The Buddha offered this drastic image: “There is a cow with such a terrible skin disease that her skin is almost no longer there. When you bring her to an ancient wall or an old tree, all living creatures in the bark of the tree come out, cling to the cow’s body, and suck. When we bring her into water, the same thing happens. Even when she is just exposed to the air, tiny insects come and suck.” Then the buddha said, “This is our situation also.”From “The heart of the Buddha’s teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Our consciousness is very fragile and sensitive. Everyday we are exposed to a million different kinds of invasions in form of images, smell, sounds, touch, words and ideas. All these sense perceptions are food for our consciousness. Buddha advised us to be mindful of all these so that we can protect ourselves from unhealthy invasions.
We have to understand that we can have a thick logic and analytical ability, but the consciousness- the ability to perceive is very sensitive and needs to be looked after everyday.
Eating bad food clearly has an undesirable effect on the body. Similarly, taking in bad mental food is equally harmful. It can be in the form of negative words, thoughts, feelings, ideas, images..etc. Be mindful about such toxic information everyday and refuse to take it into your consciousness. Because you are what you consume. All that your consciousness consumes becomes a part of you. Make sure it is healthy.
It is easy to avoid negative food when we are aware of it. But the difficulty is when we are dragged by our habits into a wrong directions.
“The Buddha presented another drastic image: “Two strong men are dragging a third man along in order to throw him in a fire pit. He cannot resist, and finally they throw him into the glowing embers”From “The heart of the Buddha’s teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh
These strong men, the Buddha said are our volition. We may sense the negativity, and we don’t want to go there and yet we dragged by our habits into the fire pit.
Becoming aware of our habit energies is the next level of awareness to resist the toxic mental food. It is a lot more difficult and requires more practice of mindfulness and discipline to resist.
So, how to overcome this? Thich Nhat Hanh suggests five mindfulness trainings which I have presented in a shorter form.
- Reverence for Life– Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life.
- True Happiness– Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power, and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair.
- True Love– Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment.
- Loving Speech and Deep Listening-Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations.
- Nourishment and Healing– Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.
These five points are entirely taken from Zen Ethics: Collective Awakening and the Five Mindfulness Trainings. If you find them useful, please visit the full article.
I would like to end this post by giving justice to the title. The story below illustrates how we treat our consciousness.
The buddha offered another dramatic image.
“A dangerous murderer was captured and brought before the king, and the king sentenced him to death by stabbing. ‘Take him to the courtyard and plunge 300 sharp knives through him’
At noon a guard reported, ‘Majesty, he is still alive.’
And the king declared, ‘Stab him 300 more times!’
In the evening, the guard again told the king, ‘ Majesty, he is not yet dead.’
So the king gave the third order: ‘Plunge the 300 sharpest knives in the kingdom through him.”
Then the buddha said, “This is how we usually deal with our consciousness.”
Everytime we ingest toxins into our consciousness, it is like stabbing ourselves with 300 sharp knives. We suffer and our suffering spills out to those around us.From “The heart of the Buddha’s teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Thank you for reading. Hope this post added value to your life and gave you useful information about becoming aware of what you consume, physically and mentally. The quotations in this post are taken from “The heart of buddha’s teaching” by Thich nhat Hanh. It is a wonderful book.
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