Stories From My Life; Don’t Believe What You See

Ajahn Ratanawanno

Stories From My Life; Don’t Believe What You See

Many of you might try to think, “What’s he going to talk about?” Don’t think about that; just listen. When we practice Dhamma, most of the time and for many people including me, I set up the goal. I set up what I’m going to get before I really practice it. I just plan and I see by my understanding, trying to figure out what it should be before I really practice it. I set up the image of the result of practice. I try to fit in my image. And…I won’t get it. Because I don’t know what I’m dealing with. I don’t know what I’m going to get. I know only from the scriptures and only from listening to Dhamma talks from senior monks, from teachers, from masters.

Respect …in conversation. Usually we cut in the middle of the conversation; we don’t want to listen. It seems that what they try to tell us is not relevant. We cut in the middle and don’t listen to what they try to say. And we don’t understand what they try to say. If we respect someone in conversation, we let them speak first. When they’re finished, then we can speak. If we do it this way, we understand other people more. Another respect is the respect for the diligence, the perseverance of the good hearted, skillful means in all Dhamma. We respect in that sense. Anything that we should learn, we learn. Anything we don’t know, learn it. Anything that people tell us…if they warn us for the sake of kindness…listen to them.

The humble don’t need to show much, even if they know a lot. We know enough, but we don’t know everything about everything. There are so many things we don’t know. We just respect other people and be humble enough to say, “Sorry, I don’t know.” There’s no need to be shy when we don’t know. We just say, we don’t know. “Can you help me, because I don’t know?” Many people cannot say that because they don’t want to show that they don’t know everything. I have a lot of experience in this monastery [Amavarati]. I should know everything about this monastery. Actually, I don’t know. I don’t know everything about monastic life. I know some of the parts and I’m interested in some parts. But some parts, I know very little about. I need to be humble enough, sincere enough to say that I don’t know. That’s very beautiful.

As a young monk, I felt shy: “Why do I have to walk and beg for food from somebody else?” I didn’t like it because it felt and looked like a beggar. But as I developed the sense of it, I realized that they don’t offer things to me, personally. They offer things to me because of the form. They respect. They bow. They don’t bow to me. They bow to the form. Because I am a monk. So, they offer me food. They respect me because I practice according to the monastic rules. If I do a different thing, another thing, they don’t put food in my bowl.

That I started to appreciate. A sense of gratitude comes from that. As with parents. So many things they offer to us. When people think that their parents don’t do anything good for them at all, they only do something bad,—“They don’t love me and they don’t like me…”—I only ask them, “How much does your thumb cost? If people want to buy the thumb from you, how much does it cost? One million? Will you sell it?” That is free from our parents. Think about that. How about your eyes? Even if they hate you, they gave your eyes. They gave your body. You can do a lot of things with the body that your parents gave you. We can think about that and have gratitude for that.

These reflections from Ajahn Kongrit Ratanawanno are adapted from the talks, Stories From My Life, and, Don’t Believe What You See.