I was reading something from a talk of Ajahn Sumedho that touched me very much. He was saying that when he’d just become a monk, he didn’t speak Thai at all and he met a Thai monk who had previously been in the Thai Navy; so, he’d met Americans and knew a bit of English.
This Thai monk had been with Ajahn Chah for a while, so he was quite diligent in terms of discipline and meditation. Ajahn Sumedho got quite inspired so this monk said he would take him to see Ajahn Chah. This is how Ajahn Sumedho got introduced to Ajahn Chah, so he always felt grateful to this monk.
But later on, this Thai monk disrobed and went right downhill. He became a drunkard, an alcoholic and a wastrel. He became quite renowned in that province as being ‘a real no-good’, so Ajahn Sumedho no longer wanted to feel connected to this person.
But Ajahn Chah said to him, ‘Whenever you come to Ubon, you should always make the effort to see this man, because when you do, he can remember one good thing he’s done in his life. Your act of generosity would just be to make contact with him. Even if he’s a complete wastrel and degenerate, at least maintain contact. This is what you can do: give of yourself to just be in that person’s attention. It reminds him of one good thing he has done in his life, so he is a little bit stronger than he would be if you didn’t do it.’
Ajahn Chah had a remarkable sense of compassion and insight to point to that and ask Ajahn Sumedho to give himself in that way. It really shows the understanding of how generosity can be practised by anybody, when we’re giving attention.
This reflection by Ajahn Sumedho as recounted by Ajahn Sucitto is from the book, The Most Precious Gift, (pdf) p. 167.