Sunday, December 28, 2008

Equanimity by Ajahn Brahm

Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso (or more popularly known as Ajahn Brahm) is one of my most favorite spiritual yet inspirational teachers of my life. Let me give you a brief introduction about him, shall we?

Born in London in 1951, he regarded himself as a Buddhist at the age of 17 but his interest in Buddhism and meditation flourished while studying Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, UK. After completing his degree and teaching for a year, he traveled to Thailand to become a monk. He was ordained in Bangkok at the age of 23 by the Abbot of Wat Saket. He subsequently spent nine years studying and training in the forest meditation tradition of the late Ajahn Chah.

In 1983 he was asked to assist in the establishment of a forest monastery near Perh, Western Australia. Ajahn Brahm is currently the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine and the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, teaching and training monks, anagarikas (novices) and the lay people.

Ajahn Brahm is an outstanding but down-to-earth monk, teacher and charismatic public speaker. He is able to make the Buddha's teachings easy to understand, inspiring and even entertaining. His stirring yet humourous anecdotes, stories and talks attract large groups of people just whereever he goes.

I have been to one of his rousing talks yesterday during his meditation retreat in Chempaka Buddhist Lodge and it has certainly made my day. His talk on Equanimity (upekkha) [The state of being calm, stable and composed, especially under stress], one of the seven factors of enlightenment was invoking, but what makes it so interesting is that he isn't just an ordinary speaker on the teachings of Dhamma, in fact, he makes it so easy to understand by using mixtures of jokes, and funny tales to share, I bet even people who is completely new to the teachings of Dhamma will recognize the significance of it.

One of his stories I remembered was about how he described Nirvana: [The complete cessation of suffering; a blissful state attained through realization of no-self; enlightenment]
A story about five children being granted a wish each.

Video games are certainly a lovely favorite for all children at this time. When the first child was given a wish, he says he just wants to play video games all day.

The second child marvels at his idea, and of course, being the second child, he has more time to think over a wish bigger than the first child's. When he was asked what would his wish shall be, he says he wants to be a manager of a game store, so he can play a myriad of video games forever and ever.

The third child likes the second child's idea even more, and he is thinking hard on a wish bigger than the second child's. So when it comes to his turn, he wants to be a billionaire. And when he becomes a billionaire, he will buy all the video game franchises in the world. And as a boy who hates school homework, he will use a part of his billion-dollar wealth to buy his own school. He thinks to himself, if he buys his own school and becomes principal, he does not need to do any homework, and he gets to play video games every day! He believes, he can do anything with the billion dollars, and since a billion dollars is so much to him, he thinks that the money will never exhaust itself at all.

The fourth child was completely astounded with the third child's idea. He really needs to think up a much more huger idea, something huger than having a billion dollars. As he gets his turn, he says that his wish is to have three wishes! The first wish, he will have a billion dollars. The second wish, he will have all the video game stores in the world. And for his third wish, he wishes for another three wishes. And he will keep repeating this process over and over again, believing he shall have an unlimited amount of wishes. He believes that his wish is certainly the grandest among the children.

The fifth child however, is a unique child. When asked for his wish, he doesn't wish to be the richest man in the world, or to have all the video game stores. No, he says that he is pleased with everything he has right now, he wishes that he shall be content forever. And that boy wins the wishing game, for being the modest among the 5 children. And this boy would become enlightened in the future, and becomes Buddha in the end.

This story enlightens me that we should just remain happy with what we have right now. A billion dollars won't just come to us with a snap of your finger, it takes a lot of effort to get yourself a billion dollars. However, being the richest man does not mean you will have the easiest life of all, sometimes you would have to be the busiest in order to be rich, just like how Donald Trump, Steve Jobs and other entrepreneurs strive to deserve that wealth.

From the story, we know that the fourth child has his freedom for desires. The fifth child, the unique child, the young Buddha, wishes for freedom from desires.

Thank you, Ajahn Brahm for your motivational talk, you have taught me so much I needed to know to make my life more meaningful, and your talk, although only a few hours, would have inspired all who have attended your talk.

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