So... now is the time to move those bones
scratch those itches, cough those coughs,
in a minute or two's time we begin this evening's talk.
So, okay, here we go.
So I'll try to give a talk which is relevant
sometimes to some which has happened to me recently
and yesterday I was doing an interview for
a guy doing a thesis in psychology
at one of our local universities.
And he was talking about something which keeps
coming up again and again and again -
people who have got low self esteem..
And how does that really tie in with the idea
in Buddhism of no self at all?
So the title of this talk today is "no-self esteem" [laughs]
But working it out in a brilliant, brilliant, beautiful way.
But in brief I was saying, that you just can't move
from people who've got <u>low</u> self esteem,
how feel they're hopeless, they're useless,
they're a failure, they're not good enough,
to move from that, straight to this incredibly wonderful idea
of non-self in Buddhism.
You can't just make that jump.
You've got to go through the stepping stone of
no self esteem, to feeling good about yourself,
and then from feeling good about yourself,
to feeling good about your no-self. [laughs]
And that's actually how it usually works.
But it comes up again and again and again.
I'm sure that many people here feel they're not good enough,
they should be better, that happens over in Boddhinyana monastery,
and probably in the nun's monastery as well.
People think they aren't good enough,
they've got low self-esteem.
My goodness, if anyone should have low self-esteem,
it's me. I'm a total failure in life.
I'm over sixty years of age and I've got no superannuation.
No bank accounts, no assets, no visible means of support.
That's what happens sometimes when you go to
government agencies, and they say what means
of support have you got? I say - nothing - I'm totally
poor, I'm under, totally under, the poverty level.
That's why I sometimes like going to government departments.
You know, when you go to government departments,
they ask you all these questions and it's really
easy to put no, no, no, no, no. And that really confuses
the hell out of them. They don't know what to do with you
because you've go no marriage license, you've got no property,
you don't own a car, you haven't got a drivers license,
no marriage certificate. You don't exist. [laugh]
You're totally off the scale being a monk or a nun
in our modern world because everything which they
measure you by, you don't qualify.
That's why I love going to government departments
and they get very upset with me.
So anyway, but, I've got, have I got self-esteem,
no-self esteem or whatever it is, I certainly
haven't got low self esteem.
You know when we first came to Australia, that was
28 years ago, as monks.
You'd never get so many people come to a talk like this.
You'd be lucky if you get 5 come to a talk.
That's at the beginning and maybe half of those
would leave, or maybe more,
before the talk was finished, and the other
two were fast asleep. [laughter]
So in those days it was very tough and in those
days people weren't used to men walking around in dresses,
which is what I looked like.
They weren't used to you. And so many times
people would criticise you, and they'd shout at you,
and they would even once they threw stones at me.
And that was over in Bunbury beach many years ago.
These kids - I was just meditating there, minding my own
business - and this stone came whizzing past my ears.
Very good they were bad shots, but as they got closer
and closer, I thought I better do something.
So I just stood up and turned around.
And there were these kids.
For those of you who were old enough, that was when
the orange people were here.
They thought I was an orange person,
fair enough mistake, this is pretty orange.
But I actually started walking to them, and it's
amazing, when you face people who do things like that, as soon
as I started walking <u>towards</u> them, they started running away. [laughs]
There was about six or seven kids there, and they
could have easily beaten me up,
but just the confidence there was enough to get them to scatter.
And I just rushed after them, caught them up,
and said "Look, why are you throwing stones? I'm a Buddhist monk".
"Ohh, you're a Buddhist monk, sorry! We thought
you were an orange person. Buddhist monks are cool." [laughter]
So we had a nice conversation about Buddhist afterwards.
But sometimes you do get criticised like that,
you do get put down, but as a monk you don't
lose your self esteem. Somebody called me up from,
where was it, today, a visitor or something, I can't remember.
They said their son was being bullied at school,
bullying is a big thing. And they said
a little teaching which really helped them,
a very simple teaching, was that teaching which I took
back from Thailand, which means that you don't
listen to other people's criticisms.
It was that teaching, if somebody calls you a dog,
you look at your bottom to see if you've got a tail.
If you haven't got a tail, you're not a dog, it is the end of the problem.
And this actually happened because these bullies,
they called this kid a dog, and he would
remember the story, this was a kid at school,
remember the story, he looked at his bottom,
"sorry I haven't got a tail, I'm not a dog".
And those kids stopped bullying him after that.
Because he had some sense of confidence there.
They were just trying to press his buttons,
to make him upset, he decided not to allow his buttons
to be pressed, and you have the choice for that.
But why is it that people do have this sense of
low self esteem? Which becomes very very big problem
for many people. There's so many people who
think they're not clever enough, girls who
think they're not beautiful enough,
even though they are really gorgeous.
Guys who think they're not attractive enough,
even though they're really good people.
Why is it monks, who think they're not good enough
as a teacher; they're not good enough as a novice
or as a nun. Why do people think that way?
The reason is because in our society we have
this terrible thing about attaining for the highest,
have really high goals and expectations in life.
We see that on the advertisements - you haven't lived
until you've actually driven a....
Actually, I saw one of those new Triumphs
on the road the other day - 2.3 litre, you know,
motorbikes. Wow! You haven't lived until you've
gone on a 2.3 - the biggest engine on a motorbike
ever built! Wow, you haven't lived!
I was thinking about that, getting on one of those,
finding someone who's got one, and see if
they wanted to make some good karma. [laughter]
But you know it's not good - a monk going
on a motorbike - and the reason is these
robes - that's the trouble. [laughter]
As soon you get any wind in them, they blow up,
and off you go like a balloon, like a parachute [laughter]
But anyway, the idea was there [laughs]
But why is that that people think they have to have
all these things to be <u>worth-while</u> in this world?
And that is one of the problems - our expectations are
just too high for ourselves, let alone of others.
So my buzzword for the last month to my monks,
to the people I teach internationally is please
<u>lower</u> your expectations..
And the beautiful thing - I don't <u>have</u> to be so
pretty, I don't <u>have</u> to be so strong,
I don't <u>have</u> to be so successful.
Oh, bliss at last, I can just be me!
Now that is a powerful teaching because where
do we get all these expectations from?
And you know a lot of the times it's not from
the people who really love us and care for us -
they just want us to be happy, that's all.
Yeah, if you're happy being a billionaire, fine.
But if you're not we can still love you.
Yeah, we're happy if you're very successful
in your career, but we love you nevertheless if
you're not. If you're a total failure your
loved ones love you nevertheless.
So you can lower your expectations and not try
so hard to meet these goals which other people
give you. Because sometimes when we have all
these expectations, now you tell your kids that,
because sometimes the sort of expectations
you give your kids - if you're not top of the class or
at least in the top five percent - you're not good enough.
Only one twentieth of kids can come up in the top
five percent. So you've got to have some kids
in the bottom half.
They're the very happy..they're the smart kids, I keep on saying
this, that as soon as you fail your first
examination at school then you're out of
there, you're free at last.
You're out of prison, because if you pass
the exam you have to go back to school next
year and do another exam. And then another
and another and another. So when you fail your first
exam - yeah! I'm free now!
I'm doing that because half the children in the
school will be in the bottom fifty percent.
So you've got a fifty-fifty chance that's your
children. Please love them to bits.
They don't <u>have</u> to be good at school.
As anyone who's read that wonderful book by
Daniel Coleman - who is a Buddhist - the
emotional intelligence - people are successful
not because they do well at school, not
because they come in the top ten, fifteen, twenty,
fifty percent. Because they're emotionally intelligent,
they feel loved, they feel accepted, they have
self-esteem because that comes from their parents,
never criticising them, never pulling them down,
never feeling they have to attain what is beyond
their abilities. They feel that they are worthwhile.
Those are the people who become successful in life.
So for goodness sake stop imbuing your children with
what will later be their low self-esteem because they
are in that bottom fifty percent who don't do so well.
Even bottom fifty percent, even the bottom seventy
percent you feel a failure. You feel a failure
if you're not the top, if you're not the most beutiful,
if you're not the most successful in life.
Come on. You can be real that you have to learn
how to lower expectations, to learn how to be
yourself and then you are successful.
Then you have the happiness in life.
So instead of asking too much of people,
especially asking too much of yourself,
we have this wonderful openness of character to
love ourselves for who we are.
That famous "opening the door of your heart to
yourself no matter who you ever be".
Now a lot of times you can't get that from others,
because others will always be criticising you
when you don't meet the goal. If you meet the
goal they set the goal higher for you.
And they think that's really encouraging you
to achieve more in life. The so-called persuit of
excellence is just the pursuit of stress and an
early death through heart attack. And you don't
really want to follow that course, do you, in
this life? That's one of the reasons why such
a stressful life. Is that really what excellence
truly is? With all these achievements, and
all these honours, and all these possessions which
you have, is that really achievements in life?
Is that excellence? Or is excellence being at
peace with yourself, being able to go sleep at
night with no feeling that you've failed today.
At the end of the year, not feeling that you're
a hopeless case.
Is that worth so-called pursuit of material excellence?
Or is it much better to have this wonderful
emotional intelligence where you can love yourself for
who you are. When you realise you don't
<u>have</u> to be successful to feel at peace.
You don't have to meet all these goals which
other people put on you. That is why my
job as a teacher is to take away all those goals.
To tell people you don't <u>have</u> to be
the most beautiful, you don't <u>have</u> to be
the most rich. I've been telling this over in
Singapore and Malaysia to all the youth groups
which I teach. I tell the boys, please never marry a beautiful girl.
Because if you marry a beautiful woman, other
boys will be looking at her and you'll be jelaous
for the rest of your life. Marry an ugly one and
you'll never be jealous, because no other boy
look at her. [laughter] And if you're a girl
never marry a rich boy because if he's rich
he'll be able to afford a mistress [laughter].
Marry a poor boy and he will never be able to afford
another wife, you have him all for yourself. [laughs]
By saying things like that it gives all of the ugly
girls and poor boys a big boost of esteem [laugher].
I don't have to be rich to get a girl!
I don't have to beautiful to get a boy!
I can just be myself.
And you know, adding to that, when I do teach these
youth groups, especially these young people who
are starting out looking for a partner in their life,
a lot of times they say, look, just being beautiful,
being rich, that's not really important.
What people really find attractive is being confident.
Because when you're confident, you can have good fun,
you can relax, you're a person who's not really
stressed out trying to prove themselves to others.
Many people find that incredibly attractive.
Confidence, being at ease, being fun.
You don't get that by just being beautiful,
or being rich, you get that because of your
emotional intelligence. Basically, you're accepting
yourself as you are. Now in Buddhism,
especially in meditation, we have this beautiful little phrase
we say to ourselves - "good enough".
So in our life, we say it's good enough,
our monasteries they're good enough,
this hall here is good enough,
yeah it could be better, sometimes we fantasise about
how we could improve this hall for you so on
a Friday night you could be more comfortable.
You could have this electronic digital meditation
cushion - you press a button to make it sort-of come
up and become more fluffy. Another button to make it harder.
You could have it like electronically warmed.
You could even have it with a press of a button
you get a capuccino on the side or a latte [laughter]
in case you have sloth and torpor and feel tired,
you can have a quick cup of coffee [laughs]
So you can have all these ideas - but no - this is good enough.
Because when it's good enough, it means you can
just appreciate it, you don't have to go criticising and
thinking it has to be different.
And this hall is good enough..
And now your job - yeah you could get more money,
but if you get more money, you'd have to work harder,
that's the big problem. That's my problem in life - too many
people listen to my talks, so I want to try get rid of
more of you, because I'm too busy. I get all these
invitations. This evening somebody just came back
from Sri Lanka. Lucky, and you were telling me - oh you have
to go to Sri Lanka - people are missing you over there!
You have to go! You have to go!
I'm getting fed up with going in these aircraft all the time
and travelling around. I'm old, I want to rest!
I want to retire! Not go to, I want to go to the opposite
of charm school. If anybody wants to donate to me going
to un-charm school so I can be more mean and miserable [laughs]
and have a more peaceful life.
But no, it's good enough.. So during
the meditation, people are taking photographs
of me, like now look, why are you taking photographs
of me for? I'm old, fat, and ugly! [laughter]
That's good enough [laughter]
So please don't take too many photographs,
because when I was in Indonesia, people were telling
me that beautiful monument, Borobudur,
this incredible beautiful monument. It was built
six hundred, seven hundred years ago, it's a national
treasure, this old Buddhist monument.
People are taking so many photographs of it that
it's actually wearing out. So please, I'm wearing out too
[laughs] because too many photographs and all these lights on.
But no, no, being serious, you don't have to be anything
to have self-esteem. You are good enough.
You can make mistakes. You don't always have to perform
to the highest. Look, I said in the early years,
when I first came here, my talks were terrible.
People would actually walk out of the talks.
And I remember this one lady she's running our
Buddhist fellowship over in Singapore. Just to see
she went into the library, and got the oldest talk she
could find of mine, from the library, she
listened to it, and she said that was the worst talk
I've ever heard in my life. [laughs]
And it was right - it was a bad talk.
Because you just learn on the job.
I remember once giving a talk to a group of Thai
people. And they travelled all the way from Thailand
to visit this place and to give some donations and they
wanted a talk in Thai - so I gave them a talk in Thai.
And after the talk in Thai, because I was in
Thailand for many years, I was fluent when I lived there.
They all said, wow, that was so impressive,
we've never heard a talk in Sanskrit before [laughter].
And I said, actually that was in Thai..
"Oh!" said the Thai people, we didn't know [laughs]
we thought it was.. [laughs] That's really a put down!
But look, would you lose your self-esteem as a result?
No for me, I thought that's wonderful, it's another
story I can tell to people to make them laugh.
So every time I make a mistake,
and do something stupid, I never think it is a reason
to lose my self esteem. Instead, I thought I'm a human being
I make mistakes, it's good enough.
What a wonderful thing it is to know that you can be wrong.
So please grab your right to be wrong.
You don't always have to do things in the perfect,
wonderful way. <u>Lower</u> your expectations.
Now I always expect during the meditation
at least I used to a few years ago,
that people would turn off their mobile phones
but I've lowered my expectations now, and as long as
there is not more than five calls I'm very very happy
during meditation [laughter]
Otherwise you get angry and upset, and it'll spoil
your whole day. But no, instead we lower expectations
and then we can have much more fun and
happiness when mistakes do happen in life,
when you make a mistake, you never feel that
it's some failure in yourself, that mistakes are
part of life, and we celebrate those mistakes
rather than thinking that we are a failure.
So you come here and you're hopeless, and I will
always tell you, very good. When people come up here
and they say, they've just robbed a bank, and I say
very good, ten percent to the nun's monastery [laughter]
No, I don't say that. If you said, you were just, uh,
meditating and you fell fast asleep, I say
very good. In fact I've learnt the word very good
in so many languages now. It's "bahu bahondai" in Sinhala,
"bagu sakali", that's over in Bahasa Indonesia, or
"manto mantong" I think that's in Sulawesi dialect.
Because that's a wonderful word to learn,
"very good". You know I don't know, "di mark"
in Thai, or "di lai", that's in Laotian,
I don't know how to say very bad except
in English. I don't learn that word, I don't
want to know it thank you very much.
Because that way whatever people do or say,
I say very good. And that way you're building
up people's confidence so they feel at ease with
themselves because at least I'm at ease with
you, I respect you no matter who you are.
And that's not just with you guys, I go in to prisons,
and people tell me that they've done this terrible crime,
I say "very good". And that really spins them out.
"What do you mean?"
Well I'll say you're a leader in your field,
there's never been a bank robber like you before,
it's amazing just [laughter] the skills which you. [laughs]
Because a lot of people in prison, they do have
this terrible lack of self esteem, which is one
of the reasons why they keep going back there.
Because they think they don't deserve to be free.
You get the idea here?
When you have lack of self-esteem, you punish yourself,
you can never be free. So as soon as I tell people
who've done terrible things, very good, what I'm
doing there is taking away the cause why they repeat
those bad things again. So if you go home this
weekend, and your husband says he's committed adultery,
he's slept with your best friend, please tell him,
"very good" [laughter].
That will spin him out [laughter]
"What the hell are you up to?"
What it really means there, what's going on here,
you're just, blows a few fuses in his brain,
so he can think, that's an amazing girl,
she's not going to get angry at me, well I'm
not going to go with that mistress, I'm going to
stay with her. Because a lot of time,
when you're allowed to make mistakes, number one
you're honest about them, as I've kept saying.
When you're not allowed to make mistakes,
we hide them, we're in denial, we don't admit them,
so we can never do anything about them.
You made a mistake, great! It's <u>allowed<u>.</u></u>
So don't use as losing your self esteem.
So what happens, you feel good about yourself.
You feel you're okay, you feel that you're not
some person in this world, who's somehow or other,
when you were made, that some parts were left out.
When you feel part of this world, when you feel
that you belong in this world, that's what we call
the self esteem, you're good enough.
You've lowered the expectations, you don't expect
to be perfect, you are who you are, and you belong.
And you are welcome. That's why we don't really have
a dress code when we come to this place.
Sometimes people try to impose one.
But you can come dressed whatever you like.
Except me, I've got a dress code. I have to wear these
robes because I'm a monk. We don't really have
bouncers at the door, keeping out the riff-raff.
All you riff-raff are welcome [laughs] in this hall.
So that's this beautiful openness.
When people feel welcome and they feel respected, that's where
all this lack of self-esteem vanish.
Isn't that what people want in this world,
to be respected, to be understood?
Yes, I'm not the best, yeah I'm a monk who keeps telling
the same jokes and stories every week,
but that's who I am. So you're at peace with yourself.
There's one story I haven't told for a long time which
I remembered today - and that was the story of the
two carrots. You remember this [laughs].
This is a golden oldie.
So once there were these two carrots and they
were walking down the road in St George's Terrace,
which is one of the main streets here in Perth.
And as they were walking down talking to each other,
minding their own business, one of these drunk drivers
lost control of the car, the car went up on the
pavement and hit one of the carrots.
And the carrot was badly injured. The other carrot
rang zero zero zero. The ambulance came, straight
in the back with his friend, the other unhurt carrot
with him, straight to Royal Perth Hospital,
straight to the emergency room, straight to triage.
They realised this carrot was badly injured so they
took him in to the surgery. And his friend,
if ever you've been waiting in the emergency rooms,
in waiting rooms rather in hospitals, it's so tense,
you don't know what's going to happen.
After three hours the doctor came out, the surgeon,
and said, your friend Mr Carrot, I've got some good news
and bad news for you. The good news is your
friend, the carrot who was injured, he's going
to live, he's going to survive, but the bad news,
he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life! [laughter]
I just can't say that with a straight face [laughter]
One of my favourite jokes.
He's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.
So I can't even tell a joke properly, but I'm
not going to lose my self-esteem for that.
So you can see that when you're at ease with yourself,
it means that you have your self-esteem,
but then you take that a little bit further, and make
it more full, going in the same direction,
by having this wonderful no-self
..esteem. I had a pause there, it's not no self-esteem,
it's no-self esteem, valuing that you don't <u>own</u>
these things. I don't own my mistakes.
Because if I own my mistakes, I keep on remembering them,
and I remember all the terrible things which I did,
and all the hopeless things I did.
And the idea of no-self, instead of using it
as a philosophy, it's used as a practical means to say
what do you really own, what do you possess?
And this is a terrible thing about, when people make
mistakes <u>or</u> they're successful in life,
they tend to own those attainments, and they
own those failures. And that is where the Buddhist idea
of no-self - you don't own anything.
Was that really you, who did that mistake many many
years ago? Was that really <u>you</u> who did that amazing
wonderful thing, which you're so proud of,
and you're honoured by?
And a lot times you look back and if you own it,
<u>that</u> is where the trouble comes.
That is where people, they lose this lack of self-esteem,
and they get self-esteem, and that goes this terrible
thing as pride and arrogance.
That's where you get monks like me, coming up here
and saying, "I'm so humble. Oh, my humility, there's no
monk in the whole world as humble as I am.
In fact I have applied to the Guinness Book of Records,
to be entered as the most humble monk in the world" [laughs]
I say, if you're humble, you should flaunt it. [laughter]
Now you can see some people actually do get arrogance,
and that arrogance there, you know, if you think
I'm an arrogant guy, in the latest edition of the
Enlightened Times, there's a picture of me working on
the roof of the Jhana Grove. I actually get down there
and dirty, was mixing concrete the other day,
two or three days ago. I was a bit upset because
it almost happened again, that story which I love telling,
of when I was mixing concrete some years ago,
and this Sri Lankan lady came.
And, you know, a very high-class Sri Lankan lady.
Fortunately, we don't get any of that level here [laughs] in the centre
apparently. Because, dressed in a really really nice sari,
very expensive, lots of make up, and when you have
a high-class Sri Lankan girl, they wear all these bangles.
And there were so many bangles, kling-klang-klong,
it sounded like what I call an ice-cream truck coming to the monastery.
[laughter] And you Sri Lankans, know what I mean.
And when she saw me, I'd just come from the building site,
so I had cement all over me, spluttered on my face,
all over my robes. I looked real mess, like labourers
on building sites. You can't be smart when you've
just been building. And she came up to me and said,
"I'm looking for Ajahn Brahm."
And I'm very smart, I said straight away,
"Um, madam if you go to the hall there, he'll probably
be down there again in about five or ten minutes."
So she went to hall, I had a quick shower,
changed my robes to clean ones, went down there
and talked to her. You know, she didn't know
I was the same monk. [laughter] Because afterwards,
and this is a true story, afterwards she told me, she said,
"that was a wonderful talk, you've got a beautiful monastery
here but if you don't mind me criticising one thing,
on the way here I saw one of your monks, he
was very badly dressed, it's inappropriate for a monk
to be badly dressed like that." And I said,
"Oh, I will talk to that monk...later" [laughter]
She didn't know it was the same one.
So sometimes you're up there in front of thousands
of people, and sometimes you're getting dirty,
down there in the mud and the grime of a building site.
And I really love doing that because otherwise,
but sometimes I ask myself - who is the real Ajahn Brahm?
<u>Neither</u> is because you don't own any of those.
If you own the famous person you get proud.
If you own the person who's always down there in
the dirt building, then you get low self-esteem.
That's when you don't own any of these things,
that's when you have no-self...esteem.
None of these things are you.
When you don't define yourself as anything,
you have no more limitations.
The sky, or the trenches, they are the limit.
You can do anything when you don't have a sense
of self, an ego, and who you are supposed to be.
It's a great thing being a monk. You are totally
free of all of this status. You see the robe which
I wear, and the robe which the next monk wears,
they look the same. We don't have little stripes on our sides
to say how senior we are. We don't have little pips on
our side and on the shoulders to say who is the most
senior monk and who is the most junior.
This is why we don't have that status, because
we don't want to own anything. When you don't own
your attainments or your failures, when you don't own
the crime you committed many years ago,
this is for the prisoners, that's not you, don't own it.
Because if you own it, you become it.
When you become it, you repeat it.
Even, I do repeat myself very often, but these stories
they just come in. And that was that story of going
to the Singapore Institute of Mental Health,
just giving a presentation, being praised by one
of the heads of department of the schizophrenia unit.
And just inviting me back to his unit in this big complex,
and asking him on the way, how do you treat schizophrenia?
And he says, I don't treat schizophrenia.
And this is the head, of the unit, which deals with all cases
in that island, and many from overseas.
He says, "I don't treat schizophrenia".
"Well, what do you do?"
He said, "I treat the other part of the patient." Brilliant.
Otherwise, you're telling that person, that patient,
they're going to own their schizophrenia,
they are a schizophrenic.
That is not going to solve the problem, actually
that, I know this is not really what schizophrenics are,
but there was a good Buddhist joke.
What does a Buddhist schizophrenic aim for in life?
He wants to be two with the universe. [laughter]
Now that's not absolutely true, schizophrenics
are not like that, but it's a very good joke.
It's a Buddhist joke. Most people want to be one
with the universe.
Okay. So I apologise to all people who sometimes suffer
schizophrenic episodes, but, it's a good joke though. [laughs]
But when you own that problem, that's when it really
is a problem. So the idea of no-self esteem is, this isn't me,
I don't own this, this is an episode which happens
from time to time. But it's not me, I don't own it.
The crime, the mistake, which I did, I don't <u>own</u> that.
Which means it's more easy to <u>let it go<u>.</u></u>
Why is it that these things which happened to you,
or which you did yourself in the past, why is
it so hard to move away from it?
Why is it that it tends for these bad experiences
to almost be pursuing you, just like one of these
what is it the person who keep following, uhh,
the sexual predators..stalkers! Like stalker,
that's the word I was looking for, thank you.
You see even I sort-of forget sometimes,
but I'm very happy that I forget at my age that's
doing pretty good.
So these stalkers, it's like the past is a stalker
which keeps coming up. Why is it we can't let it go?
And a lot of time it's not the stalker's problem,
it's not the past acts, it's because we think we own that.
And the idea of no-self esteem, is esteem in that fact that
you don't own these things. The only thing you really
own is your present. That's the only thing you possess
and have in this life. If you think you own the past
you can't let it go, if you think you own the future
you'll always be worried and anxious about it.
When you realise the only thing you ever have is
what's right in front of you right now,
this present moment, that's what we call no-self esteem.
Esteemy, yes I agree with you [laughter]
So this is working from low self-esteem to
high self-esteem to then to no-self esteem.
So you kids if you fail an exam, don't worry about it,
that wasn't really you was it?
How many times have you said to yourself when you
make a mistake, "oh I wasn't feeling myself today"?
Excellent. Carry on. Every time [laughs] you make a mistake,
"oh that wasn't the real me."
There's an old Sufi story of actually how to have high
self-esteem, and that was this, sometimes people think
there is no wisdom in Islam, but in the Sufi tradition of
Islam, it's brilliant, it's really close to Buddhism.
And in that tradition, there was this guy Nasrudin,
you've got some great stories of this guy Nasrudin.
He was this Mullah in Persia, before it became Iran.
And one day he had his students, and he took them
to a fair just as a reward for all their hard studies.
And at these old fairs, like the Royal Show here in Perth,
they had all these stalls and competitions and being
a long time ago they had an archery competition,
just like you may have a shooting competition,
this was archery and for a couple of dollars you
can get three arrows and if you hit the bull
you get a little teddy bear or something.
And so this <u>master</u> , this religious leader,
gave a couple of dollars in front of all his students
and said okay I'll have a go, it's only shooting arrows,
anybody can do that. And even though his students,
adviced - you don't know what you're doing,
you'll make a fool of yourself - nevertheless he
had a go. He put the arrow in the bow and shot it.
It only made half the distance, he'd never shot
a bow and arrow before. And because this was a very
important figure in the community people started
giggling. This leader was making an idiot of himself.
And so he took his next arrow, and the students said,
quit, get out of here, you're embarrassing us.
He said, "no, no, no, that was the shot of a hasty man".
So this time he took more time. He put the arrow in
the bow, he pulled it much further back and this
time it made the distance but about a hundred foot
to the left, it almost killed bystanders [laughter].
And he turned around and said, "that was the shot of
an arrogant man." And he put the bow in the third time,
and people were gigging and laughing at this idiot
trying to shoot an arrow. And this time he pulled the
arrow back, and he shot the arrow,
and it went right into the middle of the target.
And as he claimed his prize, a teddy bear,
they said, "well, if the first shot was a shot of a hasty
man, and the second shot was the shot of an arrogant
man, who was the third shot?"
He said "oh, that was me". [laughter]
Now you understand no-self esteem.
So if you have no self, if you don't own anything,
you can actually choose which one of those
you want to be. When you have a self, you are locked
in to this idea of who you think you are.
"I can't do maths at school", "I am ugly",
"I am schizophrenic". If you lock yourself in to that
then there's no freedom. If you let go of all of those
judgements, then you are free, you can be whoever
you want to be. That is my trick as a monk,
I can be the labourer, I can be the comedian,
I can be the person who does..ummm, funeral
services where I have to stop telling jokes.
You can be whatever you are and then you are free,
free to enjoy whatever life brings you in this moment.
So that is actually how we make the movement
from low self-esteem to self-esteem, eventually
to no self-esteem. You can be whoever, make mistakes,
do successful things, it's all the same.
Thank you for listening.
And sorry for the carrot joke.
Here we go...and also please we have three questions
at the end of every talk but a couple of weeks ago
during the meditation on a Saturday afternoon,
there was one guy sitting in here and he routed
his question via Indonesia so it came on the thing here
"John from Indonesia" when he was actually sitting
right in front [laughter], so please be honest.
"Ajahn Brahm", this is Chami from Melbourne
in Australia. "Ajahn Brahm, when bad things keep
on happening one after the other, how can anyone feel
strong under such circumstances and not feel helpless?"
They don't keep happening, bad one after another!
You have just asked a nice question, and you're
listening to your answer. A good thing has happened,
you get your question answered. We've broken the spell.
So the thing is our perception is, bad things happen
one after the other, but the truth of the matter is
that many good things happen as well.
Why is it that we pay attention only to the bad things
which happen? A lot of times we teach to change your
perceptions, and you'll find, yes, some bad things
happened to you today, but also many good things
happened as well, but we only remember the bad
things. It's the old story Chami, of the two chicken
farmers, again a golden oldie, but this is
the answer to your question, Chami.
Two chicken farmers, first chicken farmer
goes into the shed early in the morning with a
basket to collect the produce of the night before.
They go into the shed and they fill their basket full of
chicken shit. And they leave the eggs in the shed to rot.
They bring the shit back into their house and it makes
a smell - their family is very upset at them.
The second chicken farmer takes a basket into the shed,
and fills it full of eggs. They leave the shit in the shed
to rot, to become fertiliser later on.
They take the eggs back into the house where
they make and omelette for their family,
sell the rest of the eggs in the market for cash.
That's the smart chicken farmer.
The meaning of that story is, Chami, when you remember
your past, what do you put into the basket and take
home with you? If we keep remembering the bad things
which happen to us in life, we are shit collectors [laughs].
Leave the bad things in the past to rot.
Collect the eggs. There's many wonderful things which
happen to you Chami, beautiful things.
You put those in your basket and bring them home
with you, bring them into the present moment with you.
And leave the shit in the past to rot.
And then you find that actually many wonderful things
do happen to you, but you're leaving them in the past,
you're forgetting about them.
And that's why we come under the impression that
only bad things keep happening, they don't.
Wonderful things happen as well, remember those and
then we get a balanced view in life. We keep the
beautiful eggs because you can't make an
omelette out of chicken shit.
Next is Usitta from Sri Lanka, "Dear Ajahn Brahm,
how can karma exist if self does not exist?"
If you understand there is no self left, then
you are beyond the karma, you are enlightened,
and the karma will not send you to another rebirth.
But as long as you understand that there is a self,
if that's your perception, if that's your idea that you are,
then you'll make karma and suffer as a result.
So it's not if a self exists or not, if you think and act
and perceive a self exists, that is the problem.
Don't be philosophical. Usitta in Sri Lanka,
if you have any perception of a self, if you're not
fully enlightened, you have that perception,
therefore you're subject to karma.
If you're totally enlightened, you've realised that,
not just through a thought, but really realised that there's
nobody in here, you have no doubt about that,
it's an experience not just a philosophy then
you're beyond karma.
Question three, Sadi from New Zelealand,
"Dear Ajahn Brahm, as an artist I've lost confidence
in my work and I'm not sure how to revive it.
Please help me. Thank you!"
You know that most people, especially Sadi,
they become famous after they die [laughter].
That may be you. [laughter] So please if it is you please bequeath
all of your artwork to the nun's monastery in Perth [laughter].
We need the cash. [laughs]
That's interesting, why is it sometimes we lose
confidence and a lot of times, this may be, I haven't
seen your work Sadi, a lot of the times we look at the
work we see all the faults in it. Again because we are
the owner. Just like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago,
I go to Bodhinyana monastery, if I'm the abbot there,
I see all the things which are wrong with the place.
Just like your home, you go back to this evening,
you see all the things which need to be fixed up,
all the things which are wrong.
A visit never sees that.
They say "what a beautiful place this is".
Poor old Phil, where's he gone, he's the president
of this place, and so he sees all the things which
need to be fixed up. He's got this whole list of things
we're going to do to this place, especially the
community hall during the retreat period.
Paint it, change the roof here, put a new garden
over there. Can you see anything wrong with the place?
Because you're visitors, that's why.
The owners, we see all the things which are wrong.
So if you've an owner of your artwork, it'll
never be good enough. You'll only see the mistakes
in it, the faults. But if you're a visitor,
if somebody comes to see your artwork,
and they say, "that's beautiful, that's wonderful,
that's really impressive," believe them,
don't believe yourself.
So when people see your artwork, put it on show,
and when people say "wow, that's really interesting,"
they're the people to believe, not you, because
you're too close to it, you own it, you can't see
it's beauty. Same way as I couldn't see the beauty of
Bodhinyana monastery until I stopped owning it
and looked at it as a visitor. You can't see the
beauty in yourself, until you look at yourself
like other people look at you.
And then "wow, I'm actually okay."
You know that many monks, I got over this,
when they first come and give talks they can't
believe, like the nuns, they can't believe that
so many people come and listen to them.
It's an amazing thing, if you say
"I'm actually wise, people want to listen to me"
just like the artist, after a while you think,
"wow, I can actually paint, I can create,
I can do something which people want to buy."
Then you get your confidence, not from what <u>you</u> think
about your artwork, but seeing your artwork through
the eyes of a visitor. Then you get confidence in it.
It's amazing, this is absolutely true, that each one of you
when you come in here, I can only see the beauty
and good in you. When people come and they sort-of tell
me all their faults, and they can't find a partner in life,
and their career is really bad, and they've invested
and lost all their money, and bla bla bla,
and they feel so bad and down about themselves.
I say, "You're a really nice guy, you're a great girl.
What are you worried about?" I can see that.
And if only they could see what I could see in
themselves, then they would have their confidence.
If only the artist, Sadi from New Zealand, could see
what other people see in your artwork, you would
have confidence and realise, this beautiful work,
carry on. So it's actually seeing through the eyes
of another rather than your own eyes.
And no-self esteem. Many people like you, you have
many friends, you have great times together.
So why can't you accept that, rather than thinking,
"Oooh, I'm hopeless, ohhh I'm terrible, oooh
I can't do anything right, ooh.."
No. You can do many things right.
So anyway those are the answers for one, two and three,
I hope they're okay, I don't care if they're not,
[laughter], because I've got no-self esteem.
So any questions from here?
Any questions from the audience here? Give you
guys a chance as well so you don't have to re-route
your questions through Saudi Arabia or somewhere. [laughter]
Okay, so thank you all for listening to the talk about
There is a sutta class on Sunday.
But I'm a afraid it won't be from me,
it'll be Ajahn Appi's doing a sutta class on Sunday,
and a meditation tommorrow, because, oh it's
really hard work, I've got to fly all the way
to Frankfurt to teach a retreat, it's very tough
life being a monk [laughter].
So I'm going to Frankfurt on the weekend, because
there's lots of people in Germany also want to have some
meditation so I'm going to teach a retreat over there.
I don't carry any bags, so I've got thirty kilos of
free luggage. If anyone is under thirty kilos of weight,
[laughter], I could get you in my suitcase and
you could go to Europe for free. [laughs]
Unfortunately you're too heavy.
Okay, so let's just pay respects to Buddha,
Dhamma, Sandha and then we can go and do whatever
we want to do.
Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava
Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi.
Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo
Supatipanno bhagavato savakasangho
I'm still laughing at that carrot joke. [laughter]