Uploaded by BuddhistSocietyWA on 25.06.2010

Ajahn Brahm: So I've had a request for a talk for this evening. It's a very worthwhile request.
They were looking in the, the library of talks, either on the internet or in the library for
a talk to help one of their friends with depression. And even though I thought I'd talked about
that subject before, maybe I haven't devoted a whole talk to that subject. So for the sake
of people now and in the future, this evening's talk will be on the Buddhist attitude towards
It is a worthwhile topic because as everybody knows that depression is one of the great
diseases in our modern world. It causes a great deal of suffering and many of us will
meet the depression either personally or one of our loved ones in the course of our life.
And it's also well known that the Buddhist attitudes are very effective in countering
the problems of depression.
You only need to mention that our former premier Geoff Gallop when he resigned because of depression
at the height of his political fame and ability, he actually came to see me and he credits
Buddhist teachings and eastern philosophy as getting him through his depression.
And so that you know we do have the goods. So what are those goods which actually heal
and help with peoples' depression. Well first of all, because I've given talks on depression
before or at least mentioned it, a psychiatrist did pull me up to say, and I'm going to mention
this at the very beginning of this talk, that there are severe forms of depression. I'm
talking about very clinical bad cases of depression which should be treated by a qualified doctor
first of all. The sorts of depression which I'm talking about this evening are those ones
which are not so severe as to totally incapacitate you.
However, the other types of depression which one still has most of one's mental faculties,
one can get out and about but one still has this deep sense of greyness to one's life
called depression. So if it is severe please go and see a doctor. But if it's moderate,
mild, or to prevent it happening in the first place, please listen to what I'm about to
And contemplating this before I came in here, I could sort of see like three major causes
of depression in our world. First, and especially in our modern world, it does seem that depression
is a modern sickness, it didn't seem to have so much incidence in the past and I think
one of the reasons is, is because the inherent negativity and fault finding in our society.
So that's one of the first things I'm going to talk about, to how to counteract negativity
and fault finding. And secondly it is a direct consequence of the amount of craving and desires
we have in our modern world. We tend to think we need so much more, both materially and
socially than maybe in the past. You know, we've lost the sense of respecting simplicity.
And lastly, and more profoundly, just because of some of the nature of existence can be
very depressing and it's this last particular aspect which very easily responds to what
you just did a few minutes ago in meditation.
So there's the three parts of this talk. The negativity and fault finding. The over...the
over indulgence in cravings. And also something more profound about the nature of life itself.
But the first one is the first part which I often talk about and Buddhists often help
with saying that a lot of the problem with depression is because of an inherent negativity
and fault finding which is in our modern society.
You look at your life that when you are at school people are always judging you and often
negatively. Not everyone can come top of the class, not everybody can sort of get one of
these medals and everybody else tends to think they are a loser.
Not everyone can find a nice relationship with the boy or the girl that they love and
so even at that time when you're searching for a partner in life it's just so hard to
get what you think is the perfect partner and again people in relationships thinks they're
And in life you try to get a job, you try to do well in your career, you try to get
on in the world and people are pushing you and sometimes they ask you, you know, you're
40 50 years of age, what are you doing, you're sort know you're serving burgers
in MacDonald's is that all you're doing, you're a failure, you're a loser. Isn't it the case
that people are just so critical and want to put you down even though you may be able
to serve the best veggie burgers in the whole of the MacDonald's chains of restaurants.
But what does that mean. It means that there's so much negativity in our world, always people
pointing out the faults, pointing out your faults and what happens when you get married,
well you have a nice relationship for the first couple of years yeah people love each
other then they start pointing out the faults.
There's one of those great stories that a person who got married and used to say as
the father in-law took the the father-in-law took his new son-in-law
aside, so you probably love my, my daughter very much. Yes I've just married her, she's
beautiful, she's charming, she's wonderful, even the way she puts her finger in her ear
to get the wax out is charming. And he said that's what it's like when you get married,
everything you do is just loveable.
And the father-in-law said but in one or two years time you'll start to see the faults
and defects in my daughter but please son-in-law always remember this, always remember if my
daughter did not have those faults to begin with, she'd have married someone much better
than you. [LAUGHTER]
And that's actually a very profound thing you're saying there because look you know
how can you expect to get a perfect partner when you're not perfect. So isn't it the case
because we're so fault finding that's one of the reasons why relationships have a difficult
road, why it's so tough to keep a partner because we're always finding faults with them
and they're finding faults with you. You know what that does, that sucks, that takes all
the happiness and joy out of marriage.
So where is all this negativity and fault finding coming from. It's actually's
brainwashed into us since we're very young. At school, in the playground, you know going
out together, we're just so fault finding to the point that people start to believe
all that negative input to their brain. I'm not beautiful enough, I'm not charming enough,
I'm not intelligent enough. I'm not this enough. Until we eventually believe it and of course
that's a huge amount of depression which comes up because we are not good enough.
I still remember this when I first came to Perth the very first year this thirteen year
old girl came to see me. Her father organised a meeting, she wanted counselling, she'd been
to all the other psychologists, psychiatrists or whatever in Perth and this was the last
resort to go and see a Buddhist monk. They must have been desperate in those days to
come see a Buddhist monk. Because we didn't have much of a reputation and I asked her
what's your problem and she took a long time to get it out of her cause you know when people
really feel they have a big problem and they just don't want to share it with you especially
a thirteen or fourteen year old young girl.
And eventually I got it out of her. She said, looking down at the floor feeling so embarrassed,
she said 'my nose is too big'. Now you know, you girls you know that, you know where she's
coming from, that to her every time she looked in the mirror she saw her nose and it was
too big.
I tried to use like a scientific approach to her problem, you know I mentally I measured
her nose and I've seen many noses in my life and I measured it in my mind and I told her,
lady that your nose is pretty average. It's not the most beautiful nose, it's certainly
not the most ugly nose, its just a nose, it's average ok. But she wouldn't accept that for
her it was the biggest problem because it was right in front of her face.
I didn't, I didn't actually help her, but she helped me to understand the negativity
of fault finding. You can see a nose and you exaggerate it simply because you're looking
for faults.
It is that nature of our human mind when it hasn't been proper trained to always see what's
wrong in things, rather than what is right. And that attitude causes a lot of depression.
I'm gonna have to ask you to excuse me those who come here every week for the last ten
or twenty years, many of you have heard these stories before but because this is a talk
on depression and many people are gonna hear this for the first time. One of the classic
stories is that story of the two bad bricks in the wall. On Tuesday night I was in Brisbane,
first time I've been to Brisbane to give talks, and one of the people there in question time
he said Ajahn Brahm I've read that story, I've heard it many times, can you please tell
it again...I just wanna hear it live. [LAUGHTER]
So I told that story and it's a deep story, simple but it actually points out what I'm
talking about. The story of the two bad bricks in the wall, twenty six years ago, twenty
seven years ago when we moved to Serpentine to build that monastery down there we had
no money, we were broke, and because... we owed money for the land, there were no buildings
on that property. So I had to learn how to build. And I was theoretical physicist before,
ok, in my head doing sums all day. Now I had to get out there and get my hands dirty and
mix concrete and lay bricks and put on a roof and do plumbing. Everything we did.
And even to this day, if any of you going into that main hall in our monastery, I am
the builder. My name is on the building license for that. And it's still standing so that's
pretty good. [LAUGHTER]
So in particular, this story I had to learn how to lay bricks. Laying bricks was not a
simple thing to do, it may look easy but it's so hard to get everything level. But, as most
people would be I was a perfectionist. I had to make sure that brick was perfectly level
before I went onto the next one. Sometimes one corner was high, you'd knock it down and
another corner would go up. You knock that corner down then it would go out of line.
You knock it back into line thinking it was finished, you notice one of the corners was
high again.
It was just one of those jobs which, where you couldn't get everything in the right place
but you kept on trying until you got it. It took a long time but it didn't matter cause
I wasn't being paid. So I could take however long I wanted.
And when I finished that wall, that first brick wall, like anybody else you were proud,
finished, you stood back to look at it and admire it, and it was only then when it was
finished I noticed that two bricks were crooked. All the other bricks were straight, two bricks
were crooked. So what would you do? What I did was try and scrape the mortar out so I
could reset the bricks so they could be perfect. But the mortar was hard, you couldn't scrape
it out. And the other monk who was with me at the time, Ajahn Jagaro, I asked him look
can we afford, can we please afford some dynamite so I blow it up and start again? Bulldozer
would do, push it over. Because...that spoiled the whole wall. Those two bad bricks, they
ruined the whole thing.
But we couldn't, I was stuck with it, we were too poor to do anything with it. So for three
months, every time I went passed that wall I saw my mistakes and I felt so sad. I'd stuffed
up. And the worst thing about stuffing up when you're building everybody could see it,
you can't hide it. It's a big wall, out there in the open. So, every time there was a visitor,
I would actually volunteer to take them around so I could, you know, take them somewhere
else so they wouldn't see my mistakes. At night time I'd have nightmares about that
wall. I would, I'd dream of it, because I'd really made a big mistake and everybody could
see it. And it was three months, roughly, I'm not quite sure it's a long time ago now,
about three months somebody else was with me and they saw that wall and they said that's
a beautiful wall. And I just couldn't believe what I'd heard because for three months I'd
been suffering so much with that wall and they said it's a beautiful wall.
My first reaction was to ask them are you visually impaired, are you blind, did you
leave your glasses in the car? Can't you see those two bad bricks, the crooked ones. And
what they said next just changed much of the way I look at life and stopped a lot of inherent
depression in myself. What they said was yes I can see the two bad bricks, but I can also
see the nine hundred and ninety eight good bricks as well. And that really hit me, because
I realised for three months I was blind. All I ever saw was my two mistakes and I just
could not see all the beautiful perfect bricks which I had laid. And when that guy told me
what about the nine hundred and ninety eight good bricks that was the first time in three
months that I could actually see the bricks above, below, to the left and the right of
my two mistakes. And I had to agree with the fellow, it was a beautiful wall, once I could
see the whole picture.
And I realised why is it our psychology, where do we get this from, that we just see our
two mistakes and we become blind to everything else we've ever done. Why every other part
of that relationship, that life, that project we just see one or two mistakes and that totally
obsesses us to the point where I wanted to destroy that wall, I wanted to blow it up.
Now can you understand what depression comes from? A lot of times, mistakes happen in life,
tragedies occur, a loved one dies, you get cancer, you lose your job, lose everything
on the stock market. One day you're prime minister, the next day you're not. [LAUGHTER]
So you can see it's very easy to get depressed IF all you see is just that one event, that
one or two bad bricks. So how do you overcome that fault finding and negativity. Fault finding
and negativity is just being obsessed with what is wrong and being totally blind to anything
else except the faults. And then you want to destroy. You see that happening in relationships,
girls and boys they come along, and they just see what's wrong in their partner. The things
they do wrong, the mistakes they've made, and they're just being blind to everything
The classic tale was when I was teaching in Malaysia, and somebody asked me this question
at the end of the talk. I have found out this morning my husband has lied to me. My husband
has lied. I can't trust him anymore. Should I get divorced? She asked me whether she should
get divorced. Quick I asked her what are you doing at this university. She was a lecturer
on mathematics. So I saw an opportunity to answer her question, I asked how long have
you been married, she said three years. I said let's do some statistics. Three years
is maybe one thousand days. Lets say for the sake of this argument, let's assume that on
average throughout your three years of marriage, your husband has said maybe twenty things
to you every day, on average, which could be right, which could be wrong. So he's said
twenty thousand statements to you since you've been married and now he's lied for the first
time. The quantum probability theory on his past record, the next time he opens his mouth
there is a twenty thousand to one chance he's telling the truth. What do you mean you can't
trust him?
Isn't that pretty good odds, twenty thousand to one? If every time a politician opened
their mouth with twenty thousand to one chance they're telling the truth, I'd vote for them,
wouldn't you? They'd be trust worthy. But you can see what we've pointed out, that why
is it that one lie, a real lie, they'd lied, why is that given so much prominence that
everything else is totally forgotten and ignored? This is the stupidity of our human being which
is just so fault finding and negative it hasn't got a balanced perspective on life. That lady
wanted to destroy her marriage. Once I told her that story they stayed together. It's
the same with you, you make one mistake, life makes one mistake. If you make one mistake
is that worth killing yourself for? You know a lot of suicides happen because of see just
two bad bricks in the wall, you wanna kill yourself. You can't see the nine hundred and
ninety eight good bricks. That story tells you what's going on. And anyway, I can't resist
adding the beautiful ending to that story of the two bad bricks. Once when I was teaching
in Cancer Support Association over in Cottesloe, they're still over there. Teaching...teaching
that story because sometimes going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy can really
cause a lot of depression. So I told that and yeah you got cancer but there's many other
things happening in your life. Look at all the parts of the body which haven't got cancer.
There's two bad bricks there, two bad tumours, what about the other parts which are beautiful,
which are healthy? Look at that, it actually takes away a lot of fear.
And anyway I told that, one of these builders came up afterwards and he said Ajahn Brahm
please don't be upset you made two mistakes when you're laying bricks, professional builders
do the same, he said. But then he said I'll tell you a secret, and I've told his secret
to millions of people...internationally. He said...don't tell me your secrets, they'll
be on YouTube next day...[LAUGHTER]. He said, in the building industry where we make a mistake
like that we call it a feature. We call it a feature and we charge our clients an extra
few thousand dollars for it. [LAUGHTER] So those of you who've got features in your house,
they've probably started off as mistakes.
And I love that because this actually takes what we'd normally be negative about and realising
that that's the feature of your partner and of yourself, and that's what makes them loveable.
If they were so perfect they'd just be impossible to love, there'd be no real meaning to that
love. So it's their imperfection, their features, if you look upon it as a feature, it makes
loving them more valuable. So that's the first story of overcoming depression, by realising
that you're just seeing two bad bricks in the wall. You need someone to point out what
else is happening in your life, in your body, in your relationship. You realise you see
the big picture and it's not so negative any more. Even just the other thing about negativity
which is one of the stories which I tell more often probably than any other story, and that
is, is why people they look upon their past and they get so negative about something which
happened to you. You know, you might get depressed because you got pinged by the police today
for speeding. You might get depressed because, you know, you've lost your job today. You
may get depressed because this week, you know, that your partner sort of dumped you. And
why is it people get depressed like that?
And I'll tell you why. The two chicken farmers story. My famous, favourite story and the
reason why I keep repeating this is because people need to know this, so they don't suffer
so much. Two chickens farmers, the first chicken farmer went into the shed early in the morning
to collect the produce from the night before. Took in the basket and filled the basket full
of chicken shit and he left the eggs in the shed to rot and he brought the shit back into
the house, stunk the whole house out, he was a very dumb chicken farmer. There's a meaning
to this story so stay with me. Second chicken farmer went into the shed with a basket and
he put eggs in the basket and he left shit in the shed because it would become valuable
fertilizer later on. But you don't bring it into the house with you, you bring the eggs
back into the house so he could make an omelette for his family and sell the rest of the eggs
in the market for cash. That's a smart chicken farmer, that's what you're supposed to do.
And the moral of that story, and this was told by Ajahn Chah, he said when you collect
the produce of your past and bring it into your present, what do you bring with you?
When you collect what's done today or this week, what do you bring home with you? Are
you shit collectors or egg collectors, and you know what you are, you're all shit collectors
mostly. [LAUGHTER]
You're negative, when things happen to you, you got pinged by the police, that's what
you tell your partner. Oh terrible day at work, this happened and that happened. You
have a relationship what do you remember about what happened in your relationship? The thing,
the time your partner just, you know, let you down, the time your friend just stood
you up, the time they didn't ring, the time they forgot.
Isn't that just collecting the faults of life? Collecting the shit? And that particular simile
meant, sort of look, what went wrong in life, leave that alone, let that rot in the past,
all the mistakes, all the tragedies, all the things which went wrong. Why do we carry that
around into our present? This is radical for many people, even when people like you suffer
the death of a loved one, it might be your daughter, your son. Why do you put that in
your basket and carry that around day after day, month after month, year after year? Why
is it that people just can't let grief go? They're shit collectors.
Now this is part of your personality and you need someone to really give you a kick up
the backside and this is why I mention the shit to really make this a hard teaching.
You need to hear this to realise this is what I'm doing. So why not just let that rot in
the past, the pain, the difficulties, the disappointments and instead carry the happy
moments you've had.
I mention that in the story about my father when he died. Instead of remembering his death,
I caught his life like a concert. At the end of a concert I never cried, I never felt sad
when the concert was over, because I remembered the concert, not the ending. And the same
way that when a loved one has died and they're no longer there for you, why do you remember
what's been taken away, why can't you remember what you've had, all those wonderful years
you've had together with your beautiful wife, with your great father, that this child has
actually come into your life for six weeks, and you've been able to love them and they've
met you, they've come, they've visited you. Why not remember that instead of the tragedy
of their death?
Why not collect the eggs and keep the eggs, rather than the dung and the poo?
Now when you see what you're doing, now you can understand why people do get depressed,
because they tend to, tend to incline towards the faults, towards the negative and they
collect that. And look if you collect too much shit anyone would get depressed, and
people think life sucks, life is terrible, life is awful, look what's happened to me.
And all you're seeing is a part of your life, you're seeing the two bad bricks of your past
and that's what you're carrying into your present and into your future. Instead of seeing
all the other nine hundred and ninety eight good bricks from your past.
And if you look, and if you look with a, with a fair mind, an open mind, you'll find that
just about everybody in this world, hardly any exceptions to this, there's nine hundred
and ninety eight good bricks to every two bad bricks. The beautiful, happy, successful
moments of your life far outweigh the faults and problems of things which go wrong. The
problem is though we just take the good stuff for granted, we don't collect it, we don't
cherish it. Instead we just cherish what goes wrong and the faults. This is our nature,
we have to change that nature if we're to overcome the depression. So please don't you
be a shit collector. Just make a determination, I'm going to leave that in the past. You can
do this and for anybody who keeps telling me no you've got to learn from the mistakes
of the past, no that does not work. Ask any professional psychologist, you learn much
more from the successes of the past not the mistakes.
Look, for example your relationship, your marriage, if you keep remembering what went
wrong in your relationship you know you're on the, the way to divorce, separation. Cause
what you do, you sort of start blaming, your fault, no it's your fault. You just make it
worse. But what happens if you let those thoughts go and you remember all the beautiful times
when the relationship was a wonderful time, the great moments you had together. What does
that do? That means you appreciate the relationship, you appreciate the partner and you will actually
learn what works. And you'll repeat what works. And if you had a nice time together, decided
just to go off together to Broome or somewhere just for the weekend, you had a great time.
If you remember that you'll do it again. You learn from successes much more than you'll
ever learn from mistakes. And also you avoid this terrible trap of depression.
However there is painful times in life. You know there is times where the person has just
died, you have lost your job, you are sick, you've just been told that your biopsy results
have come through and you have got a cancer. But there's another of the great stories which
Buddhism helps with, the great story of the Emperor's ring. This too will pass. And that
just solves so many depressions because you can allow it to go, you don't keep it.
That particular story of the Emperor's ring, there was a young man became an Emperor and
every time his kingdom was going well he would hold parties and celebrations. Every time
things were going bad in his kingdom, economy down, sort of credit crunch, people just upset
at his tax reforms or whatever, every time, every time things were going difficult for
him, he'd just stay in his room and get angry and depressed. He'd sulk. And eventually his
advisers had to try and teach him what to do. And you can't...these people in power,
you can't actually tell them directly, because once you get into power you get arrogant.
You have to actually use psychology to teach people a lesson. Especially like an Emperor.
So the ministers were wise enough to know how they could help their Emperor without
telling him directly what he was doing wrong. They presented him with a ring, a gold ring,
which was very simple except for the words which were engraved on the outside - "This
too will pass".
Now I've told this story for many years and actually one of you, don't know if you're
here this evening, and they actually came up and they actually went to the jeweller
and they got a ring like that and they actually did engrave those words around their ring
so they could remember it too. The Emperor's Ring, they actually exist in Perth. At least
one person has one.
And they gave this ring to the Emperor to wear on all occasions so when things were
going wrong he'd look at the ring - this too will pass. And just knowing it will pass,
reminding yourself of that obvious truth, means you never get so depressed.
And I've told that to many prisoners in jail, especially when they first go into jail. And
that's just so humiliating, it's one of the most humiliating times of a person's life,
they're a prisoner, they're in jail, they've been publicly humiliated, they've done a crime,
and they're wearing this green, and they're treated just like with no human rights, subservient
to the prison officers. It's one of the most awful moments of your life. And it is terrible,
look it will pass. You know, two years, five years, ten years, the time will come when
you'll walk out of that jail. And the time will come you look back on that experience
way in the past, it's gone, its finished, bear with it, it will pass. And you know it
does pass.
The radiation therapy, the chemotherapy, it does pass, the sickness it pass, the grief,
the tears, they do pass. You know it's gonna pass. So remembering that takes away
a lot of the pain. Knowing it's not gonna last. But the best part of that story is,
that Emperor would look at that ring during the good times, the prosperous times as well.
This too will pass. Now this was the brilliant part of that story, it meant when things were
going well, when you have a beautiful relationship with your partner, when you're healthy, things
are going well in your life, the economy is prospering, your football team is winning,
when that happens remember - this too will pass.
That's not being negative or depressed. What that means is actually when things are going
well you never take them for granted. You've got this beautiful relationship with a great
person, you don't take them for granted, you work your butt off, to look after that relationship,
to cherish it, to care for it. You really work hard to make sure that prosperity lasts
as much as it could...can. Because one of the problems with failure, people take it
for granted. They don't put effort or care or love into their relationship.
Sometimes that's what happens when people get married, they get that ring on their finger,
the wedding ring, and they think right that's it now, we've committed we don't have to work.
And you know that's just the start of the work, you always have to work. Never take
anything for granted. It will pass and you keep working hard. And that way the prosperous
times lasted longer than ever, which is another way of overcoming depression. Remember, this
too will pass. Simple but just so powerful.
The next little story of how to overcome depression, it was, why is it that just whenever we are
criticised we hear it straight away. When we're praised we just dismiss it. Which causes
us what we actually eat, you know what we eat in our mind, what we actually hear. We
hear junk food all the time. Depression, depressive stuff, criticism, the things you do wrong.
Praise which is healthy food for the mind we just reject it all the time.
I think I told this story a couple of weeks ago, or three weeks ago, when I got the John
Curtin medal in 2004. I had to give an acceptance speech. When I gave that acceptance speech,
I said, and some of you were there at the time you may remember this, I said I'm quite
surprised I've got this award. I never expected it and I'm sure there are many other people
in our community who work much harder than I do who deserve it much more than me. And
anyway I couldn't get this without all these other people behind me, people like the committee
of the BSWA Buddhist Society, my fellow monks who look after me, all of you...I couldn't
have done this by myself so really I don't really deserve it but thank you anyway. And
that was the sort of speech which I gave.
One year later I thought well people come to my medal ceremony I should go to another
person's ceremony, it's like karma, you know what you get you should give. So I went to
next year's ceremony when it was Professor Joske. He was the head haematologist at St
Charles Gairdner Hospital and the reason why he'd got the John Curtin Medal for that year
was that he had seen that being a haematologist that people who were going into Charlie Gairdner's
Hospital for chemotherapy, radiation therapy, were getting top class treatment but they
were walking out of that hospital without any care.
So what he told us was that he decided to kick out a few people from the rooms. And
these rooms in a hospital they're just, they;re like gold dust. He used his authority to kick
out a few people and he turned it into the Brownes Alternative Therapy Centre, where
you can get reiki, homoeopathy, foot massage, anything weird you can get it in that place.
[Laughter]. And sponsored by Brownes Dairy. And when he did this, all of his peers thought
you were going crazy, you were going a bit troppo, because all this sort of stuff was
not really recognised by mainstream medicine and here was a big professor who was putting
his reputation on the line. So that anybody who had radiation therapy or chemotherapy
could go there afterwards and get some reiki or get a massage free of charge.
And I knew what was happening, I know the way the mind works. I don't care whether reiki
works or homoeopathy works or foot massage works or not but I do know that someone is
caring for you. The one on one person just, just pressing your feet with care for half
an hour. That works. Just compassion and kindness, someone actually being with you, looking after
you. When you have massage you're in the moment, you're giving compassion, I said in meditation
that heals, I know that. So I thought, that guy is so sharp and so wise and of course
he was mentioning that already the research had come through, it was actually making a
significant improvement in people's health. It was working.
So when I heard what he did I thought my goodness what a, what a hero, what a courageous man,
standing his ground for something he believed in and actually getting it working. And actually
stopping a huge amount of suffering with people who've got cancers. And when he got up to
accept his award he said, well there are other people in the community who deserve it much
more than I do. I'm not sure, quite sure why you chose me and I couldn't have done this
without all the other people who helped me. And I recognised it, it was pretty much the
same speech I said the year before. [LAUGHTER] As everybody does when they receive a reward.
Someone praises you and gives you an award and what do you do, you say I don't deserve
it, maybe there's other people who deserve it more than me, and I couldn't do this if
it wasn't for my parents, or my partner, or my friends.
And I realised my mistake there. Look a lot of people actually investigated, and they
looked to what I was doing and they decided yes I deserve it and I was actually saying
you're wrong, you're lying. Same with Joske, and he did deserve it, it was obvious. So
the next time I ever get an award, when I give my speech the first words I will say
will be thank you I deserve this. [LAUGHTER] Why are you laughing? [LAUGHTER] You're laughing
because it's not done is it. You know, someone gives you an award and you say I deserve it,
that's just really just out of left field, you're not supposed to do that and that is
the problem.
We've just refused to accept praise and rewards, we just push it aside, every time. So look
the next time someone tells you, you did a marvellous act today, you did really great
work, say thank you yes I deserve it. Next time your husband says oh thank you that was
a delicious meal darling, say thank you, it was, I deserve it.
Now when you do that you're actually gonna stop a lot of depression. But when someone
criticises you, you were late picking me up today, oh yeah that's true I'm sorry, why
is it we always receive criticism straight away? Over in Sydney in May I was at a conference
listening to one of the Buddhists over there, a great sort of er psychologist, psychiatrist,
Eng Kong Tan and he was actually saying research shows that if you're gonna praise someone
you have to spend fifteen seconds praising them before it actually gets in. Fifteen whole
seconds and then it will actually be received. Criticism one second it goes straight in.
It's true. Which is why that if you're going to be praising your child or maybe praising
your wife, don't just say oh thank you darling you're a wonderful wife, no you've gotta say
thank you darling you're a wonderful wife, you're a great cook, you're so charming, I'm
very happy that I've managed to find you and that managed lucky you fell in love
with me, and you're such a charming person and we have such a wonderful time together,
fifteen seconds might go in. [LAUGHTER]
And it's actually true, you try that, you know it's true. Now is it quite clear where
depression comes from? You just don't receive praise, all you receive is criticism, it goes
straight in. So if we wanna sort of stop depression, for goodness sake, when someone praises you,
compliments you or gives you a medal, please receive it immediately. You do deserve it.
If your partner says thank you for being you, don't think that they're speaking rubbish,
don't just demean their intelligence. Say thank you darling, yes you're right, I deserve
that. And have your partner also receive it. And then when praise is not dismissed you
may have more of it in our marriage, may have more of it in our office. Because when you
dismiss these things, someone, you praise someone and they just throw it back at you,
of course you're just discouraging praise. When you're discouraging praise you're discouraging
mutual appreciation. You're actually discouraging love. When you discourage love, what's left?
This terrible negativity, fault-finding, pointing out peoples' faults, and I feel I'm terrible
and I must be the worst monk ever since the time of the Buddha, I'm really terrible, I'm
awful. And if you keep thinking like that, of course you'll get depressed.
So this is actually where we're actually healing depression by just changing our...way we look
at things. And getting that positive and receiving positive, receiving praise, looking at the
nine hundred and ninety eight good bricks in the wall. And this too will pass. This
actually works and collecting the eggs not the shit from the past.
I did also mention that sometimes we get depressed because just what we want in life is way too
much, is crazy stuff. One of the experiences I had as a kid, no not as a kid, I was a school
teacher, twenty two, just before I went off to Thailand to become a monk, and this is
very apt right now because this was World Cup in 1972, 73? Must have been 72. 74? It
was World Cup, I don't know. Anyway, around that time. I will never forget this, it was
a qualifying match, England versus Poland. Remember I was English. We were watching it
on the TV. England only needed to draw to go through to the finals. And it was a close
match, they were winning 1 - 0 and at the last moment, Poland scored. And England got
knocked out. There was a match, it was a good match, exciting and I enjoyed it. Next day
I went to school, all the kids, there were nine hundred kids in that school, and all
the staff were all looking down at the floor. You know kids are usually, you know teenagers
are usually sometimes naughty in class, this day there was no discipline problems at all
because they just couldn't bear to be naughty, they were just so depressed. And I thought
it's a bloomin' football match, what are you getting depressed about, it's only soccer,
why are you going to spoil a whole day about that?
The reason is because people just have far too many expectations and desires. When we
desire so much, what actually happens is, I can actually see, it's a stupid desire,
asking from the world what it can never give you. Australia will never win the World Cup.
[LAUGHTER] Come on now be practical about this. [LAUGHTER] When I say things like that
people get shocked but it's obvious isn't it, its true. So asking from the world what
it never give us, and then what happens when we ask, you know, you're gonna die, you're
gonna get old, you're gonna get sick, it's just the nature of this world. You know your
husband is gonna sort of argue with you, your wife is gonna sort of you know drive you crazy
sometimes, that's what marriage is like. So don't ask from a relationship what it can
never give you, because when you ask what life can never give you what happens next
is you get frustrated.
And when life 'so forth' disappoints you, you know who you blame. You don't really blame
your partner, you don't blame your boss, you blame you. People actually think they're a
failure because their marriage never worked, because they got sacked from work, because
their team never won. Even, you're not even playing on the pitch, you're a supporter,
why do you take responsibility and feel sad about it? The supporters take blame, they
didn't cheer loud enough or whatever, I'm not sure, but it's amazing to see that psychology
where we take the blame of failure on ourselves. We get depressed.
So actually once you realise what desire actually does, please don't desire what the world will
never give you. Keep your desires, you know, in the parameters of practicality of possibility,
of what you know you can achieve, you know what's obvious within in your grasp, don't
reach too far. But when people do reach too far the other thing that happens they get
this frustration, but because of our society is a you can do it society, you're just not
wise enough, you're not trying hard enough, go to an Anthony Robbins seminar, yes, YOU
can be rich! [LAUGHTER] YOU can get the person of your dreams, just put it in your mind,
think about it, visualise it, and don't give up, have faith in your dreams and you will
reach them! It's so much crap isn't it [LAUGHTER] You know, be honest about it.
But it's not just that, it's actually so dangerous, it causes so much depression. It's actually
dangerous, because what happens that people they actually try even harder. They get frustrated
they try harder. And they get angry. So many angry people in this world. Why do they get
angry? Apparently that's what poor old Kevin Rudd's fault. He was really trying hard, had
so much expectations, got frustrated, got terribly angry with himself and with his staff
and his friends.
After anger is another stage. You get angry, angry, angry, and that takes up so much energy,
the next stage is depression. What's the point. You lose all your energy, you lose all your
hope, you tried, you pushed yourself and you think it's your fault. You didn't sort of
do the right thing, you made the wrong choices, and that's another form of depression, all
come because you just reached too far, strived too much and thought that you could achieve
these things when you weren't really working within the limitations of real life.
And I know that, sometimes I know that sort of I give a talk on Friday night, sometimes
they're gonna be really good ones, sometimes bad, you can't make them all good ones. Sometimes
you tell jokes and people really get it, and sometimes they just miss the whole joke. Just
like you do sometimes. [Laughter] And that's just life isn't it, you can't do anything,
so that when you actually work within the parameters of life, and you're wise enough
to know what you can achieve, what life can give you, what it can't, and you don't have
any stupid desires, these obsessive goals, which actually...they actually just, they
crucify you, give you so much pain and suffering, and you just get angry and keep pushing until
you just give up and get depressed.
So in Buddhism we say look what do you really want in life anyway, what's your goal in life?
I mean you don't, we all know, I don't know how many times you say this you don't need
to have the million dollars to be happy. You know, I'm one of the examples of that, I've
got absolutely nothing, and I'm a pretty happy guy, come and watch me, just don't get really
upset. You don't need to have a beautiful partner, I've got no partner, I'm celibate.
And for those people who say that celibacy is the biggiest sexual deviation...I think
someone actually said that, who was, it was, who was it now? They told me the other day.
Freud. Freud actually said there's only one sexual deviation and that's celibacy. Uh oh
[LAUGHTER] That's me. But I'm going to form a new society, celibate rights. [LAUGHTER]
And I'm going to be marching in the next gay and lesbian pride, because gay and lesbians
have got their rights now, the celibates, we're the ones who are suffering, we're the
ones who are being discriminated against. [LAUGHTER] So it's celibate rights.
Sometimes people say it's unnatural to be celibate And they said that same as gays,
it's unnatural to be gay. And now they say it's unnatural to be celibate and I say no,
no, I'm demanding my right to be celibate. [LAUGHTER] But anyhow, how did I get into
that anyway, I forget now. what you demand in life, please put that into, to proper perspective so you don't
demand too much. But the last part of, and that actually gets rid of a lot of depression,
so you don't need, thats right, you don't need to have these things to be peaceful and
happy. You should know that by now, you've been coming here long enough. So get the message,
all of these cravings and desires, you don't have to win the match, just enjoy the game.
It's obvious. You don't have to sort of, er, get the promotion. You get the promotion - more
stress. I keep on saying you never have enough money, doesn't matter how much you go up the
corporate ladder, there's never enough money for you, you know that. So, you know, why
just work so hard for the promotion? Just work so hard for enjoyment, fulfilment, not
sort-of promotions. So you're actually doing it for happiness, you're not doing it for
status. Do it like that and you can achieve happiness. Status? Who wants that?
But the last part of this is perhaps the most profound. And that is just like life sometimes
does go wrong, it's not perfect, so don't expect this life just to be all wonderful,
beautiful, things always going right and everything going your...your way. There'll be many many
times when things do go wrong, many times when your loved ones do die and it's sad.
And many times when you know, you do lose on the stock market, it's sad. There's many
times when you do get expelled from the monastery where you grew up in, it's sad, that's with
the Bhikkhunis. There'll be many many times when you do miss your flight, it's sad, but
that's life.
Life isn't meant to be totally perfect so we accept there will be depressing moments
in life, moments of disappointment, but we understand and accept that as part of life.
We don't make anything worse of it. One of my favourite pictures of my teacher Ajahn
Chah which I have in my room, my office, in Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine. It's Ajahn
Chah with his hands up, with a big smile on his face. He's imitating a famous statue in
a monastery in the south of Thailand, and in that statue there is the inscription underneath.
This monk just blissed out in ecstasy and the inscription says 'Joy at last to know
there's no happiness in the world.'
Oh and that is just so profound! And so helpful too. Joy at last to know there's no happiness
in the world in the sense you're never gonna be always happy and that sometimes you'll
get sad. Joy at last to know there's nothing wrong with you if you get upset. Joy at last
to know there's nothing wrong with you if you cry. Joy at last to know you can be you.
Oh what a relief. And it's just so hard being somebody else, it's so hard just you know
living up to society's expectations on what you should be, on what you should do and how
you should speak. You can't cry and you can't laugh, and you can't, you can't be in life.
So that was actually saying joy at last to know that you can actually cry, that you can
be happy, that you can smile, that you can slip over, that you can make a fool of yourself.
Joy at last to know there's no perfect perpetual happiness in this world. And that is joy,
and that is the real happiness. Now once you understand that, you understand how one of
the greatest ways of getting through depression. Joy at last there's no happiness in this world
so you stop trying to be anything different than you are. Which means you make peace with
yourself, which means you let go, which means you just sit here, not trying to meditate,
not trying to get anywhere, just being.
That's why this art of meditation is not trying to get somewhere, you're not trying to be
something different than you are, not having this great idea of...of you know, spiritual
experiences and seeing the Buddha in golden light coming towards you and teaching you
the meaning of the universe so everything is perfect and you're enlightened for ever
after. All of those sort of fantasies that's not what meditation is about.
We don't meditate to try to gain something, to achieve anything. We meditate to let go
of things and in particular we let go of that craving, of that wanting, to be somewhere
where we're not. I often say that the root cause of suffering is being here and wanting
to be somewhere else. If you want to be somewhere else other than where you are, that's called
suffering and how are you going to overcome that problem? Trying to get somewhere else
is endless, you've spent all your life going places, anywhere but being here, being you.
The end of suffering is where I am that's where I wanna be. Letting go.
If we can do things like that 'where I am is where I want to be', you're sitting here
in meditation, getting incredibly peaceful, you find that all the cause of this negativity
which causes depression, all the causes just trying to go somewhere, get somewhere, be
something, if you let that one go, you stay home. Whoever you are, that's who you are.
Tired, restless, sleepy, brilliant, stupid, we all go through these stages, this too will
pass. Just be who you are. Then you'll find you have incredible peace and energy and clarity
and brightness. You discover that perhaps the most fundamental cause of depression is
the fact that you deprive your mind, your heart, of energy, cause you're so busy doing
things, going places, you never enjoy where you are.
Another favourite saying of mine, every time...this is money, every time you want more money,
you cannot enjoy what you already have. Take away money. Every time you want something
else, you can't enjoy what you have right now because the wanting takes you away, takes
you away from enjoying this moment, having to work hard to strive, to push yourself,
to suffer thinking that yeah when I get that thing then I'll be happy. But all your desires,
all your cravings will always be unfaithful to you. They promise you happiness but as
soon as you get them you want something else. It's what I call unfaithful, craving is unfaithful,
promises you something but never delivers, so you want something else. Always moving.
Understanding that, you understand that where I am is where I want to be. If I'm wanting
something I can't enjoy what I already have. So enjoy what you already have. Please enjoy
your partner, please enjoy your little temple, please enjoy this talk, please enjoy you,
please enjoy this weather. If you want it to be different, you are suffering.
We learned that in our meditation practice just to leave things alone, to let things
be. Once you can do this in meditation you find you have all the peace and happiness
you could ever want. Then you try and do that in life, it just happens. You learn it here,
then you practice it out there. This is like a gym, where you learn how to lift weights
and run on these machines to get fit. But here you're learning how to let go, how to
be, not to fight, and then you find you have all the happiness and peace you ever want
in the world.
You also find that the energy of your mind, spare energy, comes from stillness. The more
you do, the more you strive, the more you wear your brain down. It's what Ajahn Chah
used to say. Never understood it until you really got into your meditation. If you want
to have a powerful body, exercise it, if you want to have a powerful mind, keep it still,
stop doing things. You do that and your mind gets more and more energy, dullness disappears.
You get so much energy the depression just cannot, cannot, sort of exist. Knowing that
the brightness, the brilliance, the energy, the happiness, which always comes with energy,
knowing that you realise that one of the greatest causes of depression is peoples' brain has
been worked too hard, so you've got no energy left.
And what do people do when they get depressed? They try and exert energy, try to force themselves
out of the depression, and that gets them spiralling down. The more you try, the more
you're using up the little amount of energy you do have so you've got even less, you go
down down down down. So one of the great ways of overcoming that depression, let it be,
stop fighting, make peace with your depression, open the door of your heart to being depressed
and see what happens. When you stop fighting, energy starts to come back. You've got a natural
source of energy, now you're not wasting it, getting negative about being negative. Leave
it alone, let it be, and you'll find energy comes back, energy brings happiness and clarity
and the depression like a fog lifts from your heart. This is the deepest way, when you really
know how to meditate. But please don't meditate with force, don't strive, don't struggle,
that makes it worse. Let it go, let it be.
It's because that monks and nuns have been meditating for years know how to do this,
we can just let go of things so easily, which means when life goes wrong, things suck, that's
fine, it's just life. Joy at last to know there's no happiness in this world, whoo!
With things like that you get peace, you get energy, your mind gets happy, which means
that when everybody else is sad and distressed, you will always have a smile on your face.
Those are the ways overcoming depression.
They're very powerful, which is why British National Health Service, their research arm,
the National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence, they call it Nice, they missed
out the H I don't know why, in the acronym. When they did research some years ago to find
out the best way of treatment of, of uh depression, they found from the clinical trial, the most
effective way, the way which worked the very best, was meditation. Hopefully you know why,
but not meditation which forces, a meditation which makes peace, which allows energy to
come back. With that energy, joy and happiness. And that's how to overcome meditation...ah
how to overcome depression. [LAUGHTER] Not meditation. How to overcome depression, so
thank you for listening! Hope you enjoyed it.
Ok, so in that talk I gave a few old stories, a few old, uh, things which you've read before,
but I wanted to put it all in one talk. So any comments or questions about the talk this
evening? Yes?
Audience member: So what wall has the two bad bricks in Bodhinyana?
I think it's, it's an interesting question because you know I, I wrote that story a long
time ago and then people ask where is the wall? And I actually, I had to go looking
for it, because I'd totally forgot it. And it was the case that at the time it was such
a big thing for me, but then when I realised ah there's 998 good bricks in the wall I forgot
about those two bricks and I forgot where they were. I think they're in the monks' toilets.
[LAUGHTER] Cause that was actually the first building we did, so it must have been in there
somewhere. But anyway, because that's such a famous story now, one of these days I'm
gonna get sort of a brick layer and put like in the front of the monastery just so people
can get their photograph taken by my two bad bricks [LAUGHTER] and actually just to make
one there with two really crooked bricks so people can see them...looks like a tourist
attraction. But it's a powerful story because it's actually helped so many people. It works.
So any other questions anybody has...? Ah yes in the back there.
Second audience member: It was a really good talk tonight. Congratulations.
Ajahn Brahm: I deserve that. [LAUGHTER] [CLAPPING] And that was a very nice thing you said.
Second audience member: Thank you very much.
Ajahn Brahm: [LAUGHTER] Very good. See doesn't that make you happy? Yes? Go on...
Second audience member: When I've found someone who is depressed that may be a friend or an
acquaintance, I find it very difficult to know what to do. Would you have any suggestions?
Ajahn Brahm: This is a common question, you say that when you meet a friend who is very
depressed you don't know really what to do. And whenever you're in a situation like that,
number one please don't have plans, please don't have like a book, you know, which is
what I'm supposed to do. Because all of that, I call that knowledge, all the ideas of what
you're supposed to do, how you're supposed to treat this, actually stops you being sensitive.
So the best thing to do in any situation, I've done this for so many years now, when
someone comes up and they're in a really difficult situation, and I have had no training, I just
completely let go, make my mind blank, I don't remember what I'm supposed to do or what worked
in the past, I just let all of that go, come into the present moment, put a bit of loving
kindness, compassion in there, and I trust in the presence and kindness. With that I'm
sensitive enough. So sometimes they're depressed, and, you know, the wrong thing to do to try
talking to them, sometimes just an arm around their shoulder, but sometimes an arm around
their shoulder and they might punch you, so you're really sensitive. And that sensitivity
and that kindness that's what works the best.
And then see what happens. Ideas come up, words come out and sometimes, I don't know
where they came from. As long as I'm silent, as long as I'm kind, as long as I don't you
know try and repeat what worked last time, or remember sort of the instructions in the
book, then it usually works. And that happens in all, all situations and cases. So always,
and this is an old saying of mine, it's just never allow knowledge to stand in the way
of truth. Cause knowledge is what, is what you're supposed to do, what's in the book,
how you've been trained, and truth is actually what's right in front of you right now. And
there's this huge amount of difference there. So just be in that moment, be with that person,
and you actually feel what needs to be done. I don't know what that is, just happens, comes
You got a question, yeah?
Third audience member [hard to hear]: Depression is not [...] something just for certain people,
anyone can get this right?
Ajahn Brahm: Yes everyone gets depression from big depressions to small depressions,
from time to time in their life, it's part of life.
Third audience member [hard to hear]: would it be like [...] if you give food to your
mind you're sort-of keeping your mind healthy, as if you give food to your body and keep
your body healthy?
Ajahn Brahm: Ok yes I think you're saying, uh, just again for the tape, that my depression
is almost like a mental starvation, a mental sickness, a mental dis-ease. And I think it's
very true there and you're saying like your body if it has good food, good exercise, it
becomes healthy, it doesn't get so sick. But even if you have good food and you exercise,
you still get coughs and colds and sicknesses from time to time, that's just the nature
of the body.
It's the same with the nature of the mind, if you give it good food and exercise the
mind, you know meditation is one of the best exercises, it still sometimes has depressions,
that's what I'm saying that happiness at at last to know there's no happiness, no perfect
happiness in this world. So just accept this. But when you do practice or learn some of
these strategies from Buddhism, you find that, you know, depression hardly comes at all and
if it does come it's just so mild, you know exactly what to do, just leave it alone. Enjoy
your depression, you can have a day off work. [LAUGHTER] You can sit in bed and get your
partner to feed you...and get all these people coming round 'oh I've heard you're depressed'
and then they're nice and kind to you. [LAUGHTER] So if you ever do get depressed please milk
it for all it's worth. [LAUGHTER]
Another audience member [hard to hear]: [...] last year I had depression and certainly just recently
you were very good to me, you didn't tell me get over it, just get over it. You just
being there for me was good. [...]
Ajahn Brahm: Great.. That's right, yes, a very good thing there, if you tell someone
please get over it, then people feel more guilty and they have to strive more and they
get worse, they get deeper in there. But just being with people, telling them a joke - the
depression joke. Many of you may have heard this before but it's the joke which actually
is about depression, it's about the painter in Perth.
He's quite actually a well known painter, but he was on his motorbike and had a crash,
had to go to hospital, they had to amputate his hand. It was the very hand he used for
painting. And when you have injuries like that, many people, you know, get depressed,
so that when he was, you know, got released from hospital he had psychiatrists and counsellors,
but he was just playing along with them. He realised without being able to paint his life
had no meaning. So he said at first opportunity he would kill himself.
So he went to St George's Terrace, went on one of those big buildings, went out onto
the balcony and was about to throw himself off, kill himself, when he saw a man with
no arms at all, no arms at all and he was actually dancing down St George's Terrace.
Dancing for joy. And it was one of those occasions he thought look I've only lost a hand, that
guy down there's got no arms and he's dancing. He said, why do I want to kill myself? So
he got off from the balcony, he got into the elevator, they go really down fast, he managed
to sort of run after this guy to thank him, he hugged him. And he said look thank you
thank you thank you, I was about to jump off this ledge and kill myself cause I've lost
one hand. You've lost both arms and you're just so happy, I saw you dancing for joy,
tell me your secret. And the man said, Sir I wasn't dancing for joy, I was just trying
to scratch my bum. [LAUGHTER] That's the only way if you've got no arms. [LAUGHTER]
Ok I think that's a great [LAUGHTER] a great time to actually end this evening's talk on
depression [LAUGHTER] so you'll all go out with a smile on your face.