The Art Of Positive Thinking: Transmutation Of The Mind (2)

Published: 07.01.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

As we were sitting in meditation in the courtyard a short while ago, a question arose in my mind: Why all this effort? Why devote so much time? What for? There is only one objective - to set the mind in order. There are many problems. Indeed, in our everyday world, there are innumerable problems and we are here merely chasing the mind! What do we hope to gain, after all? Suddenly, it became clear to me that unsteadiness, lack of equanimity, consti­tuted our biggest problem. A mother complained to me of her son's skittishness. A restless child becomes a problem to the mother, causes her endless worry. Naturally, she wants her child to be cured of that defect. But restlessness is not always bad. Some kind of movement is also a necessity. If the tree remains perfectly station­ary, if the leaves do not move at all, the traveller would be subjected to the torture of intolerable heat. The leaves flutter as the wind blows and it gives the traveller a pleasant feeling of coolness. Similarly, a stilled mind becomes a problem. Silence is good but if a child does not start speaking, its parents begin to worry about it, "The child is two years old and yet cannot speak!" They begin a round of visits to the doctor.

Constant movement has its own use. If the body does not move, it becomes a problem. If a finger or a foot does not move, a man is rightly worried. "Has it been paralysed?", he wonders. One woman spiritual practitioner went into deep meditation. At the end of her meditation-period, her hands and feet would not disentangle. People sitting near her got worried at her immobility. Actually, there was nothing to worry about. The point is that movement, constant movement, is necessary; it has its own utility. But there is a point beyond which it must not go. Restlessness, in the sense of constant movement, is necessary to a certain extent, but if it exceeds its bounds, it becomes harmful. We are trying here to lessen the mind's restlessness in order to find our fulfilment. A restless mind cannot achieve anything. Our goal is mind-transformation. We want to change the mind. As long as fickleness continues, there can be no transformation. Something is said. You are told to do or not to do something. You hear the words, but the mind is so restless, so much caught up in the vibrations of its own thought, as to completely ignore the direction. No theory can be put into practice if the mind remains unsteady.   No problem can be resolved as long as we continue to be fickle. We are not right now talking of a point where perfect equanimity is attained—to be without any kind of movement for a year! Like a statue, just as Bahubali stood in kayotsarg for one year in one posture. No storm or hurricane, no furious downpour, neither heat nor cold, not even if creepers were to sprout all around in which birds made nests—nothing whatever would shake us out of our resolve! We would be steadfast like a rock! We are not at the moment talking of that, since it would be for us, as we are, an impossible undertaking. Every man cannot be Bahubali, cannot continue in one posture for long. Our effort just now is not aimed at dissolving the mind altogether, arriving at a state of non-mind. Non-mind, freedom from the tyranny of thought, is good. But it might immediately create a good many problems. Without the mind, one will not be able to think or imagine or remember anything. All memories dissolved!—to be in a state of non-mind is not easy; it demands concentrated work on oneself. If one achieves it, the whole of one's life stands transformed. However, an average householder might experience a lot of difficulty in essaying it. The mind, with its memories, stands dissolved! What shall we do now? If the memory weakens a little, we become greatly solicitous about ourselves. "Can't remember things! What's going to happen to me?" For the average householder, the state of non-mind, non-speech, non-body is impossible. And yet we are working just for that. What an effort! An effort aimed at acquiring effortlessness! All our endeavour is bent to that end. Disassociating ourselves from everything else, we engage in a process calculated to lessen the tension of the mind, body and tongue. The practice of kayotsarg, of silence, of concentration—this is the first step towards mind-transformation.

We all talk about the desirability of a mutation in the mind. We want to dispense altogether with the use of force; a real change of heart is what we desire. Without such a change, no human problem can be resolved. We talk about it endlessly; we indulge too often in theoretical discussion. But is this desired change of heart really possible, without experimentation, without practical work on one­self? People agree that violence serves no purpose. That violence is undesirable, that we must always practise non-violence. That the mind-heart should change. But how is this change to be accom­plished? How is a new mind to come into being? You have not done anything to lessen or dissolve your restlessness! How then are you going to bring about a mutation in the mind? If mere theoretical discussion, endless talk, could change one's heart, the whole world would be non-violent and all problems would have been resolved. But it does not work like that. It is an illusion and self-deception that the mind-heart transformation can be achieved through theoretical discussion and analysis. To try to establish non-violence through violence is altogether vain. Non-violence cannot be established until a serious effort is made to dissolve the inner restlessness of the mind.

There are many who are concerned with the propagation of non-violence. They sincerely want that non-violence should spread everywhere, that self-discipline should be the order of the day, that the whole world should tread the path of non-violence and self-discipline. It is a laudable wish. Every sensible person will approve of it. However, it should be very clear by now that nothing is accomplished by wishful thinking; theory without practice is absolutely futile. It was so in the past, it is so now and it will be so in the future. We all have to seriously follow one course—that of lessening tension and restlessness. The first thing to be done is to obviate all perturbation.

Some people decry meditation. They assert that nothing is gained thereby. They would rather do something 'practical and useful'. No purpose is served by sitting idle—that is what meditation appears to be to them—losing oneself in abstraction. And truly meditation, if it be nothing but losing oneself in abstraction, is a futile undertaking. According to such critics, those practising meditation do no productive work. They do not cook, nor do they weave cloth, nor do anything useful. They do not labour at all! Just sitting cross-legged with closed eyes serves little purpose. The poor labourers breaking stones in the hot sun are real workers. Office workers too, moving their pens from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. accomplish something. What do those sitting in meditation achieve? Nothing whatever! According to these critics of meditation, action, move­ment is work, and inaction, tranquillity, sitting without any movement, mere idleness. As long as this false approach continues, no social transformation is possible. We must seek the truth. Without seeking the truth, without coming to know it, our problems will never be resolved. The truth is that in our life, action and inaction must be finely balanced. Sitting still', without any movement in so far as it reduces tension and restlessness, is the first step towards accomplishing useful work. Indeed, inaction is the highest form of action.

After having crossed the stream by boat, two travellers came to the roadhead and inquired of the people there what distance they had as yet to cover to reach the village. Four miles, they were told. One of the travellers further asked, "Shall we be able to reach the village by evenfall?" "Oh, yes. Slow and steady wins the race, "a wise old man answered. Now one of the travellers rode a horse and saw little point in going slow. The other, a pedestrian, moved slow and went at a steady pace.  The four-mile track was uneven, stony, interspersed with thorny bushes and in parts marshy. The pedes­trian trod carefully, avoilding all the pitfalls. The rider went galloping without a thought. As he approached a marshy patch, his horse slipped and both the rider and the horse found themselves rolling helplessly in the swamp. The steady walker reached his destination by evenfall, but the horseman could not make it.

Logic of course says that the man who rides a swift horse will cover four miles within ten to twenty minutes, or say half an hour. Whereas the man who walks on foot might take an hour. Arithmetically, the horseman would reach his destination earlier than the pedestrian. But in life logic and arithmetic are not everything. What seems logical, mathematical, does not sometimes come to pass. In real life, the slow and steady goer reaches his destination while a swift runner staggers to a halt midway. Everything revolves around practical work, it is a matter of maintaining one's balance, doing away with one's restlessness. The man who has not been able to transcend his impatience, who is not steady, experiences such difficulties that he is often bogged down in the morass of endless new problems. Not to be fickle, appears to be inaction, though such inaction is the highest form of action and a sure guarantee of success. He who has been able to end restlessness is better able to achieve his goal. He finds himself capable of accomplishing 10 hours' work within five hours because of greater concentration. In the absence of single-minded concentration, one finds that a mere two hours' work is not accomplished even in eight hours, and sometimes even in eight days. One loses oneself in endless gossip, the mind keeps flitting from one thing to another, and no work is accomplished. The man who has not learnt to end restlessness, to be fully integrated, can never attain a real change of heart because he has not done any groundwork in this direction.

Another important principle is that of rising above like and dislike. Which means, the evolution of equanimity, of what is right and proper. The capacity to do the right thing at the right time does not come easily. One has to excercise a great deal of restraint. On the right hand flows the stream of 'like', on the left flows that of 'dislike'. Our right eye views the pleasant; our left eye views the unpleasant. To adopt a middle course between these two streams and steer clear of each, to be fully aware of the right as well as the left, but not to be influenced by them, is rather arduous. The cultivation of equanimity requires austerity. To keep a fast is not so difficult, nor is it so difficult to abstain from drink; but to steer clear of like and dislike is a formidable undertaking. The mind gets badly involved. When through the practice of meditation, through kayotsarg, equanimity develops, the consciousness of equableness is awakened, and by keeping indifferent towards the pleasant and unpleasant sensations, one directly experiences tranquillity, one has already advanced towards the mind-heart transformation. It is, however, not easy to be free of like and dislike. The problem crops up time and again. Someone dear to us comes, and we are inclined to oblige him at all costs. If necessary, we even ignore justice and act so partially that everything gets muddled. All reason, intellect, is engaged in upholding what we approve of. Naturally, propriety is adversely affected and equanimity destroyed. Similarly when rea­son, intellect and power are used for downgrading or destroying what we disapprove of, propriety once again suffers. Under the circumstances, the question of heart-mind transformation is simply thrown into the background.

Non-violence can be an active principle in everyday living. It is not at all impossible. But one has to practise non-violence regularly. Without practising equableness, one can never bring about a radical change in the mind. The practice of meditation is indeed the practice of equanimity. The man who practises meditation, moves towards equanimity almost effortlessly. People generally believe that it is not right to waste time in idle meditation, and yet without practising meditation, without sitting quietly, no man can attain a just and equable temper of mind; no man can be really impartial. If people have a feeling that a particular person is being partial, they will come to have little faith in him. Whenever there is talk of appointing an arbitrator for resolving a problem, the first consideration is whether the arbitrator-designate is really objective and impartial. No one would accept a partisan as an arbitrator. Even a person given to partiality and nepotism will not take an unjust man for a mediator. It sounds rather strange. I am partial and yet if I want a mediator, I would look for a man who is not partial. Unless I am certain of the man's impartiality, I would not accept him as an arbitrator.

Equanimity, we said, is the second important means for bringing about a transformation of the mind. And equanimity springs from inaction, that is meditation, which is commonly taken for 'idleness'. Without meditation, without experiencing freedom from like and dislike, no man can be really objective or impartial. During breath-perception you are advised again and again to feel the breath only, which means, to feel it without any attachment, without approbation or disapprobation. There is no question of approval or disapproval. The mind is clear, altogether unclogged, without any identification whatsoever. To be thus unidentified is to live in a moment of pure perception. It is to be totally free from like and dislike. This freedom from like and dislike is most opportune. Indeed it is in itself equanimity and impartiality. The inaction of meditation ensures deliverance from many complicated problems. The third step in the transformation of the mind is alert awareness. Lack of alertness creates fear. All fear in the world is the result of negligence. In the words of Lord Mahavir, "Fear surrounds the negligent on all sides—above, below, on the right, and the left, before and behind." The man who is awake has no fear.

In Mandal Brahmanopnishad, it is mentioned that the body is liable to five faults—lust, anger, short-breathing, fear and sleep. The way to keep away from these faults is also suggested.

Firstly lust. Freedom from lust lies in not willing it. Not to will it is the surest way to conquer lust. The important passage in Agastsya Churni reads:

Lust, I know thy character. Out of will art thou born. I shall not will, I shall make no images. So you will never be born. I shall not sow the seed; so it will never sprout.

The second fault is anger. To root out anger one must cultivate forgiveness, toleration. If you quarrel, you are liable to grow more angry still. The more you quarrel, the greater your indignation. So stop quarrelling. Be tolerant. Do not adopt a negative approach, cultivate a constructive point-of-view. With the cultivation of tolerance, anger would disappear of itself.

The third fault is short-breathing. That is, to take short breaths - the number of breaths taken is consequently more. The remedy lies in moderate eating. You might wonder what moderate eating has to do with short breaths. But the fact is that the gluttons are often panting; they breathe heavily and hard, which means taking short breaths. The cure lies in eating less. Moderate intake of food is conducive to free regular breathing. The heavy eaters' breathing is ever short; the light eaters' long. One who takes short breaths expends greater energy; while the long-breather conserves energy and his whole being is filled with power.

The fourth failing is fear. Its cure lies in fearlessness. Inatten­tion creates fear and fear in turn aggravates negligence. The remedy is to be without fear. The man who is awake is never afraid. It is a matter of common experience that one is more subject to fear at night. One is assailed by fear during sleep. When one is alert and attentive, fear does not arise. It arises only in sleep. If man did not sleep, there would be no need to lock doors. When one goes to sleep, one seeks security in locking the door. One is at that time more subject to fear. The enlightened person, who has seen the truth, is ever wakeful and attentive. Fear cannot touch him.

The king of Greece was once displeased with his minister. A king's pleasure and his anger are both dangerous; his high position makes it so. The prudent, therefore, keep away from these. "Keeping away" here means keeping indifferent, in the middle course, not to be swayed by extremes. The minister had been all in all. He had immense authority and supervised the entire kingdom. The king got so displeased with him as to pronounce for him the death penalty by hanging. The whole town was in turmoil at this turn of events. The day fixed for hanging happened to be the minister's birthday. People were celebrating it with song and dance. Trumpets were being sounded. Hundreds of relatives, friends and well-wishers had gathered at the minister's house. The atmosphere was like that of a grand fair. In the midst of these celebrations arrived the royal decree announcing that the minister would be hanged in the evening. All singing and dancing and trumpeting came to a sudden halt. All joy and merry-making as suddenly ended. Sorrow pervaded everywhere. People became sad. The minister saw it all and exclaimed, "Why? What's the matter? Why have they stopped playing on the trumpets and the timbrels? Who has put an end to singing and dancing?" His friends replied, "Sir, you are going to be hanged in the evening. Our hearts are full of sorrow. How can we dance and make merry?" The minister said, "Nonsense! Why can't one die with a song on one's lips? Why drown oneself in sorrow? What for? Go ahead with the festivities please!" So the dancing and singing and the merry-making recommenced, and all went on as before. The minister displayed not the slightest worry, and no fear at all. Not a wrinkle on his merry face! The king came to know of it. He learnt that the minister's birthday was being celebrated with elan. Dancing and singing and joy-making were in progress. His messengers told him, "Your Majesty! It is as if there were no cause for gloom. Instead there is wild merry-making, as if a son had been born - a son whose arrival had been long wished for. There is not a trace.of sorrow anywhere!" On hearing this, the king became thoughtful. He said, "Why kill a man who knows how to live?" There did not seem to be any point in hanging the minister. The order for his death was revoked.

He who is established in fearlessness, becomes fully conscious and alert. Such a man is not afraid of anything. Only such a man can practise non-violence; his mind may be said to have been completely transformed. In the practice of non-violence, Lord Mahavir places the greatest emphasis on freedom from fear. According to him, a man who is not utterly fearless could never be non­violent. The man who is not free from fear could not practise heart-purification; the fearful man could never effect mind-transforma­tion. The great reward of wakefulness is total absence of fear. Freedom from fear is the greatest means of obliterating langour and negligence.

We have briefly discussed the three means of heart-purifica­tion. All these have to be practised in right earnest for inward flowering. Wakefulness cannot be aroused in a moment; it does not descend from heaven for nothing—it has to be worked for. Likewise, equanimity and integration evolve through work. Outwardly, a meditator appears to be engaged in a useless pursuit; outwardly, he appears to be inert, but a great light is burning inside him. There is a good deal of inner exertion. Inner effort and inner light go together. Through constant practice, equanimity is aroused; wake­fulness and concentration increase.

The meditators were out for gaman-yoga. Some outsiders saw them and said, "These people are having their constitutional; they are having a stroll so as to digest their food." I said, "They've eaten little and need no stroll to digest their food. In fact they are practising meditation even while strolling. So that they are fully aware of the act of walking, directly experiencing the movements involved. No thinking, no choice, no memory; nothing but walking! The feet lift of themselves. Now the right foot, now the left. There is only the awareness of walking; all other memories stand dissolved. This is gaman-yoga, i.e., the practice of yoga in walking. Here is an experiment in wakefulness. Action and awareness merged into one whole. It is totality of being to experience a movement in the very act of moving, to experience speech in the act of speaking, to experience sitting in the act of sitting, to know fully when the hand is lifted up or brought down, to be conscious during sleep that one is sleeping, to be aware of eating while at table. When such wakefulness is aroused, there is no room for any fear to creep in. Fear creeps in the mind only when one is in a state of unconsciousness. When one is asleep, one is assailed by fear. It is in that state of sleep that ghosts trouble one. A spectre is frightening only to the fearful; it shies away from him who knows no fear. In the fearless man a ghost cannot abide; it has no business to be there. The spectre needs protection, an atmosphere of fear in which to subsist. Fearlessness drives it away. It is an affrighted man who is tormented by spectres; a fearless man is beyond their reach. With increasing consciousness, we become aware of every movement of thought, body or tongue, and in that state of alertness, no evil thought dare enter our mind. The moment an evil thought starts in the mind, the sensation aroused thereby is immediately perceived. Which means that the master of the house is awake and the thief has no option but to depart. The moment anger or pride arises, you, being fully conscious, are on you guard against it, and the evil vibration soon dies down. If we are vigilant, no evil speech, vulgar abuse or improper word dare escape from our lips. There would be effortless restraint. Similarly watchfulness about the body would render impossible any unjust action. The hand, for example, has its utility; likewise the foot. But the hand can be used for slapping someone, the foot can be used for kicking, but if we are fully awake to our body, all these wrong uses end of themselves. Only that happens which is right and just.

If we are really keen on transforming ourselves, if we want to get firmly established in non-violence, we must practise meditation. Without practising meditation, there can be no full awareness, no evolution of equanimity, no integration. Religion today has become void, because it has degenerated into mere theory, without practice. There is no direct experiencing of it. Mere argumentation without experience! If religion is to recapture its power and glory and regain its utility, theory and practice must go hand in hand. Only then will people have faith in religion, and the life of religious men be established in truth.

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. Anger
  2. Bahubali
  3. Body
  4. Concentration
  5. Consciousness
  6. Equanimity
  7. Fear
  8. Fearlessness
  9. Kayotsarg
  10. Mahavir
  11. Mandal
  12. Meditation
  13. Non-violence
  14. Pride
  15. Tolerance
  16. Violence
  17. Yoga
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