Learning to heal

by Terry Reis Kennedy, Deccan Herald, Dec 7, 2008

A book that facilitates the understanding of moving from agony to ecstasy in daily life

New Delhi, India -- Is it possible to dwell in bliss in a world more perilous than ever? According to Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh, 72, it’s easier than ever because we have experienced so much pain we are eager to transcend. Master Hahn’s "Understanding Our Mind", a revised text compiled and edited from talks he gave around the world between 1989 and 1998 teaches how to move from agony to ecstasy in daily life.

He explains, “This is a book on Buddhist psychology, an offering to help us understand the nature of our consciousness.”  The master uses 50 verses he wrote based on the verses of Vasubhandu (an early Mahayana teacher) that he studied and translated when he was a novice monk in Vietnam. Hanh takes apart the verses and presents their inner essence in prose, thus making the teachings accessible to the average reader.

Mindfulness in every act of is not only important, he asserts, it is our protection against self-destruction. The way we react to events either makes or breaks us. Therefore, by using mindfulness as a sieve, we choose what we allow into our consciousness.  It is we, not the events in our lives, which control whether we experience something as negative or positive.

For example, the mental constructs most of us have formed are the result of information we store in consciousness from early childhood, planted there by others such as parents and teachers and generally produces ‘negative seeds’.  We water and feed these seeds regularly with information obtained from un-awakened others. ‘Positive seeds’ are rarely planted in consciousness unless we ourselves make an effort to put them there and care for them so that they can come into bloom.

Hanh observes, “When we have trouble perceiving and thinking clearly, we are said to be mentally ill. In order to heal, we have to generate whatever amount of mindfulness we can in order to begin to see things more clearly, to recognise things as they are. We may need the support of the mindfulness or our therapist, friends, and family to help us as we get in touch with the inner conflicts between our feelings and our perceptions.  Practicing in this way, with the help of others, one day our mind consciousness may be freed from its instability.”

Other hints at acquiring skills for successful living might be employed by the reader.  For instance, “In Buddhist meditation,” Master Hanh says, “we practice concentration, bringing everything into sharp, clear focus. We focus our minds intently on the object of our concentration. When we use a lens to focus sunlight on one point, its energy is concentrated so effectively that we can burn a hole in a piece of cloth. In the same way, we focus our mind consciousness on one point in order to get a breakthrough.”

Read it. Study it. And definitely experience a quantum leap towards liberation!

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