The Art Of Positive Thinking: Change Of Heart—A Great Achievement

Published: 15.01.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

Some time ago I happened to read a discussion on the subject, "Man's Greatest Achievement". Wherever there is a debate, different kinds of opinions are aired. In society are found people belonging to different traditions and owing allegiance to different beliefs. The ethnologists are of the view that the evolution of the family is the greatest accomplishment of human society. Man is the only intelligent animal that has continually developed. Many species of animals are today extinct, whereas human population has reached the five billion mark. The evolution of the race is man's greatest achievement, they say.

The social scientists are of the view that the commencement of agriculture is one of the greatest attainments of man. The day man sowed the first seed and cultivated the first field, he found a great solution to his problems. He has since steadily progressed.

The anthropologists believe that to be able to stand on two feet, so as to leave the hands complete freedom of movement, is man's greatest accomplishment, and undoubtedly it is a great achieve­ment. To stand with one's spinal cord erect, to have the hands completely free to move, is a wonderful thing. If man were a quadruped, he would have been no better than cows or buffaloes.

According to still another belief, man's greatest achievement is the search for the species of man on other planets. Where else in this vast universe is the race of man to be found? If this search is successful, that would indeed be the greatest human accomplish­ment.

We began with a particular theme and in the consideration of that a great many thoughts, and different beliefs and conclusions came to the fore. In the context of these beliefs, I should like to state my own opinion that man's greatest achievement is 'change of heart'. With reference to man's image that has hitherto evolved, the line of distinction between man and beast, the most important concept is that of transformation of the human mind. No other living creature except man is capable of bringing about such a transformation. The biggest of the most intelligent beasts knows nothing about it. There is only one living being - that is man - who knows how to go about it. It is man who has established the doctrine of change of heart, and experimented with it. And he has succeeded.

Psychology admits of some basic human urges. Differences exist as regards the exact number of such urges, yet a few of these are acknowledged by all psychologists, for example search for food, sexual gratification, escape and bellicosity. These constitute the basic human traits.

Search for food is a basic urge. Its motive is hunger. Man feels hungry and looks about for food.

The second basic disposition is man's urge for sexual gratifica­tion, motivated by sexual passion.

Desire for escape is also a fundamental human trait. Its motive is fear. Man is afraid and seeks to avoid it.

Likewise bellicosity, motivated by pride, is a fundamental urge. Man revels in war.

These are some of the fundamental urges which can be sublimated by man alone, and which no other living creature can refine. Lust is sublimated into continence. No other living creature except man is capable of it. Fear is sublimated into fearlessness. No other living creature has evolved fearlessness. All the beasts are afflicted with fear today as much as before; invaded by lust, as much as a million years ago. Bellicosity is transformed by man into mutual tolerance; no other living creature has been able to transcend bellicosity; animals indulge in fighting as much as before. The dog still barks. There is no dog all over the world who has stopped barking, or stopped fighting with other dogs. As soon as a dog belonging to one locality goes to another locality, a fight with other dogs inevitably ensues. No change, no evolution has occurred in the dogs mentality over the ages. A dog may belong to India, America, or Russia, its basic disposition remains unchanged.

Man has been able to purify his primitive inclinations. In the psychological context, change of heart means purification of one's mental disposition. Refinement of one's fundamental nature amounts to a transformation of one's consciousness, a complete change of heart. A total change of direction is no simple accomplishment. A man going along a particular path conducts himself in a particular way. When the direction changes, there is a sea-change in circum­stances, and a man's conduct and behaviour undergo a transformation.

Himmat Singh Patel was an inhabitant of Saurashtra. He was a very sturdy man, enormously proud of his physical strength. He believed that there was no task he could not accomplish. One day a friend said to him, "Himmat Singh! You are so powerful! You could do anything. I wonder if you can overtake your own shadow. Behold that rising sun. Get going. Accomplish the task set for you." Himmat Singh said, "Well, this is no task really. I'll accomplish it in a jiffy!" And he ran after his own shadow. But the more he exerted, the farther the shadow got from him. In this race for getting hold of his own shadow, he was soon exhausted. He worked hard, but to no purpose. No matter how fast he ran, the shadow seemed to run faster. He was overwhelmed by fatigue and despair.

In this unenviable plight he saw a saint with whom he was acquainted coming towards him. The saint said, "Himmat! What is it you are doing? You look so perplexed!" Himmat said. "Sir, I've never failed to accomplish any task hitherto proposed to me. But today I seem destined to fail. I am therefore greatly upset. Kindly guide me! I have undertaken to overtake my own shadow, but I have not succeeded so far. What am I to do?" The saint said, "It's very simple. You just turn about!" The moment Himmat Singh turned his face, the direction changed. With the change of direction, he found himself at the head of the shadow that had eluded him before. His shadow lay behind him.

With a change in direction, the shadow can be overtaken. Man runs after shadows and pelf. Both elude him; they get farther and farther away—man finds himself caught in an illusion which never dissolves. However, when the direction changes, the shadow is overtaken;   the riches too. Everything then becomes amenable.

Man is the only living creature who is capable of altering his direction, of purifying his fundamental nature, of effecting a complete change of heart by transforming his consciousness. In this context it can be safely averred that man's greatest achievement is his capacity for effecting a change of heart, a transformation of consciousness and a purification of his primal drives.

Moral values in society have evolved on the basis of heartchange. In no other society of living creatures except man exist anything like moral values. Nor are they necessary to other animals because their intelligence is not fully developed. Without the development of intelligence, moral values cannot exist. Immoral values also originate from intelligence. In the animal kingdom there is no intellectual developement; it also accounts for the absence of immorality there; other animals never violate decorum, never step outside their ambit. They always move about within prescribed limits. There is never any infringement. There exists neither morality nor immorality. Man alone, through his developed intel­lect, has produced values which are not beneficial to society; on the contrary which are positively detrimental. A change of direction takes place and man establishes moral values. The use of penal force and power is prevalent not only among men, but also in the animal kingdom. Not only man but even the smallest living creature uses force. And this use of force is confined not only to living creatures, it is also prevalent in the vegetable kingdom. The ants of course employ penal force, so do the bees. A careful enquiry makes it clear that all living beings use penal force. But there are also trees which employ force to embroil a man in their tentacles. There are trees whose leaves are at first open, but as soon as a man sits under these, the leaves close round him, and after extracting all sap out of him, fling off the empty shell of a carcass. And there are not one, but many such trees and plants which use violence, which suck the life out of living beings and exploit them. Likewise the ants maintain social order among themselves, the queen-ant directing the move­ment of the whole community. The ants which shirk work and become lazy, are excommunicated. Similar is the organisation of the bees, the bee-queen awarding punishment to and boycotting the shirkers.

In the whole world of living creatures, penal force and power is employed for maintaining order. But man has also developed self-discipline to replace brute force. It is his distinction to use the minimum of brute penal force, and to awaken self-discipline instead.

The first principle of effecting a revolution in the psyche, a complete change of heart, is self-discipline. Until self-discipline is evolved, one cannot be said to have revolutionised one's being. Change of heart is an imperceptible process of our consciousness; it cannot be seen. But the evolution of self-discipline in an individual is an indication that a change of heart has actually taken place.

The evolution of self-discipline is an important step in the establishment of society and social values. Non-violence is unimag­inable without self-discipline. Self-discipline, in fact, is the basis for the full development of non-violence.

The second element of a psychic revolution is the development of fearlessness. Non-violence is unimaginable without fearlessness. Fear is one of the primal drives. Man is afraid. Fear informs the whole of human life. Man fears the past, the present and the future. He is cowed down by the past; the fear of something which happened and is now no more, is indelibly imprinted upon his mind and man continues in fear of that happening throughout his life.

Something happened in a man's life. He was terribly frightened and by no means he was able to get rid of his fear. Somebody suggested, 'The simplest and an infallible way to get rid of your fear is to forget the incident that caused it. Erase it from your memory altogether." The man liked the idea. Now he grew extremely self-conscious and found himself constantly iterating, "I must forget that event. I must obliterate the past." However, the more he tried to forget it, the more strengthened in memory the event stood. Thus, through memory, the event was constantly rejuvenated. The fear of the past continued unabated.

Man is also oppressed by the fear of the present. He is afraid of this or that, afraid of a thief breaking into his house, afraid of his boss - the fear of the present is a permanent trait. Man is not without fear even for a single moment. At all times and on all occasions, sitting or standing, awake or asleep, eating and drinking, he is oppressed by an unknown fear.

Then there is the fear of the future—born of imagination. It is no less terrible. Man continually says to himself, "I'm getting older and feeble. Shall my children take care of me? Shall I get meals at regular hours? If I fall ill, who will look after me?" One thought after another keeps worrying him.

A man was greatly afflicted by fear. A sensible friend asked, "What is it that you are afraid of?" He replied, "A dark phantom follows me constantly. I perceive it at all times, waking or asleep, while moving about, eating or drinking, it is never absent, and I live in constant fear of it." The wise friend prepared an amulet and gave it to him. The man wound the amulet round his arm and his fear evaporated. The black phantom disappeared. But after two months the man again approached his friend. His friend asked, 'You're not afflicted by fear any more, are you?" The man replied, "Well, the dark phantom worries me no more, but a new fear has taken its place. I am now continually afraid of losing my amulet!"

Man is afraid of the past. He is also afraid of the present, and of the future too. Memory persists, thought worries and imagina­tion fills one with fear. Everything becomes frightening. Man walks in fear every moment of his life. But man is also responsible for developing fearlessness. He is also able to make such progress in this direction that neither time, nor place, nor death itself causes him any fear. He grows to be absolutely fearless. He transcends fear altogether.

Such a development takes place of itself while man is practising meditation. Fear comes to an end. Man has been able to live with snakes in amity, even with snakes whose very thought at first makes him tremble with fear. Likewise man has been able to establish friendship with ferocious beasts who kill man for food. Man has developed friendship; he has also developed fearlessness. As non­violence, fearlessness and friendship evolve, all living beings grow friendly.

When one living being attacks another, it is mainly for two reasons—fear and hunger. The cow, the buffalo or the bullock assume a threatening posture towards man. Why? Chiefly due to fear. While travelling on the highway, we often witness the cows and the buffaloes start in fear at the sight of the multicoloured flag carried by the forerunners. An investigation revealed that the animals are not afraid of the cloth, but they are mightily affrighted by the colours. The beasts have little sense of colour. Whenever confronted with a coloured article, they imagine it to be some horrible monster and flee in fear. Fear is the chief factor behind their flight and the hideous features they assume. Another cause of their aggressive attitude is hunger; the beasts attack man when hungry.

Through the practice of meditation and the evolution of fear­lessness, man gives rise to such vibrations in whose presence even hungry and frightened beasts forbear aggression and imbibing fearlessness become docile. The effulgence of meditation, the radiant beams of consciousness, freed from like and dislike, spread in the atmosphere, putting an end to fear in man and beast. We have all seen pictures of a tiger and a goat together on the same bank of the stream, peacefully slaking their thirst—here is a symbol of fearlessness, of the stream of purified consciousness. With purity of consciousness comes dispassion, total freedom from affections. In such a state of freedom, the lion and the goat may subsist in a cage together in perfect fearlessness. However, it belongs to another dimension altogether.

A man daily visited a zoo where he found a lion and a goat in one and the same cage. He said to one of the warders, "What good fellowship! The miracle of the lion and the goat together!" The warder said, "Sir, you are imagining things! There is no such fellowship. A new goat is tied to the stake in this cage everyday. As long as the lion is free from hunger, the goat is safe. The moment hunger afflicts the lion, the goat is devoured and has to be replaced."

This is no fellowship! Goodwill exists where the lion, even though hungry, does not pounce upon the goat, and the two coexist without violence. Two persons with contradictory natures living together in amity—that would be a sign of genuine goodwill. Man has been able to develop such a consciousness. Through height­ened consciousness man is capable of sending forth vibrations of utter fearlessness. No longer is he afflicted by fear of place, time, person or thing, or passions arising in his own heart. The greatest fear is that of the passions arising in one's own heart. When these passions assume a monstrous form, a terrific storm arises in the mind, and the whole sea of consciousness becomes deeply agitated. At that time an individual is liable to lose his balance. Fear born of imagination is the most dreadful. However, a man who regularly practises meditation remains quiet and unperturbed in the midst of this turmoil. His developed consciousness enters a dimension of complete intrepidity. He becomes wholly fearless. Fear comes from all directions—from the east, the west, the north and the south—the whole country is pervaded by fear. However, a completely intrepid person knows no fear from any direction whatsoever. Neither from above, nor from below, neither the fear of the master, nor the fear of the operative. He enjoys complete intrepidity—total absence of fear. The whole atmosphere is charged with fearlessness.

The third principle of mind-transformation is tolerance. A woman said, "How can there be peace in family life?" I said, "Don't bother about peace for the time being. Think first of toleration. Peace is the by-product of toleration. In the absence of toleration, there can be no peace. Toleration means—to tolerate one another. Different ideas, different impressions, different ways of living, different interests—everything is different. Neither ideas, nor patterns of living, nor traditions, nor interests cohere. Notwithstanding all differ­ences, however, peaceful coexistence is possible. There need be no difficulty about it. The hot and the cold, light and darkness, fire and water, may exist together. Contradictory elements may abide in the same person or place. The great virtue of the doctrine of non-exclusion is the coexistence of the contraries. The harmonization of the opposites is the foundation of the doctrine. If contrary elements can coexist in the material world, why may not rival thoughts or different patterns of behaviour coexist in society. Such peaceful coexistence is certainly possible. But the secret of such coexistence lies in the evolution of tolerance, which means tolerance of one another, tolerance of different thoughts and ways of living, of different cultures and interests. Mutual tolerance obviates discord and strife and is consequently a great factor in the maintenance of peace. Each individual thinks in his own particular way. I think in my own way. Is my thought, my idea, the ultimate reality? does it wholly symbolize truth? Have I alone the monopoly of truth? Do I deny the other person the right to think in his own way? Can't the other person think straight? Is the other person wholly incapable of right thinking or conduct? Great masters have said that an old and very experienced person can make a mistake and even a child may sometimes offer a wholesome suggestion. Truth, irrespective o where it comes from, should be universally acceptable.

There is the story of an autocratic ruler asking the head of a family to provide him with a rope of sand or face death by hanging. It was an impossible demand! A rope of sand! Nothing could make the grains of sand stick together. How could one make a rope like that? The headman and all the members of his family were plunged into despair. Death stared them in the face. The elders could find no solution. But a child said, "I see a way out!" And immediately he wrote a missive to the king and sent it through a messenger. The missive read: "Sir! Your command is acceptable. We'll do as you please. Only we must respectfully submit that we live In a very small village far removed from civilization and without any educational facilities. In your great capital dwell artists and craftsmen of all sorts, highly skilled in various disciplines. If you kindly send us a pattern of the sand-rope you want, we shall certainly gratify your desire and send you back as large a quantity of rope as you wish."

A mere boy, through his intelligence, was able to rescue his family out of a very critical situation.

What right have we to claim infallibility for ourselves, while completely discrediting other people's beliefs? Let us give up this rank audacity and cultivate tolerance for others. When the head of a family monopolizes for himself the right to think correctly, he creates intolerance which gives rise to strife and stubbornness. Wisdom is no man's monopoly or personal property, and the moment we realize this truth, we create an atmosphere of tolerance. Then the chief motive is mutual understanding. I make an effort to understand what the other person is saying and likewise the other person is keen to understand me. I tolerate you and you tolerate me. With the evolution of mutual tolerance, peaceful co-existence becomes a reality. Man alone among animals has developed these concepts of mutual tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

The fourth factor in bringing about a complete change of heart is the evolution of compassion. Here and there in the animal kingdom we witness exhibition of pity, but not in all animals.

There is the story of a dog who was highly intelligent. Each day his master sent him to the bazar with a bag. The dog went to a particular shopkeeper and delivered back to his master a dozen pieces of bread everyday. One day, the master found only eleven pieces of bread in the bag. He said to himself, "The dog has dropped one piece somewhere." But when each day the dog brought eleven pieces, the master resolved to enquire into the matter. And he found that on the daily route taken by the dog sat a sick bitch, who could not move about. His dog daily threw one piece of bread before the bitch, and thus delivered to his master only eleven pieces out of twelve.

Such examples of commiseration in the animal kingdom are found here and there. Also there are to be found stories of tenderness for one's own offspring. We give below an outstanding tale of affectionate attachment on the part of an animal-mother.

A hunter was about to kill a she-deer. He bent his bow and was about to shoot the arrow when the she-deer spoke:

"O hunter!" she said, "You may take every bit of flesh of my body, but kindly spare the dugs." The hunter wondered, "Why?" The she-deer said, "My two calves are yet too young to eat grass. They can only suck milk from my udders to keep themselves alive. Without the milk from my dugs, they will not survive. So do me a kindness.  Spare the dugs; take away every other bit of flesh."

It is a very moving tale—an excellent illustration of affectionate love. Without affection, without the tender feeling of love, the shedeer's outburst would not be possible. So the beasts too display affection; they too possess a feeling of tenderness, but this feeling remains individual, unsocialized; it has not developed into a social ethos. It is man's distinction to have developed his sense of pity, to have established compassion as a great humanistic ideal.

We have been talking about a complete "change of heart". We have touched upon various aspects of this question and have come to know and appreciate the factors involved. We have also ac­quainted ourselves with the results thereof. In view of all this, it may be safely concluded that "change of heart" is man's greatest accomplishment.

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. Body
  2. Consciousness
  3. Fear
  4. Fearlessness
  5. Meditation
  6. Non-violence
  7. Pride
  8. Tolerance
  9. Violence
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