Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ajahn Brahm’s Joke

Ajahn Brahmavamso, the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, is a monk who likes to joke. Here is one from him:

In 2005, it was reported that US interrogators in Guantanamo flushed a Quran down the toilet, causing uproar in Islamic world. After the incident, Australian journalists interviewed Ajahn Brahm. They asked him, “What is your reaction if someone flushes Buddhist holy books down the toilet?”

Guess what is Ajahn Brahm’s answer?

“I’ll call the plumber.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Right Stillness

Samma samadhi, one of the factors in the Noble Eightfold Path, is usually translated as “right concentration”.

Ajahn Brahmavamso, the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, visited Malaysia recently. He mentioned that he no longer referred to Samadhi as “concentration”, but preferred the term stillness. Concentration, according to him, gave us an impression that one has to put in a lot of efforts, which was not so accurate.

Now this is my personal opinion:

“Concentration” may also imply focusing one’s attention to one point. Many meditators don’t focus on a single point, but instead mentally note whatever which arise in their mind. As such, “stillness” may really be a better term in this context too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happiness is Contagious

Several years ago, I had a retreat in Metta Forest Monastery in Southern California. It lasted just three days, which was quite short. Retreat in Metta was also pretty relaxed. Nonetheless, I felt very peaceful and happy.

Now, some people would tell me, “You were mindful, therefore you were happy.” This is certainy true, but I still think that there was something else. I believe observing the Eight Precepts helped too. On top of that, I was associating with happy people…

Scientists from Harvard University and University of California, San Diego, conducted a study on 5,000 people and concluded that the happiness spreads through social networks.

The study found that:

Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost.

(Read the story here.)

Back to my retreat at Metta: The monks were happy. The Thais/Lao who offered food to the Sangha were happy. So were the other yogis. No wonder I was happy too.