Laughter is the Best Medicine

Four Ways of Letting Go | Ajahn Brahm | 09-04-2010

Okay, so as Dennis said, I just interrupted a meditation retreat down at our retreat centre, Jhana Grove, to come and give this talk this evening. The retreat finishes tomorrow evening so obviously my mind has been full of talks on meditation and so I thought I’d drag one of those talks out and recycle it today. Recycling is all the rage. But not just to recycle it, because it’s an interesting aspect of how not just to meditate but just how to let go of difficulties in your life. This is the talk on the four ways of letting go. This is straight from the Buddha’s teaching, the first teaching of the Buddha, it’s part of that teaching, but also it’s the case that number one, no matter whether you meditate or you don’t meditate, whether you’re a Buddhist, a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu or whatever, each one of us has from time to time to learn how to let go. Because sometimes, that not being able to let go, carrying around the bad memories of the past, the bad feelings of the present, the fears of the future, not being able to let them go, causes us so much pain and suffering, and not just us pain and suffering, it causes all the people who have to put up with us a lot a pain and suffering. So at the very least for the compassion of your family and the people you work with, please train your mind to be able to let go, to be peaceful and happy. So that’s one of the reasons that I decided to be happy, out of compassion for all the people who have to put up with me. That’s a very good reason. So you learn something in Buddhism called how to let go. By learning how to let go, it doesn’t mean you let go all the time and become a monk or a nun, even if you do become a monk or a nun, you still have to work hard, you have to keep your responsibilities, you can’t just let go all the time. But it’s a very beautiful part of your repertoire, that you know at any time, in any situation, you’ve got something to do which most of the other people can’t do. You just let things go and let things be. Simple things… it always surprises me, Why it is?… that someone hurts you, they cheat you, they let you down, they say terrible things about you, big time. Why can’t you just let it go? Because if you don’t let it go, that person continues to hurt you, continues to harm you. It’s a really weird thing, isn’t it? They’ve hurt you once and because you attach to it and carry it around they hurt you again and again and again and again. Every time you think of it they’re hurting you one more time. When you look at it that way, it’s totally unreasonable, illogical, one of most foolish things you could ever do, is to get angry at someone who hurt you ’cause when they hurt you and you get angry, they’re hurting you twice over. So someone hurts you, can’t do anything about it, let it go, it’s gone. You let it go and they can only ever hurt you once and then you let it go, so easy to do when you realize how you let these things go. Not only that, sometimes we have all these fears of the future. I don’t know some of you, probably, if you haven’t yet, one day you go to doctor and they say you’ve got breast cancer, you’ve got prostate cancer, you’ve got lung cancer, you’ve got some sort of cancer. There’s a whole variety of cancers now, just like the whole variety of muesli, when I was young you could only get one brand, so this is the choice you have these days. So… when you have any of these diseases what do you do? You worry yourself sick. You’re already sick enough and now you worry yourself sick even further. This is a totally daft and stupid thing to do. So why can’t you let go of the future, enjoy this moment. As I said, I actually never said that this evening, it’s strange I used to say this every week. In meditation where is your future made? When is the only time you can do anything about your future? Right now, this is the place your future, peace, health and happiness is being constructed. So every time you worry about your future… Uuuh, what’s going to happen to me? I’m going to die. You’re actually neglecting the place you could do something, which is right now. So if you can just make peace, be kind, be gentle, if you can let go of the future and the past and just be now, you’re gonna be a very healthy, happy, successful person. People sort of do bad things to you, just let it go. Why should I allow those people to control my happiness? Or as one of my favorite sayings goes… You know you get these calendars, used to get the calendars, we’ve run out of them… every year the Buddhist Society makes a calendar and they try and put some of Ajahn Brahm’s sayings on that calendar, and the one saying I like the most which never gets on that calendar is this one Why seek for revenge?… because you know that kamma will get the bastards anyway. I don’t know why that never gets on that calendar. It’s a good one, isn’t it? You don’t have to do anything, kamma will sort it out, leave it alone, you let it go. The trouble is we all know it’s a reasonable thing to let it go, it makes a lot of sense but you can’t do it. Which is why we teach the four ways of letting go. Instead of saying let go, how do you let go? Tell me how to let go. Now the Buddha is going to tell you how to let go, with the four ways of letting go. The first way of letting go, it was starting off with an old experience with my teacher Ajahn Chah, a long time ago, we were walking back from alms round and a great teacher, they always find an opportunity to, sort of you know, give you some teaching, but not these teachings with so many words and big concepts just simple down-to-earth teachings which once you hear, you think “Crikey, that’s really good,” and you remember it, and it changes much of your life. What he did on this occasion walking back, he picked up this stick, there’s forest all over the place, picked up a stick, turned around and says “Brahmavamso, is this heavy?” Is this heavy? [throws stick away]
Not now. I was very careful, I didn’t throw that too far, wonder what it’s gonna bust. It’s only heavy when you hold it. But if you let it go it’s got no weight at all. Profound, simple, and unforgettable. So what heavy things have you got in your life right now? Job, cancer, relationship problems, money problems. Is that heavy? It’s only heavy when you hold it. So why on earth can’t we let it go? Why can’t we throw it away? At the retreat I told all those people who are still worried about their family, worried about their job, to actually, to get a stick in the forest, in Jhana Grove and either get a pen or carve “my family” on the stick, look at that stick, that’s my family, and throw it as far as you possibly can. So you’re free for nine days. You can change that, you can put “my job” you can put, you know, “my husband,” “my wife,” “my kids,” “my life.” Throw it away. Because what that does, it gives you an understanding, that the first way of letting go is chucking things out. Because you live such complicated lives, you have so many things in your basket and that means you can not travel lightly on the journey of life. Imagine a big backpack. You see all these backpackers in Perth… I used to go backpacking, my backpack was really small, these days they have huge backpacks. Just wonder what they got in there. What do you actually need in there? Probably got their computer, we didn’t have computers in those days, just go to a box there’s a phone, if you wanna read that after that you have your own phone. But you were very light in those days. They get big backpacks, imagine you’ve got a big backpack on and it’s really heavy, it’s full of all these, not just clothes, but rocks, heavy granite rocks and you walk through life with this and you just don’t know how to take it off and put it down, you’re gonna get very tired, you’re gonna get very sick, and you’re gonna have no happiness at all, you’re gonna be so grumpy ’cause every moment of your life you’re exhausted. Do you feel exhausted, in your mind? Why? Because you’ve been carrying too many things in the backpack around your mind. So we actually look in that backpack. What can I throw away? This is the first way of letting go. See what you can jettison, see what you can throw away. It’s amazing, you can throw away many many more things then you could imagine and nothing goes wrong. If you throw away all this concern about your future and past actually nothing goes wrong. That’s the first big stone to get it out of your backpack and throw away. I don’t know about your history, has it been a good history or a bad history? I haven’t got a clue, ’cause I threw my stone out a long time ago. So you’re free of your past. The past is a prison, it’s a cell with an open door, you can walk out at any time you like. But a lot of times, just like people who have been in prison a long time, they’re just a bit afraid of leaving, they’ve been used to that prison cell, so much so it’s hard to walk out. But once they have the courage to let go of the past, just like the prisoner walking out for the first time. Freedom! Ahhh… I feel so good and so happy, this big burden this big pain, this big rock, I’ve let go of… isn’t that wonderful. So see if you can look at your past, even get a stick in the forest, write “my past” on it and throw it as far… or even better get a rock, spray paint “past” on it and throw it in the river and let it sink with no trace left behind. And then imagine how free you feel. You can do this, you can let go of these things. But when we don’t have the courage to let go, the first way of letting go, with throwing things away, is have someone convince you it can be done and it’s good to do. A lot of times we think we shouldn’t, a lot of times we think we can learn from the past, you don’t learn from the past, you actually get a lot of pain from the past. You learn much more from letting go of the past than you do from keeping the past. So we just allow it to disappear and as for the future… What might happen next? At the retreat people were telling me about 2012 when the world is going to end. The tectonic plates are gonna shift, there’s gonna be tsunamis, there’s gonna be earthquakes. So forget about having a mortgage, you don’t have to pay it off in another two years. Of course it’s not gonna end in two years’ time or whatever it is. You don’t think about that. In fact I saw in Indonesia, people were talking about it even in Indonesia, in the islands over there. I said, “Look, I volunteer my monastery and the whole Buddhist Society of Western Australia with all its assets, against your house. I’ll bet if the world ends you get our monastery and the Buddhist Society of Western Australia’s assets. If it doesn’t end we get your house.” No one took me up on it. Of course you don’t, that’s not much of a deal. But people are so afraid of the future. One thing I can guarantee you about your future… You know I can read futures just like Ajahn Chah used to do, I can predict, and I predict the future of Australia, and I tell you I won’t be wrong, the future of Australia is uncertain. Now that’s not just a joke, that actually shows you that you cannot know what’s going to happen next. Anytime in your life you don’t know what’s going to happen. Your life has been so surprising, it’s gone in directions you could never have predicted, each one of you. That’s just the uncertainty of our life, so let go of the future, throw it away. So what we’re doing is we’re letting go by throwing things out, see what we can jettison, see what we don’t really need on our journey. Then next thing you can do is throw away this complaining mind. Look… dogs are barking again, how many times do they bark, should we do something about these dogs? You can’t. You know, that’s what dogs do, they bark, that’s their nature, so throw away all this complaining. I’m finished now, you can stop barking, dogs. Same as your husband, sometimes you want to throw your husband away, that’s what husbands are like, that’s what they do, that’s what wives do, that’s what kids do. I was on these aircraft, many aircraft, flying all over Indonesia and they always have these kids. BAH BAH BAH… all the time in the aircraft. Sometimes I think, can we not open the door and throw them out? But I can’t do that ’cause I’m a compassionate monk. But instead of throwing the baby out, what you do is you throw your complaining out the window, stop complaining, let go of that. So I look at my mind, and you got this what we call fault-finding, complaining mind, you know what that type of mind is. That fault-finding, complaining mind can drive you nuts. There’s always something wrong. Buddhist Society… there’s always something wrong with this place. Like today we didn’t have the right tea and that’s just not good enough. If it’s not the right tea next week Dennis Sheppard, president, I’m not coming ever again. No, of course you don’t think like that, because that’s just the complaining negative mind and it doesn’t get you anywhere. Even if you do get the right tea, someone will drink it before I get to it, so who cares. So the point is just let go of your complaining mind, throw it out, has that ever got you anywhere? You look at that complaining mind, it just drives you nuts and makes you a really terrible person to live with. So if nothing else, you can say I don’t want this, literally throw it away. It’s as easy to do as that, just letting go of the negativity. Letting go of all this stupid thinking we do, not only the negative thinking, but even some of the positive thinking. ‘Cause we think far too much and that stops us getting any peace in life. Whenever you’re thinking about life you can’t enjoy life. You’re just listening to the commentary. You’re reading a book about life, the thoughts and ideas in your mind, you’re not really enjoying the real thing. That’s why there’s this old simile, it’s an old meditation story of Lao Tzu. Every evening he would go on a walk and he’d choose one of his disciples, only one could go on a walk with the great master. There was a golden rule, if you went on a walk with the great Taoist master you have to be quiet, you weren’t allowed to speak, not even one word. One day this young man was going on a walk with the master and they got to a ridge in mountains at sunset and it was one of these amazing gorgeous sunsets and the young man couldn’t help himself but say, “Wow, what a beautiful sunset.” He broke the rule. Lao Tzu turned around, went back to the monastery, would never allow that young man to go on a walk ever again. The young man’s friend pleaded for him, said “Look, it was only one sentence, give him a break, cut him some slack what’s the big deal anyway, of keeping silent?” And that’s when the master said this very profound explanation. He said, “When that young man said ‘what a beautiful sunset,’ he wasn’t watching the sunset anymore, he was only watching the words, he wasn’t watching the sunset, he was only watching the words.” Now that’s actually very deep. Every time you think “what a beautiful sunset,” you’re not watching anymore, you’re watching the words. And so much of us we just watch words, that’s all our life is, just words, it’s divorced from real life. We don’t feel, we don’t see, we don’t hear, we just live in what we think we hear, what we think we see, what we think we know. It’s a great thing to be able to throw out all that thinking and you get a peaceful life at last. You don’t have to do this all the time, just every now and again, learn how to throw it out. I told a story a long time ago about my mother’s mantel shelf. She’s an English woman, well she’s in a home now, she’s very old, but in her house like many English people’s house they had a fireplace, and above the fireplace they have a mantel shelf and on that mantel shelf they keep the knick-knacks, the mementos, the photographs and all the things which which bring back happy memories. And so that one day I had just been in Australia for a few years and I went to visit my mother, and so I brought her a gift, and what sort of gift do you bring? Someone gave me a stuffed kangaroo, you know a little fluffy toy, really cute. So I brought that back and gave it to my mother, and she liked it very much, and she put it on her mantel shelf. Next time I went over there someone managed to get me a koala and so I took that back, and she said “Oh, it’s so beautiful, everytime I see this I can remember you in Australia.” So she put it on her mantel shelf next to the kangaroo. The next time I managed to get a kookaburra, the time afterwards a platypus, and the fifth time I went, I managed to get a wombat. The trouble was the wombat was so big, she tried to put it on the mantel shelf and all the other ones fell off. She spent about an hour trying to balance it on her shelf and everything else fell off. I said, “Why don’t you throw those other things away?” She said, “Noooo, these are nice, they remind me of you.” You had so much rubbish on that shelf and I said, “Mother, this is like the person, they get one more thing in their head, they have a nervous breakdown, your mantel shelf’s having a nervous breakdown.” That’s what happens, we collect so many thoughts and so much stuff. So if that was my mantel shelf, everytime, if I got a kangaroo, I just put that on, everything else would be clear. The next time someone gave me something else, I’d throw that one away and get something new. So one thing at a time in your head. And then your mantel shelf inside your brain never, ever has a nervous breakdown. That’s what I always do, I have all these jobs which I’m supposed to do, and I’ve just been on this teaching tour of Indonesia, all over the place, and I’m also spiritual director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, look after the Nun’s Monastery at Dhammasara, spiritual adviser of the Buddhist Society of South Australia, spiritual advisor or patron or whatever of the Buddhist Society of Victoria, the director of Wat Buddha Dhamma in Sydney, spiritual patron of Bodhikusuma Meditation Centre, director of Brahm Education Centre in Singapore, spiritual patron of Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. What else am I doing? Oh yes, vice chairman of the Australian Sangha Association. Few other things, I’ve missed out a few, what is it? I forget now, anyway, I got all these jobs, but only do one at a time. So when I’m sort of here in this building I just put Buddhist Society of Western Australia on my mantel shelf and that’s all I am. And as soon as I leave, I throw that away and then I’m just teacher at Jhana Grove Meditation Retreat Centre, and that’s the only thing on my mantel shelf. And as soon as I leave that and go back to Bodhinayana Monastery, I throw that away and now I’m abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery. I just put one thing on my mantel shelf at a time, that’s why you’re sane and peaceful and happy. So throw things away and only keep one thing, the present moment, what’s happening now. That becomes the first way of letting go, learning to throw things out. And stop keeping so much, especially don’t keep the past or the future. Second way of letting go is just learning what freedom truly is. And this particular story is an anecdote when one of our monks, when I was too busy doing all these other things, we used to go teaching in prisons, but another monk started teaching in prison. When he started teaching in prison, this was in Casuarina Prison, at one of the top-security jails. After a while the prisoners there said “Can you stay back a bit longer, we want to sort of talk to you, just find out about you.” So he stayed back a little bit longer, they gave him a cup of tea and some chocolate now if you give a monk a cup of tea and chocolate, they’re gonna stay forever, so he stayed behind for a bit of tea and chocolate. They started asking him questions about life in a Buddhist monastery in the West. What do you guys do? Have you ever wondered what we do in our monastery? So he said, “Okay, the day in the life of a monk, we get up at four o’clock in the morning.” And just at that the prisoners were aghast. “Four o’clock in the morning! Even in prison, you don’t have to get up at that time.” And the monk he did actually make a qualification, he said, “Actually it’s voluntary, it’s optional, getting up at four o’clock in the morning,” which is true, it’s optional, you can always get up earlier, if you want to, that’s the option. “And then what do you do?,” and he told them, “We meditate.” They said, “Can’t you just watch the end of the late night movie?” He said, “No, we don’t have TVs.” “You don’t have TVs in the monastery, we have TVs in our cells in prison, that’s terrible. So what you do then, you have your breakfast?” We do have a breakfast at the monastery, we usually have just one cup of cereal in it and that’s about it, or you know someone, you know has his noodles, but it’s only one cup, that’s all. They said, “Wow, you know in Casuarina Jail we can have bacon, we have pancakes, we can have cereal, you have everything there, whatever you want.” And they said, “Why don’t you do that in the monastery?” “No, no, we only have a bit of cereal and that’s it.” “And then what do you do in the morning?” “And then we work hard at Bodhinyana Monastery.” We do these amazing chores, you know building, and even I do that, and if you go down to the retreat centre, we’re doing this ramp and I was spending two days cutting the bricks, it was a huge angle grinder, really heavy work, getting myself all dusty. I like some joining in when there’s any concrete work. Tell the story once with doing concrete work, when you do concrete work, even as a monk, you get it all splashed all over you. So you know just boys being boys, I’m still a boy you know, still just maybe a bit old to be a boy, but I still like getting myself all dirty. So I got all this concrete on top of me, as I was walking back to my hut to have a shower, I passed a Sri Lankan woman and she was in this really expensive sari, she was visiting the monastery. She came up to me and I’ll never forget this, she said, “Uh… I’ve come to see the abbot Ajahn Brahm.” I thought very quickly and I said, “Madam, if you go to the hall over there he’ll probably be there in about fifteen minutes.” That was enough time for me to go to my room, get a shower and get changed into some clean robes. So I went up to the hall, and there she was waiting, and I said, “Oh! I’m Ajahn Brahm,” you know she never recognized me. That’s how dirty I was. I gave her a nice talk, you know about the monastery and about Buddhism, what we’re doing here and she was really impressed, so just before she left she said, “You know you’ve got a really good monastery, are you’re a really good monk, but if you don’t mind me saying this, I saw this really dirty monk when I came here and I think you should do something about that.” I said, “I’ll talk to him later, Ma’am”. Which I did. So that’s actually how hard we work, and when the prisoners heard this, again they were really surprised, ’cause yeah, in prison you have to do jobs, but they take it real easy in those jails in Australia. They said, “They’ll never get us to work that hard.” They said “And then you have your lunch?” Yeah, we have our lunch, many of you have been to our monastery, we eat it out of a bowl, everything goes in one bowl. Sometimes it’s true you do get curry on spaghetti. No sorry, I got that wrong, you got custard on spaghetti. That’s right, you ever had custard on spaghetti? Why do you say “yuck” for, you’ve never eaten it, but actually you’re right, it is gross. Sometimes you have custard on spaghetti. I’ve had ice cream on curry, chocolate ice cream, yeah, that’s also yucky. ‘Cause you know, you put it in your bowl, and for me because I’m the senior monk I put it in the bowl myself and I give it to somebody to take up, ’cause that’s their duty. By the time, they’re not really careful, they just shake it all over the place, you know I put it in the right position when I start, by the time it gets up there it’s all over the place, but that’s life. And they were saying that even in prison, even when you go to solitary, you get a tray the custard is here, the spaghetti is over there, it’s separate compartments. “Don’t you have compartments in your bowl?” Have a look at our bowls, we don’t have separate compartments, it goes all over the place. They said, “That’s disgusting!” “So what you do in the afternoons?” He said, “We meditate.” “Can’t you sort of play some music, or sort of play a game of footie or something.” “No, we’re not allowed to play footie, we just meditate all afternoon.” They said, “Don’t you get bored?” “No, that’s what we’re supposed to do.” “So I suppose you hangout for dinner?” “Dinner? We don’t have dinner in our monasteries, we just eat in the morning time, there’s no dinner.” They said, “Well, even in prison they give you something to eat in the evening and you have snacks throughout the day, whatever you want. So what do you do in the evening then? You know, can you play cards play monopoly or something, pass the time?” He said “No, we can’t do that.” “Don’t tell us” they said, You meditate, don’t you?” “Yeah, of course we do.” “Oh God, that must be terrible. Then what time do you go to bed?” And the monk said, “Bed? Bed?… we don’t have beds, I sleep on the floor.” They were absolutely disgusted. Even in prison they put you in that little cot with the mattress on top, not in our monastery, I sleep on the floor. Anyway, the prisoners were actually really surprised. They were really surprised, but not only surprised, they felt sorry for this monk who had been visiting them, and this is true story, one of them was so upset that this man who they got to like was living in such a hard situation, one of them blurted out, “That’s terrible in your monastery, why don’t you come in here and stay with us instead?” And they had a point, it is actually much more comfortable in any prison in Western Australia than in Bodhinyana Monastery, or even in Dhammasara Nun’s Monastery. So why is it that people are trying to get out of jail, and they’re trying to break into our monastery, to stay there, waiting lists. That got me thinking, what’s the difference between our monastery and the prison? Prison is actually more comfortable, the monastery is much harsher. What’s the difference? The only difference is in a monastery people want to be there. In a prison, doesn’t matter how comfortable it is, people don’t want to be there, that’s the only difference. From that I worked out there are many prisons in life. I saw the many prisons I’ve made for myself, the many prisons that other people continue make for themselves, any place you don’t want to be, that’s your prison. If you don’t like this talk and think, “When’s it gonna end?,” this hall is your prison, you don’t wanna be here. If you’re in a relationship which you don’t like, your relationship is your prison, you don’t wanna be there. If you’re in a job which is not giving you any satisfaction, another prison for you. Even a body which is sick, and you don’t wanna be here, your body is now a prison. Any place you don’t wanna be is a prison. However there’s a very easy way to escape from those prisons you make in life, you don’t need to change your husband, your wife, you don’t need even to change your job, you don’t even need to get better with your sickness, all you need to do is to change your attitude and want to be here. When you want to be here, you’re free. Doesn’t matter sort of how painful, uncomfortable it is, as long as you want to be here then you’re free. That’s called contentment, that’s the second way of letting go, want to be here whatever here happens to be. That’s one of the most powerful attitudes, especially when you’re meditating, and also other times in your life. When your meditating, it doesn’t matter what you’re experiencing, you can be dull, sleepy, restless, thinking all sorts of weird things in your head but if you want to be here you feel peace and freedom. If you wanna be somewhere else you’ll always feel this tension and suffering. The great trick is, you don’t need to change anything except your attitude and want to be here. Not only when you’re meditating, there are many other times in your life, so you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you got no choice, it’s not gonna move faster because you get angry. So when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, want to be there, and if you want to be here it causes you no stress at all, you feel perfectly free and at ease and peace, in the traffic jams of your life. When you want to go somewhere and you can’t, the only thing that stress is, is “I want to be somewhere else, I don’t wanna be here.” Just like in a prison, if you want to be here, you’re free. There comes a time when you’re dying, you’re sick and in pain, and I’ve seen so many people struggle at that time, and it’s so sad and desperate to see, so when that’s you in your last moments of life, just all the struggle, it’s not going to get you anywhere, there’s no escape, you’re dying. So don’t make a prison of your body at the very end, instead, want to be there, if you want to be there you’re totally free. That’s the second way of letting go, want to be here. The other, third way of letting go, this all comes from the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, The Third Noble Truth, the Buddha said letting go of craving leads to enlightenment. I’ve already mentioned two of the ways he said to let go. The third way of letting go, it’s called giving. Not ordinary giving but giving expecting nothing back in return. In this hall here, this hall has been built for a long time, there’s no sign saying who gave this, there’s no names of the donors of this place. Even in our retreat centre which cost over five million, many people donated many, many small sums and big sums, but there’s not even one sign in that retreat centre opposite our monastery of who gave what. There’s a reason for that, because we encourage giving expecting nothing back in return, if you give donation and expect to have your name inscribed over the entrance of that hall which you donated, that’s not called giving, that’s called buying advertising rights, selling your name, that’s not real giving. So for us the way Buddha described it, it’s giving expecting nothing back in return. So what does that mean, you’re letting go. When you get married and have a relationship, are you giving or are you expecting something back in return? Are you really letting go? Too often we expect things back in return and that causes a huge amount of suffering in life, and our expectations never get realized. You’ll find that much of your life is expectations being frustrated, being thwarted, all the things that were promised to you when you were young, which are expected from life, how many of them have you reached and got? Mostly, very few. When you get married, when you get your job, when you get out in the workplace, when you go traveling, you have so many expectations, and the more expectations you have the less you can enjoy the trip which is your relationship or your life. If you can go into your relationship giving expecting nothing at all, see what happens, you’ll get a huge amount of fulfilment. Even when you meditate, those people who meditate expected to get something, they’re the ones who cause all the problems. If you want to get enlightened, if you want to get peace or if you want to get rid of your cancer, if you’re doing it to expect some thing, there’ll never be any peace for you. That’s why again quoting Ajahn Chah, he used to say, “You meditate not to get something, not to attain things, you meditate to let go.” It’s an act of giving expecting nothing back in return, of emptying, of letting go. It’s a beautiful way of living life. Whenever I’ve give any talks I don’t expect anything back in return and usually I don’t get anything, you know even this evening, not the right cup of tea, I don’t expect it anyway, who cares. So whenever you do anything, you don’t expect anything back. Sometimes people get quite surprised at that. There was somebody rang me up once from here, it was a Polish lady, actually I remember her, and she rang me up and said, “Are you giving a talk tonight?” I said, “Yeah, I’m given a talk tonight” here in this centre. She said, “How much do you have to pay to get in?” I said, “Nothing, you don’t have to pay anything to get in,” you all know that, and she stopped awhile and she said, “You don’t understand me, how much money do you have to pay to get through the door?” I said, “Madam, you don’t have to give any money to go through the door. You just come in and listen, if you don’t like it you go out again.” Then she paused again, she said, “LISTEN, how much dollar and cents do I have to cough up to come listen to your talk?” I said “Madam, you don’t have to cough up anything. You don’t have to pay any money to go in, you don’t have to pay any money to go out, we don’t give you sort of brochures and propaganda, you know, which would ask you money afterwards, it’s totally for free, just come in and listen and you go out again afterwards.” And then she paused, I always remember this pause because I knew that she was really surprised, and then she asked with utmost sincerity, “Well, what do you guys get out of this then?” She couldn’t believe that you can do something expecting nothing back in return, you just give. That becomes such a beautiful way of living a life, just to give expecting absolutely nothing back in return. Why? Because it’s just a joy to give. I think I mentioned a few weeks ago here, every morning when I’m having my breakfast the cat comes up to steal my milk. So you know usually I’ve got enough but sometimes I go without, at least I have half instead of the whole which I usually have. So the cat, so I give to the cat, do I get anything back in return for the cat? No, licks its thing, sniffs and goes away, never says “thank you”, not even a meow from the cat, you know what cats are like, so proud. But anyway who cares whether the cat lets me pat it or stroke it or whatever, I don’t care, I just love giving. So actually, you do give expecting nothing back in return, you give to your cats and dogs and other people. Sometimes mothers give to their kids, they just want to give, they’re not thinking of getting anything back in return. That’s a beautiful way of letting go. So why don’t you give to life, give all your kindness, your love, your energy to life, expecting nothing back in return and then you know what letting go is and what the spiritual life is all about. It’s not what I’m getting out of this, it’s what I can give. And of course I’ve given my whole life to this, that’s why I’m so rich, not materially, but with happiness and health and peace. That becomes the third way of letting go, giving, giving to your partner not expecting anything back in return, giving to life not expecting anything back in return, giving all your energy to this moment expecting nothing back. It’s called the third way of letting go, just no expectations. When you have no expectations life becomes so interesting, you’re not demanding anything, just life gives you so much, it usually gives you what you least expect. You have much more fun that way, you don’t anticipate things, all the gifts of life come as a great surprise, “I never expected that, isn’t that wonderful,” life becomes far more enjoyable that way. And the fourth way of letting go is called having the teflon mind, where nothing sticks to it. So you have this beautiful experience now, don’t try and take notes and try and remember what’s being said so you can make sure you act this way in the future, so you can be a better human being, you don’t need to try to remember these things, these things will stick in your mind anyway. So don’t try and collect things or allow things to stick to you, you have this beautiful moment, enjoy it now knowing it’s gonna go, so you can be free for the next moment to come. Then let that go too and all the happiness and the unhappiness of life never stick to you, which means that you can always be free for the next moment, not allowing the last moment to influence this one, you just flow through life, and again collecting no mementos, expecting nothing for the future. Someone says something wrong to you, it just goes right through you. As I say, why we have two ears? If you look very carefully, one says “in,” the other one says “out.” So that way we don’t need to keep anything, that way all of the, even the happy moments, we can let those go too, because be careful, if you keep the happy moments that gives you so much expectations, so much comparisons, it’s means you can’t enjoy the next moment. How to let go of all the moments, happy and sad moments of the past, so you got this mind, this body, this life to which nothing sticks, which means you can always enjoy whatever’s happening next, not allowing the past to stop you being free in the present. And that especially goes with all your knowledge and understanding, sometimes when we learn something, it sticks to us and it makes us so, if you don’t mind me saying, conceited, that we cannot face the reality of the present moment. People with too much knowledge can never understand the truth of now. That’s why, again, one of my other favorite sayings is, “Never allow knowledge to stand in the way of truth, never allow knowledge to stand in the way of truth.” Knowledge is all that you’ve learned, all you expect to be, which means when you expect something to be, when you know what it’s all about, it means then that blocks you from seeing the truth and the uniqueness of what’s happening right now. And too many people, even know too much about Buddhism, so they can never understand it, they can never understand the truth of this moment, what’s actually happening right now. They can never be at peace with this moment, they can never be free, they can never have real happiness no matter what happens to them in their life. Why? Because they always allow their knowledge to stand in the way of truth. So remember all the knowledge are just the sign posts, it’s just the directions, it’s not the real thing. The last simile an old simile but a great one. To understand what I mean by not allowing knowledge to stand in a way of truth, There was once a professor of philosophy here in Perth, Yeah … the experience is important, which we are now going to see with the simile of the professor and… Ahh, experience is past when it’s interpreted from the knowledge of your past, in other words you take the experience and you compare it with something else, which means it becomes limited by the past. To learn the words actually stand in the way of truth, that’s why that in meditation we learn how to be absolutely quiet, to feel and to know, that becomes the truth in the same way that the student of Lao Tzu could actually see… didn’t see the sunset, only saw the words, and that great Taoist master made a very good comment that it is the person if they wanna see the sunset they gotta put aside all the words, descriptions, the words, actually block the experience that’s it. Okay, back to the professor. There was a professor who of philosophy, in the university… whenever you mention a professor of philosophy in Buddhism they always get a bad rap, so if there are any professors over here, I do apologize, it’s just our tradition. But this professor of philosophy, He found out there was a new five-star restaurant opening in Perth, and he wanted to go there to test out the food, so he made an appointment, he rang up, there was a two-month waiting list, that’s how popular the restaurant was. And so two-month waiting list, he decided to book his place there anyway, and when he booked his place there, two months later, he walked up at the restaurant. And of course they wanted to see his ID, to make sure he’d really booked a place. And so they checked his ID and yes he was booked in. So he went in, the maitre d’ took him to his table, he sat down at the table and a waiter came, you know these really well-dressed waiters, and gave him the menu. And this menu was in thick parchment, and the menu was written in gold letters and calligraphy, even the menu was a work of art, as you would expect in an expensive restaurant, this is no fish and chip shop, this is a top-class five-star restaurant. So he looked at the menu and then he ate the menu and then he paid and left. Because the professor had no idea of the difference between the menu and the food. Do you get it? Too often the menu is one’s knowledge, and the food, what you eat, is the experience, which is why I said never allow knowledge to stand in the way of truth. So we let go of all of that, ’cause too many people say “But the Buddha said, but Jesus said, but the experts say, but the government says,” or whatever. So what? It’s interesting you know maybe sort of pointing you in the right direction, that’s what they said but what did they mean, where were they pointing to, and that’s the experience which you have. So by having a teflon mind you become this beautiful free mind which can actually see things as they are rather than see things as your told that they are. So learn how to be free, is all the ways of letting go. Little things, I was telling people at the retreat that some, I told the story, an example of this, in the nine years that I was living in northeast Thailand, this was a place where Western culture had not reached, the countries surrounding Thailand had been colonized but Thailand had escaped, and whatever Westerners went into Thailand, they were all in Bangkok, some in Chiang Mai, but the part of Thailand I was in, no Westerners had been there. And this is not exaggeration, I went to some villages in that place and I was the first Westerner the villagers had seen. I remember one occasion going on alms round in the morning, and I was the first white man they’d seen in the village, and so they were putting food in the bowl, and it’s a big bowl and but they were looking at me and all the food was falling outside, the dogs were eating it all, thank you very much, because I was the first Westerner they saw. But because of that it was like an indigenous culture which had not been tainted by the West and it was fascinating to observe that from inside, because I was a monk, as a monk you weren’t some sort of visitor, you had a place in that social hierarchy, you were in the middle of that social hierarchy, you were not an outsider so you were treated like a Thai, you were expected to behave like a Thai, and soon you became like a Thai, you saw it with Thai eyes. And one of the things you saw was totally unexpected, what I was saying at the retreat was in those nine years, the monastery I was staying most of the time was a cremation ground. So all the villagers in the local area used that place for the funerals. So we’d do the funeral, we’d see all the villagers, they’d come, bring their dead, we’d do all the chanting and the services, we’d see them that afternoon, that evening, the next day. And there was something very strange, there was no grief, they just didn’t cry, not just cry, they weren’t even sad when somebody died. This was not suppressing their grief because you saw them every day, they just, wasn’t there, it was a culture in which grief was absent and that really shocked me, and I was there nine years so this was no just, short visit, and I thought that was impossible because my learning had said that when you lose someone you love you have to have grief. The truth of the matter, there was no grief there. Can you see? And sometimes people say that’s impossible, it was there, can you see how people, they can’t see the truth because of their learning. Never allow your learning to block the truth. So a lot of times we have to let go, even our learning and our assumptions in order to see the truth, and that’s having what I call this teflon mind. Otherwise you’d have all these assumptions of who your husband is, who your enemies are, who your friends are, what life is all about, and that will block you seeing what’s really out there. And life is totally surprising, at least as far as I’m concerned, what I’ve seen in my life. Even like Indonesia, my trip to Indonesia, that’s where all the Muslim terrorists are, you know all the Bali bombers, they came from over there, but I had such a wonderful time with the Muslims, they came to all my talks, we had photos together, got interviewed and photographed in the Muslim newspapers. Even one Muslim family, they came to the airport, they just caught me in time, said “Oh, Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Brahm you must sign our book, it’s the best book we’ve ever had.” So this whole Muslim family in the veils and everything, me in the middle with the book, having a last photograph taken together. Isn’t that wonderful, when people of different religions can have so much fun together. Did you expect that? That was the truth. So a lot of the times when we think, “Oh, Muslims, they don’t like Buddhists,” that’s actually what stops us seeing the truth. So remember, just have a teflon mind, don’t allow these things to stick ’cause they’ll stop you from experiencing the truth. So these are four ways of letting go. And those four ways again are just throwing things away, I’m not talking about throwing your material possessions away but throwing those mental stuff which you keep, the past and the future, worried about the future and all this other stuff which you worry about, throw it out. And be simple, and be free, have few possessions, don’t carry so many rocks in the backpack on top of your mind. And number two is learning how to be content. It’s wonderful having mobile phones, isn’t that wonderful? So be content that it’s ringing, ’cause it’s gonna ring anyway, you can’t do anything about it, so be happy to be here. Actually very nice music, thank you so much, it’s very rare that monks hear music you know, because we’re not allowed to hear music, so it’s very wonderful to hear this, thank you so much. So be content and happy no matter what’s happening. Number three, is actually, whatever you do just give expecting nothing back in return, so I don’t expect thanks, so I don’t expect anything back, so whether you like this talk that’s your problem, I’ve just given my talk, I’ve done my duty and that’s it, so I don’t expect anything back in return, I just give ’cause I love giving, I love teaching, I love serving, I love being kind, and seeing what you need next. So that’s my joy, so thank you for giving me the chance to teach, that’s all I need, nothing back in return, and that’s beautiful ’cause then you’re free, with no expectations. And last of all, have a teflon mind, which nothing sticks, so don’t keep things especially your thoughts, even your knowledge, so you can be free. And then you understand what letting go is, and if you can do that from time to time in your life, you’ll find that most of the problems of life, you can overcome. There’s a time when you work hard, when you carry things, you do your duties and jobs. There has to be the time when you just put things down and let go. The problem is as Westerners living in a Western world, or as Asians living in a Western world, we all know about doing things, we’re very good at that, but what we don’t know is how to put things down, let go and rest. So that’s how to let go, the four ways of letting go, Thank you for listening.
[Applause] Thank you. You know I never expected that.

100 thoughts on “Four Ways of Letting Go | Ajahn Brahm | 09-04-2010

  1. One of the best videos I have ever watched in my life! Your talk has made me strong today to stick to my decision. I was not being able to completely get over my ex who cheated on me. Now I have thrown his thoughts away. I will never think of him, I will never unblock him to see if he is chatting with someone else at late night, I will completely delete himself from my mind as if he is totally dead for me. Your video has taught me to be free and detached from all the attachments which were causing me pain. Thank you so much. May God bless you.

  2. And those that give the most money are usually the ones that need it the least… what merit is there in that? Let it go.

  3. Wow. This really rang in my heart and exactly what I needed to hear today. What a blessing this monks speech are. …thank you for sharing it with us all.

  4. Buddha said 4 noble truths . 1. Suffering ; 2 . Cause of suffering [ Attachment ] ; 3. Methods to cure suffering [ 8 things to do to get enlightenment ] 4. State of No suffering [ Heaven ] … Mindfulness Meditation included in 3rd Noble truth. By practicing it , we can place our mind where we wanted to be. We can remove our attachment. By practicing mindfulness we gain power for let it go. By practicing mindfulness, we can practice Buddha philosophy of accepting the nature in automatic manner. The nature is everything is born to be die [ impermanence – A-nate-sa ] ; Nobody control this process [ A-nat-ta ] ; Anyone who control the process , he/she will suffer [Dote-Kha ]. Next step of mindfulness is look at your mind / awareness – whatever come up – try not to judge on it – try not to attach to it – just look on it – its process of comes and go . By practicing that way again and again , we can obtain "let it go nature " automatically when we face with everything that could excite our mind.. [email protected]

  5. "Oh, there goes a terrorist preparing to set off a bomb"… big deal because
    "Well, that's what terrorists do"
    "I'll just let karma take care of it"

    Apathy isn't conducive to survival or even thriving.

  6. This is helping me a lot ❤️. I’m angry to a certain person because what she did to me. I’m really angry, and it make me suffer more and more, bcs I thought it everyday… Thankyou ajahn bram, finally I can let go.. whatever she did, she’ll get her karma phala. I’m Balinese and I love your teachings 🙏🏽

  7. im Crist Buddha said he wanted to come his mother family should find my oldest son Michael branam Simmons in gold beach Oregon

  8. i have faith in Buddha religion you know secret you can see out gods sons eyes its how we spread the message all Lord's sons of man in control of all things tell Buddha when he comes it was Judah acting like demons bothered him pathetic men

  9. i got one in Miami i seen child playing with guns i clapped my hands his devil worshipper heart exploded. my bad thought he was demon

  10. he was taken to Jerusalem by king herm drove king herm crazy thinking about nailed to cross Daniel was nailed to cross too

  11. How many times do I let go of the pain, anguish, financial ruin? It's my adult child. I WANT to let go! I WANT to forgive! But he does it repeatedly and never admits or apologizes. So he walks back in my life and says he loves me, "let's just forget all those bad things!" I try. I've read, I've listened, studied the suttas. I really really really need advice and guidance.

  12. One of the smartest things I ever learned to do is to interrupt my own trail of thought. Whenever I get pessimistic, complain, judge, take something for granted, feel impatient or ripped off etc.. It's just a case of acknowledging it when you can, and over time, you notice it more and more. Once you notice you can remind yourself of why it's no good, and then you can get back to being in an awesome mindset. It's like a 3 second meditational reset button. It's up there with taking responsibility for situations, keeping productive and exploring and experiencing life with others in a social network/community, and having something worthy of dying for.

  13. Thanks for this talk. I found Buddhism in prison, I was stuck in a cycle of homelessness, addictions, crime and prison. While in there on my last sentence (which was the longest and most effective on my rehabilitation – I did 2.5 years) I met an amazing Buddhist chaplain who would travel to come see us. He brought a monk in once who was called (please forgive my mis-spelling because I know it is wrong) Venerable Ajahn Sumedo. I found books from Ajahn Chah and this became my outlet, my escape, and Buddhist education.

    I met my partner after being released, got housed and found stability in life, and never went back. It has ben almost 10 years since I have been arrested, committed a crime or been to prison, but time have been hard. We lost our baby boy Blake, he died during birth and we spiraled into addiction again, but we pulled through it.

    I haven't been a daily and devoted Buddhist but Buddhism has always stuck within me and has helped me out during difficult times of depression, anxiety, panic attacks and chronic worrying about everything

    I seem to be in a constant state of suffering and I can't just let go of it all so easily for some reason.

    Anyway this week marks the 2 year anniversary of the death of our little Blake and my head is a mess, I am a mess, my house is a mess, my relationship is ok but we are finding it hard, and this is why I found my way here, looking for some advice on how to process it all and overcome daily suffering.

    This talk really helped in some way

    Thank you x

  14. I am ignorant to Buddhism so forgive me if this is a stupid question or I have the wrong idea. He talks about giving and expecting nothing in return, which is great but
    Buddhists believe in karma right? So wouldn't they know that in a way they can expect kindness to come back to them?

  15. You will never get rid of your "self" via Buddhism. Of all the world religions it is the most self-centered with the exception of Satanism. I was a daily practicing Buddhist for 15 years amd ultimately realized that Buddhism leads in exactly the opposite direction from what it appears to teach. It is so cunningly clever. You really want to let go there is only one way; give yourself to Jesus. No other way can you honestly amd truly give your "self" away. If you are truly awake and selfless, there is no fear in this.

  16. 4 ways of letting go:
    1. Check heavy things you carry from past and though it away
    2. Be content. Change your attitude to : Be happy where you are
    3. Giving, expecting nothing in return, let go of expectations
    4.Have a teflon Mind, nothing sticks: knowledge and thoughts

  17. Thank you for all of your time and service. I only started mediating 2 weeks ago and have found it so rewarding that it sparked my interest in Buddhism. So here I am, watching your videos to learn more, which has also been very rewarding and nourishing. I'm going to continue watching and learning from you. Thank you, from Tasmania.

  18. What if one has a fear of letting go? For example you feel others will be hurt if you do.
    PS. I feel if I let go, someone else might pick it up & be hurt! 😬

  19. Such profound wisdom in such beautiful simplicity 💖🌿 🙏🏾 thank you so much, this touched me so deeply.
    It's about how you look at things, the same situation can be perceived in so many different ways.
    His voice is reassuring, i swear if I read this content in a book, it wouldn't have the sale effect, such is the power of the voice that comes from love & compassion. There's no teacher that can teach without pure love.

  20. Completely ignorant delusional ignorant fagtarded neandrathalic babbling idle chattering dumbfuct hellbound less than worthless devolved creature leading others down the path of devolution and fagtardism and eternal hell.

  21. What if someone picks up the stick I threw? Where should the clutter go? What if it piles up somewhere else?

  22. I've tried letting go, but I keep getting reeled back in by negative energy and it brings me to a dark place. Alone, I'm fine, but I can't take the toxicity of others. I try everything in my power, but when I feel wronged – I just want to purge with anger. It's so strong, the effects are somatic and my whole body aches from being tense. Is there any hope for me?

  23. When you say "what a beautiful sunset" , you're not enjoying the sunset anymore.
    Could someone explain this?
    I don't really get it…

  24. This video has probably saved my life. But I’m struggling to work my way through all your videos, the meditation? ones I’ll get too but I need the self help ones now, but I’m struggling to find them. If your ever in vic I’m willing to help you with whatever you need

  25. This is the second time I am listening to this speech. The first time I listened to it was when a person cheated on me. I left him then. But in February, we came in touch once again. And I gave him a chance. Few days back, he friendzoned me because he has got someone new. I blocked him again because I still had feelings for him. I know that it was my mistake to coming in contact with him once again. When I did that I knew it very well that it had 99% probability to break again. Now, I am not being able to forgive myself for committing this mistake. A part of me is wanting to talk to him but I know that it is a vicious circle. If I again start talking to him, the fate will be the same as previous two times. Another part of me is just grieving very hard thinking why I just wasted my one whole year on him giving him chances twice. It was a serious mistake from my side. I thought how to let it go? For me, "giving" worked.

  26. Question: "Why are there so many religions? Do all religions lead to God?"

    Answer: The existence of so many religions and the claim that all religions lead to God without question confuses many who are earnestly seeking the truth about God, with the end result sometimes being that some despair of ever reaching the absolute truth on the subject. Or they end up embracing the universalist claim that all religions lead to God. Of course, skeptics also point to the existence of so many religions as proof that either you cannot know God or that God simply does not exist.

    Romans 1:19-21 contains the biblical explanation for why there are so many religions. The truth of God is seen and known by every human being because God has made it so. Instead of accepting the truth about God and submitting to it, most human beings reject it and seek their own way to understand God. But this leads not to enlightenment regarding God, but to futility of thinking. Here is where we find the basis of the “many religions.”

    Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements. Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven. So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability. Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent. So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler.

    The existence of so many religions is not an argument against God's existence or an argument that truth about God is not clear. Rather, the existence of so many religions is demonstration of humanity's rejection of the one true God. Mankind has replaced Him with gods that are more to their liking. This is a dangerous enterprise. The desire to recreate God in our own image comes from the sin nature within us—a nature that will eventually “reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).

    Do all religions lead to God? No. All people—religious or otherwise—will stand before God some day (Hebrews 9:27), but religious affiliation is not what determines your eternal destiny. Only faith in Jesus Christ will save. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). It’s as simple as that. Only Christianity—faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—leads to God’s forgiveness and eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). It does make a difference what you believe. The decision to embrace the truth about Jesus Christ is important. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

  27. He's right. You need to be careful about being nostalgic as this can eadily turn to depression without yoy realising it!

  28. Buddhism reaches the reality of the natural phenomena and to train our mind to look at the things in its true form .none of the things made or created but effect of some cause. People with open mind and wisdom can realise this is different with other religions where there is no way of questioning .go ahead akma .read more and listen to dhamma tslks.

  29. I like to understand or learn.. I mean when he says throw this stick in the river with 'past' written on it and let it sink.. that is not how my brain works I mean it will still remind me of past stuff even if i throw and let that stick sink the memory remains

  30. Thank you for this talk. I had a rough upbringing which lead to childhood trauma. This teaching has changed my perspective of my past pain even though I felt a little attacked. I decided to delve into traditional Thai Buddhism as I am of Thai heritage. And learning more each day, gives me peace and and hope

  31. What if our attachments are simply connections in the brain that have minds of their own? What you are really then saying is "kill yourself ". Holy shit you want me to kill myself. Do it yourself if you want it so bad.

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