Contentment The Way of the Noble Ones

Ajahn Pasanno

Contentment The Way of the Noble Ones

Chasing after the requisites of existence, trying to build an identity around them and relying on them as enduring sources of satisfaction, creates suffering. Pressures from the external world make it easy to look for something in the material world for our sense of gratification. We can see that even if it’s not gratification we seek, there is still that sense of longing to search for something new, better, different, or more. We need to make contentment a conscious quality. When we realize that our basic needs are satisfied, it is much easier for contentment to arise. Actually, what we have is enough. The food that we have, the lodging that we have, the clothing that we have is enough.

The spiritual quality of contentment is something that we need to be attentive to in our own search: how do we manage to live as the Noble Ones do? We can practice these standards every day. When we get drawn into desire and discontent with the requisites, we can recognize that, and then return to a place of contentment… Bring qualities of gratitude, ease, and acceptance into daily life, relating them both to the world around you and to your spiritual practice. Keep things simple: can we be happy with just sitting and watching the breath?

It is interesting to watch desire and the feelings that arise. The material realm is just a mirror to highlight the nature of desire, whether it goes towards the material realm of clothing, food, and lodging, the other realms of sensual desire or to the mental realm. If we don’t have it, we need to get it, possess it, or be it. The feeling is that somehow we are lacking something, but as practitioners, we can recognize when the heart is pulled by desire. We don’t have to become seduced and infatuated by it, to rationalize its pursuit. It’s a matter of anchoring ourselves in the present moment with an object of meditation, watching desire, being present with it, and allowing it to pass. Then, returning to the quality of contentment, we can recognize that we are not diminished as human beings when we don’t get what we want. It’s just that we didn’t get what we want. That’s all—it’s not a big deal.

On the other hand, when we get what we want, we should try not to be shaken by that and try not to create an identity around “me” being a person who gets what “I want.” What’s important is the mind not moving. The fundamental movement of mind comes with liking and disliking, wanting and not wanting. We need to be able to establish awareness and attention so that we recognize that movement of mind. If the mind starts to wobble or drift from its abiding place of clarity, we recognize that movement. Although wanting and not wanting is quite ordinary, there’s no real noble result to it. In other words, one doesn’t slip into the Noble lineage by following likes and dislikes, wanting and not wanting. It’s the ability to be free from discontent and to dwell in contentment that allows entry into the Noble lineage, into the family of the Ariyas.

These excerpts are from the talk, “Contentment The Way of the Noble Ones” by Ajahn Pasanno, found in the book, Don’t Hold Back, pp. 1-14.