Spirituality and inner happiness cannot be separated. Only an open mind which is contented with even simple pleasures of life can aspire to tread on the path of spiritual fulfillment. The search for an eternal happy and peaceful state of being therefore becomes the most critical quest of humankind. How can an individual achieve this blissfully meditative state of emotional well being throughout all circumstances? Is it possible to maintain a positive inner self while facing the vicissitudes of life? Buddha says, “Let not the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace.” However, we can easily understand that keeping such an extent of psychological detachment vis-a-vis the blows received from others is extremely difficult. The complex interaction dynamics between individual and society are largely responsible for this.
The relationship between the individual mind and the society has been a contentious, yet extensively researched issue in behavioural sciences. Certain schools of thoughts believe that any individual’s behaviour and personality is an outcome of his/her genetic makeup. However, most others stress the importance of society in determining individual personality. In the early nineties, the ‘looking glass self behavioural theory’ of Cooley became extremely popular. It explained how an individual develops one’s self and one’s identity through one’s interpersonal interactions within the structure of society. Individuals will change their behavior based on what they feel other people think about them, even if it is not necessarily true. It has also been proven through research that an individual’s perspective on various issues throughout his/her lifetime is shaped by the reactions of the people living around that individual. The happiness and pain suffered by an individual germinates from the experiences he lives together with others in the society. These positive and negative emotional experiences are not just felt momentarily but get etched on the subconscious mind. These emotions keep visiting a person frequently like waves and determine his/ her future behaviour as well.
Therefore, when all of us are so deeply emotionally connected to our social relations, how is it possible for us to maintain calmness within our minds despite facing external turmoil?
The obvious though not easy answer is learning the art of taming one’s own ego. Most often we take wrong doings of others personally to the extent of letting ourselves get hurt over and over again. It is the ego which disables one to let go of negative experiences and feelings. One completely gets trapped in the viscous cycle of blame and disappointment. Even the positive aspects of other person’s personality who has caused us hurt become irrelevant as we tend to focus only on few negative aspects. This way, most of us end up either breaking ties with other people or living with them in toxic relationships. What we do not realise is that the person who inflicts the most emotional damage in the entire process is our self. It is one’s ego which comes in the way of attaining and maintaining a state of mental peace. In the words of Buddha, “Happy are those who have overcome their egos; happy are those who have attained peace; happy are those who have found the Truth.” By overcoming our own ego and pride, we can reason out our feelings and let go of things which cause misery more easily.
Meditation makes it possible for one to rationally analyse things in an objective manner. It also enables us to look into our own imperfections which we otherwise constantly overlook. When we understand that we ourselves are capable of making mistakes just like others, we tend to become more accepting and forgiving. In acceptance lies real peace, emotional maturity, happiness and letting go of our ego. Acceptance of others, ourselves and circumstances creates a sense of oneness with existence. This way we can maintain our inner peace and happiness despite wrong doings committed by others. To attain spiritual wisdom, such peace and happiness is required. A mind which is characterised by unrest and anger cannot work towards any spiritual uplift. Ultimately as said by the Dalai Lama “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
(The writer is a former officer of Government of Uttarakhand)
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