Today, I am going to share with you two stories that changed how I look at life. These are the stories of my favorite Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm, who lives in Australia.
A long time ago, Ajahn Brahm was building a wall at his monastery in Serpentine, Australia. He was laying bricks, doing the masonry work himself.
He did a nice job in building the wall but two bricks were jutting out a little. He felt terribly embarrassed about his ‘shoddy work’ but it was not possible to fix those two bricks without tearing down the wall – so he had to just let things be.
Later, when a visitor came to the monastery and he saw the construction, he said, “That’s a beautiful wall!”
Ajahn Brahm couldn’t believe it. He said, “Can’t you see those two bricks jutting out?”
The visitor said, “Yes, I can see those two bad bricks. But I can also see the 998 good bricks.”
That is the story of many of our lives. We know ourselves all too well, including our flaws and imperfections. And sometimes, we focus only on our faults.
I am not saying that we should be impervious to our faults – that’s another extreme. But we have to look at the full picture. We are all imperfect, and yet, we can still be good people.
And this is not just about ourselves, we also judge others very harshly, often focusing only on their flaws.
Remember: For every 2 bad bricks, there might be another 998 good bricks we are ignoring.
Now let me share another memorable story from Ajahn Brahm, which was even more life-changing.
Decades ago, Ajahn Brahm was a trainee monk at a monastery in the forests of Thailand, where some construction work was going on. As a result, there was a huge rubble of construction material piled up. So the head monk, Ajahn Chah, asked the junior monks to haul the construction material to another place.
For Ajahn Bhram, it was non-stop misery for three days.
He and his other fellow monks hauled away the rubble in wheelbarrows. In the jungle, it was hot, sweaty, and infested with mosquitos. At the end of the day, tired to the bone, all they got to eat was some measly rice and soup made of snails – whatever the local villagers donated.
At the end of three days, drained and exhausted, Ajahn Brahm was looking forward to a nice shower, change of clothes, and some rest.
But unfortunately, just around that time, the head monk had to leave the monastery for a few days and the number two monk was in charge.
He looked at where the rubble was piled up and said that was not the right place for it. He told them to haul the rubble away to another place.
Ajahn Brahm was frustrated beyond words. But what choice did they have? So another three days of misery ensued and they hauled all the rubble away to the new place.
And just as when the task was getting over, the head monk returned. He looked at the rubble and said, “Why is it here? I had told you to put it at that other place. Move it there!”
At this point, Ajahn Brahm’s anger exploded. For six days, they had already suffered mosquito bites, sweat, and bad food. And all of it a waste. He could not take it anymore.
He started grumbling and abusing the monastery establishment in his choicest English. Since the monks did not speak English, he thought nobody would know.
But even though the monks didn’t know English, they could easily understand his body language. So one monk came to Ajahn Brahm and said, “Thinking about it is the hard part, doing it is easy.”
Hearing this Ajahn Brahm was stunned. He had a life-changing realization that he was not suffering due to the pain and discomfort – he was suffering because he was thinking about it.
That totally changed Ajahn Brahm’s mindset. For the next three days, he stopped grumbling. He started having fun while doing the work. They had wheelbarrow races. They would prank each other. And the next three days, they did the work having total fun.
So here is the big lesson I learned: “Thinking about things is the hard part, doing them is easy.”
I have experienced this again and again in life. How we think or frame something is how we feel about it. If we have to walk even 1 km to office, we will grumble loudly. But the next day, we will happily go on a 10 km trek, carrying a heavy load.
It is all about how we think about things. Thinking is what creates suffering, not doing the thing.
True, isn’t it?
Hope this lesson stays with you in your most difficult moments and makes your burden lighter.
In most newsletters, I share my personal experiences. But today, I decided to share the experiences and story of someone I admire.
That’s it for today. Thank you for reading it.