May 4, 2022

A Journey Into Loving Service - Bhikkhu Mettaji

A Journey Into Loving Service - Bhikkhu Mettaji

In this episode our guest is Venerable Mettaji, formerly Stephen Mayers, a man who has had a journey from the heights of corporate success down into the valley of trial and loss. This has led him on to ordaining as a bhikkhu - a Buddhist monk - later in ...

In this episode our guest is Venerable Mettaji, formerly Stephen Mayers, a man who has had a journey from the heights of corporate success down into the valley of trial and loss. This has led him on to ordaining as a bhikkhu - a Buddhist monk - later in life. But through all the ups and downs of Venerable Mettaji’s journey there has been a will to serve others stemming from a well-spring of kindness. In this episode we’re going to learn about that journey and some of the unexpected ways behind the scenes that he is serving the growing Buddhist community in Australia with a heart of kindness.


Links related to Venerable Mettaji and this episode:

Treasure Mountain links:

Thank you for listening to the Treasure Mountain Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode please share it with you friends. If you'd like to support me to produce this type of content in future, you can support my work by offering a tip via the Ko-fi payment applet.



May you be happy!



00:00.00 sol_hanna In this episode of spirit stories. Our guest is venerable Mettaji formerly Stephen Mayers a man who's had a journey from the heights of corporate success down into the valley of trial and loss this has led into ordaining as a bhikkhu a buddhist monk later in life. But through all the ups and downs of veneral mettaji's journey. There has been a will to serve others stemming from a wellspring of kindness in this episode. We're going to learn about that journey and some of the unexpected ways behind the scenes that is still serving the growing buddhist community in Australia with the heart of kindness welcome to Treasure Mountain venerable

00:34.36 mettaji Well thanks. So it's a lovely introduction I'll try and do the best I can.

00:39.41 sol_hanna Ah, and that's all that anyone can ever ask of us. Um, venerable you started out as a your working life as a highly motivated innovator in the corporate world I Wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that.

00:44.74 mettaji That's turned.

00:54.10 mettaji Wow. Ah, we got to go back some years but um I was lucky I love I love the name of your podcast treasure mounting because I think I've met a few treasures in my life that that helped me on the journey and. Had a breakthrough. My early 20 s um I came across ah a really wonderful man David Mills who was trying to innovate in marketing and banking in the yeah uk and we designed some innovative products I got a some ah a sucumbent to San Francisco while I was there I came across all sorts of innovations in in marketing and consumer products and um, sadly in some respects. Ah the banking assignment didn't work out I came back to the Uk but David arranged for me to get. Ah, scholarship to London business called something called the sloane fellowship and the sloane fellowship was a wonderful innovation. A gentleman called Alfred Sloane in the 1930 s in America thought that there were lots of good people at a university but they stopped learning by the time they were 30 and the sloane fellowship was a bequest to have people at around 30 years of age come and be tested through a pseudo mba and be taken outside their comfort zone. Go go and learn from other industries and the like. And the payback for the bank who sponsored me Midland Bank was to write a thesis and with David um, we agreed that I would write a case to create something called a direct bank. Ah, Drake Bank was to try and do everything without branches in those days over the phone and then it became over the internet and I designed this bank called first direct which was an innovation in the late 80 s um it opened 24 hours a day seven days a week from the first of October Nineteen eighty nine and it quickly got a very good reputation around customer service. Ah very good interest rates on both sides of the ledger credit and debit. Um, and. I was given that wonderful opportunity in life a blank piece of paper and say how would you design a bank around customers rather than the other way around and um, that helped me for many years in my career afterwards. So that's where it all started. Um and.

03:33.30 mettaji And I consider myself blessed from the experience.

03:34.78 sol_hanna And what did you feel that you achieved from that both professionally and what gains did you attain for yourself I mean what did you get out of that personally.

03:47.70 mettaji Yeah, great question. Um, professorly I thought I was very lucky because there were a number of people who would have liked to do the this. The Sloan Fellowship um I guess you know almost like with buddhism. There was a lot of introspection. Um.

03:51.70 sol_hanna But.

04:06.71 mettaji They needed to do like we ran a piece of work piece of research that um ah wanted to see what the problems were from a consumer point of view with banking in the 1980 s and the research said you know most people didn't know who their bank manager was.

04:07.90 sol_hanna Um, ah. Now about.

04:26.61 mettaji Found the interrelations really difficult. They might have to wait two weeks for an appointment. There was lots of forms and documentation. Um to fill in so I asked myself. Um, how could you make this really simple for a consumer like.

04:32.30 sol_hanna That.

04:43.18 mettaji Could you could you grant someone a loan after 2 minutes if you'd ask the right questions and use these new tools tools called credit scoring. Um how how would you interact with someone really easily over the phone if they didn't believe that you know you could do everything over the phone.

04:43.41 sol_hanna Um, yeah.

04:50.62 sol_hanna True. Yeah.

05:03.13 mettaji So um, over the years I discovered that you know success as as a foul thousand fathers and ah an orphan is you know, very so singular. So there were many people involved in the creation of that. First direct we needed you know new software. We needed new arrangements with certain banks some of the competitors. You know, tried to kill it at birth. So what I learned professionally was collaboration. Um. Innovation that could work not too much of a pipe dream but lots of testing we did lots of pilot. Um implementations and tested it on on real customers before we launched and one of the highlights for me was um, a lot of the banks initially ran. Propaganda to say. Ah, nobody's going to want to speak to a call center in Leeds. They've got funny accents and over time we found it was better to hire someone with a customer service background like a florist or an undertaker or um. They've been a travel agent and teach them banking rather than the other way around and when people found that we were a really good employer. We cared to power people. We. We had 1 of the first major crecies in the Uk we looked after about 60 to hundred babies on a daily basis. Which enables single mothers you know to to find a job The atmosphere, the culture that we create your soul was was kind of really important and the second part of your question. Um I'd say you you get really stretched you you get stretched off. Ah, wonder whether this will work in practice I wonder whether I've got close enough to the customers to understand what I want and will will we be able to deal with any political or ah competitive challenges as they arise and and keep the. Keep the ethos the the truth of the proposition. Unfortunately, it's still going thirty years later and it's probably the most admired consumer um institution financial or otherwise in the u k.

07:20.70 sol_hanna It's very interesting because obviously that kind of orientation towards banking has been revolutionary and what we take for granted today like this twenty four seven kind of banking someone had to invent it. Um, and as you say many people were involved I find it very interesting that. Um, in describing. Ah what you got out of it. It wasn't like you were motivated necessarily just about money. It was about can we provide something that's really good. You're interested in the process and also interested in um, caring about the people both customers and also employees and so forth. But that be correct.

07:58.80 mettaji Yeah, that's a beautiful pickup on your part. So um, you're really taking me back in my memory banks. But I remember having I remember having 3 treasures at london business school who were professors one had come up with this new theory.

08:05.40 sol_hanna Um, shit.

08:15.49 mettaji Call the seduction process which people teased me over the years and said oh that's mayor's seduction process but the seduction process said you had to design the factory to meet the needs of the customer. But if the customer needs changed. You had to change the way. The factory operated. And it was a simple model but it was really powerful and the closest um I felt at the time that was doing simple work was Apple Apple Macintosh which had only been out. Um you know a little point in time but said. Ah, do you make things really easy for the customers. So you know I was intrigued about that and and I found ideas in other industries that had you know nobody thought to apply them in the Uk or or in finance the second bit and the more important is one of those treasures a guy by the name of Charles handy. To me was an eccentric irishman who was teaching at London Business School he'd been a senior executive for shell. But his course was about looking inside yourself and what your meaning in life was and in about the week four of that Sloan Fellowship my dad had died suddenly the week before and charles handy walks in and says I'd like everybody to write their obituary as homework and we were asked to sort of look forward to the year when we might reach 80 and then count back from that and say what did you want to achieve and with me I kind of just kind of let that flow I I've been heavily influenced by Martin Luther King you know when I was about ten or eleven I you know I like the the people that were sort of making a difference in in the world.

09:48.38 sol_hanna And.

10:05.68 mettaji Mine was really a humble piece of homework saying I hope I make a contribution you know to the world and I have some good people you know along that journey. What what we now in Buddhism were called callana meters. But again you see there was a person who was somewhat spiritual who.

10:06.70 sol_hanna Um.

10:25.13 mettaji Gave you a blank piece of paper but said take a look at this and how will you make some meaning out of it and is it something that you can sustain has it got foundations to it I Hope that.

10:35.47 sol_hanna Yeah, that no no, that's really interesting. It's it's also very interesting like um I think sometimes when you get into spiritual practice like Buddhism you expect that you're going to find the answers maybe on a meditation retreat or maybe in a deep book on dharma or something like that. But the answers. That we need are everywhere and I think your answer kind of goes to that point is that we only need to look or be open to find the answers that we need at any 1 particular time but I do want to go back to something you said in your previous answer. You talked about how you felt stretched. Even though you know what you were doing was successful. You had that sense that would things get knocked back for political reasons would the competition come and you know out Fox you ah can you just just talk about that feeling because you know you're at your top of your game but it's. Not easy. Is. It.

11:33.38 mettaji Yeah, um, what I'd want to convey and you know now I'm in my mid 60 s the thing I'd sort of like to help with is if I can explain to the younger generation. You know what they may kind of face in life and. If I could save them an inch or 2 of suffering. You know that that that would be a nice, um, outcome. You know from this podcast. So what I want to say is an answer is in the in the generation there which in the u k had been going through some tough time. So Margaret Thatcher you know wanted to destroy the unions. Um I can remember being at university and there was a three day week and having to do lots of the homework by candlelight um long before having a computer you know a university so there was a whole bunch of hard times and. I was I was blessed to have 2 lovely parents. Although you know I lost my my father fairly early but I'd say the Uk culture that was conditioning me was you must achieve you must achieve and. Kind of you know the higher you went there were still achievements that society or your employer wanted or sometimes you know, um, ah, your partner and I look back now and saying I was stretched in a number of directions that probably weren't healthy. But fortunately I wasn ah amongst enough good people to say I think that'll do it. We'll do that as an experiment first I'd be honest and say I didn't have a spiritual foundation at that time. Um I think the the drive to keep your job. Um, try and create some innovation that was definitely there. But I wish the dharma teachings had been freely available. You know when I was 20 which is um, forty years ago what are that as ah as an additional point is um. We had these horrible troubles in Northern Ireland between the protestants and the catholics and I had gone to church in in the yeah uk and I had tried to do innovations in in youth work when I was 14 or 15 and and they were loved by the church. But. I didn't think it was something that I want to follow if parts of christianity were fighting with each other That's what I remember a lot from the news in those days and I'd I'd argue that I was a lost soul probably from about 20 years of age to.

14:16.35 mettaji Um, mid 30 s you know, looking for a home.

14:17.50 sol_hanna Well, let's move on a little bit from that point from the 80 s you obviously did find career success. But as you said you were stretched in a lot of different ways and things did start to fall apart. Bit in your life and a little bit later on didn't they.

14:36.46 mettaji Yeah I mean I'm very grateful to to first direct very grateful to to some people there the the parent bank that I worked for in the u k was in some real difficulties and um. It ended up being weak because of that american bank that I went to work for and it eventually had to be sold and and it was sold to the Hsbc and the Hsbc indicated that a lot of the senior middle and bank managers wouldn't. Necessarily have a long-term career in hsbc so I started looking overseas and as luck we'd have it somebody who knew my first direct background said oh you should you should look at this bank in Australia so I was headhunted to Australia in 95 um, to run the marketing. Um I I got married fairly quickly. I've got 2 beautiful kids that I'm ah ah, proud of but um I found over the years that whilst I could have. A job of some seniority some of the ethical decisions that were being made some of the ways in which um, consumers weren't dealt with appropriately. Um, troubled me. So I think that's where my spiritual search started and I was looking for an exdu like um yes I needed a salary to live in Sydney. There was a young family that I needed to support but I was really pushing hard against. You know the questions. What's the meaning of life. You know what am I doing here and am I doing the right things.

16:28.16 sol_hanna My daresay that there's quite a few other people that going through similar questioning as well. Especially you know as you said like the you know the corporate world can be quite challenging not just in the sense of the amount of work that you're sometimes required to do but also as you say the ethical gray zones are even yeah. Worse which can come up. Um, so perhaps we could tell us how did you end up becoming interested in Buddhist practice.

16:56.52 mettaji Um, um, yeah yeah was it was fortunate I'll I'll I'll tell um yeah I'll tell a simple story. So um. Um, my my marriage my marriage broke down and um I was living on my own and I had the odd acquaintance and one of those acquaintances. Um. After not hearing from them from a number of months rang me up one day and said um I'm thinking you committing suicide while you're on the phone and I said no no, don't do that. Don't do that. Where are you Um, ah let me come and see you you know? um. Um, I'm happy to help as a friend. Ah you know I wonder what we can do and ah this particular person. Ah good person but but somewhat troubled and I looked around to try and find a psychologist that might help. And I stumbled um across a person who said he had a blend of psychotherapy and buddhist practice and I said to this person look I'll I'll pay for you to go to to a number of sessions. But if it doesn't work. Doesn't work for you then we'll we'll find something else and this person went to those sessions and um, they didn't think it was the right therapy for them and I arranged for them to ah. Move somewhere safe in in sort of New South wales and I believe that they're still alive today and that they're in a much better place which you know was important to what I was trying to achieve but when things caught up with me about a year later and I was somewhat depressed. And looked up this person and I thought well I'll go and see them and his name is John Barter and he has a practice called well awareness lovely lovely name to pick and John let me know that he ran 3 meditation groups a week and I gradually gave that a go and then as I got sort of more involved. Um, you know as a client but I think there was fair separation there between you know, client and um and the person running the practice. Um I asked to be taken deeper on the buddhist side.

19:41.40 mettaji And I eventually discovered that John ah was an ex- monk in the teravada tradition who'd been a nurse for Adjan Char um for a number of years. That's how it started really? so.

19:54.85 sol_hanna Wow. So actually you sounds like you went from yeah getting therapy to starting to practice meditation to even you ended up teaching meditation after not too long a time is that correct or dont get that wrong.

20:11.29 mettaji No, um, that's correct. So um, just want to add something you know because you mentioned it a couple of questions back I think if someone was in my situation and the podcast was you know trying to help people who may be struggling in corporate life. I'd say it be beautiful if you could find a Calliana meter someone who you feel comfortable with who you can talk about you know how the mind operates and you get support for yourself because ah I think you have to. Be well and happy and yourself first you know to go on and do something else. So um I had very deep conversations for for John and eventually he let me record some of those sessions because I wanted to reflect on. You know what? the answers were. Ah, me trying to understand you know what depression was what the cures were what were the things to avoid um you know did I have any addictions and the fact that you could then sit with a beautiful group. Um. In those meditation groups and some were open to share um that that was a big benefit to my recovery. Um. I was in John's groups for about four or five years and as John and I got closer and closer and and studied a lot of buddhism together and even looked at other religions. Um to see if there was other practices that would help John eventually made the decision that Sydney had got very expensive. Um. And he would try and run his practice by commuting from the tweed valley where he and his partner had a property he did that for a number of years and then said um, can't continue. It. You know I'm moving for good. Would you take over these meditation groups. So by then I had about. Five or six years practice under my belt and I asked the group what they wanted and then we we developed a certain style for for doing those groups and I just tried to make sure um I was aligned with what people wanted to get out of it and sort of dropped the ego at the front door. You know before we did a session.

22:35.76 sol_hanna I Think thank you for that answer I think you've made a very important point which is about the idea of the Kayana meter which is like a spiritual friend someone you can who has spirituality as part of their lives who can be a support for you. But Also the idea of the group I think ah particularly in the west we tend to. We idealize self-reliance and often what we really need is is really good people or wise people compassionate people close to us to to influence us in a positive Way. So I think it's a really good point now I Just find it interesting that you personally went from having. Going through a bit of a dark patch in your life and you said you had depression finding a way through that and then for too long, you're actually helping as a a meditation group leader group teacher and you and indeed later on you would get kind of skip out of The. Corporate world and you started a mental Health charity. Ah um, wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that.

23:38.87 mettaji Yeah I mean there's a fair amount of serendipity there. So um, ah I was still married at that point and took on a role to be a Ceo in Wollongong for a credit union. Um.

23:40.89 sol_hanna Are.

23:57.91 mettaji Credit union had a charter to service you know, ah a particular community though those that were members of the credit union and the charter also said there any profits you had you know if if there was a windfall you know you should return that to the membership and this credit union was called city coast credit union. And some of the staff wanted to have a party for an upcoming fortieth anniversary and I held up the the the um I held up the charter and said look I'd rather we find something that was really sustainable and might give back to the community so I issued a challenge to the community I I we hired this the mad scientist Dr Karl K Christianelsky and he came down to wollongong and and held a session and we invited people to bring along their ideas of what um wollongong really needed. Wasn't actually in that meeting but separately someone approached and said you've got a real problem with mental health in Wollongong. The the facilities aren't there. You're not you know, helping people and we asked this particular man you know what help was need and he said he he had a dream to bring. Ah, brain imaging camera to to Wollongong have the have the money raised in in wollongong and donate it to the university of of wollongong. Um, to see if we could find a cure for schizophrenia. You know it was a big big claim these these cameras. Ah. That they were going to use were about ten feet tall by memory and basically they they needed post-mortem tissue from supposedly normal individuals and schizophrenia individuals and they would look for the chemicals in the brain and see if there was something a misrelay to the chemicals. So I took it to my board and they said oh we can really back this and I said well um I need some key people in Wollongong and wollongong bless them. Um, the whole community got behind it. They used to say we can't use Sydney in a sentence with something like this because we think they'll Nick our project. Um, but. Everybody came on board and we raised about a quarter of 1000000 for this camera in like nine weeks donated it to the university and um, they immediately could hire ph ds from all over the world. This was the only camera of its type in the Southern Hemisphere they soon found that? Yes, there were about 3 chemicals missing um in the brain of ah of ah schizophrenic almost from birth 1 of them was amega 3 you know which we call fish oil. Um, so really impressive.

26:45.41 mettaji Um, to work with the community like that you know there's a real sense of excitement. You know, made it happen and the university of wollongong still you know still uses that and they use it for many other applications now you know diabetes. However, there's a sting in the tail having completed it. Um. The ah lady in the town who was quite famous asked to meet me for dinner and I asked one of the comedian members to come along with me I didn't know this second lady. And for about an hour she was really tough on me saying oh you and the Lord Mayor have done a dreadful thing. You've you've looked after the future with research but you're not looking after people now you don't know there's a problem and I said well what do you mean and she said well. This is where are we? This is about 5002 many years before there's a famous document in mental health history in Australia called the richmond report and all the asylums were closed by the government. That's what they decided to do. But the richmond report said you need to build facilities so that these people can live happily in the local community and be taken care of the asylums were closed but the facilities didn't come along and she asked me to go to a kitchen. To meet. Um, you know people suffering from mental illness not being looked after you know in their view. Well enough in in sort of local society and I remember going to that kitchen and coming out afterwards and just crying by the side of the road that. Here was me that had really been looked after in Australia and I'd been in Australia now 15 years and I just had no comprehension how hard it was for a sufferer and how they were supposed to live 24 by 7.

28:35.82 sol_hanna Um, yeah.

28:48.61 mettaji So they challenged us to put together. Um, what was known as a mental health clubhouse a clubhouse soul around the world is a facility that's set up where people with mental illness are actually given the keys to the institution. And you hire about 7 or 8 project managers to sit around these people and come up with what's called a work assisted day. So a work assisted day might say okay, um, we're going to go out into the local community and we're going to look for jobs that are available. And get contracts in hospitality. Then we're going to bring that job back. It's construction and we're going to teach it to about 6 people in the clubhouse. We're going to cook one hundred meals a day in the clubhouse sufficient that we can feed people and they come and get a decent meal will help them with their housing. We'll get into employment. And I went that rocks that that is such a beautiful idea and the lord mayor said is it for real I said well there's there's one in Sydney and there's 1 impriment so I went visited both of them and I found wherever ah mental health clubhouse had been put in place anywhere in the world. It reduced hospital rates for. Um, severely. Um, you know challenge people with mental illness by about 85 to 90 but 5% and I went that's not a simple number people look for fives and ten percent um let's do this. So again, using the energy that we did with um, ah the camera the brain imaging camera I wanted to see who would come on board and the university of new South Wales got a whole year's ah built environment. You know technical specialist students in their final year. To come to wollongong and work with me and try and come up with a design that came from the consumer's ideas like to get their buy in you know would would they would would they buy into this project. You know would it would would it work would it help them. Um, kind of long story short. Council unfortunately was fired for corruption. Um about a year after donating three Thousand Square meters of land in wollongong for the construction of the first built clubhouse we stuck around together as a committee and we opened a temporary facility about a year later and it's just had it's eleventh or Twelfth birthday. Um, it's open four days a week and unfortunately it's still there. You know it's kicking on and more than some of that corporate work that that gives me a good feeling in the heart that.

31:33.28 mettaji There are 130 people that might been through that clubhouse now and there are really good people in wollongong making sure it continues day after day and people are supported and they've found jobs in the community and their help with their medication and they're looked after for housing. Um. 1 of the highlights of my life was when I asked my kids who at the time I think were 11 and 9 to take 8 people from the clubhouse to the easter show in Sydney and you know I could almost cry that was just such a beautiful day just a beautiful day.

32:03.69 sol_hanna Oh that sounds fantastic and something. It's it's sustainable. But also I think it goes back to that idea of support having having good people around you caring people Around. It makes such a difference and as you say and often people with mental illness. Are are on the Fringe. So it's It's fantastic to get that support to them now I'm listening to what you're saying and it sounds to me like you've got a pretty successful life. You know you've been successful in terms of your career in terms of a professional success. Yeah, you've had a family and not just that you haven't stopped at that you're. You know learning meditation is teaching meditation and then you've got ah this um orientation towards giving to the community yet that wasn't your endpoint that wasn't something about that wasn't quite enough you decide that you you're going to go give that all up and become a monk. Perhaps you could explain how did that come about.

33:03.60 mettaji Um, like most human beings I've got lots of flaws and um I realized um I had I had 2 problems one one was related to food. So I joined a 12 step group. Related to food I noticed that I needed lots of energy to get stuff done but when I was in a stressful situation I might have had breakfast an hour but I would go and have another breakfast if I had a difficult meeting to go through. You know I had to. Had to do a disciplinary I had to make a major financial decision and it got quite ridiculous towards the end some people I felt were listening in the corridor outside my office when I had and made the decision to make so I used to turn to my personal assistant said. Let's meet in conference room 3 and conference room 3 was a bad coffee shop. You know about eight hundred meters away and I other coffee and I'd have a ques on you know and I'd roleplay what I was going to do and then say you go back to the office you know cover the phones and I'd have another coffee you know to set myself up. So. A shout out to 12 set groups that um, they kind of really helped me like a year or two before I came a month before I came a monk I lost Forty Kilos in about nine months I actually lost too much. You know, put it back on. But. There. There was an important link there between sort of buddhism and spirituality. Um, and you know Buddhism was a major feature in my life but I kind of wanted to see ah how how my mind you know was going with that. Um. I've apologized to a number of women over my life that the second problem was I wasn't great in relationships I didn't I didn't have certain skills. So um I would be I would put people up on a pedestal and believe you could go off into the sunset. You know like well Disney um. But again that wasn't the case and there's a 12 step group for that too. So um, it it kind of grounded me and and the thing was combined with buddhism really needed to turn inwards and then at some level I said. There's got to be something else and I'm going to be cheekier here a little bit but I remember in two thousand one two in Sydney you could find hardly any books on Buddhism um.

35:45.62 mettaji In Sydney if they were there. There were nice tomes but most of them were about the Dalai Lama and they were written by you know, a third party. Um I don't remember seeing ajam. Brahm's famous book mindfulness bliss and beyond you know in certain bookshops till 14011 in in Sydney and I probably wouldn't have got all of it by then but kind of looking looking for resources. Um, you know Buddhism I kind of found that quite hard. But John Barter had um, sort of. Kind of got me thinking and the mantra I came came up with in the end which is in some of those tasks that that I took on in my life was to keep looking for what I thought was the absolute truth. So I I joined some buddhist groups and it and it didn't turn out well because um. Ah, was unhappy with their ethics and the cheekiness is you know some of the buddhist teachers out there I think they dumb down buddhism to the point of ah well if you meditate mindfulness that'll get you a better relationship or it'll get you a pay rise or.

36:54.69 sol_hanna Meaning.

36:59.16 mettaji The new shiny red car is just going to turn up from another pilot. You know next week you know if you go if you go deep enough and I can honestly say you know lucky running into adja brahm in 2017 having not seen each other you know for a number of years. Um.

36:59.79 sol_hanna Since consistent.

37:17.74 mettaji I didn't find all of the real teachings till I got to bodyna and you know asked the deep questions and kind of went into the library and and talked to people so I was looking a long time Saul I think I got so far down certain roads. Um I think i. Think I ran into some wobbly bits that um weren't true weren't accurate. You know weren't helpful but the thing I'm most proud about you know apart from my kids um is that I didn't give up ask you know holding to the important question and saying. Um, don't know how much time I've got left in in this life. Um, now that they're old enough that I could consider doing a something. Let's see what I can find out as long as I can still you know maintain some. Some relationship with them and and and help them out if they got into stripe.

38:14.84 sol_hanna Wow, That's a excellent little story because also it shows the the power of sticking with it and that there can be wobbly bits you know sometimes I think you know note know for myself when I started out pachaing I Thought when now everything is going to get solved. It's all going to be fixed and. Of course it doesn't work quite quite like that does it either. We have still have challenges and so Forth. So but it is that sticking with it that really makes a difference.

38:42.13 mettaji Well, of course you had a big influence as well. So I'm not going to let you off the hook easily though because because you were an innovator and got be a stu away to go onto the internet. Those those videos those clips being out there and you could access them access them and you could you could type into bswa you know let's see a talk on depression. Let's see a talk on on lovingkindness that was leading edge stuff. So from. For me catching up and what I hope young people in particular and those that struggling with depression and the like say you know I tell people now there's three thousand talks on bsweight. There's 3000 podcasts on the the main site you know Bs w a dot org. And probably a lot of people didn't believe you when you started. You know you were an innovator and like how we going to do this and and how we going to get the sound quality right? So after I started looking some form of karma came into play and then I was flooded with stuff and I had to kind of filter. It. As well in terms of who's who's given the closest to absolute truth and who's kind of playing at the margins.

39:57.30 sol_hanna Um, how have you found I mean I think at any stage in life giving up all your worldly possessions and becoming a monk is is a pretty big step and for some. Feel like it's coming home and for others it's just it's really quite Challenging. How have you found? Um, you know, ordaining and becoming becoming a fully ordained biku. How has that journey been for you.

40:25.15 mettaji Well I got ah I got to laugh at myself in in sort of 2017. So what 1 job job came to a very painful end one attempt at a relationship came to a painful end and I went. You know, just just turn 60 might be hard to get another job. You know in in corporate world or or at a senior level I better look carefully and um I just haven't learned the lesson around relationships you know I think I'm a kind and sort of generous man. But I think um. Corporate life has got tougher. Um, there are more distractions in the world. Um, the amount of input from you know, shock jocks ah pop psychologists you know in terms of. What constitutes a relationship how you supposed to make it into the world. Um, just a tsunami in my view of difficult and bad information. Um that that brought me up really really short and again I had a lucky moment. Um. When John Barter made that decision to go to the tweed I helped him pack up is how stroke practice rooms in Sydney and I I try to arrange that you would have one day free before he left and what would he really like to do in Sydney. Um, ah you know before he left I'd I'd take him anyway, yeah and this day was a Saturday and all week he was teasing me and I go I wouldn't have picked that from Johnny. He wants to do this. He wants to do that and I picked him up eight thirty on the Saturday and he says. You know where I want to go really? don't you Anna so I think so but you've been you've been shaking me all week he said let's go to sany monastery and see I in ahoda and that's what I thought he he would want to do the I and ehoda as a ah layperson. Had donated the land for sani indeed donated the land for another monastery in in buninoon as well and John had been the initial president of sani when they constructed it so they had 30 years history and he wanted to pay his respects and he any and he and he and he wanted to say is is goodbyes and when we got to sany it was clear that I and a roda had a whole heap of management. Um issues that um were troubling her.

43:08.48 mettaji And my mouth spoke before I thought about it and she said um, any challenge you could help out I said yeah I'll come for a number of weekends and I'll pitch into it. You know I look at insurance and the constitution and how the committee's working so I started to do all that and blow me. Um. She said oh aja ramh's coming through here in a few weeks you should tell him your story now. What I hadn't covered already is I'd applied to be a monk somewhere else in the world about five or six years before and I got a letter back saying we find men over 45 are intolerant stubborn. And hard train. So I in a roaddo it encourages me, you know to have a chat with a jim brah and a Jim Brahm comes through and ah and he says why don't you have a look at body Yana and I said why I'm I'm way too old. You know? ah.

43:47.77 sol_hanna That's harsh.

44:04.42 mettaji Most monasteries you know won't take a guy about 45 oh no he said you know I ordained one american at 70 you know he's still with us. You know, come and have a look the point of my rambling soul was um i.

44:15.91 sol_hanna Ah.

44:20.42 mettaji Was offered an opportunity to go and have a look I managed to get to boardna the following Monday it was either come for three days or there wasn't anything available for seven months then somebody dropped out then they said oh if you stay for three weeks you know we can consider you to be an Anna Garica um I I'd only packed for three days so I said we kind of go and get some more clothes I got I got to the Ana Garica moment and they said oh we need your decision now. Um, if you'll come back for rains. Um I said i. Needed to go back and talk to my daughter in particular and I ask her permission almost was like the other way around because I wanted a long term relationship. You know with both of them and the bottom line is five weeks you know after going back to come and see my daughter I was back getting ready to be ah ordained as an a gaka. So I didn't have much time to think about it but I had to get rid of 92% of everything I had in five weeks if I if I just sit and think about it I should I shouldn't I and the nice thing was I did have a few callan emitters in my life. So I had 2000 books that I was really proud of more than half of them were. But Buddhist. So I shipped nine freight boxes to John Barter so he could have a library on tweet head of all my best stuff and unfortunately it's still there and um I had ah an innovator who was doing good social works I went around with the buddha books and said you know will you take these. So I managed to get rid of just about everything to good places. Good houses one one. Ah, one of the the other nights that made me cry is I found this refugee organization in western um, Sydney um, that had nothing so they took my exercise by the tv you know a whole bunch of stuff. So the stuff that went down to the tip was mostly of kind of you know, no limited value and ad to ship a whole series of papers here. So I could meet my tax returns over the years um so I'm glad it happened quicks soul and.

46:26.22 sol_hanna Um, ah a blessing in disguise. Um, yeah, let's bring us up to the present day because ah even as a biku living in a hut in the forest with few possessionions.

46:30.27 mettaji So yeah.

46:41.75 sol_hanna You're still giving your time and effort and the skills you've acquired in your working life to serve the community. Could you tell us about 1 or 2 of the projects that you've been working on recently.

46:51.84 mettaji Wow. Um, well, the first thing I mean I think it was unbelievably generous. You know to be given the offer to be you know considered one of the things I really like about adjun brahm and. Um, the senior monastics is the rule in body yana is to give everybody a go you know without without any preferences. Yeah, and I've seen that happen so many times now. So fortunately for me I've i've.

47:19.58 sol_hanna Yeah.

47:28.83 mettaji Fell into that set where other places might say you know you're too old so when it was clear that um there was a massive amount of work that bsw was trying to do and you know there may be some shortcomings. Um I put my hand up to fill in. You know a management gap and especially um, you know the last organizations I were involved was involved with was not for Profitts and had always made it a job in life to keep my nose clean so I had good contacts in the charity space government space. Um I hadn't blotted my copyboard so you know phone a friend if there was an issue. So um, you know I first appear in a Bs w a um Youtube clip at the 2018 Agm where Adja Bram resides ah and there's an issue you know related to sort of constitutions and the like and I find that there's type pressures in w a that. We've really got to um, bring that constitution up to date. Um I needed to do a selling job with the community that. You know governments in a lot of respects shouldn't be feared that there were really good reasons. Why western australia was asking all the stations to to update it. So um, you know? ah I led a team you know to do that. Um, you know that took a lot of time and then. You know when there were issues on insurance and um other things I kind of volunteered to look I can look over this in an hour or two and because I had a long experience in financial services I can I can deal with the gobbledook I can work out fairly quickly whether you're getting a good rate. But I also wanted to have be a Wa bill you know good relationships with um, ah, people who were supplying supplying to us. Um, after a year I was asked to go on the australian sanga association um ah

49:31.20 sol_hanna Um.

49:39.85 mettaji Committee ah, multiple traditions trying to help you know all monastics who are members across Australia there are you know some lit lay members and surprise surprise some of them were asking for advice on. Mental health how to deal with that and if somebody came to a monastery how to deal with governance issues constitution. Um, and um, I've been on that ah committee ever since and probably then the last point I'd make is um. We often have to engage. You know, carefully on certain issues and a big one that came up was the religious discrimination bills which originally were called religious freedom um, in Buddhism we would choose. You know not to discriminate against anyone. We have great. Relationships you know in sort of multifaith. So um I on 3 occasions once with the co-author in in Melbourne wrote the submissions on the part of the Australian S Sanga Association too government and and said um, we can't support discrimination of any type against a vulnerable group a major religion discriminating against a minor religion and um, it's pleasing that I think. In recent times. Buddhism has got through to federal government and I for the asa and the Buddhist Council Of New South Wales are represented. We presented to the senate. Um, ah by Zoom a few weeks ago. And and I think our points were listened to that. There should be nothing in it that allowed 1 religion to discriminate against another there needed to be protections for gay students gay teachers and um, we we couldn't support the bill. In fact. You know we were concerned that it was coming up in in the first place we were more concerned that there be harmony across all faiths and you know we did good things for Australia and and paid back for the support though we'd have you know a little dinky individual like me that. Turned up in 9094.

52:11.47 sol_hanna I think just for the benefit of the listeners. We should probably just quickly explain that religious freedom bill which was supposed to give religious institutions particularly I guess the big church is the right to hire and fire based on their. Particular teachings or ethics of their religion which could potentially discriminate against gay and lesbian people against perhaps people of other religions or no religion. So in one sense I guess the stance that the australian Sunga Association took was a little bit controversial because we were saying hang on. That's not the kind of religious freedom we're after is it where we rather see that everyone gets protected and that there's no discrimination is that am I saying that correctly or would could you fill fill us in on that one.

52:59.80 mettaji I like your words although my response would be It was easy for a buddhist organization to say that you wouldn't discriminate against anyone. You know the core of the buddhist teachings is um. We shouldn't have preference against anybody because of race for color for sexual preferences for you know employment preferences and if you understand the principle of anata non-self um that we're a constant flux of physical and mental processes. You know that's not the same in 1 or 2 moments. The thing that's helped me enormously is I ought to live from the 4 divine of odes which is lovingkindness compassion sympathetic joy and equanimity. So the job of religion and and I think I have colleagues in other religions that say. The first point of religion is to have a kind heart a good heart and and help your practitioners your parishioners. Um, but don't just apply it to yourself apply it. You know do unto others as you would have done unto yourself look after your neighbor. 80% of the religious tracts I think are very similar in nature and the best spiritual leaders in in all traditions come from that point of view in my experience.

54:21.11 sol_hanna What it? Um, perhaps it wasn't so controversial for Buddhism because it doesn't seek to discriminate anyway. But you were taking a position which was contrary to what some of the big churches were taking. Do you find that there was any tension there that that buddhist representatives were. On the other side of the argument.

54:41.13 mettaji Um, great question. Um, the the handsards there for anybody to look at and they there was downloads. You could actually get the senate hearing they they organized panels in small numbers sufficient that. Um, people present him were given adequate time. So I was on a panel of 3 organizations asa buddist council new South Wales and the hindu council so there wasn't a christian in our group and um and we were asked to put over our position. I chose to watch some of the others and I was a bit taken aback that 1 church might turn up and make its presentation. The 3 people from the same organization didn't have a common view and actually was contradictory within the church. So the so the senate then said okay.

55:30.31 sol_hanna Ah.

55:36.14 mettaji I Give you this point on notice. Can you come back to me when you have resolved what you want from this bill because I'm mightily confused. Yes.

55:42.83 sol_hanna Yeah, right I I Guess that's part maybe part because you know the the long story short is that bill was defeated. It didn't go through is that correct.

55:51.62 mettaji It wasn't defeated in the sense of um, what happened on the night that they were discussing it in the lower house. A number of parliamentarians in the liberal party crossed the floor and it may have got through in the lower house. But.

56:03.93 sol_hanna Um.

56:09.74 mettaji Those in the senate said we can't support it when he got to the senate. So the government because it was sure it was running out of time decided to take Um, ah you know the bill sort of down as it were and wanted to.

56:12.59 sol_hanna Um.

56:28.73 mettaji See if you could remodel it you know put in some of these changes but the following morning a ah major Christian organization said we don't want the bill now it doesn't give us what we want we we wanted to have these discriminations something that we feared all along that. Some organizations would use it to say ethos as far as the church was concerned is you can't use our schools. Um, ah to let gay you you know and the light come in. So can I use the phrase. You know it. It kind of failed um politically.

57:02.95 sol_hanna M.

57:05.40 mettaji Um, and eventually the prime minister and the attorney general announced. You know it wouldn't make it in this sitting of parliament. So we have to wait and see what might happen next.

57:15.95 sol_hanna And of course there's election coming up but that's another story. Um, maybe just by way of winding things up. Um you've you know for 1 reason or another you've fallen into this role where you're serving. Both buddhist society w also the australian sangha association and others in terms of offering advice and and you're serving in a way which um, you know the the work of you know, administration and constitutions committees and so forth is not always the most. Ah, kind of interesting for everybody and it and it can sometimes involve conflict and yet you're still giving how do you How do you keep at it and you know what What's the secret and do you see yourself doing this for a bit longer.

58:07.12 mettaji Um, you know there's that Lovely British expression you know doing this work will do your head in so kind of constitutions will do your head in some ah you know, looking over the legal work. You know we we bought a parcel of land next door. Um.

58:14.38 sol_hanna Ah.

58:26.36 mettaji Only on Thursday but to get the transaction to the line was a bit difficult in the last few days and I was kind I want to be a monastic I want to be a monastic but but um, the truth of it is I've looked to this a number of times and I've and i. Kind of got I've really got a step back a number of times and then I've realized that it's actually quite good for your practice. So I don't I don't lose any sleep over I've done bad things in the world or insulted or made some but something difficult. Yeah I don't.

58:59.55 sol_hanna Um.

59:02.60 mettaji I don't lose sleeplight oh. There's this dreadful deadline coming up really fast because many of these things if youre careful you do them on monastery time a jem brahm doesn't give you a deadline bswa doesn't give you ah a serious deadline you know which is um, unachievable. But I have to say if I can save a committee member time or someone's really kind of struggling with an issue and I can do it in an hour and they're going to fret about it for 14 hours I think that's that's good meta I think that's good. You know meta to offer.

59:36.42 sol_hanna Move move.

59:41.49 mettaji Um I I would like to think in the sangga we'll be careful about the next iteration of the ten or fifteen years of bsw a and we won't burn um sort of people out but nice thing that's come my way then is other. Organizations buddhist organizations said oh we got a problem in Queensland can we have your constitution because you you did Youtube um information evenings on it to get it through bsw a and said oh great I did it once but now it's playing out 3 or 4 times. Um. So I'm happy I'm I'm happy to offer. But I mean you know me well sol um I'm I'm going to be I have to be a little bit more careful in getting the balance right? Um, ah between practice and sort of management work. But now I can see there's a link between the two because if you're dealing with a horny thorny issue like um, ah the religious discrimination Bill. You need to have single pointed focus really to see what it's about um, would the others in the asa support it. Is there a pothole you should fall into you don't really want to get into politics but you you might wish to support ethics given there's 500000 buddhists now we're still a minor religion. But. I thought we were speaking for humanity. We weren't speaking for religion and um in that sense you know I sleep well and um I can I've got a host of stories if anybody asks me to teach. Ah.

01:01:15.91 sol_hanna Um.

01:01:28.42 sol_hanna Ah, ah, wonderful. Well said well said where you eventually you providing a vital support to um to the community buddhist community here in Australia and we thank you for that and I want to thank you very much for taking your time and being so telling your story here in treasure mountain. Thank you