When Ajahn Brahm was still a young monk in Thailand, he enjoyed a period of what is known in Thai as tudong, a lifestyle of wandering on foot in search of places conducive for meditation. Tudong is often undertaken by forest monks to challenge and test themselves after an initial period of training in a monastery.
As he was criss-crossing the country, Ajahn Brahm would often ask the locals for suitable places to stay. An abbot at a monastery where he had been staying recommended a special cave as his next meditation stop. There was only one problem. According to the locals, the cave was haunted by a malevolent ghost, and as a result no monks wanted to stay there. For Ajahn Brahm, however, this was a bonus, because it meant he would have the cave all to himself. Moreover, the prospect of meeting a ghost excited him. Whilst he was still a student at Cambridge University, he had been on a number of ghost-hunting expeditions with the Society for Psychical Research, but he had never yet had a proper encounter. Now he saw another opportunity!
The villagers in the area were at first reluctant to show Ajahn Brahm the cave. They were terrified of this haunted place and warned him not to go. Apparently, a monk had died in that very cave. When Ajahn Brahm insisted, however, the villagers finally took him there. But since the ghost was expected to appear after dark and the sun was about to set, they all left in a hurry, leaving Ajahn Brahm all by himself.
The cave was beautiful. It was secluded and peaceful, the perfect place for meditation. Ajahn Brahm went about halfway in, prepared his seat and started meditating, whilst waiting for nightfall and the arrival of the ghost. He waited and waited, but nothing happened. Perhaps this “ghost” had been a mere figment of the locals’ imagination. Eventually, he decided there was little point waiting any longer, so he lay down to get some sleep.
As soon as Ajahn Brahm reclined, something started to happen. He heard the sound of running, which grew louder and louder. Whatever it was, it was coming towards him. Just as it was about to reach him, it came to a screeching halt. But the ghost had missed its chance. If you want to haunt someone, you have to know your victim and pick the right time. By now Ajahn Brahm was tired and fed up with waiting for the ghost. So he said to his visitor, “You’re too late. I’m tired. Just go away.” The ghost disappeared and Ajahn Brahm fell into a deep sleep.
Later, Ajahn Brahm discovered that deeper inside that cave lay the skeleton of a monk. Perhaps that monk had not been as keen on meeting ghosts as Ajahn Brahm had; perhaps he was literally scared to death!
As for Ajahn Brahm, it was just another experience. He knew that one need not be afraid of ghosts because they normally have neither the wish nor the power to harm you.