The Bus Leaves at Six: Use of an Ideal

The need for an ideal and the method of setting an ideal have been described in an earlier post. An ideal is used in the pursuit of self-development, the goal of which is maturity and self-sufficiency, enhanced empathy with others, and a deeper sense of satisfaction with life. The ideal is a goal that transcends our existing ego-centered demands, and its purpose is to draw us out of a narrow, egocentric view of life. An ideal is thus essential in keeping us on the path of self-development, and is employed to help us deal with our own mind.

With consistent application of the ideal comes a gradual improvement in the quality and nature of our thoughts, desires, and emotions. In setting and applying the ideal, the question of how to relate to the ideal is often raised. Setting an ideal is easier than using it correctly and consistently. So how is it done?

Consider an example. You go on holiday to a foreign city, staying at a hotel there. As part of your holiday activities, you take advantage of a free tourist bus service the hotel offers. At 6am you board the bus, perusing the tourist literature as you travel. You see opportunities to enjoy nature walks, bazaars, museums, theaters, and so on. As the group files off the bus, the tour guide reminds everybody: 'The bus leaves at 6!'

Now consider, how do you relate to the tour guide's final reminder? We don't force ourselves to remember the bus' departure time, maintaining a rigid state of mental attention on the idea. Nor do we mechanically repeat the idea over and over as some mindless mantra.  Rather, as we enjoy the unique experiences of the destination, there is simply a general, gentle awareness of the fact that the bus leaves at six. Calmly residing at the back of our mind, the thought does not interfere with our decision-making or enjoyment of the many experiences on offer. In fact it aids in our decision-making, giving us clarity on those activities that are appropriate given that we must get back to the hotel. We would not choose to enjoy a 2-hour play that begins at 4:30pm.

So too should our ideal be present in the mind in just this way. We do not force ourselves into a certain way of thinking, nor rigidly hold onto the thought. This suppresses other thoughts and feelings that demand their natural expression.  After a short period of time the effort becomes too much, the awareness is lost, and the suppressed material comes back with more force than it began with. "What is forced is never forceful."1 For the application of an ideal to be sustainable, it should be held with the same gentle, near-effortless effort with which we maintain 'The bus leaves at six.'

This subtle prominence in our awareness arises from the confluence of mind and intellect.  First is the intellect's conviction that the ideal itself is significant and valuable. Second is the mind's participation, a feeling that the ideal is something good and healthy. With adequate reflection upon the ideal, the inner personality becomes consistently integrated towards it. Self-development is the natural consequence.


1 A. Parthasarathy. (2011). Vedanta Treatise: The Eternities. Ch. 1