It is important to know when you have let go of desire: when you no longer judge or try to get rid of it; when you recognise that it’s just the way it is. When you are really calm and peaceful, then you will find that there is no attachment to anything. You are not caught up, trying to get something or trying to get rid of something. Well-being is just knowing things as they are without feeling the necessity to pass judgement upon them.
We say all the time, ‘This shouldn’t be like this!’, ‘I shouldn’t be this way!’ and, ‘You shouldn’t be like this and you shouldn’t do that!’ and so on. I’m sure I could tell you what you should be – and you could tell me what I should be. We should be kind, loving, generous, good-hearted, hard-working, diligent, courageous, brave and compassionate. I don’t have to know you at all to tell you that! But to really know you, I would have to open up to you rather than start from an ideal about what a woman or man should be, what a Buddhist should be or what a Christian should be. It’s not that we don’t know what we should be.
Our suffering comes from the attachment that we have to ideals, and the complexities we create about the way things are. We are never what we should be according to our highest ideals. Life, others, the country we are in, the world we live in – things never seem to be what they should be. We become very critical of everything and of ourselves: ‘I know I should be more patient, but I just CAN’T be patient!’….Listen to all the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘should nots’ and the desires: wanting the pleasant, wanting to become or wanting to get rid of the ugly and the painful. It’s like listening to somebody talking over the fence saying, ‘I want this and I don’t like that. It should be this way and it shouldn’t be that way.’ Really take time to listen to the complaining mind; bring it into consciousness.
I used to do a lot of this when I felt discontented or critical. I would close my eyes and start thinking, ‘I don’t like this and I don’t want that’, ‘That person shouldn’t be like this’, and ‘The world shouldn’t be like that’. I would keep listening to this kind of critical demon that would go on and on, criticising me, you and the world. Then I would think, ‘I want happiness and comfort; I want to feel safe; I want to be loved!’ I would deliberately think these things out and listen to them in order to know them simply as conditions that arise in the mind. So bring them up in your mind – arouse all the hopes, desires and criticisms. Bring them into consciousness. Then you will know desire and be able to lay it aside.
The more we contemplate and investigate grasping, the more the insight arises: ‘Desire should be let go of.’ Then, through the actual practice and understanding of what letting go really is, we have the third insight into the Second Noble Truth, which is: ‘Desire has been let go of.’ We actually know letting go. It is not a theoretical letting go, but a direct insight. You know letting go has been accomplished. This is what practice is all about.