A handwritten poster pasted on the cash register of a restaurant reads, "If not totally satisfied, welcome to the real world!" Needless to say, the message is intended for the restaurant's customers - to be less demanding and more forgiving. Judging by the long queue at the cash register and outside the restaurant, this "disclaimer" seems to be for the difficult customers. Truly, the majority of people living in this materialistic world are spoiled by abundance and choice. They tend to be less tolerant of what things are and easily dissatisfied.

Our demanding and "perfectionist" minds creates the most difficult and unhappy customers in our lives - ourselves. But is there such a thing as "total satisfaction guaranteed" or a perfect solution in life (other than perfecting practice of the Dharma)? Can we ever find anything which could satisfy us 100%? 101%? 200%? 1000%?

When taking tests and examinations, some may score the perfect score of 100 marks. Yet, such perfect score is "only" nice to have because when 50 marks is already the passing mark. Every mark above 50 is thus technically "useless" if the intention was just to pass. Even with 50 marks, one should be "happy" with the outcome. Of course, as a responsible student, one should always study diligently and do their best in exams on their part!

Similarly, nothing in this world exist in isolation, everything about our life as we know is relative in merits (other than the immeasurable merits of the Buddhas). Everything is somewhat 50-50 in terms of potential good and bad in outcome in the short run. For instance, while it might seem "good" to be rich and famous in the world. he or she might worry "badly" about personal safety. When we get a good deal in life, we must also accept the bad stuff which might come with it. Many are guilty of being deluded in being attached only to the good but reject the bad.

If so, 100% perfection in the worldly sense logically cannot exist. What can be perfected though, is our choice of having a good attitude in facing every situation, be they good or bad - practicing this is spiritual cultivation. As it is, everything is fair and square with the law of karma at play. If the good does not exists, the bad cannot exist and vice versa. Nothing exists in isolation and everything is interconnected and relative to one another. To be enlightened is to transcend good and evil (bad) altogether by spiritual purification. Of course, it is still important to practice avoiding evil and doing of good - but we should do so with lesser and lesser attachment or aversion.

Like the disclaimer on the poster, customers are reminded that they may have to accept that their life, like the quality and quantity of food served and the service rendered, is never guaranteed to be 100% perfectly satisfactory or 100% dissatisfactory. When people are obsessed with the attainment of worldly perfection, they often find themselves in great pain and suffering. Sadly, this is self-inflicted due to their attachment to the 100% score line. People suffer when they do not understand the mechanics of the 50/50 "rule" - they keep chasing the elusive 100%, looking for perfection when there is none (since oneself isn't spiritually perfected yet). Only when the mind is pure do we perceive everything as truly pure and perfect!

Everything which happen to us in our lives has its karmic reasons. We should accept all that comes with equanimity, without classifying them as particularly good or bad, and make the best of the situation, thus bettering it patiently. People who are satisfied with their lives realize the 50/50 "rule" - they accept that all that happens to them in their life is like a package deal, a mixed "goody-baddy bag". How we see and use this package is up to us, as we repackage our life in the moment with our attitude and whatever we do.

The realization and acceptance of prevalent dissatisfactions in life (The First Noble Truth) would make life less painful and much more meaningful as we journey through life (as we realise the other three Noble Truths, so as to eradicate our dissatisfactions). Whenever you feel unhappy and dissatisfied, it would be good to sit down, observe noble silence, breathe deeply, meditate, give thanks and reconnect with reality by reflecting on the above.


- BigCuPorridge (Alan) | Edited by Shen Shi'an