Lama Surya Das, on Acceptance

Its Transformative Magic Brings Inner Peace



I have been thinking a lot lately about acceptance and its transformative magic. It helps us become more patient, tolerant, flexible, empathic and open-minded. It can bring contentment and also change.

Acceptance does not mean condoning the evils, injustices or inequalities in life. It can help us more clearly see what is, just as it is, and how and why things work the way they do. When we calmly observe and investigate the causes of things and the fact that nothing happens by accident, the truth reveals itself, whether it is to our liking or not. Cultivating patience and acceptance provides the mental clarity and spaciousness that allows us to examine input before unthinkingly reacting in a way that may escalate the problem.

In taking a sacred pause, we dramatically increase the chances of making better choices and undertaking wiser actions. We simply have to remember to breathe once and relax, enjoying a moment of mindfulness and reflection, before responding.

Sometimes, we may not know what to do. That is a good time to do nothing. Too often, compulsive overdoing creates unnecessary complications. When at a complete loss, many truth seekers bow their head, fold their hands and rely on their higher power for clarity, guidance and direction. The way to go forward comes.

Such patience does not mean passivity. Neither does acceptance infer weakness, apathy, indifference or carelessness. We can cultivate patient forbearance and loosen our tight grip a bit by remembering the Buddhist mantra, “This too, shall pass.” Is it really a matter of life or death, as my emotional reaction seems to insist? Or, is this drama only an ephemeral local weather condition, which soon will be replaced by other thoughts and feelings? Ask: “How much will this matter to me next month, next year, five years from now?”

Here is one secret of spiritual mastery and inner peace, freedom and autonomy: It is not what happens to us, but what we make of it, that makes all the difference. We can’t control the wind, but we can learn how to sail better. It’s not the hand we are dealt, but how we play it.

Unconditional acceptance is not static, but ecstatic; vibrant, dynamically engaged in and connected with reality. The spiritual hero strides fearlessly into life’s depths, facing its incessantly undulating waves without holding back. Unconditional acceptance is the kind of love Jesus spoke of when he taught us to love our neighbor, and what Buddha meant when he said that an enemy, adversary or competitor can be one’s greatest teacher.

We must first love and accept ourselves before we can love and accept others. To quote Carl Jung: “The most terrifying thing in the world is to accept oneself totally.” What are we afraid of?


Lama Surya Das, author, founder of the Dzogchen Center and leading Western Buddhist meditation teacher and scholar, is a main interpreter of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. He is a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Energy Psychology in Orlando, May 28-31, and his June 1 workshop, “The Big Questions: How to Find Your Own Answers to Life’s Essential Mysteries.”

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