Did you know that you can still hear yourself in your mind even when external noises deafen you? I penned this note under a zinc roof during a torrential equatorial downpour and yet, I was totally undisturbed by the noise and rain. My ears hurt due to the pounding of the rain on the zinc roof, but my mind was intact, protected and unperturbed. This is the unique power of our mind: in one extreme, it can shield us from the harsh environment; but in the other, it can sink us to the deepest abyss of depression.
For the uninitiated, it is important to realise that our mind operates in two phases: a basic destructive phase that is driven by negative emotions and a different phase that is driven by positive feelings of reflection and change. In short, it is up to us to decide to make the mind our safe harbour or the endless ocean. In order for us to make profound changes to our life, we must first learn to master our mind.
Our mind is fickle. In one moment, we may be filled with euphoria. In another, we are inconsolably sad. In a given situation, we are overwhelmed with compassion and charity; in another, we are consumed by indifference and despise. Because of the fickleness of the mind, we often feel insecure and complacent. The feelings conjure up indecisiveness which fuels mixed emotions of self-denial, loss of self-esteem and deepens our lack of self-confidence. To sum it up, we become a prisoner of our own mind.
Our mind is also awe-inspiring. It is capable of conscience - it is our guide to the rightness or wrongness of our behaviour. Our mind is the beacon to our wellbeing - our body and spirit. Without this mind, we are no different from beasts and we will always be driven by basic survival instincts - without any sense of right or wrong, and clueless with no ethical or moral compass. Our mind is also capable of choice. We can choose to have a fickle mind or one that is enlightened - a mind which is based on the foundations of mindfulness, observation and wisdom. When we choose to have an enlightened mind, we will be able to tap into its powers and hence, accord ourselves the power of self-reflection and imminent change.
When Lord Gautama Buddha discovered the Truth about life more than 2,500 years ago, he didn’t describe his realisations to be the “Four Compassionate Truths”. Instead, he taught it as the “Four Noble Truths” because he understood that sympathy plays no part in our spiritual attainments nor does it help us to break free from the shackles of birth and rebirth. Compassion compels us to conjure up a sympathetic feeling towards the sufferings or misfortunes of others, but it does not cultivate in us finer qualities that would help us on our spiritual path. A noble person, on the other hand, carries the notion of righteousness, virtuosity, honour, decency, magnanimity and other synonyms. Being noble conjures up positivity, productivity and influence, while compassion connotes reliance, victimisation, stereotyping and despair. If Lord Buddha was thinking about being “compassionate” in his teachings, he would have spent his whole life giving handouts or building homes for the less fortunate, and the world would have lost the message he sought to convey in the “Four Noble Truths”!
In the present day context, if we were to live our life as the Buddha, we must discard the misconceptions of society by living a noble life - rendering assistance to those who are deserving of our help, regardless of status or power. In other words, it wouldn’t matter if the person we sought to help is weak or poor, or if the person is rich or famous. The truth is, all of us are equally lost spirits in this mortal world in the eyes of the Divine. And if this person is seeking the truth, a noble person would still convey the same message - and not cower in pretense or falsehood.
Being noble is to be steadfast in our wisdom in knowing we carry the right understanding and message; to not be afraid to do the right things at the right time; to be creative and empathetic in our communications; to be an active listener and not indulge in mindless talk; to be mindful of our thoughts and behaviours; to think in perspectives. There are so many positive attributes that a noble person embodies, intrinsic qualities that we can all emulate. However, most of us choose to live in ignorance; to indulge in Karma; to carry the anger, hatred and despair from one life to the next; to not learn and repent our past mistakes, but continue with the same habits and behaviours that brought us to where we are today; to think that someone else is the root of our problems and that we are not accountable to ourselves; to think that there is no alternative to our present predicaments, but to indulge in self-pity and regrets.
To live a noble life is to be true to ourselves. We learn to come to terms with our true feelings and emotions, to face up to them and seek resolutions to neutralise them. We learn to forgive because we know nobody is perfect. The Divine reveals our Karma so we could be mindful of our feelings and emotions, because they know these are the building blocks of who we are. If we could master these building blocks, there would be limitless possibilities to our being. We would not bear grudges nor would we ingrain ourselves with negative thoughts and emotions. There would be nothing to forgive because no negative feelings would arise in us. There would be no hatred, no fear and no self-inflicted wounds that would not heal.
Did you hear yourself as you read this article?