One morning, during my meditation, into my mind came the title of this book: AS IT IS. And it came before I'd written the book, whereas the titles of previous books came halfway through or near the end. So there is at least one thing different about it.
We are often torn between the actual and the ideal, between life as it is, and as we would like it to be; we live lives of dichotomy, and suffer much more than we need to do in consequence. For all our wonderful possessions, we are seldom happy, and even less contented.
At the end of 1996, I was in a bus in Kathmandu, on the way to Bhaktapur. There was a conductor collecting fares and issuing tickets, and also a young boy ― 13 or 14 years old ― whose job it was to call out, loudly, the destination whenever the bus stopped, and to signal the driver to continue after picking up passengers; this he did by an amazing repertoire of whistles. While the bus was moving, this boy ― who would not have been paid much, and whose clothes were shabby and not-too-clean ― sat on the rear seat singing his heart out, oblivious to what anyone might have thought of his out-of-tune renditions. He neither asked nor expected anything from us, but when my companions and I got down at our stop and the bus was pulling away, he leaned out of the back door and shouted: "Goodbye! I love you!"
What joy! It gave me a buzz that lasted several days! He had seen people from all over the world, with wealth beyond his wildest dreams, but he was in no way envious. Had he, in his simplicity, seen that the wealth hanging from the visitors had not brought them the happiness they sought? Not likely; he wasn’t the philosopher-type. But he was content with his lot in life, living on the subsistence level, breathing in the polluted air of his once-fair valley, day in and day out bumping along in a rickety old bus, cold in winter and hot in summer, and with little hope of improvement. Who was he, this teacher? We would consider him poor, but in one way he was richer than us. We look and search, but see not. He saw, without looking!
The ideal must be beyond our reach for a long time to come, but not so far that we give up in despair of ever being able to reach it. If we cannot completely bridge the gap between the actual and the ideal, we can bring them closer together in reconciliation, so that there is less conflict. To hope for a life without struggle, however, is both vain and unrealistic.
If we can and will break out of habitual and rigid thought-patterns, life might take on another meaning, and become more of an adventure than a drudge. It will still be as it is, but the way we perceive it will be different.