Life is uncertain.
It was this reflection that led the young prince, Siddhartha Gautama, to leave the apparent security of his family and the palace where he had grown up in search of a different, more reliable state of security and inner peace.
For some people, what he eventually discovered during his search may seem shocking. He had surrendered his position, relationships and material comfort, and made enormous efforts to subdue the energy of desire, in an effort to find peace of mind – only to discover that that very mind was not really ‘his’ at all!
However, when he reached that understanding, after six years of strenuous effort, what was left was a state of unshakeable peace. He no longer had anything to worry or to protect. There was no longer any reason to think of himself as a separate person with a personality that needed to be maintained at all costs.
He was free.
Appreciating the possibility of such freedom for each one of us – that we too can find and know such peace – interests me greatly. Glimpsing it, albeit fleetingly, is what keeps me walking this path.
External events can be sudden, disturbing and dramatic; they can be tragic and confusing. They also provide a stark reminder of impermanence and enable a deeper appreciation of the fragility of our world.
The Buddha would frequently point to this as an encouragement to keep inclining towards that state of inner stability.
Then questions arise: ‘But how do we do it?’ ‘How can we experience that state for ourselves?…’
Ajahn Chah put it nicely:
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will have complete peace…
One might respond by saying, ‘But does this mean that I just let go altogether and allow everything to fall apart, without caring or trying to do anything?’…
Well, no – because we do care.
There are many things that are important to us. We would like to make sure that these are looked after in a responsible way; so we do our best to fulfil those responsibilities.
The key question is: can we do that with a heart of letting go?
This reflection by Ajahn Candasiri is from the book, Times and the Timeless, “Letting Go,” (pdf) pp. 23-25.