When I was about five, I got knocked over by a taxi.
I remember it very clearly: my mum and I were crossing a road outside King’s Cross station; the lights changed when we were halfway across, and the taxi driver got impatient and nudged forward onto the crossing. The front of the car bumped into my mum; she bumped into me; I fell over. My mother, naturally, got very cross and started yelling at the taxi driver (this bit was rather entertaining).
As a result of this experience, I developed a deep distrust of taxi drivers and nursed this resentment for at least the next ten years. Then, for some reason, the topic came up in conversation, and I said to my mum, ‘Remember that time I got knocked over by a taxi?’
She said, ‘No: I don’t remember that.’ I described it in detail, but she was adamant: ‘Believe me, if someone had run my daughter over there is no way I would ever forget it!’
That was when I realised that the whole thing had never happened at all: I must have dreamt it and, being so young, been unable to distinguish the dream from reality. I had spent a decade being annoyed about something that took place only in my head. All that anger towards taxi drivers had absolutely no basis.
This is actually true of all our delusions: they are all completely without basis in reality. The object they focus on does not actually exist, because what we see is an exaggeration of what is actually there.
The deluded mind of hatred, for example, views another person as intrinsically bad, but there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad person. Desirous attachment, on the other hand, sees its object of desire as intrinsically good and as a true source of happiness. If we have a strong craving to eat chocolate, chocolate appears to us to be an intrinsically desirable object. However, once we have eaten too much of it and start to feel sick, it no longer seems so desirable and may even appear repulsive. This shows that in itself chocolate is neither desirable nor repulsive. It is the mind of attachment that projects onto it all kinds of desirable qualities and then relates to it as if it really did possess those qualities.
~ Eight Steps to Happiness
We exaggerate good and bad qualities and this gives rise to attachment and anger; but the greatest exaggeration of all is exaggerating the way in which things exist. In just the same way that my dream taxi driver formed the basis for what seemed like a totally justified anger, so too all the dream-like appearances of our daily lives are misinterpreted as a valid basis for our negative thoughts.
All our delusions are called ‘mistaken awarenesses’ because their objects appear to them to be truly existent when in fact they are not. Everything is just a mere appearance to our mind that arises from our karma, but we exaggerate its degree of existence and believe it to exist separate from the mind. This ignorance then forms the basis for all the further exaggerations: we go from ‘this is truly existent’ to ‘this is truly good’ or ‘this is truly bad.’
Really and truly… just like my taxi driver.