can I let this one pass?

There are sometimes people who look at the standards that one sets up for oneself in meditation, and they wonder, “But isn’t it only human to have a little laziness, to get a little bit careless now and then? Aren’t you being too hard on yourself, setting up an expectation of some kind of perfection? Why don’t you let some little things go sometimes? Can you ever let something pass?”

It’s normal for human beings to be driven by selfishness, and it is indeed to be expected that in everyone there is laziness. This all may be quite true, but it does not mean that any kind of selfishness, laziness, carelessness, or any fault at all should be ignored at any time – or that letting it pass has no consequences.

Here’s a small story about such little “only human” laziness.

A short while after Eric finished his first ten-days meditation course with Ajan, he was sitting eating breakfast with his son at his kitchen. It was a cold morning in April, and you could see the spring had arrived because the laneway leading to the house was becoming something squelchy into which you could sink your rain boots. They could see the road from where they sat eating breakfast.

Eric’s son was very young at that time, the kind of age where you sit on a high chair and every bite of food you eat is an energetic battle. The noise of a car coming in the driveway made him almost burst in excitement.

Eric looked out the window and was less excited. “Hey, he’s messing up the whole yard!”

In his yard, and now starting to drive also on the grass, was a pick-up truck making big ugly tracks in the grassy part of the lawn. Eric knew what it was; a delivery of some building material that he had ordered. Seeing how the big truck was making tracks in his garden gave him the kind of unhappy feeling that made him want to go and do something to solve it right away, without delay.

Eric had made himself the habit of never leaving his son alone in the house without supervision, but for now, just for this once, he got up, and started to say to his son as he strapped him into his high-chair “Okay, so you stay here, all right? Papa is just going to see the man in the truck. I will be back really soon.”

But as he was tightening the straps, the habit of watching the mind in meditation made him stop, and look inside.

This is laziness, he said to himself.

And he stopped what he was doing, and instead of leaving right away, he got his son down from the high-chair, and said, “We’re going to see the man in the pick-up together.”

And he said “Let’s get you dressed,” and he went and got the little boy’s winter coat, and his winter cap, and his woollen gloves, and his little scarf, and his warmest boots, and taking each item one by one, he dressed his son to go out into the freezing day, doing up every button of the coat, and tying the shoelaces one by one.

Together, they went to see what the man in the pick-up had brought them.

As they were in the middle of the discussion with the man, suddenly the man looked up and pointed and said, “Hey – your house is on fire!”

Eric looked behind himself, and saw that there was smoke coming out of the windows of the house. His whole home was in flames.

It was at this moment, Eric told me once, that he made the determined decision that he would build a place for Ajan, out of gratitude, and so that Ajan could teach others – for, if not for Ajan and the training Eric had received from him, Eric would never have looked into his mind at the moment he strapped his son into his high chair, to see the laziness there.

A little laziness, a tiny little carelessness.  Yet this little carelessness would have gone down into the yard in a hurry, would have left his son strapped in his highchair, with the effect that he still would have been strapped there as the whole house started to catch on fire. If his son had died in the fire, this would have left Eric utterly crippled with guilt and grief, and bereft for his whole life. You don’t come back from an event like that.

One little moment of laziness would have done all this – but he saw it, he did not accept it,  and he removed it. He was able to do this because of being a meditator, because of what he had learned from Ajan. Thus Ajan, as he saw it, had saved not only his son’s life but his, Eric’s life too.

There is, in fact, no such thing as a “little laziness,” or a “little carelessness” or a “little greed.” It’s just that sometimes they have subtle, small-scale consequences, and sometimes they have grave and deadly ones. You never know when they might cause you to have pain and regret for the rest of your life. Would you be happy to have a “little” hole in your airplane? A little leak in your gas tank? A little tear in your parachute?

So why accept them inside yourself, where they matter most?

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