Ajahn Brahm is a British Theravada Buddhist monk born in London. He read theoretical physics at The University of Cambridge and graduated with first class honours. A year later, he traveled to Thailand to become a monk and to train with the Ajahn Chah Bodhinyana Mahathera. He is now the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, and the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, amongst others. He has been invited many a time to give seminars at the headquarters of Facebook, Google and the United Nations. The books he authored have been translated into many languages, including famously The Art of Disappearing, and Good? Bad? Who Knows?
Ajahn：Human being is something which is very rare in this world. I only ever see human doing things, human going somewhere, very rarely do I see a human being here. You got that? (Interviewer：Yeah I got that. Human being should spend more time being.) Being, yeah, and that’s what maybe your parents or your grandparents do; you have to do that. They could just chill out, not doing anything, not going anywhere. Not going shopping, not checking emails. Just sitting here, just do absolutely nothing……
Interviewer：Do you think people……What is the most evil thing, or what is the most evil sort of person you’ve ever seen?
Ajahn：The most evil thing I’ve experienced is when I was listening to people who’ve been tortured, listening to people who’ve been raped, I mean the really big stuff. They could be just people who have been to the wrong place in the wrong time. Some of those things which people do to each other – that I find very hard to understand. (You know all these stuff of life, that most people do, I never looked at it as evil, I just look at it as a bit……yeah they cheat each other, they let each other down, and just these stuff. It hurts people but a lot of times people just allow themselves to get hurt too easily.) The real bad stuff you know when people take a young girl and just take sexual pleasure out of her hour after hour and just, they killed her hard. But it’s not irreparable. That’s one of the wonderful things to do: to repair a woman’s heart, which is been ripped apart by rape. It’s been destroyed and there’s hardly any life left in it. Her body is alive but her heart is just in this deep, deep, deep hole, and you get it out. It’s an amazing thing to do. So whenever there’s the evil, or the scars of evil, it’s where gets you an amazing opportunity to overcome it, to beat it. And that’s what I love doing, to beat the evil.
Interviewer：Yes, but you have to be very capable to do so. Is there any ways for us, not like you, to defend ourselves against those wounds when some bad things happen to us?
Ajahn：Yeah it’s very hard. Most people haven’t got the guts to do that. And that’s to embrace them. Stop trying to get rid of them. (Interviewer：It’s very difficult, to embrace.) No, it isn’t. It’s difficult not to. But, in the end, you just need some encouragement. I don’t know if there’s, maybe off the record, if anything has ever happened to you, and when it’s buried deep inside, it’s like a virus inside of you, and it destroys your ability to love and to have fun until you get a good relationship going; and you have to be that way, to bring it up, to acknowledge it and let it happen. Remember it, learn from it, and you’re not a diminished person because of it.
It still amazes me, just being personal, amazes me just how much power that Buddhism has. Psychologists can’t do this, psychiatrists can’t do this, but you get some really nice teaching and you can do this. You can take a woman who’s been so tortured and you can actually turn her around, until she’s……it inspires me to see such woman who’s been there, gone through stuff that I don’t know if I can ever manage to survive.
Interviewer：As you said it’s emotional, maybe not scientific.
Ajahn：Yes, yes. Good. People tend to just believe what they hear in seminars and in books and in universities. (Interviewer：Yeah that’s how we do it.) And that does not work. You have to feel it in your heart and to feel it yourself. (Interviewer：Yes, and it takes courage.)
Interviewer：Yes, and it takes courage. And you’re receiving so much negativity from people, how do you handle it?
Ajahn：I love negativity. Because, to me, negativity is like shit, I’ll change that word if you wish. And shit is fertiliser. And fertiliser makes all the trees grow. It makes beautiful mangoes. And that makes beautiful vegetables that are really tasty.
Interviewer：But, but you’re no mango tree……
Ajahn：Of course I am. I can always get wiser and more compassionate. And that means whatever people give me I can transform.
Interviewer：How do you do it?
Ajahn：How do you do it? By just changing one’s attitude. If someone shouts at me, that I feel that they must be in a very very bad mood and I feel so much compassion for them. I’m not sure what they’re going through but that must be very painful for them to get upset and angry at me so I don’t feel any problems from myself. I’m happy, I’m at peace. It’s not the problem here so that problem is in that person, so I try my very best to see how just by body language, by looking in their eyes and being kind, I can calm them down and make them all peaceful so at least. Everybody else maybe hiding throughout the day, and I’m not going to do much about that – but at least I can make them a kind person, and I can understand that person.
Ajahn：有，當然有。名氣會帶來麻煩，總有人會想把你拉下去。就像讓比丘尼出家那件事上，許多人都覺得很難挑戰我的論點。大家都知道我不止是老師，還是學者，我知道底裏的來龍去脈，知道自己在做什麼。我無懼和任何人辯論，所以他們那麼怕我。我腦袋本來就不錯，而且在劍橋訓練過（訪者：而且是物理），對，物理，一門困難的學問。我很清楚自己的責任，既讀過、也能夠引述佛陀親口說的話。有些出家人之所以害怕我，就是因為知道我基本功好，他們要是和我爭論學理，一定會輸給我。（訪者：還跟你爭論嗎？）不會了，他們輸得太多了。就拿比丘尼這件事來說，他們同樣沒法跟我爭論、說我做錯，因為我能夠充分引述佛陀的話語和戒律。其實他們就是知道我是對的，才旁門左道的攻擊我，而不是去反駁我的論點。你知道這就是拉丁文說的 ad hominem 了——針對人，不是針對爭論本身。
Interviewer：Jealousy is commonplace. Do people get jealous of you?
Ajahn：Yeah of course they do. But that one I know. That’s the trouble when you get famous. But when you get well-known, they do so, some people trying to pull you down. Yeah so you had the giving ordination to the bhikkhunies and for many people that was very challenging for them because they knew that I’m not just a teacher, I’m also a scholar, I know my party, and I could argue with anybody and that’s why they’re afraid of me because they know that I know my stuff. I got a good brain and it was trained in Cambridge. (Interviewer: And physics.) Yeah and physics, it’s a hard subject. So I know my part and I can read those what the Buddha said, I can quote what the Buddha said. And that’s scary for some monks because they know I’ve got a foundation. They don’t argue with me cause sometimes if it’s on a scholastic debate and they will lose. (Interviewer: Do they still argue with you?) No they don’t anymore because they’ve lost too many times. And so because of that, that when it came to the bhikkunies, they could not argue with me that I did something wrong cause I had all of the quotes from the Buddha, the vinaya they knew I was right. So they try other ways, what they do is if they have a disagreement, they’ll try to destroy the person rather than the message. And that’s ad hominem in Latin.
Interviewer：What did they do?
Ajahn：Well try and just say that I had bad motives, I was a bad monk. One of the things actually they said which was just made me very surprised, was that in my organisation, our Buddhist society, our monastery, that I changed the rules against the will of the other monks and I was basically a despot and I was doing it for my own benefits rather than benefit of others. And because I don’t do that and because people see that I don’t do that, it was no problem at all. On another occasion, there was a monk who came into Australia, and he went to jail for sexually assaulting women and when I was asked by the newspapers, I said that was nothing to do with our organisation. He just came in and I caught him like a rogue monk, a loose cannon and he was very upset at that. And so we think it was him, but a few days later, there were pamphlets put on all the cars outside the temple and said, “Do not believe Ajahn Brahm, he slept with my wife.” Accusations like that. So sometimes it’s very easy to attack a monk and on celibacy. (Interviewer: They just make things up.) Make things up, but the point is, that you have to be able to be open enough to actually defend that. And so because I’m being open, I haven’t been hiding away in my hut. People see me all the time.
Interviewer：Did you defend yourself?
Ajahn：You can’t defend yourself against such accusations. If you say “I didn’t do it.” They’d say, “That’s what he would say.” So you just open it up to all the people who you knew – the other monks, all the people who you knew, and they’ll defend me. Because I’m seen for so many years, because I don’t hide away. That everything is open so let’s see if they can find any smoking gun cause the door is always open, find it. So that’s the only way to defend yourself. You do get attacks, because other people do get jealous of you, but because you know you don’t hide away, you have no secrets, it’s nothing sticks.
Interviewer：Do you think anybody hates you?
Ajahn：Hate? No I think it’s more like jealousy I think. Because you know being popular, especially because of the bhukkhuni thing to many people. They know they’re wrong but they can’t admit it.
Interviewer：Have you ever gotten jealous of anyone?
Ajahn：Jealous? No. Because if anybody…… No, haven’t been jealous. It’s a good question.
Interviewer：Before you became a monk?
Ajahn：Yes sometimes. Remember before I became a monk or even when I became a monk, “why do I have to work so hard and these other monks don’t have to work so hard”, “Why can’t I go and meditate more, these other monks meditate more.” And after all, sometimes it’s just great service cause all the chores in the monastery – yeah we have the roster today it’s your duties to do this, today it’s another duty. Say if it’s not your turn to wash up, it’s somebody else’s turn, see if you can get there earlier and wash up for them. In other words, if it needs to be done, just do it. And so this is not my job, it’s not your job, it’s our job. So if I can do the job first, I get there first, I get all the merit. That’s what I love doing. Just playing around. So even if it’s somebody else’s job to do the washing up, they gotta be quick, if they’re not quick, I’ll get there first and I’ll do it. So it’s not somebody else’s job. I love doing it. So that means you don’t get jealous. You don’t get upset.