Making Peace with the Imperfect

24,347 views | Posted in Buddhism, Wisdom | 6 comments

“It’s cracked like this because it’s perfectly in line with the Buddha’s teaching”

A friend of mine bought a new smartphone the other day.  He got it set up, but he couldn’t get the email or the sat-nav to work properly.

After waiting on hold and several calls to tech support, they said he needed to pay an extra £10 a month for an additional service.

So, Ok, he paid that. And then it turned out that it still wouldn’t work as he’d expected. One particular feature still wasn’t quite right.

More calls to tech support. More searching the net for answers. Final realization – this smartphone actually does have some limitations. He either has to live with them, or change the device for something else.

He asked me if we could do anything about it.

I thought for a moment, and what came to me was this:

“There’s a kind of rule of thumb I use with any new technology. With anything new, actually. That is this: ‘80% is about the best you’re going to get.’

“The adverts for these products will always promise 110% – satisfaction that exceeds your expectations. But nothing in this world is ever perfect.

“If you can recognize that and make peace with it, and you can get 80% of what you expect, that’s good enough.

“If you let go of wanting it to be perfect, and are willing to work with 80% okayness, then the other 20% frustration is what you just have to put up with, to work with.

“And maybe, in due course, you’ll get used to the other 20% and you’ll find a way to make peace with it, and it’ll be OK. And then you won’t mind it so much.”

Ajahn Chah, our great teacher in Thailand put it this way:

“Sometimes I’d go to see old religious sites with ancient temple buildings, designed by architects, beautifully built by skilled craftsmen. In some places they would be cracked. Maybe one of my friends would remark, “Such a shame, isn’t it? It’s cracked. ” I’d say: “If that weren’t the case then there’d be no such thing as the Buddha, there’d be no Dharma. It’s cracked like this because it’s perfectly in line with the Buddha’s teaching.”

What he’s saying is what the Buddha taught – that whatever comes together, separates. Whatever arises, must decay and pass away. It’s a natural law. All things that arise and cease are inherently unsatisfactory.

And that includes temple buildings and smartphones. And everything else in between.

If everything were perfect and satisfactory, nothing would disappoint us. This would be heaven, right here.

We wouldn’t seek for truth or spiritual fulfillment, God or enlightenment. There would be no need to for us to look for perfection, to search for the Ultimate.

But these things we have are not satisfactory. They’re not even supposed to be satisfactory.

80% is good enough.

So if we can understand and be at peace with this, then we will stop demanding perfection of ourselves, stop demanding perfection of others, and we may just become a bit easier to live with.

Alan Lewis

Food for the Heart
The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah

” The untrained mind is stupid! Sense impressions come and trick it into happiness, suffering, gladness and sorrow, but the mind’s true nature is none of those things… really this mind of ours is already unmoving and peaceful…” – from Food for the Heart by Ajahn Chah

Ajahn Chah (1919-1992) was one of Thailand’s best-known Buddhist monks. Committed to a life of simplicity and renunciation, Ajahn Chah became a monk at age nine, and lived and practised in Thailand’s caves, forests and charnal grounds as an ascetic, wandering monk. Renowned for the clarity and directness of his Dharma teachings, a network of monasteries grew up around Ajahn Chah. He attracted a large following of Western disciples, who themselves have established several branch monasteries in various parts of the world.

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  1. Only that One whence this world has emerged is perfect, infinite and eternal. All others are finite and imperfect. Things of this world are created with the seed of unhappiness and decay within them. So we can never find perfect bliss from anything here. Bliss is not inside any object. Bliss is within the mind. We must dive deep inside to find it. Bliss is the absence of desire. Bliss is in perfect stillness of the mind.

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing on Stumble… Thumbs up



    “A person of confidence and goodness will be welcomed wherever they go.” The Buddha verse 303

    “Everything is changing. It arises and passes away. The one who realizes this is freed from sorrow. This is the shining path.” Verse 277

  3. It reminds me of Islamic craftsmen who deliberately introduce imperfection because only god is perfect.

  4. Is true, I used to have many problems with computers everything have to be perfect to many trouble for me. Now if is working fine and is not fine too. I don’t more worries about it as I used to have in the past.
    Thank you for share this with us.

  5. Thank you Alan, a perfectly timed article for me to read while feeling delightfully disappointed after an imperfect encounter 🙂

  6. Wise words. Thank you for this!

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