The Art Of Positive Thinking: Transmutation Of The Mind (3)

Published: 08.01.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

When a child is born, its first contact is with the material world. Our whole life is based upon materiality; it cannot be adequately explained without reference to matter. Food, water, clothes, shelter, all visible things, all serviceable articles which we use. Gradually man becomes materialistic. He is so deeply attached to matter as to lose sight of consciousness altogether. Matter is visible; consciousness is not. The utility of matter is obvious; the utility of consciousness is only comparative. It is natural to be attracted by matter. Indeed, material objects constitute the prime centres of our attention. This has also created an impediment. Our aim is to bring about a change of heart. That aim becomes somewhat blurred. We want that man's heart should change and that there should be revolution in the psyche. We want all violence to come to an end, all aggressive feelings to dissolve, no mischief whatsoever, no untruth, only the authentic; no stealing, no robbery, no selfish hoarding, only chastity and purity. We want all that. All men, irrespective of their communal affiliations, want that. The social reformers also want that. Nobody wants exploitation, untruth or dishonesty to prevail. Social ethics demand it. No civilization can progress on the basis of violence, rioting, aggression and plunder, pilferage and dishonesty. Free­dom from all these evils can alone form the basis of a truly civilized, cultured and progressive society. All religious values are social values too. They are also spiritual. But we do not see them flourishing. People are not very much interested in them. We are trying to find out why.

Why modern man is not interested in truth and honesty is because he is much more interested in material objects. If the two were balanced—interest in matter and interest in spirit, interest in the outer and the inner, there would be no chaos in society; there would be no disorder, corruption and immorality then. But the imbalance is there and it is there because of man's preoccupation with material things. Too much attachment to anything creates disequilibrium. The biggest impediment to spiritual progress is man's fascination with materialism, with the outer. In the language of spirituality it is called "attachment". Man of course desires change. He also wants to get rid of his preoccupation with material objects. But the path of desire is a strange one. There is the tradition, now  part  of every  religion,   that the root of attachment lies deep inside, whereas man tries to free himself from desire outwardly. He repudiates desire verbally, even forsakes it, but inner attachment continues. That is man's difficulty.

A man was smoking a cigarette. The cigarette was mounted on a long pipe, nearly a foot long. Someone asked, "Why do you use such a long pipe for smoking?" He replied, "I read in Health Care that one should keep away, from narcotics. So I do as far as possible; I dare not keep the cigarette too near."

Similarly, a man wants to keep away from attachment. But he would use a pipe. There are innumerable pipes available, diverse ways of escape. When the inner attachment continues unchanged, one deceives oneself by outward denial. What is required is inner transformation. When there is an inward awakening, outer attrac­tions would lose their appeal. Only this morning, after meditating on the psychic centres, a meditator approached me at the conclu­sion of the session. He said, "I'm experiencing great happiness. Words cannot contain it. I feel as if my whole being is inundated by bliss; every atom of my body is radiating a mighty sense of well-being." And as he said this, I saw his eyes filled with tears of joy. When delight awakens insight, when the throbbings of roused consciousness and the ecstatic pulsations of inner felicity are felt, man comes to know for himself that our material world is not everything, that there are within our bodies such elements and powers and they afford us such heavenly joys before which the pleasures of the material world pale into utter insignificance. However, this realization cannot be achieved without practice. One may spend a thousand years expatiating on the beauty of medita­tion, and yet never experience real joy. Only practice, and nothing but practice, may yield this invaluable treasure. Only that man who actually practises meditation, who has dived deep into the mysteries of the inner world, can know what rapture, what ineffable joy lies inside.

Until there is a revolution in the psyche, restlessness would continue. Why is there restlessness at all? Because of inner impulsions. The fan cannot but revolve as long as the current is there and the switch is on. The mind is a whirl, in great agitation. Material temptations are so strong that the mind cannot withstand them. The attraction of material objects is great. Now the mind craves this, now that. Such powerful allurements surround it that it stands quite bewildered, and knows not what to do.

There is an old tale about an acrobat called Ilaichi Kumar. He was very talented. Originally he came of a rich, aristocratic family, but allurement can do wonders. This young and rich aristocrat became fatally enamoured of a maid, the daughter of a performing acrobat. For her sake he gave up everything—his house, his family, and his fortune. He began to live with the acrobats, became an expert acrobat himself. Once he went to perform before the king. All the court was there. Ilaichi Kumar climbed a bamboo pole and performed such acrobatics that his spectators were all spellbound. Not the king, however. He did not witness the performance at all because his attention was arrested by the beautiful maid who stood by the acrobat. The king was fascinated by her. The spectators were clapping like mad and shouted themselves hoarse, saying, "Ah! wonderful! Bravo! Remarkable! May you live long!" All were fascinated by Ilaichi Kumar's skill, but the king himself was carried away by the maid. He bethought to himself: "As long as this acrobat lives, I cannot get her. He must die."

For three hours, Ilaichi Kumar performed to the delight of the crowd. With his bamboo stick, he performed upon the ropes, such marvellous tricks that made their hair stand on end. He was a great acrobat, his body perfectly trained. After the performance, he came down his pole and saluted the king, thinking the king would be mightily pleased and would give him a handsome reward. But to his great disappointment, the king said, "Have you not anything more wonderful to show?" Ilaichi Kumar wondered why the king did not appreciate the remarkable feats he had performed and which had fascinated all and sundry. But how could the king appreciate anything? His preoccupation lay elsewhere! The acrobat once again mounted his pole and displayed his skill in surprising acrobatics for another spell of three hours. But when he came down and approached the king, he found the latter still not pleased. His colleagues counselled him to re-do his feats, excel himself so as to please the king. If the king was not pleased, they said, he would give no reward, and unless the king was satisfied first, nobody else would give them anything. All their labour would be wasted. So Ilaichi Kumar went up for the third time and once again delighted the assemblage with his skill and yet the king was not pleased! The acrobat was greatly disheartened. He said, "No more attempts shall I make to please him. Let this day's labour be lost." At this the acrobat's wife came forward and strongly urged him to make just one attempt more. The poor fellow was utterly exhausted but at his wife's instance once again mounted the pole. He began to perform. Then in the middle of a feat, his mood changed. A strong feeling of disenchantment overtook him. He realised all of a sudden that the king's attention was fastened elsewhere and there was no point in his continuing to perform. He came down, sorely disillusioned and did not once look in the direction of the king. His whole approach towards his wife and his profession underwent a change. He renounced everything then and there and started on a spiritual pilgrimage.

Desires create a lot of difficulties in our life. Every desire poses a danger. The counsel that all desires be ended will not be universally acceptable. For an average man, a life without desire would be terribly dull. To do away with all kinds of entertainments would be a most unattractive proposition. However, this may be said without any fear of contradiction that unless gratification is kept in check, no wholesome living would be possible. Preoccupation with the outer must be counterbalanced by interest in what goes on within. This would put a stop to all unnecessary violence, which constitutes the greatest problem of the day. Some sort of violence is implicit in living. But is modern man only engaged in necessary violence? And is he never guilty of unnecessary, inessential use of brute force? An impartial enquiry would reveal that man's resort to force may be appropriate in only 25 per cent of the cases, in the remaining 75 per cent of cases, violence is totally unnecessary. This unnecessary violence owes its origin to man's restlessness, to his deep sense of approbation and condemnation, to sheer negligence and to his preoccupation with the outer. It is certainly on account of these four causes that unnecessary violence prevails in everyday living. If a proper balance is maintained, if integration supplants restlessness, if equanimity dispels like and dislike, if wakefulness replaces langour, and the inner is given as much attention as the outer, all unnecessary violence would cease. All aggression and dishonesty would come to an end. It is often said, "Be honest and fair! Do nothing which is base; no adulteration, no counterfeiting, no deception!" Man hears the words—they sound good. And yet in everyday action, man resorts to lying, dishonesty and fraud. He even commits murder unhesitatingly. He causes endless pain to others and seldom shows compassion. One wonders why. What is it that makes him court evil deliberately? Is it not because of his excessive attachment to material things? Caught in craving, the mind loses its equilibrium. The man whose mind is unbalanced, may indulge in abuse, in violence, in rowdyism. Such a man can do anything, because his mind is in disorder, because he is in fact mad. He is so much attached to material things that he must have them at all costs. To gratify his desire, he would stop at nothing. And if he cannot have his own way, he goes mad. Under the circumstances, no change of heart is possible. For such a transformation to be possible, communion with truth, with what is real is the first essential.

One man lit a lantern to dispel darkness. A blind man came and stumbled against it, and kicked it off, breaking its chimney. Now what is the use of lighting a lantern, if one has no eyes to see and cannot, therefore, utilize it? Without the ability to sec, the lantern serves no purpose.

The light comes from the lantern, from the fire, from the lamp, from the electric bulb, from the sun and the moon. All give out light, but if there is no light in the eye, all other lights turn into darkness. The greatest light is that of our eyes with which we take in other lights. When the light in which other lights are comprehended fails, everything turns into darkness. Without the awakening of inner consciousness, of the consciousness of meditation, of the light emanating therefrom, all outer lights, all doctrines of enlighten­ment, become darkened—they only serve to confuse. It may be the word of the most enlightened person—the word of Buddha or Mahavir or that of Krishna—without inner awakening, it only leads one to darkness. Chanakya has rightly observed, "What can scriptures do for one whose wisdom is not awakened?" Great truths are revealed in religious books and if man had lived in accordance with those truths, the world today would have been entirely different - man would have presented quite another picture—not a confused mass of distorted lines but a resplendent figure of great beauty. But man's image today is not at all gratifying. Because man's wisdom lies dormant, all the great truths of religion are of little use to him. Chanakya's description is most apt. A man stands before the mirror to descry his face. But if the man is blind, the mirror will not show him his face. For a sightless person, the mirror is of little use. You must possess sight to see your reflection in the mirror.

What is urgently needed is the seeing eye—right perception. The order of our discussion stands reversed. We have discussed the role of restlessness, passions, negligence and attachment; now we start from right perception, which brings about a total change in one's vital interests. One is not then so deeply attached to the material world as is a person caught in illusion. One whose approach is faulty is bound to be excessively preoccupied with material objects in which alone he seems to find security. It appears to him that security lies in money, a big bank balance. He says to himself, "I'll get old, I might fall ill, there would not be anyone to tend me in that time of extremity, money alone will stand me in good stead. The riches alone will then avail." But sometimes wealth leads to self-destruction or becomes the cause of murder. When it becomes known that a man is old and blind and has plenty of money, some people are tempted to murder him for his wealth. The poor fellow is afflicted with a multitude of troubles. A great many difficulties arise. This search for security in material objects undergoes a complete transformation with the arising of right perception. A man then begins to perceive that true security lies within, not in outer things. As long as one is caught in material objects, finding in them great pleasure, one would never be secure. One certainly derives much gratification from attachment, but this very gratification becomes a hurdle in one's path to salvation, and to civilized living. The man who has experienced the bliss of non-gratification and non-attachment, has already triumphed over many difficulties. Out of 12 vows prescribed by Mahatma Gandhi, one was specially concerned with indifference towards taste. The word 'indifference' here does not apply to food alone, it includes all gratifications. Where there is a desire for satisfaction, search for pleasure, it is an indication that inner attachment has not dimin­ished, has not undergone any transformation.

There was a monk out for begging alms. He happened to reach an acrobat's house. The daughter of the house gave him a sweet­meat-ball. It had been finely prepared, and it spread its fragrance all around. It was quite a big ball too. The monk was fascinated by the fragrance. "It smells so sweet!" he thought, "How delicious would it be in eating!" The desire for gratification had taken hold of him.

This desire for gratification is found in everyone. Just by becoming a monk, you do not get rid of it. However, the keener one's quest of truth, the greater one's spiritual endeavour, the less prone is one to desire for gratification. Mere renouncing the world and becoming a monk is not enough. One has to accomplish a lot of groundwork. One has accepted asceticism. But there are the passions, the laziness and langour to be conquered. There is noble dispassion to be achieved. A lot requires to be done. Gratification dies hard.

So the desire for gratification awoke in the monk. "What wonderfully pleasant smell this sweetmeat ball gives out! The very sight of it is most gratifying to the eye; how very delicious will it be in eating! But I've got only one. How can one ball suffice? There is the master, there is my teacher and there are my co-monks. There's also the very old monk, my care. All these have to be fed first. Courtesy demands it. Until I can procure at least six sweetmeat balls, there is little prospect of getting one for myself."

The cycle of gratification had started, and the poor monk was caught in it. Now, through devotion and ceaseless endeavour, he had acquired a great many powers. Immediately he assumed the appearance of a young hermit. Not that he put on the garb of a hermit. Oh, no, thanks to the great mystical powers he had, he simply transformed himself into one by changing the shape and structure of his body. So it was quite a different monk who approached the acrobat's house for alms. Thus he received another sweetmeat ball. But again, two balls would not suffice, he thought. He wanted six. So, one after the other, he assumed the shape of still another monk, and collected six balls. Now at least one would fall to his share. The master-acrobat, from his high perch above, observed all this and thought, "Here's a remarkable putter-on, a grand magician! If only we can get this man, we would make a fortune. Our troupe would become famous all over the world. We acrobats and actors also change garbs, but this man needs no outer paraphernalia; he can change his appearance anywhere, and at any time, right in front of the spectators, to their mounting wonder. We must procure him." So he came down and told his daughter, "If the monk who came this morning revisits our house tomorrow, offer him the most delicious dishes." He rightly concluded that the monk was a gourmand, a covetous eater who sought pleasure in food. Once you get hold of the pulse of a man, there is not much difficulty in treating him right. The difficulty lies, not in treatment, but in making a diagnosis. If the diagnosis is correct, right treatment follows naturally. If the diagnosis is not correct, even the most renowned doctors get confused.

The master-acrobat said to his daughter, "See to it that the monk is handsomely treated. Prepare for him the most delicious dishes." The monk came and was immensely gratified by his reception. He came the next day. And the next. He came daily, till at last, he gave up monkhood and joined the company of the acrobats.

The search for gratification, for enjoyment, constitutes the first hurdle. It is what creates restlessness. It makes a man fall from high to the lowest depths. It makes him lose his balance altogether. Behind a man's restlessness lies his desire for sensual pleasure - of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell - all these pleasures make a man restless. Powerful currents from the five senses are continu­ally flowing. A shock from one sense staggers the mind; a blow from another makes the mind yet more unsteady. One scorpion's sting unsettles a man quite and it would be hard to imagine his plight if five scorpions were to sting him together. The mind by itself is not fickle, but five scorpion-stings would madden any man. The effort to decrease restlessness is inevitably linked with that of controlling desire for gratification. The practice of Preksha Meditation is designed to bring about an integrated mind, to promote stability, to lessen restlessness with a view to removing it altogether. However, the mind's restlessness cannot be done away with until desire for gratification comes to an end. The less the desire for gratification, the lesser is man's restlessness.

Another factor behind the growth of restlessness is inattention, that is lack of awareness. Attachment, illusory thinking, attraction and repulsion, are various forms thereof. Sleep, idle gossip and sloth - all produce restlessness, destroy stability.

The third factor is pleasant and unpleasant sensations. Im­pulses, emotions, passions - all these increase restlessness. How terribly restless one becomes when caught in a paroxysm of rage.

One's whole frame shivers, the lips tremble, the mouth quakes! A verse from Acharya Bhikshu is most apt here:

While in rage, the mouth quakes
Like grams being parched in an oven!

I myself witnessed the truth of it once at Gangapur in Mewar. There was a terrace in front of the house where we stayed. The street that passed before Was narrow. A bullock-cart entered the street. The man sitting on the terrace said, "Don't go this way! The street is narrow. The bullock-cart in passing would damage the terrace." The bullock-cart-man said. "How can you prevent my using this thoroughfare? It is not your personal property." The bullock-cart advanced into the street. The man sitting on the terrace flared up and actually jumped into the cart. He was white with rage. This reminded me of the Acharya's verse. Not only does anger make a person talk loud, it also makes him leap and vault.

For three days now we have been discussing principles underlying a change of heart. In this context, we have enumerated five causes of restlessness: wrong perception, attachment, inattention, strong passions and carnal disposition. These must be controlled. To decrease restlessness, let passions languish, inattention fall away and let attachment subside. This leads to the dissolution of false impressions and augments the possibility of heart-purification. Those who want a real change of heart and wish to do away with violence altogether, should not rest content with mere theoretical discussion, but must take practical steps in this direction.

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. Acharya
  2. Acharya Bhikshu
  3. Anger
  4. Bhikshu
  5. Body
  6. Buddha
  7. Chanakya
  8. Consciousness
  9. Equanimity
  10. Fear
  11. Gangapur
  12. Krishna
  13. Mahatma
  14. Mahatma Gandhi
  15. Mahavir
  16. Meditation
  17. Mewar
  18. Preksha
  19. Preksha Meditation
  20. Psychic Centres
  21. Violence
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