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Ajahn Brahm: So this my first talk here for about three months, but, of course,
it's not just, as they used to say, not all beer and skittles for monks. [laughs]
No beer, no skittles at all. It's at a monastery down at Serpentine, I'm
still teaching the other monks, and the novices, the anagarikas and also the
sisters from Dhammasara. I have been traveling a little bit
at the very beginning of the rains retreat to Sydney for a conference of psychologists.
And at the end for another conference in mental health in Singapore, and in the
middle doing something good for Australia with a big conference with all the
leaders of Australia, trying to give some good spiritual vibes to the people
who run our country. But in all of these things, one of the reasons they invite
say a monk to these things is actually because of the positive attitude and the
vibes which a monk gives.
I was contemplating at a talk which I gave recently that in psychology, in life
we're always asked to have a positive attitude towards things, towards
whatever happens in life, whether it's an economic crash or whether it's the
death of a loved one, or a separation in a relationship and all the ups and
downs of live. We all say that having a positive attitude helps enormously, and
of course there's plenty of evidence, just what that does to sickness and to
tragedy in life.
But what I want to focus on this evening is how to be positive, because sometimes
it gets really frustrating when people tell you to be positive, and you're not.
It makes you feel even worse when you're having a hard time they say "Come on,
be positive," and you can't even do that right. So, this evening's talk is "How
to have a positive mind," and the results of that attitude change in life.
Of course, you all know what's coming. The positive attitude all comes from
like training your mind, especially in slowing down, release the positive
energy. To understand that, there's a classic story and some of you may have
heard the story before but I usually tell it to milk it and squeeze different
understandings from the same story. One of those times of life which gave an
experience which changed much of the way you looked at things.
I noticed the experience of walking up the hill to Bodhinyana Monastery in
Serpentine. Now, many of you have been down there, hopefully some of you will
come down on Sunday for our Katina Ceremony. We bought that 25 years ago, 26,
I think now, and for about nine years, I'd gone up, and down, the road to the
monastery, always in a car, in some sort of vehicle. It was like one of those
days we had a couple of days ago, just warm spring morning.
I remember just coming back from some sort of appointment, and feeling just so
positive, so energized, and having plenty of time, I told the driver, "Drop me
off at the foot of the hill, I'm going to walk up today." Not for exercise so
much, just for enjoying the morning, I had plenty of time. So, I started
walking from the southwest highway, up Kingsbury Drive, to the gate of
Bodhinyana Monastery.
As I started walking I got very surprised. Actually, it was a shock. As I
looked around me, I could not recognize where I was. That hillside looked
totally different from what I remembered seeing looking through the window of a
car. It was totally different. I was seeing things which I never knew were
there. What I saw had more detail, had more depth of colour. It was just
basically more beautiful.
Of course that surprised me, and not being in any rush, not being in a hurry, I
just stood still. And as I stood still, the whole hillside changed again. It was like
evolving. As a monk you're not on any sort of psychotropic substances, you
don't take alcohol, although, during our rains retreat, somebody offered the
monks some chocolate cake, and, fortunately, before we ate it, one of the monks
looked at the little writing on the cover, saying it had alcohol in it!
Fortunately, we stopped in time, because sometimes you're not sure when you get
some chocolate cake sometimes they put the alcohol in there just for the
taste and then they cook it and all the alcohol goes, it doesn't matter. But we didn't
know whether it was put in before or afterwards, and so we decided not to take it.
We gave it to one of our visitors who was very happy to be a guinea pig [laughter],
Like a food taster. And when he came back the next week he said "That was a lot of alcohol."
It hadn't evaporated, it was a very good job we were very careful. Otherwise,
we may have gone to our monastery just after lunch in a rains retreat
and seeing all the monks singing and dancing and goodness knows what else.
[laughter] Which would not have done very much for our reputation, so you've got to be
very careful. So we don't take such things. We are sort of sober, mindful,
alert. So here I was having an experience, like sometimes you have in life,
when things become really weird and they start changing in front of your eyes.
But what had happened was, what I was seeing, it had more detail, more
That hillside, you started to see little flowers, started to see rocks, and
just the shape of the rocks and the lichen on the rocks. And, just look at the
tree barks, and the whole tree bark was just amazing, beautiful. What was also
strange was that the colours, the colours of everything you saw, started to grow
more intense, more rich, more deep and more beautiful. The whole thing was
Of course, when a monk has experiences like that, we don't just enjoy, we sort-of
contemplate afterwards what the heck was going on. And I decided to analyze it
through science, and it became quite clear to me that, when you see things,
sight is a chemical reaction on the back of your eye, on the retina.
What happens with most people is that when they see something, they move on to
another image almost immediately. So, the image on the back of your eye doesn't
have time to properly form, and the colors don't come out. They're just maybe
10 percent of what's there, and the detail is all smeared, because the image
does not have time.
When I walked, I was going slower. The images on the back of my eye, the light
had more time, so you could see a much more full picture with more detail, and
the colours were deeper because they had more time to manifest.
It was just a simple physiology of sight which was occurring.
And, of course, when I stood absolutely still, only then did my eyes have all
the time they needed to form a full picture. And for the colours, which were out
there all the time, to be fully represented in the image on the back of my eye.
And for my mind to have time to explore it fully, to appreciate it, and to
taste it 100 percent.
Of course, I realized a very good simile of why people don't have a positive
attitude in life, why they don't understand life. Because, too many people
live life as if they're in a fast car, looking through the window, always going
on to the next thing, and pretty quickly, too. So, what we're experiencing now
doesn't have a time, we can't feel it fully. We're about to feel it, we get
five percent or one percent of the sensation, and we have to move on to something else.
Sights, tastes, feelings, everything, we don't have time for it to fully form.
But when we do go slower, when we do move more gently through life, when we get
out of the fast cars of life and just go on bicycles -- but, bicycles can be
too damn fast. Get off the bikes and walk. Don't even walk, but walk slowly.
What happens is, you find that your senses, at last, have time, and the mind
has got the opportunity to explore whatever comes into your senses. You see
things more fully. You get more information, more detail.
The surprising thing, at first, for me -- but, now I understand that this is
part of this experience -- that what you see, what you feel, what you taste,
what you know, becomes more and more beautiful. Ordinary grass becomes this
green which is like alive, vibrant and rich. It's an intense green. But, when you're
going through the window of a car, it's pastel, simply because you haven't
given it time.
When I had experiences like that, of course I realised that that's basically
what happens when we slow down in meditation, when you go on a retreat or you
just take time out in life, or you learn to move more slowly through your day
whenever you can, and you do have many opportunities. What happens is, you feel
more, you get more information, and what you see becomes very rich.
It's the positive psychology, because sometimes that hillside might be just,
oh, not enough trees, not enough grass. It's just all... just Aussie bush. It
should be like some garden, like some Japanese garden or an English garden or
whatever - no. When you really slow down and stop, you can see the beauty there.
Now, imagine you could slow down and stop and see the beauty in some other
things in life, which were going too fast to truly appreciate.
For example, in my fortunate life as a monk, I don't just hang out with prime ministers like in
this place in Hayman Island. Sometimes I hang out with murderers and rapists
when you go to prisons. It's amazing as a monk. You see just such a range of
human beings.
When you go and see rapists, murderers, thieves, some people who have done some
terrible, terrible, terrible crimes, it's amazing what happens. Because you
know how to go slow, you can look at a person and just like that hillside, you
see the grass becomes so beautiful. See the rocks, you see features in there
which you've never noticed before. You see just the bark on the trees. The
tessellated texture becomes exquisite.
So, you look at someone who's murdered a child, and you see things there which
most people will never notice. You see their exquisite beauty.
That's a great test. It's easy to see the beauty in the hillside. But to see such beauty in
such people locked up in jail for many years is more of a tough ask.
What happens when you do that? When you have such a positive attitude towards
life, you can see beauty in the most unexpected places. What happens is, and
it's happened many times, so often that I notice this is really useful.
That prisoner, that murderer, that rapist, they feel that someone is respecting them.
And that's an amazing change for someone who's done such an act. The
person comes in to where they've been confined, to their place of
imprisonment, and it is a mental torture, and they respect it.
And it's such a strange experience for them to have someone who looks at them
and sees something beautiful and good that they too start to change the way
they look at themselves. If I can see something in them, and they respect me
for being honest and truthful, then they think maybe that such beauty does
exist in them. And they start looking for it themselves.
The murderer starts to see an other part of their being. The beautiful part.
When that starts to grow and prosper, you find that when they do get released,
they are healed. The reason, the sickness, the cruelty, whatever it was, that
pain which allowed them to do such a thing, is now gone. And in this life and in
future lives, they will never do such a thing again. It's amazing what happens.
This whole attitude was reinforced when last weekend I was teaching at a
conference of the Institute for Mental Health in Singapore. Those from
Singapore, a few here, the old Woodbridge Hospital, which now they've moved and
renamed because maybe it had a bad association with mental sickness.
And I was so pleased that after I gave a presentation that was so well
received, that one of the fellows there who was quite a staunch Christian, he asked
me, "Can you come and bless my ward? Give a Buddhist blessing, please." Those
of you who know Singapore know that's quite something.
But when I was talking to him, and to many other staff there, the heads of
departments, they told me that the philosophy in that hospital was to focus on that
part of their patient which was sane, sociable, which was kind, which was
intelligent. They weren't focusing on the psychosis. They weren't ignoring the
schizophrenic fantasies. They were focused on something else.
I thought, "Wow! You guys have understood."
Because if you focus on somebody's faults -- you know the old two bad bricks --
the fact that sometimes they act in a dysfunctional way, or they speak in
hallucinatory ways or they behave in sort of a violent to themselves or other
ways. If you focus on that, then you make this person into someone.. or make this dysfunction
the whole of them,
rather than just a part of them.
And a positive psychology says let's put that aside. Let's focus on the other
half of them. Too often, we focus on the dysfunction. How about focusing on the
rest of the time when they're perfectly -- I won't say normal because being
normal is stigmatising the so-called abnormal -- when they are kind, sociable and
able to sort-of flow in society without any problems or reactions from other people.
When you focus on the other side, the healing happens. This is such an
important psychology to see. I was so pleased that at last, somebody is getting the message.
When you have a sickness... I don't know how many people when they have say, a
cancer, say, a breast cancer, forget that most of their body hasn't got
cancer. That there are still other parts of them.
Focusing on the other parts of them, you see incredible beauty, incredible
strength, incredible fitness and power. Which means you can harness that power,
the power of the positive side of a sickness.
The power of the positive side of someone's behavior.
And I know, and I think many other people can understand intuitively how that
is therapeutic. How that grows. I've mentioned before just to try and have
simple ways of talking about this so people can remember.
If you have a garden and you water the weeds, it's the weeds which grow and
take over your garden. If you water the flowers, the flowers grow and they take over.
It's what you water, what you focus on, is what grows in life.
And this is one of the great ways out of illness, out of tragedies, out of
dysfunctions, out of psychological problems in life. Just out of sorrow and grief.
If we focus on the grief, the cause of the grief, the problem, of course, it
will get worse and worse and worse. I've noticed this, I was talking to someone
recently that just this afternoon I remember this because I was coming to town
today we went past Observation City in Scarborough and it was there I gave
another lecture at a grief and loss conference.
And many of you noticed the positive attitude of Buddhism and how we learn to
let go and how we move through the pain of losing a loved one, how we let them
go, and how we let the pain go and how we move forward and how we change our perception.
You know the old story of the concert and looking at life as a concert and I
always enjoyed concerts so much so that I never cried when a concert was finished.
You know that story. But one of the women afterwards, after hearing my talk,
came up to complain bitterly. Her complaint was "Are you saying I shouldn't
grieve? Are you saying it's wrong to grieve? You're taking away my grief," she complained
For her, she had associated with grief and she became Mrs. Grief
whatever her name was. But that's her persona, that's who she was. And she would go to many
of those conferences and she'd get a lot of support from her friends. That's
who she was and she was not willing to give it up. A person who lives too long
in negativity becomes so associated, what in Buddhism we call "attached to it,"
they become it. They are it.
"I am the victim. I am the abused. I am the person who suffered such a
tragedy," and because they get so attached to it, even though it's painful,
they will not want to leave. Those of you who don't appreciate that, there's a
great story, which is one of the last stories, I think it is the last story, in that book,
"Opening the Door of Your Heart." It's a story --
I actually haven't told it in public for a long time now,
about the worm in the pile of dung.
Once upon a time -- actually, let's go even further back than that. Once there
were two monks, two Buddhist monks. And I say this because I'm a monk myself,
not all monks behave well. There are many scallywag monks. Unfortunately, those
are the ones people like to read about in the newspapers. The good monks very
rarely get in the newspapers. It's not newsworthy to say "Ajahn Brahm
meditated for the last three months."
But if Ajahn Brahm did something stupid like went to the casino or whatever,
then of course -- or got drunk because somebody gave us a cake steeped in
alcohol -- then you might sort of put it in the newspaper. But...
one of the monks, of these two monks misbehaved. The other one was a good monk.
So when they died one of the monks got reborn in a beautiful heaven realm,
while the other naughty monk got reborn as a worm in a pile of shit.
And as monks, we have a lot of friendship and community and fellowship. Like even
here we try and look after each other. And so after a few, who knows, days
up in heaven this ex-monk who was born as a heavenly being started to think
"Where is my friend? My old mate? I haven't seen him for a couple of days." So
when you get reborn in a heaven realm, according to Buddhism, you have all
these powers and so he used some of his powers to search his heaven realm for his friend.
He couldn't find him anywhere there. So he went up a couple levels of heaven
trying to find him there. He wasn't there either. Lower heavenly
realms, couldn't find him there. He said, ah -- according to Buddhism the
rebirth as a human being is one of the best rebirths because it's not too much
happiness, not too much suffering, a great place to become enlightened -- he said "Ah,
my friend, he's been reborn as a human being again. I bet that's what's happened,
why I can't find him in heaven."
So he searched around the human realm. No trace there either. "My goodness," he
thought, "he didn't do some really bad karma and got reborn as a dog or a cat...?"
So he looked in the realm of the dogs and the cats. I know some people
here think being reborn as a dog is a wonderful rebirth because you don't have
to go to work on a Monday morning, but that's not the case. If you think that
being reborn as a dog is a good idea, please remember what they do to a dog
after one or two weeks when it's born.
They take it to the vet and you know what they do to it there. So if you want
that... [laughs] Anyway, he couldn't find his friend as a dog or a cat, so he
looked at all the other animals. Still couldn't find his friend. He wouldn't
give up. He started looking in the lower realms of the creepy crawlies, and
there, to his shock and surprise, he saw his best friend was born as a worm in
a pile of shit.
Now, what would you do if that was your friend? You go and help them out. So he
went up to that pile of stinky poo and actually called out and said "Hey worm, worm!
Do you remember me? We were monks in a past life. We were the best of
friends. Now, you've made some bad karma, but don't worry I can get you out of
this. Come with me up to heaven." And the worm in the pile of dung said "First of
all I'd like to ask some questions. Number one, is there any shit up in heaven?
Of course there's no shit in heaven! It's pure and fragrant and lovely stuff
there. He said "If there's no shit I'm not going." "Why not?" He said, "Well
look, it's fragrant. It smells so beautiful. It's so warm and cozy inside and
it's also my food." Imagine -- there's lots of sort of Asian people here --
imagine you got reborn sort of in a big pile of noodles. [laughter]
Or if there's any
westerners here like reborn in a big hamburger so you can eat it all your day.
I don't know what else you like.
But he said "No I'm not going to go." Because this was his home, this was his
food, this is where he belonged; he liked it. And so that heavenly being tried
to pull the worm out. And remember worms which live in piles of dung are
smeared with slimy shit and so it's very hard to take them out, especially
when they don't want to go.
So the worm would wriggle and writhe, and every time this heavenly being took
it out a little bit, it would escape and go right in the middle of the dung
again. Now this heavenly being, imagine like you were sort-of a high being,
you had to put your hand in this most stinky, smelliest stuff.
His friendship was so strong he would not give up. Because he thought "If I
could just take my friend the worm up to heaven so he could just see for
himself, of course he would give up his shit and come up to heavens, it's so
much nicer."
But of course because the worm never wanted to go, it wriggled and writhed, and
escaped every time and eventually the heavenly being had to give up and leave
the worm to his pile of shit.
And I often tell that story because I don't know how many years I've been
teaching here trying to pull you. [laughter]
Would you want to go? Sometimes I'll pull you out a little bit on a Friday
night, and by the time you go home, you're back in it again. [laughter]
That's what was happening with this lady who was into grief. She would not get
pulled out of the shit. She was attached to it. She liked it. And that's so sad
to see that. But how can we get out of this?
There is a whole bit about the positive psychology, is you can't just think it,
you can't explain it. You can't just have a lecture and to get people out. They
got to feel it. They got to know it's shit. And the only way to do that is
actually to get more information by going slower.
Because the slower we go, the deeper we see. And the deeper we see, we also
see this incredible positive side of life. I know that people in Singapore, the
psychologists over in Sydney, they say that one of the biggest epidemics, and
it's not AIDS or cancers, but depression.
I'm sure there's many people here who've come because of depression before or
going through it now or maybe sometime later on in your life being depressed.
And they look at me having to come to work again after three months of bliss in
my monastery. You think I should get depressed. But do I look depressed?
Incredible as a monk you've got this attitude no matter what you have to do,
you just enjoy everything. And some of the stuff I have to do is crazy. Again
just being in Singapore last Sunday -- there's couple of people here from
Singapore, you know this is true -- started off my Sunday morning at 6:15 in
the Canning Fort Park teaching meditation. It was only supposed to be a short meditation.
But you know what it's like afterwards, people start asking you questions and taking photographs.
I had to rush for the morning..so-called breakfast. It was not a breakfast, it
was morning banquet. People saying "Please eat this, please eat that, because I
made this specially for you Ajahn Brahm." [laughter]
And now you may always see I'm a fat monk. It is not my fault. [laughter]
I get pressured, forced, cajoled. And if you don't believe me, you just come and follow me for
one day and see what happens. So I had to eat this big breakfast and then talk to people.
And then as soon as that was finished, had to go off to this morning service at
the Buddhist Fellowship, which was only supposed to be a talk for an hour
but went on and on and on with questions and stuff. And then we were supposed
to have some lunch.
But on the lunch, people come up and ask you to sign a book and ask some
questions because they have some really big problems in life. So you give them free
counseling. You're trying to put a spoon of food in one mouth and counsel them
about their marital problems in the other. It is really working.
And after that was finished, then I had to sort of rush off to a seminar
they'd organized for four hours of giving talks and asking questions. And of
course it wasn't four hours, it lasted for five or six, finished about eight o'clock.
And after that, I had to go to this golf club where they were having a sort of a
launch of an education program which I had to give another talk; didn't get
back to bed till about quarter to midnight.
And if anyone looked at that schedule, you'd call that torture.
Amnesty International will probably take the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore to court
for that.. [laughter] human rights abuse; war crimes.
But of course I enjoyed every minute of it.
And that's again, you do that, because you look at it and say, well you can
look at the sort of negative side of this: "Why me? Why do I have to do all
this?" Or you can look at the positive side of it and the reason why I can do
it it's the positive side of it. And see the beauty in anything. See the beauty
in prisoners, to see the beauty in the cancer ward. It's being able to go so slow
that beauty just stands out at you.
It's just so easy to see it, it's just right there in front of you. I realised that
in life, it's not what's out there that's a problem, it's not what's inside you is the
problem. It's always this, what we see, what's between us and whatever we have to
experience in life.
And by going slow, and not rushing too fast, life becomes so beautiful and
meaningful. Not only that, you don't only see just the beauty in any type of
food, or the beauty in any type of experience, no matter what you have to do in life.
Even the beauty in waiting at airports for aircraft, sitting in planes.
The beauty of just going through customs, waiting in line, the same sort of
questions: "Did you pack the bags yourself sir?" [laughter] I said "Look at them, there's
only one of them. What do you mean 'bags?' I travel light." [laughter]
So and you go through all this. But you enjoy every moment of it, you have this
positive attitude. And life becomes incredibly beautiful and nice no matter
what you have to do.
That positive attitude just comes from just moving a little bit more slowly in
life. So you can see it was there all the time. We go so fast doing so much
that we see none of it at all. So it's just a fraction of the beauty.
I don't know, when I was young, we used to, at school, develop our own
photographs. If any of you have had that experience of, know that you get a
photograph -- not this digital age, you miss so much with modern technology,
high tech and high stupidity, that's what I call it -- but when you had these
photographic films. You put it in the sort of a tray and put all these chemicals in it,
and the image would actually just appear slowly. And if you took it out too soon
then the image wouldn't fully form. It just emerged slowly. First of all
you can see silhouettes and then more detail, the colour became richer as the
chemical reaction progressed. That's almost exactly the same as what happens in your
eye. That's what your senses are.
When we go too fast, we miss so much. So just when you're eating, if you can
have, in fact one of the beautiful curry puffs which are out here. Why is it
that when people come here, to actually to eat the food even the curry
puffs, which people actually sell here, just to raise funds for something or
other, why do people like eating them? Why are they delicious?
A lot of times, it is because when you come here, you deliberately slow down.
When you're slowing down, you can actually get more taste out of the food.
When you slow down and get more taste out of the food, you digest it much better.
This is my trick. Anyone who has digestive problems, slow down, especially just
before and during your food, so you can get more taste. Because when you get
more taste, all these juices get secreted in your body.
The chemicals are out there to digest it when you taste more.
To prove that, just think of your favorite food right now. Think of it. Close
your eyes and imagine it, hot and steaming, right in front of you. Saliva comes
out. Not only that, stuff in your tummy comes out.
I remember learning this when one of my fellow monks, a long time ago, he had
some digestive problems and so he went to the local doctor. This was in
Thailand. And they decided to give him a barium meal. I don't know if they
still do that. They probably do ultrasound or MRIs these days but I'm not quite sure.
But what a barium meal was, he had to drink this radioactive guk. And it lay
in his stomach and they had some x-ray machine that can actually see how this
barium meal actually went through his system.
That way they could actually test if there was any blockages anywhere or any
difficulties in his digestive tracts. But the stupid doctors, they scheduled
his appointment for about two or three o'clock in the afternoon. And you know
monks, we'd only eat in the morning time. In the afternoon we don't eat. And he'd
been a monk for about four or five years.
So when he was lying down there, that barium meal was just sitting there,
wasn't going anywhere because the stomach wasn't used to doing anything in the
afternoon. It was half asleep, it was resting. That's what happens in monks.
And so he'd actually had this meal, all the nurses or doctors or technicians
were around him, and they couldn't proceed because the barium meal was just
sitting there. And so one of the nurses, a very smart girl, said "monk, think
of your favorite food."
And he was lying on his back. As soon as he started thinking of his favorite
food, then the barium meal started moving here and all over the place. Just the
thought was enough to actually get the whole system going.
If you're not thinking about your food, if you're thinking about the TV show
or you're thinking about what's on the screen, or you're too busy talking to
the person next to you, how on earth do you think that your stomach will work,
and your digestive juices will work.
It's one of the reasons why as monks we eat always in silence. We strive to be
mindful of our food. So that's why we usually have much better digestions.
Simply because we slow down, enjoy, make peace with things and allow the whole
body to do its job without us interfering.
Simple things like that work. Not only that, but you can enjoy your food more.
It's strange to think that a monk is telling you how to enjoy your food more, or
monk is telling you how to enjoy seeing more. Because sometimes people think oh
monks, you should tell people not to get so attached to things.
No, it doesn't work that way. The path of Buddhism is a path of ever
increasing happiness, but coming from stillness, coming from a natural
happiness, not a forced happiness. That's why I love being a monk, and a happy
monk. You are enjoying it. And monks in our monastery are happy. There's more
coming every year.
But, how that positive attitude, how that happiness comes - it comes from
stillness. You start seeing beauty in things.
But the most important thing about
this positive psychology and how it's generated from stillness.
You just start to see the positive side of yourself. You start to look at
yourself and see you're an incredibly beautiful person. People can say that. "I'm
a beautiful person, I'm a beautiful person... oh shit, I'm not." [laughter]
That's what most people really think. As a monk, you get all these people
coming to talk to you and giving their problems. It's very rare for a person
to come up to you and be at peace with themselves.
They always think there's something wrong with themselves, and usually
something big wrong with themselves. And it takes ages, years and years
and years of talking to people to try and convince them, number one, they're
all right. But I want to go much further than that. They're beautiful. There's
something inside of you which is incredibly nice.
And I've told this before, but just a couple of weeks ago, every year on --
what's it, October the sixth or seventh or something -- it's John Curtin day,
the day John Curtin died or got elected as prime minister or something.
Because four years ago on that day the John Curtin University gave me this
medal, the John Curtin medal, which is actually for community service, for
doing good things for other people.
And the first year after I got the medal I thought well, other people came to see
me get a medal. I should go and see them. So I rocked up thinking I was just
doing a duty, but I really was impressed with what I saw because there were
people who'd done good things for the world, especially just this part of the
world; and they were getting rewarded. I was just really impressed every year to see
how people were really giving and serving for others.
It was inspiring, so I've gone every year since. Just a couple weeks ago
there was one lady there who'd done a huge amount around the Kalamunda area for
the local community, but when she got her medal she came up to give a little
speech and she said "I don't know why you've given it to me. There are so many
other people who are much more deserving than me and even in my group, these
other people work much harder than I do in this group. I've founded it and led it but.."
And she was saying all this stuff and I remembered "oh here we go again - why can't
you see that actually you do deserve that," because when I was listening to
what she did -- she's an amazing woman -- how much she'd given and sacrificed
and served for no reward through 30 or 40 years of her life she'd given to
others. I thought wow you really deserve that medal. But could she say she
deserved it? No.
I did the same when I got my medal. "What the heck are you giving it to me
for? There are many other people who work harder than me." Me, too, I could not
see the beauty in myself. Really what I should've done was go up there and say
"Thank you very much, I do deserve this medal." [laughter]
But it was true, I did deserve it
And she deserved it. Why can't people accept praise?
Because we have this terrible feeling of ourselves of inadequacy. Some force
has been hammered into us to always admit your faults and to reject your finer
points. No wonder human beings get so sick. If you made a mistake remember it,
feel remorse, make amends. If you do something good "Oh, no, no, no, that's
usual. I'll just get big headed if I keep remembering my finer points."
You don't get big headed if you receive praise and acknowledge it and accept it
and embrace it. You get big-hearted. Not big headed, big-hearted.
So that's a symptom of what we call lack of self-esteem, the inability to see oneself as
others would see it and actually praise oneself and value oneself, and see the
beauty in oneself. And that's what happens when you get still.
You don't just see the beautiful grass on the hillside. When you go more slowly
you often see yourself, and you'll be absolutely stunned just how much beauty
you can see inside of yourself. You never thought that was there because you've
been going too fast to see it.
When you slow down, amazing, you blossom. You just unfold and some of the stuff
inside of you you've never seen before is just so clear in front of you.
Delightful, beautiful, wonderful. You look at yourself, "Wow, I am OK.
Actually, I'm more than OK. This is amazing. This is wonderful."
Why is that so hard to accept? Even the very idea of that. Some of you were
cringing against the idea of thinking yourself as beautiful, wonderful,
incredible. You can do that and this is what happens.
So a person when they start slowing down, meditating, living a more peaceful
life they have much more respect for themselves, even admiration for themselves
and what they admire, what they respect is like the flowers, they grow and grow
and grow and eventually they just take over the garden. They smother the weeds.
The beautiful part of yourself once it's appreciated, noticed, embraced,
accepted, recognized, that grows. And all that other little stuff, all your
faults, your negativity, the other stuff which causes too many problems in your
life, that vanishes. You know what this is called? The path to enlightenment,
the path to freedom, the path to joy, to happiness.
And I've focused on it, the positive attitude towards yourself, to others, to
life in general, even to death. Whatever happens in life embrace it, see
its beauty. See it's just the circles of life going around. The winters and the
springs, the summers.
Of course, it's not so bad, I think, because I don't know
over here in Australia, but the global financial crisis. Somebody once,
on a completely different subject, gave this wonderful simile and I was sharing
this with so many people, in a place like Singapore, where they're very, very
worried about their finances.
I said it's like a financial winter because I was born in the Northern
Hemisphere and I remember the winters in England. In the winters, you go
outside the city and you wouldn't see a leaf on the trees. The flowers were all
dead. There was no life, even the animals were hiding underground, sleeping,
hibernating. In the deep winter time, outside of London, everything was gray,
dead. Trees were like skeletons in the forest. Nothing was alive. There was no
hope. It was cold and dead, a withered landscape, like an economic crisis.
But you know what? Underneath the soil -- you knew this because you've seen it
so many times -- underneath the soil there were seeds. The animals, there was
life, powerful life just waiting. It was waiting for the time, for the warmth,
for the tiny bit of rain to germinate. Then you get the spring months, March or
April, and suddenly the whole landscape will be bursting with life, with
greenery. All of these animals would jump out and start to mate and all sorts
of other hanky panky -- which I doubt a monk should... but, anyway, that's just life. [laughter]
This is what you would see. What was dead and hopeless and cold and withered
was now full of energy and life, and beauty, and vibrant. That's always
whatever happens in life. These are the cycles we go through. This economic
crisis is like a winter time and you know that winter time is always followed
by spring. It's the cycles of the world. You know that but we forget it.
It's too easy to get depressed in winter times but those of you who have more
experience can see in that winter this beautiful pause, a pause of our life
when many people are forced to see something more important than economic
activity. They're just reminder times. Like in winter time, you can stop and be
still and peaceful when not so many things are moving. When you see the beauty
in a dead tree, when you see the beauty in the lifeless landscape, the
stillness, the life inside, then you know that this is just one part of the wheel.
This is all this is right now in our economic times, in your life, cancers,
death, falling in love, getting married, getting divorced, having kids, all
that sort of stuff, the cycles of our life. So, when it is winter, always know
there's a spring coming soon. You know it happens, you've been there before,
but don't forget! This is the positive side of life and you see it more and
more the more still you get. So take time in life. Don't go always running
around. You have to run sometimes. But there are times when you just slow down
and stop to remind yourself, to center yourself.
That's what meditation is all about, learning how to stop. Sometimes people
don't meditate properly. They go meditate just to try and achieve
something else, trying to go for it. Sometimes people get more stressed out
when they meditate than before they started. You're trying too hard.
Some meditation objects we don't recommend. Like, someone told me this a couple
of days ago, in Buddhism we don't recommend meditating on a candle because it
burns your bottom. [laughter]
And that's today's joke. It doesn't improve with the years but it's one
I haven't told before. [laughs] Anyway, so, when you sit and meditate, meditate
for peace, for stillness because in stillness you see more deeply and you see
more beautifully and your positive attitude toward life grows and grows and grows.
That's why the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which is the arm of
the British National Health Service, which does test therapies to find out
what's the best for the amount of money they have to spend, testing depression
or other therapies for depression compared three types of treatment:
medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, which is basically counseling, and
meditation. Which one worked the best? Of course, you know, meditation, by far the best.
So, the British National Health Service, the preferred therapy for depression
is meditation. If they only could find enough people to teach it. It works.
Hopefully today I've shown why it works. Stillness exposes beauty and power and
energy. With that power, energy and positivity and beauty -- wow, you're not just
going to heal depression, you're just going to go and create a beautiful world.
Respecting your beauty, being able to go into prisons and see prisoners just
changed like a catharsis. If you can do that with prisoners, with rapists, with
murderers, what can you do with others? What can you do with yourself to heal,
to grow, to get out of the shit pile once and for all and leave for heaven?
That's how we become positive, and thank you for listening.
Audience: Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu


How To Be Positive | by Ajahn Brahm

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Buddhima Xue 2015 年 8 月 25 日 に公開
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