Dr. Ramala Sarma, [email protected]

Accept every situation as your own choice and avoid feeling conflicted.

During the question-answer session in a meditation class, I asked the mentor Bhikkhu Dhammapala, “How to persuade one to practise meditation?” He answered, “You have to practise first.” A bit puzzled, I thought maybe he meant ‘transform yourself first before transforming others’ or ‘you do not have control over others’.

My intention behind asking the question was to know how to persuade my family toward this meditative practice. My thought was that if every member practises it, all will be equally enlightened, and I need not put much effort in coping with them. If we get trained in the same techniques of controlling ourselves, we will all drop a part of our egos, and life at home will be happy, healthy, and peaceful.

But as my mentor said, changing oneself is the prudent way to go about life. Indeed, it is easier to change one, than to change a great mass of people. Our spiritual gurus have shown us ways to focus on our goals. The practice of Chanda is one such tool in Buddhism. The Pali word Chanda means a wish to obtain an object, or to achieve a goal, or to do something with it. Though it can refer to different experiences like sense-appetites and the interest in Dhamma, it means motivation in the broader sense of the term. It is the experience of focussing one’s intent on a particular direction. However, it is not a reflex, not an instinct, and not a compulsion; it is a choice. Hence, the practice of Chanda is to make the choices that weaken the undue frequency and intensity of one’s instinct and compulsion. By taming the instinct, individuals can focus their minds on their interests.

However, undercutting instinct and denting passions is not an easy task. The different awkward situations that we fall into can stir the passions that frequently distract us from our path. We become busy reacting to them. Most of the situations that come up in our lives are undesired yet inevitable. As these situations are inevitable, we cannot escape them. Again, we cannot uproot them magically. For, we do not have that miraculous power.

Facing an unwelcome situation with a hostile mind also does not get us anywhere. In that case, even if we achieve our goal in the long run, it will not provide us happiness or pleasure. Thus, so long as we make a binary division of the situations, viz., into our likes and dislikes, we will be in a conflicting position of two opposing forces. And eventually, we end up struggling with ‘others’ and that will have nothing to do with our goal. Now developing a ‘my choice attitude’ or accepting every situation as my choice will free us from this conflicting position.

It is the cultivation of such a mindset for which the situation is not a compulsion or pressure on me. It is my choice. This attitude will relieve us from exerting energy in holding our ego and trying to change others. Once we accept the occurrences as our choice, we do not feel stress as we have admitted them as ours and thus, nothing is there for us to fight against. Here, we are taming our egos by letting go of what we cannot control.