Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A No-Regrets New Year's Wish

"I have no regrets, and the world too has no regrets.” That’s what a Taiwanese lay Buddhist leader said to a friend from his hospital bed. Facing a serious illness, that was a statement of profound clarity coming from someone who understood being peaceful.

Because of our habit of always seeking more of what we tell ourselves we like and less of what we don’t, a habit imbedded in the second skandha, we are always wanting. This means we are never satisfied. We go through life always thinking things should be different––the weather, the waiter, the sales clerk; our kids, our spouses, our lives, our love, our health, our lifespan, everyone and everything. By this wrong view, we are endlessly bound in regret and wanting, endlessly forced into stress and anxiety, never confident and satisfied, never peaceful and happy.

Regret is, like its companions: thankfulness and gratitude, a dukkha-producing story that arises when we don’t get our way. As long as we are telling stories about how it ought to have been, then we aren’t present in this moment, unfolding with life, and our lives remain filled with regrets and what ifs.

Until we understand we are here because all of the conditions of the universe and all of our actions of the past have placed us here, we won’t be able to see the rightness and value and meaning of this moment and so we will create regrets that lock us into our delusions and keep us unhappy.

Recognizing interdependence and impermanence is entering the gate of emptiness. It is realizing the original nature of all things and being with their emptiness. Since all things, even us, are empty, there is nothing to regret and no one to not regret it!

Once we understand this, however slightly at the beginning, we will be able to live happy and peaceful lives; we will be able to march down the Path to peacefulness with stumbling. Once we realize there are no regrets, the struggle has stopped–– the seeking has ended. “Happy are those who possess nothing,” as the Dharmapada tells us.

While I certainly have concerns about my family and friends, students and fellow practitioners, over mankind, over the planet, in another sense, I have no regrets about my life nor about the universe. I wish this for you and for all sentient beings:

May your New Year be filled with No Regrets.