Now, 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.