This is a dhamma talk by Sayadaw U Jotika, delivered on 04/13/1997. It is a simple, yet so meaningful reference framework for anyone’s life. There is a story in there that would be very meaningful for people in the middle life. “Middle life is the moment of greatness unfolding.” Grasp it, grasp it in a good way for your life.
While you can listen to the talk in the embedded audio below, the sound quality of the original record is not that great. Therefore, I did try to transcribe and share it below. There are a few places that I could not get the words. But you still can get the points from Sayadaw, I’m certain. Gud luck.
I’m deeply thankful for the profound teachings of Sayadaw U Jotika. May be all the great health and peacefulness with you. With all of my deep respect!
What are we living for?
As usual, I have a lot to say. So, I steal some time from you (to save) you from meditation earlier. When I can talk slowly and not worry about how long it takes, it’s easier for me to talk. When I have to look at the clock again and again and hurry, sometimes I do not make the ideas connected properly. But anyway, today it doesn’t matter how long, I’ll keep going. Time is slipping away so fast. I have so much to say and not enough time. I only have another two or three chances to meet you on Sunday.
So, what I want to talk about today… I’ve been thinking about it for quite a long, long time. For many, many years I’ve been thinking about it. And I tried to talk about it a few times. And still there are a few more things that I think I want to talk about and things that I believe that you are also very, very interested in. What is that? To say that very briefly, in brief: “What are we leaving for?” That’s something I want to talk about. And I think most of you also are very interested in that. That’s the question I’ve asked myself since I was quite young. “What am I living for?” Another way of asking is “What do I really love to do?” The meaning is the same, actually. The words are different. But it means the same. “What am I living for?” and “What do I really love to do?”. The same. If you answer those questions, you will get the same answer. And this is really important for us. If we don’t know what we are living for and if we don’t know what we really love doing, then our life is meaningless. There’s no purpose to live anymore. So this is very important.
So, to begin the story from the very beginning… When we were born, on the day that we were born, what was the most important thing for us? To survive. That was the most important thing. The moment we were born, the most important thing for us was to survive, to go on living. So for that time in our life, that was the most important thing. No other purpose, just to live. So our parents look after us, give us nourishment, take care of us. So we grow up slowly and slowly. The moment we can see and hear, our motive changes a little bit, even a few months, three, four months. We get interested in our surroundings. On the day we were born, we were not interested in anything. Just close our eyes and sleep. And [can’t get the word] and go back to sleep. But after a few days, maybe a few months later, we get interested. We look around, see people. Who are these people? We get used to seeing our parent or our mother especially. And get attached to our mother. And the voice of the mother also makes us feel very safe, warm. And the mother holding us close to the person, makes us feel very safe, secure. And we love that. So we have a relationship with our mother and also with our father. If we develop, we also have a relationship with our brothers. So that means the relationships become important in our life. We are relating. We are related. Without that, we cannot survive. If you keep a child, give it the nourishment, but don’t relate to the child, don’t talk, don’t touch, what will happen? I think the doctor knows the answer. Can you help? Just give me a hug. Don’t touch. Don’t talk. Keep it warm and safe. Yes, but don’t do anything. Don’t relate to the child. The child will die. So just nourishment coming into our mouth, it’s not enough for us to survive. We need more than that.
So relationship is nourishing. This is very, very important to understand. Without good relationship, we cannot survive. We cannot become a human being even. So a few days later, we need a relationship. We need to be touched. We needs to be talked to. Even though we don’t understand. We need to feel that we are wanted, we are loved, we are cherished, we are valued. Even though we cannot speak, we can feel that. Most people think that a child who cannot speak don’t feel anything, don’t feel the need for this relationship. No, even before a child can speak, a child needs that. So, nourishment, food and nourishing relationship. Very important.
So we grow up slowly and slowly, bigger, bigger, stronger and stronger, (then) we move around. Movement. Exploring the world. We won’t stay in place. No. The moment we had enough food and sleep, we want to move, to develop our potentials, our hands, our legs. We want to use them. That is very important. If we don’t use our hands and legs, if we don’t explore the world, we don’t grow. So we develop our potentials and grow up and grow up. Explore the world, the home surrounding. And if we have brothers and sisters or even younger children around us, we want to relate to those people also. Play with those people, [can’t get the word], laugh. We want relationship with our peer, so to speak, those who are about the same as our age. It is not enough just to relate to our parents. It is very important for us to relate to other people of the same age. So we grow up slowly and slowly. One year or two years, we can run [can’t get the word]. We can play games. So we start playing with many things, playing the toys. But that’s not enough. And it’s also very important to make toys. When I was young, I made a lot of toys, from [can’t get the word] bottle caps and any kind of sticks, any kind of cups. I made a lot of toys. That is creativity. Since we were very young, we were creative. This is the nature of human beings, to be creative, very important.
Then we play with other children too. We share the toys. We’re happy to share that. We also are very jealous too. We have both nature. We are jealous and we want to share also. So sometimes we play, we share. Sometimes we are jealous. No, I won’t give you my toy. And sometimes we fight. That is also necessary. We need to fight. And we need to learn how to fight, well, how to play a fair game, a fair fighting game. Because this is learning to assert of ourself, learning to try our limit. And also in some ways we learned that the other person has also the right. We have our right, they have their right. So, learning to respect another person’s limit also and our limit also. Learning to cooperate with each other. If they don’t play with us, then we don’t have anybody to play with. So we know that I cannot do just what I want to do. I cannot be jealous all the time. I need to be generous, cooperate. By playing with other children, we learn to relate to those people. And sometimes we hurt another person. Sometimes another person hurts us. Sometimes we feel it’s okay. No, no problem. Never mind. Sometimes we get very angry and upset. And then our parents say, oh, get along again. Sometimes you hurt another person. Sometimes they hurt you. It’s okay. Be friends again. So we learn it. Even though people hurt us, we should still relate with them. We cannot stop relating with them. If you stop relating with somebody who hurt you once, then you end up with nobody to relate to. Even your parents hurt you sometimes. Even my parents hurt me many, many times. So although we hurt each other, we know that we need to learn, understand, forgive, and still keep on relating. So this is developing to become more magnanimous. Very, very important to do that.
So we grow up slowly and slowly. We become three years, four years, five years old. Then a very important change happens. And especially in modern days. What is that change? Very simple: Going to school. And that it’s a very big change. I’ve talked with younger people. They expressed that it’s a very big change in their life. Some people, even when they are about three years old, they go to school just for the fun of going. They’re not required to do anything. So they slowly adapt to going to school and learn something too. So for them, it’s easier. That transition is gradual. But for some people, suddenly the parents send them to school. Today you go to school. And the child couldn’t adapt to that and got very scared, terrified and cry, become very tense. So this transition is very, very important for the child. So at home, our parents, they look after us and [can’t get the word] brothers and sisters, especially [can’t get the word] a very extended family. Grandparents, they pamper their grandchildren so much. Anytime you want to eat something, they give you. Eat it, eat it. And you want to take a nap. Just throw into your grandmother’s lap and just lie down and take a nap. She’ll hold you in her arm. So nice to have a grandmother. So that when you go to school, you can’t take a nap whenever you want. You have to be there, attentive, learn something. You can’t go and play with toys anytime you want. No. There’s a time to play. There’s a time to eat. There’s a time to sleep. But there’s also time to study, to pay attention.
So, that’s a big change which is necessary. So slowly, slowly we learn that discipline. So discipline means to do something good for now also, and good for the future, for the benefit of the future. If you want to play now, but no, study now play later. So this is a kind of restraint. It’s very important. We need to learn to restrain. Restrain is something positive. We shouldn’t think of restraint as something negative, but most people understand that. Restrain is positive. We need to do that. So discipline means to do something for the benefit in the long run. So you just dream some things that you want to do now. Instead of doing that now, you wait. To learn to wait, that’s what you do when you go to school. You learn to wait. Well, I do this now and I wait to play until I go back home. Until I go back home, I wait to eat, to sleep even.
So we grow up slowly and slowly. Passing all the exams, working very hard and our parents also motivating us and we become teenage. Another big change. The body is changing. The body chemistry changing. Sometimes we don’t know what’s happening. It’s very scary. Sometimes our parents didn’t tell us anything. Nobody told us anything. Something is happening, we don’t know what. And we feel very strong emotions, very scary. Don’t know how to talk about it. If our parents or some elder people explain what’s happening, it’s so much easier for us to adapt. And so at that time, as we grow up, what we value changes. What is most important for us changes. Sometimes we know what we value, sometimes we know what was important for us. But sometimes our parents, our teachers told us, tell us. Now, this is more important for you to do than the other thing, do it now. So we learn what is most important for us at that time of our life, at that stage of our life. So we are in our teenage. We become rebellious. We become more assertive. We want to say I am. When we were young, our parents said this and that, we obey. But when you are when we begin our teenage 13, 14, 15, we purposefully, deliberately we say no sometimes. We just want our parents know that we have our own likes and dislikes. We have our own preferences. We have our own thoughts and ideas. So we become more assertive. We become rebellious, which is very good, actually. Very positive, very good.
So I want parents here and their younger people here to… (it is very important) to understand this stage. What is the child doing? What are we doing in that time in our life? We want, we are learning to become independent. We are learning to stand on our own two feet. We are learning to decide for ourself. But we should also learn to take responsibility. And this is something most people don’t think of. They just want to rebel. They just want to be free. They don’t want to be told. They don’t want to take orders. But very gently, we should teach our children that this is okay for you to do, to become free, to become independent, to think for yourself. It is very important for you. Because we will not be around all the time to tell you what to do. We will not be here always to look after you. You are learning to look after yourself. This is very positive. But be very careful not to make big mistakes. Be responsible too. So we need to help younger people to become independent, also to be more responsible. If we do that very gently, respectfully, with kindness, with understanding, then they really learn and grow up. And rebellion does not become something negative. Instead of rebelling, they become more responsible, more able to develop their qualities more, and become more responsible. They can even help their parents in many ways.
So at that time of our life, it’s very, very important for learning to be independent. That’s our highest value at the time. So at that time of our age, we are not children anymore. We are not young anymore. But we are not mature either. We are not grown up yet. We are in between, a very difficult time in our life. So most of you here are forties, fifties. So we have been, we’ve passed through these stages and we know how difficult it was and how painful it was to be misunderstood by our parents. We are learning to become independent. We are learning to rely on ourselves. We are learning to make our own decisions. We are learning to make our own choice. And sometimes our parents misunderstood us. And they say that you are becoming more and more disobedient and make us feel very guilty. So most of you have been through that. It is very important for parents to understand this. It is a necessary change. And that time of life, this is the most important thing to do. This is the highest value for everybody.
And so we go to our school and we finish our pre-college. In our country, it is called 10th standard. I don’t know how you call it here. We call that 10th standard. And after that we go to college or university. So before that, we stay at home most of the time. We go to school and come back home. But after pre-college and everybody go to college, most of us go away from home. Because for most people, there is no college in their hometown. So, they have to go to another city, bigger city to go to colleges, to go to universities. Even here, to leave home and go to colleges. So then we are away from our parents. There’s nobody else to tell us what to do or what not to do, with whom we should make friends or not, where to go or where not to go. We are free to do whatever we like. If we have not learned to take responsibility, to discipline ourselves, we could make serious mistake and ruin our life. And many younger people do that. And it’s such a waste. Sometimes I see younger people wasting their life, ruining their life. Human potential, you know, human beings can become such beautiful, noble beings. But all the potential was ruined, destroyed. So it is very important for parents to understand and also for children to understand what’s happening, what need to be done.
So we need to teach our children values. What do you value now? Your values will change. Your values have to change. We can’t tell three or four years old to go and meditate. Because at that time of the age, that’s not the value. They are not mature enough to understand that. And that time we should teach our children to play very, very well, to cooperate with friends. As we grow older and older, we value something different, something different. Our values change. Our values should change. Without change, there will be no growth. So we can’t stick to the same value all the time.
So we go to college. We study hard and we learn to relate to other people also. We learn to find our life partners. And then we get the degree and find a job, work, make money, and then get married, make a home. If we made the right choice, then we have a very happy home. But it’s so difficult to make the right choice. Because we are not mature enough. We get so addicted to people. We make the wrong choice. Sometimes we feel so lonely that we will just hold on to anybody and decide that this person will be my lifelong partner, a lifelong husband or wife. But it doesn’t last, very sad story. In America 28% divorce. So at that time, it’s very important for older people to teach the children how to make a good choice, how to find the right, a good partner with lifelong companion. And nobody teaches that to us. Nobody taught me I made the wrong choice. So many people do the same. There’s no college to teach you how to find a right partner, how to be a father, how to be a husband, how to be a wife, how to be a mother. Nobody teaches that. As if that’s the simplest thing we can do, nobody needs to learn [the skill]. So you see, since our teenage, biologically, we are mature, we can be a father or mother since we have 14, 15, 16. But psychologically, we are not mature to be a father. We are not mature to be a husband. We are not mature to be a wife, to be a mother. So we need to teach children to become more mature, to become a good husband, a good wife, a good mother, a good father that nobody really teaches us. Because at that time in our life, that’s very important thing to do. That’s our highest value at the time, natural(ly). At the same time, we are learning to do many other things too. Some people learn to meditate since they are in their teens. Very good, very good. They become more mature. They become more responsible, they make the right choice.
So we grow up and we had children. And we look after our children. Children grow up. And then the children leave home. Now, most of us are in our forties and fifties. And we had our dreams when you were young. Oh, when I grow up, I will do this, I’ll do that. That’s how I’ll be successful and I’ll be happy. We have a lot of dreams. Now, maybe some of you have realized your dreams, and most of you have your disappointments. That’s okay. That’s the way life is. Not all of our dreams will come true. So what do we need to do? We just need to change our dream, switch to another dream. Can’t stick to the same dream all of our life. I mean, change another value, change another goal, another thing that we really love to do. So when we were very young, three, four years old, we just love to play. We just like to eat chocolates. As we grow older and older, we stopped playing and some people even stop eating chocolates. So anyway, it’s changing all the time, changing. So we have to pay more attention. It will change. But where? Where is the direction? The direction of change is very important. It will change no matter what way (and) how. You can’t stop changing. But we need to be more aware of the direction. So where are we going?
So, now most of us are 40s, 60s. And when we were young, our motivation, our goal was to get good education, to get a good job, to make money and to get married, to have children, to enjoy sense pleasures, to be happy. Very good, quite natural. But are we still going to do that now? Is that still our goal? No, it’s awful. We’re not going to school anymore. Maybe some of you are still learning something new, going to colleges. But still, we need to have a better goal, a higher value. So the middle life is a time of supreme psychological importance. We are now, some of us are passed midlife. And when is middle life? What age do we call middle life? We’re not going to live for 100 years, actually. Most of us will not live for 100 years. Average, most of us will live for about 70, average lifespan. So if you divide it into two, 35 is middle. After 35, it’s afternoon, not morning anymore. It’s afternoon. It’s going down. The sun is going down and down. So, sometimes (when) you think about it, you feel frightened, already afternoon. I haven’t even learned to live. So, already afternoon now. So, the middle life is a time of supreme psychological importance. This adolescent teenage is also supreme psychological importance and also middle life. 35, 40 is supreme psychological importance. It’s another kind of adolescence.
Middle life is the moment of greatness unfolding. When you were young, we didn’t have many experiences. We haven’t learned anything yet. We just want to be happy, enjoy. So most of us thought that, well, twenties was the best time in my life. Most of us did it and we enjoyed so much. And also some people suffer so much, even in their twenties, thirties, nightmares. One mistake after another, one mistake after another. Loneliness after loneliness. Some people went through. But some people really enjoyed and happy when they were in their twenties. It is still in the thirties. But as you grow older and older, it becomes harder and harder to enjoy sense pleasures. Although, we have the habit to go on, to keep doing what we were used to doing. It was just a habit. So many of my friends, most of them Westerners, they told me that, well, just because I’m used to doing these things, I’m still doing it, but I don’t really enjoy anymore. I don’t really get excited anymore. Every time after I’ve done it, I thought it wasn’t as good as it was. It isn’t as good as it was. And I still can’t stop doing it. Why?
We cannot just stop doing something and just stay doing nothing. We have to do something else. And what is that? We don’t know. Most of us don’t know. How to change? So it is very important to learn how to change even. It doesn’t happen just by itself. Because old habits die hard. Old habits die hard. The habit, the addiction is still going on. We are addicted to the things that we are used to doing. So, middle life is the moment of greatest unfolding. Which means we have a lot of experience in our lives. We have enjoyed a lot of things. We have suffered a lot of things. We have learned quite a lot, too, from our mistakes also. So we are unfolding like a flower. We become mature. That’s why some people say life begins at 40. In a way, it’s true. So you have a lot of things. You have achieved a lot, too. You have a lot of disappointments too. So some of you have fulfilled your dreams. Are you really fulfilled now? Do you really feel fulfilled now? Are you really happy? Ask yourself these questions. Yes, money, house, position, status, some people do have those things. Are you really happy? And most of us are very, very busy, I mean. I’m also very busy, most of the time. I have no time to waste. So I keep myself busy most of the time. But I’m doing what I really love doing. I enjoy doing what I love, what I’m doing. Do you really enjoy doing what you’re doing, most of the time? Do you love what you are doing? Is your family life satisfied? These are very important things to ask. So, one begin to take a time in the manner life has developed up to this point, [to take a pause], to go back and see what happened. What have we done? What have I live for? Thus, real motivations are [what] real discoveries made. So if we are wise enough, if we are mindful, if we look back our life, we can learn a lot from what we have done, from the good things and from our mistakes, from suffering, from our happiness also. So that transition from morning to afternoon is the re-valuation of earlier values. So we have lived a lot of values, a series of values through our life. But we should pay more attention and see. Re-valuation of our values. We need to do that.
So I told you a story about one of my friends, a doctor. He actually is a Canadian, very intelligent man, very handsome, very tall also, big man. His parents was also quite well-to-do, quite rich, educated, successful in their lives. But he told me that his parents were atheist, which means they don’t believe in any religion. They didn’t practice anything religious. They just work and make money and happy. So they motivate him to study very hard. And he studied very hard and got an M.D., became a big doctor, very, very successful, got married to a very, very beautiful lady and a beautiful woman. I met her. And his work also was very successful. He made a lot of money, got a very beautiful big house, big mansion, really. And bought three cars. Had one child, only child, a daughter. But when he was in his early forties, slowly and slowly, he lost motivation to go to work. In the morning, he would say I don’t want to go to work. He’s been doing the same thing again and again. It’s not something new or difficult. But it becomes a routine.
He worked and he earned money, but he didn’t feel any real satisfaction, no joy. Go to the hospital and look after the patients and did operations and get money, come back home. And doing the same thing again and again. So life became a routine. Slowly, slowly and slowly, he lost motivation. Sometimes he will not go to hospital anymore. You just rang and say, I’m not coming in today or just postpone the operations. And it happened more and more like that. And he also lost interest in his wife, in his child. He wouldn’t talk with them much. Give them enough money. If they ask for help, he’ll help them. But otherwise it’s not interested. Slowly and slowly, he lost interest in almost everything. And he was worrying, “Why I don’t want to do anything more? Nothing really interests me anymore. I can’t enjoy anything.” So he took a long leave and went away into the country and did many things that he thought that would make him very happy. And after doing all that, he still felt not satisfied, not happy. So after a while, it became very unbearable. And he went to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist said, well, you’re suffering from and you can tell, what is it? Depression. Yes. But when the doctor said you’re suffering from depression, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s the same thing. It means you have lost interest, you have lost motivation. It’s been the same thing. But why? A very intelligent and successful man, a rich man who has got everything he needed… He told me that, “I’ve got everything that I wanted. I’ve got everything that anybody want. But still, I’m not interested in anything anymore.”
So they gave him some medicine and also some other treatment too. Sometimes it worked a little bit, sometimes not. He couldn’t come out of that. So at last, he totally quit his job. Won’t go to the hospital anymore. Just stay in his room, watching television. At last, he lost total interest in his family. He said, you can go now, do whatever you like. So they separated, sent the child to [boarding] school and then sold the house, sold two cars, left only one car. And then traveling around in the car, everywhere, staying anywhere, experimenting things with new ways of living. And he became something like a hippie. He stopped shaving or cutting his hair. He stopped shaving. And he used to be a very neat and disciplined man. But he became a very sloppy person, very undisciplined. He will eat when he likes to eat. Sometimes he won’t. And he used drugs also. And dressing also in a very slack shirt and trousers, baggy trousers and pullovers. Very untidy. He became very untidy. And when his friends met him, they were very sorry for him. But they couldn’t do anything. So at last he didn’t want even to live in his country anymore. He wanted to go away, away. He felt like he was trapped. Trapped in what? Very important to answer that question. So he sold everything, even his car, and left only a small bag to carry on his back and got a passport and money and went to say goodbye to a friend. And he told his friend, “I sold everything and now leaving my country. And my wife and I was separated. And if I can throw away the passport and money, then I was really free.” That’s what he said.
Try to understand what he was feeling. Maybe you can relate to that, to a certain extent, even. So, his friend said, even if you throw your passport and money, you’ll not be free, which is very true. Freedom does not happen just by throwing away what you have. Freedom happens in your mind. Your understanding, your deep wisdom only can give you freedom, nothing else. So he left the country. Travel all over the world, mostly Asian countries. Because he said he was sick with this Western materialistic culture, competitive culture. He was very, very sick of that. So he came to the East. He was an atheist, as I told you. So not interested in any religious practice. But in the East, he met one of his friends, who was and is a very good meditator. So he arranged his life very neatly. He works and saves money and he meditates. Sometimes he travels. And quite happy to a certain extent. So when they met each other, they discuss about their life. And then this friend who is a meditator said I can’t tell you much, but I want to give you one advice. Why don’t you try meditation? So this person who was so desperate thought that, “Well, I’ll try it. I want to do anything. I’m open to anything and just want to live my life meaningfully and feel satisfied. Now have been doing so many things and nothing really satisfies me. And that was very, very painful.”
So he took this good advice from this good friend and then went into a meditation center and took a retreat for ten days. So you see, this man is ready to give up anything. And that’s a very important point. He was tired of sense pleasure, tired of everything, actually. So he went into this retreat center and took this ten day course, sat and meditate. He said the first three days were like hell, to sit still for 10 hours, 12 hours. Not easy to do, [can’t get the words] not easy to do. And the mind was so agitated, so unsatisfied. But he tried it. He was determined to do it. So he tried it. After three, four days, he said his mind became calmer and calmer. And after seven, eight days, he felt very peaceful and calm sometimes, even for brief moments, four or 5 minutes, just pure peacefulness, not the whole day. During the whole day meditating, sometimes about 5 minutes, he became so calm and peaceful. He thought, this is real freedom. No thought, no desire, no pain in the body, no pain in the mind. Just pure peacefulness. And he said, this is what I want. So he finished one course and then he took another course, another course, another course and he kept taking that for a long, long time.
I don’t remember how long, but for years. Because he didn’t want to do anything else. And in that center, he lived very simply, eat vegetarian meals and meditate all day. One hour sitting, 10 minutes break, another hour sitting, 10 minutes break, another hour sitting, 10 minutes break and eat your meal. [can’t get the word] yourself, relax for a while. Sitting, sitting, sitting the whole day like that. But he tried and tried. And then later he developed very deep insight, Vipassana insight. And then I can’t tell you exactly where he reached, how much he attained. But he developed very deep understanding of the nature of mind, of the nature of happiness, of the nature of unhappiness, of the nature of peace, of the nature of clarity, the nature of wisdom. So after he reached the best state and he reflected on what he did all his life, he saw all what happened very clearly. And in that meditation center, they also practiced metta meditation, loving-kindness, compassion. So, when he felt very calm and peaceful and he thought of each person and he noticed and felt for them. He said, everybody is carrying so much pain, so much frustration, so much disappointment, looking for something desperately, but not knowing what.
So this happens really. We are looking for something that will satisfy us. (Yet) we don’t know what. But this person, he found (it). He said, this is very satisfied and this is what I want. So he found happiness and peacefulness inside, not outside. So this materialistic culture is brainwashing people, making people believe that you can find happiness if you can buy more expensive things. This is a [can’t get the word]. This is a trick. And we have been tricked into that. And we believe that. And we’ve been disappointed many, many times. And we still want to believe it. So this doctor, when he radiated his loving-kindness and compassion toward all the people, near him and far away and including his former wife. And when he thought of her, he felt so much compassion. He felt her pain, her loneliness, her rejection. He left her. So she felt rejected. She felt unloved, not worthy of love. So when he radiated his metta (karuṇā), he felt her pain. So he went back to his home, homing to his country and went to see his former wife and opened up himself and expressed how he felt and why he did all those things, all those terrible things to himself and to others. With so much honesty and openness, he expressed all that and he remarried her. Very beautiful, actually.
So, one might think that why a meditator marry again? But he told me his story very openly and honestly. He said, “When I first married her, it was because of my passion for her. She was very beautiful, because of her beauty, because of her body, I married, believing that she can make me feel fulfilled. I can enjoy her. She can give me enjoyment, pleasure, happiness.” But later, that beauty fades away and you can’t make anybody happy all the time. Nobody is responsible for your happiness. You can’t rely on that. But later, he lost interest in her. Her beauty fades away naturally. But now he said, “I remarry her because of my compassion to her. She’s been so good to me all her life. I didn’t notice that. I didn’t see that.” Why? Because he was so selfish, he couldn’t see that. Now, he became not so selfish. He became very compassionate and he can see what she did, what she has done for him all her life. She gave the best of her life to him. But he was not satisfied. So he rejected her. So he felt all that. And he apologized also for that. And they became very good friends. Now he wants her to meditate and find that peace in her soul. Now he wants to support her to meditate. “Do this. I’ve done this. You can see that I’m now happier.” “Maybe, but I cannot” (, replied by her). “But I want to support you so that you will find happiness, peacefulness inside.” So his wife also meditated. And because they meditate for a long, long time, of course, they make progress. And she’s seen some quietness, peacefulness, clarity, some sort of freedom, relatively.
And he went back to his old job again. And he said, “Before, I want more patients because I want more money.” Now, he said, “I want less patients because I want to pay more attention. Now. I am patient. Now, I’m not impatient anymore. Now, I’m patient, very patient. Now I can talk to a person. Now I can listen to a person. Now I’m really willing to understand his or her health problems, mental problems, family problems, job problem, any kind of problem. Now I want to help other person in every way I can, not just getting medicine and operation. Now I want to treat another person’s life, not just a disease or a symptom.” You see how he changed. This person, this friend of mine, his story is so wonderful. We can learn so much from his story, the right attitude to do anything. So he said, “Now, I don’t treat a patient, I treat a life, the whole life.” So whenever a patient comes, he will talk, he will listen, ask about the family, ask about job, ask about thoughts, mental state, fears, anxieties, worries, depression, anything. And he gives medical treatment also. And he teaches meditation also. He said, “No matter what your religion is, you can believe your religion. But practice mindfulness. That will improve your mind and that will improve your life, that will improve your health, that will improve your work, that will improve the whole thing, the whole life.” So he’s been doing that for many, many years now. He works for six months, save the money, making less money, actually. But because he’s not wasting, he’s not buying any luxuries. He lives a very simple life. So he saves a lot of money, working six months and meditating and teaching meditation for six months. Now he has balanced his life. He’s now, he’s got over 50 now, slightly older than me. So he has made his life two parts, working and making money, and “At the same time even working”, he said, “is my spiritual practice now. I’m not working just for money.” So even work becomes more satisfying. Because his attitude has changed so much.
So to make something satisfying, look into your heart and see why you are doing. Do you have the right attitude, right motivation? Are you doing with loving-kindness and compassion? Or are you doing with selfish motivation? With selfish motivation, you might get money, but you never get real satisfaction. And when your life is over, you might think I [can’t get the word] my life, but still I’ve got nothing. So these are very important things that we can learn from another person’s life experience. And for me, everybody is a dhamma for me. You, dhamma, you, dhamma, you, dhamma, everybody’s dhamma for me. You tell me your story. I can see dhamma there. I read a [can’t get the words] book, I can see dhamma there. Even when I read, [can’t get the word] my particle physics books, astrophysics books, I see dhamma there. Everywhere is dhamma. In your life, whatever is happening to your life is dhamma. You just need to look it from the right perspective, with the right way to look at it. If you have the right way to look, everywhere you look, there’s dhamma. You can’t escape from dhamma. Because everything is dhamma.
Buddha said, [skip the words in Pali] nothing is beyond the four noble truth. Everything is happening fitting to the four noble truth. So you will see either of the four noble truth, wherever you look. So, you only need to see, to find out how to look. So that transition from morning to afternoon is a re-valuation of earlier values, of becoming aware of the error in our former conditions. So, we have our own conditions: This right, this is wrong. But as you grow up, from our seeing, life seeing, and from our learning, from our practice, from our meditation, we find out that my conditions were, some of them at least, were wrong. So you give up wrong condition and take new [can’t get the words] of recognizing the falsehood in what [can’t get the words]. Before, we thought something is true. But later we know that this is not true anymore. So, give up. The readiness to give up to change is very important. So, another story came into my mind now. But look at the clock. I have no time to tell you another story. I wish I can turn it back. So anyway, forget about the time. I eat every day. I had my breakfast already. So, totally unprepared, we took the step into the afternoon of life, not only in the afternoon, totally unprepared we take step and step and step. We never really prepared. That’s why yesterday also I told some of the people that prepare yourself, prepare yourself. Why prepare is [not] done? Without prepared, we’ll be very frustrated, no matter what we do. So, totally unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life.
So don’t think that the afternoon of life is not as good as the morning of life. Actually, it should be better. The afternoons should be better, more satisfying. So our life demands many things. When we were very young, it demands something, to play, to enjoy, to make money, to get married. That is what our life demands. It’s nature. But as we grow older and older, that is not our demand anymore. We can’t keep doing this thing anymore. We need to change. So what does our life demand? Our life demands to develop our inner quality, our spiritual quality. That’s what our life demands. But we don’t take heed. We believe more on the commercials than what our real heart tells us. What is really good for us? We look at the commercials, the advertisement, and believe that if I get that, I’ll be happy. So we believe in commercials more than we believe in our own deep [journey]. We still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truth and ideals will serve us as [can’t get the word]. So our ideals and truth when we were young, are not suitable anymore. Just like old shirt, take it off, throw it away. I mean, we need to change. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life (of the) morning. We need to change the program. Our body is changing. The body chemistry is changing. So what was great in the morning will be little in the evening. The development of culture is a process which consists, as we knew, of a progressive taming of the animal side of man. So what is culture? Self perfectionist culture? So, if we learn to develop our special qualities and relatively become better and better, then that means we are cultivating ourselves which is called culture. It is the privilege and task of riper age that has passed the meridian of life to produce culture. So it’s time for us now, especially those who are beyond 35, to produce culture, to develop our own inner quality. And as much as possible, set a good example for younger people and also impart our knowledge to them. To make ourself, to try ourself to become a better human being and give that to another person. This is the way we should live, to set a good example. For those who are mature, produce culture. Only those who are mature and produce culture. Culture is not just saying. That’s not making culture. Real culture is deep inside, invisible. So most of us can know for what we can see with our eyes only. But what’s most important is something that we cannot see with our eyes. It hidden deep in us.
So we have to be a good example for younger people, teach them how to become a better human being. But firstly, before we teach them and we must develop ourself, then only we can teach them. Otherwise the culture will go down and down. People will become more aggressive, more uncaring, more selfish, and they destroy themselves. And they’ll destroy everybody. Money making, social resistance, family and prosperity are nothing but [playing] nature, not culture. Culture lives beyond the purpose of nature. So, beyond purpose of nature means… To get married is nature. But even to treat your partner with real kindness is culture. So, real caring with real metta, with real compassion is culture, with real honestly, openness, respect,… So much. We have those qualities already. We had them, deep inside, as the potential, as a seed. We don’t need to go around and look for it. It’s already enough. But when we reach a higher culture level, we must forgo compulsion and turn to self-development. So, we are ready to do now. This is the best time for us to do that, self development. When we were young, we were too busy to do those other things. But now we have done most of those things and we may still have to go on doing, working, making some money. But at the same time, we need to take time to really develop our inner qualities. Men has the aims. The first aim is the aim of nature, the begetting of children, and all the business of protecting the brood. This period belongs to the gaining of money and social position. When this aim is satisfied, they begin another phase, namely that of culture. Another phase, another more important phase. For the attainment of the former goal, we have the help of nature and moreover, of education. But little or nothing helps us toward the latter goal. So to make money, to get a job, we are trained, job training, many kind of different. But very little training to develop our (inner) qualities.
So here, for example, this society here is for that purpose. We develop our inner qualities. So we need to pay more attention to this. We need to get together and work for that, help each other, support each other to develop our inner culture. So, spend more time. Also spend more money for it. Because without money, we cannot do anything. We are not for money. I’m not asking for money. So, that is the least, the worst thing I want to do. Really for money? No, but we need to do many things here. We need all your support. And it’s for you and for me. Not just for one particular person. It’s for you. It’s for me. It’s for all of us. Not for selfish purpose, not because of greed. So take this more seriously. Think about it. We need each other. We need to develop our inner qualities. The development of culture, the process consists, as we know, of the progressive taming of the animal side of man.
I think I’ve mentioned all the important points I want to say. And I can’t finish this anymore. So, any way… This time in our life is a very important time. We need to pay more attention. We need to spend more time, more energy to develop culture. So I hope you have understood this. And what I said today here and now is not complete. I’m only giving you a hint, some hints so that you can think about it and develop the importance, the meaning more and more. Just listening for a few minutes is not enough. To do something, we need to participate. Even to understand what I’m trying to say. If you really want to understand, you have to put my ideas in your life. Because your life is the context. Without putting the idea in your life and see the idea in that context, you are not really understanding. It will be just words. You hear it and you forget it. But if you put the idea in your life and practice it, then it will become real. Then it will become meaningful. Meaning is not just in words, meaning is in your life. So let’s work harder. Pay more attention to develop our inner culture here. So, I’ll conclude our meeting here.
[Skip the rest]
One thought on “Dhamma talk: What are we living for?”