This article is a chapter from the book What the RiverHas Taught Me.
Do Not Criticise Anybody or Anything
Forget and Forgive
Do Not Aspire for Worldly Things
Never Be Jealous
Do Something Positive
Make Others Happy
Introspect to Gain Right Direction
Preya and Shreya
Reduce Your Wants
Do Not Disturb the Peace of Others
Mind Your Own Business
Have No Expectation
Gain God’s Friendship
Pray to God
Obey the Will of God
Believe Utterly in the Unreality of the World
It is common knowledge that good health and economic securityare a “must” for peace of mind. But having both, many are still in astate of perpetual mental restlessness. Do you belong to this category? If yousay “Yes,” then read on. The chances are that your trouble is mostlyof your own making and therefore avoidable. Let us see how.
Do you interfere too often in the affairs of others? May bethey are wrong. But why should you be disturbed on that account? Do notcriticise anybody or anything. God has not delegated to you the authority to sitin judgment over others. All men act the way they do because they are promptedthat way by the God within them. It is a good rule to mind your own business tokeep your peace.
Mind your own business. An excellent dictum to follow for theman who prizes peace of mind above everything else. Nothing in this worldrequires your attention. There is a God to look after everything in fact. Helooks after you as well. Do not forget this fact.
Let me repeat: Mind your own business. Do not criticiseanybody or anything. Criticism is tantamount to blasphemy. Why? Because whateverhappens happens by the Will of God. Nothing can happen without the concurrenceof God. The fact that something has happened–no matter whether it is good orbad from your point of view–is in itself proof positive that it has God’sapproval. And if you criticise the happening, you are questioning the Will ofGod, the Wisdom of God, the justice of God. Do not do that. You will keep yourpeace.
God sees things by the whole. Man sees things by parts. Godsees happenings over the three periods of time. Man sees events only in thepresent, isolated from the past and the future. That is why man sees discordwhere God sees harmony. Man sees lack of logic where God finds perfect logic.Put yourself in the place of God. Feel you are God. Feel that the entireuniverse is your creation and operates by your will. At once you will feeltremendous peace and strength surging within you.
You say others insult you without reason, injure you withoutcause. Even if that is true, do not get agitated. Face the situation calmly. Youwill find that calmness can be a powerful weapon to overcome difficultsituations. Shut your eyes to insults. Let others think what they like, say whatthey like. This is a world of ignorant people. You be wise. Be humble beforeeverybody. Be humble in every situation. This will be possible if you give upthe idea of inferiority and superiority and learn to see God in everybody andeverything “God wills it so. So be it.”: Say that to yourself and keepquiet in the face of insults. Be unruffled. If you put up with insults, you willgrow in humility and purity. You will grow spiritually rich.
Do not develop ill-feeling inside your heart for the man whohas insulted you or injured you. This is worse than open anger. This is mentalcancer. Do not nourish grievances. Forget and forgive. This is not justan idealistic maxim. This is the only way to retain your peace. The habit ofnurturing grievances is highly injurious to one’s own self. You will losesleep. You will poison your blood. You will develop blood pressure andneurasthenia. After all, the injury or insult was done to you once. Now it ispast. It is all over. It is spilt milk. Why do you want to perpetuate the miseryof that injury or insult by constantly remembering it? Why do you want to feedthe dying embers of hatred and ill-will? Is it not high foolishness? The span ofhuman life is so short that you cannot afford to waste time and life in suchtrifles. Get over the bad habit. The best way to do so is to keep yourself everbusy in any work which absorbs your interest. You can gain peace of mind if youactively follow a calling or profession, or even hobby, which holds yourinterest. You will then have a sense of fulfilment, of achievement. Remember theproverb: Man does not live by bread alone. If you can afford it, and if youvalue peace of mind more than money, you would even do well to take to a callingor job which you like but which is monetarily less rewarding than one which youdislike all the time but monetarily more rewarding.
Do not aspire for worldly glory, worldly recognition. This isthe surest way to mental and physical restlessness. Why do you crave forrecognition by others? The “others” are mostly ignorant people. Themost successful men of the world are often men of little real wisdom. Why do youplace so much value on their recognition? Instead, aspire for God’s blessings,the blessings of wise men of saintly souls. That is worth earning, worthstriving for.
Do not attach much importance to public opinion. Publicopinion is often wrong. Attach importance to moral values, codes of conduct,scriptural teachings, opinion of saints and holy men. You can never go wrong.
Jealousy often disturbs peace of mind. Are you jealous ofsomebody? Jealousy is a canker. It is incorrect to imagine that A has blockedyour promotion in office or that B has ruined you by competing in the samebusiness. Again and again remember: no one can make or mar your career. Yourcareer and your life are shaped by your previous Karma. If you are destined torise, not all the world can stop it. If you are not so destined, not all theworld can help you to come up either. Each man is governed by his own destiny.Each man’s life is independent, though seemingly interdependent with the livesof others. Remember this. Understand this point well. Never again be jealous ofothers or blame others for your misfortune.
May be, you are fed up with your environment which disturbsyour peace. Instead of trying to change the environment–the chances are youmay fail–change yourself for the better. Purify yourself. As you do this, eventhe environment which has remained bad for you, may be for years, willmysteriously begin to dance and change for the better. The more you grow inpurity, the more congenial and harmonious the environment will become. Do notask. “How?”. Try and experience. Try and experience, friend.
Put up with things. What cannot be cured has to be endured.Endure cheerfully. Learn to live with a hundred inconveniences, annoyances,irritations from morn till midnight. You will gain in patience, in innerstrength, in will-power. You will turn disadvantage into an advantage.
A prime cause for losing one’s peace of mind is dependenceon others even for one’s basic needs. Paradhinam Prana Sankatam. Dependenceis pain. Independence is bliss. Become self-reliant. As far as possible, ofcourse. If you earnestly try, you will discover that there are many areas leftin which you can become self-reliant. Learn to wash your clothes, sweep yourroom, cook your food, type your letters. You need not do them daily, but in anemergency, these small talents will come to your rescue.
Do not evade responsibilities. Do not shirk. You cannot gainpeace of mind that way. You will only gather more worries, because the thoughtthat you are shirking your duties will corrode your mind and take away whatlittle peace there is. Rather, face your responsibilities to the best of yourability. But–and this is important–do not add on to your responsibilitiesevery day by taking additional loads on your own egoistic initiative. Incolloquial terms, this is what is called purchasing trouble. Do not purchasetrouble. Rather, cut down your external activities more and more consistent withyour responsibilities. Yearn to spend more and more time in an inward life ofprayer, introspection and meditation. Perfect peace of mind arises when the minditself dies down. Mind means thoughts. Thoughts mean restlessness. The lesserthe activity the fewer the thoughts. The fewer the thoughts, the greater thepeace of mind. Thoughtlessness is the highest state where perfect peace reigns.
Have regular hours of meditation. Meditation calms down themind. It induces quiescence in the mind. If you meditate earnestly for one hour,even during remaining twenty-three hours, the tendency introduced by meditationin the mind persists and the mind does not oscillate as much as before.Gradually increase the period of daily meditation. This will not interfere withyour daily work, because meditation increases your various faculties and givesyou the capacity to turn out more work in less time.
Always be doing something positive, something worthwhile. Donot waste time wondering, “Shall I do this? Or shall I do that?” Youwill spend days, weeks, months–why, years–in that futile mental debating andend up doing nothing. Don’t plan too much. The planning is done by God. Bedoing something good all the time. Allow no gap in your concrete activity. Youcan never do enough to take time for rest. Let there be no spare moments, nowasted moments in your life. Even a few careless moments can pull you down inlife. Time is life. Value your time and spend it most profitably.
Even if you are resting physically, do not keep the mindvacant. Occupy yourself in healthy reading or Japa or mental prayer. All havocstarts in the mind. Harsh words and evil deeds originate in the mind. Keep thesources clean. The river of your life will flow as crystal.
Doing things gives self-confidence. It does not matter if youfail the first time. You can rectify your mistakes and succeed the next time.Sitting back in the chair and worrying will lead to nothing. It will only makeyou a total pessimist.
Some people get upset when they attempt to do something goodand obstacles come in. It is natural for obstacles to crop up in the way of anygood work. They come to test the mettle of the performer of the good work. Theycome to test his sincerity, his patience, his faith. You will experience thatthe stronger your resolve to do something worthwhile, the more powerful theopposing forces. Do not feel frustrated. Do not give up. Do not yield. Overcomethe obstacles by faith in God and faith in yourself. You cannot win laurels inany field without undergoing tests and tribulations. It is unfair to expect aDegree while showing unwillingness to undergo a qualifying test.
If you fight shy of obstacles, then you can do nothingworthwhile in life. You can at best vegetate, but that is not living. Living, tobe true, must be purposeful. You must have goals to reach, ideals to strive for.And goals cannot be reached without encountering opposition. Such oppositionshould not upset your peace of mind, but should strengthen your will to fightthe battle of life heroically. It will be possible if you learn to accept theseopposing forces as an inevitable part of phenomenal life, as unavoidable evil.
Never regret. Learn the lessons from your past experiences.Remember the lessons. Let the lessons guide your future actions. But do notbrood over the past. Do no regret “If I had done that, I would have becomethis… If only I had.”–it is all futile thinking, waste of time andenergy. Because worry depletes energy. Does nothing more. The fact is whateverhappened was destined to happen only that way. It could not have happened in anyother way. Everything, from the tiniest movement of a particle of the mightiestdisturbances in the universe, everything in the past, present and future, everycause and every effect, has been ordained in certain way by the omnipresent,omniscient and omnipotent Will of God. Things happen as they are destined tohappen. Whatever will be will be. No man has the power to alter the course ofGod’s Will. Que sera sera is eternally true, universally true. Toregret, to brood is to show your cowardice in the face of the inevitability ofevents and to disturb your peace of mind for nothing. Wisdom lies in seeing theworking of God’s Will in every happening and remaining at peace with your selfand the world.
Are you utterly selfish or do you think of others at leastsometimes? A selfish man can have no peace. On the other hand, if you areselfless, if you serve others without motive, you will feel great peace… atonce. Motiveless service yields pure joy. Make others happy. You will begin todelight in their happiness. This is something which is open to everyone toexperience. Serve others in a small way or a big way as is given to you butwithout thought of reward or recognition. Service for the sake of service.Service at every turn. Whenever opportunity offers itself.
Almost twenty years ago, late in the evening, in a big city,out on my evening walk, I was stopped by a girl in a quiet comer, in animploding tone: “Bhai Saheb, Dar Lagtha Hai.” In a moment, Isensed the situation. In that lonely place, she was being pursued by aTongawala. In her fright, the girl had lost all sense of direction and wassearching for her house. I reassured her, and in a little while we discoveredthat the house she wanted to reach was well within a furlong of where we stood.I escorted her to her place and went my way. A trifling good turn that cost menothing, but the fullness and joy that I felt that day lingers fresh in mymemory even now. There are many ways in which one can help others at little orno cost. Only a pure heart is required.
In life, the person who desires peace of mind should learn todiscriminate at every stage. What is right? What is wrong? What is possible?What is not? In a particular situation, what is the course of action suggestedby wise men? By the scriptures? By your own conscience? How have great soulsreacted in like situations? Introspection at every stage is necessary to clarifythe vision and to gain right direction. A mechanical life where one follows thenatural call of the senses and emotions is only to walk straight into the trapset by Maya.
Constantly discriminate between the Preya-Marga and theSreya-Marga, the Pleasant Path and the Good Path. You will have to do this againand again every time the mind tempts you to follow the ways of the world, toimitate others. This desire to imitate others is exceedingly powerful andoverpowers even a wise man. Worry not about finding money to buy a scooter (whenyou have no need for a scooter) just because all your friends come on scooters.Do not bother about how to send your son to the States only because yourneighbours have sent theirs to California and Cambridge.
Keep away from temptations of all sorts. Do not walk intoplaces of temptation and then struggle to resist temptation. It will tax yourwill unnecessarily. Even if you succeed in resisting the temptation, it mayleave a craving in the mind. Craving induces restlessness.
Do not multiply your wants and then feel like a beggar.Reduce your wants and feel like a king. Why should you enter a cloth shop andsee many varieties presented before your eyes when you have enough clothing athome? Either you will buy unnecessary things. Or feel sad, “Oh, I don’thave this. Ah, how I wish I could buy that!”
Peace of mind and material greed are incompatibles. They donot go together. Make your choice.
Reduce your wants to the barest minimum consistent with yourgeneral external activities. The fewer the wants and possessions the greater thepeace of mind. Possession gives pain. The point is so obvious that it needs noexplanation. Hire a taxi rather than own a car. Live in a rented flat ratherthan possess your own house.
Most of us suffer, not for want of right knowledge or wisdom,but for want of exercise of that wisdom in our daily life. If you want peace ofmind, at once stop doing all those things which you know you should not do. And,equally important, start doing all those things which you know you should do.This will set you on the right track, and when you are on the right track, God’sGrace will flow into your life and make it more and more sublime. You will gainpeace of mind and radiate peace all around you.
Faith has to be exercised. Love has to be exercised.Selflessness has to be exercised. Charity has to be practised. Dispassion has tobe practised. Devotion has to be cultivated. These qualities, these virtues donot arise, in you over night. They have to be assiduously cultivated before theycan become a natural, a habitual, an integral part of your being.
If you hate others, if you injure others, if you abuse yourservants, if you taunt your children, if you ill-treat your wife at home andsubordinates in the office, if you cheat people in business–if you do allthese and much more and still expect peace of mind, you are asking for theimpossible. Also, you do not deserve it. A man who disturb the peace of othershas no right to expect peace of mind for himself. So, mend yourself.
Peace of mind arises out of spiritual growth. It is true thatspiritual growth is an inward process that spiritual life is an inward life. Butit is equally true that such growth is greatly aided by external support andgreatly marred by external incompatibles. Hence they prescribe Sattvic diet,Sattvic dress, Sattvic reading, Sattvic company, Sattvic environment, Sattvichabits in general. Hence they prescribe prayer and pilgrimage. Svadhyaya andSatsanga, fasts and festivals. Do not give up these powerful external aids.Rather resort to them purposefully for quicker evolution. When you have advancedenough, they will drop off by themselves.
When you are in utter despair, turn to our lofty scriptures.Or read the works of great souls. Or take leave for a month and go on apilgrimage. Or visit a holy place and stay there for a fortnight or a month–spendthe time in prayer, Japa, Kirtan, meditation, long walks. These are the methodsto revivify your shattered mind and body and give yourself a new joy andconfidence. Some people take to drinking and loose living, vainly imagining thatthey can forget their worries this way. Impossible. Their cure is worse than thedisease. Sleeping tablets? They solve no problem. They only perpetuate yourweakness of will to face up to realities. Suicide? Utter foolishness. You willturn into a ghost. More trouble than being a human being.
Keep on adding to your peace of mind. Do not stagnate. Do notworsen. Stagnation is also bad, because it often leads to worsening at somepoint. Improve the quality of your life. Inward richness is real richness. Letyour wealth be in-built. Let the wealth of your children be in-built. Greatteachers say that a man has to be judged not by what he does, but by what he is.Cut out all worldly ambition. In its place, develop intense ambition to growspiritually, to grow in saintliness. Replace all petty desires and ambitions bythis one ideal.
Once you have set the ideal for your self, begin to be trueto yourself. Bring about a greater and ever greater measure of co-ordinationbetween your thought, word and deed. Say what you think and do what you say.Shed all hypocrisy. Remove all hypocrisy from your life. Hypocrisy is the swornenemy of peace of mind.
On the material plane, compare yourself with those who areless fortunate than you and on the spiritual plane compare yourself with thosewho are more fortunate than you. This will induce material contentment andawaken in you spiritual discontent. That way lies progress and peace. But if youdo the other way round, viz., compare yourself with those who are materiallymore well-off and spiritually inferior,–and many do just that–it will bringin the disastrous effects of material discontent and spiritual pride. A sure wayto hell indeed.
Stick to a few tested friends. Do not multiply acquaintances.Do not become intimate with anyone. Familiarity breeds contempt, disturbsemotions, upsets peace of mind.
Talk only with purpose. Abstain from all unnecessary talk.Speak measured words. Even innocent, well-meant words, are quite oftenmisunderstood and they produce discord. Never go to advise any one in anything,unless you are asked to. Mind your own business.
Never argue. Never enter into an argument. Why do you want towin an argument? It offers you no tangible benefit. It will only inflate yourego, wound the other man and lead to friction between friends.
Let the other man hold his opinion. There are incorrigibleidiots in this world who can never be converted, who can never be made to seesense. Do not waste your time and breath on them. You will only sufferexhaustion and earn enmity.
Have no expectation. Because expectation leads to anxiety andoften to disappointment. You wait for the postman day after day. And ultimatelyhe does not bring that important letter which you are expecting from yourfriend. Your frustration knows no limits. Why all this mental torture? Noexpectation, no disappointment. Whatever you are destined to enjoy or suffer,you will enjoy or suffer. Neither you nor anyone else can add to, or take awayfrom, your quota of enjoyment or suffering. Knowing this, why should you wasteyour energy and time in anxiety? Forget the past. Have no thought for thefuture. Live in the present. To the best of your ability, discharge yourresponsibilities as they present themselves before you. There is a God to takecare of the results.
Some people say, “I do not care what happens to me. ButI am worried about others.” This is another kind of ignorance. Those whosay like this are deceiving themselves. Do not worry about your son’s madnessor your daughter’s running away with someone. By all means, do all you can tominimise life’s tragedies, but do not worry an iota. Each individual isgoverned by his past Karma (despite all the ‘rationalists’ in the world) andno one has the power to alter anyone else’s fate by so much as a hair-breadth.Even when A seems to be helping or harming B, it is God (nay, it is B’sprevious Karma) which is working through A and not A himself. Once you haveunderstood this, you will not worry about others or about yourself. Worry sapsenergy and wastes time. It is effeminacy. The man who worries betrays ignoranceof spiritual laws.
No one is interested in you. Remember this point well. Don’texpect the world to rush to your rescue in every bad situation. It will just nothappen. Be up and doing, with faith in God. If God supports you and all theworld opposes you, you will still succeed. But if you lose God and gain all theworld’s support, you will yet fail. Gain God’s friendship. It is thegreatest wealth. Once you have that, peace of mind is yours. You now haveeverything. Fear has fled. Anxiety has disappeared.
See God in all. Feel unified in spirit with everyone andeverything. You are not separate from the rest of creation. God is just anothername for that mysterious life principle in you. Call it Life, call itConsciousness, call it Existence. This mysterious principle is all-pervading,eternal, one without cause and effect. Feel happy. Think, talk and walk in amanner befitting the grandeur of thy inner Being, the God within you. Shed allmeanness, crookedness, cunningness, selfishness which are the hall-marks of adegraded man. Feel one with all in spirit. Your life will begin to move alongright lines. Your spiritual evolution will be rapid. You will have all the peaceof mind you want.
Each day when you get up in the morning, pray to God for justtwo minutes. Surely you can afford that much time for your Creator every day.”O Lord! Use me today for working out Your Will in whatever way You deemfit. I make myself hollow and lay myself at Your disposal.” I heard a songon the A.I.R. years back. One line still lingers in my memory: All can repeat itin the morning before getting up from bed: “Aaj Meri Gati Tumhari Arati BanJaye! (May the course of my life today become an offering unto Thee, myLord!)” If you say that, and remember your prayer to the Lord throughoutthe day, you will think twice before indulging in wrong act or taking a falsestep. Rather you will like to fill the day with as many good deeds as possibleso that there may be more flowers in the garland that you offer to the Lord atday’s end.
Accept every experience in life as it comes. Do not grumble.Do not grudge. Do not feel sad. Do not feel glad either. Rest serene. If yougloat over something, you are inviting trouble. There is always action andreaction on the relative plane. If you laugh now, you will have to weep later.On a level ground, if you want to make a mound, you can do so only by making apit to dig out the earth to make the mound. There is no mound without a pit, nosmile without a tear. So remain level always. Remain serene always. Serenity issuperior to boisterous giggling and laughter and the so-called happiness whichonly hides sorrow for the moment.
Learn to accept. Accept every happening in your life as theWill of God. “O Lord! Thy Will will be done”–let this be your onlyreaction to every twist and turn in life. God is your real friend. He is yourgreatest well-wisher. He gives various experiences–good and bad–only tomould you, chisel you, shape you into an effective instrument for the workingout of His Will. Allow yourself to be shaped by His divine hands. Abandonyourself to His care.
Do not struggle. Do not oppose. Allow yourself to be tossedby God’s Will. Become a straw in the cosmic wind. Have no individual ego. Thisyou can do only if you recognise the existence of God and the Will of Godimperatively, only if you learn to see the absolute supremacy of God’s Willover all human initiative and endeavour. Humility is not weakness. It isstrength. The more the humility, the greater the accretion of strength. Yourlife will flow smoothly, because you offer no resistance to God’s Will. Therewill be no friction. There will be no failure too, because you do not attempt toachieve anything by your own choice and will. But your life will turn out to bea tremendous success, because God’s wisdom and strength will enter the vacuumof your being emptied of your egoism and fill it in the same manner as airrushes into a vacuum and fills it. This is the Law.
The fundamental mistake that people without peace of mindmake is to imagine that the whole world is made for their enjoyment and thateverything and everybody in this wide universe should subserve their individualends and that the whole world should bend to their plans. Do not try to extractenjoyment from this world. You can as well extract nectar from cobra’s fangs!You will meet with disappointment, frustration, failure, misery. Rather know theworld for what it is. The world is made for your experience, for your evolution.Grow wiser and spiritually richer with every experience. Experience iseducation. Experience is the greatest teacher. It is only the fool who thinksthat this world is made for his pleasure. Says the scripture: Anityam AsukhamLokam. Asasvatam Duhkhalayam (Impermanent and joyless, verily, is thisworld). Read your scriptures with respect. Ever remember their teachings.Live by their teachings. There is no other way to peace of mind.
Lastly, believe utterly in the unreality of the world.Believe, because all the seers of yore have proclaimed in no uncertain termsthat the phenomenal world is only a dream world and that phenomenal experienceis only a dream experience. And remember: they said that only after personallyexperiencing the unreality of the world and the Reality of pure consciousness.They were not fools. Nor are you wiser. Even when confronted with bitterexperience, tell yourself: “All this is unreal. I am Pure Consciousness. Iam God.”