The Art of Total Thinking
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 5: The First Thought of the Day

When you wake up in the morning, observe the first thought that occurs to your mind. This will give you an idea of the predominant thoughts which were governing your previous day’s life, or several earlier days. Make this habit of noting down the first thought that occurs in the morning continuously for days together, or even months. You will be surprised that very often when we get up in the morning we rise up with such anxiety and a rush of a feeling of responsibility that we would not have the occasion to note down the first thought. We are pushed into activity by the impulse of anxiety in the direction of the duties of the particular day. But it is good to have a habit of trying to note down the first thought that occurs in the morning.

Generally what we like the most or hate the most will be the thing that occurs to our mind first. There are among the many ideas of our mind certain intensive propulsions of the psyche which lie as an undercurrent of the other ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., and these predominant ideas are those connected with what we intensely like or intensely dislike. Everyone has an intense liking and an intense dislike for something or the other. No one can be free from these psychic habituations. We may go with the idea that we have no intense liking or intense dislike for anything, but it is not true. Everyone has something which may not come to the surface on account of the powerful surge of the occupations in which we may be engaged for the time being. We may be very busy preparing for a celebration, a function, and may be so much preoccupied with the thoughts of the preparations for the celebration that even our intense ideas may be submerged by the rush of thoughts connected with the immediate activity on hand, but this does not mean that a predominantly ruling thought does not exist. It is a little bit unfortunate that we occupy ourselves with activities of a social or family character to such an extent that we have no time to think of our own minds and the longings or pressures which arise on account of these desires, which are positively a like or negatively a dislike.

Anyone who likes something has to dislike something else. That is something very clear and easy to understand. It is not possible to have intense liking for anything without a corresponding dislike for those things which are different from or other than that which is the object or which are the objects of our intense like.

Now, what are these ideas that occur to our minds? We may have to strike an average of all these thoughts because it may not be that the same thought will occur every day. There may be variations of shades of emphasis in the occurrence of these thoughts and ideas because we have, as I mentioned sometime back, a variety of impressions in our mind, and it is not that we are carrying only one thought, one impression or one psychic propulsion. That which keeps us restless somehow, for a reason of which we may not be aware of always, is the predominant thought in our mind.

Often we cannot say why we are restless, and we are suddenly unhappy without knowing the cause. Some wave of unhappiness has taken possession of us which does not immediately become an object of our rational consideration because it is the effect of the working of the subconscious level and has not yet reached the conscious level. That is why we cannot actually rationalise, understand, analyse or know the reason behind the wave of feeling that has taken possession of us.

If, when we take an average of all the first thoughts that occur in the morning for a month continuously, for instance, we must be able to go further into the analysis of this predominate thought or group of thoughts and know the causative factors behind the occurrence of these thoughts. Why do these thoughts occur to the mind? They have a connection with far-reaching implications. They may be messages from distant realms. The distant regions may be spatially far away from us or inwardly deep in our own unconscious layers. However, on a careful investigation into the nature of these thoughts which occurred first in the morning, we will know what we are. A knowledge of what we really are will be given to us by a study of an average of these first thoughts that occur for a continuous period. Something has to be done about them because if they are ignored for a protracted period, it may lead to a kind of nervousness, a personality which we may assume due to pressure of the nerves occasioned by the occurrence of these thoughts over which we have not bestowed sufficient attention.

The moods into which we generally fly in our daily life are the results of these pressures from inside, and we do not keep a continuous mood throughout the day. This is why we are often said to be moody persons. Have you ever observed that you are in the same mood throughout the day from the morning to the evening? You are not, because most of us, if not every one of us, is under the pressure of this great asking of our mind from inside for a fulfilment which it has been denied on account of the occupation in which we have engaged ourselves in our outward activities. We have been more engaged with the outward world than our inward substance. We have largely forgotten ourselves in our excessive interest taken in the direction of outward circumstances. We have forgotten that we also play an important role in the life that we live, and it is not always entirely true that the world conditions us wholly. There is a reciprocal reaction between ourselves and the external world of society.

So when we occupy ourselves with the presentations of the world given to us through the senses, it may look for the time being that we are wholly conditioned by the circumstances of outward life, but our reactions to the outward phenomena are equally important because the world is neither wholly outside nor wholly inside. It is partly outside and partly inside, and the two put together make a whole. We contribute to our experiences to as large an extent as the world contributes to the experiences of our personal lives.

When you wake up in the morning, let your principle occupation be an analysis of this kind, an entry into your own self in its relationship with the environment outside, and may there be sufficient time for you to consider the objects of these propelling incentives taking the shape of either an intense liking or an intense dislike. The world has to be considered in its true perspective at the very outset in order to get through the day with some sort of an unscathing satisfaction. Else, you would be carried away by the tumults of the activities which take possession of you and command you rather than your directing them in the way you would like them to be handled. Place everything in the context of the world considered as a whole. Your friends and enemies – people who like you and people who do not like you, or people and things whom you like or do not like – may all be placed in their proper position in the structure of the world, not in the position you would give them from your point of view. This requires a little bit of psychic effort wherein you too will place yourself in the context of the world.

To place ourselves in the position of some constituent factor among the many which go to form the world would be a little hard psychical effort from our side. In earlier days, people thought that the Earth is the centre of creation and the Sun moved around the Earth, and man is the centre of creation and everything has been created for the sake of man. But now we have somehow awakened ourselves to another novel revelation that it is not acceptable to believe that man is the centre of creation, just as it is not possible for us to say that any point on the surface of the Earth is the centre of the Earth, though any point can be regarded as the centre of the Earth. It is true that anyone can be a centre of creation, but it is not true that only one is the centre and not others.

In this way friends and enemies, including our own selves, things we like and things we do not like, may be placed in their proper positions. As we place parts of a machine in the context of their working as essential ingredients of this mechanism, likewise life as a whole may be considered as a large mechanistic behaviour of which we are necessary parts and of which everyone else also is a contributory factor.

The loves and hatreds, the friends and enemies, are the personal reactions of parts in regard to parts, not taking them in their relation to the large mechanism of life to which they actually belong. This mechanism is what is called the Virat in religious language. The whole universe is one large expanse like a universal machine in which we all are placed as different necessary items contributing to its harmonious working, and our individualistic reactions mutually among ourselves may have to be, for the time being, transformed into another type of relation which we bear to this impersonal mechanism of the whole creation.

I do not belong to you and you do not belong to me, just as one part of the machine cannot be regarded as belonging to another part, but all the parts belonging to a large structure called the machine. Therefore, no one owns any property in this world. The idea of owning property is a misnomer. That cannot be. No one can possess another person or another thing; no one belongs to anybody because everyone belongs to a larger transcending ideal, which should be called only by that name, as it is not a thing or a substance. For the fulfilment of this, these parts are there as contributory ingredients. The part of a machine, to come to the analogy again, has no independent meaning in itself. A little nut or a bolt in a large mechanical structure has by itself no significance. We do not know what to do with it if it is taken out of the machine. No part of the machine has a meaning in itself, but every part assumes a meaning when it is placed in the context of its relationship to the working of the whole machine, and the meaning is only in relation to the mechanical wholeness. Independently it has no meaning.

Likewise, none of us has any sense here. We do not have any importance in us if we regard ourselves as individuals, isolated units, as we appear to our own selves and to others at present, but we assume every importance and every significance and meaning if we consider the way in which we are related to the world in its wholeness. We do not bear any relationship among ourselves. I have nothing to do with you, and you have nothing to do with me. In one sense, this is so. But I have everything to do with you and you have everything to do with me when the same situation is looked upon from another angle of vision. For all practical purposes, the finger of my hand has nothing to do with my nose. There is absolutely no connection. The nose performs a function with which the finger of the hand bears absolutely no relation. So in a way we may say the two are unconnected, a hundred percent. Likewise, we are all totally different from each other, having no relationship among ourselves. But on a deeper consideration, we can know the relationship between the nose and the finger because both belong to the machine of this body, which operates each of these limbs for a purpose which does not belong to the finger or to the nose. The body exists and functions for a reason and an intention which is outwardly or empirically unconnected with the operation of the finger or the nose.

Why does the body exist and function? Not because it has anything to do with the nose or the finger or any other limb. It has a purpose which is beyond all the limbs put together. The world exists not because of me or because of you. It has no connection with you or me. The world has kicked aside even the most important of persons when the time for it came. The great men of the world, the rulers of human history, have been thrown into limbo by the forces of nature. Great men have gone to dust and have been trampled down by the ruthless activities of natural powers because no man exists for himself. There is no such person as a ruling historical personality taken independently by himself or herself. They lose their significance when they are interpreted as individuals – as Caesars, Napoleons, etc. There are no Caesars and Napoleons for nature. They are nothings and nobodies. But they have a principle and relevance to nature’s purposes which she has fulfilled during the span of their existence in this world, and when she can no longer extract any purpose from them, they are thrown out as if they had never been.

We behave in the same manner with the limbs of our own body. If a particular organ of the body does not serve the body’s purpose, we may amputate it. The finger does not exist for itself. No limb exists for itself. That is why it can be cast off for a purpose which is different from and transcendent to the operation or existence of a particular limb. We can scissor off a finger, cut off a nose, or even remove an eye if it is cancerous. That shows that we have no great love for the eye, or the finger, or any part of our body. We do not love anything that can be regarded as a part of this body. It is true I have a love for my nose, but under certain conditions I may like to cut it off. I do not want it when certain conditions prevail which will defeat the very purpose of the existence of the nose.

I am placing all these philosophical suggestions before you by way of examples, analogies, comparisons, etc., to enable you to think some proper thoughts when you wake up in the morning. I told you to place everything in its proper context; otherwise, it loses its meaning. If the nose is not placed where it has to be placed for the purpose for which it is intended, that nose has no meaning. It is not a nose at all. Everything is beautiful in its own place, and everything is ugly out of place, because the propriety of anything depends upon the placement of itself in the context of its relationship to the whole of which it is a part. Otherwise, no one has any meaning, and nothing has any sense. Nothing is beautiful here, and nothing is necessary also. A thing becomes necessary, meaningful, significant and essential because of the role it plays in its relationship to another whole of which it is a necessary part. Otherwise, it has no sense.

Now, when we place things in this context of their relationship to the whole of which they are parts, we will find we have no friends and no enemies. There is nothing that we need or do not need. Everything has a meaning that is different from that which is usually associated with an outward part. I have given this very immediate example of the limbs of our own body. It is not true that we love these limbs under all circumstances, yet we love them very much. We take a bath every day, applying soap and seeing that the skin is clean and that every limb is proper. We would not like that any limb of our body be interfered with by anybody in any undesirable manner. But we ourselves will interfere with it and sever it off under conditions I pointed out. This is only an example to point out that nothing is important in itself – neither you nor me nor anybody. The world can get on without any individual because its purposes are not connected with individuals, persons, things, etc.; its purpose is something which we may better call ideological rather than physically substantial. The world is ideal finally, and not real in the physical sense. That is why we have been told that world is a mind rather than a thing, that it is a huge thought. The creation, the world, the universe we speak of seems to be a large thought rather than a thing we see with our eyes.

It is difficult to accommodate ourselves to these ideas easily because we are not used to thinking in this manner. How can we say that the whole world is a thought and not a thing? It is because no thing has any meaning. For the purpose of the fulfilment of a particular idea or ideology or a thought, we would shun any physical object. We may abandon our husband, our wife, our child, our nation, our country, everything, even this body, for a thought that is in our mind, an ideal we are clinging to, a purpose or an intention that we are regarding as supreme. People have died for ideas rather than for things. The martyrs of religion or of the political field were people who died for thoughts and not for things. It is very strange that a man should be dying only for a thought and not for anything else. People will be prepared to sacrifice everything that they have got for a thought that they have in their minds. You will realise one day that you are only a thought and not a thing. Everything in the world is that.

But somehow we have descended to this body which is a concretisation of our idea, and we have therefore been placed in this unfortunate circumstance of interpreting everything as a body rather than a thought. When everything goes to the dogs, we would rather be contented with living as an idea rather than a thing. Why are we disturbed when we are insulted? It is because we are a thought and not a body. No one insults a body; it does not even feel that some insult has come. If we are called names, insulted and humiliated, we feel it is better to die than live a life of humiliation. But what is this humiliation? It is a thought. It is an idea in our head. And for that purpose, we can commit suicide and abolish our physical existence. We will find on a careful analysis that we are only an idea. Everything is mind, thought, and nothing else. This is why great thinkers such as Plato and Acharya Sankara, the Upanishads, the Vedas and Christ, and all great prophets have finally declared the supremacy of a higher consciousness rather than a higher thing, substance, object, etc.

So when you wake up in the morning, concentrate your mind on the relative positions occupied by things and persons, placing them in this large machinery of the Virat, the world in its totality, wherein you play a tentative role like a person putting on a role in a drama. No individual can perform the same role from the beginning to the end, as no one in the dramatic enactment is important from the beginning to the end. A person comes to the scene only when he is called for. The whole world is a drama. It is an enactment which has a total purpose or intention determined by the director of the play. But each individual knows only the part and the role played by itself, himself or herself only. Many a time one individual taking one part in an enactment may not even know what the other person is doing. The director knows, but each individual may not know, and need not know also. And after the role is played, the curtain drops, not because that particular dramatic individual was not important enough, but because the role has ended. When the role is over, the curtain drops. When the role is to be played, the curtain will be lifted.

Each one of us is an individual playing a role in this drama of creation, and we are neither necessary nor unnecessary. We are necessary when we are required to play this particular role of our existence here, and we are not necessary and the curtain will fall on us when we have played our role. We cannot say, “I am so important that you cannot lower the curtain on me.” We are not important afterwards. In a sense, nature is ruthless, very inconsiderate, in the same way as the director of a drama is inconsiderate because he lowers the curtain on a person whose function is over.

We are in this condition here. We have an importance, and we have no importance. Both statements are correct. Now, in this situation, who is a friend and who is an enemy? What is it that we can like, and what is it that we cannot like? Thus conduct your meditational activity in the early morning.

I have been many times humorously mentioning to people who come to see me another way of meditation – very simple and jocular to consider. Get up in the morning, and think about your father. Who is your father? I am the son of so-and-so. Who was the father of my father? Somebody. Who was the father of that person? Another. Go on like this endlessly, thinking where this father started. Who is your real father? When you say you are so-and-so’s son, to whom are you actually referring? Very difficult! We must have started this hierarchy of fathers somewhere. Your mind will stop thinking and will not be able to go further because you do not know where this ancestry started. However, there must have been some beginning. How could it be without beginning? Let this original father be contemplated upon, the seed of all the fathers. You are the son of so many fathers, a descendent of a hierarchy coming from an original source of many individuals who have given birth to you.

Or you can contemplate in a different manner. Your father in this birth may not have been your father in the previous birth, and he may not be that in the next birth. You have passed through various incarnations, and the people seated here might have been related to you in hundreds and thousands of ways. Today’s wife is tomorrow’s mother, and in a third birth a sister, and in one birth a very dear friend, and in another birth a deadly foe, and so on. If you have a memory of all these relationships of past and future, would you be able to live for a second? You will perish by the very thought of it. So, don’t you think we are happy here because we are fools? There cannot be any other reason for our complacency and happiness and smiles. We cannot smile even once if this fact is known. We will get destroyed automatically by the very thought of the shock of this intricate relationship. We do not know what is the relationship of anything with another thing. If you think in this manner, you will be detached from all things at once by the very shock of it. This is a kind of thought which you can conduct in the early morning.

Remember that death is at the elbow. This is not only a fable in the Panchatantra or by Hitopadesha or Aesop; it is as hard a fact as anything else. Death is at the elbow, and it can creep inside at one stroke. We do not know at whose mercy we are living here, due to which grace we are able to breathe for a few minutes. We have absolutely no say over anything in this world. We are just nobodies, as I mentioned a few minutes before, if we consider ourselves independently, though we have a great meaning and purpose and function to fulfil in the context of the vast creation. If something could have happened to somebody, that very thing can happen to another person also. If one plane can crash, another plane can also crash. It does not mean that only that person’s plane crashed and not mine. And if one had to undergo some turmoil of life in a particular way, another also may be subjected to that same condition under similar circumstances. Nature, world, universe or God Himself has no favourites. It is not true that He likes us very much. And if at all we think that we bear a favourable relationship with this mighty whole, it is in the same way as it bears to anything else. Such is this world, and such are our mutual relationships here. These are some ideas you would be benefitted to entertain when you wake up in the morning.

Previously I mentioned that you must have a daily routine. In this routine you must make a note of all the essentials of two aspects of your existence: the whole chain of your days, which you may call your lifespan here, and the day’s performance, which is something like a little connecting link in this developmental process of your whole life. The thing that you wish to do today is connected with the purpose you wish to fulfil throughout this span of your life. Whatever you do today cannot be totally unconnected with the intention or the purpose of your existence here. Every little thing of your day-to-day activities has some connection with what you intend. It comes to this point finally that you must have an aim of life.

Many of us cannot have an aim of life. We drift from one thought to another. Every day we have a new aim of life. But we should have the inward capacity to relate all these relative, tentative ideals or aims of the different days to a central ideal. This is to think philosophically. To pin ourselves only to the day-to-day aims would be to think only empirically, and to read an undercurrent of final aim behind the little aims of day-to-day life would be to think philosophically. Otherwise, we would not be doing what we are doing every day. We are not helplessly being driven to do something without a purpose. That purpose may not be obvious on the surface, but it has to be there; else, we would not move even an inch. The little movement of ours is, therefore, a part of the intention that we wish to fulfil finally in our life.

Therefore, in our day-to-day life we try to fit in our little performances with the aim that is before us. This is not an easy thing to do because the aim of our final structure of the whole of the span of our existence may be such that our little performances today may not look connected; they may be irrelevant totally. But we must have a little mental strength to go deep into these pressures which compel us to do what we are doing, and inasmuch as we are forced to do what we are obliged to do, they must bear a connection with the final aim of our life; else, we would not be forced to do it. An unavoidable thing is a necessary thing.

Now, the unavoidable thing need not necessarily be a religious thing or a spiritual thing on the outer form of it. This is something I have told you already. This is a problem in our social life because we have to fit in not only to the requirement of the final aim of our life, but also to the requirement of our social setup. That sometimes brings a difficulty of its own, with which we also have to reconcile ourselves somehow. So it is a manifold adjustment that we are called upon to adopt in our particular life. It is like a person dancing with a pot filled with milk or water kept on the head, and simultaneously being aware of many aspects of the performance. The dancer throws his or her arms into space and moves and whirls like a top, throwing the legs in different directions and casting glances on the audience, and is also conscious of the pot on the head lest it should fall. It is a manifold adjustment of thought which is required during the performance of this dance.

Our life is something like this performance. We have to dance to the tune of the purpose of the whole of the cosmos, whereby we are required to take a manifold performance of a subsidiary nature. Even as dance is the final aim, the performance is the objective, but there are little considerations which are connected with this objective, which I referred to just now. This is a strain on the mind to some extent, but is not dance a strain? It is certainly so. Nothing can be a greater strain than that because we cannot bestow thought on all the aspects at one stroke. Yet it is done by an expert danseuse.

Thus, life in this world is, to some extent, an expert dance performance where we have to be considering every little bit of this performance, such as our relationship to the audience which is looking at us, for whose edification we are on the stage, and we also have to see that it is done expertly according to the art or the science of the performance. Also, we should see that we are successful in the performance, as otherwise the enactment would be a failure.

These are the ways in which we can bring our thoughts to a concentrated focus of wholeness. I have mentioned many a time that our life is a movement from one level of wholeness to another level of it. We are not moving from the part to the whole, as it may appear outside. We are moving from a small wholeness to a larger wholeness.

Meditation is the bringing together of the functions of the mind into a gestalt, as psychologists generally tell us. There is a system of psychology called Gestalt, which has discovered that the mind works as a whole and not as a conglomeration of parts. It is not that our mind is made up of bits of process, though it may look like that. The bits of the mind are brought together into a wholeness or a gestalt, and we think wholly and not partly even when we appear to think of only one part or aspect of a consideration.

In the beginning, this is a painful process. We will be weeping inside. It may appear that we are cutting our relationships from people and that our friends are leaving us, or at least we are leaving our friends. Our desires are likely to feel that they are frustrated when we are conducting our meditation in this manner. But this apparent feeling of frustration of the desires or our loves is like a fasting that is made compulsory precedent to a medical treatment leading to the health of the whole body, the psychophysical organism. We will enjoy the satisfaction of health and completeness as a result of a tentative fasting and drying up of our body as part of the treatment which has become obligatory under the circumstances of our ill health.

Similarly, when we conduct a spiritual life or religious meditation, in the beginning it looks as if we are severed from everything; we are ascetic, mendicant, monastic, and dried up completely in our feelings, emotions, loves, etc. We are lost souls, very unhappy, most unfortunate, wretched. This is what we may feel in the beginning when we enter into a truly spirited form of meditation, as we may feel that we are starving and becoming weaker and weaker every day, almost on a deathbed due to the fasting inflicted upon us by the medical treatment of a physician. But we know very well that this fasting is a precondition to the great health that we will gain after the treatment is concluded. So is meditation in the beginning very painful, but in the end you will find you will gain spiritual health.