Is that So?


Detachment is a powerful tool.  We can detach from an outcome. We can detach from a person.  We can even detach from our thinking mind.  Detachment does not mean emotional withdraw.  It simply means we are free from reaction.  When we are free from reaction, then we are free from giving outcomes any power in our life.

I’m reminded of this in a Buddhist parable “Is that So?”

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.  A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.  This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parents went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little one needed.  A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.  The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”

We have the power within us to detach from outcomes.  We have the power to accept what is.  We have the power within us to show up, give our best, have a deep desire for something …..and to let go of the outcome.  To work hard, to desire, and to want, are not what creates upset in our lives.  What creates upset in our life is the attachment of that desire or hard work.  Which reminds we of other mantra from page 49 of a great book.

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment…..unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

So just how do we practice acceptance?  We simply make a decision to do so.  We may say we want happiness, joy, love or some other stated goal.  Then the moment we get news we do not like; we are sad, disappointed, depressed, angry or some other emotion. There is nothing special about this.  This is our human condition and simply what we do.  However, I have challenged myself to have a different reaction.  When I am disappointed I busy myself with accepting what is.  I may resist it at first or fight very hard to change it. When that ‘fight’ creates suffering then I recognize the key is to let go.  To detach.  To set free.  This is not the same as giving up.  This is simply letting go of my attachment which also means letting go of my suffering.  

Perhaps “what is”, is how it’s meant to be.  Regardless of my spiritual beliefs, or yours ,I think we can all agree that “what is” is the current state of affairs.  My wishing for something different, regretting that it is this way, or hoping that it was not this way, are all futile attempts to shift “what is”.  So I tell my mind why not just accept “what is”?  I will be free from suffering.  When I am free from suffering, I am able to think more clearly.  I am able to recognize other options and focus on the solution, instead of a perceived problem that I am powerless over, and which only causes me suffering.

Do I chose suffering?  Or do I chose joy?  Is that so?


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