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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

  • things.

  • 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