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VRBO stands for Vacation Rental By Owner. It is a website where one can find properties to rent all over the world. My wife, Juliet, and I have used this site on a number of occasions to rent houses and condominiums in some beautiful locales. We prefer renting private residences instead of staying in less personal commercial lodging.

Bright gold and orange sunset at Pismo Beach.
Pismo Beach (Photo by Amit Patel)

This past winter, we rented a lovely condo in Pismo Beach, California. This is a quiet oceanside community several hours north of Los Angeles. Our accommodations were great except for one minor inconvenience. Every time it rained the breakfast nook solarium would leak like a sieve. If we didn’t set out several buckets the entire floor would flood. And, unfortunately, last winter was one of the wettest on record in California.

The owner had desperately tried to have the problem fixed before we arrived. However, finding someone skilled in correcting this problem proved difficult. The poor owner was beside herself. I could tell on the phone her stress level was through the roof. Juliet and I took it all in stride and didn’t let this inconvenience ruin our wonderful vacation.

So, what does all of this have to do with the Dharma? As you can guess there was a major difference between our perspective and that of the owner. We were renting the place and would be leaving in several weeks. On the other hand, our unfortunate landlord was suffering from the affliction of MINE.

We ordinary unenlightened sentient beings believe we exist in a very solid, concrete, and unchanging manner. We believe we have a fundamental essence within us that is independent of any external causes or conditions. And when we have that strong grasping to an inherently existent “I,” the next step is to grasp at an inherently existent “MINE.” Everything that we possess takes on an exaggerated importance. Our physical possessions, including our body, appears inherently existent and permanently MINE and must be protected at all costs.

The Dharma has helped me realize that, in actual fact, there is nothing that we own permanently. All of our possessions, including our bodies, will be given up at the time of death, if not sooner. Everything that we call MINE is only borrowed for the duration of this lifetime. We are using things for a while and will eventually have to part from them. We can enjoy these material things while we have them. But we don’t need to cling to them with a death grip. It only leads to suffering.

I was able to see so clearly the disadvantages of clinging to our possessions during this winter vacation. We felt really bad for our hapless landlord and tried as best as we could to ease her burden. Hopefully, I can keep this lesson in mind the next time one of MY things gets lost, broken, or stolen.

Kenneth Mondal

Ken Mondal is a retired Ophthalmologist who lives in Spokane, Washington. He received his education at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and residency training at University of California-San Francisco. He practiced in Ohio, Washington and Hawaii. Ken met the Dharma in 2011 and attends teachings and retreats on a regular basis at Sravasti Abbey. He also loves to do volunteer work in the Abbey's beautiful forest.

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