Friday, August 24, 2007

Cherish When Conditions Arise; Appreciate When Conditions Cease

Like a flash (OK, a long one), summer is over just like that, maybe not the torrid heat as yet though. That reality hit home when I saw much more traffic on the way to work, and a lot more yellow buses (the ubiquitous color here for school buses) plying the road. That translated to a near 7 minutes later arrival at my office based on my experience over the past several days.

It also means that the imminence of a hurricane strike is gaining pace, prompted by the realization that the Katrina debacle occurred in late August two years ago. And as if to prove that beyond the shadow of a doubt, Hurricane Dean slammed the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 5 earlier in the week.

For a change, the CD player in my car was playing Chinese Buddhist songs, the melody soothing, and the lyrics, gleaned from sutras (Buddhist scriptures), uplifting. But that did not prevent my mind from revolving around the conversation I had with my wife a few days ago, trying to make sense whether I have shown enough gratitude to my benefactors, whoever they might be, for my blessed professional development. After all, displaying appreciation for, and evincing thankfulness are highly desirable character traits for Buddhist practitioners.

As the Chinese saying goes, always think of the source when drinking water. We don’t just arrive at what we are today by ourselves. Yes, we work hard, we toil, we persevere. But who can confidently say that he/she has not benefited from a helping hand? Whose success is not enabled by an interplay of conducive conditions, even luck?

Buddhism teaches that nothing ever happens by chance. Not when the score keeping goes back before one’s present lifetime. Everything happens because conditions are ripe at the particular moment, and the balance of karmic stores (in mundane terms, the merits and the demerits that have been accrued thus far through our deeds) posits that our paths should cross. It could be a flourish, or it could be a whimper, meaning that it is not meant to be.

Since one could amass merits and reduce demerits by doing good deeds and refrain from committing unwholesome deeds, it stands to reason that we could tip the balance of enabling environments one way or the other. Conceivably then, we could forge out a path of virtue for ourselves and for others. However, most of the times we are not in a position to dictate the type of environment that we find ourselves in as long as we live in this mundane world, nor can we determine the type of people that we run into whose thoughts are always aligned with ours.

So the important thing is keep the right perspective, one that does not change with the environment and the people, both of which are best described as in a state of constant flux. And I find that one of the Buddhist songs captures this outlook succinctly in its lyrics that go something like, after translation:

When the sun rises in the east, it’s already a foregone conclusion that it will set in the west …
When the conditions arise, we must know how to cherish the moment.
When the conditions cease, it’s even more imperative that we know how to appreciate …

So cherish and appreciate.


Kitty Girl said...

Yes. Do good, and cherish and appreciate what good others have done for us. I try to do that as much as I possibly can. It's still hard to let go of things, like an item we can't afford or a broken beloved mug, which are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but I think I'm a little better at it.

Say Lee said...

Yes, go for incremental changes. In times to come, they will become a quantum change.