Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ego (Ajahn Brahm)

These are notes based on a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm. Any errors are mine.
The purpose of this is to share practical dhamma which is relevant, not to bore you with theory.

Praise & Criticism.
People don’t have a good relationship with themselves in the West. You are good people! If someone praises you or rewards you, don’t negate them for that, but say, thank you, I deserve it! Because you probably do. On a flight to Indonesia, I once met a Muslim flight attendant who said, “I’m your biggest fan, I’ve read all your books and I watch you on YouTube” so that was nice, and one really nice result of that was that I had wonderful service the whole flight! When I tell this story, people say, “aren’t you a monk, aren’t you supposed to be humble” and I joke, “I am humble, but what’s the point of being humble if you can’t tell people”. On the other hand, I’ve also made terrible mistakes. I once did a funeral chant at a wedding. They didn’t notice. It occurred to me that’s the real reason why religious services are in Latin in Christianity or in Pali in Buddhism, it’s so people can’t understand it. That was a really bad mistake. But they’re still happily together! Instead of feeling sad, admit your mistakes! Be honest about both your achievements and your mistakes. Receiving praise will make your heart big, not your head, and encourage you to do good things again in future. Also, accept criticism. If someone calls you a dog, look at your bottom. If you see a tail, they might have a point, if not, you can ignore it. The reason people get upset is that they believe the criticism at some level. So… just walk away. Once there was a politician who fell into a well. (I used to tell this story about a goat, but about a politician is more fun.) The farmer wanted to bury him in the well and started shoveling dirt over him. But what did the politician do? He shrugged his head and shoulders, brushed it off, stamped the dirt into the ground and stepped a little higher. Before the farmer knew what was up, the politician had risen up to the height of the well and calmly climbed out and thanked the farmer for his efforts.

Now, let me share a problem-solving technique. I got into trouble for ordaining nuns in Australia, but I believe in equality and I was trying to bring Buddhism into the 21st century. There are various ways I could have gone about it, but I follow the Nike philosophy “just do it!”. How can we get from A to B? This is the problem-solving technique. Imagine you are already at B and look backwards, thinking about how you got there. If you look from A, things might seem quite daunting and no solution might seem possible. Thinking from the endpoint and working backwards is much less stressful. In all parts of life, use this. It’s incredibly effective!

Letting Go.
We meditate not to achieve things, but to let go of things. Sooner or later, ego vanishes completely away. As a Buddhist monk, I am a loser. I’ve got no money, no assets, yeah I’m a loser, losing greed, losing hate, losing delusion, losing my ego. If you meditate to try to attain things, this will only lead to a stronger ego. Meditation is a putting down, The analogy of the water bottle. If you hold it up, the water keeps moving and it gets tiring. Put your work down from time to time and come back refreshed and clear. We are human beings, not human doings but have you ever seen a human being? A leaf only moves because of the wind. So too, the mind by its nature is still. Stop the winds of wanting and the mind moves less. It becomes perfectly still. When things become still they disappear.

A monk got a phone call, “I need you!”. “Sorry I’m busy,” he replied. “What are you doing?” “Nothing”. “But you were doing nothing yesterday!” “I haven’t finished yet!”
Mindfulness leads to Kindfulness leads to Being with whatever is most important.

Visualisation of Metta.
Imagine the heart as a huge airplane with two doors always open, always giving, always receiving. Don’t shut the doors of your heart to suffering, but transform it into blessings.

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