Does Life challenge you more because you graciously accept whatever comes your way?
That’s an interesting question that someone who follows me on twitter asked me the other day. Well, the answer really is that whether you accept it or not, Life goes on happening to you. When you don’t accept what’s happening to you, you suffer. Because suffering comes from resistance. While acceptance, of what is, can take away the suffering, it cannot stop a problem from arising, a challenge from cropping up or a painful situation from surfacing. Acceptance cannot change the Life that is designed for you. Acceptance can only make sure you don’t suffer from whatever that happens to you. So, to imagine that Life should not challenge you just because you have learnt acceptance is a naïve expectation. And, as always, expectations bring agony; they bring suffering. So, abandon such an expectation and just be accepting of whatever is!
One of my favorite Zen stories is an illustration of unconditional acceptance. Three hundred years ago in a small Japanese village Zen Master Hakuin lived a quiet, contemplative life and was much loved by the villagers. A beautiful girl, whose parents owned a food store, was his neighbor. One day the girl’s parents discovered that she was pregnant. This made her parents very angry. She would not tell them who had fathered the child, but after much questioning she at last said, “It is Master Hakuin.” The distraught parents went to the Master and expressed their rage. “Is that so?” was all he would say. When the child, a boy, was born, the parents brought him to Hakuin, who now was viewed as “a sinner and an outcaste” by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin again said calmly as he accepted the child. A year later the young girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to seek his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back. Hakuin calmly placed the baby in the grandmother’s arms. In giving back the child all he said, again, was: “Is that so?”
There’s a phenomenal lesson here in Hakuin’s story. Don’t analyze Life. Just live it. In total acceptance. There’s really no point in wondering if Life will “challenge” you more if you are accepting or if Life will “understand” you better if you are accepting. Just live the Life you have been given. Be in Hakuin’s “Is that so?” mode all the time – accepting what is and being open to experiments, adventures and possibilities. This is the only way to avoid suffering – despite the circumstances – and anchor in peace!