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For this evening's talk. I've just come back this afternoon from overseas
and there's an email waiting for me and somebody was asking a question, and
I'll make it a subject for this evening's talk. In Buddhism we talk a lot about
loving kindness and compassion, but how can we use loving kindness and
compassion, they said, for troubled people? And how come we can we put
boundaries around those troubled people? And it's a very good question
because even though Buddhism is regarded as a very compassionate religion
or path, it also has to be a wise path as well. There's a very old simile
in Buddhism, a bird always has two wings and one wing is compassion and the
other one is wisdom. If you only have one of those wings, a bird can never
fly. If it does take off it goes around in circles, never gets anywhere. So
we always have to balance our compassion with wisdom and this is the case
in point here. We may have some difficulty in life and that's actually part
of life, life is what is difficult. If life was really easy there wouldn't
be much point in taking rebirth as a human being. It's the tests, the
difficulties which we face on our journey between birth and death which
actually provide us with the wisdom and the experience to understand what
compassion truly is and even to develop our wisdom even deeper.
For example, our caretaker Yong [?] was wise enough to know
that it was still a bit warm in here and also compassionate enough to turn
up the fans at the same time. So there you go, there's an example of wisdom
and compassion. If he was just compassionate and thought, 'Oh, may all
beings be cool', that would not have worked. If he was only wise and he
knew how to turn on those fans, that would not have worked. But when you
have wisdom and compassion get together, the fans get turned on and
everybody gets cooled down. But I'm sure there are some people though who are now
too cold! And I already see a few people putting blankets around them. [laughter]
And so even being kind to one person is actually torturing somebody else. [laughs]
This is one of the most important parts of compassion. When we practise
compassion and kindness it should always be to all beings. It's all beings,
not just this person, not just that person, but to all beings. And
sometimes when we practise compassion we have to put every stakeholder into
the equation. So because of this, because it's to all beings, sometimes
that makes life very difficult. How can you actually be kind to all beings?
And I think the solution comes in just the way that question was asked. I
think I've got it right, I may have not remembered the email accurately.
They called actually, there's some people called like troubled people. But
really I never see that there's actually troubled people. There's always
like troubled relationships. So it's not a person who's trouble, because
actually when they're a long way away they're no trouble at all! That's why
there's the old joke, you should avoid, you've got to understand a person
and to be kind you must always walk, walk ten miles
in their shoes to really understand them. And they always joke that that's
a very good thing to do because after ten miles you're ten miles away and
you've got their shoes. [laughter]
But when person's a long way away, of course it doesn't matter how mean,
nasty they are, they're no trouble to you. The only trouble comes when
they're right in front of you or next to you or they're associating with
you. So a troubled person, there's no such thing as a troubled person.
There's always the way that some people relate to you or you relate to the
other person. It's always troubled relationships. And it's not just people.
Because with compassion, it's not just people, it's sometimes things.
Sometimes life is so-called troublesome. Too hot, too cold. Sometimes
trouble is economic problems, health problems, how things go wrong in life.
So it's not just people, it's just life is sometimes troublesome. Now with
people you can sometimes get away from them. That's why I've got a cave in
my monastery. Got two doors, I can hide in that cave and get away. But no
matter how deep your cave is you can never get away from life.
And also, you can never get away from one person. You can get away from
your wife and your husband, from your friends, from your enemies. The one
person you can never get away from in life obviously is you. No matter
where you go, you take yourself with you. Sometimes that's why people get
into alcohol and drugs, just to try to escape from themselves. But of course
it's only a temporary escape because after a while, you're back there with you
again. And that's why also sometimes people get so upset with themselves,
they can't stand themselves, they even commit suicide. But even then as a
Buddhist I know that if you go and commit suicide and commit suicide to
try and get away from yourself, you're still there afterwards. And now
you're a ghost. So you're still stuck with yourself.
There's one thing I will let you know in life. You can never escape from
you. So if you can't escape from you, what should you do if you know you're
troublesome to yourself? It's not you the problem is, it's your
relationship with yourself. It's not the economic problem, it's your
relationship to that. It's not like a troublesome baby, I think it's a baby
in there, or a cat [laughter] squeaking in the corner over there. It's not the baby
over there, it's our relationship to that noise. That's the only difficulty
over there.
So first of all, lets actually redefine the question. How can you employ
metta or put boundaries in troublesome relationships? And those
relationships are with other people, with life, or with yourself. And of
course once we redefine it there it becomes more easy to see it's not the
other person's problem. Because too often we think 'It's their fault'. When
everybody thinks it's somebody else's fault, that's why we always get
conflict in this world. Palestinians think it's the Israelis' fault.
Israelis think it's the Palestinians' fault. I don't know, the workers
think it's the bankers' fault, the bankers think it's the government's
fault. The government thinks, I don't know what the government thinks is at
fault.. oh, the opposition. The government thinks it's the opposition's fault. [laughter]
And it's very easy to think that other people are troublesome. But again,
it's not other people!
There's one of Ajahn Chah's favourite stories and this actually comes
from an old story in the Buddhist commentary. Once there was a dog and the
dog had mange. And the dog's skin was so itchy, no matter if it scratched
it, the mange, the skin disease got worse. That's why sometimes in poor
countries you see dogs with no hair. So this mangy dog was just having such
a lot of suffering and so he decided to run away from the village and live
in the forest. So he went in the forest but still had the suffering there.
So he went actually under water in the pond but still his back itched. So
then he went under the shade of a tree, then out in the sun, then under a
rock. Wherever that dog went it was always suffering until it realised it
wasn't the village's fault, it wasn't the other dogs. It wasn't the forest
or the shade or the sun or the rock's fault. It was actually carrying
around the mange inside of itself. And that's an important thing to
remember that, it's not your wife's fault. It's not your husband's fault.
It's not the government's fault. It's not the economy's fault. It's not my
fault. Certainly it's not my fault. [laughter] And it's not your fault either. We take
this thing around with us. It's always our fault. It's a wonderful way of
looking at it, the mange is why we don't have a proper relationship to
Sometimes in life you do have to deal with troublesome situations. Now
first of all, when you have a difficult situation, lets not say a
difficult person. A difficult situation in life. Sometimes you look at that
situation, it may be economic problems, it may be sort like an itchy
throat. It may be like your plane is delayed and cancelled. It's not,
that's not the problem. The problem is always what you do with that. How
you relate to that. How you make that work to your advantage.
So if I've got an itchy throat and start coughing like this, then people
have got much more sympathy for me and they don't ask so many questions
when I'm finished. So I actually turn it to my advantage so I can get to
bed earlier. If you have an economic problem and you know you haven't got
so much money, then you can become much more green in your life, be more
environmentally friendly. Because when you got poor you can't afford the
big things or you can't afford the car. And instead of getting a car
because you're too poor, you can get a bicycle which is not only good for the
environment but good for your health as well. So even in economic difficult
times you can turn it to your health advantage and other advantages as
well. There's so many things we can do. One thing I've often said here, I
told this in Colombo and people really were stunned by
it because they never heard this before. You've heard it many times before.
If you're in economic problems, what a wonderful advantage that is to
downsize. To get a smaller house or apartment or even better, a small
monk's kuti, a little hut. Because you'll find, number one, it's so
much easier to keep clean.
The smaller the house, the less room, the less housework. It's brilliant.
And also, the smaller your house, the less chance there is of any burglars
coming in. They'll take one look at your small house and they think, 'Wow
if that's the size of their house there's nothing in there.' Where do
burglars go? The big houses. Anyone's got a big house there must be big
things in there. So you have to have no problem with burglars and also
my most important things, when you have small houses, all the people in
those houses, because they're close together physically they soon come
close together emotionally. Big mansions cause so much loneliness in the
family. Husband in one room, wife in another room, son in their room,
daughter in another room and even the dog's got his own kennel in the back.
So why do we do such things? Big mansions actually separate people. Have
you ever noticed why sometimes the kids don't know how to get on with each
other or get on with their parents? When you're really stuck together in a
small place you have to get on together. I've just come back from Sri
Lanka. It's quite a big island, but there's so many people in that place.
They're all crammed together. So they have to get on with each other. Even
though it's actually crazy being driven along those roads. There's so many
traffic in there and tractors and goats and goodness knows what else goes
along the main roads, these are the main highways. But still, people,
because they're used to that, they're much more skillful drivers than sort
of here in Australia. At least those who are still alive are the more
skillful drivers. [laughter] They learn to get on together, they're so close together,
they have to. So there's no other alternative. So close proximity
towards each other actually is a good thing I think.
And sometimes our spread out suburbs, and we all know we don't know our neighbours.
I think it was actually Tim Costello once said that "more people know
the 'Neighbours' TV show than the neighbours living next door to them." So
we really should live in smaller communities so we get to know one another.
And that gives us social harmony, social cohesion. So this is just an
example there of, it's not the economic downturn which is the problem, it's
our relationship to it. And we can do it with loving kindness, embrace it
and make the most out of it. Otherwise we always carry the mange with us,
wherever we go, whatever we do. It's not the economic downturn that's the
problem, it's what we do with it.
It's the same when we have a difficult person which we have to deal with.
So how can you have loving kindness to a difficult person? There's many
people think if you have loving kindness to them, they never change. They
even get worse, they take advantage of your compassion. And of course
you don't have compassion to the other person, you put compassion toward
that relationship which you have. And this is what you deal with. It's not
them, it's not me, it's just what happens in between us when we're together.
So that's where I always put my loving kindness, in that space between me
and that bastard over there, wherever it is. [laughter] I like to use the local
language, please don't get shocked. So, I didn't point to anyone over
there, I wasn't looking. [laughter] It could be over there as well. It's not
particular. It's just an example.
But you know, some times there's some difficult people in life. A good
example of this is, you know that many years ago, this is part of the
history of Bodhinyana Monastery, we had a huge problem with clay trucks
past our monastery. It was noisy but that wasn't the main problem as I keep
on mentioning. It was the danger of those huge trucks with trailers down
that steep, narrow road. And once, I saw one of those trailers tip over.
They lost control. And I saw that and that was very scary. Because I knew if any
one of you would come to visit our monastery or a monk was visiting the
monastery or going or if I was coming or going, if we'd been in front
of that truck, we'd have no chance, we'd be dead.
So because of that I thought, we have to actually fight this, this is
wrong. But I was very impressed with the secretary at the time, it was
actually Ajahn Sujato. Because during all this time, in court
cases and legal wranglings, because it had to get to that. During this
whole time, it came to Christmas, and our secretary wrote Christmas cards,
Happy Christmas, may you have a wonderful new year to all our adversaries.
That really shook them and undermined what they thought of us. If you're
having a legal case with someone and you send someone a Christmas card they
think, 'My goodness what's going on here?' We even got told off, I think
because we're only supposed to legally contact our adversaries through our
lawyers. We should have sent the Christmas card to our lawyer who would
have given it to their lawyer who would have then given it to the
adversary. [laughs] Crazy system. We just sent it straight to them. So that, even
actually your adversaries, you're actually giving some loving kindness
because we realised it wasn't our, it was a common problem, it was our
problem so we have to work together somehow or another. Even during a legal
battle, no ill will. But we had to put some boundaries around this because
we thought this was wrong and this was going to cause injury if it carried
So whenever you practise loving kindness it doesn't mean that you allow
other people to do what they want or you just give in. It is our problem,
the relationship which I had with those clay trucks was a difficult one.
You have to mend it, do something about it. But do something about it in a
kind and compassionate way.
Our usual problem is when we have a problem person or a problem situation,
too often instead of using loving kindness, which is incredibly powerful,
too often we use anger. And that anger never works. I've never seen anger
really work. It gives temporary solutions. You maybe force someone to back
off but really they just go and hurt somebody else, or they go and come back
and harm you later on. Because all anger does is it creates fear in
the other person. And when that fear disappears or they get stronger then they come
and do the same old things again. So anger never really works.
I remember once there was a nun in our monastery in Thailand. Years and
years ago. She had looked like a psychological problem. She was getting
anorexic. Thinner and thinner and thinner, we were just really concerned
about her. And whatever we said, she said no, she was fasting because it
was good for her meditation. Or she felt healthy. But to look at her, she
was skin and bones. Of course we were responsible if, you know I don't have
that problem obviously, but if any monk had a problem like that I'd be
responsible for them, I'd have to do something to make sure they're okay.
But whatever we did as monks, she just would not listen. A senior monk
come over from England and we said to him, 'Look, we haven't been able to
do anything. [coughs] Can you help?' So he brought the nun to her and this was a
very great monk, and he was such a kind monk and he looked at her and he
started shouting at her and scolding her and I thought, 'My goodness, this
monk, who I really respected, is getting angry.' And I'd never seen him
angry like that, ever. I thought, 'what's going on?' He was shouting and
scolding her and all sorts of stuff. And then afterwards she went away. And
just as soon as she went away that's when he changed his demeanour and he
smiled and said, 'That told her, didn't it?' [laughter] He was acting it out. And so I
was actually quite relieved. The monk hadn't gotten angry. He was actually
a good actor. He actually tried to use that as a skillful means. It really was
out of compassion. But it didn't work.
Even if you try, you just, and this was a very good monk. He had enough
mindfulness and control when he played at being angry he didn't become
angry. He could do it. But still it never worked. All the times which I've
seen, monks are trying to scold their disciples or I see men scolding their
wife or a wife scolding their husband, it doesn't really work. The whole
relationship loses its love, loses its kindness, loses the glue which
will bind it together. You feel so much remorse, so much unhappiness. It's
not really worth doing.
However, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, and I'm going to repeat this now,
this is a very powerful thing. If ever, in your relationship, someone
shouts and scolds at you, when they're finished, remember the 15 seconds of
silence after they've finished shouting at you. Don't say anything back.
Certainly don't shout back. When they've finished their shouting and
scolding, you look at them...and keep quiet for 15 seconds, giving them time
to hear what they've just said. To reflect on the anger which they've
poured out on you. Because if people have that opportunity to listen to
what they've just said, and you do that if you give the 15 seconds of
silence after someone's been shouting or scolding at you. If you give the other
person that opportunity they will learn what a stupid thing that was to
shout and to scold.
So there's other ways of dealing with a problem relationship. You do have
to put boundaries on people. You can be firm. You may have heard me, I was
just talking with Chiway [?] about our builder. We're
building a retreat centre. And the retreat centre is supposed to be
finished by April for the first meditation retreat. And we're looking at
the building and it's going really slow. So we've been quite firm with him.
So as a monk, I don't say, 'Oh builder, out of compassion and kindness, you
just take your time. If it's not finished for the retreat, never mind. I
don't want you to have a headache. You just do it as slow as you want.'
That would be really stupid, wouldn't it? Because you know what Australian
builders are like. So instead of doing things like that you have to be
quite firm. But it's compassionate, just keeping your relationship with
loving kindness. So your intention, your intention is to keep the
relationship good, firm, mutual respect, so you can get things done. You do
have to put boundaries. That's compassion with wisdom.
If you have that compassion with wisdom then it's not just being
compassionate to the builder, it's being compassionate to me. It's being
compassionate to all those people who are going to come on that first
retreat. So sometimes we do have to put boundaries.
Just like many Buddhists who work, who are managers or even CEOs or
supervisors. Sometimes they find it hard to tell people off at work. You
may have someone working for you who's not doing their job. An example,
you've got a troubled employee. What do you do about that? And you've heard
this before but it comes up in this talk. If you have a troubled employee
then you use what we call the sandwich method. You go up to them as soon as
possible, because if you let these things fester they get worse and worse.
So you go up to this person and the first thing you do is to give them some
loving kindness, some praise. Just tell them how much you appreciate them
working here. What a fun person they are to be here. Or find something
which you can respect in that person and let them know it. Because as soon
as you do that, people start to listen to you.
They open their ears and their mind because they want to listen to more.
Once their ears are fully opened and a channel into their mind is fully
open, then you hit them with it. Because otherwise if you go up to someone
and say, you put your facial features, your body language...'You stupid
employee, you don't know how to do things, you're hopeless. I don't know
why I employed you. Complete loser. Terrible.' Now of course people might
have said that to you. Do you listen to that? Does anything go in?
Straightaway whenever there's criticism a barrier goes up in front of you.
You defend yourself. You think to yourself, 'why is he saying that to me?
I'm not stupid. I'm a good worker.' You just don't listen anymore. That's
not a way to communicate.
So by praising the other person they're listening to you and they also
realize that you have metta towards them. You have loving kindness. You care
about them. What a wonderful thing it is to know that somebody actually
cares about you. And if it's a boss, you care about your employees, you're
also caring about your company. It's an important thing to be able to do.
If the employees know you're caring about them, they'll be more willing,
number one to listen, and then number two to take the advice and to maybe
alter. So after the praise you give them the criticism. But in a kind
voice. 'You're coming in too late. Or you can't do the job properly.' And
then you find out some strategies together because it is never your
employee's problem. If you're the manger it's your problem as well. Because
your big manager might sack you. Not because you haven't done the job,
because your employees haven't done the job. so we're all in this boat
together. So it's always our problem, so you try to find strategies.
These are the boundaries which you mean for kindness and compassion. 'Are
you in the wrong job? Can we get you another job? Do you need more training?
Is there something else we can do? Have you got any emotional problems at
home which is causing you not to perform well at work. What can we do to
help you?' So when you're in it together you work together
to find a solution. So this problem employee, or this problem person,
you talk. It's amazing what you can find out. That way you actually understand
where a person's coming from. And then afterwards to complete the
sandwich method so you can actually leave on friendly terms, you finish
with a bit of praise. You know, 'Please remember we really value you,
you're a good friend, I really like you.' Because that leaves with a person
wanting to maintain that friendship, wanting to actually work hard
and change themselves to please someone who's been kind to them.
That's actually how we use compassion in business and that's how you can
use compassion in the world, especially to problem people. Find out what
the problem is first of all. I recall one of my old school friends. He became a
teacher, a school teacher, and he chose one of the worst schools in the whole of
England. It was in Wandsworth, Wandsworth Comprehensive School, I think it
was. Actually I shouldn't say it's the worst school because the teachers
were very motivated. They had some tough kids in that school. That was a
suburb of London next to Brixton and it was at that time they had the big Brixton
riots in the south of London. So they had some very tough kids in this
He told the story once that his class of kids came into the classroom one
day and one of the kids spat on his feet, on his shoes. Actually, not on
his shoes, just on the floor just in front, just after walking in. So he was
quite firm, he said, 'Clean that up.' And the kid said, 'Eff off.' Now what
would you do as a teacher you know, if somebody did that and swore at you.
So he said, 'Go straight to the deputy principal,' who was the
disciplinarian. So he sent the kid to the deputy principal. About a half
an hour, an hour later, the deputy principal came into the classroom with
his arm around this boy. The deputy principal had time to find out what was
happening with this kid and found out the night before the father had
viciously beaten his mother and she was hospitalised. The police had been
around. The whole family had been separated. Here was like a young 11 or 12
year-old who probably hardly slept that night who just witnessed his father
and mother, who he depends upon, the mother he loved dearly, just
viciously beaten and sent to hospital. He said, 'Now you understand why he
did that.'
Sometimes if you take the time, if you can take the time to understand why
a person acts in these ways you don't feel like you should get angry any
more. So this 11 year-old, if that ever happened to me, I'd probably do
something worse, just out of sheer confusion. An 11 year-old doesn't know
how to ask for help, except in these really strange, violent
ways. At least some 11 year-olds. So when we understand where a person is
coming from, are they really a troubled person? Should we just cut them
off? It's wonderful if we can have time to actually to ask them, 'What's
happening? Where's it coming from? What's really upsetting you?'
Unfortunately our society these days, we're so busy. And I'm busy person
number one probably. That sometimes you don't have enough time for each
other, which is unfortunate. But at least we can understand that some of
the reasons why a person is troubled or causing us trouble, is not that
there's something permanently wrong with them. Or they've been born in a
state where they're always going to be like this. There's some causes or
reasons for this.
So understanding this we can have some kindness, we can have some
compassion and if possible some understanding of where they're coming from.
Because many of us haven't got that time, we haven't got that wisdom,
sometimes again, out of compassion, we have to draw a boundary. Sometimes
we have to call the police. That sort of teacher had to send that boy to
the principal. We have to sort of move away to protect ourselves and to
protect people. We do have to have prisons. As I keep on saying here, that
prisons should never be for punishment, they should always be for
rehabilitation. Because I don't believe in punishment, I don't think it
really works. The only thing which I think happens
with punishment is people make sure they don't get caught next time. And
they feel somehow that they want to take revenge on the people who punished
them. Instead of punishment, learning, rehabilitation, understanding, why
we can't do these things, understanding the importance of relationships,
it's not just about me. I think many people have been hurt in life because
just like that kid having a family which is very violent, probably violent
to him as well. Goes straight inside oneself and think self-preservation is
number one. You have to preserve yourself because all the people they
trusted let them down. Violently. Such people, sometimes, they are so self-
protective they can't have a relationship with other people except with
violence. They are the problem people. It's wonderful if we can find some
way of drawing them out and giving them a life.
Over the years you do collect some stories of people who were born on the wrong side
of the tracks who make it in life. And one of the
stories which I read, I think it was in a prison book, it
was an amazing story. I don't know if it's got much to do with this talk,
but it's one of those inspirational stories which shows no matter how down
you are, you never know what's around the corner and how your life can
totally change. It was about this young, no, not this not young, this career criminal in
Los Angeles. In and out of jails ever since he
was a child because he ran away from home when he was six years of age. Violent
mother and father. Or not really a father but just many men. Always
being abused and beaten and not properly fed. So as a six year old he ran
away and lived on the streets of Los Angeles. Just living out and just gathering
food from wherever he could, mostly by stealing. Being a six year-old
he could get away with a few things. But that was his life. He'd get
caught sometimes and put into juvenile centres but because he had no family,
it started with petty crime and then just went up the ladder to more major
crimes later on. He had no chance. But he said when he was about a 40
year-old crim, sort of in one of the big jails in California for a crime, but
he was soon to be paroled. That was when he had a case officer who was
trying to make sure that they found him a job, got some work so he wouldn't
need to re-offend.
Now how can you get a job for a career criminal? Because who would want to
employ someone who was a thief, violent and got sort of a history of crime
stretching back to when he was six? He was almost unemployable. But, his
karma must have been about to ripen. Because this case officer, this young..
girl, knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who worked in
Hollywood. And they were about to produce a movie, a gangster movie and
they wanted the movie to be authentic. Not just like Hollywood gangsters,
but real gangsters. And he was about to be paroled, so she went to the
friend of a friend of a friend and said, 'Look, I've got this guy, he's
about to be paroled soon and he's the expert. He's like a criminal
consultant because he is one, been one all his life.' So the director
actually hired him as a consultant for the script writers so that the
language used in this movie could be authentic.
When the director saw him not only was the way sort of his language but the
way he moved, he looked like a criminal. So they gave him a part in the
movie. And the director was called Quentin Tarantino and the movie was
called 'Reservoir Dogs' which was the movie which made Quentin Tarantino's
name. And this guy went straight out of jail, unemployable to act in a
movie and just with that one movie he could buy a mansion, I think in
Beverly Hills, and retire for the rest of their life. And he actually
married his case worker. So he turned from a career criminal into sort of a movie star.
I haven't seen that movie, don't watch movies. But people say that of those
criminals in the gang, he's the one who really stands out as the tough guy,
the authentic guy. Because he was a criminal. He knew how it worked. So
there's actually a case where a person was really having a terrible time in
his life, everything was stacked against him. Sometimes we understand why
these things happen, why people are troubled, maybe you can actually give
them a bit of slack. Obviously protect yourself, protect them, but
rehabilitate. And all of the things which you learn in life, you can always
make use of them.
There's that famous story I say, you've heard many times. When you go home
and you tread in the dog shit, you never scrape it off your shoes until you
get home. Because when you get home, then you take off your shoes. You
scrape off the dog shit under your mango tree or apple tree. You dig it in.
And one year later your mangoes or apples will be sweeter than ever before.
Because of the dog shit. But when you eat that mango it's so juicy, so
sweet, you must always remember what you're really eating. It is, it's dog
shit you're eating. But it's amazing how you can transform the most
disgusting and smelliest of things into the most juiciest of fruits.
So that's why the problems a person has, if they know how to use them, they
can become just amazing qualities which people have in life. That's why
instead of punishing people, I like to rehabilitate and exploit. Exploit
the skills which people develop. They're troublesome because they don't
know how to use those qualities. Or use their experience in life, use their
wisdom. So I think all the things which happen to you in life, you can
make use of. Even the most unpleasant things can sometimes be the best
ingredients for your wisdom, compassion and understanding about life. So if
you do see a troubled person, that can be something which, if you have the
time and the skill to bring out in them, can transform to something amazing
and wonderful inside of them. Just needs to be transformed and encouraged
in terms of something. A power which is negative to a power which is
Of course I think that's the most wonderful thing about loving kindness. It
can actually maybe do that because with that kindness, instead of a person
retreating into themselves, or just defending themselves at all costs,
which is usually what problem people do. They're so scared of relaxing
and letting go and actually being with you, they just don't know how to
make proper relationships. A bit of kindness from somebody else, a bit of
respect from somebody else may allow them to open up and to be a friend and
then the problems will just vanish. In so many cases of people who were
problems and they found a good friend, somebody who did trust them, and
they lived up to that trust.
There's a story which if ever I write a sequel to 'Opening the Door of Your
Heart' will appear in that, and it's a story of the monk and the thief.
Once there was a monk, a Buddhist monk, an abbot of a temple. Early one
morning he was woken up by a sound in the main hall. It wasn't the monks
chanting because they don't get up that early. And so he got up early
himself, went into the hall, he saw a burglar. The burglar was trying to
open up the donation box with a knife. And as soon as the burglar saw the
monk, he threatened the monk with the knife. 'Get out of here or I'll kill
you.' And all the monk said, 'Sir, if you want to open up the donation box,
here are the keys.' And he gave the keys to the donation box to this
burglar. And he said, 'I can see you're probably very hungry, too. If you
just look above that box there's a cupboard.'
'No tricks!'
'Just above there is the leftover from this morning's food. Take something
and eat.' And the burglar, sort of, half looking at the monk to make sure
there were no tricks, he really was hungry, managed to open the top
cupboard. And there was some food there and he grabbed a couple of
sandwiches. Shoved some in his mouth and some in his pocket. And he opened
up the donation box with the key. Shoved the money in his pocket and again
waved the knife at the monk. 'If you tell the police I'll come back and
kill you.' And the monk said, 'It's a donation box. Maybe it's good for
poor people like you. Take it and go. I give it to you.' And so the burglar
ran away and the monk never did tell the police. Although he had a lot of
explaining to do to the treasurer of his committee. [laughter] It's not that much
money anyway. A few days later, what usually happens. Burglar robbing
another house, he got caught and sent to jail for many years.
After he was released from jail, he turned up at the temple again. Early in
the morning. He got out the knife again and he threatened the abbot.
'Remember me? I robbed your temple five years ago.' And the abbot said, 'Oh
yeah, I remember you.'
'I've come to rob your temple again.' Isn't that what happens when you give
too much metta? You're a pushover and people take advantage of you? That's
not what he meant. The burglar said, 'Last time I came here I stole the
wrong thing. I've been thinking about you all the time I've been in jail.
You are the only person who was kind to me. I realised I've stolen the
wrong thing. Now I've come to steal your secret of kindness.' He put the
knife away. 'Please make me your disciple.' And he became a monk. To learn
what compassion and kindness and wisdom truly is. First time he stole the
wrong thing. Now he came to steal what was really important. Kindness,
compassion and wisdom.
What would you rather have? A bagful of money or the secret of kindness? So
there's a lovely little story there about what's really worth taking from a
monastery. Not the donations in the box, but the kindness and wisdom of
people who know what's most important in life. And there was a troubled man
became at peace with himself. So often in life you do need these circuit
breakers so the troubled people can actually see what they're doing and see
another way in life. Sometimes our kindness and compassion can maybe generate
that circuit breaker so they can do things in a different way.
One of the other great ways of circuit breaking with kindness is again with
forgiveness. Forgiveness is such a powerful thing. Two weeks ago I
mentioned many cases of forgiveness. If a person has done a bad act to you,
a really bad act, and you go and forgive them. Really forgive them from the
heart, sometimes that can change their whole life. The very fact that
somebody has forgiven what was almost unforgivable, just is the circuit
breaker, because it almost, they can't comprehend why you can do that. To be
able to do this amazing thing. And when it happens it changes the way
people do things.
I gave a talk maybe a year or two ago in Curtin University, as part of the human rights course,
Human Rights and Religion. And one of the students at that human rights
course was Dennis Eggington. He's now the head of the aboriginal legal,
what's it called? Aboriginal legal support group, whatever.
Sorry? Aboriginal Legal Service. Yeah. Often see them in the paper.
And during my talk he said, 'It's amazing what you've just been talking
about', because he had an experience a couple of weeks before. A couple
of drunk drivers had rammed in to a car containing two Aboriginal boys
and killed them. And these two Aboriginal boys were really good students,
were not getting in to any sort of trouble at all. Were doing really well
at school, very promising, really good guys. The cream of the crop. And they'd
been killed by these stupid drunk drivers.
The problem was, the drunk drivers were also Aboriginal. And at the
funeral service, because it was all Noongars, everybody had to be there.
The two drivers were in custody but the father and other relations of those
two drivers had to attend the funeral ceremony. Together with the relations
of the two boys who had died. Noongar custom meant there had to be payback.
And payback means if you can't give payback to the people who killed your
children, to the closest relations. So the whole crematorium, it was in
Karrakatta, I think he said, was so tense. Because no one knew when payback would happen.
In the middle of the service the father of one of the boys who had died got
up and before, there was police there, and before the police could stop
him went for the father of one of the murderers. One of the boys who had
killed his son. Went for him, hugged him and said, 'I forgive. No payback.'
He'd broken the custom. But everybody was so impressed. Even though he was
quite young, at that time they made him an elder. The person who was wise,
who gained the respect of the whole community. It's amazing just what the
power of forgiveness can do. It can change a whole custom. And change so
much problems in our world to do something like that. So even though it
might be an age-old custom to have payback, here was a person who said,
'No, I'm going to forgive and end all this cycle of violence.'
For problem people, forgiveness, that type of compassion is an amazing way
of changing the cycle of problems. Because the difficulty is, yeah, we've
got a problem person there. So we put a boundary around them or put them in
jail or just move away from them, is that really the end of the problem? Is
there going to be another problem afterwards? So with loving kindness,
compassion and wisdom we don't seek just for short term solutions. We want
a long term solution. A solution which is going to last in our world. How
we can deal with problem people and problem things.
Before I've run out of time, the problems in life. How do you deal with
problems in life? Do you just run away from it? Or just suppress it with
anger, with force? Go and get drunk or just run away to a cave or a
monastery or somewhere? It's no way to run away from problems. Problems in
our life. We use loving kindness to embrace it. Embracing it means we get
close enough together to really understand it. It may be a sickness, it may be a
cancer. It may be that you're dying or someone else is dying. But if you
embrace it and bring it close to you, you can actually understand it. When
you're running away, your face is turned in the opposite direction. When
you embrace someone you're actually looking at them face to face. When
you're running you can't see them because they're behind you. When you
embrace, you see. And when you see you may be able to understand. When you
may be able to understand, you may be able to appreciate the problem was
not the thing itself, the cancer, the death, but it's the way which we
relate to such things.
It's part of my job as a monk to take away the stigma of death. There's
nothing wrong with dying. It's okay to die. So if someone dies, you say,
I'm terribly sorry. Say you're glad. Wonderful, they're dead. They get a
nice new life again. Now they really are so sick and so old and ugly and
falling apart. Do you say that maybe you got rid of your old car and got a new
car, do you ever say, someone comes along and says, 'I've just bought a
new car today,' and they got rid of their old car, you don't say, 'Oh, I'm
terribly sorry your old car has gone to the wrecker's yard.' No one says
that. 'I'm delighted. You got a new car, well done! That's a nice model.'
So isn't that the same as dying? So you get a new model. So wonderful. So
you don't have to worry about the old car anymore. The old bomb of a body
which many of you've got. My body's getting to be a bit of a bomb now.
There you go. So.
And getting sick, what's wrong with being sick? You learn so much from these
things. Ajahn Chah always told me, 'Learn from the so-called
problems of life. They're your teachers.' That's perhaps the most important
point of this talk. If it's a problem person, or a problem in your life or
a problem in your health, these are our teachers. This is what we really
learn from. We learn compassion from facing up to those problems. We learn
the inner strength. We learn that this too will pass. That problem person
won't always be there. The sickness won't always be there. Certainly death,
it goes pretty quickly, only a few seconds and it's all over. Whatever it
is, you know it's not always going to last. Which gives you the wisdom, which produces
the strength just to be with it as it's visiting
you so you can actually learn from it. And we learn so much from these things.
We learn just how to be at peace with the problems in life.
When those problems aren't learnt there, how to appreciate the times in
life when there are very few problems. You don't take life for granted. In
other words, when you haven't got problems with your health, you don't take
those not-sick moments for granted. When your economy is going well you
don't take the good times for granted. That's one of the main reasons we
have economic problems. Too many people took those good times for granted.
Obviously it's not going to last forever. There are probably many of you
who did that, too. You should know as Buddhists, boom times are also
impermanent - anicca. They're going to pass, you know that. So
you should have sort-of squirrelled some money away. Not in banks because
those really pass but in safe deposits or I don't know where.
The best place probably to invest your money, squirrel it away is in the good
karma box. Donations to monasteries. Because good karma, the good karma
stock market never crashes. [laughter] So it doesn't matter how much you put in the
bank, that can disappear very quickly but your karma is there forever for
So this way that we can learn how to deal with the problems in life.
To understand them. To learn from them. To grow from them. And the problems
also tend to disappear and grow as well. That way when we see someone, if
we have got the energy, the time and the spiritual strength, they're not a
problem any more. They're a teacher. Something we can learn from. As we learn
from them it's a two way street. They also learn and that person grows and
we grow as well. That's the whole purpose of life is growing in our
knowledge, in our wisdom, in our kindness, in our spiritual strengths, and
problems are what help us.
So that's the little talk this evening. It's supposed to be about dealing
with problems in life, I think it's pretty much dealing with problems with
metta, with loving kindness, but also with wisdom. So hopefully that
answered the question in one way or another.
Thank you for listening.


【宗教哲學】善用慈悲觀解決生活中的問題 (Freeing Problems in Life with Metta | by Ajahn Brahm)

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Buddhima Xue 發佈於 2015 年 8 月 25 日
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