Archive for April, 2008


Observing the problems in our lives

Ajahn Jagaro

As lay people living an ordinary lay life with all the
commitments, involvements and responsibilities that are
normally involved in lay living, it’s difficult to devote
much time to really develop meditation. So I think for many
Western people Buddhism seems to create a bit of a dilemma
because of the way Buddhism is taught in the West. You come
here and the teachings that we give are quite high aspects of
Buddhist teaching, quite refined aspects, pointing always to
meditation, pointing always to the development of awareness
in order for insight, a deeper understanding, to arise. A
penetration into the way things really are rather than the
way they appear to be. I think for many Westerners it’s
very difficult to apply that teaching within the normal daily
life they’re living. Many Westerners who are now becoming
interested in Buddhism and trying to practise the teachings
of the Buddha, trying to really follow them, feel somehow a
bit of conflict there.

It’s difficult to live your ordinary daily life with
its ordinary responsibilities, commitments, social
involvements, and still want to develop this degree of
refinement of the Buddhist path. And it’s a dilemma
because it’s difficult to do. If one’s life is very
much involved with socialising, very much involved with
family, very much involved with commitments, and
responsibilities, then of course one has to compromise
one’s time, one’s energy, one’s interests. You
can’t devote that much time to the practise of making
yourself calm and clearing the mind, and developing a refined
sort of introspection. And so that teaching which is so
refined sometimes seems a bit out of a reach for you.

The Buddha’s teaching is still very applicable, very
useful, very relevant even if one can’t meditate every
day. Even if one can’t spend hours meditating, one can
still appreciate the Buddha’s teachings and apply a lot
of that teaching. A lot of the teaching is to do with
ordinary daily living, knowing how to make the best use of
this life as an ordinary person. Being born as a human being
in Buddhism is considered a great blessing and privilege
because human beings can free themselves from mechanical,
habitual existence patterns. A human being can reflect on the
results of living and can choose which direction to go. But
one must make that choice, one must take that opportunity to
make the choice. That is one must take an interest in
one’s life, reflecting on it.

So many people want to escape from themselves and they do
all sorts of things to escape from themselves because
it’s difficult and there are problems. So when I said
that human beings have the opportunity to reflect on their
lives, this is what I mean. Observing our lives.
Observing the problems in our

The Buddha reflected on life, he reflected on his own
life, he reflected on other people’s lives. He observed
and he came to the conclusion that the source of the problem
is the ego. The ego gets in the way. Reflect on this. What is
the ego? It’s a sense of me. A
separation, me separate from you, and when I’m separate I
have my own interest. Desire and aversion only arise from
ego, nothing else. Where there’s no ego,
there’s no desire, no aversion
. Desire for
what? What do we desire? That which gratifies and flatters
the ego. We like that, we want that, it makes the ego feel
good. I see somebody, they say I’m wonderful, so I want
to get close to them. What is aversion? That which challenges
the ego, threatens the ego, insults the ego, humiliates the
ego. The ego doesn’t like that so it reacts with aversion
and anger.

When there is this ego present there are bound to be
problems arising in relationships. When I say relationships I
don’t mean just relationships between you and another
person, I mean in every experience in life. Every experience
that you’re involved in is a relationship. And where
there is ego, there will be problems. That’s the
situation, that’s why life is not ideal. The Buddha had
no ego. The Buddha was at peace and he is a blessing to the
world, a blessing to all beings; that’s the result of
having no ego.

But of course, we have an ego. You can hear the
Buddha’s teaching, ‘Everything is not self,’
There is no self. But you feel you have a self. So
there’s an ego. What do we do with it? This is what the
Buddha taught when he spoke about skilful ways of living.
Learning to live within this limitation. Learning to live
with an ego. Learning to work with this ego. How can one live
with an ego and still create more happiness than misery? What
do we do? The Dhamma the Buddha taught is something
which he said is self-evident. Anyone who observes can see
it. The Buddha said that if there is a problem, there’s a
cause. If you get rid of the cause, the problem is also
removed. What is the problem? It is the problem of suffering
and of unhappiness of unsatisfactoriness. The cause of it is
the ego. Can you get rid of it? Not yet. So what do you do in
the meantime. There are a few qualities which are absolutely
essential and yet they are very much lacking in life.
That’s why there are so many problems today.

The first quality is called ‘sacca’ in
Pali. Sacca is like honesty, truthfulness. It’s
an openness, frankness, being able to share. Openness
doesn’t mean just giving out. Openness means that you can
also receive, it’s an exchange. Bring this openness into
your relationships, all relationships.

Just think of meditation, you’ve really got to be
honest with yourself, frank with yourself. Why are you
meditating? Because meditation is an opening up, you are
sitting there listening to yourself, not trying to distract
yourself. So you need this quality of inner honesty, of being
able to look at yourself and seeing what’s there.

The second quality which I’ve observed to be lacking
is patience (khanti). Patience means
‘space’, giving a lot of ‘space’, allowing
failings, allowing shortcomings, allowing imperfections,
allowing differences. Allowing and giving room is to be
patient, it’s being kind. You can allow failings within
yourself Allowing, giving space, being patient enough to
allow people to be different, to have failings, to have good
and bad sides is very important.

In meditation you must be patient, you must allow the mind
space, give it room. Give the mind time to settle down, to
calm down. Concentration is not a forced thing, concentration
is an agreement, the mind agrees to calm down, agrees to come
to rest here. You can’t force it. Brute force is not
necessary, you have to give it this space.

In a relationship give yourselves space. Allow
differences. Allow imperfections. This giving of space
requires a lot of humility. To accept failings in yourself,
to accept failings in others requires humility, doesn’t
it? The ego can’t tolerate failure, so you’ve got to
be very humble to accept the nature of the body, to accept
that this body is imperfect. To accept the failings and
limitations of your own mind.

So if you can just begin to implement some of these
qualities, you will see how many problems would very, very
quickly be resolved in our lives. Problems in our meditation,
problems in our relationships. We would be able to cope with
life a lot better. We would be at peace with life for a
greater portion of the day.


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April 2008
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