I know it is ambiguous but that is kind of the point. What are some examples of some situations which would support one side or the other?
Always make things happen. Take charge of you life. Allowing things to happen, I mean that is a given. Of course things are going to happen no matter what, just don’t resist them and learn to capitalize on the opportunity.
Allow things to be made to happen.
When you hear those words of wisdom, “allow things to happen,” they don’t actually mean sit on your ass all day and wait for things to happen on their own. It means to actively do things, but attract them with a natural mentality of allowing, not forcing. It should feel effortless. Rather than working against what ‘is’ to make what ‘could be’, follow what ‘should be’ with your thoughts, and subsequently your actions, and they will happen seemingly on their own. Nothing needs to be forced.
An example of that, sort of, might be the story of the Sun vs. the Wind, or Power vs. Force.
“The Wind decided to challenge the Sun to a contest of who was stronger. Whoever could get the coat off of the man sitting in the park would win. The Wind went first. He blew harsher and harsher winds at the man, trying to ‘force’ the coat off of him, but the man just held on to his coat tighter and tighter. Finally, the Wind gave up. Now it was the Sun’s turn. His strength was in ‘power’ rather than force. He emerged from the overcast clouds and shined down on the park, brightening the day and creating a beautiful scene. The man in the park smiled, took off his coat, and embraced the suddenly more welcoming mood of the atmosphere.”
I know it’s not a practical example, but it demonstrates the idea of ‘allowing’ rather than ‘forcing.’
What’s the difference? I mean, things happen, can you be sure you caused it or didn’t cause it? Of course not. No matter what, it’s made to happen, by something in the world. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s someone else, or maybe it could even be some butterfly or whatever flapping its wings on the other side of the planet.
BUT, full engagement is always better than passivity. If you want something to happen, make it happen. Don’t quit until it’s happened. Maybe you’re the direct cause, maybe you aren’t, but even if you aren’t you still contributed and made a fucking change.
Nothing just happens. It’s all made to happen. You have the power to affect what happens. Not using that power would be a damn bad choice, unless you’re perfectly satisfied with the way the world is. (Spoiler: the mind is never satisfied)
I’d say, both. If you want to lead a happy life, you can’t just sit back and let anything happen to you– that probably won’t lead you anywhere besides your mom’s basement, or a cubical job you don’t even want.
At the same time, you need to be open to new things.
When considering this question, I think that it’s important to consider how much control we really have over our lives. “Making things happen” implies a great deal of control. “Letting things happen” implies little or no control.
As a Buddhist, I would say that we have little or no control over the sufferings, problems, and misfortunes that befall us. This is precisely why when we are ill, for example, it can seem unfair or inexplicable. We may argue that we have a genetic predisposition for an illness or that we live in an area of the world where calamities, such as natural disasters are common, but this does not address the fact that these situations are appearing to a subjective self, our own perspective.
We can, however, control our mind. We can learn to “make things happen” inside our mind, our heart, such as training in compassion, love, patience, generosity, and so on. These are all “trainings” in the sense that they can be built stronger and more pure with practice.
All control isn’t rooted in fear. Passivity is more often rooted in fear, because you’re afraid of what will happen no matter what you do, or you’re afraid of taking initiative or giving a damn.
Control is used to reach from A to a nicer B. That isn’t fear (unless you fear A,) it’s ambition. If you want things to change, make things change. Be the change that you want for the world.