A problem that arises when there is any set form is that some seem to fit into the ideal form more than others.
Those who feel that they don’t quite fit into the ideal form might draw the conclusion that this isn’t a suitable life for them. Maybe some of us can’t chant very well, recite the Patimokkha, or maybe we’re not very good at chatting with the lay people. Not everyone can be a gifted, charismatic teacher. Maybe we never learned to be really fluent in Thai or make the ladies laugh, be charming and witty and get all the praise.
It’s a strong attraction in this life here in Thailand. If we can say funny things and make people laugh and speak the language well, we get enormous amounts of praise. It’s always nice to be appreciated. Then there is the old sour-grapes type of monk that says: “They’re just superficial, not really serious practicers. I don’t do that. I’m not going to sit up on that high seat and make the ladies laugh!” The sour-grapes type of mind which puts down the one who chants well and never makes a mistake in the Patimokkha; the one that is witty and charming, speaks perfect Thai and gets all the praise. If we’re being negative, we can regard that as superficial and not the practice. We look down our nose at such a despicable, silly kind of monk – which is another kind of delusion, isn’t it?
We each have our own particular character to live with. This life isn’t meant for just a certain kind of character, suitable only for some and not for others. We always have to keep in mind that the priority of this life is to see the Dhamma here and now.
It is not our purpose to become a teacher, or a missionary, or a popular and charismatic figure. Or to be able to do everything perfectly well, to have a lot of disciples, to ordain many monks and set up branch monasteries. All of this is not what we’re here for. At least that’s not what I’m here for. If these things happen it’s all right.
One is willing to encourage and try to create suitable situations for teaching, practising and listening to Dhamma. But the priority always has to be with seeing the Dhamma in the present moment. Not being deluded and pushing aside the truth of the way it is now, because we are caught up in a mission or something important on the worldly plane.
This reflection by Ajahn Sumedho is from the book, “Nothing Is More Joyless Than Selfishness,” (pdf) pp. 49-50.