Each moment of experience bring us to make a choice that is to either respond or react; in other words, based from right or wrong perception.Right perception is one that is based from wisdom, a learning that we have understood or realized from the past. Wrong perception is a conclusion that is based from ignorance, a judgment that we interpret, without giving ourselves a chance to reflect wisely within us what is the lesson of that moment. To give attention to the effect is a misperception as there is nothing we can do about it, thus wrong perception.
In short, we either learnt from the past or make a blanket conclusion out from it. It is not true that we always learn from the past – in fact we seldom learn except make conclusions out of what we experienced – through what we like and don’t like, instead of what brings us freedom or bondage. If it is a true learning, it would have been a realization, an understanding, and hence wisdom that leads us to peace and freedom. If our present actions are based from our past experiences of fear, of what we like and don’t like, then we can be sure we are locked into our past, experiencing a bondage that we have to apply in the present again, to escape the pain. “To learn” is to mean giving ourselves the space of an open mind to reach in and understand what is demeaning our peace, our freedom. If the mind is in the state of righteousness and arrogance, unaware of the fear lingering at the background, we have shut ourselves to understanding, to wisdom.
It is about being aware of these two dynamics playing up in us at each moment. We can only know or recognize them by being awake to the moment. Rarely we were trained to do this – hence the practice of mindful living. The mind is constantly focusing on the outside rather than in here – the very source where all issues are. Let me illustrate an event that shows these dynamics. I was on rice fasting for two weeks and there were many a time I smelled delicious cooking coming from my neighbour’s kitchen. To an unquestioned experience, the first thing that came to mind was how nice it was if I was able to savour that food. That thought would have perpetuated me further to a wild imagination of “what if”s and probably led to my giving up my fast in exchange for that pleasure. Or on the other extreme, the mind may have guilt for having such a thought and out of fear or shame, forced itself back quickly to some other activity as to avoid the temptation.
Both thoughts are detrimental to freedom and peace though on the onset it may seem as if I had picked out the right thing to do. But what I did was neither of both. I allowed myself the space to recognize the nature of the mind that was taking place – that nothing could be included or excluded from past, except to acknowledge it. Whatever effect experience that came up from that scent is nature – I don’t have a choice in it. My only choice lies in how I respond or react to it. I don’t have a choice not to smell the scent – either it comes into my space or otherwise. And as I allow nature to unfold itself I realized that the scent has nothing to do with my taste, except a thought that arise subsequently wanting to eat it. What has the scent got to do with eating? That understanding alone was enough to bring me back into peace, recognizing that smelling is part of the process and wisdom has the ability to differentiate it with the taste and hence the end of the thought. This self inquiry arose when I give myself the space to observe how nature works – not by suppressing or refraining from smelling.
Right choice comes from wisdom. And it is also wisdom that makes me see that I can’t stop others from judging me. And it is again wisdom that allows me to learn from the situation after it happened. Where there is no wisdom, there is no choice except jumping into a reaction which is based from wrong perception of the past and what started off as ignorance will spiral further that leads to more defence, attack and ultimately blame and pain. There is no other way except to relearn from it again in another situation where we are called upon to choose again – to inquire so as to gain deeper insights into the reason of our errors and the pain deriving from it, which in return will be gifted with wisdom. Each little step we take in watching the mind is a sure journey Home, to Truth itself.