A sharing of a great dharma talk by Ajahn Brahm on the four ways of letting go. It is the most popular talk on the Buddhist Society of Western Australia’s Youtube channel.
There will be someone who hurt us, cheats on us or said terrible things. if we do not let it go. keep thinking about them, get angry and feel revengeful, they will continue to hurt us each time we think about them. There is no need to seek revenge. Let them go and the hurting is gone. There are many things we can let go of to have a happier and more peaceful life.
Four ways of letting go
1. Things are only heavy when you hold them. When you let them go, it has got no weight at all.
What are the heavy things we have been collecting and carrying in our journey of life?
We live complicated lives. We collect and accumulate many things that we think about and worry about. This is analogous to travelling through our journey of life with a huge and heavy backpack. We walk through life and do not know how to take them off and put them down. We get tired, sick, unhappy and grumpy because we are always exhausted by the loads of the many things we are carrying in our minds. What can we throw away? There are many things we can throw away and nothing goes wrong.
Throw away the past, your history. The past is a prison. Have the courage to let go. We learn much more from letting go of the past than from keeping the past. Allow it to disappear.
People are afraid of the future. A characteristic of the future is uncertainty. We do not know what will happen. If we look back, our lives have gone in directions that we are unable to predict. Are they useful? Do our worries about the future always come through? Let go of the future; the uncertainty of our life; throw it away.
Throw away the fault-finding, complaining negative mind. There is always something wrong. Has that ever got you anywhere? Instead, it just drives us nuts and makes us terrible people to be with. Let go of the negativity.
Let go of the positive things too. We may think far too much that stops us from getting any peace in life. Whenever you are thinking about life, you cannot enjoy life. When we keep thinking, we are not enjoying life – we are not feeling, seeing or hearing — we just live in what we think we hear, what we think we see, and what we think we know. It is a great thing to be able to throw out all that thinking and get a peaceful life at last. We do not have to do this all the time, just every now and again, learn how to throw it out.
If a person wants to see the sunset, they need to put aside all the words and descriptions that actually block the experience.
Throw things away and only keep one thing, the present moment; what is happening now. Stop keeping so much, especially the past and future.
2. Want to be here, wherever here may be, and you will be free.
There are many prisons that we have made for ourselves in life. Any place that we do not to be is our prison — a relationship we do not like, a job we do not enjoy, a body that is sick. However, the way to escape from these prisons is to change our attitude and want to be there. When we want to be there, we will feel peace and freedom — contentment.
This is important as there are many situations in life that are difficult or impossible to change — the traffic jams of our lives. The stress, tension and suffering we have are because we want to get out of situations (the prison) that we cannot change and want to get somewhere else. Being angry and stressed does not change anything.
There comes a time when we are dying being sick and in pain. We struggle to get out but it will not get us anywhere; there is no escape; we are dying. Do not make a prison of our bodies at the very end; instead, want to be there and we are totally free.
3. Giving, expecting nothing back in return
If we donate and expect our names to be known, that is not real giving, that is buying advertising rights.
Too often we expect something in return and that causes a huge amount of suffering in life and our expectations never get realised. Much of our lives are about having expectations being frustrated and being thwarted. All the things that were promised to us when we are young where are expected from life, do we reach and achieved them?
The more expectations we have, the less we can enjoy our relationships and our lives. There will not be peace.
When we get married and have a relationship, are we giving or are we expecting something back in return? If we go into a relationship giving expecting nothing at all, we can get a huge amount of fulfilment.
It is a beautiful way of living a life of letting go — to our family, our children, our pets and friends of giving our love, kindness and energy to others, expecting nothing back in return. It is not what we are getting out of this, it is what we can give.
When we do not anticipate anything in return, all the gifts of life come as a great surprise. Life becomes far more enjoyable.
4. Never allow knowledge to stand in the way of truth
Having the Teflon mind where nothing sticks to it. Do not try to collect things or allow things to stick to us. We have this beautiful moment, enjoy it now knowing it is gonna go, so we can be free for the next moment to come. Then let that go too and all the happiness and the unhappiness of life never stick to us, which means we can always be free for the next moment, not allowing the last moment to influence this one, you just flow through life, and again collecting no mementoes, expecting nothing for the future. If someone says something wrong to you, it just goes right through us.
Even the happy moments, we can let those go too because be careful, if we keep the happy moments that give us so many expectations, so many comparisons, it means that we cannot enjoy the next moment. How to let go of all the moments, happy and sad moments of the past so you got this mind, this body, this life to which nothing sticks, which means we can always enjoy whatever happening next, not allowing the past to stop you from being free in the present.
With all our knowledge and understanding, sometimes when we learn something, it sticks to us and it makes us conceited that we cannot face the reality of the present moment. People with too much knowledge can never understand the truth of now. Never allow knowledge to stand in the way of truth. Knowledge is all that we have learned, all we expect to be, which means when we expect something to be, when we know what it is all about, it blocks us from seeing the truth and the uniqueness of what is happening right now. We can never have real happiness no matter what happens to us in our lives because they always allow their knowledge to stand in the way of the truth. All the knowledge is just signposts, it is just the directions, it is not the real thing.
Experience is past when it is interpreted from the knowledge of your past. In other words, we take the experience and compare it with something else, it becomes limited by the past.
Having the Teflon mind, we become this beautiful free mind which can actually see things as they are rather than see things as we are told that they are. Learn how to be free to let go.
Never allow the learnings to block the truth. Hence, a lot of times, we have to let go of even our learnings and assumptions in order to see the truth — the Teflon mind. Otherwise, we have all these assumptions of who our husbands are, who our enemies are, who our friends are, and what life is all about and that will block us from seeing what is really out there. Life can be very surprising.
Have a Teflon mind and do not allow things to stick as they will stop us from experiencing the truth.
Here is another good snippet about letting go by Venerable Master Hsing Yun (in Mandarin): 星云法师演说：学习放下