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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Opening The Door of Your Heart

This book is written by Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist Monk and a British born Cambridge University graduate in Theoretical Physics. Ajahn Brahm is trained in the Thai forest meditation tradition under Venerable Ajahn Chah. In 1983, he was asked to assist in the establishment of a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia, and is now the Abbot of the Bodhinyana Monastery and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.
Ajahn Brahm has come to Singapore several times and I had the good fortune to attend his talks at Bright Hill Temple. It was such a delightful experience not only learning from his wisdom, but also enjoying so many jokes in one evening. Yes, it seems Ajahn Brahm loves jokes! He probably love telling stories as well as there were so many interesting stories told. What I find very different with Ajahn Brahm is that he speaks as a first person, which makes it easy to understand. For some reason, Eastern born Buddhist monks tend to speak in a more distant third person basis. (Make observations next time you are in a talk given by a Buddhist monk.)
His book, "Opening The Door of Your Heart" is one series of stories with profound lessons that all of us can relate to. I read it whilst I was waiting to break fast in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. Some customers in the restaurant where I was in looked curiously at my book, noticing that it is written by a Buddhist monk and wondered what I was doing keeping to the Muslim fasting tradition! :) (The book has Ajahn Brahm's photo on the back cover.)


When I started reading the book, I was in an extremely tired state. Having finished work, I had also chatted with a few people on MSN, multi-tasking other chores at the same time. Then the first page struck me deeply. It says:

"Grant yourself a moment of peace,
and you will understand
how foolishly you have been scurried about.

Learn to be silent,
and you will notice that
you have talked too much.

Be kind,
and you will realise that
your judgement of others was too severe."
- Ancient Chinese Proverb


Then did I realise, in the midst of the desert heat, Ramadan, work, chatting with friends from Singapore via MSN to cover my homesickness, I too was getting myself into unnecessary haste and stress. It suddenly lightened my mind and energised me.
Another story "What's done is finished" was about the monks going for retreat during the monsoon months of July to October, in the midst of constructing their new hall in the forest monastery. So there laid half-constructed building without the roof , no doors, no windows, cement bags all over the place,...etc.
When a visitor saw the uncompleted building, he asked when the hall will be finished, which the old monk answered, "The hall is finished."
"What do you mean 'the hall is finished'?" the visitor replied, taken aback.
The old abbot smiled and gently replied, "What done is finished, " and then he went to meditate.
This is the only way to have a retreat or to take a break. Otherwise, our work is never finished.
There are many other interesting stories in the book, but I think with this story told, this posting is finished.
Photos of Ajahn Brahm at the Awareness Place in Singapore:
A synopsis of the book:

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