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Be Good, Be Happy

Be Good, Be Happy

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Published by: MindStilled on Jul 04, 2011
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Be good, be happy
ISSN: 1391 - 0531Sunday, February 04, 2007Vol. 41 - No 36
Be good, be happy
By D. C. Ranatunga
''Our world is a smaller place today. We travel around a lot. We do meet each other, we do marryeach other, and we make friends with each other. That's a wonderful time for our world where, asthe world gets smaller, we get to know each other better. Maybe with that friendship, knowledgeand everything, we can overcome many of the difficulties which separate our nations, religionsand peoples.''This is how Ajahn Brahmavamso, the world renowned meditation teacher from Perth, Australiasummed up current trends, at the end of an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times. When Imet him around 8 p.m., he had just concluded a full-day meditation retreat. Yet he was fresh andmost willing to talk. Greeting me with his charming smile, this frank and amiable personalityspoke, joked and laughed during our half-hour chat.
Ven. AjahnBrahmavamso
Autographing his best-seller 'Opening the door of your heart' for me,Ajahn Brahm said the book had now been translated into ninelanguages — Russian, Portuguese, Danish, German, Sinhala, Thai,Indonesian, Korean and Mandarin. The German edition sells best. Hislatest book titled 'Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond — A Meditator'sHandbook' is expected to be out as a Buddhist Publications Society(BPS) publication in the near future.I asked Ajahn Brahm why he is so fond of relating stories in hisDhamma talks. He said:"Even the Buddha related stories. The stories are the elements of human experience. Life is a series of interlocking stories. Sometimeswe take the meaning of those stories and their philosophical contentand present them to the people but the people do not relate to thephilosophical aspects but they relate to the story. When we tell a storywhich has a message it's very easy for the people to remember. Veryoften it's amusing — so they enjoy listening to it and they rememberit. It's a wonderful means of imparting the Dhamma to the people in ameaningful way and in a way they remember."It has worked very well. Even the youth enjoy listening to stories and each time you tell a story,people get more depth of meaning from it and they find out their own meanings and they godeeper into understanding the moral of the story — teaching people to be kind, good, gentle andwise."In his opening talk at Sambodhi Vihara, he spoke of goodness and kindness as virtues peopleshould try to develop.
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Be good, be happy
"Sometimes, if people want to have a good time, they have to be good. At other times, whenpeople look at goodness, it means you have to be unhappy or you have to give up yourhappiness. But the truth of the matter is that the more virtuous you are, the happier you are.Being a good person increases your happiness. “I don't mind telling you this story because we live in a modern age. When I was a younguniversity graduate, I used to drink alcohol at parties where you meet a nice girl and afterdancing with her you kiss her, sit in a dark corner, whatever. When I was drunk, I was not awareof that last part of the party which was the most enjoyable part. When I gave up alcohol, not onlycould I know what I was doing when I was kissing the girl, I could enjoy remembering it. Thatincreased my pleasure. Even that way you can see that the more virtuous you are, the happinessand the awareness increase. “Kindness is part of goodness. Because, as the Buddha once told His son Rahula, whatever isharmful to another person and harmful to yourself, is what is unvirtuous. Whatever is helpful toanother person and helpful to yourself, that is called virtuous, good Kamma. So it is obviouslybeing kind to yourself, is to be virtuous, to be good. There is no difference being kind and beinggood. Immoral people are unkind to themselves and unkind to others,” he said.
How to relax
With so much of talk about everyone being busy, Ajahn Brahm insisted that meditation is ideal forbusy people. “Even if you are a busy person, it is more important to be able to spend some timebeing peaceful. If you don't learn how to be peaceful, you soon get very, very tired.” To explain how meditation helps you, he used a simple exercise lifting the half-filled glass of water he had in front of him. "Say I am lifting up this glass of water and you ask me how heavy itis. If I keep holding the glass of water for five minutes, it appears quite heavy. If I continue tohold the glass for half an hour, I will be in quite a lot of pain. If I keep on holding it for two hours,I would be a stupid monk. When it starts to get heavy, what should I do? Put it down — let it go. Idon't need to throw the glass of water away — I just put it down for, may be for 20 seconds.When I pick it up again, it feels lighter because I have rested. “The problem of stress in our modern world is not because we do too much — it's because wedon't know how to put our burdens, our responsibilities down for a few minutes and rest andrelax. All we need to do is to rest for 15 or 20 minutes in meditation and afterwards we findourselves so relaxed, we can carry the burdens of life without so much stress. That is whatmeditation is — learning how to relax so that you can do more with less stress,” he said.Pointing out that meditation is the heart of Buddhist tradition, he said the Buddha becameenlightened when He was meditating and that it was part of Buddhist heritage. “Learn the basicsfrom a monk or a lay teacher and you will find it wouldn't harm the quality of your life. You will bea happier person. A Harvard professor last year published a paper after following meditation forseven years and found that your brain increases in size in meditation. You become moreintelligent when you meditate. Find a place and just learn how to relax the mind. Bring somepeace into your mind and increase your intelligence - for no charge!" he advised.
Human resources conference
Ajahn Brahm has been invited to conduct one of 11 master classes at the 2007 Human Resourcesand Development Conference in London in April. He will join a galaxy of top level businessmen
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Be good, be happy
including Gavin Davies, the former head of the BBC, and Bill Bryson, Chancellor of DurhamUniversity and author of one of last year's best-sellers, 'Short History of Nearly Everything'. “Among them will be a penniless monk from Australia. It's a wonderful thing that there would bea Buddhist monk at this conference where there will be no other religious leaders — a Buddhistmonk teaching around 2000 Vice Presidents and CEOs from all parts of Europe how to run theirbusinesses,” he said.I asked him what he was going to tell them.“My theme will be learning how to include spiritualpractices such as relaxing in meditation, about positive attitudes such as learning from successesrather than from your mistakes, learning how to have a positive attitude for all things in mind sothat in a company, people will be working together instead of having office politics. We can bemore efficient in the workplace rather than wasting time on arguments and personal agendaswhich are bad for the company. What's bad for the company is bad for the workforce becausethey would lose their jobs and the company would go down and the economy will falter. If we onlyknow how to improve the quality of life at work we can also improve happiness especiallyhappiness at home."
Spread of Buddhism
When I asked him of his observations on the interest in Buddhism as a frequent traveller aroundthe world, he said it was growing enormously. He quoted figures from a survey done by theSwedish government in 2005 among all the high school students in the country. “Among themany questions was one where they were asked if they had to choose a religion, which religionthey would choose. They had to tick one religion and 60% picked Buddhism. It's a fascinatingpiece of evidence to show how popular Buddhism is in the Western world. About 60% means ahuge number of youth in Sweden had said that of all the religions they liked Buddhism the most.” He sees the dearth of teachers and leaders as one reason why Buddhism isn't growing faster. "Sowe are putting talks on the Internet, on UTube — for the benefit of young people. These are upand coming media outlets for the youth where they can download the Dhamma talks in theirbedrooms at their own time. On video they can see and hear and they can email back and askquestions. That way the Dhamma is interactive. Instead of expecting our kids to go to the temple,the temple goes to their computer consoles. This is what the Buddha recommended — that you goout into the world — not one person by the same route — to spread the Dhamma. But instead of going by foot we go by the mouse!” Curious to know what made him remember Sanath Jayasuriya hitting sixes in New Zealandrecently (he mentioned this in one of his Dhamma talks), I asked him about his interest in cricket."I go through the newspapers. It's important to read the newspapers — the good newspapers —especially in my capacity as a teaching monk so that I can answer questions, be it on theenvironment or about people's daily concerns. I have many disciples who are Sri Lankans and weoften talk about cricket.I have a very good memory and I know that Jayasuriya is doing an excellent job for the SriLankan cricket team, as is Murali," was his answer.
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