top of page

Ultimate Happiness: 3 Secrets to Inner Joy

A review of the book "Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung" by Ajahn Brahm finding happiness and secrets to inner joy amid life's troubles and problems.

Image by Freepik
Image by Freepik

Through this article we will dissect a book by the author and Buddhist Monk and explore many relatable stories that may help us unveil the secret of inner joy. How his writing explores accepting and loving oneself, managing fear and pain, creating happiness, and finding compassion.

Table of Contents


Life can be a challenging journey with many great turbulences. There are times when some of us might feel helpless and defeated. Finding hope can be difficult when you are deeply wounded by the scars from life. These scars can be in the form of guilt, anger, pain, and fear of letting go. Many carry their burdens and sorrows like dung beetles carry their droppings, making it difficult for them to live happy and fulfilling lives. If you struggle with carrying your life burden, this book is the perfect book that will guide you to find compassion and let go of your truckload of dung.

In the book “Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung” by author Ajahn Brahm, he presented 108 interesting stories that will help you be inspired. This compilation of inspiring stories has various meanings and richness of detail. It is relatable to many of the readers, making it more understandable for people to grasp. Stories in this book are life series collected over thirty years ago that Ajahn Brahm has lived as a monk in the forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism.

Chapters of this book were centralized in one of the four noble truths of Buddhism, specifically the second noble truth, the causes of happiness. To find the true causes of happiness, one has to let go of their life's burden. Through these stories written by Ajahn Brahm, you will find a way to find a pearl of wisdom and create your happiness

Ajahn Brahm’s Background

Canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada
Canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

Before being a renowned Buddhist monk and a writer of many well-established books, Ajahn Brahm was known as Peter Betts. Born on 7th August 1951, Peter Betts was a bright student from London. He was always intrigued with knowledge and found himself drowned in the world of academia and science. Though he came from a middle-class working family, his bright mind led to many opportunities that allowed him to pursue a great education. After finishing his studies in Latymer Upper School, he was granted a scholarship to study Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University.

After receiving his degree from one of the top universities in the world, he pursued his passion for education and became a high school teacher. Though teaching has been a natural gift for Peter, he always knew there was something more about life. Disillusioned with the world of academia, Peter left and trained as a monk in Thailand. Under the guidance of the great Ajahn Chah, Peter began his journey in the monkhood and became known as Ajahn Brahmavamso, commonly called Ajahn Brahm.

After spending many years studying the essence of Buddhism, Ajahn Brahm moved to Perth to help other monks spread Buddhist teachings and ways of life. Ajahn Brahm’s wisdom and knowledge were always delivered with playful jokes that invited laughter to many. A lot of people found this approach very inspiring and moving. Ajahn Brahm later wrote several books to spread kindness and compassion to the world.

Until today, Ajahn Brahm still actively travels the world for talks and teaches meditation. He was awarded the John Curtin Medal for his vision, leadership, and service to the Australian community. With his teaching and wisdom, Ajahn Brahm is hopeful to spread love in everyone’s heart.

Secret to Happiness I: Accepting and Loving Oneself

Image by jcomp
Image by jcomp

A lot of people have struggled relentlessly in accepting and loving themself. Many believe that it can be a painful and difficult journey to accept and love who they truly are. In the book, Ajahn Brahm opens up the first chapter with the subtopic, “Perfection and Guilt”. The very first story in this chapter was titled, “two bad bricks”. In this story, Ajahn Brahm shared his experience when he was the craftsman who built the very first Theravada temple in Perth.

Despite having no background in craftsmanship, Ajahn Brahm was able to build a brick wall for the temple. However, due to his lack of skills, he noticed he had made a small mistake where two bricks were slightly crooked. These two bad bricks became a huge problem for him, he was very frustrated to the point he wanted to knock down the whole wall.

Ajahn Brahm always found these two bad bricks a huge mistake in his perfect wall, until one visitor changed his whole perspective. This visitor pointed out that even if there were two bad bricks, there were also 998 other good bricks in the wall. This has opened up Ajahn Brahm’s view about the brick. All along, he was so focused on the two bad bricks that he wasn’t able to see the other bricks that were perfectly placed on the wall.

How many of us are ironically sometimes so focused on the two bad bricks in our lives that we lose sight of the other good things happening to us? It is very difficult to love yourself fully when you can only see what you lack. Being too focused on how our teeth look, curly hair or darker skin can steal away the good qualities that we possess.

Moreover, many relationships around us have ended because we could only see the two bad bricks these people have. As Ajahn Brahm stated, “We’ve all got our two bad bricks, but the perfect bricks in each one of us are much, much more than the mistakes”. Being able to accept these two bad bricks in life and show more attention to other good things that we have can be the first step to accepting and fully loving our true selves.

Realizing that everyone can make mistakes but also being able to become a better person through learning from those mistakes is a vital learning opportunity.

Canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada
Canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

Another strong emotion that can prevent someone from having love for themselves is guilt. Guilt is a strong emotion that can have a huge impact on someone’s life and mental state. Ajahn Brahm stated that “Guilt means punishment deep in our psyche”. In the early parts of the book, Ajahn Brahm shared many stories about eliminating the feeling of guilt and forgiving yourself.

The story of “Guilt and Absolution” and “Letting go of guilt, forever” in the first chapter highlights the importance of forgiving yourself. Ajahn Brahm wrote. “the most difficult stage of the journey out of guilt is convincing ourselves that we deserve to be forgiven. “.

Guilt is described as a prison that we create by ourselves as a result of shame and fear. The only way to walk out of our prison of guilt is by realizing that we are not perfect and that is okay. As Ajahn Bhram mentioned in one of his stories, “We must open the door of our heart to ourselves, whatever we have done.”

Secret to Happiness II : The Art of Managing Fear and Pain

If the last two chapters focused on how guilt is like the two bad bricks in the brick walls of our past, the next few chapters explore the fear and anxiety that can make us afraid of making the brick walls of our future. In the story "Freedom from Fear," Ajahn Brahm described fear as "staring at the brick wall of our future and seeing only what might go wrong."

Fear can be so intense that it prevents someone from finding possibilities and hope. The future can be scary for some people, especially those ruled with agitation and unsureness. The truth is the future is always uncertain. Acknowledging that life comes with such uncertainty, it is a waste of time to fear what could go wrong in the future, as it is uncertain.

Image by kuritafsheen77
Image by kuritafsheen77

In the chapter "Fear and Pain," Ajahn Brahm dives deeply into how to let go of fear and pain. One of the stories that captured the essence of the chapter was about the tale of the Little Grasshopper. It was said that a little grasshopper studied Kung Fu with his masters. One day, the master told Little Grasshopper to cross a pool of acid with a narrow wooden plank. This meant that Little Grasshopper needed to be careful and entirely focused to not fall into the pool of acid filled with the bones of previous young grasshoppers. Through his determination, Little Grasshopper practised every day on an exact narrow wooden plank that the master prepared for him to practice on.

Little Grasshopper could perfectly cross his practice wooden plank without falling even once. The master finally decided that he was ready to cross the actual wooden plank to cross the acid pool. However, unfortunately, Little Grasshopper's fear and hesitancy made him fall into the pool of acid. Luckily, it was not an actual pool of acid. The master just wanted to see if Little Grasshopper was able to conquer his fear or not. Through this story, we can see that Little Grasshopper had all the knowledge and practice to succeed in crossing the pool of acid; it was fear that made him fall and fail.

Fear can be so strong that it predicts the future with intense negativity. In the book, Ajahn Brahm explained that fear is the main recipe for pain. Fear is described as the reason why we feel hurt the most.

Letting go of fear ultimately results in letting go of the pain itself. Though some might think letting go is a method of getting rid of pain, it is not entirely true. Letting go is the art of being at peace with pain. Ajahn Brahm mentioned in his book that only through allowing the pain to continue and not trying to control it any more will you finally be able to let go of the pain.

Secret to Happiness III: Creating Happiness and Finding Compassion

Canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada
Canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

After several chapters exploring the fear, anger, guilt, and pain preventing a person from reaching happiness, Ajahn Brahm writes more about ways of creating happiness. Happiness and joy are emotions from within that give fulfilment and satisfaction to oneself. In the book, it is mentioned that receiving praise and compliments is one way to be happy.

Praise can enrich our relationships with other people and create happiness. However, the most challenging person to praise is yourself. Ajahn Brahm mentioned in his book, "I was brought up to believe that someone who praises themself becomes big-headed. That's not so. They become big-hearted".

It is hard to honestly praise ourselves and find happiness when many people out there suffer from anxiety and depression. In one of the stories titled "This Too Will Pass," Ajahn Brahm shares the teaching that can help with depression most simply. The story tells the tales of how significant the phrase "this too will pass" is.

Knowing that every pain is temporary helps people pull through the hardships of life. Every pain and depression will not last forever; this can give hope for people to continue living. Moreover, knowing things are temporary also makes us further appreciate the happy moments in life.

Finding true happiness is a long journey for everyone. Many unpleasant things in life might make it challenging to seek the joy in living. However, Ajahn Brahm explains, "The only difference between a happy person and one who gets depressed is how they respond to disasters.". From reading, Ajahn Brahm refers to the problems and obstacles in life as a dung. When faced with these challenging life problems, some people carry these dungs with them. The term "carrying out dung" is a metaphor for sinking oneself into depression, negativity, and anger. When we surrender to these depressive feelings and choose to carry our dung around, it is natural that we lose many joyful things in life.

Image by Stef Vanbroekhoven
Image by Stef Vanbroekhoven

In the book, Ajahn Brahm suggests that rather than giving up on the negative energy and depression, we should work on getting rid of the dung. It may need a lot of hard work and determination, but solving the problem is always better than avoiding it or simply complaining our way into depression. It is essential to understand that these dungs can simply become the fertilizer for life.

Learning from the problems and obstacles we go through should make us more strong and more resilient. We have to realize that life's issues and sorrow should shape us into a more understanding human being. Thus, compassion begins. And if you wish to become a compassionate person, welcoming dungs in your life should be a worthwhile experience.


On a final note, I think this book is a very helpful book for someone who is looking to find life wisdom in forms that are relatable and easy to understand. Through the life experience that Ajahn Brahm had by living 30 years as a monk, there are many things we can learn from these stories to improve ourselves.

Even though the moral of some of the stories could be hard to comprehend, the book contains a lot more content that might help us live better lives. Overall, I highly recommend this book and hope the readers can capture the essence of what Ajahn Brahm intended to write.

Key Takeaways

Image by Virginia Helzainka
Image by Virginia Helzainka

  • Accepting and Loving Oneself:

  • Focus on the good instead of obsessing over imperfections.

  • Learn to forgive yourself and let go of guilt.

  • Embrace your mistakes as opportunities for growth.

  • Managing Fear and Pain:

  • Fear can limit us from realizing our potential.

  • Letting go of fear is essential to overcoming pain.

  • Acceptance of pain leads to inner peace and eventual liberation from suffering.

  • Creating Happiness and Finding Compassion:

  • Happiness comes from within and can be cultivated through self-praise and appreciation.

  • Recognize that all suffering is temporary, fostering hope and resilience.

  • Instead of avoiding life's challenges, embrace them as opportunities for growth and compassion.

Written by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

Edited by Virginia Helzainka


Brahm, A. (2005). Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life's Difficulties. Wisdom Publications.


bottom of page