it's any other addiction,
there is a whole train of mental activity, a process. It's the mindfulness which can
interrupt that process at anytime and it stop before it gets too bad. What mindfulness does
is like trying to stop a train. When a train has left the station, it's going 110 kilometers
an hour down the track with so much weight behind it. If the train driver tries to stops
and put on the breaks because there's an obstruction on the road or on the rails in front of it,
sometimes you just can't do that. It's going too fast and the momentum is too strong. A
train going that fast takes maybe half a kilometer to come to a halt which is why that sometimes
there are these terrible crashes when a car crosses the railway line. The driver sees
it but it's going too fast to stop.
This is what happens when we try to catch our lust or whatever, our anger, when it's
a bit too late. It's gone too fast, the momentum is too strong, we can't stop it straight away.
Many of you know that when you're in the power of lust, you can't stop just straightaway.
You just can't say no I'm going to stop now. It's like a train just trying to pull on the
breaks and stop immediately, it just cannot be done. But the best time to stop the train
is when it's first moving out of the station. It's maybe going at one kilometer an hour
and then you can put on the break, it's easy to stop it. So one of the great things about
mindfulness is actually you can see the whole process happening. You can stop it earlier
if you think it's going to be unskillful, if it's not going to help you. So a man who's
got a nice wife instead of just allowing the whole process to get so inflamed so that you
are just under the power of lust and you can't stop it anymore, you try and stop it earlier.
And that way, if you see this really, really nice girl and she is really amazing. You see
that whole process happens, stop it now before it gets too late. It's called just simple
To be able to stop that thing obviously, we have to want to stop it and that's where the
wisdom comes up. Just don't be stupid and think you're in control of these things. Once
you get too far, you are out of control which is why I've told many women who've had problems
with their husbands that when a man gets lust they literally are crazy.
It's not a joke but you are mad. One thing you think you'll never get caught. [Laughs].
You do get caught and your wife is no idiot. She knows what's going on. She knows the signs.
It's amazing just how many men have an affair and they think, I am in complete control.
It's only a bit of fun. My wife won't ever even find out. And then when she does find
out, it comes to me to sort out all these problems and try to give him another chance.
Or maybe no other chance and divorce and all the problems that comes from that, and custody
battles. There is a danger there so don't let it go so far so you go crazy and you lose
your common sense. You will get caught. So are you willing to have that problem in your
relationship and do that to this other person that you live with and your kids?
So this is actually our mindfulness and our wisdom don't allow us to go to such a point
where we get crazy and we lose the sense of reality. Don't always think that you are in
control of this stuff because you know sexuality is such a strong force. Most of you can't
control it. When it gets so far that's it. Relationships keep going on and sometimes,
you know it's going to hurt. You should have known earlier so please learn. It's not a
guilt trip. We are not saying you're a bad boy and you terrible girl, you shouldn't have
done that. And you're excommunicated from the Buddhist society for life. Guilt again
has no part of this because if we have guilt and we are running through fear, we should
never work through fear. We should always work through just the wisdom, understanding
the consequences and being wise and being sharp. So in sensuality everybody has to have
some sort of restraint.
In other words, it's not just some free lunch so we can just eat at the table of sensuality
as much as we want, and thinking nothing is going to go wrong. We have to balance our
diet of sensuality. Not too much not too little. According to our means, and how we make that
decision of how much and also the best way for your partner. Just for her or for him
and keep it that way. And also understand the dangers there. And again, because I'm
a monk, because we draw the line as monks having actually very little sensuality especially
sexuality with the opposite sex. Because again, that was going to really help our deep mediation
even much more. It's one of the great teachings of the Buddha. He said that when you lessen
the sensuality your concern for the outer world especially even sexuality, food, and
entertainment. Literally, your mind goes more inside. It doesn't get drawn outside so much
and it makes it much easier to get into the deep meditations. That might interest some
of you and might sort of confuse some of you but it's one of the reasons why when you go
on these nine day meditation retreats we always ask people to keep eight precepts, which means
no sexuality for those nine days in order that you can actually focus more on the inner
world rather than the outer world. Because the sensuality we're talking about there draws
you out. And for the time you meditate you want to go in. And actually you do get another
type of happiness when you withdraw from that sensuality. So monks and nuns are usually
non-sensual and because we're non-sensual sometimes people think all Buddhists should
be like that and they start complaining, "What happen if everybody became a Buddhist? Then
we will not have any more people in the world." That's a stupid comment. Because only some
people will go to be monks and nuns. Ordinary Buddhists, they have families and they go
to the casino. But if you go to the casino be careful. Don't go too far. Know your limits
and if you get too far let the train stop before you know it's irreversible. It is the
same with sensuality, sexuality. As monks, this is where we draw the line but we don't
go too far. But as I said, the monks even they get into food as well. One of the things
I noticed when I was a young monk as soon as I gave up sex I really got into food.
Food was incredibly delicious. There's almost if you give up one thing you get up another
thing. And I was very fascinated to see that actually when you go through puberty actually
there comes a stage before sexuality when you really get into food also, as if I was
going backwards in my development. As a young man you get really into the food and then
you get into the girls and I was going backwards. Gave up the girls and going into food again.
Before actually going back again to sort-of not being involved in that at all but even
actually with food, it's delicious, it's nice but obviously you can't eat too much, you
get stomach aches. So you actually have to restrain yourself. All the sensuality we have,
you know, it's almost like it has to be a voluntary restraint when we see the problems
and difficulties which it might give us. And the mindfulness actually gives us a sense
of more control. So those people who have addiction problems in this world whether addicted
to sex, addicted to pornography, addicted to gambling or addicted to having one partner
after the other, if they realize it's a problem and they want to try and restrict it, then
the mindfulness practices helps them enormously. Of course, once they have to realize it is
a problem and then how do we solve it - the mindfulness, awareness of what's happening
in your mind. And get different responses so we don't go through the same old habitual
reactions. What mindfulness is, is just like you see these three exit doors of the front
of this hall and two on the side. What mindfulness is if you see more than one doorway so you
can go through other doorways. Because in life we're creatures of habit. We think we
always have to do things exactly the same way. We literally go through the same doorway
every time. It's habit, we don't even look to see if there's any alternative. So it's
the same reaction - you see the beautiful girl - the same reaction over and over again.
What mindfulness does, you actually see other ways you can deal with this problem. Or no,
this may not be a problem, maybe some of you want to do it, but you've got more alternatives.
An addict has got no alternatives at all. They're in a rut, a habit, which is so ingrained
they just go there and they cannot stop themselves.
There are other alternatives all the time. But we need the mindfulness trained to see
that. So what mindfulness actually is, is when you come here on a Friday night never
sitting in the same place. I'm excepted here because I have to sit in this place. That's
where the microphone is. But why is it that people always try and sit in the same place
or they park the car in the same way, always eat the same food? When they go to work in
the morning, they always go the same way or they go back the same way, become creatures
of habit. When you become creatures of habit that's called no mindfulness. It's a wonderful
thing to be able to change. And I will challenge you tomorrow morning - one of my first examples
of training in mindfulness is when you wake up tomorrow morning and you brush your teeth,
which side of the mouth do you start brushing your teeth? The left or the right or in the
middle, above or below? Tomorrow morning I challenge you - start somewhere else. Start
a different part of the mouth every morning. Come on! Live on the wild side! [Laughter].
That's a very simple example, but it makes a point that we're habitual, we always start
in the same place. There's no reason to start at that place, but because we start at the
same place, it's a creature of habit. We don't need to even think about or be aware of what
we're doing. It just goes and does it without any mindfulness, awareness at all. You literally
are dulling your mind out and becoming a creature of habit. And it's the habits which causes
the addictions whether it's with the gambling, with food, with sex, other sensuality, or
say pornography. Why do people want to watch pornography on the Internet so much? After
a while it does become an addiction. You get drawn in there and after while we can't stop
ourselves. OK. You can stop yourself. There's other doorways you can go through, or maybe
other windows on the net.
So first of all you've got to know it's a problem and then do something to stop it.
Obviously, one of the reasons why people get addicted is also there's a pleasure to it
as well. I was very fascinated to see the way the Buddha looked at sensuality by saying
yeah there's a pleasure there but there's also a payback afterwards. And the Buddha
- this is 25 centuries ago - he compared such sensuality like to borrowing money, taking
out a loan. Which is actually very deep and profound because when say you are watching
pornography or you know getting into some sort of sensuality there's a lot of joy there
at the beginning. But often we have to pay it back afterwards. And sometimes like a loan
the only way you can pay it back is by taking out another loan to the pay off the original
debt and the loan gets bigger and bigger and bigger until one gets into such a great financial
mess, there's no way you can actually pay back your loan. And that is actually just
a beautiful description of addiction and actually how it happens. Because we get some pleasure
back in the first and then to actually get some more pleasure we have to do it again
but even more intense, and then more intense next time, until the only way can get that
pleasure is taking bigger and bigger doses of the drug, until we're really, really in
great debt. It's a very profound description of actually what addiction is and how it happens.
So the understanding that please don't that deep into any addiction that you get caught
into such a debt trap. But there's also understanding that there are other pleasures in this world.
Not just the sensory pleasures. And it's true, the pleasures of just your family, friendship,
romantic love rather than sexual love. Those other pleasures should also be recognized
and should be emphasized, because the other pleasures can be used as a substitute for
the instant gratification of some sensuality. So if you are addicted to some types of that
sensuality, not just mindfulness, but give yourself another reward, another thing which
is a bit more skillful than the one before. So that way that we can actually - we're not
condemning sensuality, nor are we trying to prohibit sensuality by covering everybody
up in a burkha or by saying it's evil. We're actually dealing with it in a wise way so
we can find our middle way. We don't go to extremes so we have a means of stopping ourselves
going to those extremes. We have gone to those extremes. We try to learn maybe a little bit
of meditation so our mindfulness becomes more clear so we can actually stop ourselves before
we get to that point. So for example, if someone is addicted to pornography on the web, the
mindfulness actually tells you, "look, as soon as you press that button and enter that
site, you're lost." Just like in AA, or people addicted to smoking, it's once you've picked
up that first cigarette and it's in your mouth, that's too late already. You can't put it
down then. You have to actually stop before you pick the cigarette up. And to be able
to do that we have these wonderful techniques which we call programming mindfulness. By
programming mindfulness, what you do when that trigger is not in front of you, when
you feel comfortable, when you think it's actually no problem, that's when you put the
suggestions into your mind. Say with cigarettes, "I will not pick up that first cigarette.
I will not pick up that first cigarette. I will not pick up that first cigarette." Because
as a meditator I know just how the mind works. It is conditioned. You are susceptible to
suggestion. And if you keep saying that to yourself again and again and again in the
quietness of, say, your bedroom when you think it's not a problem.You say it then, when it's
not a problem. When it's not in front of you. When it's in front of you, it's too late.
And after a while what happens, say with the cigarette smoker, normally they would actually,
they're trying to give up but they see a cigarette and it's in their mouth before they even know
it. Because it's habit. It's just like brushing your teeth, you don't even need to think about
it you've done it so often. But what actually happens when they develop that degree of mindfulness,
and they condition themselves, "I must not smoke that first cigarette. I must not smoke
that... I must not pick it up, sorry. I must not pick it up. I must not pick it up." What
happens just before they're about to pick it up? The mindfulness actually clicks in.
It's like an antivirus. Not a Norton Antivirus, a Buddha Antivirus [laughter], which actually
stops the habitual process. The thought comes up, "No I won't pick it up." That's a very,
very effective way of actually stopping addictions. And because the mindfulness is actually pre-programmed
in there to say, "Danger. You're going to pick up a cigarette." Or you know, "You're
going to start another affair when you're married." Or, "I'm going to bet too much at
the casino." Or whatever else it is you're doing. And that programming is very powerful,
because that picks up the signal. It's like a little red light starts flashing in your
mind, "Danger, danger, danger. You're maybe going too far." Then you have the opportunity
to stop yourself. A lot of times you can't stop yourself because you don't know what
you're doing. The mindfulness isn't there. It's habits. So that way we can actually stop
ourselves. There's other ways of stopping yourself also. Remind yourself of the dangers,
what happens when you've done that before. Some of you, you know, you have had affairs
outside of marriage. Sometimes you may have even, had sex unknowingly with a say fifteen
year old girl, or whatever it is. You didn't know she was that young, or whatever it is.
Or you've been attracted to somebody at work who is, you know, you're their boss. All these
sort of very, very dangerous areas of our life.
Be careful. If you've made a mistake once, be careful. Pre-program yourself. Don't go
and create that pain and problems for yourself and others again. So you program yourself,
"Danger, danger, danger." Once you have programmed danger, danger, you have all other ways of
dealing with this. Obviously that moving away from the stimulus if at all possible, move
away from the cigarettes. Get out of the casino. Move out of that office, or whatever else
there is, if there's somebody there who is attracting you too strongly. You have the
choice to do that, so you're actually taking control of your sensuality if it's going to
far. Again, throughout this talk you see that I'm not saying sensuality is bad. I'm just
saying the extremes of sensuality. It's quite wonderful fine, you're having a wonderful
relationship, enjoying sex with your partner, homosexual, whatever, whatever is creating
that bond between the two of you. That's wonderful. That's fine, but be careful not to take it
to the point where it harms yourself and harms another person. That sort of sensuality, which
we even see on the TV or you see on the movies, that's not really the problem at all. Because
it's a long time since I've seen the TV. People actually tell me what goes on on those TVs.
But I remember like... I went to visit my mother in London about 15 years ago, the first
time I'd seen TV in about 7 years. It was like a copper movie show. I forget what it
was called - not Defenders, or something. Anyways, half an hour TV show, repeated every
week. As I was watching it with my mother, for giving her company, I couldn't believe
how many people died in about half an hour. I was actually counting them. I got to about
a dozen or something got shot and killed. I couldn't believe this because before, when
I was... before I became a monk, the TV was so tame. Because I had 7 years I hadn't seen
the actual progress of violence on TV, the contrast was so strong inside of me because
the police show I remembered as a kid was a police show - anyone old enough might remember
this - Dixon of Dock Green.
Dixon of Dock Green was this London bobby in the days when they didn't have guns. If
he caught a burglar, the burglar would say, "Ah, Sergeant Dixon, it's an honor to be caught
by you, sir." [Laughter].
And apparently they don't do that anymore. [Laughter]. Things have changed. And no one
got shot, and if they did go ever get hurt, if there was a bullet, they'd go, "Ooh, ooh,
ooh." You wouldn't see any blood at all. And they'd just fall on the floor without any
gore or anything. But apparently things have changed enormously since then. But of course,
if you try and censor this, what happens? If you say, OK, no lewd speech on the TV,
or no naked flesh, or no sex. What happens? It just goes underground. And of course when
it goes underground, that makes it even more interesting. When it's an illegal video, or
when it's something... That's not obviously the way to deal with sensuality, to prohibit
it. Whether it's porn movies on the Internet, or whatever there always has to be some sort
of restraint. That restraint is done from understanding, is it going to harm me or harm
another person? That makes it sensible. You can understand why.
That's the only real way of dealing with this, whether it's one's self, one's kids, one's
partner, whatever, to appeal to their wisdom and encourage that wisdom to see the reason
why these things are a problem. And actually give strategies to deal with addictions or
with problems, but without the guilt trips because just the guilt makes things even worse.
What happens with guilt you are saying that you're worthless, you're a mistake. And people
who are made to feel guilty or are punished, they have low self esteem. Because of the
low self esteem they actually look for harming themselves. Obviously that's a great generalization
of a very complex process, but that explains it almost in a nutshell. You make a person
feel guilty, they want to punish themselves, they don't want to be happy. So this idea
of not harming themselves and not harming others. Why? They deserve to be harmed. So
the addiction carries on. So the guilt trips are actually counter-productive to actually
having some sensible happiness and good health in a world of sensuality.
But also that people ask, "Now why are monks celibate and why are nuns celibate, anyway?Why
do you actually reject sensuality?" And are we somehow weird, depraved? I sometimes have
good fun as a monk. It was over a year ago that I was invited to the gay pride breakfast
which was at Curtin University. About a year and half ago I think. And when asked to give
a little talk, I just went up there and say, "I am more deviant than all of you, all you
gay, lesbians and transgenders. Because I'm celibate." So, I'm the most deviated in the
whole room. [Laughs]. I'm just making a little joke about that. Obviously I always respect
people of all genders and all sexual...preferences. But the point was that my preference being
celibate was even more threatening to many people. What are monks and nuns doing, giving
up - are we afraid of sex? Is it a case we were hurt when we were young? [Laughter].
Many people think that way. Actually I mentioned this story a few weeks ago, but this is actually
- there is a monk called...Ajahn Juin. He was one of the old Thai monks who lived in
this beautiful monastery "~Phu ~Top". It's like a top hat mountain and some of the Thai
people know him and I - I mean he was a very famous monk at that time - I went to visit
him and this lady came from Bangkok and asked this monk, "Did you become a monk,because
you had a failed love affair?" He said, "No, of course not." She said, "Ha, that makes
sense, you ordained to forget and you have forgotten by now." [Laughter]. It's logically
consistent what she said, but that's not why he ordained as a monk, and I never ordained
a monk because I got jilted in my love affairs. The reason I became a monk is because I know
I had sex and I knew what sex was like, but when I meditated once I got this incredible
experience which is better than sexual orgasm and that was what just really shocked me.
What's going on there? And so I decided to become a monk just for a couple for years
to find out what meditation was really like. And being a monk, you have these rules of
no sex. I didn't really understand what that was for at first, that was just what a monk
does. But after a while when you understand the nature of the mind, you understand that
sensuality does actually draw you out into the world, and meditation is going deeper
inside. So actually the more you limit your sensuality, the easier it is to meditate.
You don't get drawn out so much. So that when I became a monk for a couple of years, sure
it was hard to restrain the mind looking out for the beautiful girls and the nice food,
and the TVs and the movies and all these other sensual things we were missing in the world.
Well, I also had some interesting experiences. I mentioned I going to visit my mother and
seeing the TV after seven years. I also remember the first time that after seven years I flew
on an aircraft. From Bangkok to London. I got a cheap fare on Philippine Airlines, an
economy class. This is 25 years ago. I couldn't believe just how sensuous and luxurious economy
class on Philippine Airlines was. [Laughter]. It was my senses were, "Ah! Amazed!" Because
I'd been in a forest monastery which was very, very austere. What I realized from that, that
sensuality is also very relative. To other people cramped in the economy class of an
aircraft 25 years ago that was just so tough and it was such an ordeal. But for me, who
had never sat on a chair for seven years, being served ripe fruit which was hot and
which was Western which I could eat. I even got ice cream. I remember that ice cream.
[Laughter]. But in the tub instead of in my bowl. That was just melting into my rice and
curry. [Laughter]. And even the muzak, the muzak on the plane that was.. I mean, I hadn't
heard music for seven years. That was amazing, that was just so sensuous, I couldn't get
that out of my head afterwards. So you see that's obviously a joke for you because you
go on an aircraft and the muzak on there is just yucky and the food, aircraft food people
think is disgusting. An economy class you're so cramped up. But for me, because I'd been
living a far more austere existence in these forest monasteries. That was amazing. In the
aircraft there wasn't even any mosquitoes. First time in seven years I was free from
mosquitoes for more than an hour or two.
That was to me, was luxurious and sensual. So, you can see sensuality is also very relative
and the sensuality which you are experiencing now, sort-of 10 years ago that will blow people's
minds. The houses you live in, the cars you drive, what you see on the TV. This is nature.
So the point is, sensuality is going to get more intense in another 10 years' time. We
can't really stop it, we can't have some great saint or someone saying, "No we are not going
to have, we are going to go back to Dixon of Dock Green. We are not going to have any
violence. We are going to have the presenter of the six o'clock news wearing a burkha."
I don't know who that is anyway, some floozy on the Channel 9 or Channel 7, but you can't,
you can't do that. The point is, that we live in a sensory world. If you want to get out
of the sensory world, come in to a retreat center or monastery for few weeks to get some
sort of idea of perspective. And if you want to do meditation, sometimes you just have
to leave that sensory world outside and instead of being drawn outside, drawn inside. If you
really want to get into deep meditation, it is an interesting thing to do because you
actually do get incredibly... joy of actually not being caught up in that sensory world.
What actually you do is say, "I can stop looking if I want to." One of the great things of
being a monk for so many years you can actually look at a beautiful girl and an ugly girl
and look at them exactly the same. Not many men can do that. Now one story.
I should actually find out who this lady was, but she was some TV star. I think she was
in Water Rats, or something. I don't know her name. Somebody told me, she is really
really famous. If I told you her name now I think you would all know her. But I went
to teach, it was just an afternoon meditation session in Sydney. This fellow had a little
group in Darling Point, like a really top, affluent place of Sydney. So he's in this
little group. There are about sort-of 20-30 people. I was talking about meditation. And
this lady kept on looking at me and smiling. I didn't know, she was acting very strange.
Not like an ordinary girl. [Laughter]. And, in the end, I just took it in my stride and
taught the meditation etc., and afterwards I mentioned to the person organizing this
and said, "That lady was acting really strange." And he told me that that was a famous TV actress.
I figured out she was looking at me strangely because I didn't recognize her. What she was
actually saying is, "See, it's me; I am the famous TV star."
[laughter] Ajahn Brahm: And I didn't know.
Ajahn Brahm: It's a great experience when you're a monk and you don't know who's who.
So because, because of that, she's obviously must be some very beautiful girl and sort-of
an ugly girl...and what is beauty and ugly anyway? Why is that to attract us? When you're
a monk and you mediate a lot, you don't see that anymore. I love that, being a monk, having
that opportunity to see a beautiful girl sits here, an ugly girl sits here. You spend the
same amount of time with both. You don't go to the ugly girl, "Go on, off, off, off."
Ajahn Brahm: Because that's where sensuality starts to disappear - so it's great being
able to, if you can, resist that sensuality. You can be more fair to other people. This
is why we do it as a monk. We know we do lots of meditation. So it's great, actually, doing
a little retreat, because you can understand sensuality much more and you can understand
you can restrain it. So it up to you; you can take it or leave it. Sometimes people
think they want to be free. And the free world is being able to enjoy our sensuality. We
should have no limits, whatever we want to watch - whether it's violent movies, or the
most sexual movies, the most deviant sex, or whatever - let's have a free world. Let's
tell our people to do this. But the point is - people aren't free. Sometimes those sensory
desires actually captivate us. We become a prisoner of our sensuality, which is why that
we have to have that sex. We have to have that drug. We have to gamble. And sometimes
people get to the point they have to have those relationships outside of their marriage.
And they hurt and they realize they weren't in control after all. That wasn't freedom.
So it's great thing actually to investigate. Is it the freedom of sensuality or has sensuality
got its limits where you're in the prison of sensuality, you have to have it? So it's
great following a little bit of mindfulness and restraint, because you find you can, almost
like control your sensuality. You can go as far as you want. If the thing is going to
harm another person, harm yourself, you can say, "No." You can stop it. And that's what
we do with mindfulness, built of meditation, with wisdom - taking away the guilt, taking
away the evil and the bad and putting in the word "skillful". And understand what that
word "skillful" truly means, whether it's really going to be serving our purpose, serving
our interest, what we really want to get out of our life. When we understand that, we understand
the Buddhist approach to sensuality: not to deny it, not to cover it up, but to deal with
it. Deal with it with wisdom, with mindfulness,
in a way, which can create the best happiness for ourselves and all other beings. So that's
the talk on sensuality this evening. Thank you.
I did no jokes this evening. I have to think one pretty quickly. But last week, I didn't
have time for questions. So I tried to keep it little bit shorter this time, just under
the hour, for some questions. Has anyone got any questions on the talk about sensuality
Yeah? OK, I can see you with the lights. Yes?
Man: Is it wisdom, for us, for our society, to set limits on things like violence, on
the premise that most people can't handle it - as what you were saying, that freedom
of sensuality, or that violence on TV or overt sexuality? Is that, again, look you can't
have this level of exposure or activity in our society because in the end, it's going
to affect the whole society in some way, do you think...?
Ajahn Brahm: OK, you are asking me to say that a level of violence - or you might even
say pornography, or even gambling, or whatever else - is such a degree that it's good for
the powers that be to ban it, because people can't handle it? I think that history has
shown the banning things never works. When you try and ban something, you have to enforce
that ban. That's where we get "Tali-ban" from or "Telli-ban". [laughter]
Ajahn Brahm: And not only that, but in banning things, we get - where do we draw the line?
And people are clever enough, you'll always get a way around the ban, somewhere, or whatever.
So instead of actually banning things, instead of saying that people can't handle it, let's
teach people to handle it. So I think the resources should be going in, instead of banning
things, teaching people how to handle these things better, even actually to say no to
them, to turn them off, rather than actually be, have a blanket ban on things.
It's a difficult one, because obviously sometimes it's good to have some restraint, especially
with kids who, again, haven't got the emotional maturity to exercise such self-restraint.
It's a difficult question there, because who has such emotional maturity to exercise self-restraint?
Should we give everyone a restraint class and an exam, and say, "OK, now you are free
to be mature, make your own decisions where other people can't"? It's such a difficult
decision with censorship. But what we have seen in history: people always find a way
around it, every ban... When the American government tried to ban alcohol in the prohibition
years, all it did was fed a underground criminal element, and people drank anyway. When people
try and stop pornographic movies, there's always a way that people, if you really want
it, you can get it. So isn't it much better to try and encourage people to be more self-reliant,
Otherwise, it isn't going to work. So in Buddhism, it's very much the responsibilities is on
you. Karma, we're the owner of our deeds, so now we take responsibility for it. So there
you are. You have all those things in the world. How much you want to go, what you don't
want to do; it's up to you. All that Buddhism can teach is to be wise. Be discerning. Understand
what is going to be of help and what is not going to be of help. What's going to harm,
what's not going to harm? And also teaching strategies, so you can exercise it a little
bit more wise control of your decision-making, with a bit more mindfulness - so, please,
anyway, tomorrow morning, brush your teeth in a different part of your mouth. [laughter]
So beginning in training in restraint. Thank you for that question. It's a great question.
I'm not sure if I could answer it adequately. I don't know if anyone can answer it adequately.
You have to answer it yourself. Any other questions you have?
OK, I know that I've just (promised?) a joke to end up with. I know that the quote from
Groucho Marx, who was one of my great heroes, when asked during sexual revolution, when
the radio reporter asked him what he thought about sex, and he said, "I think it's here
to stay." [laughter]
And there's a lot of wisdom. Humor is good because there's wisdom behind it. You can't
stop it, genie out of the bottle. So how are we going to deal with it? OK, that's Buddhism
and sensuality. Thank you for listening.


"The Buddhist Attitude to Sensuality" | by Ajahn Brahm

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Buddhima Xue 2015 年 4 月 12 日 に公開
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