Powerful Words of Wisdom – “Uncertain”, “Maybe Not” and “Not Me or Mine”

By Desmond Yeoh SC

“Uncertain”, “Maybe Not” and “Not Me or Mine” are the words which the late Ajahn Chah, frequently used to teach his disciples. These are very simple and commonly used words but from a spiritual perspective, they are very powerful words of wisdom.

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Will I still be alive in 5 years? Will I still have a job next year? Will I still continue feel the same about this thing, person or political party? The answer to all of these questions and all other similar questions is that it is uncertain. Nothing in this material world is certain. Some of us cannot accept this uncertainty and thus look to astrologers and psychics to try to bring some semblance of certainty in our life but even their predictions are filled with uncertainties as they could be interpreted in multiple ways.

Uncertainty or impermanence is a natural law and should be embraced. Accepting this truth is the first step towards overcoming all our attachments; the root cause of our suffering and which traps us in the cycle of birth and death. If we continuously contemplate uncertainty and impermanence, we would see that everything without exception, is tainted with suffering because it is uncertain how long we will continue to have whatever that was gained.

Most of the time, we just take it for granted that all our thoughts, opinions and interpretations are true and correct because they arose from our mind. Ajahn Chah warned his followers not to do so but to always remind themselves that all these may not be true. Ajahn Jayasaro wrote in ‘Stillness Flowing’, “Whenever the mind was about to draw a conclusion or jump to one, when it was about to make a judgement about something, Ajahn Chah taught the meditator to recall, ‘maybe not’. Maybe that’s not how it is, maybe that’s not how it happened, maybe that’s not what he or she is really like. Whenever the sense of certainty arose, meditators were to temper it with a gentle ‘maybe not’. Even if they were convinced, they were still to reserve a small space in their mind for the possibility of being wrong: ‘Yes, but maybe – just maybe – not.’ In this way the mind was to become more careful and nuanced in its attitudes”.

Enlightenment masters taught that we suffer because we take our mind and body as ourselves. Even if we have not yet fully understood this truth, we should at the very least continuously remind ourselves that we are not our mind and body. Separate existence is merely an illusion. Whenever a memory arise that fills us with negative emotions such as pride or guilt, we should just tell ourselves, ‘that is not me or mine’. There is no need to give importance to those memories just because they are fabricated by our mind. Are our interpretations or view of those memories even true? Maybe not.

With mindfulness, we can challenge all our thoughts, be they of desire for something or aversion to something, with these wisdom words; it is “uncertain”, “maybe not” and “not me or mine”.  No defilements can withstand these powerful words.

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