How Things Are, by Ajahn Sumedho

Laos Mosaic Photo: Janet NovakNow, investigating the way things are, we observe. What I have been doing so far this evening is reflecting out loud. What it is that we all have to bear with is having to accept the sensory world for what it is, from whatever extremes it manifests, the best and the worst of it. And reflecting on it means that we have a perspective on it. We suddenly see that this is what life is all about; it’s being sensitive, and having to bear with this whole experience of being born, growing up, getting old, and dying. This is what we are all involved with. This is what life is for us at this time. We are all alive now, living within the restrictions of our bodies and minds. Whether you like it, approve of it, or whatever, it doesn’t matter. We are not saying it’s good or it’s bad — just re­flecting that this is the way it is. We are not judging it.

Reflective thought, then, isn’t a judgement, it’s not a should or a shouldn’t; it’s saying: There is suffering; there is this feeling of pain; there is this feeling of anguish, doubt, worry; there is a recognition of the way things happen to be for me as an individual being. We are not going to talk about how everything is en masse, but how we experience it individually.

Now when we compare ourselves with others, that isn’t reflection, is it? That’s a judgement. We are saying, ‘I’m better,’ or, ‘I’m worse.’ ‘I should be like that person who is always happy, always has a smile on his face, intelligent, everybody likes him, rich and famous.’ Then we compare ourselves: Look at me; nobody likes me; I’m poor, in bad…

(From a talk given in Australia in March 1987)

Published in the April 1989 Buddhism Now.

Categories: Ajahn Sumedho, Beginners, Buddhism, Theravada

Tags: , , ,

7 replies

  1. Thanks. For explaining the difference between reflection and comparing.

  2. where’s the rest of it?

    • visit Amaravathi Buddhist organization to read the books online and listen to the talks by Ajahn Sumedho. There are hundreds of them.

  3. concepts, concepts, conceps, i feel too many concepts blur our vision to what is lets keep in mind the lesson of the poisoned arrow,

  4. ” no understanding ” meant to point at the fact that, unless being the realized buddhas already we can’t learn about the other peoples’ abilities instantly. that comes with, you know ;-)

  5. I have a feeling that’s kind of judgemental too… We have to compare the situations we are all in, unless we haven’t seen even a bird in a month time in our cave. Sometimes, we can’t even afford to be “just reflective” out of pretence or not. The teacher thought so many things because the situations are so many and incomparable at times… The monk should be skilful enough to avoid not recognizing his intended auditory situation per se. Which, by no means, is a transgression if on a receiving end there’s no understanding of those nuances. Yet, even the great 16th Karmapa had sometimes to point his finger at and say to someone “You have to be careful!” We have to be careful about that, in disregard whichever “robes” we are in. The Dharma is a rare find, but the inspiration to practice it is even more scarce…. Loved it, but do not think, that could be too inspiring for many in our times. Be well!

  6. Love it. Don’t compare or judge, as then we become the prisoners of Mara.


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