The Art Of Positive Thinking: Circumstances And Change Of Heart

Published: 31.12.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015

We live between the known and the unknown. There is the conscious mind and the unconscious. We know a little and there is a great deal, which we do not know.

A king fell ill. Physicians were called and the treatment began, but the king felt no relief. Then came a new physician who correctly diagnosed the kings disease and cured him. But one article of food was forbidden to the king; he was asked to abjure mangoes for ever, The day he took a mango, the disease would reappear with fatal consequences, he was warned.

Sometime later, the king, accompanied by his ministers and staff went for a stroll in the palace garden. It was the mango season. All the trees were laden with fruit. The air was redolent with the sweet smell of brightly-coloured mangoes. The king's mouth watered. His mind was divided: one part of it said, "I must get to the fruit!“ but another part said, "No, this is forbidden fruit!" He was caught between attraction and repulsion. He went another way but after some time was again tempted to go and lie down under the cool shade of a mango tree. Still the inner voice-counselled "No!"

Every man's mind is like that. Is there a man who is never caught in contradictory desires? To eat or not to eat, to do this or that? A part of the mind says, "I want to live in peace. I don't want to be embroiled in any quarrel." Yet, another part says, "When confronted with an evil-minded person, I cannot sit still. If a man calls me names, why should I not retort? Will it be right for me to allow the other person to indulge in all sorts of nonsense without any protest on my part? Am I made of clay or wax? I want to be left alone! But if the other person is out to tease me unnecessarily, I shan't spare him."

Such contradictory thoughts possess every man. To do or not to do? To eat or not to eat? A man has not one but a thousand minds. A devotee of nonviolence is sometimes possessed by violent thoughts, and a man given to violence is sometimes assailed by doubt and refrains from committing a violent deed. Similarly, a man committed to celibacy dreams of sensualities and an ardent voluptuary thinks °f embracing continence. What contradictory thoughts possess us! How many minds does a man have?

Lord Mahavir said, "Man has more than one chitt” - chitt meaning a fleeting disposition. In fact, there can be only one mind.

It is our vehicle, our tool, our means for action. The mind is one but the states of mind can be many. All kinds of tendencies rise in the mind, each tendency termed as one mind. Hence the concept of many minds. The mind in itself is one entity. However, because of different mental dispositions, it looks as if there are many minds. Freud rightly compared the human mind to an iceberg. The greater part of the iceberg, lying under the surface of the sea, is invisible. Only a small part of it is visible. The visible part is small but the invisible is very large. The known is limited, but the unknown is vast, unlimited.

Jung has compared the mind to a vast ocean. The conscious mind is just like an island in the vast ocean of unconsciousness, for it is the unconscious mind that constitutes the greater part. We analyse our conduct and behaviour with the conscious mind, which is forever partial and therefore false. Only the collective mind, the conscious and the unconscious constituting one whole, can offer a complete exposition. Freud used depth psychology for interpreting the unconscious mind; not the conscious but the unconscious mind is the subject of depth psychology. Every action is explained in terms of the unconscious; it is the unconscious that dictates man's conduct, not the conscious mind. The exposition of the sub­conscious mind as given in modern psychology was undertaken in Indian philosophy on the basis of the karma-doctrine, conscious­ness and chitt. In modern psychology no distinction is made between the chitt and the mind, but in Jain philosophy, the chitt is clearly distinguished from the mind. The term 'mind' connotes the conscious mind, whereas the 'chitt' stands for the sub-conscious. The 'mind' constitutes the upper layer which, touched by the chitt is generally taken for consciousness. It is, however, the chitt which represents the whole of consciousness, the conscious as well as the sub-conscious mind. The unconscious or the sub-conscious may be called chitt; the 'mind' stands for the conscious mind.

The king was caught in contradiction; a part of his mind urged him to approach the mango tree; another part counselled absti­nence. When two contradictory desires simultaneously assail a man, he stands puzzled and does not know what to do. One part of the mind says one thing, the second counsels something else, and the third still another. The conscious mind alone cannot compre­hend such a situation. Deep in the sub-conscious mind of the king, there was attachment, desire, which made him long for the sight of the mango tree, to inhale its fragrance, to eat the fruit thereof. This longing originated from great depths. The conscious mind remem­bered the physician's injunction and said to itself, "No mango-eating for me! No point in approaching the tree!" The struggle continued for a long-time. At last the unconscious won.

The king advanced towards the mango grove. His minister objected, "Sir, where are you going? You mustn't. It would not be for your good. There is no point in seeking a place you don't have to go to. Come away, Sir, to that yonder grove. There shall we rest under the cool shadow of the trees."

The king said, "My good minister, you are agitating yourself quite unnecessarily, running to an extreme. Excess of everything is bad. Let's adopt the golden mean. The physician only said, no mango-eating. Well, I'm not going to eat the fruit. Merely standing or sitting under the mango-tree is not forbidden, is it? Then why do you object to my walking towards the mango grove?"

The minister could do no more. It was his office to proffer right advice. But if the king would not listen to him, if he continued adamant, he (the minister) could do nothing. After all, the king was his master. So, the king went ahead and seated himself under a large mango tree, and said, "Come, dear minister, make yourself comfort­able. How pleasant it is to sit here! How cool! The shade here is so thick; no other tree affords greater shelter. The leaves of the mango tree are so broad! Could the short-leafed neem tree give out such a deep shade? Never!" After a little while, the king said, "O minister, look at the fruit above. What ripeness! What colour! How very gratifying to the eyes!"

The minister said, "Sir, why look at it at all? Why praise the fruit? You've done away with mango-eating. It is not for you. Come away!"

The king said in a huff, "What an extremist you are grown into! The so-called wise people often spoil all the fun! They bind you hand and foot - allow you no liberty whatsoever! Don't I know that mango-eating is forbidden to me? Mustn't I, on that account, even praise the fruit? Can't I even mention the fruit? Mustn't I bestow praise where it is due? Am I to be denied even that much freedom?"

Imagine the king lost in contemplation! His mind is sorely divided. The internal dialogue is on, one part of the mind saying, "Woe is me! Such delectable fruit and I can't come to it! How richly gratifying it would have been to eat mangoes to my heart's content! But no, something inside me tells me I mustn't." The king found himself in a dilemma. Just then a fully-ripened mango fell down from the tree plump into his lap. The king picked it up and began to survey it. The minister warned, "Your Majesty! What are you doing?"

The king retorted, "I haven't partaken of it, have I? I didn't pluck it; it fell down into my lap by chance. You area witness to that. I have done nothing. The mango came down of itself. Mango-eating Is not forbidden to you and yet the mango did not fall into your lap; Instead it has come to me. What an irony of fate! What a man cares for, often recedes from him; and the unwanted thing follows him like a shadow, I had no intention of plucking the mango and mango-eating is forbidden to me, and yet this mango has landed into my lap. Now, I'm not going to eat it. But may I not look at it even? Am I to be denied the luxury of smelling it? O how delectable, how delicious!" The king handled the fruit most tenderly. So many eyes on him! Blast them!

When the urge within grows dominant, all restraint falls away. The king kissed the mango-piece in his hand almost transfixed. Then his hand gradually moved towards his mouth. The minister withheld it instantly, saying, "Your Majesty! You don't know what you are doing! The physician has forbidden it. No mango-eating for you. A little bite would spell your doom; you'll die." And thus we find the king standing nonplussed, caught between two minds, one urging him to eat, the other to heed his minister's injunction not to eat. But let us not get involved too much with the story; we are only concerned with its moral.

The mind is full of contradictory ideas and desires, giving rise to confusion and disorder. A man finds himself in a dilemma. "What idea to follow, which desire to pursue?" he asks himself and there does not seem to be any clear answer.

There are several minds at work, not one; the mind at dawn, the mind at noon, and at evenfall. The mind at the midnight hour, the mind during sleep, the mind on waking are all different. Early in the morning, a man may say to himself, "I'm going to fast today." But as the lunch hour approaches and pungent smells from the kitchen greet one's nose, one finds oneself quietly sitting down to eat! "Fasting is good, but I'll fast tomorrow." How swiftly does the mind change!

The lack of an integrated mind, its continual restlessness and changeability could serve for us as a turning point, from which we could directly proceed to the exploration of the unconscious. The problem posed by the conscious mind can be resolved by the unconscious. If the mind were wholly conscious, it would not be so changeable. The known has limits, but the unknown is unlimited. Our conduct can be fully explained and understood only in the perspective of the vast unknown. Modern psychology has explored the unconscious and revealed how it functions. Thus modern psychology may be said to have moved from the gross everyday world into a subtler one. Without the concept of depth psychology, we would be limited by the known, palpable world of everyday living - only whatever is known, whatever is perceptible, whatever is au­dible, would have been the centre of our activity. However, the analysis of the unconscious mind takes a man to a much deeper level. The visible part of the iceberg alone does not constitute the whole. The island is not all; it is only a little piece of ground surrounded by the vast ocean. After one has entered the ocean, after one has established contact with the deep lying iceberg, one's ideas undergo a complete transformation.

Take for instance the idea that circumstances determine a man's character. In himself a man is nothing; he is merely a product of his circumstances and can only be described in terms of his background. Without the concept of the unconscious, man's slavery to circumstance would have been absolute. Thanks to the concept of the unconscious, the notion of circumstances alone determining everything loses its validity.

A man learns a great deal from circumstances. Indeed his whole development is based upon experience. Akbar the Great built a palace. He called it "Shish Mahal". The palace was built in a forest with a view to making an experiment. About 5 to 10 pregnant women were kept there. They were instructed to observe rigorous silence, to abjure all verbal communication with their colleagues. It was a severe command; no one could indulge in speech. The children were born in due course. Not one of them could speak. One month elapsed, then a year, two years, three years, five years. No speech could be heard. Mere moans and murmurs! No language! No gestures! Even if they grew to be fifty, none of the children would speak in that wordless atmosphere, would die indeed without uttering a word.

Occasionally we hear of a child stolen by a wolf or some other animal. Human children brought up by and among wolves begin to behave like them. They go on all fours; their arms and hands acting as legs and feet. They run and cat as wolves do and speak the language of their foster-parents.

Without human society, without the human environment, no child can learn to speak or use the language, which virtually means that he cannot do any thinking. Deprived of thinking, he is incapable of refined conduct. No thinking, no morality, no change of heart, no possibility of transformation in behaviour. For the transformation of the individual and his daily conduct can take place only on the basis of thinking and language. If language were possible in the animal kingdom, the cow and the buffalo or a lion would in no way have lagged behind man. The oxen and the buffalos possess tremendous physical strength, far exceeding man's. But they do not command language, have little capacity for thought, hence are incapable of any further development. But a man can earn from experience, from his environment. He owns the gift of speech. A child living in the midst of human beings, sees his mother and other elders talking and makes an effort to speak. Although he cannot yet properly speak, he is eager to make sounds like his elders. His whole mind is in it. Until the larynx is fully developed, he cannot speak well. But as the child grows up, he starts picking up each and every word and gradually learns to speak clearly. He achieves a command over the language. Impelled by circumstances, by the social environment, the individual soon grasps the language; words come to him easily and he wields them with ease, achieving mastery over them. There are two kinds of men - those who have language and those who have not. Devoid of language, a man cannot speak. But endowed with language, he experiences sensa­tions, knowledge and speech.

An animal, if hurt, would squeal or squeak, but it cannot speak. Take for example a very tiny creature like the ant. However much you might vex it, it just cannot talk back; it can only move this way or that to avoid calamity. A tiny plant cannot even do that; it cannot evade the onslaught by moving away. It would of course display some sensation, which we might not even grasp. But if you slap a child, he would scream, he would cry. He might even react by saying, "Don't do it! Why do you hit me for nothing?" The child would be able to say all these things because he possesses language. Because he is endowed with the faculty of speech, he can think. The first thing that he gets from his environment is language. There can be no language without society. It is only through the social environ­ment that language develops.

Man's conditioning by circumstance is not utterly without purpose. Human progress could be adequately described only in terms of man's reaction to his circumstances. In fact circumstances play a significant role in the development of human civilization, knowledge and education. There are two things vital to the devel­opment of any living creature - sensation and learning. Sensation occurs naturally; it is not something to be taught. A child is slapped and experiences pain, without anybody having taught him what pain is. The slapping and the pain caused by it go together. The human nervous system is so designed that any attack upon the physical frame from outside automatically causes the sensation of pain. Sensation indeed is our natural, in-built reaction against danger. One does not have to be taught to experience sensation. A child is taught to count one, two, three, four. He is taught how to write figures. But does he have to be taught that sugar is sweet? It is not necessary. The moment sugar touches his tongue; he would experience the sweetness of it. No, the experience of sensation is not to be taught. Information about outside objects can be imparted, but the reactions of various sense organs, the experiencing of pain or pleasure come of themselves. Effortlessly. Knowledge is impartable. Philosophy is taught, so are other subjects. All the schools and colleges are there to impart knowledge, information. But no institution exists for teaching men how to feel.

Two kinds of consciousness operate in our life: (1) conscious­ness of sensation, and (2) consciousness of knowledge - that is the consciousness of learning, of memory, of imagination, of receiving something from another. The two arc quite distinct. Circumstances affect learning. All that pertains to knowledge is influenced by circumstances. But the field of sensation lies beyond circumstances and is not therefore influenced by these. A man learns a language, learns how to think. The technique of right thinking can be taught. Training is given in these matters. One learns the principles of administration-how to administer, how to manage things. How to teach. How to think. All this development is mainly based upon circumstances. One's conditioning determines what kind of knowl­edge one acquires. In the present-day world, a number of disciplines exist. Man today learns an infinite number of things. In the Middle Ages, there were not known so many branches of learning. A man soon mastered all that was to be learnt and was recognized as a scholar. One learnt how to speak Sanskrit and was recognised as a Sanskrit scholar. He might not even know how to write, might be utterly deficient in structure, not having learnt the technique of creative literature, but the mere capacity to speak entitled him to be called a scholar. In the olden days even a moderately educated man commanded great prestige.

One man in an illiterate village had a smattering of the alphabet and on that score earned quite a reputation for himself as the only man in the locality who could read. Whoever in the village received a letter or telegram came to him to seek his assistance. All this attention went to his head.

One day a villager approached him with a letter and asked him to read it for him. The letter-reader was in a fix. After all his knowledge of words was very superficial and he barely managed to carry on the task of interpreting the simplest possible letters for the villagers. The letter presented to him by his latest visitor was somewhat difficult, written in a literary fashion far beyond his comprehension. He could clearly make no head or tail of the letter. So he resorted to guess work and told his visitor all kinds of tales. The visitor was a poor, illiterate villager, who had no option but to accept what the letter-reader t Ad him.

Five days later, his brother arrived. The brother was very much irritated at finding no one come to receive him. He said to himself, I’ve sent a letter, specially requesting conveyance since the railway station is situated at a distance of 15 miles from the village. But my brother has paid no heed. He has not cared to send the bullock-cart. Is it a brotherly act? Well, I'm going to have nothing to do with him anymore. I'll ask for a separation. We cannot live together. He has not shown me even this much courtesy." And while trudging his way home, he brooded over the unseemly conduct of his brother and worked himself into a paroxysm of anger. When he entered the house, his eyes were blood-shot and his face was tense. The younger brother wondered what had happened. He said to himself, "When­ever my brother comes, he is full of love and laughter, but today he is inflamed with rage. Why?" He greeted him but the elder brother averted his face and did not acknowledge his greeting. At this, the younger brother said, "Respected brother, what's the matter with you? You have not even returned my greeting!" The elder one said, "And what do you care for me? I specially wrote to you, asking you to send the bullock-cart to the railway station, but you never sent it! I had to plod along all that distance on foot." The younger brother exclaimed in surprise "My God! But you never said anything about it in your letter!" The elder one said, "Get me the letter and I'll show you." The letter was brought and the elder brother who was literate, read out the relevant portion. The younger brother protested, "But the letter-reader never told me so. You know there is only one person in the entire village that can read. I took your letter to him. He never said anything about your coming. What could I do?" Both brothers went to the letter-reader and asked him why he had omitted to tell that the bullock-cart should be sent to the railway station for fetching the elder brother. The letter-reader kept mum. What could he say? The wretch did not know how to read despite his cursory knowledge of the alphabet.

Such things happen. Even a semi-literate man among the totally illiterate, comes to look upon himself as a V.I.P. But the whole scene stands transformed today. There has been great development in various fields. Man has progressed so much in different directions that he is quite distinguishable from his ancestors in the distant past. It must be readily admitted that man has learnt a great deal from his circumstances. From philosophy to manifold branches of various disciplines, man's study has been extensive and he has been very ardent in the accumulation of new knowledge.

Both points-of-view are valid. One relates to the conditioning background, the other to inner consciousness. There is the con­scious mind as well as the unconscious; both influence our conduct. Our effort is to bring about a thorough change of heart through proper utilization of both these powers.

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

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Akbar
  2. Anger
  3. Celibacy
  4. Chitt
  5. Consciousness
  6. Contemplation
  7. Environment
  8. Fasting
  9. Jain Philosophy
  10. Mahavir
  11. Neem
  12. Nonviolence
  13. Sanskrit
  14. Violence
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