Stepping Into the Rain

Ajahn Amaro • November 2009

When the weather turns wet and gray like this, the world is a bit less inviting outside, and it’s easy to follow the natural instinct to seek shelter and find a cozy spot. We might find ourselves hanging around in the kitchen, the library, or the monks’ office. It starts off with waiting for the rain to ease off, then an hour goes by, then two hours. We can end up spending hours doing a bit of unnecessary emails or thinking, Well, maybe I’ll make that phone call, maybe I’ll take a look at this or that website. The whole afternoon goes by with us chatting away with each other, waiting for the rain or the mood to change. This is a good way to waste time.

For the monastics here who have dwellings off in the forest, as well as for the people who are staying here as guests, it’s good to recall the basic principle that we have of not gravitating toward the communal cozy spot or a place where there are good chatting opportunities. Once the meal is finished and the washing up is done, unless we have some urgent or significant business that requires our attention in the afternoon, we should pack up our things and go back to our dwellings.

It takes a certain resolution to walk out into a wet, gray afternoon, but once we are back in our dwellings, we find that solitude is the most delightful and helpful of companions. It takes an effort to turn and walk toward that. As the winter season is setting in with gray, misty, wet, cool weather, I strongly encourage people to refrain from huddling in that cozy spot looking for human company and cups of tea, and to instead step out into it. Go back to your dwellings. Spend time alone. Develop the path and turn your efforts toward the realization of Nibbāna. This is what we’re here for.

The alternative to doing that is always available to us—the particular conversation we’re interested in, this nice, cozy spot to settle in—the comfortable alternative. If we simply default to what’s comfortable, what’s interesting, the flow of a casual contact, hearing the news, looking for something to do, being engaged in something—anything—then we’re really wasting our time. It’s not helpful. It doesn’t conduce to insight, concentration, or liberation—which is the purpose of this place and why this community exists.

We’re not here to exchange information, contact others, or plan menus. Of course, these things have their place. They’re all part of the everyday process of helping with the construction and maintenance of the buildings and with the cooking of food. But all these necessary tasks and all the extraneous little bits and pieces that demand our attention are not the purpose of our lives here. Those tasks and duties are merely the means by which we’re fed and sheltered, supplying us with the requisites. Our lives here are for the purpose of developing the path and realizing Dhamma.

As the season changes and it becomes cool and damp, don’t be blind to the influence the weather exerts over our minds. Take the opportunity to seek solitude, non-engagement, seclusion. These are the elements of the path that conduce to realization. These are some of the qualities that benefit and support our decision to live in this place, shave our heads, put on robes, keep the precepts, follow the routines and disciplines. And if we want to fulfill the true purpose for which we have come here—to realize the Dhamma—then we need to take the initiative, we need to back up our commitment with actions that match this greatest of all aspirations.