By Vijaya

Do you remember the colour of your toothbrush? A face you knew well long ago? The lessons learnt in school? Can you recall the words of your favourite teacher?

Do you have a good memory, to begin with?
According to yogic science, the mind is divided into 4 main parts: Manas (sensory, processing mind); Buddhi, or intellect (that knows, decides, judges and discriminates); Ahamkara (ego); and Citta, or memory. A complete coordination of all the functions above is needed to form meaningful experiences that make up what we call “life”. Citta is only one part of the mind, and has a certain role to play in the overall fabric of life. Let’s explore Citta. Can you imagine living without ever remembering anything about yourself — what you were doing, where you were living, who were the people living with you, et cetera?

Without memory, there’s simply no life. Memory is needed in the right dosage and direction in order to not just live, but help Buddhi exalt one to a higher state of existence. The journey is towards truth, which is beyond the mind itself.

Good memories create joy and happiness, whereas bad ones weigh heavily on the psychic of a person. They suppress and depress growth, and in the long run, cause devious harm.

People who entertain bad memories — habitually, for a prolonged period — tend to limit their existence in an assumed world.

They live in a space filled with images and thoughts that are detrimental in every way, but not necessarily true. They create their own world of fancy and let the real vigour, vitality and wonderment of life slip away — unbeknownst.

Bad memories may trigger words, sentences and images that stick like super glue in the mind. These words keep repeating themselves, incessantly, in the space of thoughts… spinning one into a more chaotic mindset. If they are aware — this is where yoga comes in — they’ll be able to discern between what is right and what is wrong. They will also be able to separately examine their heads, hearts and minds to get a clearer picture of what’s really happening in their lives — what is false, what is true, what is real… and whether they are doing justice to their real mind potentials.

The habit of giving in to bad memories and what is perceived to be a bad memory, is later fed by another damaging habit of wallowing in self-pity. Over time, this can become a vicious trap — like a poisonous web one spins around oneself. This harmful pattern becomes prominent in people, especially during low points in life and in old age —when they tend to perceive themselves to be weak.

My memories of grandmother

Brings to mind my beautiful grandmother. Throughout her 70s and 80s, I used to sit beside her and listen to the same complaints over and over again. She’ll start telling her story, slowly enter the “being victimised” mode, and naturally be reduced to tears. There was no way I could make her understand that she could put that fake baggage away and be happy, excited and enjoy her life for what it really was. In fact, she had everything to be thankful for.

She had the ability to belt out hundreds of lively stories that were spilling over from the past. Her memory box was always overflowing. But ironically, I thought they were beautiful. I marvelled at her ability to remember and relate.

The real psychology was that her past had a sense of fulfilment because she still had power, health in the body, considerable wealth, and good control over her life and others’ as well. But as she aged, she became helpless, dependent on people for many things, and had to deal with physical, mental and emotional pains. She would cry, and I’d feel the pain, only because I could not make her understand that she was one lucky old lady, who had everything to appreciate in life. She had the most kind, considerate and compassionate people around her for one thing, and those who truly loved her, respected her and held her high in their hearts and opinions — in spite of all her shortcomings.

She watched all the dramas on TV, and in a way her life was a drama. Honestly, this is how people create their own dramas.

She passed away with the same painful memories within her. In the moments before she died, her grandson, my cousin, whom she had much negative things to say, carried her on his shoulder and ran down four-storeys of stairways to rush her to the hospital. She had already passed away, said the doctor in Pantai Hospital. My cousin called me then to tell about her death, and he was crying in the phone.

Despite all her shortcomings, she was well-loved because she was a true gem like no other. As a person she had kept the entire family together. She was one strong lady who did not lose her mind, focus or capacity to think and live independently, no matter how wrongly she interpreted her entire life to be.

Do you live your truth everyday?

There is this constant play of the mind between perception and truth. Most people tend to live entirely on perceptions rather than truth. These wrong perceptions and impressions get stored away as memories that rule many a life. Since the Buddhi is weakened due to ignorance, Citta plus fancy rule and reign as kings.

I say so-called bad memories/fancies because the interpretation of an event/experience in a person’s life or how one views another being or what one chooses to remember is based on many factors. It might be true and it might not be true — depending on how the interpretation was done, and based on the person’s own character/personality/understanding/situation, etc.

For instance, there was this girl, Pang, in my primary and secondary school days. Everyone had everything bad to say about her. She was rich, spoiled, flirtatious, fashion-crazy, etc. So, naturally, she was a good target for endless gossip. I didn’t get to know her personally because I was already too reserved. I wasn’t making friends with her or anyone else.

This is what happened. On the last day of school-life, she brought a box of books with her, came over to me and said, “Hey Viji, I know you like poems and stories. I was cleaning the house and found these books. Would you like to have them?” I was very surprised, thankful and felt quite honoured. If she was able to see something in me despite my shortcomings, imagine what a strong character she must have been.

There were so many people from the school days — teachers, friends, other students and all other people connected to school-life — that had gone into complete oblivion. Many were no more in memory, but this girl, I could never forget. She taught me the most valuable of lessons about the difference between perception and truth. The books she gave, I read and reread over many years after school-life because they were so precious, like her.

After 20 years or so, all of us classmates and school mates had the opportunity to meet again via Facebook and Whatsapp.

Now I know her to be one fine lady… truly elegant, truly beautiful… full of achievements and lovely children who are making their own achievements.

In fact, all my friends, whom I might have had all wrong perceptions on, are doing very well in life and they are exhibiting so much of growth and maturity in their thinking and in the way they interact, etc.

There are so many things at play. Memories are parts of events kept stored in the mind for a good purpose, but how much is true? How much is needed? How much is conducive for growth? Is it okay to have too good a bad memory like my grandmother?

Mind is like a magic wand

In order to truly understand the actual part and function of the memory and what is its true role and relevance in one’s life, perhaps one has to first understand what the mind is all about. The mind is like a magic wand in the hands of fairies. It can deliver every wish and want. It can create, and it can push one’s life to the peaks of excellence… if that is what one wants.

All the people who are doing very well in school, in working life or in old age, have very good memory powers. They have the power to discriminate between bad memory and good memory, and the power to act on the other faculties of the mind as well. Their power of discrimination is good, for one thing, and they would be letting creativity and abundance flow endlessly into their lives and others’ as well.

Let me take a few more shots out of my memory files. The bad ones I’ve learnt to let go and the good ones and the excellent ones prod me on towards the path of ever-expanding growth, evolution, creativity, abundance, self-realisation… and infinity. I feel blessed studying here under Master Manisekaran. All clarity comes from his love and constant guidance. To fully understand what the mind is all about, you need this sort of guidance from a true Guru.

Some memories are etched forever in the space of Citta. Some of these experiences/learnings are too precious to be forgotten. They act as launch pads for more and more creativity to flow into my life… leading to the ultimate, which is self-realization and moksha, or liberation. I feel myself growing wiser. That’s the right use of memories. People of all ages – whether young or old – should be able to do that.

Let me take a few out:

  • I read “To Kill a Mocking Bird” when I was in Form 4 and a significant passage in the book touched me deeply. It explained how in order to truly understand another person, you need to put yourself into his/her skin and walk around in it. After I read that book, I started understanding why the people around me were what they were. The suffering endured by my grandparents, parents, etc., started to sink in. I was able to discern why the people around me – family members, friends, relatives, teachers, the community and every person on earth — were acting the way they were acting. And the extreme anger and hatred within me slowly began to subside and leave… forever. I also realised something there…. about myself.
  • I was 14 years old when I first watched “Ghandhi” the movie and remember how greatly it affected me. Someone, in such a tiny/insignificant frame, can be so powerful and sharp in his resolve, words and actions that he could move the entire British empire and the world consciousness, single handedly? Isn’t that huge?
  • At a much younger age, I realised the true power and strength of humility, and remember when I saw it completely, only in Master Manisekaran.
  • In 2008, on the steps of the very enchanting Kedarnath temple environment, in the midst of all the chanting that touched a deep cord in the soul, and I was crying, while Master sat there with me, accompanied by his strongmen Nava, Mona, Mei Wan, Saandhi, etc., and in the most expressionless way handed a tissue to me. (Haha..) (Actually, there was a very subtle expression that I was able to interpret only a few years later. Suddenly, it dawned on me…. tadaa… that is what he meant (smile).
  • Then one day, when there were a few people in between that were stepping away, and I looked straight into Master’s eyes and saw everything.

Use, learn and please...let go

The way we use memory is very tricky. Even if we recap a just-finished conversation, it’s already digging into the Citta. Whether we’re looking back at what happened 10 seconds ago, or what happened 10 years ago, it’s still the same. The question to ask is, Is it worth going over again?

In the practice of Tratak, we learn the most important lesson about memories. Use, learn and please… let go!! Only when we let go, would we be able to savour the moment that is now. What a waste to forgo it while being arrested in the space of a past, that’s gone. Every second presents itself as a fresh new start, fresh new experience, fresh new opportunity to learn, discover, realise, grow and evolve… infinity. The very act of thinking or writing needs the help of Citta. I’m learning to use and let go. Thank you dear Master.