Reader comment on Matthieu Ricard's passage ...

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    On Nov 24, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

    The visual imagery of the eagle deflecting the crow's attack at the last minute reminds me of Aikido - the way of harmony with the life force. In this martial art, students are taught to receive (and not defend against) attacks by developing presence. As presence improves, the receiver is unperturbed, and at the last moment, makes the minimal effort necessary to deflect the attack. The sign of an Aikido master is that the attackers go flying in different directions, but the receiver of the attack has hardly moved.

    One of the lessons Aikido teachers in Japan keep emphasizing is that Aikido is not about the techniques. The techniques help you to understand Aikido. This is more easily understood from the eagle-crow story - it is not about deflecting attacks from crows, but living in a manner where we are equipoised, and don't harm ourselves more than necessary.

    In ancient traditions, there is a word called "sthitapragna" which comes to mind - it means one who is firmly situated or present, and implies strength. Equanimity is not a hallmark of weak minds - it is the result of tremendous mental strength inculcated by practice.

    Inner conflicts are often linked with excessive rumination on the past and anticipation of the future. 

    I loved this line - it captures so well how we are either in the past or in the future, but never in the present. This is the bane of our existence. 

    Afflictive mental states, on the other hand, begin with self-centeredness, with an increase in the gap between self and others.

    This is another gem. The word "afflictive" brings to mind "disease" - it is indeed a diseased mind that doesn't know better than to increase its own disease and spread the malaise to others. What is interesting is that "self-centeredness" is of pseudo variety, in the sense that the author is expressing it. If we are truly centered in our self, we would display equanimity and have healthy minds. The problem is that we are not selfish enough - we don't do what is really good for us (service is one of the most important things we could do, as the author points out in the first paragraph). 

    Finally, a story. In a recent conversation with a friend on how to deal with a colleague who had gone in an unethical direction, I kept talking about how we ought to put up a fight, and my friend pointed out that we already had - I wasn't being present enough to notice that our responses may have looked minimal but were substantial. It seemed that I preferred a confrontation. Digging deeper, my friend pointed out that I had thoughts of getting even. I was a little shocked, and after looking in, I realized he was right. Don't know how they came in, but it had a lot to do with ruminating on the past, and anticipating the future as the author of this piece put it so articulately. I had stopped being the eagle, and had started becoming the crow. :) Thankfully, we have the ability to wake up. I feel so much more peaceful in uprooting those unhelpful thoughts, and feeling compassion toward the one I was angry with.

    This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for such friends, thankful to the people who've written such lovely Wednesday pieces, thankful to those who so carefully select such pieces, thankful to those who come to a Wednesday and give their presence so generously, thankful to the Mehta family who have facilitated this generosity over the years, thankful to the people behind CF for making it what it is, thankful to everyone known and unknown who has helped me in my journey knowingly or unknowingly. 


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