Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Changing old habits of thinking

'What we think has consequences for the world around us, for it conditions how we act' writes Eknath Easwaran, explaining the Buddha's teaching.

This reminds us to be mindful of our thoughts. But very often we are not and some thoughts are recurrent, destructive, unproductive and uncontrollable.

Its about 5 months since I returned from my one month course in Vipassana meditation (Igatpuri, India). The experience was intense, transforming certain deep habit patterns of the mind. In these 5 months of my return I have been able to maintain my daily practice fairly regularly and this has helped me retain some of the changes I experienced in the month long course.

One profound impact was the last discourse of the course, where Goenkaji explains in detail the 5 aggregates ( skandhas). Towards the end of the talk he reminds us that we are born alone in this world and we will depart alone from this world. The only thing that will go with us is our karma, the disintegration of the 5 skandhas at the time of death and its reorganization with a new body at the next birth. So he entreats us to be steadfast in our practice so that we bequeath a more evolved mind- set which would continue on the path of enlightenment and become fully liberated.

This was an important learning for me, as whenever I catch myself thinking in unhealthy or negative ways, I ask myself...If I were to die at this moment would I want to pass on this current mind state to the next person--the inheritor of this state? This usually forces me off negative thinking immediately. With continuity of meditative practices, negative thinking has decreased considerably, but however, sometimes they do surface.

Maybe it takes a lot of time and practice to change from deep within. At this stage in my practice, I am still torn between the old ways of thinking and the realization of the futility in engaging in them. When someone harms you, the old way implores you to harm the person in return, while the practice shows you that when you harm in return you only harm yourself. Moreover, indulging in negative, destructive thoughts creates a mental field of negative energy which in turn harms oneself.

It takes us quite a while to understand that a person causing harm is suffering himself/herself. When they are suffering so, its natural that that is what they can give others--pain and suffering. Ignorant of this we preoccupy ourselves with settling scores, harbouring angry, hateful vengeful thoughts. Abandoning this thinking and understanding the transiency of our pain alone can set us free from this vicious circle.

"He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me"---those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hatred.
"He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me"-- those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely become free from hatred.

For hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law. People forget that their lives will end soon. For those who remember, quarrels come to an end."

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