I have also often cited the acceptance “prayer” that is used in 12-step programs: “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, etc. as being exactly the way it is at this moment.”
Acceptance is thus a very powerful frame of mind. The problem is that in the English language, the word “acceptance” in this context is taken by most people to imply resignation. But in the Buddhist use of the word, it clearly does not mean resignation, or even assent, agreement.
In the Buddhist sense, acceptance is a far more positive word, indicating awareness that things are the way they are because it’s just the way they are and being open to receiving all that the present moment has to offer, being open to the sense world free of all labels. Indeed, one could say that there is nothing to accept, to assent to; that it is just the way it is. As a monk once said to me, “It’s like the law of thermodynamics.”
I have noted in my books and posts that at times words from Pali or other eastern languages have been translated into English in ways that may be literally correct, but which are misleading on their face and therefore need to be clarified for the reader, creating a barrier when there should be none. “Acceptance” is one of those instances, and a very important one because it creates much push-back from people trying to walk the path. They do not want to accept the way things are right now, in the sense of resignation.
But if the teaching behind the word is a combination of awareness that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is, free of all labels, and being open to receiving all that the present moment or situation has to offer (even situations that stimulate pain and sorrow have much to offer to our development), then perhaps a better word to use to convey the fulness of the meaning and avoid the push-back is “embrace,”
If the teaching were, “to embrace” the moment, it would at once convey the positive aspects of Buddhist teaching and be removed from the tainted connotation of resignation. Also “embrace” is an active word whereas “acceptance” is more passive. While we have little or no control over what happens in the world and even in our immediate family, we do have control over how those things impact us, we do have control over how we relate to ourselves and the world around us. Which brings up the final reason for using the word “embrace” ... it is expressive of the concept of having unconditional love and compassion for all people and things.
And so I would revise the acceptance prayer as follows: “And to embrace is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I embrace that person, etc. as being exactly the way it is at this moment, experiencing it with dispassion, free of labels, free of the intervention of my thinking mind, and open to receiving all that the present moment has to offer.”