In our monastic training, we try to create a very low standard of what we need in life.
I took care of my elderly mother for about nine years until she died. During that time, I lived with her in her condo apartment in Ottawa. When an extremely old person died, it was sometimes mentioned on TV or in the newspaper. Once, there was a British airman who died at 113 years of age; my mum was ninety-three at the time. After she read his obituary aloud, we just looked at each other and didn’t say anything. The deluded part of my consciousness wanted to say, “How many more years can I live like this?” But then the training would lead to a voice saying, “Don’t go there; don’t pick up the future.”
In situations like that, I would reflect on the four monastic requisites of food, shelter, robes, and medicine—the only four things a Buddhist monastic can reasonably expect. The fifth requisite is not a vacation! So I would reflect on the fact that I had food, a roof over my head, and medicine and clothing. Everything was fine.
That kind of reflection on the minimal standard of living held by monastics can be quite helpful because the mind can be greedy for the “extras” that we think will make us happy in life. We forget about how little we really need to live a good life.
Therefore, when the mind starts wanting things to be other than what they are, reflecting on the four monastic requisites can be a powerful training.
This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book, The Contemplative’s Craft, (pdf) pp. 72-73.