Getting Hold of Myself
By Eileen Siriwardhana
I told myself never to do certain things:
Never to fly into a rage when things have gone wrong,
But something is simmering inside me;
Then I try to get hold of myself
But I can’t!
Never moan and lament over loss and disaster,
But something is writhing inside me;
Then I try to get hold of myself
But I can’t!
Never be elated over triumphs and victories,
But something is dancing inside me;
Then, too, I try to get hold of myself,
But I can’t!
I try and I strive
But I can’t!
I just can’t get hold of myself,
If you can, please let me know how.
Yes, I can.
And you can, too,
If you turn to the Buddha.
“Irrigators lead the waters.
Fletchers bend the shafts.
Carpenters bend the wood.
The wise control themselves.”
as a watercourse is dammed and directed through channels towards a
chosen direction, so too the mind must be bent and consciously directed
towards good, towards virtue, towards righteousness.
amass wealth, to dig up the treasures from the bowels of the earth, man
makes laborious efforts and spends enormous sums of money, but to dig
up the invaluable treasures of the mind, man makes little or no effort.
But to make the effort man has first to realise, he has first to
understand the mysterious and mighty potentialities hidden within his
On the other hand, if, though well
aware of the natural destructive forces within him, man makes little or
no effort to curb them, he thereby causes untold misery to himself and
Latent in man are both saintly
characteristics and destructive tendencies. It is strange that too often
the vices latent in man seem almost natural and spontaneous, whereas
the dormant virtues have to be brought to the surface with great effort.
It is worth noting that every vice possesses its opposite, a noble
virtue which may not appear to be natural and automatic, yet which lies
within the range of every person.
man lives enveloped in miseries of various types. Man is never happy,
never satisfied, always frustrated, always wanting something more,
something new. His mind is constantly in turmoil, and the misfortune is
that he thinks that this has to be the natural condition common to all.
This is delusion, or moha.
“Blind is the world.
Few are those who clearly see.
As birds escape from a net,
few go to the blissful state.”
is a pity that man does not realise that all these fears, sorrows,
phobias and miseries are mindmade—and can be eliminated. A man can live
in a constant state of bliss and joy devoid of unnecessary sufferings
and live life to its fullest if only he would live the word of the
Buddha, for the word of the Buddha embodies peace. This is why the
arahats often uttered:
“Calm in mind,
Calm in speech,
Calm in deed,
who rightly knowing is wholly freed,
perfectly peaceful and equipoised.”
desert traveller with parched lips and burning soles will be gladdened
on hearing that an oasis is not far off. But he will not experience real
joy until he tastes its waters with his lips, and dips his soles in the
cool waters. In like manner the word of the Buddha gladdens our hearts,
but we should not stop until we have tasted the bliss of that noble
state which is the panacea, the only panacea, for all the ills of the
“There is no medicine comparable to the Dhamma.
Taste of it.
Drink it, O monks.”
The Dhamma is to be lived, not merely to be read about or listened to. Listen. Think. Practise.
our daytoday lives, in the course of being engaged in our daily chores,
we should think of the innumerable times when we have neglected the
word of the Buddha. Yet the incense chamber of the Buddha should be
created within our hearts, and that fragrance must pervade every
thought, every word, every action of our waking life.
your mind,” said the Blessed One. Now think of the numberless
unwholesome thoughts that daily pollute the mind. We speak and we act
impulsively, rashly. Our words and our actions are often harsh; we cause
pain of mind to others, which in turn brings on remorse. A whole train
of unwholesome thoughts are unleashed as a result of our inability to
control our mind. We get angry. That anger even results in chemical
changes in the body which can be injurious to our health, and to the
wellbeing of others. And then we repent for a lifetime a few words
So, realising the
unhappiness we bring upon ourselves and the suffering we cause others,
we must first understand and accept the fact that we are not on the
right path. What is the remedy? Do not let the mind drift. Take hold if
it. Cultivate it. What is cultivation? It is meditation. It is a process
of mind cleansing. What are the steps leading to purification of the
mind, which is the heart of the Buddha’s message?
- To know the mind—that is so near to us; and is yet so unknown.
- To shape the mind—that is unwieldy and obstinate, and yet may turn to pliant.
- To free the mind—that is in bondage all over, and yet may win freedom here and now.
know the mind one has to watch it from moment to moment. Take a few
minutes off your daily chores and sit down in a quiet place and be
mindful of your thoughts. Watch carefully the thought processes coursing
incessantly through your mind like the rising and falling away of the
ocean waves, but continuous—in a neverending flow they arise and they
fall away. Recognise each thought as pleasant or unpleasant, as the
nature of the thought may be. We have to be honest with ourselves. We
must recognise jealousy as jealousy, know it to be unwholesome, cast it
aside and substitute its antidote or opposite—which is appreciative joy
We can gradually
increase the period of watching by a few minutes each day. After some
time we will find that when watching and perceiving, all shades and
nuances of thought pass through our mind. With practise, this process
will become automatic, natural and effortless, even while we are engaged
in our daily activities. This is as it should be—a very desirable
condition for our wellbeing, for then we will be constantly mindful. An
action performed with mindfulness will be a skilful action. The result,
or vipaka, of such action will be pleasant and good. So constantly our mind will be suffused with satisfaction, joy and bliss.
Let us look at a few of the common unwholesome states which too often pollute our minds:
Anger is a destructive vice which can be subdued with loving kindness or metta.
Aggression is another vice that is responsible for much human suffering, errors and atrocities. Its antidote is compassion or karuna.
poisons one’s system. It has a corroding effect on a person like rust
on metal. It will destroy a person. Appreciative joy or mudita is the remedy.
are other universal characteristics that upset the equilibrium of man.
They are attachments to the pleasurable and aversion to the
nonpleasurable. The opposite force is equanimity, or upekkha, which alone can combat these two subtle but most prevalent defilements ever present in the mind.
in the vices mentioned are the germs of a dreaded disease which seems
to be taking its toll of many human lives today. Selfdestruction,
depression, a sense of hopelessness, despair, gloom, pessimism,
meaninglessness of life, are some of the symptoms of this dreaded
disease which leads to so much unhappiness. The disease is ignorance.
cure for the disease is the substitution of the opposite virtues for
each of the latent vices. This will lead to the recognition of the
beauty of life, its worthwhileness, its purposefulness. The substitution
of wholesome pleasant thoughts is a recognised form of mental therapy.
These virtues tend to elevate man. If cultivated with diligence, man
will realise that the earth is such a beautiful place, that human life
is noble, and that it is still possible to gain peace for oneself and
for others. (Written in 1982)
Source: BPS, Sri Lanka, Bodhi Leaves 93 (excerpt). For free distribution only.