The Art Of Positive Thinking: Negative Thinking

Published: 12.01.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

There is a mythological tale about an ascetic who led a life of devout austerity. The extremity of his penance made Lord Indra's throne oscillate. Lord Indra became apprehensive; his position was endangered, his splendour dimmed. He might be supplanted. So the threatened god descended to the earth, where he saw a devout monk practising great self-mortification. Lord Indra thought of a strata­gem by which he could defeat the monk's growing power, and thereby preserve his throne. He approached the ascetic and placing before him a beautiful sword made of gold, said, "Sir, I'm going to town. Will you kindly take care of my sword for some time. I'll collect it from you on my return from town,"

The ascetic said, "AL right. But you must return soon." Indra went away. Two hours parsed. A whole night. But Indra did not come back. The sword was made of gold. The devout man had to keep an eye on it, lest someone should steal it. He kept waiting for Indra, but the god never returned. The care of the golden sword diverted the ascetic's attention from his devoted task. His medita­tion was disturbed. His power decreased. The threat to Indra's position receded.

It may be said that whenever someone practises meditation, Indra's throne oscillates. There abides an Indra in each one of us and his throne within us is endangered by penance. So Indra dangles before the meditator a golden sword, diverting his attention and making a mockery of his meditation, so that the meditator's virtue stands diminished.

Those who practise meditation know how destructive thoughts, some of which they never entertain even in a dream, come to the surface during meditation. It happens so because Indra's seat within us wavers and to protect it many golden swords in the form of negative thoughts appear. As a spiritual practitioner goes further into the depths of meditation and as his virtue grows, the Indra seated within him gets frightened. Indra here means craving for glory and power, the desire to be on the top. At the centre of our life-cycle is ensconced a most powerful element which dictates our everyday living. This element - avarice - occupies Lord Indra's throne. At the centre is the greed, with other elements on the periphery. The centre, Indra's seat, is possessed by greed. It is greed that dictates every action; it is invested with the greatest power and glory. It is the strongest force and everything else is subservient to it. Theoretically we might say that even when anger, pride and illusion are destroyed, avarice remains. Even when other elements on the periphery are no more, that at the centre persists. It is only after every passion stands annihilated that greed is destroyed.

At the centre stands avarice and it gives rise to attachment. That is why negative, destructive thoughts rule man's life. Positive, constructive thinking is rare. Fear afflicts every mind. Evil imaginings and apprehensions predominate. Fear of what might or might not happen worries a man endlessly. If each man goes into himself and does some introspection, he will find that 90 per cent of his thinking is negative and destructive with hardly 10 per cent of it constructive. In the state of meditation, all these negative, destructive thoughts rise to the surface, and we have a kind of network in which man is entangled.

In ancient literature we come across an abundance of tales and legends connected with the gods. In the context of meditational practice, all these gods and demons and ruthless monsters could be interpreted as negative, destructive thoughts.

There is a tale of the times of Lord Mahavir about a lay-follower called Chulnipita who lived in Varanasi. He solemnly declared his faith in Lord Mahavir's teachings and was very much alive to religious inspiration. One day he sat meditating in his penance-retreat. The day passed. Night came. It grew to be midnight. He was totally awake, meditating. All around him was darkness. But inside him burned the flame of meditation.

It was the midnight hour. Perfect silence reigned; quiet solitude. Chulnipita sat totally absorbed in meditation. All of a sudden a demon appeared before him. The demon said, "O beloved of the gods! What are you doing? Give up meditation. It is not going to do you any good." Chulnipita sat calm and immovable. The demon urged him twice or thrice to give up meditation. But Chulnipita kept silent. At this, the demon said, "Do you hear me or not? I say, give up meditation. Buzz off! If you disobey me, you are in for trouble. Dreadful consequences would follow. So better get going. Back home!" But Chulnipita continued unperturbed, unmoved, indifferent. Thereupon the demon said, "You aren't heeding me! Well, I'll fetch your eldest son and cut him into pieces and roast him in a boiling cauldron and the blood thereof I'd sprinkle on your body." But Chulnipita continued steadfast, fearless and immovable. The demon dragged forth Chulnipita's eldest son from his house and right before Chulnipita he killed him, cut him into bits and fried those pieces in a boiling cauldron and with his son's blood he smeared Chulnipita's body.

Chulnipita remained unperturbed and went on with his medi­tation.

The demon said: "You are very stubborn, utterly heartless and cruel. Here you seem to be engaged in religious meditation, and the springs of love are drying up in your heart. He alone may be said to be religious whose heart is full of compassion. But your son is being tortured to death and you are so pitiless that you wouldn't move your little finger to save him. Better give up your obstinacy even now or your remaining two sons will meet the same fate as your eldest son. Away with hypocrisy! Better save your sons!"

All this had no effect whatsoever on Chulnipita. The demon killed the middle son, cut him into pieces, and fried him in scalding oil and smeared Chulnipita with his son's blood.

Chulnipita continued unswerving. The demon did with the youngest son as he had done with the elder ones. But Chulnipita continued in religious meditation as before.

All Chulnipita's sons were killed. But Chulnipita continued firm. The demon was crestfallen, filled with despair. Yet he would make one more attempt, without hope. He said, "Chulnipita! You're very obstinate. I'm now going to kill your mother Bhadra and I'll cut her into pieces, and fry her in the cauldron."

This threat Chulnipita duly registered. He thought: "This vile savage will stop at nothing. He can do anything. He has killed my sons. And now he is going to kill my mother." Chulnipita's affection for his mother overwhelmed him quite. His firm resolve melted into thin air, and he rose up to chase the wicked personage before him. The evil spirit rose into the sky and disappeared. Chulnipita happened to catch hold of a pole and he started hurling curses on it. Thereupon all the members of his family came running to him. None of his sons had been killed. Nor had any harm been done to his mother. There was no cauldron and no bodies quartered into bits. All was illusion, the demon's trick.

This myth may be interpreted to mean that an evil sprit appeared and perpetrated atrocities. However, in the context of meditation or yoga, it might be interpreted in a different way altogether. There was no spectre; there was nothing. The negative, destructive thoughts of the individual rose to the surface and these wove a net of illusion in which the individual was badly caught and he imagined his sons killed and his mother threatened with death. When the cycle of negative thoughts came to a close and his meditation ended, everything vanished; nothing was left.

Every man living in this world of ours is acquainted with violence, murder and suicide. He knows that there exists in this world, theft and pillage and all sorts of crime. He is acquainted well enough with the prevalent disorder and criminal mentality. All these are imprinted on his mind. There are many things which he experiences for himself, and others which he hears happening to others. All these are stored in memory. Not the accumulated experience of one life, but of many previous lives as well. All these leave their mark on the mind. When a man, freeing himself from outer interests and inclinations, sits in concentrated attention, the inner memories rise and manifest themselves. Is there a man who has never perpetrated violence, never killed anything, never told a lie, never indulged in deceit and illusion, never committed thefts, robberies and plunder or other crimes? Each of us is guilty of these crimes, if not in this life, in innumerable previous lives at least. These proclivities in subtle forms cling to our emotional being for ever. These are not visible. When a man is in a state of meditation, inner warmth increases. Under the pressure of this inward heat, the subtle imprints on the mind soften and appear in gross forms. It seems then that some demon is causing harassment, creating endless trouble. Strange visions arise and a man is quite perplexed.

According to an ayurvedic doctrine, one should start one's day at dawn with the incantation of 'Om'. Every religious community holds that one should remember God immediately on getting up in the morning. Spiritualistic philosophies recommend self-contem­plation or self-perception as the first activity of the day. All these serve as a means of awakening constructive thought. If the wheel of constructive thinking is set in motion at the very beginning of the day, all actions thereafter are likely to be performed with full awareness. On the other hand, if the wheel of negative thinking is set in motion at matin, the whole day is engulfed by the destructive aura thereof.

Modern man's mode of living is somewhat different. Nowadays, a man likes to begin his morning with a cup of tea and a perusal of the newspaper or by listening to the radio. The newspaper is full of material for rousing negative tendencies, enough to vitiate the quality of the entire day. The daily newspaper is mostly full of news of violence of various kinds, murder, rape, theft, robbery, pillage or accidents; it is largely filled with romantic incidents, all of which are expressions of negative and destructive thinking and which nourish morbid thoughts and feelings in the reader's mind. A man spends the entire day under their domination. That is what constitutes modern man's worship of God, his act of self-observation, his cherished substitute for the incantation of the sacred word Om", with which he begins his day!

All this shows that man's approach in determining the course of his everyday living is not scientific; rather it is most unscientific. What to speak of meditation and practice thereof, even his daily routine (which is of foremost importance) is not properly chalked out.

How to start the day? What kind of routine must one follow? What is the right beginning and the right ending? It is but proper that a man should carefully consider these details. In ancient times people gave much thought to these. They underlined the impor­tance of maintaining good health, but also emphasized at the same time the necessity of working out a healthy routine. A proper beginning and ending of the day was necessary for the maintenance of physical, mental and emotional health.

Our day should begin with a glimpse of that which is all-powerful, omniscient and full of joy. In other words, one must begin one's day with full consciousness and observation. The moment of awakening is the moment of meeting the beloved—the beloved being an entity charged with power, consciousness and joy. That which is divested of power, that which is unconscious and ignorant of bliss, can never be good; it can only be productive of evil.

One's palms and fingers constitute a symbol of the good. The first thing many people do on getting up in the morning is to look at their palms and fingers. They do so because they know that the goddess of wealth abides in their fingers. Prosperity is a good thing, not at all bad. It is a symbol of power, of consciousness, of joy. Without prosperity, all our power is lost, our consciousness dwindles and our joy turns to nothing. Symbolizing this trinity of power, consciousness and joy is prosperity, our deity. Of course it is a symbol - it may symbolize God, or enlightenment or the soul - all these may be looked upon as symbols of what is good and desirable, which destitution can never be.

Prosperity and poverty respectively symbolize good and bad fortune. All divine powers, self-realization and virtues are symbol­ized by prosperity; all misfortunes, negative emotions and destruc­tive thoughts are likewise symbolized by poverty.

A scholar approached the king for a gift of money. He thought out a plan for accomplishing his purpose. The moment he saw the king, he made a deep bow and said, "Sir! I'm your brother and have come to see you from far." The king looked at him from top to toe. He was clad in rags - a very picture of misery, his face unfamiliar. The king was all astonishment. The scholar said, "Sir! Why don't you say something? Do you not recognize me? I am your younger brother and come to visit you after a long time." Ignoring the scholar's impertinence for a while, the king said, "Tell me how you claim to be my brother; if you were my brother, should I not recognize you? How is it possible?" The scholar said, "Sir, I'm speaking the truth. I am your brother." The king persisted, "How?" Thereupon the scholar recited a verse:

O King!
My Mother's name is Adversity.
Your mother, all know, is called Prosperity.
Both are sisters.
Being the son of your mother's sister
Aren't I your brother?
Do you recognize me now?

The king said, "Yes! I know thee now."

Adversity and prosperity, poverty and wealth, misery and joy are real sisters—both live together. It may be said that the right and the left sides of the body symbolize these two: prosperity abides on this side and adversity on the other. The right side belongs to the goddess of wealth, the left to the spectre of misery and want.

There are only two ways, wherever you might roam in this world - the right and the left. Even in the field of religion we have people traversing two paths - the rightists and the leftists. The Tantrists may be called leftists, while the followers of other religions are often termed rightists. Likewise in the field of politics. Our bodies, thoughts and emotions are no strangers to these two paths—the right and the left. The two paths, in fact, run together: the path of prosperity and that of adversity; the path of positive and construc­tive thinking and that of negative destructive thinking. The latter is very much crowded. It is the most frequented path—a busy thoroughfare. On the other hand, the positive and constructive path lies almost deserted. It is a wide path, but not much frequented. Never crowded. Rarely is a traveller seen traversing it. It is for ever vacant. When we sit in meditation, we try to impart some order to the left and make an attempt to cross over to the right. And as we do so, we are confronted by unruly crowds on the left, who often get out of bounds and violate the sanctity of the right.

Had not the ascetic involved himself with the security of the golden sword, his meditation would have continued undisturbed, the path to salvation would never have been obstructed.

Many a temptation crosses the mind during meditation. If the meditator allows himself to be tempted, his meditation fails; all his effort goes waste.

A good many tales are told about ancient sages. It is said that many temptations assailed them. Some yielded to these while others withstood them and remained unaffected. Yama, the God of Death, offered many temptations to Nachiketa.

"Nachiketa", said the Lord of Death, "Give up your resolve to know the Truth. Don't be obstinate. I'm ready to give you anything you like - wealth, family, kingdom or glory. But you must give up your search for truth." Nachiketa said, "O God, I want to find Life Eternal. I long for Truth and desire nothing else."

Similarly, the dialogue between Maitreyi and Gargi in the Upanishads and Kamlavati's message in the Uttaradhyan highlight this very truth - that nothing avails but the Truth. All temptations lead astray. The man who, freeing himself from greed and fear, succeeds in evolving a positive and constructive approach, contin­ues steadfast in his resolve. He progresses by leaps and bounds; on the other hand, the man who is caught in the cycle of negative and destructive thinking is overthrown.

Let us concentrate on the fundamentals. The question then arises as to what force directs our life. What is the central fact within whose periphery our life moves? Let us explore it, calmly and wholeheartedly. If we persevere we shall see that greed is what actuates our life. Let us concentrate on that. Greed has given rise to attachment and ^ignorance. It has created an illusion which haunts man everywhere, and in which he is eternally caught. One wonders sometimes why man, like a bullock working a crusher, going round and round everlastingly, should condemn himself to be a galley slave. What is at the bottom of it all? The poor bullock has been labouring hard from time immemorial. There seems to be no end to its drudgery. It appears to be a short distance to cover but the journey is never done. There is one small mercy shown to the bullock - its eyes are muffled with blinkers. If its eyes had been left uncovered, there could be trouble. The bullock-driver is clever. He muffles its sight, so that the bullock never knows where it is going. Does it say to itself, "I'm ever moving, without a pause. I must have covered a lot of distance!" The poor thing does not know it is merely going round and round, without making progress in any direction. The bullock working a mill goes round and round all its life. If, at the close of its life, it is asked, how much distance it had covered, what could it say? Nothing at all. It had been only treading a beaten track!

Let us concentrate on the centre, get hold of the fundamental urge. If the spiritual practitioner practising meditation does not get hold of the basic urge, the central inclination, if he does not explore it to the full, his meditation would not be very successful. He has to explore the central motive to find out what element is responsible for the creation of negative emotions, wherefrom these negative emotions arise. If he can grasp the root thereof, his meditation is bound to be successful. He will know then where anger comes from, where pride and fear originate. He will know the root cause of all the negative emotions.

A thief was looking out of the iron bars of his cell in jail. Someone said, "Are you expecting a visitor from outside?" The thief in said, "Who will pay me a visit? All the members of my family are here in jail. There is no one outside."

All the negative emotions abide within. There is no destructive thought outside of ourselves. When the central fact of greed is grasped, one shall know that pride, fear, envy, etc., also abide within, not outside. The whole thing will become crystal clear. The truth will stand revealed. After one has explored the negative emotions to their root, one could then address oneself to the task of changing these destructive emotions into constructive ones.

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. Anger
  2. Aura
  3. Ayurvedic
  4. Bhadra
  5. Body
  6. Consciousness
  7. Deceit
  8. Fear
  9. Greed
  10. Indra
  11. Mahavir
  12. Meditation
  13. OM
  14. Omniscient
  15. Pride
  16. Soul
  17. Upanishads
  18. Varanasi
  19. Violence
  20. Yoga
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