A milkman, deeply influenced by Gautama Buddha insisted that Buddha visit him and share his nuggets of wisdom. In lieu of this, the milkman offered to present milk to Buddha. The Buddha agreed. In the evening when Buddha set out to visit the milkman he took with him a container in which he intentionally put some mud. The milkman took the container but just as he was about to pour milk into it, realised that the container had some impurity. So he cleansed the container and removed all the impurities. He then poured the milk into it and gave it to the Buddha.
Upon receiving the container, the Buddha got up to leave. Surprised, the milkman asked him why was he leaving before imparting any wisdom. The Buddha replied that he just had. He explained to the milkman that the mind is similar to the container and thoughts that preoccupy us are like the impurities he found in the container. To attain wisdom, we must purify the mind by making it free of all impure thought. The Buddha asked the milkman to cleanse himself of his thoughts as only then will he be able to imbibe any further learning.
First empty your mind; only then you can make room for wisdom to come in. Prepare the mind to face situations in a way that enables you to harness its potential. Living with a mind that is narcisstic will impede progress. A life that is full of ego leaves no room for receptivity as one thinks about nothing else other than its own self.
Trying to deride the discovery of a scientist, a man once said to him that all discoveries were nothing but chance occurrences. Calmly, the scientist replied: “You are right. But such chances took place only with the scientists.” This was a befitting answer. It is only a prepared mind that is able to achieve the goal. There is nothing mysterious about it. It is quite understandable that only a mind that has engrossed itself in trying to unravel a phenomenon, would eventually decipher it. However, a price must be paid to attain such a state – that price is working hard to prepare the mind to receive. To make the mind receptive, you need to be sincere in your efforts, objective and unbiased in your approach and ready to admit a mistake and reassess your approach to the target.
I recall here an anecdote about the famous Sufi saint – Bahaullah. He once visited another saint Fariduddin for receiving guidance. Bahaullah gained the wisdom in a very short span of time. Seeing this some other of Fariduddin’s disciple accused him of favouritism. As Fariduddin heard of these charges, he told his disciple that Bahaullah was like dry wood while all of them are like wet wood. This was a classic example of receptivity. Dry wood is highly combustible and catches fire easily. High levels of receptivity enable us to imbibe spiritual guidance.
In order to be receptive to truth, one must make the effort to be ready to recognize and receive the truth. Human beings have become conditioned entities on account of habit. It is this conditioning that is a major obstacle on the path. To be able to overcome this hurdle, we must be ready to revisit existing ideas; be willing to rise above all kinds of biases and prejudices and become receptive to truth that may come from anywhere.
The writer teaches Islamic studies at Jamia Millia Islamia.