Few minutes of meditation, good way to start

Lanka Sunday Times, March 4, 2007

Kandy, Sri Lanka -- The visit of Ajahn Brahmawanso to Kandy was looked forward to by many people who were keen to hear him and learn something about meditation. He had two lectures in Peradeniya, on February 4, the first, in the morning at the Sri Subhodarama Bhikkhu Centre and in the afternoon at 2.30 at the Peradeniya University.

 << Ajahn Brahmavamso

The Subhodharama auditorium was packed with white-clad devotees. There was a serene and calm atmosphere, an ideal setting for a Dhamma talk. The Viharadhipathi Ven. Wattegama Dhammawasa conducted Ajahn Brahm and four other European bhikkhus to the hall. Seated cross-legged, he spoke for almost two and a half hours. A lively discussion followed. Many questions were asked, not only on meditation but on other topics of the Dhamma. These were answered with interesting anecdotes at times

"How come bhikkhus remember so many gathas and the Dhamma when I can't even remember what I had for breakfast today" asked one member of the audience. Replying, Ajahn Brahm stated that it was the best question for the day. There was a question on "how to control a boy who was addicted to drugs and becomes boisterous." Ajahn Brahm explained how he should be calmed.

Ajahn Brahm spoke of how he became interested in Buddhism when he was a schoolboy of 17 years after reading Buddhist books. Born in England, he studied Theoretical Physics at the Cambridge University to obtain his degree. He related an interesting experience he had during his final examinations. Ajahn Brahm stated that even if students had done well in the previous exams, the final one was crucial. "There was pressure from the family and it was a very stressful time for me and all other students."

He was not too happy with the way he had answered his paper in the morning. "I was thinking about it and the other students too were discussing how they had fared." Then suddenly he remembered that it was useless to think of what has already finished and as he knew meditation, he used the half hour break before his next paper to sit and meditate. "I walked into the hall smiling and relaxed and the other students were surprised at this attitude. They were so tensed and anxious. I sat and answered the paper and my results were very good." Therefore he advocates meditation when one is under stress.

"You don't have to meditate for long. Start with even five minutes," he says. When a question was asked on the correct posture when meditating, Ajahn Brahm stated "it should be a comfortable position. Don't strain yourself. Only when one does Anapaana (breathing in and out) meditation that one should sit straight and keep the body erect. In Australia, people sit on chairs to meditate as they are not used to sitting on the floor."

At the age of 23 years, he was ordained in Bangkok. For nine years he studied and trained in the tradition of forest meditation. His teacher was Ven. Ajahn Chah, a well known meditation teacher. "I had to go to very remote villages and it was very difficult. The villagers were very poor and they could not even offer 'dana' but at times they gave us at least a small bowl of rice. Sometimes we would not have a meal for a whole day."

In 1983, he was requested to establish a forest monastery near Perth in Western Australia. At present, Ajahn Brahm is the Abbot of the Bodhinyana Monastery.

Ajahn Brahm has authored many books on meditation some of which were on sale at Subodharamaya, brought by the Buddhist Publications Society. In his book the Basic Method of Meditation he states, "Meditation is the way to achieve letting go. In meditation one lets go of the complex world outside in order to reach the serene world inside. In all types of mysticism, in many traditions, this is known as the path to the pure and powerful mind. The experience of this pure mind, released from the world, is very wonderful and blissful."

A calm and settled mind is a happy one. The actual and real nature of things should be known. The Buddha has stated that all the good and the bad we do is through our mind. Therefore, the important thing is the thought process. One should let go. The mind should not agitate. The stress and strain of daily life is mainly because people want to achieve, amass wealth, do better than the other, which people think is happiness. The competition is too great now. They think of the future forgetting to live the present moment in a happy state of mind. One should cultivate the mind.

"At the beginning, one does not have to sit for hours in one place to meditate. You can meditate wherever you are. Spare five minutes, close your eyes and see the beautiful darkness letting go of all other thoughts. Concentrate on your breathing."

Ajahn Brahm spoke of "experiencing the nimitta and the jhana". In his book The Basic methods of Meditation it is stated "nimitta is achieved when one lets go of the body, thought and the five senses (including the awareness of the breath) so completely that only the beautiful nimitta remains." "If it is a jhana, it will last a long time."

At the conclusion of the discussion, Ven. Wattegama Dhammawasa thanked Mithra Wettimuny for arranging the visit of Ajahn Brahm. Wettimuny distributed a book free of charge - The Path to Liberation and Supreme Happines' as a gift of Dhamma.