Peace of Mind

This is one of those whatsapp messages that got shared in groups. I thought this one is worth remembering so I post it here. After googling around, I found GK Dutta’s post, which could be the original source. Enjoy!

Once Buddha was traveling with a few of his followers.

While they were passing a lake, Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Do get me some water from the lake.”

The disciple walked up to the lake.

At that moment,  a bullock cart started crossing through the lake.
As a result, the water became very muddy and turbid.

The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink?”

So he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy.  I don’t think it is fit to drink.”

After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake.

The disciple went back,  and found that the water was still muddy.

He returned and informed Buddha about the same.

After sometime, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back.

This time, the disciple found the mud had settled down, and the water was clean and clear.

So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.

Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said,

“See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be, and the mud settled down on its own, and you have clear water. Your mind is like that too ! When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.”

Having ‘Peace of Mind’ is not a strenuous job, it is an effortless process, so keep your mind cool and have a great life ahead…

Not-self

borobudur-relief

Note: This is a mid-term assignment for Buddhism & Modern Psychology course from Princeton University at Coursera by Robert Wright. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, highly recommend it for anyone who is into meditation, buddhism, psychology, yoga philosophy. Side note – I bought Robert Wright’s book The Evolution of God a few years back but haven’t read it (I have this habit of buying books thinking I will read them someday. My stack of unread books keep growing). When I decided to join this course, I didn’t know that the teacher is the author of that book.

Describe the self that the Buddha says does not exist and explain the Buddha’s principal argument against it.

The Buddha gave the second sermon Anatta-lakkhana Sutta to the five monks. In summary the Buddha said that form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness is not permanent, and thus it is not the self.

From modern psychology, we gather that the minds have several different functions that relates with each other in the daily operation. There’s no one king who overrides everyone else in the mind but there are several generals who are all on the same level and take turns in holding the reins depending of what situation one is in.

Do you agree or disagree with the Buddha’s argument that this kind of self doesn’t exist? Or are you unable to take a position?

I agree to what the Buddha said, that self is not only form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness. I think the Buddha was hinting that there’s something more than just form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness, but he didn’t describe what is this ‘something more’, but made the monks think/experience themselves. If ‘atman’ is ‘self’ – ‘anatman’ means ‘not-self’, which is different than the more common translation ‘no-self’. No self means self doesn’t exist. Not-self means there’s something else aside from the self.

Reason one

In yogic philosophy there’s this term ‘paramatman’ which means ‘more than self’ or ‘super self’. It refers to the self that is continuously connected with the source. In normal people, people who are still in the cycle of dukkha or samsara, this connection is only experienced in short glimpses at best. I heard some women shared their experience, when they gave birth during the process they felt this unexplainable connection with the whole universe. This experience is probably what’s called enlightenment – a connection and an integration to the source/universe. The individual ‘self’ concept gave away to an integrated, bigger, super self. So this concept of paramatman or super self matches with the argument that the self is not only form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness, but also something else, something more.

Reason two

It is said that this not-self sermon comes right after the 4 Noble Truths sermon. In the 4 Noble Truths the Buddha talked about how life is suffering, impermanence as the cause of suffering, there’s a way out of suffering, and that way is the eightfold path (right view etc). If the not-self sermon is viewed in context of the 4 Noble Truths, perhaps the Buddha was talking about effects of following the eightfold path, which is less attachment to the impermanent form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness. As a result, dawn the realization of the existence of a permanent not-self (something more than self).

Image: Relief of Borobudur – taken by myself, November 2014.

Thought to action

borobudur-buddha

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
~ Buddha

Have you ever experienced “What was I thinking” moment?

You thought something was a good idea and you signed up for it. After sometime passed, you hardly could believe that you actually thought that was a good idea.

Real example – something I just did last Sunday. When the registration for Jakarta Marathon 2015 opened, I thought it was a good idea to sign up for it and that I will commit to train for it. I ended up not training properly and it turned out to be a slow, arduous and hot marathon. And during the course my mind kept saying, like a broken record “What was I thinking, doing a full marathon in Jakarta? Don’t you know that Jakarta is hot? And air pollution is bad?” and so on. (I did finish it, with a worst marathon timing of 6 hours 22 minutes)

On the other hand, have you ever experienced “Awesome! I’m so happy I thought of it!” moment?

When you have a good idea, and you decided to pursue it, and then the idea manifested into something real, how great the feeling is!

I had this thought when I met this special yoga teacher “I want to learn yoga more than just asana” because he showed that yoga was so much more than asana. I never get to meet that teacher again. After a few years more of joining many variety of yoga styles, I didn’t find the breadth and depth of yoga like that teacher showed, and finally I took a 2 years Diploma of Yoga course from the school where that teacher came from. That course gave me a solid framework to learn more – and since then I met many wonderful teachers whom I always learn something from, and I realized that the key to learning is always come empty and never afraid of asking questions.

So I learned yoga more than just asana, I learned how to instruct a yoga class, and I also aspire to share yoga more than just asana. Now I have people who are looking into doing yoga more than just asana coming to me. I have a weekly meditation group where we practice pranayama, meditation, and discuss yoga-related philosophy.

Some people asked me, how did you make the jump? From a corporate employee to become a yoga instructor & meditation facilitator?

It all started with a thought. And then followed by an action (series of actions – but there’s always the first step).

Often what happens is that the thought is so abstract, humongous, it was overwhelmingly huge, and we don’t know where to start, and the inertia is so strong that it’s easier to just stay where we are.

The key here is to identify an action that we can do to get the ball rolling. To start moving. To beat the inertia.

I learned this from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen, on how to just identify a ‘next action’ item from a project. And project is anything that requires more than just one action to finish. Example: cleaning the bed room is project, because it requires a few steps:

  1. pick things up
  2. wipe all surfaces
  3. mop floor
  4. put things strewn on the bed to its proper place
  5. change bed sheets
  6. etc

When we are not clear of what the next action is, we procrastinate. Yes, that big bad P word. We procrastinate because we thought the situation is not ideal to do something. In the clean bed room example, things are all over the place, so we can’t start doing what’s on our mind when we thought of cleaning (eg sweep the floor). And then we just give up the thought of cleaning the bed room altogether.

The above example is pretty simple, yet this concept can be applied to any projects no matter how big or complex – just divide it into smaller sub-projects, and keep breaking it down until you identify the next actions.

A useful next action list will always start with a verb, and quite specific, example:

  • Call Mom re Dad’s surprise birthday party
  • Look into selling cabinet
  • Buy eggs
  • Read chapter 4 of the text book
  • Email boss re holiday leave
  • Write a draft post before Monday

And so on. Once an action item is done, usually it will generate a new situation/condition/feedback, that will in turn generate more action items. One action followed by another action, that’s how we progress.

So there, everything we do started with a thought, and it’s all within our power to translate the thought to action. A useful skill is knowing if a thought is a data (for reference), a project (with an outcome in mind), an action (do it, or delegate it, or schedule it), or something that you don’t need (trash it).

Up next – from actions to habits.

Image of a Buddha statue at Borobudur Temple – taken by myself November 2014