Wednesday, April 6, 2011

7/4/2011 釋開喜法師講故事

The Story of 998 Bricks

When the chairman of the Beaufort Buddhist Association suggested to me that I should submit some English Language articles for their website, I was contemplating upon what I should write about. Should I explicate a particular sutra that our Lord Buddha has spoken before or should I write something that is useful for everyone in their daily lives.
Throughout the year, many ex colleagues, ex students and friends have visited me and have consulted me about their family problems. So I became a monk cum counsellor for them. There were divorce problems, manager-employee problems etc. Today I realise that we need living dharma for all our friends. So, what a better way to give dharma to them than through illustrations and stories that are easily remembered. Such stories are profound in the sense that they help us to understand the essence of the Buddha's teachings that preach gentleness, compassion, kindness, harmony, peace and wisdom.
I have followed Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso for the past 9 years during the year end retreats conducted at the Mahindrama Buddhist Temple. His talks are full of humour but strike our hearts deeply with his stories. I have asked his permission to relate some of the stories to you so that we can understand our lives better and be more forgiving.
The first story that I wish to share with you is the THE STORY OF 998 BRICKS. Many people always remember the bad points of others and forget their good points. Sometimes one bad point or an error can smear the remaining good work that they had done. Managers dismissed their employees for one mistake that they had committed and and had forgotten the past good deeds that they had contributed to the company. Many couples could not forgive one another for a single mistake that they had done. When the anger element arises, we forget the good deeds that the other had done and the sacrifices that both sides had made in the past. We made harsh and rough statements that hurt the other party and sometimes take drastic actions that we will regret later on. So in future, we must always remember the good points of others when we are angry with him.
The story:
When Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso was setting up his forest monastery in Perth, he had to do the construction work and brick laying work with the construction workers together. All monks had to work in the Bodhiyana Monastery in Perth everyday. This is the norm carried out until today and the abbot is not exempted. He had piled up all bricks with one another in a straight manner. However, there were two small bricks that were not so straight. He realised it only after the cement had dried up. It was too late to do remedial work. If he wanted to make them all 100% straight, he had to knock down the wall again and that was too much work.
Ajahn Brahm was not happy. When he took the visitors to tour round the temple, he would purposely show them the 2 non-aligned bricks and the careless mistake that he had made that cause the wall to be distorted a bit.
One day, a wise layman visited the temple. Again Ajahn would lead him to the area and pointed at the two bricks. The layman replied, "Yes Ajahn, I agree with you that there were two bad bricks. But you have 998 perfect bricks on the wall. This is what you should be proud of." It dawned on us that we are always remembering the flaws of ourselves/others and forget the positive aspects of lives/good points of others. We need to change our bad attituttes.
I hope that this story will enlighten us and allow us to live in a more peaceful manner with less quarrels and disputes.

Good or Bad Who Knows

The Buddha has advised us to live in the present moment. Do not think too much of the future since it is uncertain. We should not also dwell in the past since it is over already. Thinking of what we had done zaps our energy. It is akin to remembering coffins and corpses. Once we have given our best effort in our work, assignment, studies, homework etc. we should be contented. Let the nature take its course.
This advice is even more important when we meditate or when we chant the the Buddha's name. When we reach the temple, we should leave behind two luggages that we have been carrying with our hands. The left hand carries the luggage of the past while the right hand carries the luggage of the future. They are very heavy. We should imagine the lightness and the relief when we leave both the luggages on the floor. How pleasant and light is our feeling. When we meditate only think of the present moment which is the beautiful moment.
The following story illustrates the uncertainty of the future and we are advised not to dwell in it.
Once upon a time, there was a king and his royal physician(his doctor) who would always go hiking together in the mountain. One day, the king injured his thumb while he was hiking. The doctor applied medicine on the wound. The king asked the physician whether the wound would turn good or bad. The physician replied,"Good or Bad, who knows". The king was not happy with the reply. After a few days, the wound turned bad and the thumb had to be cut off by the physician. Now the king is very angry and ordered the physician(doctor) to be jailed because the king blamed the physician for failing to take good care of the wound.
For the next few days, the king continued to hike the mountain alone. One day, he walked deeply in the woods and he was caught by the native men of the mountain. The native men were so happy on seeing a stranger as they were about to offer a human being as a sacrifice to the sun. They are sun worshippers. Everytime they had to sacrifice their own member to the sun as a mark of gratitude. Today, they have captured someone and he could be used as a scapegoat instead. Upon carrying the king to the fire altar, they noticed that the king had only nine fingers. They stopped their chanting and cancel the sacrifice for that day because only a perfect body can be offered as a sacrrifice. The king was released.
When the king returned to the palace, he was very happy. His 'cut off thumb' had saved his life. He summoned for the royal physician who was still imprisoned. The king freed him and thanked him profusely. Had the king recovered from the wound, he would be sacrificed.
The interesting end to this story is that the royal physician was also happy. He was happy not so much on the king's safety but thanked the king for the imprisonment. Had he not been put in prison, he would be sacrificed instead of the king for he would have followed the king in the hike and having a perfect body, he would be the victim first.
The festered wound of the king and the imprisonment of the royal physician saved both lives.