Are we Conditioned?

We all have seen an elephant in a circus. You must have noticed the tiny chain by which it is tied to a pillar after the show is over. It looks so serene and comfortable in its confinement. Ever wondered why a huge elephant, which weighs over 1000 kg and has the strength to carry heavy loads, does not break the tiny chain and run away? It definitely can! And day…. But the elephant is conditioned to think that it cannot.

How is this conditioning achieved? When the elephant is a baby, it is tied with a heavy chain, which it cannot break, even though it ties. After some time, it stops trying because it starts believing that it cannot break the chain. So, even after the elephant grows up and gains enormous strength, it doesn’t try to break-free.

Similarly, we are also conditioned to believe in certain things from the time we were born. We start believing what we are capable of and what not. This is because we have been hearing people tell us what we can and cannot do. We believe everything to be true, and never true to experiment or take steps to change those views. Many of us spend our entire lives in such beliefs and never explore the storehouse of potential each one of us is born with.

When the Burmese invaders attacked Thailand, the people wanted to protect the golden statue of Buddha. So the people covered it with clay and plaster. The disguise was so convincing that no one ever suspected that there was something precious inside. And for a long time, it was cast aside and thought to be of little value.

In 1954, when a new temple was built in Bangkok, this large statue of Buddha made of clay was brought from another town. While the statue was lifted by a crane, it slipped, fell on mud and developed a crack. As the rain water fell on the cracks, they noticed something glittering inside. When the workmen carefully removed layers of plaster and clay, they found a beautiful golden Buddha inside. A monk even said that he had a dream in which he was told that the statue was divinely inspired.

Today, the Golden Buddha is seen at Wat Traimit Temple, which is one of Bangkok’s attractions for tourists.

Our true self is exactly like the golden Buddha which is hidden inside the layers of conditioning. Only when we are courageous enough to shed the layers will we find the ‘golden self’ hidden inside.

Various studies have shown that until the age of seven, our brains are in a dream like state and the mind is absorbing everything from its surroundings, with no filters to differentiate anything. It’s all just information which we record and store without processing. But as we grow, we start putting them in different categories, like good, bad, right, wrong, pretty, ugly, tall, short, and so on. Our subconscious mind accepts and stores what we consciously believe. It does not discriminate between good or bad, positive or negative, it absorbs everything that we feed it with, consciously.

To be successful and to find our true self, we have to get rid of limiting beliefs, and accept a new and empowering self belief that ‘we can overcome’, ‘that we can live to our potential’. We may have to work hard to peel off the layers of beliefs that are limiting us from our true self. It will be very difficult and may result in pain, just like when we peel off the layers of an onion. But if we want to reach the core, our true self, the layers have to be shed. No matter how painful, the conditioning has to be dropped.

(John Parankimalil is the Director of Don Bosco Institute of Management, Guwahati, Assam. He can be reached through his email –

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