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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

“We Are As We Mind”
Dr. Ashok Gangadean

Dr. Ashok Gangadean, Professor of Global Philosophy at Haverford College, shares a reflection on the power of “mindfulness.”  

Ashok Gangadean is a world renowned global philosopher, author of several books, and spiritual activist. He is the Professor of Global Philosophy at Haverford College where he has taught for the past 54 years. He completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Brandeis University and his early work focused on Logic (Science of Thought) and Ontology (Science of Being). He is the Founder and Director of the ((Global Dialogue Institute)), and he is currently working on a new book: Awakening Global Enlightenment: The Maturation of our Species. Throughout his career he has been working to uncover the logic of communication and dialogue between diverse worldviews, religions, and perspectives. He gave this talk at Wednesday night chapel on March 16, 2022.

Religious studies teacher Jason Kunen shared this reflection with the community after the service:

I met Ashok Gangadean during my sophomore year at Haverford College in his Buddhist Philosophy seminar, and was immediately struck by the aura of wisdom that surrounded him. Throughout my career at Haverford I continued to study extensively with him, and eventually served as his teaching assistant during my senior year. Dr. Gangadean visited St. Andrew’s during my first year of teaching, and since then he has regularly met virtually with my students. He continues to inspire me to embody his level of insight and presence in my own life and teaching.

If I were to encapsulate Dr. Gangadean’s chapel talk in a phrase, it would be his expression, “We are as we mind.” At the heart of Global Wisdom as expressed by teachers across the planet is the insight that our world is shaped and created by how we use our mind. We have never been taught to pay attention to this phenomenon of consciousness. It is taken for granted and becomes molded by the multiplicity of narratives, worldviews, and influences that surround us. Yet, Dr. Gangadean asks to turn inward and ask if our “mindware is malware.” That is, could the way that we have been conducting our minds be contributing to the suffering, individually and collectively, that we witness in the world? 

Our wisdom teachers, speaking in different languages and at different times, converge on the realization that we have been stuck in a technology of mind that operates by objectifying Reality and takes itself to be the standard to which all else is compared and evaluated. Privileging one’s own lens prevents engaging with others in any genuine dialogue, for their worldview is presupposed to be false or unfeasible. As Professor Gangadean points out, such a way of thinking is antithetical to flourishing relationships, with ourselves, others, and even the environment. To experience Reality from a lens where everything we encounter is treated as an object—as an I-It relationship—prevents a deeper, more authentic encounter with Reality and everything in an I-Thou relationship.

Thus, when we reflect on the phrase “we are as we mind,” it should give us pause to ask: Am I in control of and do I identify with my thoughts, or are they controlling me? Am I aware of the thoughts, narratives, and beliefs that influence my actions and reactions? How does my mind shape the way I experience the world? Is there a different way of using my mind that is more wholesome and attuned with Reality? Answering these questions requires self-awareness and a willingness to pay attention to our mental habits. Practicing this self-awareness—what we might call mindfulness—brings a heightened level of intentionality in body, speech, and mind. We begin to cultivate a new presence that is sensitive, compassionate, and curious. If “we are as we mind,” then changing the way we conduct the mind transforms not only our experience of the world, but allows us to become the change we wish to see in it.