The Art Of Positive Thinking: How To Think (3)

Published: 18.12.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015

It is very pleasant today, drizzling and light showers. How delectable is a drizzle after sizzling heat! It is the nature of weather to change. Sometimes it is hot, at other times cold. Nothing in the world is eternal; everything undergoes a change. Man too is sometimes calm, at other times inflamed. Such is the inevitable law of change. Everything changes. Our thoughts too change. Some people say that thought is eternal. There is a contradiction here, for thought and eternity do not go together; no thought lasts forever; it cannot stay for long; it gives way to another. It is variable and what is variable cannot be constant.

Change and fixity may coexist in matter, but whatever is in motion cannot be stationary and what is stationary cannot be in motion. What is eternal is not subject to change, and that which is subject to change cannot be eternal. Thought is inconstant, ever on the move. It is said that a particular man has changed his mind. There is nothing surprising about it. On the contrary, it would be surprising if the mind did not change. It is the nature of the mind to change. The reigning idea of yesterday gives way to some new thought. The present conception will not last till tomorrow. If a man clings 16 one idea all his life, he is said to be a fanatic. It is the nature of thought to move constantly, to be variable and transient. Some people accept a belief and stick to it for life. They even feel proud of it, saying to themselves, "I am a man of strong character. I don't change. I stick to my view at all costs." Such people think they are being very wise; however it is foolish to be so rigid. A stone is hard, not pliable, and one's bones too may grow rigid and hard like stone. In this is involved great danger. If the bones are flexible, a man keeps in good health: it is a sign of ill-health when the bones grow rigid. The more pliant one's bones, the healthier one is. The hardening of the spinal cord signifies loss of health. So clinging to one thing may be sheer obstinacy. In the absence of right thinking, one cannot differentiate between right and wrong. What is right appears to be wrong and vice versa. Some people never discover that they have been behaving foolishly all through.

A young wife said to her neighbour, "Many women these days find fault with their husbands. This is wrong. One should not criticise one's husband before others. My own husband is a lazy lubber, a thorough good-for-nothing. He is also very foolish, but I never talk of it!"

The field of thought is grossly perverted. A man goes on committing one folly after another, without once realizing that he is being silly. On the contrary he seeks to justify every action of his, even though it be riddled with all sorts of contradictions and incongruities» rank foolishness often appearing in the garb of wisdom. No such thing in the inanimate world.

There are three different states of thinking –

  1. Irrational
  2. Rational and
  3. Supra-rational.

The state of irrationality is that in which an individual is simply incapable of thought. Sub-human creatures know not how to think. Even among humans there are idiots - these do not know how to think; they are simply incapable of thought.

The second state is that of thinking in which a living being exercises his mind, entertains impressions and opinions. The third state is that of thought transcended. This is the state of meditation where all thinking comes to an end. No imagination, no memory, no reflection! This is the state of thought-transcendence. The experiencing of such a state in which thought is completely absent is a wordless realization, which brings forth super-consciousness, which is beyond the senses, the mind and the intellect. This super-consciousness is an extrasensory state of mind. Here the soul is the only object of experience, all other memories vanish. It is an ultra-psychic condition which no words can describe. This state can only be experienced. All that falls within the sphere of the intellect can be expounded in words, but the world beyond the intellect is beyond language. All expression thereof is inadequate. At the same time, one cannot remain silent about it; it seems to demand expression. To talk about it or not is man's dilemma. However, the world we live in is a world of intellect and thought, which is beset with many paradoxes; a person says one thing today, and something quite different tomorrow.

Churchill once said, " A perfect politician is he who says one thing in the morning, repudiates it in the evening, but with such tact as to convince his hearers that he spoke the truth on both occasions."

Contradiction is inevitable in the field of thought; each argument can be countered. Logic is ever exposing contradictions. That indeed is the office of logic. However, logic or thought is never productive of unanimity or harmony; instead, it creates paradoxes, for that is how thought moves. To expect stability in the dualistic world of thought is to be caught in illusion. It is to be far removed from fact, for conflict is inherent in thought, contradiction being its chief characteristic. We are here considering the nature of thought which is sometimes good, at other times evil; sometimes constructive, at other times destructive. We are interested in reducing to the minimum the element of destructiveness in thought; that is why we are posing the question, "What is right thinking?"

The question involves the purification of the mind, of thought itself. By emptying the mind of all thought, by maintaining our balance, we can make our thinking constructive and creative. We can thus reduce the element of destructiveness in it, whereas thought, which has in it the seed of contradiction and conflict, ever sullies the mind and destroys its purity. As the mind becomes silent ' with the emptying of thought, it progressively grows more subtle and refined; all its incongruities and contradictions gradually dissolve. There is no other way to achieve this purification.

There is the old legend of an extraordinary blanket, which existed two thousand and five hundred years ago. It cost a fortune - more than a hundred thousand sovereigns. Why so costly? Because it was an air-conditioned blanket - it cooled in summer and warmed in winter. It was cleaned, not with water but with fire. The blanket was flung into the fire and all the dirt would go out of it. Unless it was so treated, it would not be clean. Similarly, the dirt of accumulated thought could not be got rid of through water, nor could one thought be purified by another; nor intellect or logic could make thought clean. For clearer thinking, for the purification of the mind, thought must be consigned to the fire of emptiness - a condition of total freedom from thought. Then all the refuse would clear of itself, and the mind will become fresh and creative. It would become constructive, imbued with faith, energy and light.

Thinking born of fear is ever negative and destructive. A fearful man is incapable of right thinking; fear dulls his mind and heart; his thinking becomes blunted. It would be idle to expect a fear-ridden brain to function normally. Such a brain cannot think constructively. The first condition for sane thinking is total freedom from fear. The mind must be absolutely fearless, and the brain, and indeed the whole environment, must be free from fear. Only in the right atmosphere will sane thinking become possible. A man oppressed by fear cannot think straight.

Why are you afraid? Why is main ridden by fear? In fact fear is the outcome of wrong thinking. A man's individuality is determined by his thought. He has accepted certain ideas and beliefs and the whole environment is vitiated by fear. A man who has understood even a little bit of spirituality, whose dry and anguished existence has been even slightly touched by the grace of religion, cannot but be fearless. He who is not fearless cannot be spiritual or religious; he cannot be sane. Fear is the root of all disease, of all conflict and of unspirituality. Can a fearful man experience truth? People talk of soul and of God endlessly, but they live in illusion. How can a man ridden by fear know anything of highly subtle and supra-sensual elements? The mind is never free of fear - fear of ill-health, fear of old age, fear of death and of separation; fear of loss of things and persons - the mind is ever dominated by fear and the power of consciousness quite overthrown thereby, and one talks of soul and of God! Will the soul manifest itself in a state of fear? Never. Fear can only give rise to a goblin; it cannot lead us to soul or God. Fear is the creator of evil spirits; with many people, it takes the form of a ghost or demon. It is a kind of mental projection; in the very moment of fear, a ghost begins to take shape before our eyes; it is the projection, the image, the reaction of a fear-afflicted mind. Is such a mind capable of any subtle penetration?

Lord Mahavir pronounced a subtle truth. He never said that non-violence alone constituted religion, despite the common belief. On the basis of my own understanding I can say that Lord Mahavir emphasized much more the importance of fearlessness than of non-violence. The spirit of non-violence is implicit in fearlessness; without fearlessness this spirit cannot manifest itself in life. A coward can never be truly non-violent. The man who is too much attached to life, who is afraid of dying, cannot be non-violent. A friend said the other day that the Jains in India almost outnumbered the Sikhs and yet the Sikhs managed to get their way while nobody paid any heed to the Jains. I said, "I don't want to enter into a lengthy discussion, but one thing is clear. The Sikhs are not afraid of dying; the Jains are. It has been reported that in the time of British rule, the English were opposed to the construction of a Gurudwara in Delhi. They were the absolute masters. And yet when the Sikhs began to offer sacrifices, the British Government was quite unnerved, and was compelled to grant permission. Nothing is impossible where there is no fear of death; for all incompetence owes its existence to this fear. One is greatly attached to life and is, therefore, afraid to die. But is one's removal from the scene, of much moment? Will one's death unpeople the world? Who cares! Of course, when a man is alive, his friends and relatives pretend to love him forever. But who remembers him after death? For a few days, there is a formal exhibition of grief; then all is forgotten. Once a year, on the occasion of the death anniversary, people do perfunctorily pay a tribute to the memory of the dead, "He was a good man", they say, "May his soul rest in peace!" That is all. As long as a man is infatuated with life, he cannot think straight. The first condition of constructive thinking is complete freedom from the fear of death.

Most of us are too fond of intellectual discussion. We give a great deal of importance to it. But a discussion without practical work by oneself is of little value. We churn the curd and butter comes out of it. But often there is no curd, and a man goes on turning the water. Sometimes there is not water even - only an empty vessel and the churning stuff. At times there is not even a vessel, nor the churning rod - all is imagination. And we hope to get butter out of it! For butter, we need the curd as well as the churning. Mere intellectual discussion is like churning the water. There is no curd, but the churning is going on. There is the empty vessel, or the vessel is filled with water. Discussion must be combined with practical work. No mere theory would do, practice must go with it.

There are two aspects of education (I say it on the basis of experience and ancient tradition) - theory and practice. Learn the theory and put it into practice! Then alone full understanding comes. Many people come to me in a hurry. They would say, "Sir, I have to go back immediately. I can hardly spare a few minutes. My mind is utterly restless; I am much perplexed, facing a great many problems. Kindly teach me the way to make the mind tranquil." I tell such a one, "You are an extraordinary creature. You have a tremendous problem on your hands - the problem of the mind, and you want a solution within two minutes! I don't possess a magic wand. I don't believe in sudden explosions of energy. Nor would mere blessing do the trick. I only believe in awakening a spiritual practitioner's own intelligence; I want to activate his own valour, so that he ardently seeks the truth on his own which alone is the liberating factor. One of the maxims of preksha meditation is: 'Find out the truth for yourself.' Let each individual find out the truth about himself. Let him not depend on anyone. Dependence upon another can prove very dangerous. Mutual dependence is a necessity of life. But there is a limit to it. Complete dependence upon another is often harmful. One must not depend even upon a guru beyond a certain point. Nor leave it to the guru to do everything, or one is in for disappointment. One must not depend even upon one's own father. What will you do when the father is no more? The father is not there for all time, is he? After all one will have to stand on one's own feet. What is required is an awakening of the pupil's own wisdom. Some masters make tempting offers to their disciples; give out sweet assurances that everything would turn out well even without their doing anything. All that turns out to be delusion. The disciple later complains "Sir, what you assured me would happen, has not come to pass."

The very belief in a guru is misleading. Why do you take the guru's word for granted, and later you start complaining? Whether it is religion, or God, or the guru, whether it is one's own self, or another, there is a limit to belief. Up to a certain point you have to trust another. But going beyond the limit would create complications. It is said in the context of preksha meditation, "Find out the truth about yourself. Discover your own path to salvation!" We are of course here to provide limited assistance. If the engine of a motorbus fails, the passengers get down and give the bus a push so as to restart the engine. So far so good. But you have to go far. Will you keep pushing the bus all the way for a hundred miles? It is just not possible. The engine must work by its own power. An occasional push may be in order, but pushing all the time would be utter madness.

Total freedom from fear is our ultimate goal. We must be brave, without fear of any kind. The thinking of a person afflicted with fear can never be right, it stands vitiated by his fear.

Equanimous thought is balanced thought. Any kind of superiority or inferiority complex results in perverted thinking. The one great criterion for wholesome thinking is to determine whether thought is born of equanimity or not. It seems to me that two kinds of feelings dominate a man's life - like and dislike; craving and aversion. All thought is actuated by like or dislike. Totally unconditioned thinking is rare. Someone dear to us says something and we appreciate it fully; but the same thing uttered by an adversary inspires in us a feeling of contempt or fear. Why? We are enquiring into the nature of wholesome thought. Thought conditioned by feelings of like or dislike is not wholesome at all.

Many things happen in the course of life. Two factors influence them all - like and dislike, approval and disapproval. All our action is conditioned by these - passion or disgust, approbation or disapprobation, attachment or indifference, attraction or revulsion. There is no other motive for thought.

Man indulges in evil deeds or doubtful conduct; deceives others. Wherefrom do these tendencies originate? On the one hand operates attachment such as, "This is my family, my son, my wife - may they be happy! Let there be a bigger house, more money, no lack whatsoever." On the other hand, aversions prevail. Where there is 'like', 'dislike' is bound to be; the two go together. A man goes to the market and after a great deal of effort obtains pure ghee, because he does not want his son to partake of impure stuff. He does not want that his wife or other members of his family should consume adulterated foodstuffs. All because he is greatly attached to them. And yet the same person sells adulterated medicines to others, because he is indifferent to their fate; because he is not attached to them. Due to lack of affection, he indulges in corruption without any scruples. This feeling of attachment / unattachment powerfully affects one's approach and all perversions in thought and action originate there from. Without equanimity, all thought becomes shabby and the contradictions therein can never be resolved.

The chief function of meditation is to help a man go beyond like and dislike, beyond craving and aversion. It is to awaken in him a state of dispassion. Impartial and alert passivity in an individual is a great thing. Meditation, which fails to develop equanimity, is no meditation at all. Meditation is not mere entertainment; it is not merely relaxation or gratification; you sit idly, close your eyes and entertain no worry whatsoever. For 10 days you don't stir abroad; you squat immovably, rooted to the ground, in one fixed posture, and have complete rest. On being asked, one says it is wonderful! But what is the net result? What achievement, if any? To some meditation is nothing but mere relaxation and being confined to one place. When they go out of the meditation center, they continue as before, there is no change - the same world, and the same mischiefs. This kind of meditation is sorely limited by time and space. Even a naughty child grows quiet in sleep, barring some involuntary spasmodic movements. While sleeping, no man quarrels. In fact, in the state of sleep, every man appears to be virtuous. Of course, the evil-doer continues to harbour evil inside, but outwardly at least he does no harm while asleep. Evil dreams, imaginations and thoughts continue. With the conscious mind asleep, the unconscious becomes all the more active. But outwardly the evil-doer in sleep appears like any other person. As long as he lies asleep in bed, he cannot indulge in evil conduct, he tells no lies, nor tricks another; nor uses bad language - he does nothing whatever. In the unconscious state induced by sleep he keeps away from doing harm.

Meditation, however, is no true meditation, if it does not bring about a complete transformation, if it does not purify one's thought or alter for the better one's whole approach. If, once outside the meditation center, there is no change in one's conduct, then such meditation is no more than sleep or unconsciousness.

Meditation on the other hand constitutes an awakening, a complete rousing of inner consciousness. The conscious mind becomes inert, but the inward consciousness becomes so active and expands so much that it transcends all conditioning. It remains steadfast and unchanging. If a meditator keeps tranquil enough in the meditation hall, but on returning home continues fighting and quarrelling, his family would rightly look upon such a person and his meditation with misgiving.

In the field of religion we witness a number of reactions. It is said that today's intelligent man does not care for religion. Such a reaction arises from the realization that the practice of religion hardly makes any difference. One practises religion for 50 years but there is no change in one's life. What is the utility of a religion like that? If there is no transformation whatever, religion loses all validity. A religion whose practice or non-practice makes little difference, can command no allegiance. If plunging your foot into the fire, or not plunging it comes to the same thing, who will dread fire? However, fire burns and so people avoid putting their feet into the fire. Because of its peculiar quality, fire demands attention and people tread it with care.

Religion too must become like fire to attract people's attention. If religion today holds no attraction for the modern man, it is because it has been divorced from meditation. Religion is no longer allied with inner consciousness. Mere outward conformity to meaningless rituals has rendered religion insignificant. Buried under ashes, the spark loses its power. Only when the ashes are shed off is the flame reignited. Meditation is a process of shedding off the ashes. Light manifests itself in a man who succeeds in removing the ashes and his thinking then is mature and responsible, like gold purified of all dross, imparting lustre to his whole life and conduct.

The approach is all-important. And for inculcating the right approach, one must go into what thought is and what transcends thought.

Title: The Art Of Positive Thinking
B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.
Reprint Edition:
R.K. Seth

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Brain
  2. Consciousness
  3. Delhi
  4. Environment
  5. Equanimity
  6. Fear
  7. Fearlessness
  8. Ghee
  9. Guru
  10. Mahavir
  11. Meditation
  12. Non-violence
  13. Preksha
  14. Preksha Meditation
  15. Soul
  16. Space
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