Spreading respect, joy and love, in the name of religion | Sunday Observer

Spreading respect, joy and love, in the name of religion

2 July, 2023

Last month one of the most renowned global personalities associated with Buddhism and a quite frequent visitor to Sri Lanka, Ven. Ajahn Brahmavansa Maha Thera, spent 9 days in Sri Lanka.

Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso Thera (Peter Betts in lay life) was educated at Cambridge University after winning a scholarship to study theoretical physics.

He is a Theravada bhikkhu, trained in the Thai forest tradition of monastic life and is the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine, Western Australia. Among his contributions to spreading Buddhism in the world is as Spiritual Adviser to the Buddhist Society of Victoria, Spiritual Adviser to the Buddhist Society of South Australia, Spiritual Patron of the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore and Spiritual Adviser to the Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project in the UK. He is the author of several books that includes Opening the door of your heart, Good? Bad? Who knows?, Kindfulness, and the Art of Disappearing.

A significant aspect of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s visit which was facilitated by the Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABSSL) under the direction of Ven. Mettavihari Thera, was that it was aimed at uplifting the country’s optimism that its people can re-invent themselves to creating a resilient economy through Buddhistic humanistic values manifested through entrepreneurship and clarity based inspiration.The talk by Ven. Brahm on innovative business creation and leadership through Buddhistic principles was held at the Galle Face Hotel in the last week of May.

Empathy based communication

Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s talk to business leaders was on the subject of empathy based communication, innovation, respect, and understanding as vital contributors to business prosperity.

He highlighted how compassionate and insightful communication can change lives, businesses and the economy.

“The most important person is the one in front of you at any given point. Many people find office life unsatisfactory. The workplace is where you spend much of your time. If you find that your work place atmosphere is not a happy one, the answer is for you to change. You start doing small acts of kindness each day to make work life better for one colleague per day, in whatever small way possible,” the Ven. Brahm said, showing that the key to this route is mindful, awareness based communication.

“Are you giving your fullest to the person in front of you? Are recognising your staff or colleagues for what they are – a human being who is talking to you about something they feel is important. Are you looking into their eyes when speaking? Are you smiling? How do you communicate with another human being?” Ven. Brahm queried, expressing the core value of interpersonal communication that the world seems to have forgotten.

Mental clarity

Ven. Ajahn Brahm reiterated that what Buddhism holds as the most important element to mental clarity is awareness. “A mind that has meditated for half an hour is a clear mind. From such a mind, creative ideas flow freely. This is why global companies are now integrating Buddhist meditation to work life and creating comfortable halls in offices to meditate in,” he said.

The brain drain caused in Sri Lanka by the economic crisis was addressed, following a question to this effect by a member of the audience.

“This is your country. It is home. It is a wonderful place that I have come to consider as a home too. The sights, the smells, the sounds, your cricket. Leaving your home may not be the solution,” Ven Brahm said, at a time when some Sri Lankans are abandoning the country.

Pointing that there is much that could be done with the resources in Sri Lanka to innovate and create entrepreneurship and new businesses Ven. Brahm pointed to the limitless nature of creativity that is free from attachment to selfishness and thus free from sorrow, as defined byBuddhistic teachings.

Creativity in the office is linked to happiness in that setting and this comes when the disparity between the bosses and subordinates are lessened, he said. “Each person of a company should feel that they are doing a meaningful task and contributing to the betterment and productivity of the company. A CEO should know and understand how his team is feeling about their work, about any problems they are facing and what they need from the company to make them better employees. For example, the CEO of Air New Zealand takes turns at the baggage counter, check in counter and serves food and water with the cabin crew. This way he gets an accurate idea how his staff and clients are feeling about the company,” Ven. Brahm said, adding that the airline had trebled their post Covid-19 profit.

The British born and Australia domiciled veteran bhikkhu and teacher who has spoken at diverse global institutions such as universities, technology institutes, hospitals and government bodies, drew on the importance for Buddhists to eliminate suffering by paying attention to their everyday actions and developing attributes such as highlighting the good in others. He pointed out how a medical expert known to him had proved the power of highlighting that which is good – by highlighting attention on the normal aspects of schizophrenic patients and making incredible breakthroughs in the medical world by ‘curing’ conditions Western medical science believed was not possible.

“I asked him his secret that shocked Western scientists and he said that he merely just focused on all the healthy components of the person and that this focus finally helped the small segment of malfunction to decrease and vanish. I am a bhikkhu but I put my palms together and worshipped him for what he had done,” Ven. Ajahn Brahm said.

As Ven. Brahm highlighted, anyone who has autism or Schizophrenia is a person trapped in that condition who is trying to break free and we should not insist on labelling them as Schizoprenic or Autistic and thereby keep them in that cage.

New industries and businesses

In a similar manner, Ven. Brahm saw only that which was good in Sri Lanka – the people making great effort to create new industries and businesses. Where many saw crisis, he merely saw and gave mental energy to the potential, noting that he was aware how Sri Lankans were starting on many new ventures without allowing themselves to be trapped by disillusion.

Praising the power of innovation, he quipped that he too had innovated upon how to preach Buddhism in a manner that the Western world will comprehend.

In the two-hour interaction with the industrialists and thought leaders, Ven. Brahm expressed the utmost confidence that Sri Lanka could recover from its economic setback and that its young entrepreneurs could make creative breakthroughs.

“My connection to Sri Lanka goes far back and includes my first interaction with your cricket team in 1996,” Ven Brahm recalled, narrating how the Sri Lankan cricket team was having a tough day at a practice match with Australia. Someone had contacted him on behalf of the team saying that the cricketers were looking for a bhikkhu to tie the sacred Pirithnoola (sacred thread) traditionally worn by Sri Lankan Buddhists for spiritual protection.

“I chanted and tied the sacred thread. Well you all know what happened after that. Sri Lanka beat Australia and, of course, I kept my involvement a secret for quite some time because I feared that my passport will not be renewed by Australia,” laughed Ven Brahm who is known the world over as the laughing and smiling bhikkhu, whose highly evolved spiritual state is encased in humour and joy.