81/9: The Wrong Aim

Summary: One of the most common aims of our life is to get recognition from our peers about our efforts and achievements. This aim is intrinsically flawed because we have no control over what others feel. Realising the futility of this aim frees our mind. This freedom gives us a certain calmness of mind, which is one of the aims of our sadhana.

Verse 81: Aangi Bharalia Bhavandi, Jaisha Bhovat Disati Aradi Daradi, Taisi Aapalia Kalpana Akhandi, Gamati Bhutein.

Translation: When we are dizzy, we feel as if the whole landscape is going around us in circles. Just like that, people around us take the form of our own imagination.

One of the most common aims in our life is ‘peer recognition’. You will notice that almost all the things in the past about which you are happy involve peer recognition in one form or the other. Therefore, reactions to our work from others form an important criterion in judging our life. In this sense, people around us dominate our existence. If one accepts this hypothesis, it goes without saying that we must try and understand how the people around us are going to judge our actions. To understand this, we need to first understand the things our dear ones hold in high esteem. Hence, we need to understand them psychologically. It is not just enough knowing them by being close in a physical sense. In this background, this verse is telling us the futility of such an endeavour!! It is saying that whatever we perceive of their mind, it is a reflection of our own attitudes. Therefore, there is no way we can understand some one else’s mind so well that we can consistently behave to suit its temperament.

To conduct an experiment on a subject to get valid information, the first thing we need is that the subject and the experimenter are independent. If the observer is influencing the subject, we cannot say for sure the true nature of the subject. This fact is the basis of all scientific enquiries. For this verse, the subject is the mind of another person. Now, we can cognize only those things that can be perceived by one of our five senses. The mind of another person is, unfortunately, not accessible to our touch, smell, taste, vision, and hearing senses. Therefore, it is impossible to know some one else’s mind with complete clarity. Of course, the more we come in contact with a particular person, the more we are convinced that we know that person’s mind. We come to this conclusion by observing his/her behaviour and drawing conclusion about the intentions behind such an action. For example, if I find a person talking with raised voice, I will usually conclude that the person is angry. Similarly, we have well-defined ideas about the outwardly observable symptoms of most of the emotions. A smiling person is assumed to be happy for example. By applying this knowledge to his or her behaviour we conclude that we ‘know’ the mind of a person. Thus our knowledge about other’s mind is obtained by inference, not by direct perception. It is therefore not a true knowledge. Moreover, these associations of action of a person to its motivation are created by our own mind. There is no real basis to them. For example, it is very likely that a person may give an appearance of smile when he is very frustrated or angry and irritated. For such a person, our conclusion that he must be happy would be wrong. Sometimes disastrously wrong! This basic gap between what we think is true and what really is true often leads to undesirable events in our life (previously called critical points). Also, this system is interactive. The subject and the observer are not independent. Because, just the way we are trying to understand what others think by their behaviour, at the same time the other person is also trying to understand what we are thinking of his actions by watching our actions! He may even modify his actions depending upon his understanding of your reaction to his past action!! Therefore, as far as scientific enquiry is concerned, this whole thing is a complete mess!!!

There is another reason we try to understand other person. Even if we cannot say how he or she feels for sure, we would like to know whether that person is our friend or not. We would generally like to be with people who have our interests in their mind, who are sympathetic to our needs. Is it possible for us to really know such a person? Our every day actions are based on what we are currently thinking as important for us. If we want to spend some time in solitude in the morning, we feel that anyone who is helping us in achieving that aim is a sympathetic soul and those who consistently do not care about it are not friendly. However, quite often the other person may not even know that his actions are preventing you from doing what you think is important to you. In fact, quite often, we ourselves do not know what we want. In this kind of situation, we only get a vague uneasy feeling about the behaviour of other person and we try to avoid company of such a person as much as possible. Such instances of friction rob us of our peace. We tend to spend more time on trying to understand why a particular person is not happy with me. Hence we are back to the discussion of the previous paragraph, in which we understood the futility of trying to understand the motivation of other person by his or her behaviour.

Therefore, in either of these cases, what we end up doing is trying to guess other person’s mind by looking at his behaviour. This is a task that cannot be scientifically carried out. Its results are not reproducible and they are unreliable. They depend on things over which we have no control. And yet, and yet, we spend most of our life in making someone else happy! In fact, the more life you spend on making someone else happy, the more you think that you are a better person. All our role models are based on those people who spend their life for others. Is it not?

Does this mean that we should become selfish and forget others completely? No. We should only realise the futility of such an exercise. This acceptance will free your mind from most of its worries. The moment you come to know that, no matter what you do, you really cannot please someone else, you will feel a tremendous freedom to do whatever YOU want to do. Because, the only person you can be sure to satisfy is yourself. This freedom in your thinking will open up new ways of behaviour that you had deliberately blocked out of your life because of external constraints. Since those blocks were unnatural, their reactions on you were not healthy. After their removal, you will feel a different kind of peace in being able to be true to yourself. This peace will give you a new confidence to continue in this path. This positive feedback system will ultimately lead you to your goal.

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