Sunday, August 10, 2014

Training the mind - 5

Emerging from a watery world
Disappearing into a dusty grave
Battles conceived in mountainous lairs
Winners and losers, mirages on low ground

The apostles of peace in the last hundred years, including Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and The Dalai Lama all stood for one principle, non-violence. Gandhi defeated colonialism through the power of restraint, not religion or rockets. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for social justice through words, not weapons. The Dalai Lama continues his fight for the independence of his people though the power of love and moderation and not missiles. All three of them are human beings just like everyone else. Their greatness lies in how they used their minds. They expected nothing for themselves, yet they gave a lot despite their hands being empty of wealth and power.

Whatever heights humans achieve, one cannot conquer death. The body is perishable, but ideals and ideas can survive for centuries. Every age is has different sets of problems and difficulties. But there is nothing that an inquisitive human mind cannot surmount, if one accepts the pain and suffering in the human body as a fact of life that has to be faced at some point. One gladly accepts the good things life has to offer, but resists the difficulties that may also arise.

It is said that the eyes reflect the mind. Of all the senses, the eyes are situated at the highest point on the human body relative to the ground, giving us a “bird’s eye” view of our surroundings. By virtue of being high up, it broadens the field of view. When one talks of the mind and points to it, fingers may unconsciously point to the forehead or the temples, just above the eyes. But the mind does not always have a broad outlook. Just as the body is adorned with clothing and jewels, the mind is decorated with the senses. Even if one wears a new dress every day, the body ages day by day. The skin may shield diseased organs inside, but these are easily visible to doctors through their instruments such as CT scanners which are their “electronic eyes”. By keeping the senses alive and healthy by catering to their tastes and pleasures, the mind becomes diseased. Symptoms of this mental affliction include sadness, attachment, greed, anger and desire. Some diseases in the body are treated by injecting a drug directly into the bloodstream bypassing the mouth, digestive tract and the liver, which may metabolize a drug and hinder its absorption. These “tasteless drugs” may be more effective than pills taken with tasty food. When a cure is sought, one accepts even a bitter tasting drug. To cure mental afflictions mentioned above, the route of medications for the mind is not through the senses but directly visualizing one’s mind with a surgical knife of dispassionate introspection. The mental pill to be swallowed may be the bitter truth about ourselves as the cause of all our pain and suffering. When one has a deadly illness, one would not wish that upon even one’s worst enemy. Similarly when we are all suffering from these mental viruses of greed, attachment and desire, we must focus on finding a cure within ourselves rather than spreading these germs and their suffering into the world. When the body recovers from an illness, there is no guarantee that it may not recur. But when one is cured of these mental afflictions, it leaves behind a permanent immunity from further pain and suffering.

When we speak, our voice carries only so far. When satellites “speak”, the entire world may be able to pick up those signals provided one has the instruments to do so. Through the instruments of love and hate, signals from the mind are picked up. One can hate without speaking up and admitting to it, just as one can love without saying so. But these subtle feelings are intuitively perceived by people around. This is a common occurrence that everyone may have experienced for himself or herself. Children are more attuned to this than are adults. What ever we may want to broadcast from our minds, we first have to feel it deeply within ourselves. Antennas sending radio or television signals are situated high above ground. Similarly to be more effective mental broadcasters, we first have to climb high into our minds and find that peaceful perch within from where our deepest feelings and emotions can flow down into the world. Just as the view of the earth is very different from the surface, compared to that from the orbiting International Space Station, the higher we go within our own minds, the view of the world will also change. Just as individual houses are not seen from space, our petty differences will also fall away. Humanity will be seen as a cloth of one color, just as all oceans appear blue. Conflicts and wars would appear as meaningless waste of time and resources. Whether religious or not, every individual would appear like a thread holding together this giant cloth of humanity. Just as one thread unravelling may destroy a piece of cloth, unnecessary loss of even one life will leave a gaping hole in the cloth of humanity which all are part of.

Every human life is precious and rare. We are lucky to have won this accidental lottery of life, and for the most part we are left undisturbed by forces of nature to pursue our individual quests. Life as we know it is not possible on any of the other surrounding planets in the solar system. Understanding our true nature will create a hostile environment for the “life forms” of hate and prejudice. This gift of life is universal and nothing is sought in return. The least we can do is acknowledge exemplary minds that have contributed to our present day comforts. The first flight must have been a fearful experience, but thanks to that invention, we can now travel in great comfort, as if sleeping in our own beds to any part of the world. There was no giant leap from that primitive initial flying machine to modern day jetliners. But many minds along the way moved the thought along, that mankind can fly. Similarly, we may not be able to easily leapfrog all our difficulties and reach that peaceful state of happiness. But by small incremental steps taken on a daily basis, learning from every possible situation, we may one day be able to surmount our minds and transform our lives and that of others.

Death will surely come one day, but why fear it? Mark Twain said, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Instead of fearing death of the physical body, one must fear the death of love, compassion and universal brotherhood. The birth of hate is the death of the only instrument we have to understand our true nature. True enjoyment from life comes from celibacy of thought, that is, not procreating thoughts that need the senses for enjoyment, but ones that take us to a high mental plane from which we can have a broad vision of the rarest and greatest of all gifts, life.

To be continued...