Oakville Zen Meditation

#69.Do we control our life? SEP15

p dowecontrolour life


You are somewhere....in control!





“You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.” Napoleon Hill author of Think and Grow Rich. 1937.

On the picture: “ Someone may control his/her car but does she/he controls the traffic?”

Do you control your life? Do I control mine? ... Does it matter?

Based on various surveys between 80% and 90% of the adult respondents say yes w/o hesitation.

This is a normal gut feeling reaction triggered by a powerful ego mind: “I am in charge.” Saying that I do not control would mean that I am weak or stupid or simply that I am over pessimistic with a doom and gloom mentality. This affirmative answer or belief “I am in control” is based on the illusion that we are a separate, unique and independent self-entity and therefore that we control most of our destiny.

Zen Buddhism considers all living beings as interconnected and interdependent and that our life is the consequence of such interconnectiveness for which we have in fact little control. Karma (law of action-effect) also does have some influence (see talk on Karma).

Here are 3 personal examples of whether or not the following events were under my control. You can do the same little exercise by digging in your good and bad souvenirs.

First story: Oakville 5 am Sunday Dec 2009.

I received a call from the cardiac surgery intensive care unit at Trillium Hospital.

“Arnaud.... come a.s.a.p. Mr. John Doe... 69 an aortic valve replacement from yesterday arrested”.

“Does code blue team is working on him?”

“Yes.... they CPR him.”

“OK I am coming”.

I rushed in my car, took Winston Churchill, the traffic light on Royal Windsor was green...then yellow...then red! I stopped.... wait 30 sec. I could not take it anymore... and because there was not any traffic I went through.

A police cruiser was hiding somewhere. It stopped me past Royal Windsor. A very attractive policewoman asked me to open the window (you don’t do it w/o been asked).

“Good morning sir...do you realized what you did”? She asked very upset.

“Yes Officer... I just ran a red light”

“Do you know the consequences of your act?”

“Yes I do.”

“This is very dangerous...Why you did you do this?”

I summarized the situation and its emergency.

“Can I see your papers... doctor?”

“I was on hurry...forgot to take them...sorry officer”

She was thinking....“Do you have a hospital phone number I can call?”

“Yes” and I gave her the phone # of the unit.

“I am going back to my car to check your identity and your story then come back”

While she went back to the cruiser I called right away my unit telling the nurse that a cop would call to verify my alibi. “Tell her that I should come ASAP”.

After 3 min. the policewoman came back.

“Doc do you want an escort?”

I cracked a joke: “For tonight?”... She smiles...

“Well if you don’t mind officer”.

We drove at 130 km/h to reach the staff parking of Trillium within few min.

I thanked her from the car and she said: “good luck doc. by the way my dad had cardiac valve surgery at Trillium by Dr. X.... Do you know him? He did a great job”.

I replied, “Yes. I trained him few years back”

.... And she left.

It was around 5:25 am

Question: What did I control during these 20 min?



Second story: Paris Saturday March 31st 19-- 7pm


Our Medical School had a spring party and it was also my birthday. Being a rugby player with the University the team decided to have a birthday party for me in a restaurant across the street before the party. 20 guys and 20 girls. I had no say in the choice of the guests. On Friday the day before one girl cancelled and the team decided to invite Catherine B. at the last min. She accepted. Her reputation was to be a “difficult girl”. I was a bit disappointed.

The rest is history.

Question: What did I control during that evening?



Third story: Montreal winter 1974 Immigration Office


We came to Canada in 1973 with a student visa as medical interns.

18 months later we received convocation at the Immigration for... no visa! We had completely forgotten.

We arrived at 8 a.m., took a number (#56).

We heard “56” after waiting for 1:45 min.

The immigration officer was a young French Canadian looking at our file. He looked quite upset.

“You have no visa and you are working illegally in Canada. You may be deported within a week”.

We presented our case for 30 min.

There was a silence for a couple of min. ”Well he said. My wife had a very difficult delivery and the OBG was a French specialist doing his military service here from an exchange program. He was excellent and I always thought that I owe something to the French even if our relationship are not perfect.” I can try to issue a new working permit.” He left his little office and came back 15min. later

“You are lucky”, he said showing us a new working visa. “We will be in touch again”.

Few months later he contacted us to see if we were interested to seek landed immigrants status w/o going back to France. We replied yes immediately. Got our citizenship 2 years later in 1976.

We kept communicating with him for many years. He became a good friend.

Question: What did we control during this time?









Back home try to answer the following 4 questions that may not have any answer?


1- How often in my life were my decisions “primary” or “secondary” as the consequences of prior events, people, news or information that I did not know, expect or control?


2- What is the best way to raise my level of serenity?

To feel or believe that I am the real driver in control of most my life?

Or to accept that most of the time I am just the passenger and if so, what attitude if any should I adopt?


3- What is the part of your karma in your life? of chance? of timing?


4- What is destiny?


Thanks you. Ven. Ji Gong Sept. 2015