Practical Instructions on Mind-Control


Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is a chapter from the book Conquest of Mind.

Why evil thoughts arise in the mind? How are they to be encountered?

The very fact that evil thoughts give you mental suffering is a sign of spiritual progress; for many do not have that much of sensitiveness.

To some it is very difficult to keep the mind unruffled and pure, the causes being deep-rooted worldly Samskaras, unfavourable surroundings, and the predominance of extrovert tendencies. To some, of course, evil thoughts are not a problem at all. They appear occasionally as a passing phase without doing much havoc.

Watch your mind very carefully. Be vigilant. Be on the alert. Do not allow the waves of irritability, jealousy, hatred and lust to disturb you. These dark waves are enemies of peaceful living, meditation and wisdom.

Remedy the cause first: The mind usually thinks of one thing at a time. Concentrating upon good thoughts or any form of the Lord, or the life of a great prophet, or meditating upon the vast expanse and the quiet of the ocean or the sky, will be of great help.

Sometimes auto-suggestion is of no great use because of its immediate relation with its counterpart that has beset your mind. Thinking of the evanescence of life at the moment will make you depressed and weak.

Auto-suggestion is very useful as a daily practice, according to the negative tendency predominant. For example, in the case of a strong desire to revenge, the life of Christ, Gandhiji or Lincoln is a suitable subject for meditation. But, what then should be done at the spur of the moment?

If some wrong is done to you, you can never reconcile your mind by at once trying to think of forgiveness. It will be repulsive and the attempt will be a failure.

First control violent emotions by withdrawing the mind within, and dissociating yourself from the cause and immediate environment. Meditate on the attributes of the Lord, or draw out your attention to a new, interesting realm. Study the lives of great saints. Then take recourse to auto-suggestion. Ponder over the chain-reaction of the evil of revenge, and meditate on the glory and peace of forgiveness.

Samskaras: By not repeating such actions as would intensify the old, negative tendencies you are trying to combat bad Samskaras. A great deal of success can be attained in smoothening out evil Samskaras. Prayer, fasting, chanting elevating Slokas and the Name of the Lord, and systematic practice of concentration and meditation, are of course, the most important aids.

Relentless effort to live a spiritual life is very necessary. The angle of vision has to be changed. Regular Sadhana will keep the mind always clean.

Introspect and scrutinise your motives. The cross-currents of like and dislike are yet very strong within you. The senses are still ungovernable. There are secret longings and veiled desires. Vrittis are powerful. Lustful impulses are lurking within. You may ask the reason why you become sometimes angry. Anger is nothing but a manifestation of ungratified lust. You are still far from being established in Pratyahara. Rajas and Tamas are very much manifest in your actions. Do not deceive yourself. A fanciful interest in the spiritual path is of no use. Resignation to fate, or remaining static, will be pernicious in the long run. You will repent later. Start vigorous Sadhana now!

Positive overcomes the negative. Love overcomes lust. Patience overcomes anger and irritability. Courage overcomes fear. A Sattvic life overcomes a Tamasic life. Therefore, make best use of the positive to overcome the negative.

Association: Live in an inner life. Speak little. Speak kindly, gently, genially, jovially, intelligently. Do not encourage fast friendship. Mix little. A certain amount of aloofness is very necessary, but do not be cynical, do not be friendless. This is a relative world. You have to be in good terms with hedonists, bohemians and epicureans.

Keep yourself absolutely aloof from undesirable vulgar literature, pictorials and motion pictures. Without moral purity no Sadhana is even successful.

Have some definite principles. Do not mix with women. ‘Mother attitude’ or ‘Sister attitude’ is of very little use to a youthful Sadhaka. I am not asking you to be a hard-headed puritan. But when you know your weakness, there is no need to court a downfall.

Diet: Avoid pungent, hot dishes. Take light, nutritious, simple vegetarian food, but do not be a faddist. Adjust yourself to circumstances. Avoid heavy and late night meals. Do not eat now and then. A celibate really needs very little food. Overeating is a kind of passion. Fast completely once a fortnight. Have partial fasting once a week.

Extrovert tendency: When you keep yourself busy, you do not harbour impure thoughts. When you rest and leave the mind blank, impure thoughts try to enter insidiously. Do not be idle. Engage yourself in some useful, interesting work at your leisure hours, as for example, take part in some useful social activities. On Sundays, instead of going to a picture, you can assist the Bharat Sevak Samaj, the Ramakrishna Mission, the Divine Life Society, or any other philanthropic institution of your town; or, create a new field of public work.

Cultivate the spirit of Yoga. Instil interest in your work. Serve selflessly. Serve without attachment but do not be irresponsible. Serve unostentatiously. Serve for the good of others. Serve for the good of your heart.

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