0VERCOMING NEGATIVE IDEAS
By Swami Bodhamayananda
Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama
After millions of years of evolution on this planet, mankind finds itself at cross roads. Thanks to the explosion of Science and Technology, man finds himself with unprecedented power on the one hand and also a creature in doubt and despair. Information Technology has certainly given lots of benefits to mankind in the form of communications, space travel, medicine and hundreds of other things. If these benefits are used with wisdom they can eradicate many of the evils from the face of this earth. And if the same benefits are abused because of lack of proper training and assimilation of knowledge they can destroy the entire race a hundred times over.
Today, due to lack of an integral education system in the country there is tonnes and tonnes of poison being emanated into the atmosphere and also thrown upon human consciousness in the form of animosities, hatred, jealousies, cynicism and so on, which is indeed a very dangerous phenomenon. There are cries of pain, misery and suffering from all corners of the globe. It is true that there cannot be a better world without better men. Therefore, we need to train the younger generation, our generation, in the lines wisdom of the great masters of yore and make them think and do things differently, that is with strength, positive attitude and wisdom. A new methodology has to be adopted and implemented in order to lead a pure, positive and purposeful life, not only for oneself but also for the welfare of the entire world. The youth have to be motivated, inspired and put on the right track so that they would use their talents, intelligence and knowledge to get rid of the poison at the personal and social level and thereby evolve in life.
The present educational system no doubt has produced many men and women of sterling character, with positive outlook of life, and who are responsible citizens of the country and who have chosen the path of Renunciation and Service and has certainly many good points. With all its merit, it has not been able to stand the test of times and is driving the youth away from the garden of life, positive values and humanness. Hundreds of youth are confused, directionless, depressed, cynical of everything in life, nay, life itself. How true was Swami Vivekananda when he said in a lecture titled ‘The Future of India’ in 1897, thus: “The education that you are getting now has some good points, but it has tremendous disadvantage which is so great that the good things are all weighed down. In the first place it is not a man-making education, it is merely and entirely negative education. The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing the all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless.” (Complete works of SV, 3rd vol: P.301-02). In this article we shall try to share with the readers, especially the youth, a few practical hints and exercises that they can practice and thereby overcome the negative tendencies and ideas sprouting in their own mind which is fanned by the blazing fire of peer pressure and unhygienic values in the society. The youth who have dynamism need to be given a positive direction to become masters of themselves and to take charge of the future.
‘MAN IS HIS OWN FRIEND”
In the 5th verse of the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna the truth, ‘Let a man lift himself by his self; let him not degrade himself; for he himself is his friend and he himself is his enemy’. To what extent is this true? The answer is: by developing a positive, constructive, pure and friendly attitude towards oneself and the world. Whatever may be the fact of life, like, loss of a dear one, failure in exams or career, criticisms from colleagues or bombarded by tragic news appearing in the newspapers or television or hundreds of such things which nature can offer to man, a positive mental attitude is more important to solve the problems and to lead a happy and focused life. On many occasions haven’t we been carried away by our own impulses and behave unethically even though we are quite aware of the negative impact of that particular action on our life? That is the time one has become an enemy of oneself. A person becomes a friend to oneself when the negative emotions are managed wisely and given a right royal turn for positive and higher endeavors. One who has developed this important quality of a positive attitude, even though he is surrounded by miseries, trials and tribulations, unhappy situations and so on, will not allow his mind to be colored or overpowered by them. He holds his head high and solves the problems with a joy and radiance on his face and more importantly is fully aware of the potential that is within his own being. Therefore, he is not daunted by the circumstances because he is his own friend. It is said that when a piece of steel is magnetized, it capable of lifting about 12 times its weight. But, when it is demagnetized, it can’t even pick up even a pin. It is the same with the mind. If it is positive, balanced and pure, it can be a master of circumstances and do wonders in the world. The hallmark of great leaders, athletes, scientists, musicians, artists and host of others in the world is the art of overcoming negative ideas and the efforts to keep their thoughts positive, strong and pure. These people constantly feed their mind with positive thoughts on a regular basis. Let us now discuss the practical steps of overcoming negative ideas.
Practical lesson No: (1) THE ANT PHILOSOPHY
There is an interesting lesson for all those who are infected with the virus called negative ideas and actions. However much they are taught it is very difficult to assimilate the positive ideas and absorb them in their personal life. To drive home the idea there is a highly motivating lesson that a tiny ant teaches all people irrespective of their background. Of course, all animals in nature have a lesson or two to give us. In this case, there are four lessons for us to learn from the doings of the ant and become positive in our thought, word and deed.
Lesson 1: The ant never quits whenever anybody stops them or they come across any hurdles. They climb over it, or find another way but never stop from marching forward. The lesson is ‘never stop from completing the given work or from reaching the goal under any circumstances’ with confidence and positive attitude.
Lesson 2: Do you know that the ants think winter all summer? Quite interesting! Why do they do think like that? The answer is they gather their winter food in the middle of summer and do not complain about the seasonal changes. As one enjoys the sand and sun on the beach, he has to think of rocks in the water before diving into the sea. The lesson is one has to be realistic and also think ahead positively.
Lesson 3: Interestingly the ant thinks of summer all winter. It sounds confusing and strange for us. Wait! During the winter the ant reminds itself that this will not last long and we’ll soon be out of here”. And at the first warm day they are out in the open and seeking adventure once again. Well, it may turn cold again; they just dive back into the closet and return another warm day. The lesson to us is ‘to stay positive at all times’, because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Lesson 4: Do you know how much an ant can gather during the summer to prepare for the winter? The answer is “All that he possibly can”! The lesson for the person who he is diffident, weak and with low self-esteem is “Do all you can and a little more”. In a nutshell the four-part lesson is: 1) Never Give Up (2) Look Ahead (3) Stay Positive and (4) Do all you can and march on.
Practical lesson No: 2
There is an inspiring and a true story of Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi (Retd), former Vice Chief of the Indian Army, who had lost his leg in a 1965 skirmish with the Pakistan Infiltrators and continued to serve the Army for 40 years and is now founder President of War Wounded Foundation,
1) “I realize the power within me is greater for me than the power of another. I have the power to control my thoughts, thereby control my feelings and the way I see the world around me”.
2) “I now decide to control my thoughts and think of the positive side of my personality and the world around me”.
3) “I realize that the thoughts that are dominant in my mind will manifest themselves in reality. I now decide to keep before me a positive, happy picture of my success”.
4) “I realize that the spoken word is the most powerful. Therefore I now decide to speak positive thoughts not only to help myself but also to encourage others. I focus my thought energy on the good of me, on you, on today and on life”.
The above thoughts should not be repeated mechanically as words, but should be contemplated over with concentration, sincerity, faith and dedication. Then alone will the youth have a beneficial and constructive influence on his or her personality and also the way one looks at oneself (self-image). The youth should think and act upon the statements for 21 days regularly in order to experience a positive change within, to feel whether guilt, hostility, worry and other negative feelings have diminished or not and if self-confidence, self-knowledge, calmness of mind, self-discipline and other positive thought have increased or not. In his book, Peace, Power and Plenty, the well-known author, Orison Swett Marden, says, “ If children were taught mental chemistry, as they are taught physical chemistry, there would be no ailing pessimists, no victims of the “blues”. We should not see so many long, dejected, gloomy faces everywhere. We should not see so many criminals, so many sorrowful, tragic failures in every rank of society, in every walk of life”. (Ref: Pp: 65-66, pub: Nesma Books India,
Practical Lesson No: 3
There is an interesting anecdote of a landowner around the turn of the previous century near the town of
In one’s own being there is incredible ability, talent and divine wealth, which remains unrecognized and unutilized. The suggestion is to get acquainted with oneself by doing a little drilling and exploring, since the person has nothing to lose in the process. And what is the tool for this task? It is the one magic word ‘SELF-DISCIPLINE’ which is a key to all great discoveries, achievements and challenges in all walks of life in the world. The well-known American writer, William Bennet, writes, “In self-discipline one makes a ‘disciple’ of oneself. One is one’s own teacher, trainer, coach and ‘disciplinarian’. It is an odd sort of relationship, paradoxical in its own way and many of us do not handle it very well”. This does not mean punishing or torturing oneself but it simply means that self-discipline is mastery over one’s thoughts and enables the individual to think positively first and then act. This magic and powerful tool enables a person to organize and unite all the scattered mental forces and focus on the goal set for oneself in life. Self-Discipline helps the mind to fortify against all weaknesses, personal and social, and gives a unique value and dignity to life. By systematic, devoted and methodical observance of healthy, pure and ethical rules, the youth can surely grow to a higher level of consciousness and study his deeper nature with confidence and with a high degree of maturity and optimism.
There are varieties of Disciplinary exercises the youth can choose from, though each one is important by itself, like: 1) Of the body-through yogasanas, gymnasium, healthy diet 2) Of breathing: control of the vital energies through simple pranayama techniques or just slow, steady, rhythmic and conscious breathing, 3) Of speech: so much of energy is wasted in gossip and unwanted talks that naturally the mind becomes restless and loses its focus. Therefore it is said, “ The gateway to YOGA is through control of speech”, 4) Of thoughts: through self-introspection, visualization process and serious study of the scriptures etc., the thoughts can be purified and tuned to a high frequency, 5) Of ones’s inner nature: by the practice of Prayer, Intense Concentration and Meditation regularly. The faculty of “VIVEKA” or discrimination gets awakened and the youth can lead a highly dignified, pure and enlightened life. Glorifying the importance of Self-Discipline, Swami Vivekananda says, “Man is Man so long as he is struggling to rise above nature and this nature is both internal and external.” Today, there is emergency like situation to tackle the menace of negativity, which has become a way of life amongst some section of the youth. In order to strengthen the mind, the classic example given in the scriptures is that of a single thread which is very weak, but, when many threads are combined and twisted together to make a rope, it can control an elephant. Similarly, a healthy and wholesome diet of positive thoughts, which Sri Krishna calls it as ‘Daivi Sampat’ (spiritual wealth) in the 16th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, should be administered for the whole mind in order to make the youth strong in thought and spirit to progress in life and also become self-reliant to solve their own problems.
We have so far discussed (1) practical hints as to how the youth can increase their bank balance of positive thoughts and reduce the unnecessary expenditure involved in eradicating the negativity in thought, word and deed.
2) We derived lessons from the life and actions of the tiny ant, apparently a negligible thing in nature but a very intelligent and hard-working creature that can surmount mountain high obstructions and remain positive at all times.
3) The importance of Self-Discipline in overcoming negative ideas in order to become a person of strong convictions under all circumstances, trials and tribulations. This will keep the self-motivational level at the optimum and acts as a propelling force for the life’s journey towards peace, harmony and divine joy. Swami Nishreyasananda, in his book ‘Man and his Mind’ writes, “The vagaries or the defects of our character have to be looked upon as mere dirt. They are not necessary components of the human personality” and “by watching them (sages and saints) the aspirant easily becomes convinced that the natural state of the soul is precisely what is indicated in ‘revealed’ books. He sees that also that it is possible through graded disciplines to remove the layers of dirt that at present hide its (Soul) supreme effulgence”. (Ref. Man and His Mind, Pp: 63-64; pub: Ramakrishna Math, Chennai). The youth should become emperors of their own mind.