I'm trying to find a story in the Pali canon (or maybe not) reportedly told by Ajahn Brahm that goes like this (copied from here):

Buddha was wandering along with Ananda when they came across a monk sitting under a tree in meditation. The monk was sat on the ground with a straight back, his hands were folded, and his head and neck at just the right angle. He was deep in meditation and had been for some time. The Buddha turned to Ananda and said “I’m worried about that monk.”

A few minutes later they came across another monk sitting under a tree in meditation. He was on a comfy cushion, his back was bent forward and he’d fallen asleep. Every now and then he’d wake up only to nod off again. He was even snoring. The Buddha turned to Ananda and said “this monk I’m not worried about at all, he’s doing just fine.”

I've been googling around but found nothing.

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    I don't know about this one... It's uncharacteristic of the Buddha not only to worry, but also to use this kind of humour. For instance see the beginning of the Satipatthana Sutta: accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.than.html "There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out...
    – Anthony
    Sep 28, 2014 at 21:47
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    That's an apocryphal Zen story if I've ever heard one! Think of it as a koan of sorts.
    – user698
    Sep 29, 2014 at 0:22
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    Considering it's given as a third hand account - what Brahmavamso supposedly said about what the Buddha supposedly said - I'm betting it lost something significant in the chain of retelling; i can't believe Brahmavamso would knowingly make up such a story, but this doesn't sound like any story that the scholarly Theravada monks here can think of. Sep 29, 2014 at 2:25
  • @yuttadhammo & qweilun, I have similar doubt that's the reason I'm here to ask :)
    – fxam
    Sep 29, 2014 at 3:30

2 Answers 2


I've heard Ajahn Brahm tell this story during a lecture which was recorded on YouTube, so I can confirm it's definitely told by him; however I don't remember which one it was.

The story is not (strictly) in the suttas. It is probably (very loosely) based on AN 6.42, and deals more with the disturbances of nearby lay life as opposed to the wilderness.

Nagita, there is the case where I see a monk sitting in concentration in a village dwelling. The thought occurs to me, 'Soon a monastery attendant will disturb this venerable one in some way, or a novice will, and rouse him from his concentration.' And so I am not pleased with that monk's village-dwelling.

But then there is the case where I see a monk sitting, nodding, in the wilderness. The thought occurs to me, 'Soon this venerable one will dispel his drowsiness & fatigue and attend to the wilderness-perception, [his mind] unified.' And so I am pleased with that monk's wilderness-dwelling.

So in this sutta it looks more like he's worried about the auspiciousness of the environment rather than the current condition in which a monk dwells, and his being pleased is based on his assumption that the monk will soon generate right effort, and not that he'll be heedless.

However, I think it's important to stress that Ajahn Brahm's purpose for telling this story, regardless of where he had heard it, were probably that he has many lay followers which come to the practice with high expectations for quick results. He has to teach people how to give themselves some breathing space first - and that, I believe, he does very well.

  • Thanks. Buddha it appears was telling people to leave him and his monks alone. I've seen this in other suttas as well, where the Buddha prefers solitude for his sleep, so much so, he drives out a snake from a shed than sleep with others.
    – Buddho
    May 28, 2015 at 18:55

From what I read in several sources, the straightness of the back is not as important as the intention of the meditator. Here is where I was reading [CTRL F and insert "straight" in the search box]


Hello! The posture (straight back) is not so important as long as you are able to note the rising and falling of the stomach ! So next time you realise you are focusing on maintaining your posture remind yourself "distracted","distracted" or "sitting" ,"sitting" and bring your focus back on the rising and falling of the stomach.

This should help you : http://www.sirimangalo.org/files/HTMa5s.pdf

"Chapter 2: Sitting meditation

The formal method for sitting meditation is as follows:

We sit with the legs crossed if possible, with one leg in front of the other, or in any position which is comfortable as necessary. Traditionally, we sit with one hand on top of the other, palms up on our lap. 3. We sit with our backs straight, although it is not necessary to have the back perfectly straight if this is uncomfortable; just as long as one is not bending over to the point where one is not able to experience the movements of the abdomen. We practice with the eyes closed. Since our focus is on the stomach, having the eyes open will only distract us away from our object of attention. Once we are in a suitable position, we simply send our 5 Please see illustration 41 in the appendix for two traditional sitting postures.mind out to the abdomen; when the abdomen rises, we simply say to ourselves, silently, in the mind, "rising". When the stomach falls, we say to ourselves, "falling". "Rising", "falling" "rising", "falling". "

Seems like the Buddha may have seen some pride in the perfectly straight back and some dogged determination in the slumping monk.

Others say don't worry, meditate walking or standing on your head. Presence.

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    Thanks, actually my main concern is whether this story really came from the Sutta.
    – fxam
    Sep 29, 2014 at 7:03
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    I do not know for sure where this comes from. Sometimes I have to ask myself does it sound reasonable. If it makes sense in my life, then I add it to my practice or refine my practice with it. Then it is an experiment. If dharma grows it works. If not perhaps not. To me, the path is an experiment in consciousness. Like natural selection, what works builds a bridge to the next step. I think things can really happen this way. Progress is possible, not by lightning strikes but by the kind of effort one makes in walking a long distance.
    – soulsings
    Jan 25, 2015 at 19:02

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