It was a dense forest. Many passed that way including caravans of merchants occasionally using this route to reach home quicker. One fine day, one such caravan of merchants saw a very unfamiliar sight. They were very surprised and so stopped for a while to check if their eyes were playing tricks on them. What did they see?
There was a small cave on the side of the route and a middle aged man who was actually living in there in the midst of this thick jungle! While all were slowly digesting what they saw, the eldest amongst them could not contain his awe and said, “Ah! Look at his face! It is exuding so much +’tranquillity!”
Another joined the refrain, “See his eyes! It is so deep and magnetic. I think he must be an ascetic par excellence.” Another begged to differ: “He must have committed some crime and hence is in hiding here”. His friend looked at the elderly person who spoke first and said a bit sarcastically “Even I am having a bright skin tone! Would that make me an ascetic too!!” Once such a ball starts rolling, is there a
possibility of any stopping!! “He must have had some family related crisis! Unable to face them he must have escaped to this
jungle.” “Yes! It does looks so.. he is a coward… “, “This is real sloth. Why can’t he work hard in a town?”
“Must have been a failure in life…”
The chorus was replete with labels and judgements. This motley group of merchants slowly passed by the cave.
Can we really see what just happened? A person wishing to be a hermit, wanting nothing from other people, desiring to be far away from the madding crowd, is living all by himself in a forest. He had nothing to do with any of these merchants. Yet none spared him. They spewed out whatever they opined.
It wouldn’t stop here. Even after reaching their town they would endlessly discuss and debate about this person in the forest.
Seeking to see the faults of a defects in other while overlooking the loads of defect within is the first defect of the mind.
This is how we generally are; this is how our surroundings also is.
When this is so, when someone comments about us, we react variously – with fear, sorrow joy, anger, rage, shame, frustrations. These are triggered in us by the words and actions of people around us.
When someone praises us we find it difficult to control the joy; when chastised anger rises uncontrollably; insults provoke anger in us; when our shortcomings are exposed we shiver in fear..
We can go on and on like this.
How do we come out of such a mess? Even to an extent if we need to be unaffected by such reactions, we need to somehow compose
ourselves during such times. How do we do this?
First we need to see the one who has uttered the words which stimulated an emotional response in us.
If the person is a fool or a chronic gossiper or if he had some previous enmity with us, we can tell ourselves “He is flinging such allegations baselessly; He was not in the right mental condition when he spoke; He is just blabbering without thinking through; He is deliberately trying to provoke us;”
This way, once we come to know about the source we can find repose in spite of the adverse talk or action. Before we get swayed by words or acts of others, it is important that we seek to understand the true source of such words or acts. A similar phenomenon happens within us and this can be clearly perceived when we practice meditation. Some thoughts which provoke very strong emotions also keep running in our mind especially during meditation.
“We fashion ourselves to be humble, but how can we get such egoistic thoughts”, “Why am I getting such nasty thoughts?” , “Oh God! What a person am I? My thought flow is worse than the gutters”. Such things cross our minds during meditation. This would typically be the stimulus for strong feelings of rumination, sorrow, self loathing, prayers so on and so forth. “Whatever we do, can we really win over such thoughts?”.
We may be pushed to desperation too!
Let us shift gears and look at another scenario before we discuss the solution to overcome the above.
I have seen some people; some keep asking me as to how to meditate till the very end of their lives; No amount of answers would move them. They just keep asking and their life would be over. Some looking at themselves would lament that they have no devotion; that they lack wisdom(gnana) and dispassion(vairagyam). Initially their lament and regret would be sincere; But then in course of time they would even take pride in this continuous lamentation and hence just continue this vigorously.
There are another type of people. When we visit a temple we can find them in the sanctum singing loudly or praying loudly. Every now and then with the corner of their eyes they would check if people around them are paying attention to them. This is their real inner state – more than their desire to attain divinity, they actually desire to propagate that they are divine..
Such is the nature of the mind. Many many types of thoughts keep coming continuously – that’s nature and that’s that! Instead of debating “Why?” or “Is it fair” etc., we need to redirect the focus on the very source of such thoughts which evoke the emotions. The one source of such varied thoughts is the mind. We need to somehow realize this intensity of such flow of thoughts. There is actually only one way. We need to understand that mind is merely a phantom, that which is truly not there, it is a lie and hence a liar too. All that it shows or says are also to be ignored. This is the right and direct way to relieve the intensity of thoughts.
If we start debating on the thoughts, then it in turn becomes a viscous cycle of creating more contradictory thoughts leading to great confusion resulting in higher conflict and loss of inner vitality.
In course of time laments from this confused mind itself would be taken as a source of pride and lamenting to one’s own self would become the habit – there cannot be a worse path to self- destruction.
Hence persistent inquiry on the true nature of the mind is the most productive path to reducing thoughts.