Eventually, you let go of all these things because they’re not ends in themselves either, but they are like tools to be used. You learn to use these tools, and when you’ve finished you don’t need to hang on to them.
Signifying this, the Buddha referred to his teaching as a raft which you can make out of the things around you. You don’t have to have a special motor boat or submarine or luxury liner. A raft is something you make from the things around just to cross to the other shore. We’re not trying to make a super-duper vehicle; we can use what’s around us for enlightenment. The raft is to carry us across the sea of ignorance and when we get to the other shore, we can let it go – which doesn’t mean you have to throw it away.
This ‘other shore’ can also be a delusion, because ‘the other shore’ and this shore are really the same. It’s merely an allegory. We have never really left the other shore, we’ve always been on the other shore anyway; and the raft is something we use to remind us that we don’t really need a raft. So there’s absolutely nothing to do, except to be mindful, to sit, stand, walk, lie down, eat your food, breathe – all the opportunities as humans to do good, to be kind, to be generous, to love others, to serve and help others. This is one of the loveliest qualities of being human.
We can decide not to do evil. We don’t have to kill, lie, steal, distract ourselves and drug ourselves or get lost in moods and feelings. We can be free from all that. It’s a wonderful opportunity in the human form to refrain from evil and to do good – not in order to store up merit for the next life, but because this is the beauty of our humanity. Being a human can be a joyful experience rather that an onerous task.
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We even have to let go of our need to be inspired. We have to develop the strength to where we no longer need any kind of inspiration or encouragement from anyone else – because inspiration isn’t wisdom, is it? You get high – ‘Ajahn Sumedho’s wonderful’ – and then after a while you don’t get high on me any more, and then: ‘Ajahn Sumedho’s disappointing; he’s let me down.’ Inspiration is like eating chocolate: it tastes good and it’s very attractive but it’s not going to nourish you; it only energizes you momentarily and that’s all it can do. So it’s not wise to depend on other people living in the way that you want them to and never disappointing you.
It’s so important to develop insight through practice, because inspiration just wears out – and if you are attached and blinded by it, then you are in for terrible disillusionment and bitterness. There’s so much of this with different charismatic, guru-figures that teach around the world. It’s not balanced, is it? As intoxicated as you can get with somebody else’s charisma, you can’t maintain it. So it inevitably involves falling down into some lower state.
The way of mindfulness is, however, always appropriate to the time and the place, to the way things are in their good and bad aspects. Then suffering isn’t dependent on the world being good or bad, but on how willing we are to use wisdom in this present moment. The way out of suffering is now, in being able to see things as they are.
~ Ajahn Sumedho, The Way it is