Sunday, August 28, 2011

What a mirror reveals

Long ago, when the world was teeming with wild animals, a king and his entourage visited the jungle. An inquisitive young royal asked the guide many questions about the animals they saw. After learning about the laws of the jungle in relation to predators and prey, the young man asked the safari guide, “Which is the most dangerous animal here?” The guide picked up a mirror and held it up in front of the somewhat confused youngster. Putting his hunting gear down, he said, “Surely I cannot be that dangerous now.” The guide chuckled and broke into an all knowing grin and remarked, “The source of the danger is in man’s mind.”

There is wide spectrum of variability in the mental propensities of human beings. On a physical level, the human nervous system is the most evolved among all living creatures. One can draw a comparison between a human mind and a jungle. Both may have potential hidden dangers. In the case of the jungle it may be wild animals that hunt to survive. In the case of the mind, bad thoughts may be the source of danger to us and others.

Just as you might need a guide to help you avoid dangerous animals in the jungle, you may also need a guide to help you navigate through the pitfalls in your own mind.  Every human being has the power to reign supreme over their respective minds. Just as a king has to preside over both good and bad subjects, we have to live with our respective individual minds containing good and bad thoughts. A just and impartial ruler would reward the good and punish the bad. Similarly, when it comes to one’s mind, one has to recognize and cultivate good thoughts and find a way to sublimate the bad ones. Rather than identify and correct individual thoughts that we recognize as negative, it is probably more efficient to change negative mental traits such as anger, greed, and attachment.

Some of these negative traits are deeply ensconced in our minds. They don’t give themselves up easily. These traits may camouflage themselves in our tendency to rationalize them. Since all this goes on in one’s mind, the first step is to develop a sense of impartial objectivity when it comes to observing our thoughts. Rather than being comfortable with looking at your own mind and grading your progress, put it to an external test.

Keeping the same sense of objective impartiality, try and observe how your mind reacts to unexpected hardships, criticisms and counter viewpoints presented by your perceived enemies. This process may create a lot of friction in the mind. To light a match stick, you need friction between the match stick and a suitable rough surface. The result is light that can be used for cooking, seeing the the dark etc. As long as the match stick is lit, you don’t really worry or care about the amount of friction it took to achieve this. Similarly, the sometimes unpleasant feeling in the mind in response to hardship and criticism is the friction that ultimately helpful to you. When you lose objectivity over your mind, you may react in a negative fashion in response to this unpleasantness that may manifest in your minds. Looking at your own mind in these situations with an eye of detachment may guide you to the source of your negative mental propensities. This form of introspection is like the flame that results when a match is struck against a rough surface.

In this light, your so called enemies are your best friends. They hold up a mirror in front you that shows you the roots that lie hidden rather than the leaves that are easily visible. This mirror reflects where the dangers may lie.