In the famous Buddhist painting titled the Wheel of Life, a monkey is shown swinging on the branch of a tree. This agile tree-dweller in the pious painting represents mind. However, monkeys seldom stay in a particular tree or hold on to a particular branch for a long time. The lovely primate’s hobby is to frolic around and jump unfailingly from one tree to another and from one branch to another.

Mind is, of course, worse than monkeys as far as ‘jumping’ is concerned. It’s a mere truism to mention that human mind is extremely volatile, switching from one thought to another at a vertiginous speed. At the end of any day, one would find it unenviable to count the number of thoughts that could have crossed his or her mind. Were it possible to bring to mind all thoughts of a day, they should outweigh one’s own weight. Thoughts, more often than not, can be a monkey on an individual’s back.

The other day at Swayambhunath, I bore witness to the mischief of a monkey. A giant female monkey first tried to grab some sweets from a kid. She then managed to snatch a banana from a devotee, scared the living daylights of a little girl by baring her teeth menacingly, jumped hurriedly atop a stupa and peeled the banana and ate it. She then climbed down to the floor and again up a Buddha’s statue — and for some obscure reasons, as if to feel the taste of nirvana, kissed the Buddha’s mouth - climbed down on to the floor again, picked up and stuck a baby monkey against her bosom, and moved towards Harati Temple to look after the worshippers’ offerings. Lo and behold! The whole drama lasted barely three minutes.

Thoughts are, therefore, for mind what trees and branches are for monkeys. Neither ceases to hop about unnecessarily. Whether one thinks enviably of Bill Gates’ fortunes or dreams lustily of Aishwarya Rai, climbs up the Great Wall or swims in the Seine — thoughts are always swirling inside our minds. Freeing our mind of thoughts is as hard as parting with our own shadows. Yet the Buddha, standing outside the Wheel of Life, preaches: ‘only taming of mind is enough…’ And by saying so, I bet, he frames out the toughest of all tasks for all mankind. After all, isn’t taming of mind is as hard as taming a monkey?