In an allegory, an artist drew a picture of a beautiful person. He then falls in love with the person in his picture, and turns obsessed with her. Everybody around the artist don’t hesitate to tell him how he is a mad illogical fool.
However, we are also guilty of making the same mistake. The philosopher J. Krishnamurthi tells us how two people in love aren’t really two human beings in love with each other. Instead, two images of these human beings fall in love. The first person crafts an image of the second person and vice-versa. These images then enter into a relationship. However, these images are always static and imperfect. When either person differs from their partner’s image, this leads to conflict and eventually unravels the relationship.
How often do we see a person from faraway and assume that they are pretty, only to have this image shattered when they come closer? How often do we assume a pretty person to be kind, capable and good natured to also have this illusion shatter when we get to know them? The very reason familiarity breeds contempt is because familiarity shatters our images.
Similarly, we make an image of ourselves – the self, the ego – that we fall in love with. Just like that mad artist.
The tendency of our minds is to create an illusory image of the world around us that invariably shatters when it comes in contact with the real world. This is the root cause of our suffering.
We all know that our physical capabilities can be fundamentally expanded.
Despite being physically mature, we know that we can, through physical training, we can further our physical capabilities. Several adults lose tens of kilograms, learn to swim, train hard and manage to compete in triathlons well into their middle age. Our physical capabilities aren’t fixed – they can be expanded through physical training, and our culture celebrates the people who achieve this.
However, when it comes to our minds, we believe that once we are grown up, there is little scope for fundamental change. We believe children’s minds to be malleable, capable of learning new languages and being trained in wonderful new ways. Yet, we believe our own minds to be hardened and incapable of much change. There is no equivalent in the mental realm, of an unfit person finishing a marathon. There are no cheering crowds at the finish line either. Therefore, even when we realize that our minds are flawed in certain ways, we believe that we just have to live with those flaws.
Yet, there are ways to train our mind and fundamentally rewire our brains, just as we can reconstitute our body. Meditation is the tried and tested practice of training our minds, thereby enabling them to accomplish feats that we once thought were impossible.
Physical exercise, which is now universal, was once reserved only for a small percentage of the population. A time will come when a practice of meditation, which is now rare, will be nearly universal.