The Mysterious Mind and its Control
SRI SWAMI CHIDANANDA
This article is from the book “The Path Beyond Sorrow”.
The Mind as Seen from a Vantage Point
Mind is a Marvel
Mind – The Barrier Between Man and God
Origin of Western Psychology
Characteristics of the Mind
The Primal Root Thought
Operation of Subtle Impressions
How to Transcend the Mind
The Raja Yogic Technique of Selective Thinking
Hatha Yoga – An Aid to Mind-control
Glorious Immortal Soul! A great deal has been written in the West lately about psychological theories and investigations. The subject we are going to discuss, therefore, may contain several ideas already familiar to most of you. Nevertheless, so important and invaluable are the things which have to be known and remembered about the mind that frequent repetitions are necessary. These are facts which have to be carefully considered and properly assimilated, not once, but many times. If they ever happen to be forgotten, you should be able to remind yourself by such repetitive thinking. The knowledge about the mysterious mind is ancient. From the dawn of civilization, these truths have been expounded by the Great Ones. From times immemorial, man has been reminded of his true supra-mental nature by the revelation of the wise sages and illumined seers.
We shall consider also certain aspects so entirely new that until recently very few, if any, of the modern-day psychologists were even aware of them. In the West, knowledge of the human mind has been acquired by what is known as the ‘scientific method’. It has been more or less an inductive approach. The students have sought to study the behavior of individuals, and from their behavior, to infer certain facts relating to the mind, and then generalize it all. They proceeded from “outside to inside” as it were. In the East, the investigations have been on a different line altogether. Their method has been the method of intuition, and their approach has proceeded from “inside to outside”. Their method, though inductive in nature, has been proved through the test of time to be beyond error, because their first premise was infallible – based as it was upon intuition.
THE MIND AS SEEN FROM A VANTAGE POINT
In the East, the scientists of the spirit rose beyond the mind through processes of Yoga, and totally separated themselves from the mind and all its associated functions, and from that point of vantage, untouched by the mind, and entirely free from influence of its habitual patterns of thought, patiently studied its essential, inherent nature and its behavior. They beheld it in the light of a tangible and higher spiritual experience upon which they were established, and from where the mind was seen to be a distinct object apart from the seer, a thing to be observed and studied. How many of the modern psychologists of the recent century or two can claim to have thus risen above the mind and gone beyond its irresistible influence and from that vantage point studied its behavior as a master-witness and observer ? The Yogic masters, scientists avowedly of the inner realm of man, did gain a supra-mental freedom and independence and were able, as it were, to “put the mind before them”; and then they carried on their study of its working in an objective and masterful way.
When the observer is himself involved in the subject of his study, his results are bound to be incomplete and colored, because he himself becomes a factor in that thing he tries to study. It is impossible to get a perfectly undistorted and distinct view of his subject unless and until he finds out how to study it in a totally objective way. So long as you have not developed a faculty other than this mind (in this case, the supra- mental faculty), so long as you have not disentangled yourself from the mind, you will be unable to conduct competent research in the realm of the mind. As the Indian expression has it: “You cannot see your own eyes”. For this, a mirror has to be placed before your face. Similarly, for studying the mind, objectification of the mind is required. Long ago, there were great seers who managed to reach the supra-mental state in which suitable methods for such objectification could be adopted, and out of their deep studies came great discoveries which have given man powers which hitherto he was unable to possess.
Stones, trees, grass and sand, which might have been existing in a given geographical area for centuries, can know absolutely nothing about their physical environment, but the moment an intelligent man enters into the area, he gathers innumerable facts pertaining to the same. He correlates these facts and in this way acquires useful knowledge. He may, for instance, ascertain the composition of the soil, the elevation of the land, the quarter in which the sun rises, the direction in which the water flows and the wind blows. Stones and boulders are immobile and insentient. Vegetation is entirely unconscious of itself and its environment, knowing nothing about the soil in which it grows, about the winds blowing above it, about the water soaking it. In man alone, there is some miraculous factor which gives him an immediate perception of his surroundings, and simultaneously gives him the ability to develop knowledge out of which new ideas are created for himself. This phenomenon is the mystery of human life. It is the mystery of the mind.
If you are in possession of this amazing mental faculty, wherever you go, knowledge opens its doors to you; whereas, deprived of this faculty, you are just like a pebble or a stone or a cabbage. When you go into sleep, and as soon as the mind is absorbed, you ‘lose’ all practical knowledge. The very moment the mind withdraws – it does not even have to leave you – that very instant you become like a block of stone or a piece of wood. This occurs every time you lapse into that state termed ‘sleep’. The moment the mind starts its activity once again, the whole miraculous motion involved in life begins anew.
What precisely is this thing called mind whose function annuls him and makes him a non-entity? What is this mysterious thing that makes so much difference to our being by its activity and its non-activity, by its projection and its withdrawal? In five minutes man is able to reduce a whole mass of perception and observation into well-marshalled facts of information and, through the process of rationalization and co-ordination, he incorporates them into a comprehensive system of knowledge. By a no less astonishing process, man is able to walk and talk and execute various intricate movements, all impelled by the thoughts and ideas of the mind.
Man is all too unconscious and ignorant of this inner marvel of his own mind. Who gives thought to thought? Who turns the mind upon the mind and tries to know something about it? Rather, do you not take the mind for granted ? If you do notice it at all, it is only when it starts going haywire; and then you are horrified. What greater tragedy can strike a home or a family than the loss of mind of one of its members ? With the loss of the mind, a person no longer seems to be a person. Suddenly, then, you realize how utterly important the mind is, that its least upset causes life to go to pieces ! A most dignified and notable gentleman, who drinks a little too much some evening, has his thought process befuddled and he makes a fool of himself even before his subordinates, juniors and friends, as well as before taunting observers. A person who is drugged and has his mind-functions arrested is in a state of living death. A total change is brought about in that personality in whom the mental functions goes out of order. Such a person loses all respect previously paid to his importance. He loses his importance-even his ‘individuality’.
The faculty of the mind is the greatest gift that God has bestowed upon the individual soul. There is no gift greater than this. Human nature consists of the mind, but unfortunately, the mind can be the greatest single curse as well. This paradox is one of the greatest mysteries of life. Everyone knows from experience how the mind can plague man at the pinnacle of God’s creation and is indispensable to his life in this framework of earthly existence.
Now, we see that happiness or unhappiness is totally a question of the state of mind. Passion, unlimited desires and uncontrolled impulses are the unmaking of an individual. They lower the state of mind, and total loss of peace, terrific agitation and intense restlessness are the result. All this is experienced as pain, sorrow and suffering. Such mental experiences as these make man miserable no matter what other benefits God may have bestowed upon him. You may have family, friends and many possessions, but if your mind is disordered or disorganized by ungovernable desires, it can create hell out of even the best things which God has given you on earth. There is, therefore, a great and serious purpose in trying to understand the mind and in making proper use of it. The mind is designed as an instrument. Thought is, itself, your happiness and misery. Thought, itself, is your heaven or your hell. Thought can either make you or ruin you. When the thought process is ultimately stopped, life comes to an end. Thus, thought is life.
Now, mind and thought are not two different things. If a person is able to stop thought temporarily or permanently, then temporarily or permanently, mind ceases to be for him. If this were ever to happen by itself, the person would be ruined, but if it were done deliberately and scientifically, then he would become the master of the whole universe. He would control the whole universe, for he would have heaven at his command. Total and complete stoppage of all mental activity by complete mastery over the mind immediately gives man the experience of his True Being. When the mind is totally eradicated, then the experience of what you really are becomes your very own. You rest and have your existence in your Self.
Man’s consciousness is never as it essentially is. The mind clouds it over, chokes it, and acts as the barrier, as the obstruction, to play of Pure Consciousness which is your true being. You should consider mind as an instrument, for when its behavior and its functions are understood, you can use it as the greatest power that God has given. When it is not properly understood, when nothing about its control is known, then you are just a plaything in the hands of the mind. You should recognize yourself as the master of the mind; otherwise you will fall into the error of regarding yourself as a thinking machine. You are not a thinking machine. You are the thinker – the independent director and controller of this thinking machine called mind. If you do not realize this, you become enslaved by the mind. As the mind is inclined, so are you propelled. You are not at peace. You are tossed like a piece of cork on the surface of stormy waters. Instead of using the mind, you become its cat’s-paw; you become helpless. This must not be.
MIND – THE BARRIER BETWEEN MAN AND GOD
It is universally acknowledged that the mind is the only link between man and the body, and between personality and the external world. Right from childhood man learns everything about the universe through the mind. Senses just feed data to the mind. It is the mind which actually correlates the data and produces knowledge. It therefore provides the most important factor in man’s life. The importance of this factor is recognized by the East, but in addition to this, the East has something more to say about the mind that has been unsaid by the Western psychologists. The East says that the mind is also the greatest barrier lying between man and the true source of his being. It is the barrier which for ever denies him access to the experience of infinitude. It is the limit within which the human being is confined and cramped into the dimensions of a narrow individualized personality. Struggling to expand and go beyond this limited range of consciousness, man is strongly opposed by his finite mind.
To understand, control and finally overcome the barrier of the mind is the most important business in the life of man. The mind has to be overcome. At the back of you there is that Consciousness of a perfect state of being where no sorrow touches and where there is no fear. There is that unchanging Reality which lies behind the fleeting experience of this phenomenal world, just as there is an immovable screen present behind the flitting, flickering figures of a cinema show – a screen which remains unchanged by the rapid shadow-play cast upon it and remains unaltered even when the play is finished. In the same way, behind all finite experience, there is that changeless, infinite substratum of indescribable pure Being. That is indestructible. That state of changeless imperishability is your true basis. That is your eternal abode. That is a state of freedom, fearlessness and joy – and that is blocked off from you by the barrier of the mind.
Now, exactly in what way does the mind deny man access to that limitless experience ? This is a very important question. Upon this question rests a most crucial point: how can the mind be understood and how can it be dealt with ? This is a point which has been overlooked in the West. It is in a very peculiar way that the mind acts as a barrier and blocks off man’s access to the Supreme. It does not do this pernicious work by getting behind you and preventing you from finding the access. That is, it does not actually lie between you and the supernal experience. You are actually nearer to that Consciousness than the mind. That supernal experience is represented by the innermost core of your being and the mind is a barrier in the sense that it draws you outside and ever keeps you away from that Centre. It ever entices you to remain on the surface, in the shallows, forbidding you to go down into the depths of your innermost being. Through its desires, its outgoing tendencies and its constant habit of objectification, the mind draws you away from your Center, channeling your being into multifarious names and forms that constitute the external universe. This is the way the mind acts. It distracts you from your true conscious Center and scatters you amidst the externals.
Western psychologists have studied the mind in terms of characteristic action and behavior. This approach is due to the way in which their attention was first drawn towards the mind. Western psychologists were primarily doctors. They started to work in the hospitals where treatment of various ailments and diseases was being studied and improved upon, but they found that certain diseases could not be cured by all the medical and therapeutic measures and, in this way they stumbled across the fact that the causes behind many of the diseases were mental. From this discovery, they proceeded to investigate the mental functions and found that there were certain clear connections between the functions of the mind and those of the body. Right from the start, the investigations of these Western psychologists centred around sick people – people whose illness defied medical treatment. We could say, therefore, without exaggeration that the study of the mind in the West originated in a sort of morbid psychology. The diseased mind was the focus of the psychologists’ attention.
Out of their observations was evolved a great science, but in its development, the scientists were at a great disadvantage, for they were unable to study the mind as it was. They observed the diseased mind, rather than the mind of the perfectly healthy individual; they investigated the peculiar and the abnormal mind, rather than the representative person. In the East on the other hand, the great Masters studied the universal man. The mind as an inner center of life, and in its universal aspect, was the object of their study, and not mind in “this condition” or “that condition”, ill or well. The Eastern Masters also considered both matter and spirit and carefully correlated their facts. They delved into themselves, and through introspection and meditation, uncovered amazing facts about this inner instrument we call mind. Theirs was a pure subjective study. In meditation, the Eastern masters reached the very heart of their subject matter and there they had the Truth revealed to them. Thus they have authoritatively declared what has to be known about the mind. In this manner, the Eastern origin of this science was so totally different from the origin of Western psychology.
The prime characteristic of the mind is externalization. The sages found that the flow of the mind was outward and not centred inward. This is the law of life: everything spreads outward from its center. But there is a force which is trying to draw everything back towards their source and center. When the externalizing force is overcome, man is able to release that re-integrating force, and in the way finds his Center. When this is done, his search is over. Life is mastered.
The second characteristic of the mind is constancy of activity. Never for a single moment is the mind still.
The third characteristic is wideness in the range of its activity. Not only in one direction is it active, but in many direction. Now it is here, now it is there and now it is everywhere.
Thus, externalized, constantly active, and flitting from one thing to another, the mind is very difficult to control. To understand it requires much subtlety. It cannot be seen; it cannot be put into a test tube and analyzed; it cannot be looked at under a microscope. Although man can do scarcely anything about the mind, the mind can do practically everything about the man! It is so subtle, so abstract, and so totally internal that mind finds it very difficult to grasp it. One moment it can expand into the thought of the Pacific Ocean or outer space, and then it can diminish to the thought of a mustard seed or a pinpoint or an atom, and the next, with its center seemingly within the confines of the human brain, as it were, the mind can think about everything up to infinity. With one leap, it can encompass the whole stellar, lunar and solar systems, and with the same capacity, it can think about something as small as a grain of sand. What a mysterious mind!
The mind assumes three recurring states or conditions in every human being. Your consciousness functions through one or the other of these states (referred to as ‘Avastha’ in Vedantic philosophy). It may be external or it may be internal and, if it is internal, it may be either partially withdrawn or totally withdrawn. The greater part of the time the mind is external and you call this state the “waking state”. When you retire to sleep at night, the mind is partially withdrawn in relation to the external universe, but is still vigorously active within. This you vaguely know as the “dream state”. Here the mind creates a world similar to what you perceive and experience during the first-mentioned state, viz., your waking consciousness.
When the mind goes beyond this dream consciousness, it sinks still deeper, and becomes totally withdrawn and absorbed. This third state that you experience daily is “sound sleep”. Little is known about this state and you hardly even think about it, but actually it is the most significant and vitally important state, for it holds the real clue to your innermost true “Self” right at the very core of your being. In this state of total withdrawal of the mind – a state of sound, dreamless, deep sleep – you come closest to your true, essential inner nature. In this state, the mind is closest to its source and center, but at the same time it is so totally obliterated that even its innermost and primal “I” thought stands suspended in its function. The barest indication of its latent presence is the unmistakable feeling of “I rested well” or “I slept soundly” of the individual upon emerging into waking consciousness.
Why does the mind not abide in the center ? What causes it to emerge again into external consciousness ? The first answer is that by its very nature the mind tends to be externalized. Secondly, it is prevented from abiding in its center by the irresistible momentum of the primal root thought “I”. This root thought “I” forms the very basis of your limited, false separatist individual personality and it is this root thought which mysteriously induces you into the error of identifying yourself with the body, the senses, the mind and its moods, and with names and forms.
What is the nature of this root form that the mind takes ? It is a universal common denominator and is the basic nature of all normal individuality. It is a root common to the mind of everyone upon the surface of the earth. It does not have to be thought in English. Its form appears in all languages. In the spiritual sense, it is the arch-enemy of inner evolution. All the vagaries of the mind springs from it. It is the thought “I”. How many times daily does this thought come into your mind! It is the first thought that comes into your mind upon waking. Imagine yourself suddenly awaking from deep sleep in the dead of the night – even before you open your eyes, the first thought that comes to you is “I”. This “I” thought then brings to you the whole universe . You may realize that it is the dead of night, that you are resting on a couch two and one-half feet above the floor. Time and space, which is the very stuff of this universe, emerges out of this “I” thought. After all this, your identity mysteriously comes. You know who you are – your name, your age, your false, limited personality. This is the pernicious work of the mind. The basic pillar, the “I” thought, of your psychological personality arises first and the entire structure of the finite individual being is then propped up on it.
Out of this structure comes the thought “mine”. While still lying on the bed, you may start to feel, “My back is stiff”, “My feet are chilled”, “My neck is sore”, “There is a draft”. Now you want comfort and warmth. Whether you like it or not, from “I” and “mine”, the basic selfishness then arises. This is not to be interpreted in the moral or theological sense. This “selfishness” is the natural outcome of the mind function and is the basic nature of all normal individuality. Everyone wants something for oneself. This is as old as the world and human society functions upon this basic factor, unflattering though this be. You may say, “I am unselfish”, but the deep fact is that you act unselfishly because that means something to you. It brings something to you which you like and which is pleasing to you. As in everything that the human being does, there is a deep inner motive even behind “unselfishness”. In this motive, in this selfishness, lies the center of the personality, the center of life. Thus , the subtle basis of man’s being is selfishness.
In action, the ever-revolving wheel of the mind has in its two spokes, as it were. These two spokes are attraction and repulsion, like and dislike. What is it that man likes ? He likes those things that are pleasant, comfortable and convenient. He dislike s those things that are painful, uncomfortable and unpleasant. The hub of this wheel is the ego.
As this revolving wheel flashes upon the ego, as the reflections of likable and unlikable things are perceived through the senses, desires are engendered in the mind: desires to contact and obtain things which are pleasant and likable and desires to escape and avoid those things which are unpleasant and not likable. When you analyze the life of any human being, you find two categories of activity making up the entire business of living, since all activity is either that occurring while one strives to obtain what one likes, or that occurring while one struggles to avoid what one does not like. Annoyance or anger is felt when such an attempt is being made and the attempt is thwarted or obstructed by someone or something. Intense restlessness and agitation manifest when a desire is felt, but is not fulfilled. Then, when a desire is felt and fulfillment turns out to be something other than the original concept one had of it – what then ? Disappointment is experienced; painful disillusionment comes. Even when the desire is fully fulfilled, as expected, there commences anxiety in the mind – anxiety to preserve the thing or the experience thus obtained, anxiety that it may soon end, as end it must and does, for all things are finite and therefore soon change, perish and pass. What is still worse, if in one’s feverish quest of an object one sees others already in possession of it and ‘enjoying’ it, then jealousy, hatred and envy torment and destroy the peace of mind.
All of these attitudes come out of the prime thought “I” and its chief successor “mine”, They all succeed one another at such an incredible speed that the whole of man’s life is constantly filled with the internal clatter and clamor of ever-flitting, altering moods, thoughts, and sentiments of this mysterious thing known as the mind. “I” and “mine”, like and dislike, desire, restlessness, and then anger, disappointment, selfish elation, attachment, jealousy and hatred ever afflict the mind and keep it in a ferment. This is the common course that the mind follows. Why? Because the mind has lost itself in attending to things outside of itself. Having gone out, by its very nature, it becomes attached and bound up with outside things and thus involves itself in endless external activity. Terrible attachment and bondage is the fate of the non-discriminating mind and the unenlightened reason of the common man.
What happens then is very significant. The moment an experience is obtained by the mind going through the senses towards a desired object, a most significant thing happens, and this brings you to the study of another startling phase of your mind; a most important phase, indeed. It is that the mind immediately registers the experience thus obtained by its sense-contact with external object. A subtle inner impression is made upon the mind. This impression is well-nigh indelible.
OPERATION OF SUBTLE IMPRESSIONS
Just as seed is sown in the soil, so the impression of every experience is made on the mind. These impressions of experiences are “alive”. They have in them the direct power to recreate the entire experiences which caused them in the first instance. (In fact, each impression seeks a repetition of the corresponding original experience.)
Now, desire always tends to gain strength whenever it is fulfilled. That is the very nature of desire. Thus, as the impression of a particular desire-fulfillment, becomes more and more deeply confirmed by each successive fulfillment of the same desire, that impression begins to develop into a definite tendency in the mind. Desire is never satiated by its fulfillment.
Predilections of the mind are just waiting to be stimulated. As soon as the desired object is seen once again outside, or is heard about, or is even thought about, immediately the desire is aroused. It manifests itself and goads the mind to go outward. When these thought-waves flow in the mind, the imagination is called into play to show up how sweet and desirable the object is and how alluring its attractions are. The moment the imagination becomes thus engaged, these thoughts manifest as a strong craving. Such thoughts, with the imagination playing upon them, bind man. His total identification with the various moods of the mind makes him a slave of the desires operating therein. Thus, when an urge is felt, you are pushed by it. Even the will aspect of the ego is bound up with the desire nature of the mind. It is thus brought to bear upon the whole matter, and the individual is pushed into action, taken into action, in order to satisfy his desire; the desire being fulfilled, the vicious circle is once again completed. Once again that experience has been obtained, and the impression etched upon the mind has been made still deeper.
This is the circle in which the human being is caught. He is like a toy, a puppet, a plaything of the mind which refuses all restraint. The mind wants to be full of desires and agitation and does not want to be controlled. Unless it is watched and disciplined daily, man will live his life like a puppet and end his life in slavery.
The vast majority of human beings are just pushed and shoved about by every little desire and impulse of the mind. They have no freedom. Individual freedom is just a myth. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the Habeas Corpus Act they may have, but unless and until they have gained control over their minds and their desires and their impulses, all men actually live in slavery, and their freedom is in name only.
When man has an understanding of the activity of the mind (how the “I” thought is the very root thought of the mind) and finds out how it moves, then he will be able to get a hold over it. Here is one of the most interesting things about the mind; because the “I” thought is completely in the grip of the mind, man is unable to get into the core of his being where the center of his consciousness lies. That ineffable experience of freedom is denied to man by the mind precisely in this aforementioned way.
Now, the problem has been clearly stated. What is the solution ? The solution lies in the complete reversal of this process. First you must try to control the externalization of the mind by overcoming desire. Very easy to say – but, how can desire be over come ? This is not too easy. Right thinking and discriminative reasoning hold a key to this solution. Various methods have been given. The great thing is to know yourself to be distinct and different from the desires. YOU are entirely separate and apart from all desire and thought. YOU are Consciousness, a being deeper than, and fully beyond, mind and all its countless modes. This is the secret key. You are not the mind. Know yourself to be independent of the mind. This is very difficult to realize because the mind is so persistent and your present feeling of identity with it is so complete. The subtle “I” thought is so elusive and slippery as to defy a steady analysis and it escapes calm observation, but when you have managed through persistent and repeated attempts to grasp it and dissect it, when you know yourself to be distinct and apart from it, then you are given a glorious vantage point from which you can view the mind. Formerly, when you were indisciplined and indulgent, you were helpless; but now when you stand aside and apart from the mind and the “I” thought, you are the master. You can observe it as the Witness-Consciousness apart from it.
You must be able to thus perceive all the modes of your entire personality. You are the silent, unattached Witness-Consciousness within. You are not the senses; you are not the mind; you are not the thought, emotion or sentiment. You are beyond even the intellect, which is deluded and overcome by this illusion of false identification. Thus, what you have to work up to, ultimately, is that you are not even this “I” thought which is dearest to you, and to which you are clinging. Even this “I” thought is merely a mode of the mind, like any other thought. The true “I” (the real YOU within) is a supramental factor. You are a pure Being distinct from this “I” idea which the mind habitually thinks. Transcend the mind. You are pure Consciousness and your true identity is “Conscious Being”. You are the true “Thinker” of the “I” thought and you make use of the mind to express yourself. This Consciousness is the basis of your Being whence the “I” thought is derived. In your present state of delusion, this is not perceived. Your perception is clouded. The moment the “I” thought is conceived by the mind, the mind is already afflicted by the most pernicious of diseases. This disease, according to the Vedas, is the superimposition of yourself upon the physical body. You imply that you are this – the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands, feet, head, etc. Is it not enough that you are caught within the limitation and bondage of this individual body that holds you? Why make it infinitely worse by identifying yourself with every single feature of it? The body is actually a prison-house, and when I say that it is made infinitely worse, I mean that it is the mind that does this work, and not YOU, for your affliction is the mind, with its “I am the body” notion. This mind will not give you rest. It is only when you can shatter this wrong idea that you will know that you are not this body, that you are not this mind.
To make the outgoing stream of thought in-going is the great science of the mind that has to be learned. Begin by non-cooperating with the mind. Whenever the mind builds up a want and wants to do a thing, assert your independence and say, “No, I will not do it”, and whenever the mind refuses to do something, say, “You shall do it”. Always tell yourself: “I am the master of this house (body-mind). I will not be dominated and commanded by the desire-ridden mind. I shall do the dictating. I will assert my mastery and make the mind listen to me and obey me”.
Mind, as thought, is not overpowering. Mind, as “I”, is also not overpowering, because it has no dynamism in it; it is just a habitual mode of the mind. But, when desires are evolved out of the “I” and “mine” thoughts, and when imagination is brought into play the mischief starts. It is letting the imagination play upon your thoughts that gives them a dynamism of their own. The more a thought is dwelt upon, the more quickly it grows into the dynamic form of a desire. Therefore, the moment that a thought appears, stamp it out. The Hindus say that great forest fires can be averted if you stamp upon the tiny sparks right at the beginning.
Supposing the thought does not reach the condition of a desire, still you must try to remember that it is not YOU. Do not couple yourself with it. Do not get involved in it. Do not identify yourself with it. Know yourself to be apart from the thought and do not fulfill it. Disconnect yourself from the thought and stand aside.
Even though the mind seems to be capable of thinking a hundred different thoughts at a time, the precise scientific truth about it is that the mind can think only a single thought at a given moment. This is a mysterious characteristic of the mental stuff. Due to its finite nature, the mind can think only serially. The mind thinks with such rapidity that it seems as though thoughts are simultaneous, yet only one thought is ever entertained in the mind at one time.
From this fact it has been suggested that if you consciously raise certain thoughts independently, then no other thought can occupy the field of the mind at that time. Create your own thoughts masterfully and you will be free from plague of loose and miscellaneous thinking. You will no longer be a prey to vain imaginings. Control the mind. Create right and noble thoughts; then no other unworthy or negative thought can persist.
THE RAJA YOGA TECHNIQUE OF SELECTIVE THINKING
Patanjali, the expounder of the most complete science of mind-control, has said that if you want to get rid of any particular thought, then you should instantly raise a counter-thought of the opposite nature. If, for instance, you have a certain negative thought of fear, then introduce a positive thought of courage. If you have a negative thought of hatred and hostility, create immediately in your mind a positive thought of love, friendship and brotherhood. Fill yourself with the feeling of cordiality. If you are overcome by a thought of prejudice and intolerance, raise thoughts and feelings of sympathy, understanding and oneness. This can be done at any specific instant, with reference to any specific negative thought. This practice can also be undertaken as a complete course of psychological self-transformation with the technique systematically practiced day by day. It is an invaluable inner discipline for your ethical unfoldment and progress. It can help you even in your spiritual awakening.
If you easily subject to anger thoughts, then deliberately fill the mind with thoughts of patience, love and kindness. Also, set apart some time daily and, in silence, reflect upon the glory of kindness and compassion and forgiveness. Meditate upon it. Think carefully of the disadvantage and undesirability of anger. Reflect positively upon the great advantages and desirability – physical, mental, social and ethical – of a sweet and even temper. Meditate upon the sublime personality and life of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Saint Francis or Abraham Lincoln. After persistent practice, anger thoughts begin to drop away entirely. They are unable to remain in the mind, because the mental stuff has been altered
If you do not fill the mind consciously with deliberately chosen thoughts, then it will always fill itself with its own wayward thoughts, and that will be allowing the mind to grow wild, as it were, into its own self-willed nature. Selective thinking is the key to the problem of mind control. Discriminative thinking is the essence of mind control.
When you take up the task of disciplining and training the mind, you become selective in your thoughts. Then you feed the mind with good and pure thoughts, right and proper thoughts, positive and pleasant thoughts of your own choice. Keep certain thought-pictures frequently before the mind’s inner vision. You will be inspired. These thought-pictures will elevate you. They will build up a new personality within you. These thought-pictures can be written down and placed before you on the outside as well – on the wall, on your table, in the home, at the office, in your pocket, inside your wallet. Through outer sense as well as inner mental vision, through the eye as well as through thought, mind is remade and cast upon a new mould. It is truly a process of mental recreation. It is a psychological re-birth. This could well be, and actually is, the precursor and fore-runner to ‘becoming reborn in Spirit’, patiently explained by Jesus to the earnest and enquiring Nicodemus.
Practice this selective and discriminative thought-technique in a systematic way. You will soon be able to renew the nature of your mind totally. You will begin to see that you are not the mind. You will realize that you are the inner artist who is to mold the mind-stuff into a beautiful form of your choice. You have to work upon it even as a sculptor works upon his material – a great master chiseling away at the marble to bring out of it a wondrous beauty. Remember, so long as you think yourself to be one with the mind, the true power of thought is denied to you. Therefore, assert your independence. This is the key to mind-control.
HATHA YOGA – AN AID TO MIND-CONTROL
In addition to these positive methods of overcoming the mind, you may also know that the mind is played upon by the three inner vibratory states, or movements, called (in Yogic terminology) Gunas – meaning qualities. They are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva implies purity and light. Rajas implies passion and activity. Tamas implies inertia, darkness and grossness. Purity tends to steady the mind and make it go inward, whereas passion and impurity throw the mind into a state of unsteadiness and turmoil and take it outward, away from its center. The mind which is rendered Sattvic is beautifully balanced. Purity of life, in all its departments, is thus a great requisite for the refinement of the nature and the heightening of the being.
To enhance the steadiness of the mind, the practice of certain Yogic postures is useful and beneficial, because there is an inter-connection between the body and the mind. Hatha Yoga is here recommended as a supplementary technique, and the practice of a few of the preliminary exercises, for half an hour every morning and every evening, helps to change the vibratory state of the mind. It takes it onward from passion to purity. By learning to keep the body steady and poised, the mind becomes subdued, and a beautiful harmony is created within. These Yogic postures and simple breathing techniques can be practiced by all as auxiliaries to augment the effect of other efforts at mind-control.
The central fact to be remembered is that the mind is an instrument. It has been made to be used by you. It was not made to use you. It is to be kept under your control. You are the master. If you feel this fact, power is aroused in you. This fact is truth. Truth is all-power and positive. Always keep yourself, therefore, as the unaffected, detached Witness-Consciousness. Look upon the mind as something distinct from you and soon you will be able to grasp it and chasten it. As you do this, gradually, success will come.
Difficult though it undoubtedly is to develop a new habit, once the foregoing secret is known, the whole process becomes greatly simplified. The right technique is not so much to struggle against the habit which is to be broken, but to start building the new habit that is to replace the old. When this work is started, the old habit cannot stand. This is the “trick” (if you will have it that way), and amazingly and without any effort, the old habit just disappears. Every habit can be broken and the whole mind can be totally renewed.
At a certain stage in this renewal, you find yourself in a very curious and interesting position. You seem to have two minds – a higher mind and a lower mind – a pure mind and an obstinate, unregenerate mind. The very arrival at this position implies an overcoming of the negative thoughts of one’s personality and then alone does one come to the stage of contemplation.
If this scientific method is properly used, and the right emphasis is given to the total eradication of all the negative aspects of the individual personality, life becomes based upon virtue and self-control. Proceeding on in this way, according to Raja Yoga, the lofty inner state is then reached in which all thoughts become arrested and the lower mind ceases to function. Your Pure Consciousness, your glorious Inner nature, full of bliss and peace, begins to manifest. As the silent Witness-Consciousness, you begin to experience Truth. You realize your true Self. This is Self-knowledge, the knowledge of the Truth within. This Knowledge makes you free.