Recollections of Ajahn Brahm
The first time I met Ajahn Brahm, I was still quite new to Buddhism and had no idea of who he was, or what a privilege it was to be in his presence. I was living and serving at Birken Forest Monastery in Canada, and Ajahn Brahm came for a brief visit as part of the promotion tour for ‘Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?’ (aka “Opening the Door of Your Heart”). Birken had ordered a boxload of the book so that everyone could get a signed copy, but the books did not arrive in time. So we each brought a copy of ‘The Basic Method of Meditation’ and Ajahn Brahm signed those.
As he signed my copy, Ajahn Brahm said something to me that made me open my eyes very wide and think, “Here’s someone special!” I had been working with the idea that even if I didn’t get enlightened in this lifetime, I could practice to be the very best human being I could be“ and the mantra I used to support that aspiration was “Going out in a blaze of glory”. It was as if Ajahn Brahm picked those words out of my head and repeated them aloud to me. (It was only years later that I learned that this is one of his similes for the arahant: a meteor blazing through the sky, then gone forever.)
A few years later, a friend came to me in a state of high excitement and enthusiasm, and read aloud some passages from “Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond”. I was attracted, and read the whole book through. By this time I had a good grounding in basic Buddhism, and was ready for something more. So I kept looking, and I found a CD of Rains Retreat talks by Ajahn Brahm. What a gold mine of treasures! As I listened to them, my heart leaped to the higher Dhamma. “Here is someone who is telling it like it really is!” was my grateful feeling. I listened to those talks again and again, and learned to do basic audio editing so that I could snip out key teachings and listen to them over and over.
I found that whatever difficulty I was facing, Ajahn Brahm had already given advice on just that point in a Dhamma talk. At first I used to look through the titles of the talks I had, to choose something that seemed suitable. But I soon learned to trust what I call “the deva of the iPod shuffle”. I select all the Ajahn Brahm Dhamma talks on my iPod, and hit the shuffle icon, almost always the talk that comes up first, addresses my needs perfectly!
I also discovered Ajahn Brahm’s on-line sutta study talks, and learned how to read the suttas which had previously seemed too difficult.
As my practice developed, I began to explore the devotional side of saddhā and developed a ‘many bows’ practice: 3 to Buddha, Dhamma, Saṇgha; 3 to Ajahn Brahm; 3 to other teachers; 3 to myself (past lives, this life pre-Buddhism, this-life with the Dhamma). For Ajahn Brahm, it is:
Thank you, Ajahn Brahm, voice and face of the Ariyan saṇgha.
Thank you, Ajahn Brahm, teacher extraordinaire: intelligent, articulate, teaching from personal wisdom and realization.
Thank you, Ajahn Brahm, kalyÄá¹‡amitta par excellence: for Bodhinyana, shining star in the constellation of monasteries; for your presence and example; for teaching the deeper Dhamma to lay disciples as well as monastics.
In 2013 I attended a 9-day retreat at JhÄna Grove and spent the Rains Retreat at Bodhinyana. THAT was a special time!
I remember how Ajahn Brahm started interviews by asking ‘How can I serve you today?’
And it was such a privilege to hear the teachings in person, both the Wednesday night Dhamma talks, and especially the Saturday night ‘Word of the Buddha’ classes, which were in the early stages of ‘Brahmification’. I loved the way Ajahn sought for the right word, experimenting and changing until it felt â€œjust rightâ€. The opportunity to ask questions, and to hear the answers to others’ questions, was very precious and fruitful as well.
In 2015, I was present during Ajahn Brahm’s fundraising tour for Dhammdharini bhikkhunī monastery in California. After one dÄna meal, as Ajahn Brahm sat answering questions, he lifted his water glass to drink, found it empty, set it down again, and went on answering questions. I made my way through the crowd, got a glass of water, and went to set it by his side, knowing that water does not need to be formally offered to a bhikkhu. But he noticed me, paused in what he was saying, gave me his full attention for a few moments, received it from my hands, and said ‘Thank you. That was very perceptive of you’.
To this day, after 16 years of living and serving in monasteries, that is still the high point of my monastic service ‘career’.
Astrologically, I am a Leo myself, though I do not resonate with the traditional Leo charismatic, outgoing, ‘leader of the herd’ energy, which is one of Ajahn Brahm’s amazing and wonderful qualities. So it warmed my heart to hear that Leo’s spiritual job is ‘to shine so brightly with your own inner light that all around see reflected back to them the highest and best in themselves.’ This, too, is an amazing and wonderful quality of Ajahn Brahm!
In summary, I offer my heart-felt thanks to Ajahn Brahm for opening up the Dhamma for me in so many ways, for inspiring my practice, and for guiding my life.
Sādhu, sādhu, sādhu!
with gratitude, Linda