Free Press Journal

How a robust mind can resist materialistic desires


There is a faddish and celebrated Buddhist tale that beautifully reveals the attitude of the mind about hankering and cacoethes. Once upon a time, a monk and his tutee were returning to the Temple of Knowledge late in the evening. The salubrious weather abruptly turned tempestuous and within a fraction of few seconds there was a thunderous downpour.

In one corner of an abandoned road lay an alluring young woman, who was unclothed and undraped. The inclement weather and the chill had seeped into every cell of her body as she lay quivering.

The elder monk much to chagrin of his disciple, out of solicitude and empathy walked up to the beauteous woman and lifted her in his alms. He draped her with ochre robes and like a Good Samaritan left her on the other side of the road. Thereupon he embarked on his way to the monastery quite nonchalantly.

The squall had subsided but there was an upheaval in the mind of the youngster. That evening summoning all his pluckiness, he questioned his master, “As per the tenets and canons of Dhamma are we not prohibited from touching a woman?” The elder monk remained unfazed and answered the query with an enigmatic smile and nodded his head in agreement.

The younger monk, still distraught, catechized his Zen Master, “If that be the case how did you the venerable one, drape her with your ochre robe, lift her and take the woman across the road?”

The elder monk with a Delphic smile peered deep into the eyes of the youngster and made a few startling observations. “I had briefly carried the lady in distress, but your febrile mind is still bolstering her.”

Further, he said, “I observe that despite rigorous contemplation and meditation schedules your mind still continues to be brimful of licentious thoughts.”  “And let me add, you are yet to adhere the cardinal proposition of living in the present moment!” This transfigured the pyretic state of the tutee’s mind. Possession of mere theoretical knowledge or information does not metamorphose an individual to become mettlesome. Wisdom dawns, when an individual or a seeker drops all avarices and is authentically conjoined with the Divine power.

“Desire is the root cause of all miseries”, enunciated the Buddha. Sage Vasishtha opined that desire is the root cause of all pleasures. Humans crave sex, food, material pleasures, power, status and deep pocket advantage among others. These postures of the mind spring forth from lustful, passionate thoughts and relentless hankering. Such characteristics and traits have lead even savants and seekers astray on the path of righteousness and spirituality. The tranquility and ataraxy of human mind becomes unhinged and dysfunctional as it gets attached to sensory pleasures and objects. This makes the brain fragmentary. Humans get inveigled and mesmerized to luxuriate and savour the moments of electric sensations and the mind gets ensnared by the ‘I, Me and My syndrome.”

Invariably, an attached mind gets interlocked with passion, lust and cravings. This could be on account of the company we maintain, the kind of food partaken or even something as innocuous as our quotidian reading habits. The memory of certain moments plays havoc in the amphitheatre of the mind. And the mind is interminably and unremittingly attempting to rewind those ‘pleasurable’ moments. Past impressions form enclaves in the mind and humans attempt to find sanctuary in them. This is nothing but chasing a chimera.

There is a poignant story about two tutees who received training in a monastery for many years. Over a period of time their friendship blossomed. After their death, one of the tutees was reborn in the realms of the heavens while the other assumed the form of vermin in a dung pile. The disciple who was reborn in heaven luxuriated in all its trappings and salubrious environs. But there came a time when he became jejune and a state of ennui set in.

The initial exhilaration and elation diminished and quite unexpectedly he recalled his old friend. He chased his bosom pal in the heavens but could not locate him. Thereafter, he began the pursuit where ordinary mortals existed after casting their mortal self. But to his disconsolation, he could not locate him. He then searched him in the marshy lands of animals and other species. Finally, the friend was identified in the space allocated by the Masters of Universe meant for insects.

Seeing this plight, the friend resolved to extricate him from the cesspool. To his dismay and chagrin, the friend now metamorphosed as vermin, rejected the offer. Upon inquiring, the vermin replied that he had left the grandeur and opulence of the heavens. Therefore, he was happy to remain vermin in a dung pile till he attained laissez-aller and emancipation from the form.

Thus, all attachments are ephemeral in nature. It is like a feverish breath which only leads to dolor and melancholia. Salvation and deliverance only play when there is a strong sankalpa/ intent to cross the Rubicon of attachment and desires. For this all animate bodies need to unflinchingly surrender to the divine.

It is pertinent to mention unless a superior intelligence or a genuine Guru does not shower the grace all attempts would remain bootless and ineffectual. Cravings arise out of attachments. A robust mind can stave off cravings through the power of discrimination, sankalpa and surrender. This act of surrender to the divine or Guru is to be necessarily blessed by the grace of superior intelligence.