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Sessions with Ashram Residents
by Swami Krishnananda


Session 30: Total Thinking

The thing that we constantly remember in our minds is our own way of thinking, which conditions every blessed thing from earth to heaven. Our experiences, whatever they are, are just reactions set up, or rather, interactions taking place between the way of our thinking and that which we are unable to include in our way of thinking. This is something very important to remember. There are certain things which we do not include in our way of thinking. What the reason is, we have to carefully think later.

The child that is neglected by its mother, due to an anxiety to take care of some other child, is the child that gives trouble. It is a simple, homely example. If you concentrate your mind especially on your son, for instance, who is an older child, and go on praising him every day, and do not pay any attention to your other son whom you do not consider as important as the older child, that neglected son will be the source of trouble in the family as long as he is a part of the family. If you consider him as something not connected with the family, that is a different matter, but that person is your own son, and because of your partiality to certain aspects of your family life, you have neglected him. Even a tooth can give trouble to you when it is neglected. It can cause terrible harassment. You should not think that you need not bother about things. One day they will harass you. There is nothing that cannot give us sorrow.

Now I am discussing the process of thinking. What is thinking? It is an operation which has a content within itself. A thought has meaning only when it has content. What is the content of that thought which we are thinking every day? The content, as I mentioned in the illustration just now, is that which we consider as of immediate utility, without taking into consideration the future consequence of the concentration of the mind on immediate details. This is like the difference between a politician and a statesman. The politician mostly thinks of the immediate utility which is before him, and he has to somehow or other deal with it. He will not think of the future. Let the future go. But the statesman will think of the far-off future consequences of any step that he takes.

The thoughts of our mind are not like those of the statesman's mind. We have a sudden titillation in one corner of the mind, and we want to see that the titillation subsides by a corresponding thought. But a thought is not merely what we think at a particular moment. It is not that the mind is just what we are thinking today. It is also not what we may be able to think about our present life. We have carried our mind even at the time of coming into this world. From where have we brought this mind into this world when we came here? It came from that place where we were existing before we came into this world. Where were we existing? We must have been existing in some place, and we must have been committing the same mistake of thinking there also just as we are accustomed to do now, at the present moment.

The immediate utility tactic of the mind continues through our various incarnations, and we never think a total thought. Why is it that we cannot think a total thought? It is because total thinking may be a hard exercise, and we do not want anything that looks hard before us. We want an easy, palatable mixture, an admixture, a tonic which will appease our agony.

There is no beginning of our lives. Our beginning is the beginning of the universe. We have not come from any particular place; we have come from the universe. So when we are born into this world, we are born into this world from the universe itself. This is, briefly, the point made out in that great doctrine of the Vaishvanara Vidya in the Chhandogya Upanishad. You bring the whole world with you when you are born. All the five elements contribute to the production of this body. Where are the five elements? Everywhere. So that which is everywhere congeals itself, as it were, in a point which produced this isolated individual body. Why does it congeal itself in one particular point and create an individual? Why are the elements not individuals? This is because what we usually call a pressure of consciousness, or more properly, a desire, is involved in the very meaning of individuality.

The consciousness of individuality is nothing but the consciousness of a desire. It is not necessarily a desire for something outside. It is the desire to be an isolated individual. Nobody would agree to any advice that this consciousness of one's own individuality is not a proper thing. It is a very atrocious suggestion that we should not think of our own self-identity. The greatest love that anyone has is the love for self-identity. That is why we cannot bear one word against us, because that is an insult to the self-identical pressure. We maintain a self-respect, as they call it. Self-respect is only the assertion of the propensity to be totally isolated by individuality. This is the samsara, as it is called.

Why is this individuality insisted on so much? Why is this body a combination of the five elements, which are everywhere? This is the problem of creation. ‘Somehow' is the answer. The affirmation is actually the affirmation of existence. Nothing can assert itself more vehemently than existence itself. Everything exists, and nothing should not exist. The idea of not existing is abominable. We should never use the words ‘not existing'. It must exist; otherwise, it has no sense. This existence which asserts itself as the only reality everywhere becomes the same thing asserting itself in an individual, localised form. Cosmic existence, we may say, has pinpointed itself, as it were, in a locality in space and time that we call this personal individuality.

The answer to this question comes from the scriptures, which say we had a longing to be isolated from the whole. The scriptures of all religions are only this much: the initial tendency to isolate oneself from God. Whether it is the Upanishads or the Bible, it makes no difference; they say the same thing. One angel rebelled against the universality of God, and we know the consequences. It is the biblical Genesis. In the Upanishads, it is the same thing. In the Aitareya Upanishad particularly, this point is emphasised. Ātmā vā idam eka evāgra āsīt, nānyat kiñ cana miṣhat (A.U. 1.1.1). The One alone was. There was nothing but the pure Universal Being as such. Why should one angel rebel against the Universal Being? In these matters, the ‘why' has no answer because you are asking for the source of the cause which produces some effect, while you yourself are the effect of this inexplicable cause. The effect cannot know the cause. It is like trying to see your own back. You cannot do it. The effect, whatever its nature be, including your individuality, cannot know its source because the source is prior. So is the rising of this individuality; therefore, you cannot know the cause of anything unless you enter into the cause and become the cause itself, in which case, your nature as an individual effect ceases. Thus, no problem in the world can be solved unless your self-assertive individuality goes back to the original source, which is the cause where all the problems are solved. This is the philosophical background of what I am going to tell you about the process of thinking.

When you think, you think something, but you cannot think everything. Psychologists sometimes give a technique of making the mind think many things at the same time. Suppose you are travelling in a bus. The bus is rectangular in its shape, it has a bottom, it has two sides, it has a top, and it is moving. Can you think simultaneously, not one after the other, that there are two sides, and there is a bottom and a top, and there is also movement? This is an exercise, a psychological discipline introduced by certain teachers for how the mind can be enabled to think many things at the same time, not omitting any item which is involved in the process of thought.

There is great sense in this. You cannot ignore that there is a top, you cannot ignore that there are sides, you cannot ignore that there is a bottom on which you are sitting, and you cannot ignore that it is moving. In a similar manner, when you think something, you isolate the content of this thought from other possible contents which may enter into the mind at a future date, due to which it is that you think different things at different times, and what you think today may not be what you are going to think after twenty-five or thirty years, because the excluded content avoided under the exigency of the present circumstance will intrude itself one day or the other. It is like a neglected part of your body. You cannot take special care of one limb only. The neglected limbs will speak with their own voice one day.

There is a psychological art called total thinking, like the example of the moving bus. It is very clear for everyone that when you think something, you do not think something else. You are quite aware that something is not the content of your thought. In yoga psychology sometimes the prescription is made: do not think negative thoughts; think positive thoughts. It is well said. Now, when you try to think a positive thought and do not want to think another thought which is considered to be negative, it does not mean that you are not thinking the negative thought. It is not possible to exclude a thought unless the thought is already there in that thing which is excluded. The desire for a thing does not mean the mind withdraws itself from the thing. It is in another mode of negative prehension, as it is called, sitting in the same place. The universe is not a partial parent of anybody. It is a scientific object. You cannot just meddle with it and do whatever you like. The world will not say, “It doesn't matter. Let it go.” Every little irregularity in your relationship with the cosmic existence will be meted out with an equal reaction and an equal intensity. There is no other law in this universe except the law of cause and effect. Anything that is caused will produce a corresponding effect, and whatever be the relationship of the effect to the cause will be the extent of the experience one passes through in this world.

To cut short the whole thing, our experiences are the product of not only what we are accustomed to think at any particular moment, but are also the product of what we are not wanting to think. Philosophers use the word ‘prehension' for this kind of psychological operation, different from the word ‘apprehension'. Apprehension is a conscious act of knowing something in a particular way. Prehension is a subtle undercurrent of activity going on in the subliminal layer of our mind, which knows more than what the apprehensive mind knows.

There are operations inside us which know us much better than we know our own selves. People call them the subconscious, unconscious, etc. Prehension is a kind of subtle activity going on in the subliminal layer of our personality which, unfortunately for the individual mind, is connected to the whole world. So this prehensive activity is an agent employed, as it were, by the world-consciousness. It will tell the central law what we are doing. What we are doing individually is known to ourselves, but what we are not doing individually will be known to a subtle agent who is sitting within us and who immediately records all our deep secret instincts and longings in the documents of the cosmos. That sometimes causes us agony and sometimes causes us joy, without our knowing why we are sometimes happy and sometimes unhappy.

Who is the cause of our happiness? Who is the cause of our unhappiness? We cannot say that any particular thing is the cause. The whole universe is the cause of our happiness; the whole universe is the cause of our unhappiness. Every action is a universal action. This is the import, perhaps, of what the great Lord said in the Bhagavadgita: “I do everything.” Mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiñcid asti (B.G. 7.7): “There is nobody doing anything except Me.” It is God speaking.

All actions and events are historical processes which look like isolated processes in time, and are not so isolated as they appear. It is said that events do not actually take place in space at all, in the same way as the birth of a child does not take place from the womb of the mother. The birth is motivated in the high heavens itself. It is well said by a poet that wars and marriages first take place in the heavens, and then they descend to the earth. Our union with a partner and our problem with an opponent originate in the heavens and then descend and collide and combine in a hodgepodge manner, creating a mess of everything in our daily lives.

Is it possible for us to think that every action is a cosmic action? Every action is simultaneously taking place everywhere. Every action takes place in all places. The birth of a child, to repeat it once again, is a birth taking place in every nook and corner of the universe. The child coming out of the womb of the mother is not coming only from her womb. The entire substance, her whole body, produces the child. The mother sacrifices her existence itself, and she becomes a little less than what she was when the child comes out. Part of her being is sucked out when the child is born. That is why after birth the mother becomes weak and feels unhappy. In the same manner, the whole universe is at the back of every event. It is the womb, we can say. Mama yonir mahad brahma tasmin garbhaṁ dadhāmyaham (B.G. 14.3). Bhagavan Sri Krishna says, “The whole cosmos is the womb into which I throw the power of creation.” Creation does not take place here and there; it is taking place everywhere.

People are not born here and there; they are born everywhere. In that sense, every event is known to every other part of the universe. It is said, in a humorous manner, that at the birth of any event, the whole world is in travail. Travail is the birth pang. The whole world feels the pain of the occurrence of one single event. The event is the child. The child is anything that is taking place anywhere. Any operation, any activity, any event, any process, whatever it is, is a child of the universe. The child is produced by the pangs of the mother, the pangs of the whole universe, and then it will take care of this event.

When you think something, you think one thing at a time, and you think another thing in a negative manner by excluding it from your thought, not knowing that the thought which is excluded is a part of the thought itself. The bringing back of that second, excluded thought into the process of thinking is total thinking, so that at one stroke you think everything at a time.

Is anybody able to understand what I am saying? Can you think like this every day? You want liberation, finally, and how will you get liberated unless this tangle, the network, the knot in which you are involved by your own wrong thinking is broken down? It is the Gordian knot, as they call it. Cut the Gordian knot. In the psychology of yoga these are called granthis: brahma-granthi, vishnu-granthi, rudra-granthi.

All this amounts to saying that every day you have to conduct meditation. Meditation is not one of the jobs that you are performing. Meditation is not one of the activities of your day. It is the thing which you are. Meditation is yourself; it is not what you are doing. Your doing becomes one with your being in meditation. You feel enhanced in your dimension at that time, and all the parts of the world will collaborate and greet you with a salutation, as it were. All the quarters of heaven offer tribute to this person, says the Chhandogya Upanishad. The Yoga Vasishtha says that you are well protected from all sides by the angels of heaven. That you are existing here is known to everybody. The guardian angels in heaven know that you are here, and if you are en rapport with them, they shall guard you forever.

You should consider yourselves blessed that God has given you some time to think along these lines, that your brain has not gone out of order, that it is able to think this integrated thought. It means that much of your prarabdha has gone; otherwise, these thoughts cannot arise in the mind. There is some good prarabdha also. Prarabdha is not always a dark thing. There are tamasic, there are rajasic, and there are sattvic prarabdhas. The sattvic prarabdha causes the transparency of the mind in which the truth gets reflected. These ideas can arise only in the transparent prarabdha, sattvic prarabdha, which, I believe, you are passing through. Everyone here who listens to this and has appreciated it, understands it, and knows the significance and meaning of it, the value of it for one's own salvation, has already overcome the negative prarabdha and is now sitting in the sattvic prarabdha in this holy Ashram. So consider yourself as blessed.