Pause for Thought
17th April 1997
Yesterday was another one of the fasting days within Hinduism called Ramnavami. We have a whole range of fasts - short ones ‘til noon; and those that last all day. Not all Hindus follow the same calendar of fasting either, or follow them in the same way. So, we’re not always sharing the exact experience of abstinence together, which makes it a little bit harder.
It’s funny how the mind works. On any normal day, I can quite happily skip breakfast and maybe lunch as well without a thought; but when I’m fasting for a reason, my mind regularly reminds I’m hungry. If you have access to something, you don’t hanker; but if you deny yourself, that thing seems essential.
The Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, warns of these tricks of the mind. Just imagine, Terry, you arrive home and your wife announces that you’ve won the Lottery jackpot. Immediately, you’re euphoric. “Forget the BBC,” you say, “pack up the house - we’re off to Hawaii.” But then you check the numbers - and dear-oh-dear there’s a mistake. No jackpot, no Hawaii and back to the studio. From an initial neutral state, you rose to the heights of ecstasy, and then crashed to bitter disappointment. But, in reality, your life never changed from when you entered the door.
So much of our emotions are like that - ups and downs created purely in the mind. They aren’t in the here and now. We allow ourselves to be elated by fantasising future enjoyment and disappointed by failed fantasies.
But, if we are being swept along in constant emotional turmoil, we won’t understand life. We’ll lose perspective. We won’t see what’s important to be glad about, and what’s important to grieve for. And we may miss the lessons and growth that both can bring us.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on the Wogan programme Radio 2.