Determination and Humility

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Determination and Humility

So work with perceptions such as craving (taṇhā) and ask yourself, “What is craving?” Moreover, bring up the perceptions of bhava- taṇhā (the desire to become something), vibhava-taṇhā (the desire to get rid of something), and kāma-taṇhā (sense desire). What are these things and how are they operating in the mind? When and how do they cease? What does cessation mean? What does it mean to realize cessation in your own mind? Cultivating this kind of intellectual curiosity means that the mind will have questions; but they now stem from a more silent, inward inquiry into the nature of consciousness.

In order to adhere to this path of rigorous inquiry, you need to have both determination and humility. You have to be willing to look at a lot, give up a lot, and endure a lot, while being humble enough to carry on with this challenging work. Determination and humility can seem like an odd combination of qualities. But determination without humility can translate into a form of willful arrogance. And humility without determination can amount to a kind of meek whimpering in the face of life’s difficulties. It’s also important to bear in mind that the quality of humility doesn’t demand that a certain result ensue from doing this investigative work. In fact, humility is not demanding of anything.

In his biography entitled No Worries, Ajahn Liem advises us to practice for the sake of practicing. In other words, we simply keep at it because it’s the right thing to do. That’s the humility of not demanding any kind of result from our practice. Although this investigative process makes it possible for us to have deep insights into the nature of the human condition, it’s our anticipation of a result that prevents us from patiently allowing truth to reveal itself. If we can just be patient, with our attention focused on the way things are, then we’ll eventually notice that anticipation and resistance are the root causes of suffering.

This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book, The Contemplative’s Craft, (pdf) pp. 162-163.