Buddha on Renewal

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

One of the numerous great teachings of Buddha pertains to releasing: not just of the bad feelings, thoughts and habits we encountered or developed along the way, but also of the good ones. And although this may seem senseless at first it can be explained quite easily:

Every feeling, thought or habit you develop at one time was initially created for a certain purpose. Purposes evolve, and so do you. After some time, your feeling, thought or habit, directed toward that predetermined purpose has therefore become "obsolete."

Fortunately, "obsolete" is not a strange word anymore in modern day society. On the contrary! We have grown very accustomed to this word in our ever-changing world of today. We hear it all the time when we talk about computers, transportation devices, communication methods, and even job-processes.

Now, if we should "release" feelings, thoughts or habits to prevent obsoleteness, what is it, then, that really works? The answer is simple, and probably already obvious: continuous renewal.

In fact, this advise for continuous renewal should not be limited to such intangible phenomena as feelings, thoughts and habits; it should also be perceived in regards to the tools we work with, the patterns we develop to solve our problems, and the vehicles we build to get us from one place to another, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.

This brings to mind a story that Buddha once told about a man who encountered a river that he would have to cross in order to move on, while there were no boats or ferries available. After the initial despair of being stuck, the man built a raft from branches and sticks, and crossed the river. So, what happened when he reached the other side? Well, here is where Buddha warns for the logical tendency to take the raft under one's arm in order to have it ready for use in future encounters with large waters.

The general counsel here is, that carrying all the "rafts" we build along our way through life is not just a tiresome and decelerating process, but also one that prevents us from nurturing our creative spirit. We will become like the man, in another parable, who has a hammer and treats every problem that he encounters as if it were a nail. Or, in the above example, like the man who carries a raft and treats every challenge as if it were a river.

What we should understand is that having built a raft once has provided us with the insight, experience, and confidence, that we will be able to build another one with different, more applicable components in the future.

Getting rid of our "rafts," whether they are thoughts, feelings, habits, work devices, vehicles, organizational strategies, or mind-patterns, is therefore a must. We will not be able to stay active in the increasingly competitive game of life if we refuse doing that. Worse, we will rob ourselves from our most precious quality if all we do is clinging to old solutions. We will lose our sense of creativity and ingenuity, and our touch with the child inside of us. And, believe it or not, it is exactly the sense for creativity and ingenuity, together with the na´ve curiosity within us that gives us a competitive and comparative advantage these days, in business as well as in other social settings. Those who don't fear to release old feelings, thoughts, habits, devices, strategies, and methods, and dare to come up with new ideas, inventions and insights are the ones who thrive.

Isn't it interesting that an advice given more than 2500 years ago has now become more practical than it ever was? Makes you wonder how much has really, fundamentally changed...