|An excerpt from Ajahn Sumedho's 1988 talk "Accepting the Way Things Are", from the book "The Way It Is", available free online (google it).|
How many of you have been practising today trying to become something 'I have got to do this ... or become that ... or get rid of something ... or got to do something...' That compulsiveness takes over, even in our practice of Dhamma. 'This is the way it is' isn't a fatalistic attitude of not caring or being indifferent, but is a real openness to the way things have to be at this moment. For example, right now at this moment this is the way it is and it can't be any other way at this moment. It's so obvious, isn't it?
Right now, no matter whether you are feeling high or low or indifferent, happy or depressed, enlightened or totally deluded, half-enlightened, half-deluded, three-quarters deluded, one-quarter enlightened, hopeful or despairing - this is the way it is. And it can't be any other way at this moment.
How does your body feel? Just notice that the body is this way. It's heavy, it's earthbound, it's coarse, it gets hungry, it feels heat and cold, it gets sick, sometimes it feels very nice, sometimes it feels very horrible. This is the way it is. Human bodies are like this; so that this tendency to want it to be otherwise falls away. It doesn't mean we can't try to make things better, but we do so from understanding and wisdom rather than from an ignorant desire.
The world is this way and things happen, and it snows and the sun comes out, and people come and go, people have misunderstandings, people's feelings get hurt. People get lazy, and inspired and people get depressed and disillusioned, people gossip and disappoint each other and there is adultery and there's theft, drunkenness and drug addiction and there are wars, and there always have been.
Here in a community like Amaravati we can see the way things are. Now it's the weekend and more people come to offer alms-food and it's more crowded and noisy and sometimes there are children running up and down screaming and people pounding vegetables and chopping things and everything going all over the place. You can observe 'this is the way it is' rather than 'these people are impinging on my silence.' 'I don't want it to be like that, I want it to be otherwise,' might be the reaction if you like the quiet orderliness of the meal where there's none of that going on and there are no loud noises or harsh sounds. But life is like this, this is the way life is, this is human existence. So in our minds we embrace the whole of it, and 'this is the way it is' allows us to accept the changes and movements from the silent to the noisy, from the controlled and ordered to the confused and muddled.
One can be a very selfish Buddhist and want life to be very quiet and want to be able to 'practise' and have plenty of time for sitting, plenty of time for studying the Dhamma and 'I don't want to have to receive guests and talk to people about silly things' and 'I don't want to ... blah blah blah.' You can really be a very, very selfish person as a Buddhist monk. You can want the world to align itself with your dreams and ideals and, when it doesn't, you don't want it anymore. But rather than make things the way you want them, the Buddha way is to notice the way things are. And it's a great relief when you accept the way it is, even if it's not very nice; because the only real misery is not wanting it to be like that.