Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Good Thoughts are Important

On many occasions I have jabbered on about the importance of our thoughts and how they affect our actions and by default our own well being and that of people around us. What follows is some of the reasoning behind this.

Consider now the effects on the populace when a politician, just before an election, makes promises to his electorate that he knows, and the electorate know, and he knows they know, will never be kept? Cynicism? Lack of trust? What effect will this have on young developing minds? – “if a politician can lie and get away with it (or appear to get away with it) why can’t I?” And so a lowering of moral and ethical standards becomes accepted as normal behaviour. An interesting example of this was highlighted by a onetime ‘power broker’ in the Australian Labor Party, former Senator Graham Richardson when speaking at the Harry Sorenson Business Ethics Lecture at Curtin University (Perth, Western Australia) in 1997, when he said, “Politicians lie to the public because they want to win elections and the public expects a certain level of dishonesty from their politicians”. This extraordinary admission was made by a leader! Leaders in politics and business set the standards. After all, leaders are supposed to lead and we generally follow. (Notice the recent events, reported in the media, which have dogged Graham Richardson!!)

If we further examine the concept, from a different aspect, of the importance of thoughts it will become clear why the effect of a thought will always be felt somewhere. First let’s examine why thoughts are so important and where they get their power.

Using the old classical definitions of the elements (for the sake of explanation and simplicity), if we proceed from the grossest to the finest matter, in relation to Human Beings, there is a certain inescapable logic. For instance, in extreme circumstances a person may be able to survive without food (grossest matter, as it is of the earth) for a considerable time, before death occurs (well over a month, as witnessed in hunger strikes). Survival without water (matter that is finer than food), is possible for only about three days. Deprived of air (finer matter than water) a human being may survive some three or four minutes. Yet without thoughts or impressions (the finest ‘matter’ of all), death is instantaneous. If a person is unable to think, hear, see, experience the sense of taste, touch, or smell, that person is dead. This last statement may be better understood if it is recalled that sensory deprivation has always been considered as the most severe punishment that can be meted out. People incarcerated in solitary confinement have been known to go insane, or to commit suicide. Thoughts should therefore be understood to be the most important things in our lives.

Thoughts are the basis for every action. Thought – word – deed or action, this is the flow. Thoughts are formulated in the mind and transformed into words (vocalised or not). From these words, vocalised or spoken in the mind, come deeds or actions.

It is evident then that thoughts and impressions are paramount and we should, therefore, be very careful about what we think about. Generally little or nothing is done to expect or encourage people to think only the finest thoughts. Most schools today (schools with religious studies, excepted), no longer offer moral instruction, or attempt to educate the young in the concepts of the virtues, or in ethics. There is therefore no correlation in the minds of most people between their thoughts and their actions and the effects of such actions. Most of us have no idea of the full effect of our thoughts, which may take years to develop, but which are eventually translated into actions and often material forms, and which will always effect someone, especially the thinker, in one way or another.

This is clearly expressed by a wonderful passage in the Dhamapada, (the sayings of the Buddha):

We are what we think,

All that we are arises with our thoughts,

With our thoughts we make the world.

Speak or act with an impure mind

And trouble will follow you

As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

Speak or act with a Pure Mind

And happiness will follow you

As your Shadow, unshakeable.

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