Giving, Always Giving

For Ajahn Brahm, kindness is at the core of the spiritual life. Kindness and generosity are threads that run through his entire monastic life, stretching back all the way to his earliest days as a monk.

Ajahn Brahm actively seeks out opportunities to be kind, often in small and unusual ways. As a young monk at Wat Pa Nanachat, one day he promised one of his fellow monks to bring him a mug of tea before the early morning meditation meeting the next day. Since the meeting started at 3.30 a.m., he needed to get up at 2.30 to boil the water and prepare the tea. In a simple monastery like Wat Pa Nanachat, these tasks were quite involved, including the making of an actual fire. No wonder his fellow monk was surprised when Ajahn Brahm actually showed up at his kuṭi at 3.00 a.m., tea in hand. He had been sceptical about Ajahn Brahm making it, but Ajahn Brahm always did his best to keep his promises. He felt such little gestures of goodwill were good ways of showing care and compassion to his fellow monks.

Ajahn Brahm has continued in the same manner throughout his monastic life. Even as the abbot and by far the most senior monk of Bodhinyana Monastery, he still treats everyone with kindness and respect, regardless of their age or seniority. From holding the door for a junior monk to helping unload a car full of food donations, he is always on the lookout for ways to help out and participate in community life. He never sets himself above or apart from anyone else. Rather, he understands that harmony and a well-functioning community come from everyone working together with
kindness and care for each other.

Of course, his kindness also extends beyond the doors of his monastery, to the Buddhist lay community and indeed to anyone who crosses his path. On one occasion when he was visiting Christmas Island, he was approached by a couple who were extremely worried about their gravely ill baby. Ajahn Brahm gave them his old robe, saying, “Take this robe
and put it around the baby. It will improve its chances of pulling through the illness.” Many Buddhists will consider such a cloth to have special healing properties because of its long association with a highly esteemed monastic. The couple were immensely grateful. They did as told, and the baby recovered.

On another occasion, Ajahn Brahm gave special attention to a disciple in Hong Kong whose father was seriously ill with scleroderma, an autoimmune rheumatic disease. In spite of his hectic schedule, Ajahn Brahm took the time to visit the man and give him a blessing. Later, as he was leaving for the airport, he pulled out one of the very few personal
possessions he had with him, a woolly beanie, and asked his attendant to pass it on to the daughter of the sick man, saying, “Take this beanie and give it to his daughter. Tell her to put it on her father so he can feel the warmth and compassion of a good monk. That will support him through this difficult time.”

His disciple did just that, and her father wore the beanie both at home and in hospital. And although he died a few months later, the family remained forever grateful to Ajahn Brahm for this act of kindness. The beanie even went with the man into his grave so as to allow Ajahn Brahm’s care to comfort him even beyond this life.

Giving, caring and being compassionate are fundamental to the spiritual life. Spiritual maturity can be gauged by how deeply these qualities are embedded in one’s psyche.

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