I was at my local Buddhist monastery last week and one of the anagarikas (one who hs gone forth – a sort of probationary stage in Western Theravada Buddhism) told me he had decided not to take Pabbajja ordination and become a samanera but to return to lay life. He explained, ‘You’re expected to continually strive here and I just couldn’t strive any more.’
I knew how he felt. To me at times the path has seemed like one long striving. In fact this is not the case. We only find what we seek when we have given up striving for it. The striving is just another movement in the sense of personal self.
When I was a child I saw a science program on the TV. In it a rat was placed in a maze. The rat ran round the maze until it found a food pellet. The scientists had developed a number of clever tests to determine the intelligence of the rats. All the rats ran round the maze, all looking for food pellets, but what none of them did was stop and reflect on the fact that they were in a maze. None of them stopped and actually questioned the maze itself. If they had then perhaps, as they weren’t engaging with the rules of the test, they’d most probably have been taken back out again.
But we see this all the time in ourselves don’t we? When faced with a new and challenging situation we default to trying to find the clever solution. What’s the cleverest solution we can contrive in this set of circumstances. We rarely stop to look at the whole. We’d rather strive, it’s in our nature. Look for yourslef and see how many times you can see it happen. See also those rare examples where someone breaks the mould and shows how beautiful we can be when don’t act in this way. When we act freely.
Truth is just the reality around us. There’s nothing to earn, nothing to achieve, nothing to strive for. There is no perfect strategy for living life to avoid suffering. No plan you can make to navigate the reefs and rocks of our human existence. There is no perfect paradise, no safe refuge or perfect abiding we can dwell in to escape all the suffering of life.
It’s only when we recognise this simple, absolutley self evident and incontrovertable truth – and give up our striving, that freedom from suffering comes within our reach. For in letting go there is freedom. See that life is all around and all one, the same within as without. You are absolutley one with all, nothing can change that.
And when you see it, all suffering will cease.