This Too, Will Pass ~ BODY AND MIND
ALMOST ANY FOOD-PACKAGE today and we find, beside
the list of ingredients, the virtues of the product
extolled: "High Energy," "Low Calories,"
"High Fiber," "Low Sugar," "Low
Salt," "Low Cholesterol," "Enriched
with Vitamins and Minerals," "No Additives,"
etc.; the list goes on and on, often in technical
jargon and chemical terms which are, one often thinks,
designed to bamboozle the layman. Are the big food-manufacturers
really concerned about the health of the consumers
or more interested in their own profits?
We talk of 'wholesome-food' and 'junk-food,'
and willingly pay more for brand-names, often getting
fleeced thereby. But, while paying much attention
to the food that goes into our stomachs, we seldom
reflect on the other kind of food which is of equal
importance as the food we sustain our bodies by, and
perhaps moreso: the nourishment of the spirit—
and I use the term 'spirit' here rather than the word
'mind,' as I’m referring to something more than
just the mental. The mind is broad and open, has many
aspects, and includes all we mean by words like 'spirit,'
'soul,' 'heart,' sub-conscious,' 'super-conscious,'
and so on. But, to make it clear that I am speaking
of the spiritual-aspect of the mind, I will use the
word 'spirit' here.
Our spirit needs nourishment just as does
our body. If the body is deprived of food it weakens
and eventually dies; and should the spirit be different?
Many of us neglect our spirits— unaware that
we have an 'inner life' to take care of— and
are literally starving to death, spiritually. It's
not surprising that there is so much frustration,
greed, rage, violence and suffering in the world when
the causes of these effects go unrecognized and untreated;
it is not surprising at all!
Jesus once said: "Man shall not live
by bread alone, but by the Word of God". I accept
the meaning of this, but because I reject the idea
of 'God,' would rephrase it a little: "Man shall
not live by bread alone, but also by Dharma."
We all need Dharma, or Righteousness, for our inner
life; without it, we dry up at the roots, like a plant
deprived of water. It does not mean that we should
go regularly to the temple or church, or call ourselves
'Buddhists,' 'Christians,' 'this' or 'that'; we may
do so, of course, but doing only that does not make
us religious, and often has little to do with Dharma.
By 'bread,' of course, Jesus meant material things
in general, and not merely that thing made of flour,
yeast and water.
Another time, a man said to him: "Lord,
allow me first to bury my father, and I will follow
you." His father was probably old and not expected
to live much longer, and the man wished to do his
filial duty by tending his father till the end and
giving him a proper funeral before leaving home and
family to follow Jesus. But Jesus said to him: "Follow
me, and leave the dead to bury the dead" (Matt
8:22). The Bible does not explain what Jesus meant,
and we are not told if the man understood or not.
It is rather cryptic. How is it to be understood?
From the horror-movies, we are familiar with the idea
of 'zombies'; a 'zombie' is some-body which, according
to the cult of 'Voo-Doo,' has been 'raised from the
dead' but is devoid of consciousness; in other words,
'living-dead.' Is this what Jesus meant? No, he was
talking of another kind of 'dead': people who live
as if they are dead, people who are starved spiritually
or inwardly, who live mere physically, those who have
not yet been born spiritually.
We hear a lot today about being 'born again,'
meaning having been 'reborn' in religious faith; Christians
often use this term, though the concept is not confined
to them. Buddhists speak about 'having insight into
Reality,' a very deep, personal and life-transforming
experience; it may be equated to being 'born again,'
born into an awareness of life hitherto unknown. Until
such rebirth, many people live as if dead; the world
is full of them; they wander through life without
direction, not knowing where they came from, where
they are, nor where they are going. Many of them live
in selfish, uncaring ways, unaware that it is impossible
to live by and for self alone, as we depend so much
upon others, and this dependency carries with it a
responsibility towards others, a responsibility which,
if not fulfilled, brings repercussions that lead to
According to Buddhism, when we die, we goes
to face the results of our karma— our actions—
done while living in this world, and in the New Testament,
we find St. Paul saying: "Be not deceived; God
is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that shall
he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). What can anyone
do for the dead? I have my karma and you have yours,
and, like airplane tickets, it is 'non-transferable.'
The Buddha taught that we get the results of our own
karma, each by himself; no-one can save another. Thus,
the duty of the living— those who are spiritually
aware— is to the living, not to the dead, for
the dead have left our sphere of influence; it might
be possible to help some of the living— those
with whom we share this world— to awaken to
the importance of living now, while we may, and not
delay until we are old, sick, or near death, which
might well be too late. The message of Jesus, therefore—
similar to that of the Buddha, who lived and taught
500 years earlier— was "Live now, for tomorrow
never comes". The Buddha taught that Nirvana
is to be found in this world and not in the hereafter;
in fact, the only time there ever is, is NOW, for
we can live neither in the past nor in the future.
Now, Nirvana, or the Unconditioned, is not
a place but a state of mind. Prince Siddhartha, otherwise
known as 'Sakyamuni', attained Nirvana at the age
of 35 and was known, thereafter, as 'The Buddha,'
meaning 'The Awakened One.' When He passed away at
the age of 80, He entered what is called 'Parinirvana,'
or the state of Nirvana with no physical base. He
said: "If a person were to follow me for 100
years, holding the edge of my robe, but with a mind
defiled by the Three Poisons of Greed, Hatred and
Delusion, he would never see me. But one whose mind
is free of these Poisons, even though he lives far
away from me, would see me all the time. He who sees
the Dharma sees the Buddha," meaning that the
state of Buddhahood, or Awakening, is not a physical
condition but a mental or spiritual state, attained
by realizing Truth or Reality.
A vision of Reality which we shall later
know more fully, has an effect similar to that of
a can-opener: of liberating us from the narrow confines
of self and making us broad and wide-open. Anything
that makes us narrow, intolerant and bigoted cannot
be Reality, but just a mirage, something of our imagination,
or something that we got from someone else, second-,
third- or multi-hand. An experience which can be grasped
onto, claimed as 'mine,' and makes us more selfish
instead of less is, at most, a psychic experience,
but certainly not a spiritual one, for a genuine spiritual
experience burns out the element of self in us, lessens
and weakens it. This is one way by which we can test
our experiences: do they make us more or less proud,
egoistic, narrow and intolerant?
We know the importance of having adequate
Vitamins A, B, C, etc., for our physical bodies, but
we also need adequate Vitamin W for our spiritual
bodies, for our inner life. Vitamin W means WISDOM,
a quality that this world is in dire need of today.
It has been edged out, shunted aside, overshadowed,
and almost overcome by technology and academic-learning
masquerading as Wisdom— a wolf disguised as
It is interesting, though, and encouraging,
for in spite of the gross stupidities that flourish
in the world, in spite of the fact that many people
delight in flaunting their ignorance as if it were
a virtue or treasure— something to be proud
rather than ashamed of— Wisdom still occasionally
shines through, sometimes from unexpected quarters.
Take the Star Wars movies for example, and other big-hit
Sci-Fi films: through and behind all the violence
Wisdom is elevated and revered. As in the great epics
of ancient times, of maybe all religions and cultures—
Mahabharata, The Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ramayana,
etc.— usually there is a Sage or wise man behind
the triumph of Good over Evil. You may say: "Ah,
but that's only in the movies or stories." No,
it's not; it's part of our collective psyche, which
is why we can appreciate it in the stories. The success
of such movies, therefore, assures us that Wisdom
has not been completely overcome or discarded.
Wisdom, however, is not confined to people
with gray hair; it knows no such limits. Sometimes
we meet old people who are quite foolish, who have
spent their lives in useless pursuits, learned little
from the passing years, and have grown old in vain.
Sometimes, too, we meet young people— even children—
who seem to be wise quite naturally. It is not something
that comes automatically with age. Nor is it a matter
of having gone through college and university and
emerged with a string of degrees after one's name,
as we not infrequently come across people who are
highly educated in a particular and narrow academic
area, but who, in other areas, are quite naïve
and ignorant. What, then, is Wisdom? Is it not the
ability to discern the difference between right and
wrong, true and false, and to live accordingly? Is
it not the faculty of recognizing the realities of
We know we must be equipped with various
kinds of know-ledge in order to earn a living and
survive in the world, but is that the totality of
life— just earning a living and surviving? Isn't
it something much more than that? There are two kinds
of knowledge: the knowledge whereby we earn a living,
and that whereby we live— live among others,
as members of society. In schools and universities
the pressure to compete and succeed, to become somebody—
Number One, if possible— is so great that it's
not surprising many people become neurotic and the
suicide-rate among students is so high; such education
is very dangerous and destructive— look how
much trouble stems from it, including that ultimate
form of folly, the Arms Race!
Some people argue that without competitive-spirit
we will not develop and progress, but this is just
short-sightedness; a much better and less destructive
way to make progress and develop is by Cooperation
or Working Together, and who will say this cannot
be taught or shown in school? I don't deny there is
pleasure and excitement in competition— and
often a great deal— but it is usually for self,
a thing of the ego, and it in no way compares with
the joys of cooperating with others for mutual benefit
and for the betterment of society as a whole. In competition,
where there are winners there are also losers, and
losers seldom feel good about losing, while with cooperation,
not one person wins, but all who are involved.
There are various current world-views—
that is, ways of looking at the world. Indeed, most
of us have such a world-view, but in most cases, it
was inherited from others and is not the result of
personal research and thought. Some world-views take
account of Man only, and disregard other aspects of
life; indeed, those that do so even divide Mankind
into categories like 'The Saved and the Damned,' 'Believers
and Unbelievers,' and so on. But now, we are being
forced to recognize that there are other forms of
life apart from Man that are important and that any
respectable world-view must take into account. Man
does not live alone, but by a complex life-support
system involving many other forms of life. An understanding
of this gives rise to a sense of 'belonging,' of being
'a part of' instead of 'apart from,' and following
closely upon the heels of this discovery, there arise
gratitude, wonder, appreciation, reverence for life,
joie-de-vivre and Love. And these, in turn, unlock
and open the Gates of Wisdom in our hearts.