- By Ajahn Brahmavamso Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery Perth Australia Website : http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/ June 05, 2000 Singapore Power Auditorium (edited by Christopher Chen a member of Buddhist Fellowship,Singapore)
Buddhism is about being happy. That's the philosophy of Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso.
Speaking to capacity crowd at Singapore Power auditorium, the Venerable touched many hearts with his amiable ways. Not the stereotype religious leader one expects, he lives his philosophy that people must be kind to each other. Hence, his retinue of jokes, his unending repertiore of anecdotes which he injects into his talks and his broad smile( he says that is his best marketing tools).
He is happiness incarnate!
But how did he get that way?
"When I was young, my late father told me that he would always have a place in his hearts for me no matter what I did. My mother also gave me that unconditional love. So I grew up happy", he says. Indeed, Peter Betts( his birth name) was once a regular teenager crazy about music and football and chasing girls.
He went on to get a degree from Cambridge University in Theoretical Physics. One would have imagined that he would have set himself up in a comfortable career but instead he chose to be a Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest Monk tradition of Ajahn Chah . He is now Abbot of the Bodhinyana Monastery, 30 km outsides Perth, Australia.
Why Buddhism? "When I was young my parents allowed me to choose any religion. So I read about Christainity, Islam, Judaim and Hinduism. Finally after having read Buddhism, I got drawn to it. Here was the best religion for me. It was rational, fulfilling and non-dogmatic", he adds. Makes sense, coming from a physicist.
But the Venerable is quick to point out that Buddhism in not an intellectual pursuit.
"You've got to live it. Not read it nor study it, though that's necessary. Practice is what it's all about. You have to practice wisdom and kindness. It's not enough to know what kindness is.Kindness that is not given to somebody else is not kindness at all", he lectures. In his talk which he titled"Cool and Blissful- That's Buddhism", he made the point that kindness takes many forms.
Accepting people for what they are is being kind.
"When you convert others or try to, you are being cruel because all you are saying is that you can't accept them the way they are and therfore you want to make them over to your liking. This applies to all religions", he explaines.
He then told the audience about the "imperfect wall". In helping to built the monastery, there was one wall that he was ashemed of. He would avoid showing people that wall until one day, a visitor remarked that the wall was beautiful because although two bricks were out of place, the other 998 were perfect". That taught me not to judge a person on two faults when we should appreciate the 998 other positive things about him or her. In the same way, many people beat themselves up for some faults they have. They don't give themselves credit for the good points they have", he elaborates.
Being kind is also treating a dying person as a person."I was tending to a nun dying of cancer. She would not see anybody but me. I asked her why and she said that people coming to see her wore such sad faces like someone was going to die! Instead she would only see me because I would joke with her to the very end. You see, I made her feel alive and like a person", the Venerable says.
Being kind also means showing appreciation, according to Ajahn Brahmavamso who narrated this story: There was a man visiting a city from the country side. He heard a screeching sound and after investigating, discovered that the horrible noise was from a violin. So he hated violin until the following day he heard a beautiful sound that belonged to another violin played by a maestro. So he realized that the fault was not the violin's but who played it. Likewise, you can learn to appreciate people who can be bad in one instance and good in other circumstances.
Besides his prowess as a speaker ( capacity crowds always ), he is one of the world's best teachers of meditation. "Come to Ajahn Brahm's Club Med.( That's Club Meditation in case you are wondering.) It's free. It's here and it's easy to do. Most of all, it's priceless", he half jokes. Then again, he is not joking when he tells you that Buddhism is like a buffet and that all the Dharma talks are appetizing but the main course is meditation."Meditation is the point when you contact your own goodness, your own good karma and live, really live".
In meditation, he brings you through self-appreciation, living in the present moment and then meditating on your breath. " I get a lot of joy meditating. In fact, if I am not interacting or doing my duties, I take a holiday everday. I meditate. It's better way to cultivate peace, happiness and compassion. In meditation you can develop loving kindness towards yourself and others more easily".
He also credits meditation for his good healt and for passing exams. In fact he even advises people to become accomplished meditator if they want to be hired by corporations and move up the ladder."Bosses tell me that someone who meditates is in control of the situation and will handles stress better". he adds.