Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Ajahn Brahm: So I've had a request for a talk for this evening. It's a very worthwhile request.

  • They were looking in the, the library of talks, either on the internet or in the library for

  • a talk to help one of their friends with depression. And even though I thought I'd talked about

  • that subject before, maybe I haven't devoted a whole talk to that subject. So for the sake

  • of people now and in the future, this evening's talk will be on the Buddhist attitude towards

  • depression.

  • It is a worthwhile topic because as everybody knows that depression is one of the great

  • diseases in our modern world. It causes a great deal of suffering and many of us will

  • meet the depression either personally or one of our loved ones in the course of our life.

  • And it's also well known that the Buddhist attitudes are very effective in countering

  • the problems of depression.

  • You only need to mention that our former premier Geoff Gallop when he resigned because of depression

  • at the height of his political fame and ability, he actually came to see me and he credits

  • Buddhist teachings and eastern philosophy as getting him through his depression.

  • And so that you know we do have the goods. So what are those goods which actually heal

  • and help with peoples' depression. Well first of all, because I've given talks on depression

  • before or at least mentioned it, a psychiatrist did pull me up to say, and I'm going to mention

  • this at the very beginning of this talk, that there are severe forms of depression. I'm

  • talking about very clinical bad cases of depression which should be treated by a qualified doctor

  • first of all. The sorts of depression which I'm talking about this evening are those ones

  • which are not so severe as to totally incapacitate you.

  • However, the other types of depression which one still has most of one's mental faculties,

  • one can get out and about but one still has this deep sense of greyness to one's life

  • called depression. So if it is severe please go and see a doctor. But if it's moderate,

  • mild, or to prevent it happening in the first place, please listen to what I'm about to

  • say.

  • And contemplating this before I came in here, I could sort of see like three major causes

  • of depression in our world. First, and especially in our modern world, it does seem that depression

  • is a modern sickness, it didn't seem to have so much incidence in the past and I think

  • one of the reasons is, is because the inherent negativity and fault finding in our society.

  • So that's one of the first things I'm going to talk about, to how to counteract negativity

  • and fault finding. And secondly it is a direct consequence of the amount of craving and desires

  • we have in our modern world. We tend to think we need so much more, both materially and

  • socially than maybe in the past. You know, we've lost the sense of respecting simplicity.

  • And lastly, and more profoundly, just because of some of the nature of existence can be

  • very depressing and it's this last particular aspect which very easily responds to what

  • you just did a few minutes ago in meditation.

  • So there's the three parts of this talk. The negativity and fault finding. The over...the

  • over indulgence in cravings. And also something more profound about the nature of life itself.

  • But the first one is the first part which I often talk about and Buddhists often help

  • with saying that a lot of the problem with depression is because of an inherent negativity

  • and fault finding which is in our modern society.

  • You look at your life that when you are at school people are always judging you and often

  • negatively. Not everyone can come top of the class, not everybody can sort of get one of

  • these medals and everybody else tends to think they are a loser.

  • Not everyone can find a nice relationship with the boy or the girl that they love and

  • so even at that time when you're searching for a partner in life it's just so hard to

  • get what you think is the perfect partner and again people in relationships thinks they're

  • losers.

  • And in life you try to get a job, you try to do well in your career, you try to get

  • on in the world and people are pushing you and sometimes they ask you, you know, you're

  • 40 50 years of age, what are you doing, you're sort of...you know you're serving burgers

  • in MacDonald's is that all you're doing, you're a failure, you're a loser. Isn't it the case

  • that people are just so critical and want to put you down even though you may be able

  • to serve the best veggie burgers in the whole of the MacDonald's chains of restaurants.

  • But what does that mean. It means that there's so much negativity in our world, always people

  • pointing out the faults, pointing out your faults and what happens when you get married,

  • well you have a nice relationship for the first couple of years yeah people love each

  • other then they start pointing out the faults.

  • There's one of those great stories that a person who got married and used to say as

  • the father in-law took the daughter-in-law...no the father-in-law took his new son-in-law

  • aside, so you probably love my, my daughter very much. Yes I've just married her, she's

  • beautiful, she's charming, she's wonderful, even the way she puts her finger in her ear

  • to get the wax out is charming. And he said that's what it's like when you get married,

  • everything you do is just loveable.

  • And the father-in-law said but in one or two years time you'll start to see the faults

  • and defects in my daughter but please son-in-law always remember this, always remember if my

  • daughter did not have those faults to begin with, she'd have married someone much better

  • than you. [LAUGHTER]

  • And that's actually a very profound thing you're saying there because look you know

  • how can you expect to get a perfect partner when you're not perfect. So isn't it the case

  • because we're so fault finding that's one of the reasons why relationships have a difficult

  • road, why it's so tough to keep a partner because we're always finding faults with them

  • and they're finding faults with you. You know what that does, that sucks, that takes all

  • the happiness and joy out of marriage.

  • So where is all this negativity and fault finding coming from. It's actually almost..it's

  • brainwashed into us since we're very young. At school, in the playground, you know going

  • out together, we're just so fault finding to the point that people start to believe

  • all that negative input to their brain. I'm not beautiful enough, I'm not charming enough,

  • I'm not intelligent enough. I'm not this enough. Until we eventually believe it and of course

  • that's a huge amount of depression which comes up because we are not good enough.

  • I still remember this when I first came to Perth the very first year this thirteen year

  • old girl came to see me. Her father organised a meeting, she wanted counselling, she'd been

  • to all the other psychologists, psychiatrists or whatever in Perth and this was the last

  • resort to go and see a Buddhist monk. They must have been desperate in those days to

  • come see a Buddhist monk. Because we didn't have much of a reputation and I asked her

  • what's your problem and she took a long time to get it out of her cause you know when people

  • really feel they have a big problem and they just don't want to share it with you especially

  • a thirteen or fourteen year old young girl.

  • And eventually I got it out of her. She said, looking down at the floor feeling so embarrassed,

  • she said 'my nose is too big'. Now you know, you girls you know that, you know where she's

  • coming from, that to her every time she looked in the mirror she saw her nose and it was

  • too big.

  • I tried to use like a scientific approach to her problem, you know I mentally I measured

  • her nose and I've seen many noses in my life and I measured it in my mind and I told her,

  • lady that your nose is pretty average. It's not the most beautiful nose, it's certainly

  • not the most ugly nose, its just a nose, it's average ok. But she wouldn't accept that for

  • her it was the biggest problem because it was right in front of her face.

  • I didn't, I didn't actually help her, but she helped me to understand the negativity

  • of fault finding. You can see a nose and you exaggerate it simply because you're looking

  • for faults.

  • It is that nature of our human mind when it hasn't been proper trained to always see what's

  • wrong in things, rather than what is right. And that attitude causes a lot of depression.

  • I'm gonna have to ask you to excuse me those who come here every week for the last ten

  • or twenty years, many of you have heard these stories before but because this is a talk

  • on depression and many people are gonna hear this for the first time. One of the classic

  • stories is that story of the two bad bricks in the wall. On Tuesday night I was in Brisbane,

  • first time I've been to Brisbane to give talks, and one of the people there in question time

  • he said Ajahn Brahm I've read that story, I've heard it many times, can you please tell

  • it again...I just wanna hear it live. [LAUGHTER]

  • So I told that story and it's a deep story, simple but it actually points out what I'm

  • talking about. The story of the two bad bricks in the wall, twenty six years ago, twenty

  • seven years ago when we moved to Serpentine to build that monastery down there we had

  • no money, we were broke, and because... we owed money for the land, there were no buildings

  • on that property. So I had to learn how to build. And I was theoretical physicist before,

  • ok, in my head doing sums all day. Now I had to get out there and get my hands dirty and

  • mix concrete and lay bricks and put on a roof and do plumbing. Everything we did.

  • And even to this day, if any of you going into that main hall in our monastery, I am

  • the builder. My name is on the building license for that. And it's still standing so that's

  • pretty good. [LAUGHTER]

  • So in particular, this story I had to learn how to lay bricks. Laying bricks was not a

  • simple thing to do, it may look easy but it's so hard to get everything level. But, as most

  • people would be I was a perfectionist. I had to make sure that brick was perfectly level

  • before I went onto the next one. Sometimes one corner was high, you'd knock it down and

  • another corner would go up. You knock that corner down then it would go out of line.

  • You knock it back into line thinking it was finished, you notice one of the corners was

  • high again.

  • It was just one of those jobs which, where you couldn't get everything in the right place

  • but you kept on trying until you got it. It took a long time but it didn't matter cause

  • I wasn't being paid. So I could take however long I wanted.

  • And when I finished that wall, that first brick wall, like anybody else you were proud,

  • finished, you stood back to look at it and admire it, and it was only then when it was

  • finished I noticed that two bricks were crooked. All the other bricks were straight, two bricks

  • were crooked. So what would you do? What I did was try and scrape the mortar out so I

  • could reset the bricks so they could be perfect. But the mortar was hard, you couldn't scrape

  • it out. And the other monk who was with me at the time, Ajahn Jagaro, I asked him look

  • can we afford, can we please afford some dynamite so I blow it up and start again? Bulldozer

  • would do, push it over. Because...that spoiled the whole wall. Those two bad bricks, they

  • ruined the whole thing.

  • But we couldn't, I was stuck with it, we were too poor to do anything with it. So for three

  • months, every time I went passed that wall I saw my mistakes and I felt so sad. I'd stuffed

  • up. And the worst thing about stuffing up when you're building everybody could see it,

  • you can't hide it. It's a big wall, out there in the open. So, every time there was a visitor,

  • I would actually volunteer to take them around so I could, you know, take them somewhere

  • else so they wouldn't see my mistakes. At night time I'd have nightmares about that

  • wall. I would, I'd dream of it, because I'd really made a big mistake and everybody could

  • see it. And it was three months, roughly, I'm not quite sure it's a long time ago now,

  • about three months somebody else was with me and they saw that wall and they said that's

  • a beautiful wall. And I just couldn't believe what I'd heard because for three months I'd

  • been suffering so much with that wall and they said it's a beautiful wall.

  • My first reaction was to ask them are you visually impaired, are you blind, did you

  • leave your glasses in the car? Can't you see those two bad bricks, the crooked ones. And

  • what they said next just changed much of the way I look at life and stopped a lot of inherent

  • depression in myself. What they said was yes I can see the two bad bricks, but I can also

  • see the nine hundred and ninety eight good bricks as well. And that really hit me, because

  • I realised for three months I was blind. All I ever saw was my two mistakes and I just

  • could not see all the beautiful perfect bricks which I had laid. And when that guy told me

  • what about the nine hundred and ninety eight good bricks that was the first time in three

  • months that I could actually see the bricks above, below, to the left and the right of

  • my two mistakes. And I had to agree with the fellow, it was a beautiful wall, once I could

  • see the whole picture.

  • And I realised why is it our psychology, where do we get this from, that we just see our

  • two mistakes and we become blind to everything else we've ever done. Why every other part

  • of that relationship, that life, that project we just see one or two mistakes and that totally

  • obsesses us to the point where I wanted to destroy that wall, I wanted to blow it up.

  • Now can you understand what depression comes from? A lot of times, mistakes happen in life,

  • tragedies occur, a loved one dies, you get cancer, you lose your job, lose everything

  • on the stock market. One day you're prime minister, the next day you're not. [LAUGHTER]

  • So you can see it's very easy to get depressed IF all you see is just that one event, that

  • one or two bad bricks. So how do you overcome that fault finding and negativity. Fault finding

  • and negativity is just being obsessed with what is wrong and being totally blind to anything

  • else except the faults. And then you want to destroy. You see that happening in relationships,

  • girls and boys they come along, and they just see what's wrong in their partner. The things

  • they do wrong, the mistakes they've made, and they're just being blind to everything

  • else.

  • The classic tale was when I was teaching in Malaysia, and somebody asked me this question

  • at the end of the talk. I have found out this morning my husband has lied to me. My husband

  • has lied. I can't trust him anymore. Should I get divorced? She asked me whether she should

  • get divorced. Quick I asked her what are you doing at this university. She was a lecturer

  • on mathematics. So I saw an opportunity to answer her question, I asked how long have

  • you been married, she said three years. I said let's do some statistics. Three years

  • is maybe one thousand days. Lets say for the sake of this argument, let's assume that on

  • average throughout your three years of marriage, your husband has said maybe twenty things

  • to you every day, on average, which could be right, which could be wrong. So he's said

  • twenty thousand statements to you since you've been married and now he's lied for the first

  • time. The quantum probability theory on his past record, the next time he opens his mouth

  • there is a twenty thousand to one chance he's telling the truth. What do you mean you can't

  • trust him?

  • [LAUGHTER]

  • Isn't that pretty good odds, twenty thousand to one? If every time a politician opened

  • their mouth with twenty thousand to one chance they're telling the truth, I'd vote for them,

  • wouldn't you? They'd be trust worthy. But you can see what we've pointed out, that why

  • is it that one lie, a real lie, they'd lied, why is that given so much prominence that

  • everything else is totally forgotten and ignored? This is the stupidity of our human being which

  • is just so fault finding and negative it hasn't got a balanced perspective on life. That lady

  • wanted to destroy her marriage. Once I told her that story they stayed together. It's

  • the same with you, you make one mistake, life makes one mistake. If you make one mistake

  • is that worth killing yourself for? You know a lot of suicides happen because of see just

  • two bad bricks in the wall, you wanna kill yourself. You can't see the nine hundred and

  • ninety eight good bricks. That story tells you what's going on. And anyway, I can't resist

  • adding the beautiful ending to that story of the two bad bricks. Once when I was teaching

  • in Cancer Support Association over in Cottesloe, they're still over there. Teaching...teaching

  • that story because sometimes going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy can really

  • cause a lot of depression. So I told that and yeah you got cancer but there's many other

  • things happening in your life. Look at all the parts of the body which haven't got cancer.

  • There's two bad bricks there, two bad tumours, what about the other parts which are beautiful,

  • which are healthy? Look at that, it actually takes away a lot of fear.

  • And anyway I told that, one of these builders came up afterwards and he said Ajahn Brahm

  • please don't be upset you made two mistakes when you're laying bricks, professional builders

  • do the same, he said. But then he said I'll tell you a secret, and I've told his secret

  • to millions of people...internationally. He said...don't tell me your secrets, they'll

  • be on YouTube next day...[LAUGHTER]. He said, in the building industry where we make a mistake

  • like that we call it a feature. We call it a feature and we charge our clients an extra

  • few thousand dollars for it. [LAUGHTER] So those of you who've got features in your house,

  • they've probably started off as mistakes.

  • And I love that because this actually takes what we'd normally be negative about and realising

  • that that's the feature of your partner and of yourself, and that's what makes them loveable.

  • If they were so perfect they'd just be impossible to love, there'd be no real meaning to that