The Art Of Positive Thinking: Environmental Influences And Change Of Heart

Published: 01.01.2010
Updated: 30.07.2015

I have seen the light generated by electricity, but electricity it self I have never seen. Infact no one can see it. It is invisible. Even the scientist giving a definition of electricity has not seen it. I only perceive the current, the flow of electricity. The other day I pressed the button, but there was no light because there was no bulb. But even when there was a bulb and the switch was put on, there was no light because the flow of electricity had ceased. For light to be, both are indispensable - the electric current and the bulb. One of these by itself cannot give off light.

An exposition of individuality can also be given in terms of both consciousness and circumstances. A condition of living without consciousness, or consciousness without a particular background is rendered null and void; the simultaneous presence of the two - consciousness and background - is an essential pre-requisite for individuality. Without an understanding of these two factors, individuality itself cannot be understood.

Consciousness is subtle and impalpable. I have not seen it, nor have you. Old masters have given us an exposition of consciousness, and we too explain it in different ways. But nobody has seen consciousness; it is invisible.

On the other hand, the conditions of living, the human circum­stances are something gross, which can be perceived. I have per­ceived them and so have you. Consciousness is subtle; it cannot be grasped, but circumstances constitute a gross entity, which can be apprehended. However, without the union of the two, individuality cannot be explained.

Environmentalists have arrived at three conclusions:

  1. that the conditioning of a child begins right from the moment of conception;
  2. that, as the child grows up, his conditioning also deepens; and
  3. that twins, though born at the same moment of time, display different traits in accordance with the different environments in which they grow up.

A king went out for a stroll in the forest. He passed through a thieves' hamlet. Before a cottage hung a cage with a parrot in it. The moment the parrot saw the king, it blurted out, "A traveller! A traveller! Come and rob him. Come at once. He's going away. Be quick!" The king heard the parrot speak and was surprised. He accelerated his pace and got out of the thieving neighbourhood.

After traversing a long distance, he came to another settlement, containing many cottages. Before one cottage stood a cage with a parrot in it. No sooner did the parrot catch sight of the king, it burst into speech, "Welcome, welcome, most welcome! Pray, come and be seated, honoured guest!" The king was astounded. He went near the cage and said to the parrot, "O bird, you speak man's language! Please explain to me a mystery. Sometime ago I passed by a habitation. There, too, I found a parrot in a cage. The moment it saw me, it blurted out, 'A traveller, a traveller, come and rob him. Be quick!' Here, you uttered words of sweet welcome. What makes for such a difference? Both of you belong to the same species. Both of you are parrots speaking man's language. But your conduct is so divergent."

The parrot said, "Sir, excuse me. Both of us parrots not only belong to the same species, but also belong to the same family. We're blood-brothers, the offspring of the same parents. I am the elder one; the other parrot is younger, but he is my real brother."

The king's confusion was confounded all the more. He said, "What then makes for such a wide difference in the approach and the language used?"

The parrot explained to the king the mystery thereof. He said, "Your Majesty! My younger brother-parrot lives in the company of thieves and robbers. He has been brought up in a corrupt environ­ment. Naturally, he hears continually of pillage and plunder and talks accordingly. I live in the company of saints, so I talk of the good things of life. Virtues and evils proceed from one's associations; these are determined by the environment in which an individual lives. Bad company generates evil, good company generates virtue."

A child brought up in a clean and pure atmosphere acts virtuously, whereas even a good child, subjected to a corrupt atmosphere, becomes tainted with evil.

The impact of the environment is deep indeed. Intelligent and thoughtful parents create for their children the right atmosphere, free from all evil, in which goodness and virtue flower. On the other hand, those parents who neglect their children and are not able to provide for them a good atmosphere only serve to spoil them. We find even small children indulging in vulgar abuse. It is unimagin­able! A small child was found uttering some vile abuse. When the fact was mentioned to the child's father, the latter said, "It's really sad! He always keeps company with the servants. The servants indulge in vulgar abuse and the child has picked up the bad habit from them."

All children are imitative. 11 is primarily by imitation that a child learns everything - the good as well as the bad. His intelligence is not so developed as to distinguish between the two. Two boys belonging to the same house sometimes develop altogether different traits because of the different company they keep. Sometimes their conduct is so very divergent that one could hardly fancy them being blood-brothers.

The king could never imagine that the two parrots were real brothers because one of them incited men to rob, the other bade them sweet welcome. There was an enormous difference between their mentality and conduct. All because of environment' which made one parrot a collaborator of thieves and the other a devotee of saints.

There arc three kinds of environment:

  1. the outer
  2. the inner
  3. the innermost

For the realization of man's total personality, we need to study all the three. Without an understanding of these, the personality, conduct and behaviour of a man cannot be fully comprehended.

The social, material and geographical environments constitute the outer atmosphere. The personality of a man is determined by the social, material and geographical situations.

The inner environment is at play within the body, which constitutes the borderland between the outer and the inner. Sensations originating from outside the skin, from the material world surrounding the body, make us aware of the outer environ­ment, and those arising from within the body, embracing all the senses indicate the inner atmosphere.

The subtle atmosphere, which lies beyond the gross corporeal, constitutes the innermost environment.

The spiritualist, believing in the spirit and the subtle world would explain individuality with reference to the three environ­ments. Even an absolute materialist, one who does not believe in the subtle world, would have to interpret individuality in terms of at least two environments, the outer and the inner within and without.

The great law of spiritual science is: 'Evolution from the gross to the subtle,' a movement from the gross physical world to the subtle innermost world of the spirit. The breath is gross, easily apprehensible. The soul is subtle, not so easily grasped.

The milk and the curd are visible, not so the butter oil latent within. We know that the milk and the curd contain butter oil; the latter is extracted from the former. But looking at the milk and the curd we cannot directly see the butter oil. To extract butter oil from the milk and the curd we take recourse to a particular technique. Similarly, to grasp the spirit flowing in each breath requires a precise technique. The breath goes in, goes out. Why? What makes for this inhalation and exhalation? It is the spirit that moves the breath inside and outside. The breath-conduit may subsist unimpaired, the atmosphere outside may contain the air, but in the absence of the vital spirit, there would be no movement of breath, no inhalation or exhalation. Breathing continues as long as there is life; with the going out of the vital breath of life, breathing also stops. It is the vital spirit that causes vibrations and sensations all over the body. Without the spirit, there can be no movement.

To begin with, breath is perceived, perception of consciousness comes later. The perception of consciousness requires twenty times more concentration than that required for perceiving the breath. The movement of consciousness is very subtle. It is the subtle stream of consciousness, which moves the breath, the body and the senses. The breath, the senses and the body, each have their own vital spirit. Likewise, language and thought each have their own power. These different powers have different functions. Though the moving spirit, the consciousness, is one, we might differentiate its manifestations in accordance with various functions performed. When consciousness moves through the senses, it is known as consciousness of the senses, when allied with breathing, it is called breath-consciousness, when linked with language, it is known as word-consciousness, when it is joined with the mind, it is called mindfulness. All power and movement flows from consciousness.

Two important principles are active in the inner environment of the body - bioelectricity and biochemistry. For a thorough understanding of human behaviour and conduct, it is necessary to understand bioelectricity and biochemistry. Every cell in the human organism produces electricity; each cell is its own power­house. Indeed no part of the body, big or small, can function without electricity. Bioelectricity and biochemicals activate the human organism. Secretions from the endocrine glands, mixing with the blood, powerfully influence a man's conduct. Man's emotional and mental evolution, patterns of behaviour, his charac­ter and conduct are all influenced by inner chemistry. By observing a man's behaviour and conduct, we can tell what chemical activity is going on inside. When anger, pride or lust arises it indicates that the adrenal gland is very active; when the gonads and thyroid glands are overworked, man's behaviour is influenced by these. No thorough understanding of an individual is possible without first understanding his inner chemistry, without knowing what glands are most active at any particular time. The full development of individuality is very much affected by secretions from the endocrine glands. Ignorance of this fact leads to a great many contradictions. Sometimes the blame is laid on outer circumstances, at other times a particular individual is held responsible for one's ills.

A man went driving his bullock on whose back was spread a gunny bag. Since the man had put on his load on one side of the sack, the equilibrium was disturbed/ and the sack continually slipped off the bullock's back. Balance could only be maintained by loading the sack equally on both sides. One-sided loading caused imbalance, hindering the smooth movement of the bullock, with the result that the bullock could not move properly and the sack too continually slipped off. The man had put all the load in one pannier, vainly trying to restore the balance by putting his hand in the other pannier, exerting all his strength. He did make some tardy progress, but was soon exhausted and was breathing hard. A wayfarer saw him and said: "You fool! Is this the way to carry a load? You are sweating profusely, unnecessarily taxing yourself and the animal! What a simpleton you are!"

The man said, "Well, what am I to do? How am I to restore the equilibrium?"

The wayfarer said, "Put half of the load in the other pannier!"

The man did as he was told. The balance was restored. With no more useless expenditure of energy, he completed his journey comfortably.

Many a time a man overloads one pannier and destroys the equilibrium and all his efforts to restore the balance come to nothing.

A man wants to absolve himself from responsibility by leaving everything to circumstance. All other alternatives are left unex­plored. And he tries to justify his inaction by reason and argument. But the imbalance and disorder continue. The proper thing for him to do would be to maintain a balanced approach. That the back­ground and circumstances shape a man's destiny is only a partial truth. The whole truth includes this partial truth, but also recog­nizes that the inward impulse is no less important. A man is influenced by society, but he also influences society. In fact a man's life is influenced by the outer, the inner, and the subtle innermost environment. The blending of endocrine secretions with the blood influences conduct, and a man is sometimes found indulging in excesses We And it hard to comprehend such a man's actions., At times the parents are puzzled by a child's extremities. Likewise gurus and other well-wishers find it hard to explain some dubious conduct on the part of a pupil. The atmosphere of the home may be clear* and orderly and yet parents feel their ward is being spoiled.

Why? The outer circumstances may be quite propitious and may not contribute to the boy's deterioration, but something has certainly gone wrong. What can it be? We shall have to concentrate here on the inner climate of the boy's mind. We shall have to go into it deeply to and out whether it is the outer circumstances or the inner proclivities that are responsible for the present unsavoury situation. The enquiry would itself dictate the desired course of action, as to whether the outer environment needs to be changed or the inward state of the boy's mind must be more closely attended to.

A psychological disease called the tantrums is often found among children of 2-3 years. Because of it the child starts behaving in a strange manner. His conduct appears to be unnatural. He either has fits of furious rages, or he cries, becomes extremely violent, flings things about and easily gets cross or sulks. All this happens because of the malady of tantrums that he suffers from. If his disease is not properly diagnosed, the child gets spoiled. In such a case mere outside control would not improve matters. If the parents are intelligent, they would not resort to beating or harsh language.

There are some mothers who are always calling their children names; they are continually finding fault with them, or even administering corporeal punishment. Here is set the machinery for spoiling children. The processes calculated to mar their character, not mend it. The children are thus so corrupted as to pose a serious danger to their parents later when they grow up.

All this happens because of ignorance. Parents do not know how to bring about a change in the habits of children. The challenge demands a transformation in the parents themselves. This is possible only through the practice of meditation. Meditation enables a man to orientate his mind to meet any eventuality with equanimity. If the parents keep their balance, they can help their children to come out of an intricate situation. When the parents chide or beat a child suffering from the tantrums, it merely serves to intensify the disease. However, if the parents treat the child with affection, if they give him understanding, show great love and joy, the disease begins to dissolve of itself and the child soon behaves normally. If the parents react just as the child is reacting; if, when they see the child flinging tilings about, they become angry, give him a hiding, the child would not be cured. Indeed, when he grows up, he will treat the parents with contempt.

We must also not lose sight of the inner compulsions. When a man goes bad even in prosperous circumstances, we must try to fathom the real cause. We shall have to adopt a constructive approach, act with clearer vision. If we act in confusion, it is bound to make matters worse confounded. It might even lead to terrible consequences. Generally a man's approach is reactionary and therefore the problem remains unresolved.

While embarking on the practice of Preksha Meditation, a spiritual practitioner takes a vow. He resolves "to shun reaction" at all costs. He says to himself, "Action by all means, but no reaction!" The cultivation of a non-reactionary approach is a most important undertaking.

To indulge in reaction, adopting the doctrine of 'tit for tat', straight leads to a man's deterioration, not reformation. Instead of helping in the evolution of a unique personality, it destroys all individuality. Let us not be swept away on the tide of reaction; rather we must move against the current and meet reaction with positive, creative action.

Lord Mahavir said:

The whole world moves with the current. Most people today adopt the easier course and are swept on the tide of reaction. A true spiritual practitioner, however, moves against the current. If a man really wants to make progress in the path of self-realization, he cannot afford to be slack.

Let us learn how to withstand the current. Merely to react in the same way as our brother, son, friend or neighbour reacts, is to broaden the gorge of cleavage and division; it is to fritter away our energies in senseless opposition, which serves no purpose. If we wish to resolve our problems, we must cultivate the non-reactionary approach. To be free from reaction, and to act positively is rather arduous; it involves moving against the current. But if we want to create a peaceful society, that is the one and the only way.

A man was looking for a candle. The servant came in and said, "Master, what is it that you are looking for?" The master replied, "I’m looking for a candle." The servant said, "But sir, how can you find it in the dark? Why don't you switch on the electric light?" The master said, "O fool! If there were electricity, I would not need to search for a candle; I'm looking for the candle because of the power-failure."

Maui is lost in the illusion of switching on the electric bulb outside, and stops searching for the candle within. Of course, if light were available, there would be no need for the candle. The main objective is to be in the light. But though a man longs for light, he is more often than not lost in darkness and whatever he does adds to the confusion. Sometimes it seems that man is more in love with darkness than with light. He says he wants light, but he continues in darkness. He wants forgiveness, but is easily swept away by anger; he believes more in violence than in peace. He wants to have his own way at all costs.

Man keeps before him the ideal of non-violence, of forgiveness and light, but his everyday living is wrapped in violence, anger and confusion. He seems to have a 'split personality'. There is an everlasting contradiction between the ideal and the reality. If we really believed more in charity than in anger, we would be more forgiving; if we believed more in peace than in war, we would be more non-violent. But the fact is that we are more violent than non­violent, more revengeful than forgiving, It is quite apparent where our inward inclinations lie.

We only talk about light, we do not really seek it. The true seeker after light will have to delve deep into himself. The man who is totally preoccupied with the outer material world, can never come to this light. If mere observation of the material world could lead to illumination, there would be no need to practise breath-perception or body-perception. One does get a kind of pleasure, some sort of gratification and entertainment from the observation of the material world; there is endless variety there. The practice of meditation does not perhaps offer such entertainment. Yet modern man is attracted by meditation. He is probably fed up with the mere observation of the material world, is so full of tension that he wants to get away from it and peep within. Superficial observation of the material world has made man so restless, so very confused, that he has an urge to look deep within. That is why he comes to meditation camps. Here he is made to practise breath-perception, body-perception and to observe the inward movement of consciousness. As he goes into these processes, he will make contact with that which is not found in the outer material world. He will witness colours which he never saw before in the outer world. He will see light that the sensual world can never offer. In that inner world he will see sights, fearful or pleasant, which are altogether different from those of the outer world.

I asked one lady spiritual practitioner to experiment with meditation on the tip of the nose, the centre of the vital life-force. She did it for 2-3 days and began to experience joy. One evening she was sitting in meditation and her meditation grew long. In the darkness of the night, some terrifying sights filled her with increasing fear. But she sat immovable. Gradually it grew tranquil again.

The inner world is vast and mysterious. A million impressions gathered inside reveal themselves one after another. It is an endless stream. Sometimes a spiritual practitioner is quite bewildered.

Indeed preksha means inner observation. It is the observation of the world within which gives out new light, a new direction, a new point-of-view, new conduct and behaviour. The solution to our various problems of daily living lies within. Those who have despaired of finding a solution outside might try looking within. All their frustration would then vanish. No problem can defy a man who has learnt to look within. So we have to move from the outer to the inner world. We must seek a resolution to our problems in the context of inner chemistry and electricity, in the vital power of consciousness and in the secretions from the endocrine glands.

Those who practise Preksha Meditation must resolve to seek a solution to their problems not only in the outer environment, but also in the world within. Having adopted this approach, the first principle of problem-resolution is readily available to them. That man is caught in illusion who seeks a resolution only in the outer world. But the right-minded person explores both the worlds - the outer as well as the inner. This provides him with a new direction - from partial to the whole, from the gross to the subtle, from the limited to the limitless. An entirely new dimension opens out before him. He probes within and in the very probing, all problems dissolve.

But if both looking without and looking within fail and the problem still persists, one has to enter a third dimension for resolving it. After exploring the outer environment of the material world and the subtler environment of electrical and chemical changes within, one proceeds to probe the inmost environment of the spirit.

The masters of ayurved recognised three kinds of diseases:

  1. those emanating from outward surroundings;
  2. those emanating from the imbalance of the wind, the bile and the phlegm: and
  3. those emanating from mental impressions.

The third type of disease proceeds from a subtle body where there are neither germs nor insects, nor wind, nor bile, nor phlegm; where there is nothing except mental impressions. This disease is the result of past action that subsists in the brain in the form of memory.

This psychological world is the inmost environment, the third dimension. We have to explore all the three dimensions, the gross, the subtle, and the subtler one. We cannot afford to be stuck up with one. We must move away from the first into the second, and then into the third. Only then shall our whole individuality reveal itself, and in that revelation all problems shall dissolve.

Sources
Title: The Art Of Positive Thinking
Publisher:
B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.
Reprint Edition:
2007
Translator:
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. Adrenal Gland
  2. Anger
  3. Body
  4. Brain
  5. Concentration
  6. Consciousness
  7. Environment
  8. Equanimity
  9. Fear
  10. Gonads
  11. Mahavir
  12. Meditation
  13. Non-violence
  14. Preksha
  15. Preksha Meditation
  16. Pride
  17. Science
  18. Soul
  19. Thyroid Glands
  20. Violence
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