All successful people succeed in life by improving themselves constantly. However, for the majority of them, their goal for personal transformation is for mundane successes, such as the accumulation of wealth (bigger house, better cars, more things to possess), power and influence. For the spiritual seekers, personal transformation is not about mundane success. The ultimate goal of transformation for a genuine spiritual seeker is liberation from the root cause of our sufferings. Only in this way is it possible to be totally free from recurrent sufferings.
While it is worthy and wise to start with the end in mind, meaning we transform ourselves with the ultimate goal of final liberation, for most people this is not the case and it is alright. Many people put in great effort to transform themselves initially for mundane success but as they progressed, they realized that mundane success alone cannot guarantee them the happiness they seek. Eventually the wise will realize that peace and lasting contentment can only be achieved through the taming of our mind, the ending of desires and anger, and the ultimate realization of reality as it truly is.
The Root Cause of Sufferings
The root cause of all our sufferings in this mundane life is the delusional way we view the world. We see things not as they are but as what we thought they are. An enlightened mind sees and understands that everything that we experienced is devoid of any intrinsic values or qualities, and therefore make light of them. There is no attachment or aversion to the experience.
On the other hand, our deluded mind cannot see things as they really are. Instead, we experience things through the projection of our mind. We project our values onto these things and then erroneously believe that the values we projected onto them are their true values or qualities. Then we foolishly react to them, ruffling our tranquil mind and causing the tranquil mind to become agitated and disturbed. In this way, we suffer.
Befriending the Original Mind
We are spiritual beings. We have an original mind that is tranquil. This original mind is what some called the mind of God. If we are not deluded, we are able to experience everything in this mundane world through this peaceful mind without being ruffled by the experience itself. So as spiritual seekers, our goal in personal transformation is to get to know our original mind once again and to familiarize ourselves with its undisturbed nature. This is called befriending the original mind.
There are two ways to befriend our original mind...
One way is to visualize it as it is - peaceful, pristine and perfect - and then centered ourselves in this state of peace. Everything we do, say and think then comes from this centered peace. In this way, we live and function from the absolute, beyond our immediate self-serving ego. To befriend our original mind in this way, we need to constantly check the state of our mind. Is our mind centered in this primordial peace or is it being ruffled by our delusions? Any time we are in a negative state of mind, we know that we are off our mark. Constant practice in this way will familiarize ourselves with the nature of this original mind.
The second way is to recognize that the reason we are not able to live and function from the absolute is because of our deluded thinking. Each time we are able to recognize this error in thinking, we take away its power to ruffle our original mind. In this way, we weaken our erroneous mental habits and replace it with a healthier one. We do this by catching our attachment, aversion and judgment. For example, each time we eat we are aware of our desire for good tasting food. When we meet someone, we either feel a like or dislike for that person because we see that person in a particular way. Being able to be aware of our attachment, aversion and judgment in this way weaken their influence over us. Eventually you will find that a particular person that irritates us can no longer irritate us and a certain situation that disturbs us no longer has that similar effect on us. We are able to see things as they really are, without projecting our own fears, likes and dislikes on them.! In this way, we gradually remove the veil of deluded thinking from our original mind and move a step closer to knowing the original mind.
Living and Functioning from the Absolute
What is meant by living and functioning from the absolute? We now know that this mundane world we live in is a relative universe. Everything in it is interdependent. Nothing has an absolute value. Everything changes. They are impermanent. We also know that there is an absolute reality that does not change. Its nature is equanimity. It is beyond time and space, and is therefore eternal and omnipresent. This is also the true nature of our original mind. They are one and the same. From this pristine equanimity springs unconditional love and compassion toward all beings. Living and functioning from the absolute means we live our lives from this absolute perspective.
We recognize that different perspective gives rise to different experience in life. One good example of this is the simile of the six blind men and the elephant. Each of them, from a different perspective, perceives and experiences the elephant differently. We also recognize that the "higher" our perspective, the more all-inclusive we experience life. From the perspective of the absolute, we live beyond our self-serving ego, resulting in a more harmonious, contented and peaceful existence for all.
Dr. Tim Ong is a medical doctor and hospice volunteer. He is also the author of "From Fear to Love: A Spiritual Journey" — a book that explores our hidden fears and how we can overcome them. Dr. Ong shares his personal experience as well as relates stories and lessons from his patients.