“A young man from Sydney told me that he had once met Ajahn Chah, in Thailand, and received the best advice of his life.
Many young westerners interested in Buddhism had heard of Ajahn Chah by the early 1980s. This young man decide to make the long journey to Thailand, for the sole reason of meeting the great monk and asking some questions.
It is a long journey. Having arrived in Bangkok, eight hours from Sydney, he took the overnight train, ten hours to Ubon. There he negotiated a taxi to take him to Wat Nong Pah Pong, Ajahn Chah’s monastery. Tired but excited, he finally reached Ajahn Chah’s hut.
The famous teacher was sitting under his hut, as usual, surrounded by a large crowd of monks and generals, poor farmers and rich merchants, village women in rags and decorated ladies from Bangkok, all sitting side by side. There was no discrimination under Ajahn Chah’s hut.
The Australian sat down on the edge of the large crowd. Two hours passed and Ajahn Chah hadn’t even noticed him. There were too many others ahead of him. Despondent, he got up and walked away.
On the way through the monastery to the main gate, he saw some monks sweeping leaves by the bell tower. It was another hour before his taxi was due to meet him at the gate, so he too picked up a broom, thinking to make some good karma.
Some thirty minutes later, while busy sweeping, he felt some one putting their hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see, shocked and delighted, that the hand belonged to Ajahn Chah, who stood smiling before him. Ajahn Chah had seen the westerner, but had no chance to address him. The great monk was now on his way out of the monastery to another appointment, so he had paused in front of the young man from Sydney to give him a gift. Ajahn Chah said something quickly in Thai, then walked off to his appointment.
A translator monk told him,” Ajahn Chah says that if you are going to sweep, give it everything you’ve got.” then the translator left to join Ajahn Chah.
The young man thought about the brief teaching on the long journey back to Australia. He realized, of course, that Ajahn Chah was teaching him much more than how to sweep leaves. The meaning became clear to him.
“Whatever you are doing, give it everything you’ve got.”
He told me back in Australia several years later that this “advice for life” was worth hundred such journeys to distant parts. It was now his creed, and it had brought him happiness and success. When he was working, he’d give it everything he’d got. When he was resting, he’d give it everything he’d got. When he was socializing, he’d give it everything he’d got. It was a formula for success.
Oh, and when he was doing nothing, he’d give nothing everything he’d got.”