I listened to a really interesting show on Being on NPR today.
To listen to the program, go here.
The host interviewed Mr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is the author of Coming To Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness.
The part of the program that I found profound was when Mr. Safina said that in Asian languages the word heart and mind are the same or interchangeable. In fact, this remark is true in Thai. I was just talking to one of my students yesterday and he said that on one occasion Tha Nation newspaper translated the King’s speech that a judge should use a”heart” to judge, while Bangkok Post translated the word as “mind.” In fact, the word combination “jai” (heart) are found the most in Thai language.
Perhaps, the best example can be seen in Khao-jai (to enter heart), which means to understand in Thai. This means that the cognitive process actually enters through the heart, rather than the brain.
Another intriguing point from the program was when the guest mentioned the idea that our perception of the world was through what happened to us at that point. If we received a bad news that we lost our loved one, then the world seemed to be crashing down. It seems that Mr. Safina feels that in Buddhism suffering and pain are acceptable and a reality of life. I was just thinking about Ecclesiastes’s “there’s time for everything,” when I heard that remark. We can’t just expect everything to always go our way. When it got to this point in the program, I felt like I was back in my secondary school where we were required to meditate for our Buddhism class twice a week, regardless of religion. For me, those mind exercise still helps me today to tune out and be contemplative when life seems to be overwhelming.
In brief, studying languages and spending time contemplating about its roots and origins can be really rewarding to a learner like when we discuss the word Jai (heart) today. When you learn a new language, you are, in one way or another, expanding your perception of the world.