Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to catch a monkey

  • Take a coconut and drill a hole in it just big enough for a monkey's open hand to fit through.
  • Tie the coconut down to the ground
  • Put something inside the coconut that the monkey will find irresistible, such as peanuts or banana
  • Wait
The monkey will soon come along and reach inside the coconut to grab the delight inside. But with his fist firmly around the treat he is unable to draw his hand back out. The monkey is most reluctant to let go of the treat and remains trapped!

This simple method of catching the monkey is a parable for our own suffering. Our attachment keeps us trapped in the condition of suffering.  Just as the monkey would only need to let go of the bait to be free, all we need to do is to release our attachment.

The Buddha gave the three causes of suffering to be attachment, anger and ignorance.

Patanjali, who wrote the "Yoga Sutras" lists five causes: ignorance (of our true nature); our ego, which defines us as many things, but blinds us to our true self; attachment, like the monkey; aversion or resistance, which is the flip side of attachment; and, fear of death. 

We are advised by the sages to still the mind. I suspect that this is even harder for modern people in the information age to do than it was before the endless barrage of electronically conveyed visual sand mental stimulation. 

I have noticed that when people come to meditation courses quietening the mind is often one of their motivations, yet when people sign up for asana classes relaxation, flexibility, strength and fitness are more often the reasons given. It doesn't matter really. 

If we learn the techniques of meditation we learn techniques to still the mind. It will however be challenging.

In a movement based asana practice, we may first engage in the outward sensations of the body, and the mind may be challenged initially to connect with the body, to discover a sense of its place in space. We may be confronted by limitations of the body. Yet the more we practice, the more we familiarise with the poses of yoga, the more we begin to turn inward, and the practice becomes a moving meditation. In the end we do begin to open to ourselves, to the possibility of discovering our true nature.