The meaning of Lif

Yes i may have robbed Douglas Adams for the title.

This is a story about a man i met while on a training in a monastery not too far from Colombo. the training itself had nothing to do with spirituality, but during its course i got the chance to engage Mr. CP in some conversation. He was definitely an interesting character.

Picture a man of a bout fifty. Long hair and long scraggly beard and whiskers. He would slurp his tea with his head bowed and he’d lift his head up to talk to me and droplets of tea would drip off his beard. He dresses in what i call sami attire. Loose smocks and a sarong. I’d seen him walk along at a distance before i met him in person on a particularly early morning when i went in for some tea. He is distinguished looking and silent. And appeared used to keeping to himself.

I engaged him in conversation. He has a very low voice, sometimes almost a whisper, yet it grabs attention. We chatted about this and that and then suddenly he said that he would impart something useful to me since we met like this.

On that first morning, he started talking to me about exercise, since he’d seen me out in the grounds earlier. He told me how people usually focus a lot only on exercising the body and in doing so forget all about an all too important part of what we consist of; the mind.

His tip for exercising the mind was simple; combine thought with action. Whether you’re walking, talking or drinking your tea. When you walk, feel the droplets of dew on your skin as you trudge through the grass, when you talk, think of the words you speak and the movements of your mouth. He spoke of the mind as being something wild and spontaneous. He told me that controlling it and exercising control over it will help you to gradually harness its vast power.

What he said was pretty practical really. It was a lesson on focus. Focusing your mind helps you to perfom better no matter what you do, thats an obvious fact. And just like training your body physically will help you excel in all sorts of challenging situations, exercising your mind will help you vastly.

In the day time Mr. CP does some cultivation. during our afternoon tea break he’d come in for a spot of tea and he’d be almost unrecognizable from his morning self. He’d be covered in dust and he’d be sweaty. He’d be wearing those turban like things that Sri Lankan farmers wear along with an old vest or banian and a sarong folded up to the knees. During the course of the five days i was there, i tried to dig a little deeper to find out more about him for he was loathe to talk about himself.

He spoke of himself in the third person when speaking of his past, as if he were somehow disconnected from it all. He’d had a life with no permanency; he’d been separated from his mother at birth and from what i could gather could find no human understanding wherever he went. It all sounded a bit whiny to me. But still, he said he very much preferred the solitude and the ‘tranquility’ of his present life and he hadn’t seen home in thirteen years. Something he called ‘a long story’.

He said his English was rusty for want of use. But he was pretty eloquent. And he seemed eager to exercise it with me. He gave me an analogy of a bull in the wild to compare with the mind. The bull in the wild will wander, the mind (according to him) and split into seventeen thoughts in the space of a second if you let it. He told me that the important thing was to bring the bull into the village, which is a metaphor for a concentrated area of the mind which you control to a greater extent.

The objective here is not to restrict the mind. but to watch it, to guide it. And eventually develop your intuition to guide you.

  1. Conditioning the mind is the foundation of Buddhist meditation 🙂

    • Whacko said:

      No. It is conditioning of the hair.

      • Whacko said:

        that was jerry of course. his hair is still on end after an unfortunate recent scare 😀

  2. Nick said:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I find that I am a lot more peaceful person when I have done some meditation. I used to meditate regularly when I was more free, but have been a bit of a straggler lately because of a busy job. I like the way Mr CP described the mind as a bull; it has also been described as a ‘monkey jumping from one branch to another.’

    If you are looking for an absolutely brilliant book which expands upon what you have written then I would suggest grabbing a copy of Ven Henepola Gunaratana’s “Mindfulness in Plain English” [ ] – the rave reviews you will find about it are justified. And I’m not saying that because I’m Lankan 🙂

    One other thing I would like to share is the following talk by Ajahn Brahmavamso…it’s long but really worth it if you can spare the time:

    The Power of Mindfulness & Compassion

  3. Loku Baba said:

    The more we watch our mind and see what it does to us and for us, the more we will be inclined to take good care of it and treat it with respect. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is taking the mind for granted. The mind has the capacity to create good and also evil for us, and only when we are able to remain happy and even-minded no matter what conditions are arising, only then can we say that we have gained a little control. Until then we are out of control and our thoughts are our master.

    To tame one’s mind does not happen only in meditation, that is just one specific training. It can be likened to learning to play tennis. One works out with a trainer, again and again, until one has found one’s balance and aptitude, and can actually play in a tennis match. Our match for taming the mind happens in day-to-day living, in all situations we encounter.

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