The important tool

The human personality is made up of three basic components – the body which gives it identity, the mind which allows understanding and the spirit which evokes abstract concepts. Of these three, which can be considered the most important? The parable of ‘The Wish-fulfilling Tree’ examines this question subtly and substantially.

Once a man who was travelling strayed into Paradise. According to Indian legend, this place is full of Kalpataru trees. Wish-fulfilling ones, anyone sitting under one of them and desiring something will see it translated into reality.

The man, unaware of this fact, sat under one. Tired, he soon fell asleep. He woke up to find himself hungry. ‘How I wish I had some good food,’ he thought. Immediately, food appeared out of nowhere. Ravenously he ate it and then sighed, ‘If only I could get something to drink!’ At once appeared before him glasses of juice. Completely satisfied, his thoughts turned to what was happening. As he did so, fear overcame him and he wondered whether evil spirits were around. ‘They are out to get me,’ he thought, ‘and may kill me.’ Immediately, terrifying spirits appeared and strangled him to death.

This tale may seem a fanciful one, but great significance underlies it. The wish-fulfilling tree is actually the human mind and the story is a pointer to the fact that of all the tools the human possesses, the mind is the most powerful. ‘The mind,’ said the Buddha, ‘is everything.’ And this is true in some very important ways.

We consider the body as something that is physical, an entity that remains fit if given proper nourishment. Yet, it cannot remain truly healthy without the mind playing its part. Medical experts are agreed that most diseases are psychosomatic, involving both body and mind.  Some have gone so far as to say that there is a mental aspect to every physical illness. It is also seen that physical diseases are made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, the mind can triumph over the body in astonishing ways. It did in the lives of Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking. Keller, struck blind and deaf, excelled as a speaker and writer and Hawking, though wheelchair-bound, is one of the world’s foremost scientists.

There is no doubt that we are shaped by our thoughts. It is a law of life that we gravitate towards what occupies our minds. Success comes to those that picture it. On the contrary, those who regard themselves as failures find their worst fears coming true.

Also it is the mind that sets us on the spiritual path. Happiness is largely a state of mind. If the mind is at peace, happiness follows. Wealth, beauty, power – none of these can make one happy if there is no peace of mind.  The poet John Milton summed it up, ‘The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’

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