by Swami Rama of The Himalayas
The sages say that the only difference between you and them lies in the nature of your thoughts and your mind. Some people retain good and helpful thoughts, and others retain negative and passive thoughts. Those thoughts that are helpful should be encouraged, and those thoughts that are not helpful should not be encouraged. On the path of meditation you learn this process. Suppose a thought comes into the mind that you should slap someone. The faculty of discrimination can tell you that it is not a good thing to do, and then the thought will diminish. An ordinary man retains the negative thought, while a sage allows it to pass away.
Meditation should become a regular habit. Do your meditation at exactly the same time, no matter what happens, and make it prominent in your life. Some days you will stumble, some days you will do it, but finally, if you are persistent, you will have time.
Students should examine their priorities and ask themselves what is prominent in their lives. Is your enlightenment most important, or is it food or sex? You need to decide on one, because you have not decided on that so far. Once you have decided, then you will have to find the way of doing this. What you do with your decision is important, otherwise, although people decide, they cannot carry out the practice.
Determine that no matter what happens, life or death, you will sit down to meditate. Many times the mind goes through fluctuations and roams around, but just sit down and do the practice. If you do not want to meditate, then do not meditate. You should not fight with your mind; you should have a gentle dialogue with your mind. You will learn many things when you enter into this kind of self-dialogue.
The most successful person is that person who knows how to decide on time. There are many extraordinarily brilliant people who understand things very quickly, but when the time comes to make a decision, when an opportunity comes, they withdraw and are not able to act. They do not know how to decide. They know they should learn to decide on time, but they don’t do it.
That which we have to do today, we should not postpone for tomorrow, but we should also not make decisions in haste. We may have a setback if we make a wrong decision, but our mistakes will teach us. Many people avoid making decisions their whole lives, so their decisive faculty of mind, the faculty of discrimination, becomes rusty and dies. When we study the four functions of mind—buddhi, the faculty of decisiveness; ahamkara, the principle of identity; chitta, the storehouse of impressions; and manas, the importer and exporter of sensations and experience—then we become aware of the power of the will. Will power is that something within us that comes forward and says, “Do this. It will be helpful for you.” Training the internal functions helps us to understand the decisive faculty of the mind, without which we cannot be successful.
One should cultivate constant awareness by being mindful all the time, remaining always aware of one’s thoughts. To purify the buddhi, or the faculty of discrimination, is the most important task. This means one should learn to discriminate between pure and impure thoughts, and between helpful and disturbing thoughts. When one learns to remain always aware of one’s thoughts and to discriminate between thoughts, the result is that he develops the sense of determination and strengthens his will.
A student knows that impure and disturbing thoughts lead to greater bondage and create obstacles. When the faculty of discrimination is sharpened the student is then able to strengthen those thoughts which are pure and helpful. Thus, he does not allow the seeds of impure or disturbing thoughts to grow within. It is true that one must understand himself from within to attain a state of perfection, but analysis is not sufficient to transform the personality. After analysis comes the discrimination to make a proper decision. The principle of choosing the best alternative is called discrimination, and is one of the principles needed for developing control of the mind. The reason one experiences failure is because he does not know how to make decisions at the right time and place. It is very important to understand the mind and how it functions, for the mind functions in exactly the way one wants it to. The day one understands this and determines to change it, the mind changes of its own course.
Like all the great ones, in order to make spiritual progress, you first need to understand your own thinking process, and actually there are many levels to understand in your thinking process. A good thought is that which makes you peaceful, tranquil, balanced, happy, and joyous. Such a thought should not be allowed to die unexpressed within yourself, nor should it remain asleep or dormant within. It should be expressed through your mind, action, and speech. So as far as observing your thoughts is concerned, you need to learn to select or reject from among your many thoughts.
The mind functions through the senses. Whenever an event takes place that relates to an impression in your mind, then the impression or samskara becomes active. All your actions leave some impression in your unconscious mind, and those impressions then become your samskaras and control your life. To make progress, your samskaras need to be purified. There are two known ways to purify your samskaras. But there are also only two known ways to happiness: either you fulfill your desires and understand which desires you want to fulfill by doing your duties, or otherwise you completely renounce the desire, and then reduce your desires to a minimum. When you come to the point where there is no desire, then there is nothing to be fulfilled. You have two choices of path: fulfill the desire or renounce the desire. When you fulfill your desires by doing actions, you must remember that to do so, you must do your actions with love. Learn to depend only on inner knowledge. Your mind plays tricks with you, and then you suddenly begin to lose your self-confidence. The moment you lose your self-confidence, then your mind cannot decide about anything on time. If you miss doing what you should have done today, and try instead to do it tomorrow, it is not the same. Great men know how to decide things on time; they are the most successful people in the world. This is true from a mundane, worldly pointn of view, and it is also true from a divine point of view. The key to all success in life lies in having developed your decisive faculty so that you can use it in your daily life.
You may wonder how you can accomplish this. If you go around experiencing self-inflicted pain all day and you do not try to control yourself, to mend your ways, or to change your habits, then you will not receive much benefit from life. You should surrender everywhere else in life, but you should never surrender to your own negative habits; you should go on fighting this battle and continue it your whole life. This is not a one-day battle, and the day that you accept defeat in working with yourself is the day you are really gone from the platform of life. Do not accept defeat from either adversity outside yourself or from your own negative thinking—go on and you will overcome them. That is possible to achieve through willpower; you have that willpower. The more one-pointed your mind becomes, the more concentrated the mind is, and then your willpower will become even more dynamic.
During meditation, many thoughts come and go; each thought is pushed away by another. There is a continuity of thought, a continuous train of thoughts. Simply let them go away. If one particular thought comes and goes, again and again, and if you do not take any action, then it will eventually not continue to come back, because you are not paying it any interest. Those thoughts that are colored by your interest are those that motivate you to do things. Not all thoughts have that power. Not all of your thoughts need expression externally, so allow your thoughts to arise, decide if they are creative or helpful thoughts, and then express those that are useful. The first lesson in the practice is to simply allow the thoughts to arise. Then, secondly, bring back before yourself that which is important. You can easily do this; it does not require any advanced practice of meditation.
We must constantly observe the thinking process and see what its nature is. We generally find that the thinking process is supported by wishes, wants and desires which are not all the same. Wishes generally involve doubt. We are not certain we can have that for which we wish. Wants are unreasonable. They are demands for things which we either do not deserve or are impossible for us to obtain. Desire stems from need. It usually expresses the necessity to fulfill some urge or craving. All of these things must be examined and sifted through. We must decide which is good for us and which is bad, all the while observing the train as it passes by. Without the total integration of all our faculties we cannot cross the boundaries of the mind and soar to higher levels of enlightenment.