As It Is ~ INTRODUCTION
One morning, during
my meditation, into my mind came the title of this
book: AS IT IS. And it came before I'd written the
book, whereas the titles of previous books came halfway
through or near the end. So there is at least one
thing different about it.
We are often torn between the actual and
the ideal, between life as it is, and as we would
like it to be; we live lives of dichotomy, and suffer
much more than we need to do in consequence. For all
our wonderful possessions, we are seldom happy, and
even less contented.
At the end of 1996, I was in a bus in Kathmandu,
on the way to Bhaktapur. There was a conductor collecting
fares and issuing tickets, and also a young boy ?
13 or 14 years old ? whose job it was to call out,
loudly, the destination whenever the bus stopped,
and to signal the driver to continue after picking
up passengers; this he did by an amazing repertoire
of whistles. While the bus was moving, this boy ?
who would not have been paid much, and whose clothes
were shabby and not-too-clean ? sat on the rear seat
singing his heart out, oblivious to what anyone might
have thought of his out-of-tune renditions. He neither
asked nor expected anything from us, but when my companions
and I got down at our stop and the bus was pulling
away, he leaned out of the back door and shouted:
"Goodbye! I love you!"
What joy! It gave me a buzz that lasted
several days! He had seen people from all over the
world, with wealth beyond his wildest dreams, but
he was in no way envious. Had he, in his simplicity,
seen that the wealth hanging from the visitors had
not brought them the happiness they sought? Not likely;
he wasn’t the philosopher-type. But he was content
with his lot in life, living on the subsistence level,
breathing in the polluted air of his once-fair valley,
day in and day out bumping along in a rickety old
bus, cold in winter and hot in summer, and with little
hope of improvement. Who was he, this teacher? We
would consider him poor, but in one way he was richer
than us. We look and search, but see not. He saw,
The ideal must be beyond our reach for a
long time to come, but not so far that we give up
in despair of ever being able to reach it. If we cannot
completely bridge the gap between the actual and the
ideal, we can bring them closer together in reconciliation,
so that there is less conflict. To hope for a life
without struggle, however, is both vain and unrealistic.
If we can and will break out of habitual
and rigid thought-patterns, life might take on another
meaning, and become more of an adventure than a drudge.
It will still be as it is, but the way we perceive
it will be different.