What will life be like after the pandemic? Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa reflects on this question - 28.05.2020

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What will life be like after the pandemic? Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa reflects on this question.

That’s a question of the future, isn’t it?

Well, it is a mystery.

The future has always been a mystery. ‘Mystery’ not in the sense of foggy and unclear, but rather brightly uncertain in how it plays out.

In a cheerful sense, the future has always been a magical thing – an unknown thing that we have been trying to capture since time immemorial.

In a practical sense, there will be similar patterns of experience, such as mornings and evenings, sunrises and sunsets.

The predictable practical challenge will consist of basically struggling to capture our past memories, what we think was normal and nice.

That challenge has been repeated over and over so many times by now that it is not a mystery any more.

Hopefully we are somehow tired of that habit: the habit of seeking opportunities for our future to recapture the past days of the good times, like carrots being dangled in front of us, and yet they are attached to our back.

But if we want to do something different for a change (a new challenge is something we might perhaps enjoy, because a new challenge is always uplifting), then it might be interesting to see the future as an opportunity to let the past normality overwhelm the future a little less.

Of course, we need the compass of the ‘past’, but using that compass is the trick, rather than overusing or underusing it. If we master this trick, we needn’t be frightened to look at the future.

The complementary trick is the acceptance that there is no guarantee. We as humans have lived for as long as we can remember with concepts of guarantees of unimaginable proportions. But if we look at it calmly, not once did we really believe in these guarantees: in the end, when it came to going through hard times or making a decision in life, we didn’t really depend on laws and promises, because deep down we knew that no number of laws or promises would ever provide us with a real guarantee.

For the longest time we have lived with that contradiction: we feel comfortable with the promises, we are soothed by the concept that there is some kind of safety net, but at the same time we know that none of them have ever been fulfilled and that there is no absolute guarantee. And because we are humans, we cannot really change that fact – we cannot fix that. We only have to accept that that is the case.

Our anxiety comes from the non-acceptance of this state of uncertainty. But when we look at history, we see that ironically enough, it has kind of worked. We have somehow got by, and if we want to make the ride a smooth one, we have to accept the fact that there is always at least a 1% factor of uncertainty.

Our strange habit of holding on to the idea of a guarantee is deeply ingrained in us because we have lived with it for so long and because it is soothing to us. Maybe, this time round we can slightly alter this habit and get closer to our deep-down knowledge or hunch that rules and promises are fabricated; that cures of any kind may be 99% guaranteed, but  a 1% factor of uncertainty always remains.

Without that small factor of uncertainty, life would be intolerable. It is that speck of uncertainty, of that 1 % of no guarantee that makes for the freshness of the present moment that presents us with healthy challenges and opportunities.

An acceptance of this dash of uncertainty lifts the present moment up and gives spice to our life.



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