The Battle inside

A story that is attributed to many sources (including the Cherokee Native Americans) tells of a man chatting with his grandson. “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy.

““It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continues, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed.””

In a Nautilus conversation on 14th October 2020, Steve Paulson tells the neuroscientist David Eagleman: “You write about a constant battle going on inside our brains between different sets of neurons, fighting over who gets control of certain parts of the brain.”

David replies:

There is a competition at all levels, all the way down to individual neurons. If you walk through a forest, it looks serene and beautiful. The same thing is happening there. All the trees and shrubs are competing for sunlight, so some shrubs grow low and broad, while others put all their energy into growing up tall and spreading out leaves to catch sunlight. That’s exactly what’s going on with neurons. When you look at neurotransmission, when one neuron spits out chemicals that send a signal to the next neuron, it comes from this aggressive background of neurons fighting against one another. If you take this perspective, it explains a lot.

In “Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil”, Stephen Batchelor writes of Mara,  the Devil, which is really the evil wolf in us.

Stephen tell us insightfully that “Mara is Buddha’s devilish twin. Buddha needs to let go of Mara in order to be Buddha. And not just once as an episode in the heroic drama of enlightenment. As long as Buddha lives, he is constantly relinquishing Mara….The two are inseparable…..Mara….is really Gotama’s own conflicted humanity.”

Photo by Sam Syon Unsplash

Juan Mascaro writes of this in the introduction to his translation of the Bhagavad Gita. “We find in the Gita that there is going to be a great battle for the rule of a Kingdom; and how can we doubt that this is the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the soul? Are we going to allow the forces of light in us or the forces of darkness to win?”

In the introduction to his commentary Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (“Meditation as Spiritual Culmination — Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali”), and explanations on Verse 1.12, Swami Sarvagatananda writes of the person who is always “mindful….in thought,  word and deed” — a person who examines the mind “thoroughly”, and becomes “aware of all….thoughts, tendencies, urges and modifications.” Such a person, Swamiji says, is a “yogi.” She/He is able to “stand up and say: “All the devils are in me — and all the gods are also in me….”

Juan exhorts us to cultivate the Yogi’s spirit. He encourages us to persevere with Faith in the good wolf within. “In the battle of the Bhagavad Gita there is a great symbol of hope: that he who has a good will and strives is never lost, and that in the battle for eternal life there can never be a defeat unless we run away from the battle.”

Peace 🙂

“The sun will rise for you….”

A poem written in the 1860s by the remarkable Emily Dickinson reminds us of what resides in our skulls.

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—

For—put them side by side—

The one the other will contain

With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—

For—hold them—Blue to Blue—

The one the other will absorb….

In a conversation with Nautilus on 14th October 2020, the neuroscientist David Eagleman says: “Every moment of your life, your brain is rewiring. You’ve got 86 billion neurons and a fraction of a quadrillion connections between them. These vast seas of connections are constantly changing their strength, and they’re unconnecting and reconnecting elsewhere. It’s why you are a slightly different person than you were a week ago or a year ago.”

This rewiring, the psychologist Rick Hanson, Fellow at the University of California (Berkeley) tells us, is something we can participate in.

In “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom”, Rick writes: “Every day, ordinary activities….contain dozens of opportunities to change your brain from the inside-out. You really do have the power, which is a wonderful thing in a world full of forces beyond your control.”

Photo by Jasper Boeron Unsplash

Pointing out the roles of consistent intention and perseverance (in the rewiring), Rick tells us: “A single raindrop doesn’t have much effect, but if you have enough raindrops….you can carve a Grand Canyon.”

Swami Vivekananda ends a letter (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”) written on 29th September 1894 with a message encouraging us in this effort to change ourselves for the better: “….we must struggle all our lives….Have patience and work. Save yourself by yourself.” Elsewhere he exhorts us to “struggle on in patience, and the sun will rise for you.”

Peace 🙂