Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Think, Therefore I Am

Famous words of Descartes written four hundred years ago.

Does it mean if u cease to think, u cease to be? Or u control your thoughts and u control yourself? Is thought your master or you his?

I heard a simple parable today from my Yoga teacher. A youth eager to seek self- r ealisation and and attain enlightenment, went to a revered Master entreating him to take him as a disciple and help achieve his desired goal. The Master asked him to take a round of the Monastery , talk to other disciples and comeback to him.

The youth went round the monastery and talked to some of the Master's disciples. He asked them how long they had been there and whether they had achieved self-realisation. One replied " I am trying to achieve it for the last twenty years and I think I am on my way to enlightenment. Another said " I have been here for thirty years and am yet to reach my goal though I feel i am very near" The youth, disappointed, came back to the Master and told him : "I cannot wait for so long. Show me a short cut so that I can achieve enlightenment instantaneously" " Well, my son" replied the Master, " there is a much shorter route of course. All that u have to do is to come here at sunrise tomorrow and take one round of the monastery. There is, however, one condition. While circumambulating, u must not think of the camel.If u think of a camel even once, u have to start all over again" The youth was delighted. He had never seen a camel and would certainly not think about it while performing the assigned task. He promised to come the next morning at sunrise.

The Next day, the youth came at sunrise, his mind fresh and determination writ large on his face. He started from the door of the monastery and went a few yards when he was reminded of the stern warning of the Master "U shall not think of the camel" The boy thought "Woe betide me! Why should I have been reminded of this warning? Oh all my efforts have gone waste." He was back at the door starting his round. But the thought of the camel would just not leave him and every time he would return frustrated to start afresh. This went on and on till the youth realised his folly and fell at the feet of the Master asking for forgiveness for his impetuosity in seeking a short cut.

We can never control our thoughts. We can, however, learn to control our minds. The mind is the fountainhead of all thoughts and if we block the source, the flow downstream can be controlled. Easier said than done! Yes, but therein lies the secret of spiritual enlightenment.

Thinking about the plight of the youth, I was reminded of the original sin according to the Bible. God specifically forbade Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. And they did exactly that and thus began the fall of Man. The serpent was incidental. The temptation ( serpent) lies within each of our minds. The more u r asked not to do a certain thing, the more determined u would be to do it. Often just as a matter of defiance or for the heck of it.

And here is another superlative piece of masterly non-cognitive detatchment from the "Buddhagosha" . The disciple asks the master Mahatissa "Perhaps your reverence has met a certain lady?" and the Master replies " I know not whether man or woman passed. A certain lump of bones went by this way"