An Unusual Lesson from Monks

March 17, 2024 by  
Filed under blog

As you know, I love to travel. There are so many awe-inspiring, extraordinarily beautiful, and even startling sights all over this big world of ours. But I have to say, I am inspired by the people maybe more than the places I see. The way that other people live and the way they think can be so different in some ways and so alike in others that I often find myself comparing what I do and what I think with the ways and thoughts of the people I meet.

Some years back, I saw what I thought of as one of the oddest things. It was something I never thought I’d see, and it really struck me because it was incongruous to the ideas I had previously. I saw these Buddhist monks walking around their temple areas, looking down as they went, at something we are all very familiar with yet would not expect to see at a Buddhist temple–cell phones! Yes, these monks—anywhere from 8 years old to 80 or 90 years old—were walking and texting or talking on that very, modern invention.

It didn’t seem to fit at all, and it took a while to get used to seeing the simple Buddhist ways combined with modern technology. I thought that Buddhists traditionally renounced conventional living. But it occurred to me after a while, that they also attach great importance to community and isn’t keeping in touch part of that? And so, if cell phones help them build and strengthen community, then maybe that technology is a good and necessary thing.

And then there’s the Buddhist philosophy that change is inevitable. Here is a quote from Lao Tzu that really explains this: Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

We all know that technology is all about change. I remember thinking about that a lot after that one particular trip to Asia when I noticed the monks on their cell phones. I still think about it sometimes, especially about how it must have taken the monks some work to get used to the idea of using cell phones.

Embracing change is really a very important idea, one that we should all make a part of our lives. Whether it’s a simple thing like not getting upset at standing in line, being in a huge traffic jam, dealing with the heart-breaking circumstance of illness or death of a loved one, or struggling with pain and health issues ourselves, we need to focus on accepting that these things happen. Sure, if there’s something in our lives we don’t like, we can certainly work towards making things more to our liking, but some change is inevitable and other changes are just things we can’t do anything about. When we have those kinds of changes in our lives, we need to work on making peace with them. Fighting changes by getting angry or depressed, or by acting in a destructive or non-constructive way will not make things better and often leads to more unhappiness.

I know it’s easy to say that we should accept change and let it go or embrace it, but it is so much harder to act on that idea than just saying the words. Now, I’m not saying that you should give up easily when you want things to be different, like when change makes things difficult or frustrating for you. We should all do what we can to make our lives, and our family’s and friends’ lives, better. But when it comes to the point where we realize nothing can be done, or to fight it will make things worse, we would be much better off letting it go and working with the change and not against it.

I think that’s what the monks did. All the ways we communicate with each other has pretty much moved into all this mobile technology and, I guess, the monks realized that if they were going to stay connected and build a community, they needed to accept the changes in the world and not fight against them.

I think there are things in all of our lives that we fight against without success or any real progress that we can accept without a major loss of quality in our lives. I guess the hard part is figuring out which things to keep fighting for and which things to accept as well as when to give in and accept them.

So, if there’s something you have been fighting against for a long time and nothing’s really getting better, maybe only getting more frustrating for you, it’s possible that it’s time to accept it and replace your frustration with calm acceptance and, yes, even happiness. Because once we stop stressing out over the things we can’t change, we have more room to be happy. So, let’s all try to make more room for happiness.


Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!