[Note: Quoted verbatim – story from “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” by Ajahn Amaro]
The more we believe in our opinions, the greater our investment in the rational mind. Indeed, the more logical our thoughts may be, the more tidy our rationale, the more perfectly valid it may seem to be to straighten somebody else out because they’re ‘wrong’. And even if we don’t think of setting someone straight as a sacred duty, we can still have a strong attitude of righteousness.
The basis on which we take action is the element that makes the difference, as illustrated by the following story. In the early days in Ajahn Chah’s monastery, Ajahn Sumedho was the only Westerner living there. He was a very ardent, idealistic monk who took the monastic training extremely seriously and was very committed, as all good monastics should be. But he had grown up in an atmosphere of righteous American conditioning, and had a different way of going about things from some of the other monks in the monastery. A Thai monk who was also living there was very loud-mouthed and outspoken, incautious about his speech. This was extremely unusual in Thailand, where people tend to be much more restrained, non-confrontational or outspoken in average social interactions. The young Bhikkhu Sumedho took great offence at this monk’s behaviour and thought: ‘This is totally out of order, and why isn’t Ajahn Chah saying anything? He lets this guy just carry on and make a fool of himself and upset everybody, and everyone can see he’s out of order but no one is saying anything! This is ridiculous! Somebody ought to get up and … even though I’m a junior monk I really ought to … if somebody doesn’t say anything, I will!’
This went on for some months and he grew more and more indignant. Eventually Ajahn Chah went off to visit a branch monastery for a few days, and it happened that at the same time there was the fortnightly recitation of the monastic rule, after which the teacher gives an instructional talk and then asks: ‘Is there any business that the Sangha wants to bring up?’ With Ajahn Chah away it was thus one of the senior monks leading the meeting who said: ‘Has anyone got any business to discuss?’ Even though Ajahn Sumedho had only been a monk for two or three years and the loud-mouthed bhikkhu was a bit senior to him, he said: ‘Yes. I’ve got something I’d like to bring up. I’m very concerned about the conduct of Bhikkhu X, and … ‘ He had a whole list of different occasions, he had witnesses, he had the evidence, he had all his criteria; everything was lined up. And he was ‘right’: all the things for which he criticized the monk were factually valid – you could see that other people had been upset or they took offence and walked away, and so on. While Ajahn Sumedho was saying this, the offending monk was looking at the floor and everyone else was listening, taking it all in. Finally he got to the end of his Dhammic diatribe and the senior monk said: ‘We’ll just wait till Luang Por Chah gets back and then we’ll bring this matter to his attention.’
[to be continued…]