Tag Archives: wise

Overtaken By Events

I recently met a new-to-me acronym: OBE.

It also means Order of the British Empire, but during the past year, OBE, in common parlance, means Overtaken By Events. All your well-laid plans have to be scrapped because something has suddenly and unexpectedly happened.

OBE is a military term, which means that all your carefully laid plans and strategies are out the window, due to events beyond your control. Think : Ukraine.

OBE brings to mind another military term, which is much more graphic: SNAFU–Situation Normal: All F**ked Up.

We could say that SNAFU is a condensed–very condensed–version of the Buddha’s teachings. SN–situation normal–is the 1st characteristic of all experience: anicca = impermanence, and change is normal, whether we like it or not. AFU is the 2nd characteristic: dukkha–suffering or unsatisfactoriness. Then there’s the unasked question: Who’s in control here anyway? Because, obviously, the situation is out of control, and the controllers seems to be MIA–missing in action. That’s the 3rd characteristic: anatta or not-self. Yoo-hoo. There is no controller.

What do you do when confronted by OBE or SNAFU? What’s your innate response to sudden change? Fight? Flight? Or freeze? Do you resist? (Fight.) Do you flee? (Looking for safety or something pleasant.) Or do you freeze in your tracks, not knowing which way to jump? (Confusion.)

What’s the wise response? I call it surrendering to things as they are. You might recall the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change.

Peace or serenity is available in every moment, even those moments when we are OBE, when everything is a SNAFU.

A Christmas Carol Dharma Talk

https://i0.wp.com/michaelmay.us/10blog/06/0614-unclescrooge.jpgScrooge’s nephew Fred gives Scrooge and us, the audience, a lovely Dharma talk on generosity when he says:

But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time…. as a good time;

a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time:

the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year,

when men and women seem by one consent

to open their shut-up hearts freely,

and to think of people below them

as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave,

and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

And therefore, uncle,

though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket,

I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good;

and I say, God bless it!”

Compare Fred’s sentiment to something the Buddha said.

“Think not lightly of goodness,
It will not come back to me’,
for by the falling of water drops
a jar is filled.
The wise fill themselves with goodness,
as they soak it up little by little.”

We are not talking here about being good, but about doing good in hundreds of tiny ways as we go about our daily life. The Metta Sutta on Loving-Kindness begins with a list of skills to engender our own goodness. Yes, skills. Goodness is a skill that we can learn. Here’s the list of skills that we can develop.

This is what should be done

By one who is skilled in goodness,

And who seeks the path of peace:

Let them be able and upright,

Straightforward and gentle in speech,

Humble and not conceited,

Contented and easily satisfied,

Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,

Not proud or demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing

That the wise would later reprove.

Wishing: In gladness and in safety,

May all beings be at ease.

Choose just one of these skills–or sometimes i will take a pair–and contemplate them throughout the day.

Drop by drop, moment by moment, we re-wire our own neural networks with goodness.