Sunday, April 11, 2010

You Really Disappoint Me!‏

This reminds me of an interesting story. The monk who took me to see Luang Por Chah was the same age as I was; he had been in the Thai Navy, and I had been in the American Navy during the Korean War. He could speak Pidgin English, and had been on tudong - wandering from Ubon province, where Ajahn Chah lived, to
Nong Khai where I was.

It was my first year as a novice monk and he was the first Thai monk I had met who could speak English, so I was delighted to have somebody to talk to.

He was also a very strict monk, adhering to every rule in the Vinaya. He would eat from his alms bowl and wore dark brown forest robes, whereas in the monastery where I lived, the monks wore orange-coloured robes; he really impressed me as an exemplary monk. He told me that I should go and stay with Ajahn Chah. So after I received bhikkhu ordination, my preceptor agreed that I could go with this monk to stay with Luang Por Chah.

But on the way I began to get fed up with this monk - who turned out to be a pain in the neck. He was forever fussing about things and condemning the other monks, saying that we were the very best. I could not take this incredible arrogance and conceit, and I hoped that Ajahn Chah would not be like him. I wondered what I was getting myself into.

When we arrived at Wat Pah Pong, I was relieved to find that Ajahn Chah was not like that.

The following year the monk, whose name was Sommai, disrobed and he became an alcoholic. The only thing that had kept him off alcohol had been the monastic life, so then he fell into alcoholism and became a really degenerate man with a terrible reputation in the province of Ubon. He became a tramp, a really pathetic case, and I felt a sense of disgust and aversion towards him.

Talking to Ajahn Chah one evening about it, he told me: 'You must always have kataññu (gratitude) towards Sommai, because he brought you here. No matter how badly he behaves or degenerate he becomes, you must always treat him like a wise teacher and express your gratitude. You are probably one of the really good things that has happened to him in his life, something he can be proud of; if you keep reminding him of this - in a good way, not in an intimidating way - then eventually he might want to change his ways.'

So Luang Por Chah encouraged me to seek out Sommai, talk to him in a friendly way and express my gratitude to him for taking me to Ajahn Chah.

It really was a beautiful thing to do. It would have been easy to look down on him and say, 'You really disappoint me. You used to be so critical of others and think you were such a good monk, and look at you now.'

We can feel indignant and disappointed at somebody for not living up to our expectations. But what Luang Por Chah was saying was: 'Don't be like that, it's a waste of time and harmful, but do what's really beautiful out of compassion.'

I saw Sommai in the early part of this year, degenerate as ever; I could not see any change in him. Yet whenever he sees me, it seems to have a good effect on him. He remembers that he was the one responsible for me coming to stay with Luang Por Chah - and that's a source of a few happy moments in his life. One feels quite glad to offer a few happy moments to a very unhappy person.

Extracted from: Gratitude to Parents, by Ajahn Sumedho


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