The mind is the master of muscle. The body is literally developed and sustained by the mind. This occurs through instincts expressed as habits, which in turn are manifest as desirable or undesirable actions. The habit-bound body has the power to foil the mind. This begs the question, should the master allow himself to be commanded by the servant? Should the mind be enslaved by the body’s dictation? Hindu belief suggests that not only does the mind direct personal behavior, but it also has the potential of influencing people and things, both inanimate and organic.
A Hindu philosophy teaches me to see tigers as pussycats. As I look upon a tiger, I ask myself, is it just a tiger in my mind? I think that I can impress upon my subconscious the thought of a tiger as a pussycat, but I don’t know whether I can make the tiger believe it. One would not expect victory from a baby who imagines a tiger to be a house cat, but could it be possible for a strong man to turn the tables on the tiger? Powerful hands are a significant weapon but are they enough to force the savage predator into the belief that it is a common pussycat? The royal Bengal, in its natural fierceness and habitat, is vastly different from the drugged circus animal. Many a man with powerful strength has been terrorized into complete helplessness before the onrush of the mighty tiger. In most cases the tiger successfully converts the man to a state of fear. So how important is the mind in this equation? How significant are our thoughts and attitudes in determining our outcomes? Strength comes at great cost of time and energy, but is muscle enough? Is the mind equal, if not greater?
Hindu wisdom again enlightens: You may control a mad elephant; you may shut the mouth of the bear and tiger; you may ride the lion and play with the cobra; you may wander through the universe and instruct the stars; you may make vassals of the gods or be ever youthful; you may walk on water and trod on fire; but control of the mind is better and more difficult.
There are many kinds of tigers in our lives. Most roam the jungle of the human spirit where desires and passions can become victor of the inner soul. Fear makes the tiger bigger than he really is; rational thought diminishes both his size and his roar. If the mind is master, why should it succumb to the habit bound body?
Practicing Integrity, the mind is freed from the mental distress of the behavior/belief conflict associated with cognitive dissonance. This freedom opens the mind to sounder reasoning. As thinking creatures, we search for meaning in all we do. This search is intrinsic to human nature. We want to understand why we are on this road and where it is taking us? Many aspects of life are an inward journey as we think deeply about our actions and behavior.
Wisdom and its attending vice, envy are both about thinking and reasoning. Envy cannot coexist with wisdom. Wisdom is clear, mature reasoning. This kind of thinking is only available to the honest and competent. The self-indulgent emotion of greed, “getting at all costs,” is in opposition. Greed is void of reasoning. It begins as competition and is about acquisition. Greed is short-term flawed reasoning. It is the acquisition of material possessions to satisfy feelings of competition and insecurity. It involves excessive focus on earthly thoughts: hoarding, theft, robbery, trickery and manipulation in order to acquire and retain material wealth and security justified under the greed mindset, “The end justified the means.”
A decision is made to either consciously engage in methodical deliberations, or to succumb to impulsive reactions. The fundamental issue between these two opposing behaviors deals with the emotional cancer of comparison. The act of comparing personal contentment against the situation and circumstances of others is envy which leads to self-indulgence. This is flawed reasoning. Wisdom is the lack of envy. Envious people are impulsive and irrational. Wise people appreciate who they are, where they are, and what they have. This level of contentment opens them up to a sense of gratitude.
Aristotle defined envy as “the pain caused by the good fortune of others.” Immanuel Kant defined it as “a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others.”
Envy and jealousy are often used interchangeably, but in reality these words represent two distinct emotions. Envy is associated with pain or frustration that is caused by another person having something that we do not personally possess, such as beauty, wealth, or status. Jealousy is the fear of losing to another person something that we possess. Jealousy typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. It consists of a combination of emotions including anger, sadness, and disgust. Envy and jealousy result from different situations and are distinct emotional experiences, but both exist when one gets pleasure from the misfortunes of others. A child can feel jealous of her parents’ attention to a sibling, and envious of a neighbor’s new bike. Envy and jealousy are equally potent causes of unhappiness.
It’s completely normal to admire the best and greatest that this world has to offer. The problems arise when our admiration turns to envy and the desire to own and control surfaces. Envy progressing to greed often leading to gluttony are the natural consequences of unmanaged comparison and competition. Left unchecked deceit and deception will often replace the required efforts of goal attainment through delayed gratification.
Wisdom is achieved when envy and greed are controlled. Wisdom counteracts envy. Experience, knowledge, and reason lead to wisdom; this is the true aim of teaching. It is the capacity to realize what is of value in life. Beyond simply knowing and understanding the options available, wisdom provides the ability to differentiate between them, followed by the power to choose the best alternative.
Wisdom is not a trait that is achieved, but rather a gift that is earned through the knowledge and experience gained while progressing through the preceding virtues. Wisdom flourishes in the mind of the honest soul. Freed from the anxiety of duplicity and the guilt associated with conflicting thoughts, wisdom can grow. Integrity removes the inconsistency and incongruity that creates cognitive dissonance allowing wisdom to flourish. Wisdom is a thinking pattern that develops through disciplined practice and personal evaluation and experience. It is a deep understanding of the complex interactions of people, things, events, and situations. Wisdom is the individual’s ability to consistently choose or act in such a way as to produce optimum results. Wisdom demands emotional control gained through delayed gratification in order to minimize personal opinion and preference so that time-proven principles, knowledge, experience, and insights can prevail. The comprehension of what is true or right gets coupled with the best possible judgment as to what action to take.
A fleeting virtue, wisdom must not be taken for granted. It must be nurtured and sustained in order to grow. As one’s reasoning increases, close acquaintances will witness the benefits of improved decision making on major visible issues. Over time, a personal sense of rightness develops and flourishes within. Eventually, purposeful reflection will attend even the most minor or seemingly insignificant choices in one’s life. The end result of advanced wisdom and reasoning is the ability to balance personal perception with the insights received from great minds of the past and present. Wisdom is knowing the appropriate time to act, and the appropriate words to speak. By living the preceding values of humility, courage, cleanliness, obedience, industry, and integrity, one’s mind, body, and moral fiber are strong enough to ensure that valuable and available effort and time be filled with wise purposes.
The expression of wisdom is a gradual progression to enlightenment. The first level of this wisdom progression begins with conscious, methodical deliberation over major decisions. As one progresses to the next level, reflection and care is given in all decisions, including seemingly minor or inconsequential ones. The final level of wisdom is achieved when direction and inspiration from a higher source is perceived. This personal revelation is identifiable and acknowledged.