Photo Credit: Tommy Wong

Accepting what comes to us without judgement

I’m currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi after discovering that it was one of Steve Jobs’ favorite books. In fact, the book was apparently Jobs’ final gift to family and friends. The book is about self realization.

I’ve only read a few pages so far, but this line really caught my attention:

“The one who pursues a goal of evenmindedness is neither jubilant with gain nor depressed by loss. He knows that man arrives penniless in this world, and departs without a single rupee.”

I’m fascinated by this idea that we should be unaffected by perceived positive or negative, and should instead accept what comes to us.

Another book I recently read is Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching which has some teachings very in line with this.

Here is Chapter 44:

Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?
If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

I particularly like this explanation of Chapter 44 in the appendix of commentary:

“the Master accepts whatever comes to him. If fame comes, he uses it with integrity. If money comes, he uses it as pure energy. Success and failure are equally irrelevant to him”

Similarly, here is Chapter 74:

If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut yourself.

In the commentary for Chapter 74, Huai Nan Tzu has a great story which illustrates this further:

A poor farmer’s horse ran off into the country of the barbarians. All his neighbors offered their condolences, but his father said, “How do you know that this isn’t good fortune?” After a few months the horse returned with a barbarian horse of excellent stock. All his neighbors offered their congratulations, but his father said, “How do you know that this isn’t a disaster?” The two horses bred, and the family became rich in fine horses. The farmer’s son spent much of his time riding them; one day he fell off and broke his hipbone. All his neighbors offered the farmer their condolences, but his father said, “How do you know that this isn’t good fortune?” Another year passed, and the barbarians invaded the frontier. All the able-bodied young men were conscripted, and nine-tenths of them died in the war. Thus good fortune can be disaster and vice versa. Who can tell how events will be transformed?

I think non-judgement of people and situations is a key way to increase happiness, and so it’s something I’m trying to work on.