Ethics and you Education

Brush the mind

Be honest about prejudices

“Lose yourself!”, “Escape to happiness!” are messages and promises on billboards and TV advertisements about wellness clinics, spas and resorts. Forgetfulness of the self and one’s context is seen as some sort of goal to work towards. To sink into nothingness. To put everything behind one, as if life were something to run away from and not to be lived. Many of us look at these visions of golden sand or green glades or gardens and think, “Wish I could be there.”

The arrival of a new year steps up the voltage of this feeling that what we have or have been so far is not good enough.


Whatever ‘high’ comes from such a delinking (always supposing you can afford it) can only be temporary because the truth is that the lightness of being you seek, can only come from within. Small anxious thoughts that slowly knot the mind on waking after the first joy of rising to a fresh day will remind you that these ‘escapes’ are not really escapes. But if we deal with the small knots by holding them outside the mind and saying “Well, they are not going to disappear, but I am not going to let them ruin my day either”, we might be able to collect ourselves better to meet them.

Every day, I recall the response of the founder of the Ba’hai faith Bahaullah after he visited a prison. When he was leaving he was invited to write something in the Visitors’ Book. “What a wonderful place,” he wrote against his signature. As they drove away, his friend asked, “How could you possibly say that about such a gloomy place of forced confinement, a jail?” Bahaullah said “Why? Everything is provided on time, it is clean, it is well run. The greatest prison is not stone walls but the prison of the self!” Then I read that in 1852 it was as he lay imprisoned and persecuted, that he had had a vision of man’s spiritual destiny. The day I read this anecdote I also read what an Indian sage had said about the dust of the mind being like the dust atop a table or the fine skin that forms on the surface of still waters. As the dust atop a table is wiped, so too should one from time to time, brush the mind.

Today a great deal of dust has settled on our collective awareness with shadow lines being drawn between people and communities; these are things we need to be aware of. Are we denying the freedom we value to someone else? Let’s be honest about our own prejudices. Darwin concluded his On the Origin of Species with the famous “entangled bank” paragraph. It describes an environment in which a wide variety of plants and animals “so different from each other and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner” all governed by the same laws, seemed to be thriving.

Words to hold on to in our troubled times.

The writer is Series Editor, Living in Harmony, (Oxford University Press).

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 5:37:12 AM |

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