An astrologer recently reviewed my chart, marveled at some of the planetary comings and goings, and said, “You’re being taught to live with uncertainty.”
“That sounds about right,” I said. “But aren’t we all living with uncertainty all the time?”
Pema Chodron is a very wise American Buddhist nun who lives in Nova Scotia. A few years ago I reviewed her book, “Comfortable With Uncertainty.” Here are some words that stood out:
“A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It’s also what makes us afraid.”
She completes this short discourse with, “If we find ourselves in doubt that we’re up to being a warrior-in-training, we can contemplate this question: "Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?’”
Pema speaks of a warrior as a bodhisattva -- not one who kills but a “warrior of nonagression who hears the cries of the world.” The warrior’s sword of wisdom cuts through delusion.
I also looked up Osho’s words on the subject: “Life is basically insecure. That’s its intrinsic quality; it cannot be changed. Death is secure, absolutely secure. The moment you choose security, unknowingly you have chosen death.”
It follows that the moment you choose life, you choose uncertainty.
Continuing on the subject of security, Osho adds, “The moment things are secure you will feel bored because there is no possibility of any exploration.” (“Theologia Mystica”)
So no matter what the planets are up to, life is always moving from the known to the unknown. The crossing point from the known to the unknown is where uncertainty sets in. Looking to the positive, if we choose uncertainty and insecurity, at least we won’t be bored.
Dennis Genpo Merzel tells the story of a man named Mullah Nasrudin who frequently crossed the Turkey to Hungary border with only a donkey and pack on it’s back filled with hay. The guards at the border were sure the man was smuggling something, but they were never able to find a thing. Every time Mullah crossed the border, the guards searched more thoroughly. They sifted through the hay, looked down the donkey’s throat, but never found a thing.
“One day one of the old border guards, who had by now retired, walked into a bar and there was Mullah drinking and having a good time, so he decided to find out the answer to the mystery. He went up to Nasrudin and said, ‘For fifteen years you have had us bewildered. We know you have been smuggling. Now listen, I am no longer on the border patrol. I give you my word of honor that I will not turn you in, but for my peace of mind, you must tell me: what in the world were you smuggling?’ ‘Donkeys!’ Mullah replied.”
So often in life, the truth is the obvious thing, but it is so obvious we can’t see it.
We search for truth in an attempt to understand why we are experiencing emotional pain. We consult psychics and astrologers to learn the truth in the present and to tell us about the future. We want to know why our lovers and mates do what they do and not what we want them to do.
But knowing the truth won’t change a thing. Everything is just what it is. Mountains are mountains and trees are trees. People are who they are and they’re not going to be anything else.
THE TRUTH IS, WE CAN ACCEPT WHAT IS AND RELAX, OR WE CAN FIGHT WHAT IS AND MAKE OURSELVES MISERABLE. Remember, “It is your resistance to what is that causes your suffering.”
Merzel quotes Maezumi Roshi who once said, “I can’t believe all the suffering and frustration people go through only to realize that a table is a table, a chair is a chair.”
Or ... Mark your husband is just Mark and he is what he is ... or Mary your lover is just Mary and she is what she is.
(Dennis Genpo Merzel is the author of “The Eye Never Sleeps” (Shambhala) and a Zen teacher of Rinzai and Soto schools of Japanese Zen Buddhism. The donkey story is from that book.)