Buddhist alternatives laid out

To be fair, I don’t think this guy had a lot of options.

The editing project I’m working on right now is a memoir, and it is proving very interesting. Early in the manuscript my attention was grabbed by a Buddhist proverb I hadn’t heard before–five words that hold worlds of wisdom:

Let go or be dragged.

There are certainly times in our lives when we are counseled to let go–let go of anger, of hurt, of a desire for retribution or vengeance, or perhaps to let go of material things, either a preoccupation with getting them (or getting the money to get them), or else to let go of the clutter that the things themselves have become. In my experience, the counsel to let go is hard to hear, hard to heed.

“Let go or be dragged” sounds not so much like an admonition as like a very simple description of our alternatives, and the image is eloquent. I’ve seen a bunch of movies where someone is dragged by a horse; I’ve heard of people being dragged by a vehicle, and seen pictures that I wish I could unsee. None of those stories ended well–if given the choice, the people invariably would have been better off letting go.

Bringing it in close, what will it take for me to face letting go of the things (physical, emotional, etc.) that I’m holding onto? Perhaps I have been thinking that my options are to continue to hold the thing, or to suffer the loss that results from getting rid of it. I wonder if I can frame the situation differently, as “hold on and be dragged” or “let go and it will recede until it is too small to see.”

Do you have insights that respond to this statement? I recently wrote a post about wise sayings that contradict one another. Do you know of a bit of wisdom that argues for an opposing view?


Endless knot, a Buddhist symbol


[Images: Gabriel Villena Fernández on Wikipedia, gjewelry.blogspot.com]

2 thoughts on “Buddhist alternatives laid out

  1. There’s also the image of the hero who won’t let go because he is trying not to let the bad guy escape. Like Indiana Jones being dragged under the truck in the first Raiders movie.

    I like what you said about a description of alternatives, and maybe sometimes we choose to be dragged. “Pick your battles” might be relevant, or “This is a hill I’m willing to die on.”

    There is a Christian injunction to “Bear one another’s burdens”, which sometimes might lead to being dragged behind someone’s runaway truck. Mixed metaphor, but perhaps it illustrates a reason that one might freely choose to be dragged because of what one values.

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