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  • Ajahn Brahm: Just so people know that we are beginning to video stream these talks, even

  • those which weren't actually video streamed live. Our president told me, couple of weeks

  • ago, that we think maybe about 300 people - never really count people here - listen

  • to these talks live, but about 17 000 listen to it on the Internet. It's a huge number.

  • 17000. And places as far away as Iceland. So to the group in Iceland, good evening to

  • you all.

  • This evening's talk is going to be on the Buddhist attitude towards sensuality. Now,

  • we live in a sensual world, and sometimes some religions, they have a very eccentric

  • response to sensuality which is around them. We see that with people enforcing their womenfolk

  • to wear burkas, or even, say, in the Amish community, asking people to wear loose fitting,

  • unsensual clothes. And you look at the monks and nuns in front of you, and this is our

  • idea of a burka, or is it? What is it, and what is the Buddhist attitude towards sensuality

  • in this world?

  • Certainly that that's an important question, because some people's ideas about the problems

  • of sensuality, and the joys of sensuality have a huge impact on the way that they live

  • their lives, and the way they act upon other people. So, this is why I wanted to talk about

  • this and Buddhism. Certainly, you see from the people here that we don't ask people to

  • come and wear non-sensual clothes. Sometimes there are some of you here who think, oh,

  • we have some very young monks here. We don't want to lose those monks. And it has happened

  • in the past, that maybe a skimpily clad young girl comes in, and they're ushered outside.

  • Please don't do that. Simply because that's going to offend somebody, and you should have

  • more confidence in your monks. And you wouldn't do that if a hunky man came in here when Sister

  • Ajahn Vayama was giving a talk. [Laughs].

  • So that point is, here, you see in Buddhism, we don't have anything like veils, and there's

  • a good reason for this. Certainly, that sensuality is there and sensuality can cause problems

  • in the world. Now, we do have problems with pedophiles. We do have problems with sexual

  • predators. We do have problems with, even, rapists. We do have problems with other addictions,

  • not just sexual addictions, such as overeating or people who are addicted to pornography,

  • or people who eat too much, or gamble too much. There are many addictions in this world

  • which are concerning sensuality. There is a problem there, but sometimes there's a problem

  • if we try and suppress it just too vigorously, because that impinges upon our freedoms and

  • our wishes to enjoy the world in which we are born into. And so, what is the Buddhist

  • attitude toward these problems, so that we can live and enjoy our life, at the same time

  • try and avoid, as best as we can, some of the extremes of sensuality? I think just the

  • way I've defined this talk tonight, I think you've already got the clue that the Buddha

  • was always talking about a middle way, not to go to extremes. And it's the extreme parts

  • of this which have caused the problem.

  • But, with sensuality, we can actually understand, just when we watch our mind, especially, that

  • it's not so much what's out there, but the way we respond to what's out there, which

  • is the biggest problem in life. And one of the key stories which I grew up with, was

  • coming from my own teacher Ajahn Chah, who being a monk, obviously you have a different

  • value system when it comes to sensuality. Now, monks and nuns are celibate, and to live

  • a celibate life you-know in the world, obviously the monks and the nuns cannot really escape

  • from the sensual objects out there, whether it's food, or whether it's sex, or whether

  • it's movies or whatever. So, you actually had you deal with this, and one of Ajahn Chah's

  • stories was that when he was a young, lusty novice, you-know, 18, 19 years of age, with

  • all the hormones running through him, he wanted to become a monk, but, obviously, he saw young

  • Thai girls, and he would have lust towards them. And so for three months, during a period

  • of what we call Rains Retreat, the time when I don't come here, Sister Vayama doesn't come

  • here. Those of you who have been coming here for a long time know for three months we always

  • go back into our monasteries. He was staying in a town monastery, so for three months,

  • he decided he would not look at any girl at all. He would keep his eyes down, and not

  • even look at anybody, thinking that that type of restraint would overcome his lust. So for

  • three months, he refused to even look at a girl. And he said what happened, for those

  • three months he was fine, but after his resolution was completed, the first girl he looked at

  • he went crazy with lust.[Laughter].

  • And this is one of the problems, that just not looking, not facing up to the problem

  • is actually not overcoming it. Actually, it makes it much worse. And that's why that asking

  • people to cover up, so the monks or the nuns don't see anybody. They want you to cover

  • up. It doesn't really help the situation, because as soon as the covers are taken off,

  • people actually go crazy. It's actually almost suppressing something. If you suppress it

  • and don't understand it, usually there's a bigger explosion later on. The simile which

  • I've often given, if anyone here is meditating, if you feel like coughing, please cough straight

  • away, because if you don't cough straight away, and you suppress it, when you do cough

  • it's like a volcano going off, and you just disturb everybody. [Laughter].

  • Sometimes, that type of suppression is typical of some of the ways in which we deal with

  • the problems in our world.

  • And so that, since we live in such a world, we have to instead of trying to cover up the

  • triggers with burkas, or with veils, or with people dressing up in sort-of loose fitting

  • clothing, and not accentuating you-know your bodies, and not wearing scents and make-up

  • and goodness knows what else. That won't solve the problem. The problem has to be solved

  • actually in one's relationship with the sensory world. And that certainly is the Buddhist

  • attitude. It's again, not just with sexuality, it's with food. Sometimes people come to our

  • monasteries, both the Gidgegannup and to Bodhinyana monasteries at Serpentine, and think, "My

  • goodness! Look at all the delicious food that you monks eat!" We had complaints in the first

  • years when I was a monk because sometimes we had these Thai ladies married to Australians,

  • and they'd come and bring food to the two monks who were there. This was before Sister

  • Vayama came. And sometimes the Australian men, the husbands, would complain. They'd

  • say, "My wife never cooks anything like that for me! This is unfair!" And the Thai women

  • would say, "You should become a monk. Then I'll cook for you." [Laughter]. We got the

  • most delicious food. And so sometimes people would complain to the monks, "You're supposed

  • to be monks. Why are you eating such delicious food? You should just eat ordinary food, just

  • like bread and water. That's probably the best for you. Then we'd respect you even more."

  • But sometimes I tried that. My first year as a monk, for a practice, I put all the food

  • together which was disgusting anyway, and I got the spoon and mixed it all up. I only

  • had one meal a day. It was a sludge, it was a slop and if you saw it, you'd actually pour

  • it out straight away. It wasn't even fit for pigs, let alone for monks. But the trouble

  • was it was an interesting experiment which I did. Every food no matter what it was, the

  • sweets, everything in one bowl and stirred it up so it was absolutely consistent. After

  • a while, it actually started to taste nice. It was a weird thing but the way that sensuality

  • works. After a while no matter what it is, you start to like it. It starts to become

  • attractive, delicious and tasty. So what it made very clear to me - it was not the food

  • which was the problem. No matter what food you have there, after a while it becomes delicious

  • and you crave it. It doesn't matter what, if it's a man or a male monk what women you

  • see, after a while, even if they are in burkas, after a while even the burkas start to appear

  • sort-of attractive. Whatever it is, so the attraction is not on the object out there.

  • You can like anything after a while. So it's quite clear that the reaction to the dangers

  • of sensuality should never be concerned with the triggers of sensuality. Even in Singapore,

  • they are just going to be opening up a couple of casinos. And obviously, that the sensuality,

  • it is sensuality, of gambling, the thrill of it, the excitement of it is also problematical

  • but we don't solve that problem by banning all the casinos because what happens when

  • you ban the casinos then you have illegal casinos. It's not really the thing outside

  • which is the problem. It's the way we react to them. It's our attitude towards these things

  • and so, it's actually quite glad that I had... because I have a group in Singapore and they

  • showed me some of these documents and they asked me my opinions about those casinos in

  • Singapore. And I told them, and I'm very glad that the Singapore government was actually

  • following, it didn't really follow advice really, I understood what they were going

  • to do anyway, was actually not to stop these things but actually to contain the worst parts

  • of gambling by having legislation in place which can stop the addictive gamblers. And

  • for other people, who are addictive, to show some restraint. And that is actually what

  • is going to be happening in Singapore. So that loan sharks, the money lenders, can't

  • be on the casinos exploiting people's addictions. Now if a person is going to that casino too

  • often their family or even themselves can voluntarily ask themselves to be banned if

  • it's going to be causing financial trouble or social trouble, they can be put on the

  • blacklist. Sometimes, they volunteer themselves. It's a way of actually dealing with worst

  • parts of gambling because other than that... I remember as a kid that I would sort of have

  • a bet on. In England, it was called the Derby or the Grand National, two races, horse races,

  • you would bet on every year and it was only like two shillings or whatever. It was for

  • fun and you never expected to win anything. If you did you just shared it with your friends.

  • And that to me never seem to be like a problem but of course, sometimes, the addictive gambling

  • is a problem. In the same way that sensuality which ordinary human beings have in the world.

  • I'm not talking about monks now. I'm talking about lay communities. Now, having a partner

  • in life, having relationships, having sex, the ordinary type of stuff is usually not

  • problematical except if it gets too far or get addicted or get too far under the power

  • of one's sensuality. And this is actually where we have to have ways of not dealing

  • so much with a trigger out there because you can't really control that trigger out there

  • but dealing with our attitudes towards these things.

  • And so, as Buddhists, sometimes people will think we're so tolerant. You know in Buddhist

  • countries like Thailand which have a lot of prostitutes and in Singapore like gambling

  • or have like people wearing skimpy clothes or whatever. And anything goes sometimes,

  • they said in Buddhism. I think that was Tina Turner when she became a Buddhist. Why become

  • a Buddhist? I think she was quoted as saying because you can do anything you like in Buddhism.

  • That's not quite true. I hope I didn't misquote her but, it's the triggers outside we are

  • not so concerned with. So, the Buddhist response is actually just try to work to one's attitude

  • towards these things in life. And in order to work on those attitudes, we have something

  • we call mindfulness. We are aware of how these things affect us.

  • And we also understand with some wisdom about the dangers in these things. So, like gambling,

  • it can be fun but there's obviously a danger there. And we use our awareness, our mindfulness

  • to actually know how far we can go, what the danger is. The same with the relationships

  • and sex, of sensuality, of lust, we know what the advantage are. We know what the dangers

  • are of it. And also, whatever else whether it's eating, whether it's watching movies,

  • whether it's watching the Internet or whatever, we know the dangers which are there. And this

  • is not stopping the things out there. It's actually stopping the way we relate to them

  • when it gets too far. And obviously, like sexuality, we know there's dangers there.

  • When we're talking about dangers, there was never ever in Buddhism, that's one of the

  • reasons why I was inspired to Buddhism, there is never anything like evil or sin or you're

  • bad boy because you had sex with a girl or something. That badness and evil, that ultimate

  • bad thing was never there, instead it was always this almost like a precursor of utilitarianism

  • because Buddha would say the basic ethics and I repeat this many, many times. It's not

  • just anything goes in Buddhism but it's - what you are going to do or say or even think is

  • it going to be harmful to others or harmful to yourself. If it is, it's called not bad,

  • not evil - unskillful. It's a great word, unskillful, because it doesn't have any like

  • moral judgment as if it comes from some absolute. This is bad and this is good. Because if it

  • says this is bad this is good and you're told it by someone else, you don't have to think

  • it out for yourself, you believe in. Because of those blind beliefs, we get into terrible