Six Serenity ‘Prayer’ Reminders

What I can control
is what I think, say and do — that is all.
As this is how I create my karma,
may I always think, say and do well.

— Shilashanti
(The Control Reminder: Part 1)

[1] When Trouble Strikes

From Shantideva Bodhisattva,
‘If there’s a remedy when trouble strikes,
What reason is there for dejection?
And if there is no help for it,
What use is there in being glum?’

(tr. Padmakara Translation Group)

[Note 1: When with trouble in mind (or body), immediately reflect on what can be done to overcome it. If there is that actionable, just do it; do not hesitate at all. Do not feel dejected or glum, as these emotions are pointless. If there is nothing actionable, just accept it; do not fret at all. Again, do not feel dejected or glum. This is how the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can smile on. Despite there being many with suffering, they are already doing their best to skilfully help who can be helped, in ways they can, from moment to moment — without hesitating or fretting.]

[2] Make The Best Of What Is In Your Power

From Epictetus the Stoic, ‘Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions — in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.’ (tr. Nicholas White)

[Note 2: Mind your mind mindfully. What up to us all arise from our minds as attitudes and motivations, before they become speech and actions, expressing our thoughts and emotions. What not up to us is everything else, as thought, said and done by everyone else. Even our tangible bodies are not totally up to us as they get sick, old and die in time, despite us not wanting any of these. Even ‘our’ intangibles like things and names are not totally up to us as they are subject to natural and human intervention. ‘Just’ or ‘not’, they are karmic in nature.]

[3] From Non-Control To Control

From Stonepeace,
‘Know what you can control clearly,
so that you can control it fully.
Know what you cannot control fully,
so that you can release it clearly.’

[Note 3: Much freedom arises from clearly understanding the dichotomy of control — knowing what can be controlled, to thus focus efforts wholeheartedly on it; and knowing what cannot be controlled, to thus not focus on them at all. There is surprisingly little we can control fully. Yet, through efforts exerted on them, there can be more indirect control later, of what is not in direct control at first.]

[4] The Serenity Prayer

From Reinhold Niebuhr the theologian,
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.’

[Note 4: This can easily be adapted into a ‘Universal Serenity Prayer’ by changing the first word to the spiritual refuge in mind, e.g. a Buddha, Bodhisattva and/or even Buddha-nature. Although seemingly praying for serenity, courage and wisdom from an external power only, this also reminds us to muster and strengthen these qualities within ourselves, our Buddha-nature.]

[5] For Everything Under The Sun

From W.W. Bartley the philosopher,
‘For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.’

[Note 5: This is written like a nursery rhyme, for easy teaching to children, and for easy remembering. Of course, these ailments are not only physical and literally ‘under the sun’, as they can be mental and ‘in the dark’ corners of the mind too.]

What I cannot control
is what others think, say and do – that is all else.
As this how they create their karma,
may they always think, say and do well.

— Shilashanti
(The Control Reminder: Part 2)

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