My brother passed me this CD and a couple more recently. These are the recordings of speeches by Ajahn Brahm during his trips to Singapore. I had heard these speeches live and thoroughly enjoy hearing them again.
Ajahn Brahm was born Peter Betts in London, United Kingdom in August 7, 1951. He came from a working-class background, and won a scholarship to study Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University in the late 1960s. After graduating from Cambridge he taught in high school for one year before travelling to Thailand to become a monk.
He is a popular monk in Singapore and his speeches attract such big crowd that the audience fill up all available spaces – along the aisles and onto the stage. I was late for one and ended up sitting on the floor, squeezed among strangers. It’s understandable why he is so popular. He speaks with no prepared script, infusing his speeches with delightful stories of wisdom. Some stories he probably repeated once too often but nevertheless, it’s still funny when told in different context.
As an agnostic trying to live a more spiritual life, Buddhism bridges the gap between two extremes – blind belief or no belief at all. ‘It is a rational teaching that inspires and encourages you to live a good life, not simply because you want to go to heaven in a future existence, but so that you can go to heaven right now.’
In this CD, Ajahn Brahm explains the teaching of buddhism, and different stages of enlightenment and what Nirvana means. He uses stories and simile to for illustration. More importantly, he encourages questioning, and not blind belief. He says, ‘In Buddhism, we worship the teaching, not the teacher. There is a separation between the person (Buddha) and the teaching (Dharma). Dharma is the embodiment of Buddha’s life. One who sees the Dharma sees the Buddha and one who sees the Buddha sees the Dharma.’
He explains, using the simile of the seven shipwrecked sailors to explain the seven stages of enlightenment.
Seven sailors are shipwrecked in an ocean. Sailor #1 immediately sinks to the bottom (He has done too many bad things.) Sailor #2 bobs up and down (most average persons are at this stage, we’ve done some good, some bad.) Sailor #3 manages to keep his head above water (A kind and good person.) Sailor #4 keeps his head above water and sees dry land – he has figured out the way to be safe (or content). Sailor #5 has seen dry land and is swimming towards dry land (One who keeps his precepts). Sailor #6 is wading towards dry land (almost enlightened) and Sailor #7 is on dry land (the fully enlightened one).
In his experience in choosing a religion, Ajahn Brahm poured through books of all the main religions in the world, and found that only Buddhism teachings make sense and cannot be disproved (remember, he is a Physicist.)
He explains what Nirvana is by this delightful story:
Five children were each asked to give make a wish. The one with the best wish wins. Child #1 says he wishes for a MacDonald hamburger. Child #2 wishes for a MacDonald restaurant so he can have a burger anytime. Child #3 wishes for $1 billion so he can buy the MacDonald restaurant and anything he wanted. The other two children now realise how stupid their wishes were when they hear this. Child #4 wishes for three wishes, the first is for a MacDonald Restaurant, the second for $1 billion and the last for three more wishes. Everyone thinks Child #4 must surely be the winner. What can top an infinity of wishes? Child #5 wins the game. He wishes that he can be so content that he never needed any more wishes. This is what Nirvana is – full contentment, the end of craving.
There are many more stories and funny anecdotes in the CD that will delight and teach as well.
In this CD, there is also a section on questions by the audience. A great CD for people who are new to Buddhism.
You may also want to read https://vickychong.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/listening-to-ajahn-brahm-2/