Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nirmaan: Protecting the Peace

Wisdom comes in many forms - like knowing not to pick a fight with the dude below better known as a samurai warrior.

The samurai have captivated the imaginations and attention of Western society. Victor M. Parachin, author of Eastern Wisdom for Western Minds, writes,
A Japanese samurai warrior visited a Zen master, seeking answers to questions that had plagued him for some time.
“What is it you want to know?” asked the Zen master.
“Tell me, sir, do heaven and hell exist?”
“Ha!” laughed the Zen master in a contemptuous tone. “What makes you think you could understand such things? You are only an educated, brutish soldier. Don’t waste my time with your ridiculous questions.”
The samurai warrior froze in shock. No one spoke to a samurai that way. It meant instant death. Increasing the tension, the Zen master went on, “Are you too stupid to understand what I just said? Stop wasting my time and get out of here!” he shouted.
The samurai exploded with rage. As quick as lightening, his hand grabbed the sword, sweeping it over his head to get ready for the kill. In the split second before the sword descended to cut off the Zen master’s head, the samurai heard him say, “This is the gate to hell.”
Again, the samurai froze in astonishment. He got the message... Pausing and then breathing deeply, the samurai replaced his sword. He bowed humbly, filled with respect and even awe.
“And this,” smiled the Zen master, “is the gate to heaven.”
To strike his instructor, this samurai most certainly faulted in judgement, but let's analyze the situation here.
  • What was the "heaven"? I think we would all be pretty happy that our lives were spared by the sword of deadly samurai, but is that truly the "heaven" to which the instructor refers?
  • Was it not the instructor who brought upon the attack? After all, he had to the audacity to call his pupil "stupid." His words angered the student who then brought his sword upon his instructor's head.
And that's where we delve into this week's topic, nirmaanpanu.
  • Heaven = peace of mind: The Zen Master was right in calling it "heaven." Nothing beats making the grade on an exam for which we studied hard or even great weather. When we're in our zone, we know it and we like it. 
  • Though the instructor uttered insults, it was the samurai who enabled those words to pollute his peace of mind.
In this regard, we see to be nirmaani means to protect our peace of mind

Sadguru Muktanand Swami penned in his bhajan, "Haji Bhala Sadhu," the phrase, "maan-upmaan mein ektaa." To remain composed in the face of praise and insult is truly a difficult endeavor without the slightest trace of mental imbalance is the epitome of remaining nirmaani. It's all about protecting the peace of mind.

Why is peace of mind so important? It renders our mentality indestructible. We as human beings have the potential to survive and rise above unparalleled adversity and obstacles. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this principle well so much that others around them gained this insight to invincibility. In a 2008 article published in The New York Times Magazine, U.S. House Representative James Clyburn tells an interesting story about a 1967 group photograph with Dr. King that hangs above his desk in his office. 
He told me that the photo was taken in 1967, nine months before King’s assassination, when rumors of violence were swirling, and somewhere on the side of the room a photographer’s floodlight had just come crashing down unexpectedly. At the moment the photo was taken, everyone pictured has reflexively jerked their heads in the direction of the sound, with the notable exception of King himself, who remains in profile, staring straight ahead at his audience. Clyburn prizes that photo. It tells the story, he says, of a man who knew his fate but who, quite literally, refused to flinch.
In a time of segregation and racial intolerance, we can imagine the types of insults hurled at those who stood up for the truth, yet Dr. King remained steadfast until his last breath. His movement prevailed because the followers refused to let others from penetrating their peace of mind.

So why can't we just tolerate a few words or incidents that would otherwise render us emotionally devastated? When we wallow in our ego, we outsource our peace of mind to others who may not have our best intentions at heart. Even if we recount the last time we really felt hurt or devastated, we can realize that our attitude and perception were completely controllable. It was our mentality that shaped our attitude. 

The case of road rage illustrates this idea well. Why should we let one aggressive driver ruin the ride for us? In doing so, we risk becoming one of at least 1,500 people who are killed or critically injured in such scuffles as reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 

However, we are a social species; after all, Aristotle once said, "Man is a social animal." We cannot just ignore others, so to some extent we do have to rely on others for support/criticism. To whom can we then turn for guidance and vision? Why not somebody who has shown that they have risen above pettiness and showing off? 

We soon realize that Akshar & Purushottam have transcended humans and have established themselves as timeless. They are eternal and everlasting. Why not outsource our peace of mind to them? They led successful lives in society and inspired others to do the same. We can trust their words, for they have proven successful paramhanso like Govindanand Swami and Advaitanand Swami. Even today, Pramukh Swmai Maharaj not only allows serves as a model of success but has inspired others to do the same. His ability to maintain collectedness in face-to-face confrontations with others really speak to this ability.

Moreover, none of these individuals were left without friend or meaningful contact. Their character attracted thousands over and transformed them for the better.

So let's remember. Our most valuable asset - our peace of mind - is in our hands. Would we want to relinquish it to someone else we couldn't trust?

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