Don’t Take It Personally

อาจารย์ สุเมโธ

Don’t Take It Personally

We have cultural attitudes as a way of perceiving things. We form various opinions and views. That is why it’s easy to have ethnic warfare and racial prejudices, class snobbery and so forth, because we never question the conventions we have adopted. We simply go along with them. We hold various views about our religion, race and culture, and then compare it to somebody else’s. On that level we have ideals, of democracy, equality and all that, but we’re still very much influenced by the conventional views we’re conditioned by.

It’s hard to get beyond these assumptions, these things we pick up. We don’t even know we have these attachments until they’re reflected in some way. That’s why living in different cultures helps. Living in Thailand helped me see a lot of these things because the culture was so different. There was the whole attitude that came from living in a Buddhist monastery, where the emphasis was on reflection, mindfulness and wisdom. I wasn’t just becoming a kind of ersatz Thai, ‘going native’ as they say, but was learning to see the subtleties of attitudes and assumptions I was conditioned by, attitudes that may not be easily seen until one finds oneself suffering about something.

Conventions themselves are limited, for their nature is imperfect and changing. Perhaps you expect the convention to be perfect. Then maybe after a while you become critical of the convention because you see flaws in it. It isn’t as good as you thought, or some of it doesn’t make sense, things like this. But recognize that a convention is like anything else, it is anicca, dukkha, anattā, impermanent, unsatisfactory, non-self. Theravada Buddhism is a convention based on morality: doing good and refraining from doing evil with action and speech. It’s a way of living where we agree to take responsibility for how we live on this planet, in this society. The convention of Theravada Buddhism, whether you find it all agreeable or not, is a tradition with a lot of power from being so old and ancient, and is still useful. It’s still a viable tradition that works. It’s not a matter of it having to be perfect for us to use it, but of learning to use it for awakened awareness.

These reflections from Ajahn Sumedho are from the book, Intuitive Awareness, pp. 89-90, 97.