In terms of living as monastics and lay practitioners, there are two helpful principles we can return to again and again in our daily life. The first of these is learning how to accept and adapt to whatever conditions we find ourselves in. This doesn’t mean being indifferent or not dealing with things but really engaging with conditions in a skillful, attentive way…
What are our habits? How can we develop habits that better accord with Dhamma, that accord with changing conditions so that a sense of equanimity and balance is more readily available to us? That’s very much a part of monastic training in this lineage— and how Ajahn Chah trained the monks who came to live with him.
The second principle is renunciation—nekkhamma—which is an integral part of adapting to conditions. The English word “renunciation” suggests that we’re pushing away or running away from something. But that doesn’t reflect the real meaning of nekkhamma, which is a sense of rising up to conditions with a noble attitude. It’s a quality that brightens the mind and allows us to engage with the Dhamma. If we neglect opportunities to practice nekkhamma, we miss much of what monastery training is for.
Ajahn Chah used to speak about people who became discontented while practicing in a monastery. They might leave and go out into the forest, which was fine for a while, but then they’d get fed up with the forest and go off to the seashore to practice. And after a while they’d get fed up with that, so they would go off to the mountains. And after a while they’d get fed up with that, too. They neglected to practice renunciation in the circumstances they were in—they didn’t engage or rise up to that opportunity.
So in our daily lives, it’s important that we apply these two training principles: accepting and adapting to conditions, while sustaining a noble attitude of renunciation. These principles can serve as aspirations for everybody, lay and monastic, because we’re all apt to spend so much time and effort trying to manipulate circumstances to get what we want, grumbling and complaining about how things are. Instead, we can learn to accommodate, rise up, and meet conditions with a sense of relinquishment, letting go of discontent.
When we practice like this we are likely to find that there is no need to make conditions into a problem for ourselves.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume One, (pdf) pp. 159-160.