I remember the first experiences Luang Por Liem had with his heart difficulties in Thailand. Apparently the condition had been going on for quite some time. He had symptoms of fatigue and probably shortness of breath, among other things. It wasn’t until it was quite progressed that he did anything about it. When asked why it took him so long to look into it, his response was something like: “I thought this was what the body was supposed to do.” That’s the nature of the body, isn’t it? Even if we do fix something in the body, something else is bound to eventually break.
All of the things that happen to us that we think shouldn’t happen are simply reflective of the way samsara of the human body or psyche, is going to either break, change, or deteriorate according to certain laws of biology and kamma. These are natural laws that create the flow of arising and passing away. If we reflect, we can see how our expectations take us in a direction that sometimes leads to dukkha. For example, we get “the diagnosis” and we think, Why me? I’ve done everything right. It’s too soon. Why should this happen? Going to doctors and having treatments isn’t what I was planning to do for the next few months or years! We can feel extremely agitated and afraid in situations like this. Or maybe something in the material world breaks, and we really don’t have time to deal with it—it feels frustrating. All of us experience these kinds of things, but we try to keep in mind and reflect that all of this— particularly the experience of old age, sickness, and death—is what we should expect to have happen. In fact, it’s a miracle that it doesn’t happen a lot sooner for most of us because this body is in a very fragile condition. Ajahn Chah is quoted as saying, “Everything we need to know can be learned from nature, if we just watch and pay attention.” Whether it’s in the material, physical, or mental realm, we can watch the nature of everything. We can see it arise, have its own life, change, and then pass away. That’s the fundamental insight we need to have to truly understand samsara and eventually realize complete liberation.
This reflection from Ajahn Karunadhammo is from Beginning Our Day, Volume One, pp. 233-234.