Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy - Selections
1. The Container and the Contents
There were riots in the streets some years ago after a guard at Guantanamo Bay was accused of taking a holy book and flushing it down the toilet.
The next day, I took a call from a local journalist who told me he was writing an article about the outrage by asking leaders of all the major religions in Australia the same question he was about to ask me.
“What would you do, Ajahn Brahm, if someone took a Buddhist holy book and flushed it down your toilet?”
Without hesitation I answered, “Sir, if someone took a Buddhist holy book and flushed it down my toilet, the first thing I would do is to call a plumber!”
When the journalist finished laughing, he confided that that was the first sensible answer he had received.
Then I went further.
I explained that someone may blow up many statues of the Buddha, burn down Buddhist temples, or kill Buddhist monks and nuns; they may destroy all this, but I will never allow them to destroy Buddhism. You may flush a holy book down the toilet, but I will never let you flush forgiveness, peace, and compassion down the toilet.
The book is not the religion. Nor is the statue, the building, or the priest. These are only the “containers.”
What does the book teach us? What does the statue represent? What qualities are the priests supposed to embody? These are the “contents.”
When we recognize the difference between the container and the contents, then we will preserve the contents even when the container is being destroyed.
We can print more books, build more temples and statues, and even train more monks and nuns, but when we lose our love and respect for others and ourselves and replace it with violence, then the whole religion has gone down the toilet.
16. A Buddhist Joke
A Buddhist monk received a call from a lay member of his temple.
“Would you please come to my house today to perform a blessing?” the caller asked.
“I’m sorry,” replied the monk, “I can’t come because I’m busy.”
“What are you doing?” inquired the caller.
“Nothing,” replied the monk. “That is what monks are supposed to be doing.”
“Okay,” said the caller and hung up.
The lay Buddhist called again the following day. “Would you please come to my house today to perform a blessing?”
“I’m sorry,” replied the monk, “I can’t come because I’m busy.”
“What are you doing?” asked the caller.
“Nothing,” replied the monk.
“But that was what you were doing yesterday!” the caller complained.
“Yes,” replied the monk, “but I’m not finished yet.”
This is a true story of a remarkable cat that lived in Bodhinyana Monastery, sixty-five kilometers south of Perth, where I live.
Kit-Cat was born in my monastery, her mother being a feral cat that lived in the adjacent state forest. We discovered her as an abandoned and hungry little kitten, sheltering in a hollow log.
As Kit-Cat grew, she started to catch more and more small birds. A bell hung around her neck only succeeded in training her to move with more stealth, with the bell making no sound. Sadly, although the monks loved little Kit-Cat, she had to go. An Australian forest is not environmentally suited to a domestic cat.
I found a nice home for Kit-Cat in the oceanside suburb of Watermans Bay to the north of Perth. On the day that Kit-Cat left, I picked her up, put her in a sack, and placed her in the back of her new owner’s car, in the place where your feet usually go. I felt guilty doing this to a cat that had trusted me.
Chris, the new owner, drove the cat straight to her home in Watermans Bay, took the sack inside her house, and only released Kit-Cat after all the doors had been closed. She wanted Kit-Cat to get accustomed to her new family before letting her out into the garden.
Three days later, on a hot Saturday afternoon, she let Kit-Cat into the garden. Immediately, Kit-Cat ran for the gate. Chris chased after her, but the cat was too fast. So Chris got into her car and drove around the neighborhood looking for Kit-Cat. She found no trace. Kit-Cat had disappeared.
At this point, you are probably thinking that Kit-Cat eventually found her way back home to my monastery, eighty-five kilometers away. If so, you are wrong. Kit-cat was far too smart to walk such a long distance.
That Saturday I was on teaching duty in our city center located in Nollamara, seventy-eight kilometers north of my monastery and around twelve kilometers southeast of Watermans Bay. While passing by the thick, closed wooden door of our Perth temple, I heard a strange noise outside. When I opened the door, there was little Kit-Cat looking up at me and mewing. As I cradled her to bring her inside, I noticed that her paws were burning hot. It was over forty degrees Celsius (105º Fahrenheit!) outside that day. I gave her saucer after saucer of milk, she was so dehydrated. Then I let her do what cats do best, curl up and rest.
Soon after Kit-Cat arrived, I received a phone call from a very apologetic Chris. “I’m so sorry, Ajahn Brahm. I let your cat out and it bolted. I’ve been driving around looking for her for almost two hours. I’m so sorry. Maybe she’ll find her way back to your monastery in Serpentine.”
“No worries, Chris,” I replied. “Kit-Cat is here with me in Nollamara.”
I remember Chris gasping. She couldn’t believe it. She later came to check for herself. Kit-Cat had found me in a big city she had never been to before. She had run at least twelve kilometres in just under two hours, crossing a major motorway and other busy roads, with no maps and unable to ask for directions, to the one person who cared for her in a city of over a million.
Kit-Cat had only left our monastery once, to go to the local vet to be “monasticized” so she wouldn’t have any kittens. She had never been close to the sprawling Perth metropolitan area before; she was a country cat. When she left my monastery, it was in a sack on the floor in the back seat. There was no way she could have seen where she was going. Yet the clever cat found me so fast.
Of course, after that Kit-Cat came back to my monastery, where she lived many happy years. After twenty-two years of cat life, she died there and is buried under the holy bodhi tree by our main hall.
44. A Dog’s Retreat
To be fair to all pets, I now relate a story that was sent to me recently about how a very smart dog dealt with the stress of modern life.
A woman returning from a shopping trip opened the door of her suburban house. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big dog rushed past her into her house. By the time the woman had put her bags down, the dog was curled up in a corner of a quiet room, fast asleep. The dog was a Labrador, had a collar on, and was well groomed, so it was certainly not a stray. The kind woman liked dogs, especially this one, so she let it stay. After about two hours, the dog woke up and the woman let it out. The dog then disappeared.
The next day, the dog returned to her house, and she let it come inside again. The dog went to the same quiet corner, curled up, and went to sleep for another two hours.
After this same pattern repeated two or three more times, the woman began to wonder where this lovable dog lived and why it kept coming back to her house. So she wrote a note, folded it, and placed it under the Labrador’s collar. The note said something like:
Your dog has been coming to my house every afternoon for the past five days. All it does is sleep quietly. It is such a lovely, good-natured dog that I don’t mind. I just wonder where it lives and why it keeps coming.
The next day the dog returned to sleep in its corner, but with another note tucked into the collar. The reply read:
My dog lives in a noisy house with my nagging wife and four children, two of whom are under five. He comes to your house for some peace and quiet and to catch up on his sleep. May I come too?
How to cite this document:
© Ajahn Brahm, Don't Worry, Be Grumpy (Wisdom Publications, 2014)
Don't Worry, Be Grumpy by Ajahn Brahm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/dont-worry-be-grumpy.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.wisdompubs.org/terms-use.