When I talk about reflection, what we do is just look at what’s driving us, what kind of ideals we have. It’s not that we shouldn’t have ideals. But what are our expectations and the results of our life so far? What is it we are attached to and holding on to? What are we doing that’s causing a particular result?
This is a way of self-knowledge, of looking into the way things are. We are not judging that we shouldn’t be strict or push ourselves. I’m not taking a position for or against these things. But I emphasize the need to recognize what we are actually doing and the result of it. This is what practice is all about: what we’re actually doing. We’re not just trying to live up to an ideal of what a good monk should be, but we’re observing the results of what we’re doing.
What would good results be?
Well, if we’re still suffering and full of anxiety, doubt, stress, fear and dullness, caught in restlessness, jealousy, envy, anger, greed and all that, then we’re obviously doing something not quite right. Maybe we’re trying to purify ourselves, getting rid of our defilements, killing our kilesas. Making ourselves into something else and trying to wipe out and annihilate the bad habits. Maybe we want to prove ourselves or get approval from others; or maybe we’re trying to be something we think we should be.
Anything that comes from the self-view will always take us to some kind of negative result and despair. These go hand in hand. If we have a sense of self, we’re also going to have disillusionment and a sense of despair.
This reflection by Luang Por Sumedho is from the book, Nothing Is More Joyless Than Selfishness, (pdf) pp. 47-48.