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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Buddha, the first doctor of the mind

One doesn’t become the Buddha instantly, but there is always hope that we free ourselves from clinging on to desires and detachment. To see things as they are.

Written by Suraj Yengde |
Updated: June 27, 2021 8:51:24 am
One doesn’t become the Buddha instantly, but there is always hope that we free ourselves from clinging on to desires and detachment.

“The aircraft cruised through the gloomy clouds and cut through the cold wind to land in the lush, countryside of Scotland in Aberdeen.”

“It was time to follow the long-endured passion of having a meditation groove. And thus, I left work and landed in a place unknown and disconnected from the world.”

“I love switching off my phone and not bothering about civilization. I admire and long for such calmness. Finally, I could do it.”

These were some of the thoughts I crafted while in the meditation sessions. As soon as my mind returned to the present, they got scrapped. I rewrote this article several times, in the mind of course, only to realise the futility of such an exercise, to dwell on the future. That was the prime message of the 10 blissful days I spent at an Abbot in the Aberdeen countryside.

We live in a pessimistic world. We do not live in the world as it is. We just go on with life instead of embracing its lovely features — wanted, unwanted, still spiralling in the desire for more. Craving, selfishness, and ignorance form the bedrock of conflicts. This observation of the Buddha after his enlightenment comes to bear witness when we are in a state of vulnerability. Readings after readings on the Dhamma and various Suttas tell us about the state of humanity that is mired in negativity. Listening to prayers and chants in the Pali language, one can notice how much the Buddha was invested in the mortal pain of human beings, which is a concern of the mind.

I shadowed two Buddhist monks for 10 days trying to keep up with their pious, strict, and harmonious lives. Venerable Sujano, a monk of Nepalese descent, and Ven Tatthidhammo of Sri Lankan descent adopted me, and were just as compassionate and loving as one would imagine monks to be. It was an incredible opportunity for me to connect with the self under the guidance of the venerable monks. Prayers and meditation twice a day were the highlight. Disciples come to pay their respects to the Triple Gems—the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.

The monks do not eat after mid-day, and they do not cook. The food has to be donated (dana). Thus, they rely on disciples to provide them food. This practice is drawn from the instructions of the Buddha. Being a monk is to constantly put the six senses—eyes, ear, tongue, nose, mind, and body — in check. And they advise the same to others.

There are various layers of meditation. The purpose of mindful meditation—vipassana instructed by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta is to live in the present and be cognizant of it. Our mind tries to excavate information either from the past or offer delusions about the future. This brings unawareness of the self and the time we are living in. The mantra to be happy and free from the imbalance of life is to live in the present. What does it mean to live in the present? It is to be conscious of what is happening in the now. Whenever the mind wanders out in the past and future, it has to be brought back to the present and made aware of the now. This habit has to be cultivated. It can be done with meditation, charity and letting go of things. The fundamental truth of this world is anicca – change and inevitability of impermanence. Once we realise this and experience it through self (meditation) then there is no need to hanker on anxieties, worries, and stress. We try to perfect something that is eventually going to change. What then is the purpose of our worries and foolish attitudes of trying to control everything? It is better to know that such an attempt is not worthy.

We do usually hear about self-love and self-care. But what does it actually mean? Is it an abstract concept or can we develop the mind to maturity? One of the effective ways is to dedicate time to develop concentration. This might help enter the state of pañña (wisdom) – thinking clearly and not under illusions. There is a large corpus of such mental activities that needs to be made into a habit.

The Buddhists that I met over 10 days were the ones who were not blinded only by the ritual worship. They were also following the discipline of meditation and had Metta Bhavana – the prayer and wish of appreciation for everyone starting with yourself. Credit for this has to be given to the strong force of the Sangha, who have been at it with utmost devotion and faith. Visiting the Abbot has certainly assured me about the great work done in the neighboring countries of India. It was so comforting to see foreigners chanting in Pali language – the language of India and owning it as their own. The Buddhists of India have a few things to learn and share. The Buddha is a powerful anchor of friendship and fellowship between the countries who have Buddhist communities. The social and spiritual should go together without contradictions and judgments.

Covid has especially brought many people together under the commonality of grief and pain. People are enveloped in mental stress and anxieties. “Mental” is a very berated term in India. It simply means mind. The first doctor of the mind was the Buddha.

Thus, the Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike should always prioritise the mind as the object of work and care. One doesn’t become the Buddha instantly, but there is always hope that we free ourselves from clinging on to desires and detachment. To see things as they are.

Okay! Time to go and meditate. The monk has just rung his gong.

Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters, curates the fortnightly ‘Dalitality’ column

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