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Dhamma Talks of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, Ajahn Brahm: Which yana? Hahayana! 3

And I'll tell you why it's the same. It's because we have this dichotomy, this dualism in the spiritual world. This dualism, I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but it's a powerful point, I'm going to reinforce it now. There are some people who go under the extreme of just being concerned about themselves, coming here to get rid of your problems, coming here to get more peace in your life, even just to lower your blood pressure, coming here, you know, for your own benefit maybe. Now some of you may think you're coming here for that. Some other people are coming in here to serve for the sake of others, you've got the committee members, people like Sol, who's very very busy, just finished some exams and still comes along here to serve today. There's people on the desk over there doing the reception, the people who just actually served you with some snacks, they came here to give, they're not really concerned about themselves, they're concerned about others, which is the right path?

I mentioned yesterday, ah a couple of weeks ago, that both are wrong. If you just focus on yourself, you'll miss the path. If you just, you just, you get dull, you just don't get any inspiration, you can't make any progress. But still, there's some monks in my monastery, no actually not in my monastery any more, but I was talking to a monk today on the phone who still thinks that he can get into deep meditation just by staying by themselves, not giving any talks, not serving other people. It's amazing, you just, you can't do it, you haven't got the oomph, the energy.

I've found in my own practice of over the years almost by default I've had to serve as a Theravada monk. Now I had the wish just to be a hermit, that's what I liked to do, that's my inclination, and people who knew me in my early life as a monk knew I just was…spent most of my time just in my hut, even I did that six-month retreat, that's where I feel at home. And I thought I was doing well. For those of you who know the history of the Buddhist Society, I came here as number two monk. There was another monk, Ajahn Chakra, young, fit, very good teacher, and I thought, great, I'd be the … him for the rest of my life, what a wonderful opportunity just to be by myself, and then he went and disrobed. And all my plans went down the gurgle. So you had to serve. But one thing I found when I was serving: my meditation got really good when I started serving. And in fact I found there's actually something personally beneficial to being selfless. If you just think about yourself, your meditation, your wisdom, your spiritual oomph doesn't grow.

But also there are some people who just serve others, they give, give, give, give, and they don't get anywhere either. It's usually burnout, they just get frustrated, disappointed, dispirited in the end. They start off with inspiration, and they end with expiration, which obviously happens, after inspiration you expire. And so people they serve, serve, serve, and then you don't see them anymore, they serve on our Buddhist Society committee for one or two years and then bye-bye, where they go, I never see them again.

Now both are wrong. The Dhamma, the truth, you won't see that if you focus on the other person, on what their needs are. Just by giving you'll never grow. Just by thinking of yourself you'll never grow. The Buddha taught a middle path. It's not looking at the other person, nor is it looking at yourself, it's looking at the space between you, what's between you and the other person, that is where the Dhamma is seen. That is where growth happens. So the idea of being an altruist, putting off one's own enlightenment for the sake of all other beings, thinking of other beings, that never works. Thinking of yourself, just me, that never works. It's what is between us, that is what works. It's a relationship problem. It's not me, it's not you, it's us.

And the same way that a person becomes enlightened, the same way they walk this Dhamma, and they see this Dhamma, if it's just being selfless and doing service, if it's just being selfish, it is another alternative, what's between us. Looking at the relationship which you have with the world, the relationship which you have with yourself, the relationship you have with life. It's not the other person, it's not me, it's not the world, it's what we make of it, what's between us.

And then you can see why the idea of selfish practice or not worrying about yourself, other-people-practice, it's still both miss the goal. So people who say they're Mahayana, or Hinayana or Theravada or whatever, they missed it, they'll never get enlightened. In the same way when you are watching your breath or in the present moment, it's not being in the present moment or not being in the present moment which is the problem. Having the breath in mind or not having the breath in mind, having these beautiful nimittas in deep mediation, these beautiful lights in the mind, that is not the point. It's how you are experiencing those nimittas, what's between you and that nimitta, whether there's peace there, whether there's letting-go there, whether there's acceptance there. The door of my heart always open to you, whatever it is coming. That selflessness, that metta, that emptiness, that space, that embracing, that is not in the other person nor is it in you, it's what is between us.

Now that transcends Mahayana, Zen, Vayrayana, Theravada, all these other yanas, because that is where the practice lies, that is actually where we penetrate to the truth of things, because life is relationship. We make objects out of these things, just like we make words to describe our world. We make books to encapsulate those words and we fight about the books and we get upset when a book gets destroyed or flushed down the toilet. How much do we miss things?

As a Muslim you shouldn't be concerned about Islam, nor should you be concerned about converting others. It's what's between you and the other is what's important. It's our relationships. Being a Buddhist or being a Christian, that's not the point, it's how Buddhists relate to Christians, how Christians and Buddhists, what's between them, that's the point. Now can you understand just how true religion, true understanding of all this has to create peace and harmony and stillness in this world, how it has to solve the problems, because it's not you aren't the problem, I'm not the problem, it's how we relate to each other, that will always be the problem. You can't get everybody to be like you, you can't have yourself being like other people, isn't that wonderful that we're not the same.

Remember that wonderful scene from The Life of Brian, when Brian is asked to actually to say something profound and on his balcony, thinking quickly, he said “You are all different”, and somebody putting their hand up and said “I'm not”… but anyhow. So once we understand what this real Dhamma is, we can understand it has to be something. Real truth, real religion, real spirituality has to be something which doesn't create arguments in this world. And that's a dinky-dive saying of the Buddha, who said you can understand what Dhamma, what truth really is by its effect. If it does create turmoil, it does create violence, it does create disharmony, lack of peace, then it can't be Dhamma, it's not my teachings, said the Buddha, but if it's something which creates peace and harmony and freedom, now that's the teachings of a Buddha, that's Dhamma, that's truth.

So if it's Theravada, which says I am better than you are, this is the original teaching, only do my way, does that create peace and harmony in the world? Of course it doesn't. So it can't be the teachings of a Buddha. If I say that ah this is not a good vehicle, you should go to another vehicle and self-deprecation, that too is not Dhamma. And when that we have this beautiful way of relating, relating to other religions, relating to other sects in Buddhism, relating to ourselves, relating to our meditation, relating to our body and its sickness and final death.

It's not death is not the problem. If it were we are stuck, because we are all going to die. It's not cancer is not the problem, it's how we relate to that cancer, what's between us and that sickness, what's between us and the death, what's between us and life. Now that's what the Dhamma is and once we can work on that, that was the message in the books, that was the teaching of a Buddha. That was actually the message of as I would understand it of a Jesus, of a prophet Mohammad or anybody, that peace in this world and that peace is never going to be attained by just thinking of yourself or worrying about others but looking at what's between us. It's the relationship which is important.

And this is the trouble with even marriages. When you think of yourself what I need, what I have to get out of this relationship, what my requirements are, these relationships are going to break. If you're just selfless and just think about the other person, what can I do for him or what can I give him, what can I do for her, it's going to break down. It's what's between you, how you relate together, that's where the partnership happens.

So this Dhamma which the Buddha taught, not only is it for enlightenment, for seeing the deeper truth, it also makes for a happy life as a married couple. And it makes my life simple as well when you don't come up to me and say “Ajahn Brahm, can you please help me…my husband's doing this, my daughter is doing that, someone is doing this…” That's why I give these talks to somehow stop you ringing me up in the middle of the night, “Ah…!” Because sometimes, we should never publish our telephone number, otherwise Dial-a-Monk happens again.

So anyhow, so that is the difference between these different traditions. I mention historical, I mention just what sometimes people say they are that we are the great vehicle, you're the small vehicle, that's rubbish. It's only, the Buddha only taught one vehicle. And it's not that sometimes people say that in the time of the Buddha people weren't really intelligent enough to understand the real teaching, so they were put aside in the Naga Realm, in the Realm of the Dragon, and they were kept there until the wise people you know came up in the world, that stinks basically. It doesn't make any sense to me.

One of the great things about being a Westerner: you can question and you are allowed to question and you are allowed to use reason and you are allowed to use historical analysis. Fortunately after the western Enlightenment, when people started questioning the Christian teaching, they started looking at those old teachings and using reason signs to find out when those teachings were written. You can do that with Buddha's teachings as well because language changes. If you heard a talk, even a Buddhist talk, go and look at an old Buddhist book, written fifty years ago, there are words in there you will never hear today. And there are words today you would never hear fifty years ago. Language changes, vocabulary changes, and you can look at an old book, and you can pretty much tell when it was written, now within twenty thirty years, just because of the language and metaphors, the style, the fashion. And that's actually how what they use actually to try and to date the various strands in the Christian bible, when they were actually written.

There's very very powerful evidence. You can do the same with Buddha's teachings. You can actually see just which ones were late and which ones were earlier. So it was great to be able to have that western education where you could question and you could penetrate, and you get rid of a lot of the rubbish, but in the end, when you got rid of all the rubbish, what you were left with, these beautiful teachings of a Buddha, which are not owned by any sect, which no one has the franchise on truth, no one can patent it and say “It's mine, if you want it you have to listen to me”.

The great thing about truth: it's like the air, it's there to be breathed in by any being at any time in any place. It's why the Buddha said, “Buddhas only point the way”. The books only point the way, the different traditions, they just encapsulate, and because of their history they emphasise different parts of the way. And if you go into the heart of them, they all carry the full teachings of a Buddha. And those teachings are just the pointers for you to see these things for yourself.

So, all those different yanas, all those different traditions, it's all for you to use, but you get your meditation together as well. So with those two the teachings of all the great traditions or just enough sample of it to get an understanding of what this is all about, and meditate, get your mind very still. You put the two together and you understand what the Buddha was talking about. You understand the Mahayana, the Theravada, the Zen, the Vayrayana, the whole lot, and you understand ah yeah, same cake, different icing, because you've got to the heart of it. And it's wonderful and beautiful you can do that because it means at least in our tradition we don't have any arguments, we're not trying to dic… like the Catholics trying to get the Anglicans to join, and the Anglicans trying to convert the Catholics. And it's nice having a different cake every day, not always having the same icing. Variety is the spice of religion. So that's the talk this evening on the different Buddhist traditions on what they mean and how we can make use of this and what's between us. That is Dhamma. So thank you for listening today. Okay, any questions, comments or complaints today? Have I offended anybody? No? Ah… Yeah!

Okay, the Dhamma is the living stream, yes, living in the sense, you got the, the point is this, it made living… it just is, always is, always will be. One of the Buddha's sayings: Even if Buddhas arise in the world or they don't arise in the world, the Dhamma is always there. If there's a teacher or there's not a teacher, truth is truth is truth, always there to be seen and no one owns the truth. That's why the one of the biggest problems in our world, when religions or organisations come up and say, “We have the only truth, all you other guys, girls got it wrong”. And there's much and it's obviously much better for our planet if we can say, “This is our version of the truth, this is our explanation, our take on it, our encapsulation. This is how we describe it. But this is just description. Descriptions are different, but we're pointing to the same thing. And that same thing is not a God, that's just another word. It's not like a Dhamma with an R or with a double M, that's just words. It's actually what is underneath that, what is between us and that idea.

Yeah… Oh yeah. That's right, you're asking so when the Buddha wrote his Dhamma and when Ajahn Chah, he never wrote a thing Ajahn Chah, that's why he will never get reborn as a donkey. It is other people, and actually I know that some of the monks who wrote those books, they later on disrobed, because they weren't meditating, spending all their time translating. That's true. But anyhow, sort of they wrote down those things and that's his explanation, that's his description of the same thing. So we don't argue about who is right and who is wrong. If you argue, then you are wrong. if you're friends, then you are right. Okay, so thank you for coming today and I will be here next week, when I come back from Sydney and Melbourne and Canberra. So I hope to see you next week, but the next week is a long time. There are some messages for even what's going to happen tomorrow and on Sunday, so take it away Sol.



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And I'll tell you why it's the same. It's because we have this dichotomy, this dualism in the spiritual world. This dualism, I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but it's a powerful point, I'm going to reinforce it now. There are some people who go under the extreme of just being concerned about themselves, coming here to get rid of your problems, coming here to get more peace in your life, even just to lower your blood pressure, coming here, you know, for your own benefit maybe. Now some of you may think you're coming here for that. Some other people are coming in here to serve for the sake of others, you've got the committee members, people like Sol, who's very very busy, just finished some exams and still comes along here to serve today. There's people on the desk over there doing the reception, the people who just actually served you with some snacks, they came here to give, they're not really concerned about themselves, they're concerned about others, which is the right path?

I mentioned yesterday, ah a couple of weeks ago, that both are wrong. If you just focus on yourself, you'll miss the path. If you just, you just, you get dull, you just don't get any inspiration, you can't make any progress. But still, there's some monks in my monastery, no actually not in my monastery any more, but I was talking to a monk today on the phone who still thinks that he can get into deep meditation just by staying by themselves, not giving any talks, not serving other people. It's amazing, you just, you can't do it, you haven't got the oomph, the energy.

I've found in my own practice of over the years almost by default I've had to serve as a Theravada monk. Now I had the wish just to be a hermit, that's what I liked to do, that's my inclination, and people who knew me in my early life as a monk knew I just was…spent most of my time just in my hut, even I did that six-month retreat, that's where I feel at home. And I thought I was doing well. For those of you who know the history of the Buddhist Society, I came here as number two monk. There was another monk, Ajahn Chakra, young, fit, very good teacher, and I thought, great, I'd be the … him for the rest of my life, what a wonderful opportunity just to be by myself, and then he went and disrobed. And all my plans went down the gurgle. So you had to serve. But one thing I found when I was serving: my meditation got really good when I started serving. And in fact I found there's actually something personally beneficial to being selfless. If you just think about yourself, your meditation, your wisdom, your spiritual oomph doesn't grow.

But also there are some people who just serve others, they give, give, give, give, and they don't get anywhere either. It's usually burnout, they just get frustrated, disappointed, dispirited in the end. They start off with inspiration, and they end with expiration, which obviously happens, after inspiration you expire. And so people they serve, serve, serve, and then you don't see them anymore, they serve on our Buddhist Society committee for one or two years and then bye-bye, where they go, I never see them again.

Now both are wrong. The Dhamma, the truth, you won't see that if you focus on the other person, on what their needs are. Just by giving you'll never grow. Just by thinking of yourself you'll never grow. The Buddha taught a middle path. It's not looking at the other person, nor is it looking at yourself, it's looking at the space between you, what's between you and the other person, that is where the Dhamma is seen. That is where growth happens. So the idea of being an altruist, putting off one's own enlightenment for the sake of all other beings, thinking of other beings, that never works. Thinking of yourself, just me, that never works. It's what is between us, that is what works. It's a relationship problem. It's not me, it's not you, it's us.

And the same way that a person becomes enlightened, the same way they walk this Dhamma, and they see this Dhamma, if it's just being selfless and doing service, if it's just being selfish, it is another alternative, what's between us. Looking at the relationship which you have with the world, the relationship which you have with yourself, the relationship you have with life. It's not the other person, it's not me, it's not the world, it's what we make of it, what's between us.

And then you can see why the idea of selfish practice or not worrying about yourself, other-people-practice, it's still both miss the goal. So people who say they're Mahayana, or Hinayana or Theravada or whatever, they missed it, they'll never get enlightened. In the same way when you are watching your breath or in the present moment, it's not being in the present moment or not being in the present moment which is the problem. Having the breath in mind or not having the breath in mind, having these beautiful nimittas in deep mediation, these beautiful lights in the mind, that is not the point. It's how you are experiencing those nimittas, what's between you and that nimitta, whether there's peace there, whether there's letting-go there, whether there's acceptance there. The door of my heart always open to you, whatever it is coming. That selflessness, that metta, that emptiness, that space, that embracing, that is not in the other person nor is it in you, it's what is between us.

Now that transcends Mahayana, Zen, Vayrayana, Theravada, all these other yanas, because that is where the practice lies, that is actually where we penetrate to the truth of things, because life is relationship. We make objects out of these things, just like we make words to describe our world. We make books to encapsulate those words and we fight about the books and we get upset when a book gets destroyed or flushed down the toilet. How much do we miss things?

As a Muslim you shouldn't be concerned about Islam, nor should you be concerned about converting others. It's what's between you and the other is what's important. It's our relationships. Being a Buddhist or being a Christian, that's not the point, it's how Buddhists relate to Christians, how Christians and Buddhists, what's between them, that's the point. Now can you understand just how true religion, true understanding of all this has to create peace and harmony and stillness in this world, how it has to solve the problems, because it's not you aren't the problem, I'm not the problem, it's how we relate to each other, that will always be the problem. You can't get everybody to be like you, you can't have yourself being like other people, isn't that wonderful that we're not the same.

Remember that wonderful scene from The Life of Brian, when Brian is asked to actually to say something profound and on his balcony, thinking quickly, he said “You are all different”, and somebody putting their hand up and said “I'm not”… but anyhow. So once we understand what this real Dhamma is, we can understand it has to be something. Real truth, real religion, real spirituality has to be something which doesn't create arguments in this world. And that's a dinky-dive saying of the Buddha, who said you can understand what Dhamma, what truth really is by its effect. If it does create turmoil, it does create violence, it does create disharmony, lack of peace, then it can't be Dhamma, it's not my teachings, said the Buddha, but if it's something which creates peace and harmony and freedom, now that's the teachings of a Buddha, that's Dhamma, that's truth.

So if it's Theravada, which says I am better than you are, this is the original teaching, only do my way, does that create peace and harmony in the world? Of course it doesn't. So it can't be the teachings of a Buddha. If I say that ah this is not a good vehicle, you should go to another vehicle and self-deprecation, that too is not Dhamma. And when that we have this beautiful way of relating, relating to other religions, relating to other sects in Buddhism, relating to ourselves, relating to our meditation, relating to our body and its sickness and final death.

It's not death is not the problem. If it were we are stuck, because we are all going to die. It's not cancer is not the problem, it's how we relate to that cancer, what's between us and that sickness, what's between us and the death, what's between us and life. Now that's what the Dhamma is and once we can work on that, that was the message in the books, that was the teaching of a Buddha. That was actually the message of as I would understand it of a Jesus, of a prophet Mohammad or anybody, that peace in this world and that peace is never going to be attained by just thinking of yourself or worrying about others but looking at what's between us. It's the relationship which is important.

And this is the trouble with even marriages. When you think of yourself what I need, what I have to get out of this relationship, what my requirements are, these relationships are going to break. If you're just selfless and just think about the other person, what can I do for him or what can I give him, what can I do for her, it's going to break down. It's what's between you, how you relate together, that's where the partnership happens.

So this Dhamma which the Buddha taught, not only is it for enlightenment, for seeing the deeper truth, it also makes for a happy life as a married couple. And it makes my life simple as well when you don't come up to me and say “Ajahn Brahm, can you please help me…my husband's doing this, my daughter is doing that, someone is doing this…” That's why I give these talks to somehow stop you ringing me up in the middle of the night, “Ah…!” Because sometimes, we should never publish our telephone number, otherwise Dial-a-Monk happens again.

So anyhow, so that is the difference between these different traditions. I mention historical, I mention just what sometimes people say they are that we are the great vehicle, you're the small vehicle, that's rubbish. It's only, the Buddha only taught one vehicle. And it's not that sometimes people say that in the time of the Buddha people weren't really intelligent enough to understand the real teaching, so they were put aside in the Naga Realm, in the Realm of the Dragon, and they were kept there until the wise people you know came up in the world, that stinks basically. It doesn't make any sense to me.

One of the great things about being a Westerner: you can question and you are allowed to question and you are allowed to use reason and you are allowed to use historical analysis. Fortunately after the western Enlightenment, when people started questioning the Christian teaching, they started looking at those old teachings and using reason signs to find out when those teachings were written. You can do that with Buddha's teachings as well because language changes. If you heard a talk, even a Buddhist talk, go and look at an old Buddhist book, written fifty years ago, there are words in there you will never hear today. And there are words today you would never hear fifty years ago. Language changes, vocabulary changes, and you can look at an old book, and you can pretty much tell when it was written, now within twenty thirty years, just because of the language and metaphors, the style, the fashion. And that's actually how what they use actually to try and to date the various strands in the Christian bible, when they were actually written.

There's very very powerful evidence. You can do the same with Buddha's teachings. You can actually see just which ones were late and which ones were earlier. So it was great to be able to have that western education where you could question and you could penetrate, and you get rid of a lot of the rubbish, but in the end, when you got rid of all the rubbish, what you were left with, these beautiful teachings of a Buddha, which are not owned by any sect, which no one has the franchise on truth, no one can patent it and say “It's mine, if you want it you have to listen to me”.

The great thing about truth: it's like the air, it's there to be breathed in by any being at any time in any place. It's why the Buddha said, “Buddhas only point the way”. The books only point the way, the different traditions, they just encapsulate, and because of their history they emphasise different parts of the way. And if you go into the heart of them, they all carry the full teachings of a Buddha. And those teachings are just the pointers for you to see these things for yourself.

So, all those different yanas, all those different traditions, it's all for you to use, but you get your meditation together as well. So with those two the teachings of all the great traditions or just enough sample of it to get an understanding of what this is all about, and meditate, get your mind very still. You put the two together and you understand what the Buddha was talking about. You understand the Mahayana, the Theravada, the Zen, the Vayrayana, the whole lot, and you understand ah yeah, same cake, different icing, because you've got to the heart of it. And it's wonderful and beautiful you can do that because it means at least in our tradition we don't have any arguments, we're not trying to dic… like the Catholics trying to get the Anglicans to join, and the Anglicans trying to convert the Catholics. And it's nice having a different cake every day, not always having the same icing. Variety is the spice of religion. So that's the talk this evening on the different Buddhist traditions on what they mean and how we can make use of this and what's between us. That is Dhamma. So thank you for listening today. Okay, any questions, comments or complaints today? Have I offended anybody? No? Ah… Yeah!

Okay, the Dhamma is the living stream, yes, living in the sense, you got the, the point is this, it made living… it just is, always is, always will be. One of the Buddha's sayings: Even if Buddhas arise in the world or they don't arise in the world, the Dhamma is always there. If there's a teacher or there's not a teacher, truth is truth is truth, always there to be seen and no one owns the truth. That's why the one of the biggest problems in our world, when religions or organisations come up and say, “We have the only truth, all you other guys, girls got it wrong”. And there's much and it's obviously much better for our planet if we can say, “This is our version of the truth, this is our explanation, our take on it, our encapsulation. This is how we describe it. But this is just description. Descriptions are different, but we're pointing to the same thing. And that same thing is not a God, that's just another word. It's not like a Dhamma with an R or with a double M, that's just words. It's actually what is underneath that, what is between us and that idea.

Yeah… Oh yeah. That's right, you're asking so when the Buddha wrote his Dhamma and when Ajahn Chah, he never wrote a thing Ajahn Chah, that's why he will never get reborn as a donkey. It is other people, and actually I know that some of the monks who wrote those books, they later on disrobed, because they weren't meditating, spending all their time translating. That's true. But anyhow, sort of they wrote down those things and that's his explanation, that's his description of the same thing. So we don't argue about who is right and who is wrong. If you argue, then you are wrong. if you're friends, then you are right. Okay, so thank you for coming today and I will be here next week, when I come back from Sydney and Melbourne and Canberra. So I hope to see you next week, but the next week is a long time. There are some messages for even what's going to happen tomorrow and on Sunday, so take it away Sol.


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