Mind-conquest By Spiritual Culture
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book Conquest of Mind.
The mind is like a wheel which revolves endlessly with tremendous velocity. It generates new thoughts with every revolution. This wheel is set in motion with the vibrations of psychic Prana or subtle Prana. The practice of Pranayama lessens the velocity of the mind, slows down the wheel gradually. Perfect control of Prana will bring the wheel to a standstill.
Alcohol, meat, Rajasic foods, the cinema, novel-reading, obscene songs, obscene sights, obscene talks, evil company will make the wheel of mind revolve very rapidly; whereas fruits, Sattvic food, the company of Mahatmas, study religious books, solitude, Japa, Kirtan, concentration, meditation, enquiry of “Who am I?” will slow down the wheel and eventually bring it to a standstill.
Identify yourself with the immortal Self. Enquire, “Who am I?” whenever bad thoughts arise in your mind. All the thoughts will gradually die.
The fewer the desires, the fewer the thoughts. Become absolutely desireless. The wheel of your mind will stop entirely. If you reduce your wants, if you do not try to fulfil your desires, if you try to eradicate your desires one by one, your thoughts will diminish in frequency and length. The number of thoughts per minute will also decrease. Fewer the thoughts greater the peace. Remember this always. A wealthy man who speculates in a big city and who has a large number of thoughts has a restless mind, in spite of his comforts, whereas a Sadhu who lives in a cave in the Himalayas and who practises thought-control is very happy in spite of his poverty.
The power of concentration will increase by lessening the number of thoughts. Certainly it is an uphill work to reduce the number of thoughts. In the beginning it will tax your ability very much. The task will be very unpleasant. But later on you will rejoice as you get immense strength of mind and internal peace by reduction of thoughts. Armed with patience, perseverance, vigilance, fiery determination and iron will, you can crush the thoughts easily just as you crush a lemon or an orange with ease. After crushing, it will be easy for you to root them out. Mere crushing or suppression will not suffice. There may be again resurrection of thoughts. They should be totally eradicated just as loose tooth is pulled out.
When you hit at the head of a snake with a stick and crush its head, it remains absolutely motionless for some time. You think it is dead. All of a sudden it raises its head and runs swiftly. Even so, the thoughts that were once crushed and suppressed by you regain strength and raise up their heads. They must be destroyed totally beyond resurrection.
It is very difficult to fix the mind on a single thought in the beginning. First diminish the number of thoughts. Try to have thoughts on one subject only. If you think of a rose, you may have all sorts of thoughts connected with the rose only. You may think of different kinds of roses that are grown in different parts of the world. You may think of the various preparations that are made out of roses, and their uses. You may allow even thoughts of other kinds of flowers to enter; but do not entertain thoughts of fruits and vegetables. Check the aimless wandering of the mind. Do not have thoughts at random when you think of a rose. Gradually you can fix the mind on one thought. You will have to discipline the mind daily. Eternal vigilance is needed in thought-control.
The fewer the thoughts the greater the mental strength and concentration. Suppose that the average number of thoughts that pass through your brain within one hour is one hundred. If you succeed in reducing it by constant practice of concentration and meditation to ninety, you will have gained 10 per cent in concentration of mind. Every thought that is reduced adds strength and peace of mind. Reduction of even one thought will give you mental strength and peace of mind. You may not be able to feel this in the beginning, as you do not possess a subtle intellect; but there is a spiritual thermometer inside to register the reduction of even a single thought. If you reduce one thought, the mental strength that you have gained by this reduction will help to reduce the second thought easily.
In rubber plantations planters thin out the rubber trees by first cutting the small surplus trees which stand in the vicinity of big ones. By so doing they can tap more milk or rubber juice from the big trees. Even so you must thin out the thoughts by destroying them one by one to drink the ambrosial milk or nectar of Immortality.
When the tail of a lizard is cut, the cut-end will flutter about for some time, as there is still a little residual Prana in the tail. After one or two minutes all motions will cease. Even so, even after thinning and reduction of thoughts some thoughts will move about like the tail of the lizard. But they are powerless. They cannot do any serious havoc. There is no vitality in them. Just as the drowning man tries to catch anything to save himself, so also these lifeless thoughts try their best to come back to thier previous state of life and vigour. If you go on with your daily practice of concentration and meditation regularly, they will die by themselves like a gheeless lamp.
Just as a warrior chops off the heads of his enemies one by one when they come out of a fortress through a trapdoor, as also chop off your thoughts one by one when they emerge out to the surface of the mind through the trapdoor of consciousness.
The substitution method is very easy and effective in the destruction of evil thoughts. Cultivate only positive, virtuous thoughts of mercy, love, purity, forgiveness, integrity, generosity and humility in the garden of your mind. The negative vicious thoughts of hatred, lust, anger, greed, pride, etc., will die by themselves. It is difficult to destroy the evil thoughts by attacking them directly. You will have to tax your will and waste your energy.