On August 14, 2021, after meditation we listened to a talk from Venerable Ajahn Brahm about a talk about Dealing with Sickness. Everyone gets sick at some point in their lives, and it often causes suffering or dissatisfaction. How should we think about this?
Ajahn Brahm emphasized that we should accept being sick as a normal part of life, and not think of it as something abnormal or wrong. When we’re sick, rather than wishing we weren’t sick, we can pay attention to how our body is feeling at that moment. What is it like to be in this body that is sick? Furthermore, sometimes our reactions to being sick will exacerbate our suffering. Don’t feel guilty about being sick, he said, (since everyone gets sick), and don’t spend your time being afraid of what might happen in the future. Instead, try to have fun, and do things that you enjoy (while taking care not to get others sick, of course). Just like with other parts of life, much of the suffering that comes from being (physically) sick results from the thoughts and emotions that we bring to the experience, not from the sickness itself.
In the discussion period, we talked about our own attitudes toward being sick. How does being sick make us feel? Guilty? Happy? Different members of the group had different emotions about it. We also questioned what Ajahn Brahm meant when he said to “explore” the sickness, and talked about how we relate to the discomfort. There was also a comment that the talk was very focused on physical illness, and that mental illness has different issues.
The first Noble Truth is that dukkha (dissatisfaction / suffering) exists, and while we may think while we’re ill that we could get rid of our suffering by being healthy, being healthy has its own suffering.
From the Teachers: Dealing with Sickness
During our session, we watched the following video. What do you think?
“Dealing with Sickness” by Ven. Ajahn Brahm*
* Ven. Ajahn Brahmavaṃso, or simply Ajahn Brahm, is a renowned British-Australian Theravada Buddhist monk. Before becoming a monk, he studied Theoretical Physics at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge in the late 1960s and taught in a high school for one year before traveling to Thailand to become a monk. He was ordained in Bangkok at the age of 23, and subsequently spent 9 years studying and training in the forest meditation tradition under Ajahn Chah. Currently Ajahn Brahm is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia. He is invited to give numerous lectures globally each year, and is an author of several books including Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy, and Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?