The Power of Thought

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Thought is a vital, dynamic living force, the most subtle and irresistible force existing in the universe. You are surrounded by an ocean of thought. You are absorbing certain thoughts and repelling others in the thought world. Every thought has a certain name and a certain form. Form is the grosser and name the finer state of a single manifesting power called thought. Thought is as much a ‘thing’ as a piece of stone. Thought has form, size, shape, colour, quality, substance, power and weight.

Being a great force, thought carries tremendous power. It becomes a matter of great moment to know how to use this power in the highest possible way and to the greatest possible effect. This can best be done by the practice of meditation. Careful reflection will show you that the entire universe is in reality a projection of the human mind. Purification and control of the mind is the central aim of all yogas. The mind in itself is but a record of impressions that keep expressing ceaselessly as impulses and thoughts. Thought impels you to action; activity creates fresh impressions in the mind. Yoga strikes at the very root of this vicious circle by effectively checking, controlling and stopping the root function of the mind i.e. thought. When thought is transcended, intuition functions and self-knowledge supervenes.

Your every thought has literal value in every possible way. The strength of your body, the strength of your mind, your success in life and the pleasure you give to others by your company – all depend on the nature and quality of your thoughts. You are created by thought. Whatever you think upon, that you become. Think you are strong, strong you become. Think you are weak, weak you become. Think you are a fool, a fool you become. Think you are God, God you become. You form your own character, becoming whatever you think. If you meditate on courage, you will work courage into your character. So also with purity, patience, unselfishness and self-control. If you think nobly, you will gradually make for yourself a noble character. But if you think basely, a base character will be formed.

The mind has drawing power. You are continually attracting towards you from both the seen and the unseen side of life forces, thoughts, influences and conditions most akin to your own thoughts. Carry any kind of thought you please about with you, and so long as you retain it, no matter how you far roam over land and sea, you will attract to yourself, knowingly or inadvertently, exactly and only what corresponds to your own dominant quality of thought.

A good thought is thrice blessed. First, it benefits the thinker by improving his mental body. Secondly, it benefits the person about whom it is entertained. Lastly, it benefits all mankind by improving the general mental atmosphere. An evil thought, on the contrary, is thrice cursed. Firstly, it harms the thinker by doing injury to his mental body. Secondly, it harms the person who is its object. Lastly, it harms all mankind by vitiating the whole mental atmosphere.

Eradication of negative thoughts

At first, an evil thought enters the mind. You take delight in dwelling on it. You consent to its stay in the mind. Gradually, the evil thought, when it is not resisted, takes a strong hold on the mind. Then it becomes very difficult to drive it off. Thoughts gain strength by repetition. If you entertain a bad thought or a good thought once, it has a tendency to recur again. Similar thoughts crowd together just as birds of the same feather flock together. If you entertain one evil thought, all sorts of evil thoughts join together and pull you down. If you entertain any good thought, good thoughts join together and raise you up.

Control your thoughts. Just as you retain only the good fruits from the basket and discard the bad ones, so also keep good thoughts in your mind and reject the negative ones. Just as you close your door against intruders, so also close your mind before negative thought can enter and produce an impression on your physical brain. Be on your guard. Though this is a difficult task, you will have to practise it. No pain, no gain.

Thoughts are like the waves of an ocean. They are countless. You may become desperate in the beginning. Some thoughts will subside, while others will gush out like a stream. The same old thoughts that were once suppressed may again show their faces. Thoughts cannot be destroyed in a day or two. Do not give up the practice in the middle when you come across difficulties or stumbling blocks. Your first attempt should be to reduce your wants and desires, then the thoughts will decrease by themselves. Never become despondent at any stage of practice. Inner spiritual strength will gradually manifest in you. You are bound to succeed in the end. All the yogis of old have had to encounter the same difficulties that you are experiencing now.

Conservation and utilization of thought energy

Each thought by itself is extremely weak because the mind is generally distracted by countless ever-varying thoughts. The more the thoughts are restrained, the more the mind is concentrated, and consequently the more it gains strength and power. When negative thoughts harass the mind, the best method of conquering them is to ignore them. How can we ignore a negative thought? By forgetting it. How can we forget it? By not indulging in it again and also by not brooding over it. How can we prevent the mind from indulging and brooding? By thinking of something very inspiring and interesting. Ignore, forget, think of something inspiring – these three constitute the great sadhana for establishing mastery over evil thoughts.

Do not waste your energy in useless thinking. Conserve your mental energy and utilize it for meditation and helpful service to humanity. Do not store useless information in your brain. Learn to ‘unmind’ the mind. Unlearn whatever you have learnt. Only then can you fill your mind with positive thoughts. You will gain new mental strength, as all the dissipated mental rays are now collected. Useless thoughts impede your spiritual growth; obnoxious thoughts are stumbling blocks to spiritual advancement. You are away from God when you entertain useless thoughts. Do not allow the mind to run in its old grooves and to have its own ways and habits. Be on careful watch.

Through introspection you can eradicate all sorts of mean thoughts, useless thoughts, unworthy thoughts, impure thoughts, thoughts of jealousy, hatred and selfishness, all destructive thoughts of disharmony and discord. Develop good, loving, divine thoughts. Every thought must be of a constructive nature. It must be strong, positive and definite. Every thought must bring peace and solace to others. It should not bring even the least pain and unhappiness to anyone. Then you are a mighty power on the earth. You can help many, heal thousands, spiritualize and elevate a large number of people as did Jesus and Buddha.

Through constant and intense practice, you can become thought free. Then you actually permeate and pervade every atom of the universe, purify and elevate the whole world. Learn the method of sending out helpful, loving thoughts to others and the whole world at large. Know how to remove distractions and collect all your thoughts and send them out as a battalion of helpful forces to do good to suffering humanity.

The fewer the thoughts, the greater the peace. The fewer the desires, the fewer the thoughts. Every thought that is reduced adds strength and peace to the mind. There is a spiritual thermometer inside to register the reduction of even a single thought. If you reduce one thought, the mental strength that you have gain will help you to reduce the second thought easily.

The mind is a mischievous imp. It is like a jumping monkey. It must be disciplined daily. Only then will it gradually come under your control. Only by training your mind in a practical manner can you encourage good thoughts and actions to arise, and sustain good thoughts and actions when they have arisen.

Here is a beautiful daily exercise for mental relaxation. It will pour into you great inspiration and strength. Close the eyes. Think of anything that is pleasant. This will relax the mind in a wonderful manner. Think of the mighty Himalayas, the sacred Ganga, a lovely sunset, the vast expanse of ocean and the infinite blue sky. Imagine that the whole world and your body are floating like a straw in this vast ocean of spirit. Feel that you are in touch with the Supreme Being. Feel that the life of the whole world is pulsating, vibrating and throbbing through you. Feel that the ocean of life is gently rocking you. Then open your eyes. You will experience immense mental peace and strength.

Thought is a good servant. It is an instrument. Utilize it properly. The prime requisite for happiness is control over the thoughts. Send out a steady stream of thought and goodwill to all creation. The energizing motive behind every thought should be service and friendliness.