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Fact behind the act

Mind-body co-ordination plays a bigger role in lives than one imagines, K. SANKARAN proves in this skit-of-a-conversation.

A FEW days ago Ronak and I were travelling in a bus in interior Karnataka. Ronak had shut his eyes while I looked along the aisle through the front windscreen to catch sights of road signs. I knew we were at least an hour to reach our destination when, at an inconsequential stop, the bus suddenly stopped. As I looked back at the rear door I could see a man carrying a basket of bananas get in. He looked cheerful and unmindful of the weight he was carrying.

I thought to myself, "Why should the driver allow a man carrying his farm produce use this so-called "express" bus?"

Soon the bus started and the man was on his way along the aisle and the passengers were making way for him. He was offering bananas to the passengers! Everyone accepted it without being self-conscious. He breathed out something and I could catch him saying "from the temple." When my turn came, I too accepted the offer, one for myself and another for Ronak.

Ronak soon "woke up" and our conversation was on the Banana Man.

"That man carried more happiness than the weight of the bananas," he said.

"Did you see him? I thought you were asleep," I said.

"I was semi asleep, when I got this strong fruity smell and I looked over to find the man."


"In all likelihood he is a priest," Ronak said.

"How do you know that?"

"The way he held his fingers in "mudra" while handing over the offer."

"I see. What does that mean?"

"Mudras are a sign language that conveys, among others, the state of mind."

"What was his state of mind?" I asked without thinking.

"My friend, that is a premature question."


Ronak said honestly, "You need to understand the meta-issue, the very subject we are talking about before you appreciate his particular state of mind."

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, first understand what, in general, state of mind is, the way I am defining it. Then you will be better placed to appreciate the particular situation of the banana man in the bus."

"I understand, you are talking about the "general" and the "particular."

"Yes, absolutely," He was excited because I was beginning to get elevated to his plane of thinking.

Lest I missed understanding him, I clarified, "The "general" is about the class of happenings. Algebraically speaking, it is the variable. The particular is the specific instance which belongs to the class of happenings, or, again algebraically, a value the variable takes."


I asked, "Okay, so what is the "general" here?"

He knew I was capable of understanding him and he said with satisfaction, "It is a deliberate awareness, a deliberate bringing of the mind to a particular state."

I parroted, "The "general" here is about bringing the mind to a desired state of mind?"

"Precisely, with awareness he could do that, and the mudra helped him do that."

"How? What has that to do with mudras?"

"Mudra is a metaphor of body language. The mudra in which he held out the bananas reinforces some state of mind. In this case, it was the awareness in him that he is giving and that his act in ennobling."

"Oh, I see. The "particular" in his case is that the act of giving is ennobling?" I asked.

"Yes, you got it my friend."

"But how many of the priests understand this."

Ronak explained, "Possibly very very few. That's why a person such as our banana man strikes you as exceptional. All symbolic acts have significance only when they are accompanied with the right thought. The physical act tells the mind, through pre-programming, what the thought ought to be. Conversely, the mind also tells the body to act in a particular way. For a priest, a good portion of learning is about this mind-body co-ordination!"

I was beginning to see the grand perspective he held.

He continued, "This applies particularly to repeated acts such as offerings of flowers in a temple. The idea is to reinforce the act of giving with the right thought every time the act is made, irrespective of any potential distractions. In most cases you would find the priests repeatedly chucking flowers at the deity, which, by this reasoning, would set up the wrong thoughts... Instead of an attitude of giving, chucking away flowers would generate an attitude of arrogance, a mentality of take-it-or-leave-it. Without adequate knowledge, offering flowers to the deity becomes a matter of helping the deity accumulate something - a kind of "fattening" the deity. The deity does not require accumulated flowers or gold or what have you. In this there is complete lack of knowledge, or negative knowledge, or avidya in Sanskrit. This defeats the very purpose of worship."

As usual Ronak had a way to combine cold logic with age-old observances.

He demolished thoughtless ritualism and found deeper meaning in traditional rites.

Illustration by Devaran

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