The Art Of Positive Thinking: The End-Product Of Thought

Published: 21.12.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015

Life is being and becoming. We exist, that is being. We desire, that is becoming. Each man wants to be something other than what he is; no man is fully contented with his lot - he wants to rise higher and still higher in life; he does not want to stagnate in one position forever. This desire to be something gives rise to numerous possibilities. Becoming involves effort - a search for new ways of living, ending of laxity and the creation of a new environment. Man wants to attain the truth, he longs for success, health and growth - he wants all these.

It is man's nature to be preoccupied with results. It is this preoccupation with results that has given birth to a number of problems in the past as well as in the present - problems which apparently are insoluble. Man wants to achieve a certain result or he wants to do away with a certain situation or he wants to change it. And he wants to do all this on the basis of certain ideas he has arrived at. His whole attention is concentrated on achievement; natural aptitude or inclination is often quite ignored.

A newly appointed official was informed that the villagers have had an excellent potato crop. He went to inspect and saw field after field covered with green leaves. "What, just leaves! But where is the crop?" he exclaimed, "You have misinformed me. You said you have had an excellent crop, but here are mere leaves and no potatoes at all. What makes you tell lies to me?" At this the villagers laughed and said, "Sir, potatoes grow underground; above the ground you find only leaves. Dig into the soil and you'll find potatoes everywhere."

The foliage above ground furnishes no idea of the crop below. Our mind is so disposed that we have only a superficial view of things; we do not try to go deeper. Without going deeper we shall not know the truth. The ultimate lies within. We must learn to distinguish between disposition and essential nature. The essential nature is fundamental. Only by laying hold of the essence, the fundamental nature of a person, can we understand his disposition and a comprehension of a man's disposition goes a long way towards an understanding of his final destiny. Mere preoccupation with an effect can be misleading and productive of illusion. We want to do away with anger; we want to remove all evil, ignorance, indiscipline, aggressive mentality, acquisitiveness and other ills. Not only we, but the whole society and the government want that. And yet all these evils continue to flourish. They seem to multiply despite our efforts to end them. Where do they get support from? Man is moving towards destruction. Evils are waxing strong every minute. Why this retrogression? What perpetuates evil and how is it that man cannot cope with it? What is it that he lacks? That is the big question confronting us. It seems to me that we have never seriously gone into this question. Had we done so, we might have discovered the truth about it and resolved the issue long ago. But we seem to be concerned only with removing evil, not with understanding it. Violence is an effect, an outward manifestation. So is anger, so is all evil. A man hoards money or indulges in adulteration. These are merely consequences. We want to do away with a particular result, without understanding the cause thereof. As long as the cause is there, the effect is bound to follow. If the root is not dissolved, the result flowing there from would remain. Anger does not come of itself; behind it lies a particular disposition, and behind that the fundamental nature of the person concerned. The inner overcomes the outer. We cannot remove outward evil without bringing about a fundamental inner transformation.

The psychologists have analysed man's essential nature. A particular nature gives rise to certain tendencies, with certain consequences. All scriptures too speak not of mere outward change, but deep inner transformation. I have also posed this question before would-be ascetics - those who want to renounce family and home to become ascetics. "Is it possible" I asked "to achieve non-violence or continence or non-acquisitiveness through an effort of will?" They say it can be done. We exercise our will. We determine not to indulge in violence or sex, not to tell a lie, not to steal, or not to be acquisitive.

Well, I resolve to do or not to do something. I take a vow, for example, not to tell a lie. But is that any guarantee that I will no more tell lies, or give way to anger? If one could ensure non-violence through mere exertion of one's will it would be wonderful. Each man would take a vow not to remain poor, to annihilate poverty - and there would be no more poverty! One could resolve to remove a particular evil, but mere resolution docs not end it. It would be wonderful if the mere utterance of a word could accomplish results. But the fact is that we have no magic wand that would instantly bring forth all that we desire. Mere determination would riot do.

The religious thinkers went into the matter and have offered a way - the disciplining of the mind, of the body and the tongue. With discipline comes fulfilment. If the mind is still, non-violence comes into being. If the mind is pure and still, continence follows; also non-greed. But if the mind is restless, if it wanders like a monkey, if it is running after various objects, preoccupied with, persons and things, how can there be non-violence or continence? Behaving like a monkey would not bring it forth. If it were so simple, I would urge the whole world to take to the monastic life; none should remain outside the fold. Just pronounce a word and the tiling, whatever it is, is done! But in reality, it is not so. And a spiritual practitioner who tries to go forward without first maturing his meditation, is often obliged to retrace his steps.

There was a rat, which lived in great fear of the cat. A sage conferred upon it a boon, which transformed it into a cat. Having become a cat, it was no longer afraid of the cat but it was constantly haunted by the fear of the dog. The sage then turned it into a dog. After some time the sage said, "Now you must be utterly without fear." The rat said, "How can I be free from fear? The lion frightens me now." Thereupon the sage transformed it into a lion. But the fear was still not gone. The rat told the sage, "I'm no longer afraid of any other animal, but I'm still afraid of the hunter. Yes, I fear the hunter." Thereupon the sage asked, "What is it you want? Shall I transform you into a man?" The rat said, "Oh no! I have now seen for myself that every situation brings with it its own fear; there is no situation without fear, whether one is a cat, a dog, a lion or a hunter. Let me be my own self." The sage said, "Be it so!" And it became a rat again.

Fear would not go, whatever one might achieve. Without a change in his fundamental nature, man might become anything, it makes no difference. Only by getting rid of the root of fear, can a man be free of fear.

The importance of man's fundamental character, his essence, must be fully recognised. And it is only through discipline that man's nature undergoes a change. There are three kinds of discipline - the control of the mind, the control of speech and the control of the body. Violence is one consequence of our inner nature. As long as a man is caught in craving and aversion, it is not possible for him to be truly non-violent. Nor can he be truly continent: nor, as long as he is bound by like and dislike, can he be truly non-possessive. Our essential nature spells out our outer disposition. Our whole conduct is governed by our fundamental nature which gives rise to a particular mode of behaviour, which in turn brings about certain results. It is a complete cycle, no one link whereof can be considered in isolation apart from the others.

The human problem is complicated by the fact that we want to bring about only superficial changes. Even the so-called religious people are out for material results, wiping off an undesirable effect and not the cause thereof. A man subject to fits of indignation straightaway wants to know how he can get rid of anger altogether. He says, "I really want to give it up for ever. I don't want to quarrel."

But anger is merely an effect; something else lies behind it. We must enquire into the root of anger; there may be some physical, psychological or material cause behind it. Anger is rooted in the past. There is a conditioning factor, a particular tendency, like or dislike, which gives rise to a particular mode of conduct. A man is attached to someone, or hates another, or he is afraid of one and loves another. All these tendencies arise in him and bring about particular results. When there is strife or controversy in the family, the members are advised not to quarrel or dispute among themselves. Such advice often falls flat upon them. People are boiling inside; they are out for a quarrel, all the causes of anger are active in them. Under the circumstances, how can they desist from fighting? You put fuel into the oven and light the fire, and then expect that there should be no heat or flame! How is it possible? Fire and heat are results flowing from the action of lighting the fuel. If you want to do away with the heat, you have to extinguish the fire. We do not want to quench the fire and yet seek to evade the heat! This is contradictory. Ways are often sought to get rid of a particular result immediately. Such efforts do not last long, and seldom prove effective. If we look at our problems and the ways in which we try to meet them, we shall find that all the time we are exclusively concerned with getting or doing away with particular results. So we go round and round, and the problem is never resolved. We never discover the root cause. We find ourselves caught in great illusion. The fundamental cause is there right in front of us, but we never perceive it. Our thinking is so vitiated that everything serves to distort our perception all the more.

A man took his wife to the election officer with the complaint that her name was not to be found on the electoral rolls. The officer examined the rolls and said that her name appeared in the list of persons since dead. The wife flared up, "Here I stand alive before you; how can you put my name among the dead?" The husband said, "You stupid! Do you think such a high official is telling a lie? What an irony of fate! The root cause lies right before us, but we prefer to trust the official instead of paying heed to the living. All the jingoistic impulses are alive in us - the impulse to quarrel, to indulge in anger, pride, or possessiveness; all the impulses productive of evil are thriving within us. We trust the big official - he cannot tell a lie! We put our belief in a religious leader who tells us to seek refuge in him, so as to end all pain. We would rather seek the easier course in utter disregard of our inner compulsions. But if we really want to resolve our problems, we cannot afford to be exclusively preoccupied with effects. For the moment we are not concerned with effects or their removal. Rather we concentrate on the secret impulses; as to what particular impulse gives rise to what particular mode of conduct. We need not consider achieving a particular effect. That effect is bound to occur of itself. Why strive for that which is bound to happen of itself, irrespective of our efforts? How great is man's illusion! He strives for that which requires no striving; and the thing he must concentrate upon, which will effect a complete transformation in him, which will turn him into a good man, which will bring peace of mind, on which depends his success or failure, progress or deterioration, tranquillity or disquiet, the attainment of truth or otherwise - that priceless jewel, the very origin and starting point of all creativity, he quite ignores. The technique of meditation is the technique of discovering that originating pint; it is not the technique of achieving a particular result. The result-seekers, those who are after some immediate gain, wholly preoccupied with and constantly brooding on the problem of the moment, will never be able to master this technique; nor shall they ever perceive the deep significance of meditation. Unless one can look at a problem in the context of the whole, things are bound to go awry, and the problem is never resolved.

We have laid down five principles of right thinking. The first is holistic perception - a total view. If our vision is whole, we become receptive to truth and consequently attain it. But if our approach is partial or biased, all our efforts to arrive at the truth are doomed to failure. In that case, whatever we seize upon as truth ultimately turns out to be a partial view, not objective truth. And it all results in futile controversy. In fact no field, whether political, philosophical or social, is free from controversy. And all controversy is born of narrow prejudice. Each system of philosophy, each individual is intent upon establishing the superiority of a particular tradition over others. The tradition itself may be good, and it is also right to have faith in a good tradition; however, a one-sided approach is not palatable to the discerning. It is also true that no words can contain the whole truth and any truth embodied in words becomes somewhat vitiated. It is a partial truth and though it may have its good points, yet it is not whole - the whole truth beggars description; it cannot be put into words. Truth is infinite whereas language is finite. No dictionary contains more than two to three lakhs of words. Language at all times is a limited medium. How can a limited medium (a few lakhs of words) adequately express the unlimited? Can the infinite be enclosed in finite terms? Impossible!

People talk about the soul, but they get confused. They talk about the Supreme Reality and stand perplexed. The man who seeks to perceive the soul through verbal definition is bound to be disappointed; likewise those who seek to describe the Supreme Soul in technical terminology. The word can never describe that which is beyond the word. It would be idle for a foreigner not rooted in the son, to seek to represent the nation. He would command no recognition whatsoever. Similarly, a language is inherently incapable of representing the truth. It may be likened to a blind man's staff. Because he is incapable of vision, the blind man feels his way around with the help of his stick. Undoubtedly the stick has some utility. But while giving the stick its due importance, we must be on our guard against giving it more. It is true that without language social contact would be impossible; we shall not be able to establish right relationships; we shall not be able to accomplish any work. So language has to be accorded its rightful place. But we must not lose sight of the fact that its capacity is for ever limited. Something is expressed in words. But the nature of language is such that it might confuse instead of making things clear. Words have a way of causing confusion, and a man is caught unawares. How can one hope to arrive at the highest truth through such an unreliable medium? The very coining of words like the Truth, the Highest Truth, seems to be indicative of our mental confusion. What is after all the nature of the entity that talks about the soul? What is it that speaks? The soul itself is silent and does not manifest itself. It abides deep within, the subtlest of the subtle. Then what is it that gives expression to it? There is a big question mark about it.

So we must not put immoderate trust in language; nor in the mind. A man comes up and says, "I want to talk about the soul." I ask, "Why?" He answers, "I want to know it." Others too express a desire for soul-realization. I invariably say, "Do you really want to realise your soul? Or do you merely want to talk about it." All of them maintain they are interested in self-realization, not in merely talking about it. But if you really want to experience your soul, practise meditation. Let your mind be tranquil, quiet, let your body be motionless, still. Get to the door which leads to the soul, i.e., come to know the body first. It is strange how some seekers of the supreme truth want to have nothing to do with the door. They want to experience the soul direct. Well, the direct approach is all right; one needs no intermediary to take one to Truth, but then one has to traverse the way, every inch of it, by himself. You cannot jump into the truth without traversing the whole path. Most of us have taken it for granted that he who talks about the soul or God is the true seeker; and he who talks about the body, goes astray. "The body is dirty, not worth talking about," we say.

I find that those who practise control of the mind, of speech and the body, ultimately realise the soul and the Supreme Reality; others go on talking about these for years together and never come to know either soul or Truth. On the contrary, a vast confusion overtakes such idle talkers and they never can find a way out.

Ordinarily a man gets preoccupied with the things of the moment, renders himself incapable of holistic perception, without which there can be no real progress.

Four friends were taking a journey together. The three of them were scientists, and the fourth one a layman. To be a scientist is one thing, to be wise quite another. The scientists were not wise, but the fourth man who was not a scientist was nevertheless very wise! While walking in the forest, they found the skeleton of a lion, the sight whereof inspired their scientific curiosity, and they immediately wanted to do some experimentation to see if they could enkindle life in the dead skeleton. They sat together in consultation with one another. One of them said, "I'll provide this skeleton with skin and flesh." The second scientist said, 'Til make the blood flow in it." The third said, "Well, I shall breathe life into it." The fourth man said, "Very good. But let me first climb up a tree!" So the fourth man climbed up a tree and witnessed the doings of his three friends. Each one of the three performed his experiment, made good his word, with the result that they found themselves confronting a roaring lion. The lion was hungry and appeased its hunger by devouring the three scientists standing before him. The fourth friend, the non-scientist, wisely kept his perch and escaped death.

We must inculcate a total view. A partial view would not do. If our perception is one-sided and not whole, our impulses and actions and the consequent results cannot be good. Holistic perception implies thinking not solely dictated by one's instinct, nor wholly based upon one's inherited disposition, nor with a view to achieving a particular result alone. Rather a total view would embrace all the three aspects together.

Behavioural psychology commands great prestige today, Man's inner states and instincts are being studied on the basis of his conduct. It appears that man is at last moving in the direction of total perception. A child does riot obey his parents, is very insolent, quarrels with everybody, beats his younger playmates, calls them names. All these tendencies are found in him. His parents naturally want their child to be free of these tendencies. So the mother, as soon as she comes to know that her child has quarrelled with someone, slaps him. But does the evil tendency stand removed thereby? If it could be so removed all the children would stand reformed in no time. But, generally speaking, the more they are punished, the more recalcitrant and rebellious they become, instead of being reformed. The children grow worse. Why this deterioration? Because we are solely concerned with achieving a particular result instead of understanding the child's essential nature. The mother is interested only in curbing a particular tendency in her child. She does not want her child to quarrel or to be disobedient or undisciplined. She wants to change his outward conduct. But will the child's disposition change? Until the child's essential character is transformed, the tendency would remain. So all our effort should be concentrated on bringing about a fundamental transformation in the nature of the child. In the context of preksha meditation, we stress the fact that in order to change a child's disposition, we must carefully study his fundamental nature. Until the pituitary and thyroid glands are activated, no amount of effort will bring about a transformation in the child. There is only one way to do it. In order to change a child's habits, make him concentrate on the Darshan Kendra (the Centre of Intuition) and his disposition will automatically change. The change in disposition can be wrought only by changing the fundamental nature, which would release a different kind of action with different results. People are generally very rigid. Instead of going in for total comprehension, they mostly rely on a half-truth and take a decision on the basis of a partial view. They revel in their ignorance and do not listen. On mere hearsay, they would take a stand. "He said so?" they would mumble angrily. When he said it, in what context, in what tone, under what circumstances, they do not want to inquire. If only they would take the trouble to inquire, the whole thing would perhaps appear in a different light, leaving no room for anger or pride. But nobody seems to be interested in knowing the whole truth. A mere supposition would make a man flare up. "So he said this; I'll teach him a lesson! I shall make him eat his words." The conflict has begun, and sometimes a whole life is wasted in such trivial controversies, adversely affecting society as a whole.

The parents wanting to bring about a transformation in their children, or the teachers in their pupils, or the political leader in the masses, generally concentrate on changing the outer circumstances. They are mostly preoccupied with achieving a particular result. They would emphatically declare that there should be no smuggling, no black-marketing. This or that must not be allowed to happen or particular actions would not be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere. However, to think of changing certain actions with evil consequences without first bringing about a complete transformation in man's inherent inclination, is to live in illusion. If actions and effects could be so altered, our earth would have become a heaven before long. But it does not so happen. We must once for all realize the fact that there is no possibility whatever of changing the existing behaviour without first bringing about a transformation in man's inherent inclination, and that without changing the existing behaviour, the actual state of affairs would continue to be what it is. That is the whole truth. So let us inculcate this total view, which has three aspects - result, action, and inherited inclination or primal tendency. That is the order from above; if we start from below, the primal tendency as the fundamental cause, particular behaviour arising there from and particular results, the outcome of that behaviour, would form the chain of cause-effect in that order. We must experience these three truths together; we must concentrate our attention on these. In the field of religion, we are guilty of having committed a grave error in abandoning meditation altogether. We have adhered to things other than meditation. We do not seem to have any desire to transform our primal tendencies. We are after immediate gain. We say that a religious man must change. People often ask: "How is it that despite a great deal of religious revival, society has not changed"? But people may talk about religion for ages together; society is not going to change through mere talk. A society, a religious community that does not harbour any desire for fundamental transformation, will continue to writhe in pain; it cannot be awakened. Meditation was primarily discovered to enable man to change the inherent inclination, which gives birth to a particular disposition. Without a complete transformation of our primal tendencies, all our efforts to change the existing state of affairs are bound to fail.

In the field of education, efforts are on to effect vital changes in the brain; but no effort is made to change and refine man's primal tendencies.

We feel that a change of attitude and character is possible through the practice of meditation. Two kinds of delusions confront us in life - the delusion that perverts our attitude and that which sullies our conduct and behaviour - until we remove these, we shall not be able to bring about- any refinement in our outlook or character. Those who have come here to practise Preksha Meditation and experience the truth for themselves, must clearly understand that their primary objective is not to annihilate anger or pride, or any other visible evil; rather they are here to investigate their true nature which alone is responsible for all that happens to them. What happens to a man happens to him because he is the kind of man he is. The man himself must undergo a transformation for the present state of affairs to change.

One man said to another, "I saw your wife talking to her lover." The second man immediately flared up. He picked up his gun and said, "Where are they?" The first man said "In the garden." The other man immediately started for the garden in great rage. He would shoot them both dead, he said. Then, as he reached the garden, he recollected with a shock, "Oh, what a fool am I! I've no wife! I'm not yet married!"

There is the general belief that a wife cuckolding her husband deserves to be shot dead. The mind is heavily conditioned by it, and the very idea of an unfaithful wife is maddening and inflames a man so that he quite loses his reason and does not even stop to inquire into the truth of the matter. One thought absorbs him to the exclusion of everything else: he must avenge the insult to his manhood!

Such is the atmosphere that prevails today. Inflamed by passion and subscribing to current conventions, a man takes decisions in a state of sleep walking-without really knowing what he is doing.

Let meditation bring about an awakening in us so that we are capable of a total view and of dispassionate observation, and take the right decision and seek a resolution of our problems through full exploration and understanding of the root thereof.

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. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Brain
  4. Centre of Intuition
  5. Darshan
  6. Darshan Kendra
  7. Discipline
  8. Environment
  9. Fear
  10. Gun
  11. Kendra
  12. Meditation
  13. Non-violence
  14. Preksha
  15. Preksha Meditation
  16. Pride
  17. Soul
  18. Thyroid Glands
  19. Violence
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