All that we are is the result of what we have thought. Or, the mind is everything. What you think, you become, which are apparently fake quotes probably drafted from, whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.
I am looking at my statue of a meditating Buddha sitting on a shelf just across the room. Twenty years ago, a Catholic/Christian apologist said that if I had a statue of Buddha at home it was a serious sin. In my manner of reacting to such nonsense, I had mine within the week. I also have a meditation candle, a gift from my daughter. It has been sitting in my room for more than 20 years, usually near or around the statue of Siddhartha, which is also the title of a good novel.
Back in the 90s, I read extensively about eastern philosophy and religions such as Taoism and Buddhism as part of my spiritual growth at the time. Many are surprised to learn that I found the true living and enlightened Buddha, alive and well at a mall in San Antonio.
I approached the short chunky monkey buddha and asked him if it would be okay if I left my family and became a monk. He looked at me and started to laugh. He has been unable to stop. From that experience we now have the famous Laughing Buddha statue, which may not be a Buddha at all, but an alleged Chinese monk from 1,500 years after Siddhartha Gautama Buddha presumably hung out in what is now India.
I am not and never have been Buddhist. You may be interested to know that the singer and poet, Leonard Cohen, was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1996, but he was never of any other religion than observant Jew his entire life. I’ve had friends who claimed to be Gautama followers, but Buddhists savor sobriety and too many of my tribe did not. What I think attracted many of them was much of the background philosophy and supporting New Age woo-woo. The same may have been true of Cohen.
I do not believe in karma, reincarnation or rebirth, Nirvana (other than the band), past life regression, or any other life after death credo. However, wisdom is wisdom and I hang on to what I think fits into my one life reality. I think meditation is probably healthy, greed is bad, humility will always be an elusive benefit, and the application of some eastern idioms could cure the overabundance of assholes and trolls in the neighborhood, if not the world.
Without splitting hairs and taking the we are (or attract) what we think quote at face value, it reminds me of several idioms I like: we are what we do; right here, right now; it is what it is; and if you check, maybe this fourth one, not everything has to have a point. Somethings just are, which I attribute to Judy Blume. But are we what we have thought? I’m not so sure.
This form of consciousness seems to be mixed up with the concept of free will. Are we what we think? Or what we do? Or do we even have any idea who we are? Do we have control over what we think, our thoughts, or our minds? I’ve heard thoughts euphemistically referred to as voices. What of the hours lying in bed worrying or thinking about things we try not to invite into our thoughts—things which are out of our control? Do we channel those thoughts into who we are, or is mind madness in charge of what we think?
The simple question follows, are we what we think? Or, as my Irish-Catholic father would say to me; who in the hell do you think you are? It was a strained relationship.
Indeed, over the years I have thought things to be true and sometime later decided differently. Having an open mind (if that is possible) in the long run, learning and thinking and being willing to say that we were wrong or mistaken has more to do with who we are than the ideas or thoughts themselves.
There is little doubt that our thoughts, convictions, and mind-sets affect how we see the world. Another idiom is: change your mind, change the world.
Much of the turmoil regarding such phrases for followers of Buddha and his teachings involves translation of old scripture. The messiness and confusion with translation from language, time, culture, and overall interpretation can lead to several chapters in a book.
Another problem is the insistence by some people of making shit up and then attributing it to someone famous who may have never said or wrote it. Welcome to the internet age.
I have a framed art piece on my wall. It is an image of Charles Bukowski with the words find what you love and let it kill you. I like Bukowski. I read his poetry, and I even make notes of how he turned a phrase. The problem is that old Hank apparently never said that kill you thingy nor did he write it, even as character dialogue. But still, I like it and I’ll not be tossing the art. The truth is that the association with Bukowski is false, even if I can’t prove he never said it.
Another poetic translation from Buddhist scripture on the mind is a version by Gil Fronsdal, who renders the first two verses as:
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows,
Like a never-departing shadow.
From a Buddhist perspective, thoughts constitute part of our actions, but only a part of them. What we are is indeed a combination of actions determined by thoughts and feelings. I think life is all about how we feel, but I hope for intellect before emotion in making wise choices.
Furthermore, we cannot ignore past experiences in figuring out who we are. But the primary determining, limiting, and deciding factor is from genetics: DNA. Perhaps some day we can engineer that in such a way as to control ourselves and our existence better. For now, it is what it is. It may even effect how and what we think or believe.
No. All that I have thought over the years does not determine what I am.
Let’s try one more contemporary quotation from Steven Pinker: Our minds are adapted to a world that no longer exists, prone to misunderstandings correctable only by arduous education, and condemned to perplexity about the deepest questions we can ascertain.