Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

If you sit back and look at your thoughts, say in one day, one hour or even one minute, you will be astonished to find that ninety-nine point nine and in some cases even a hundred percent of the thoughts are fit for the rubbish bin. They have no aim, no purpose and are often self-destructive, producing anxiety, irritation and disharmony as well as tiredness.

In contrast, try to picture a mind that has one single thought. One-pointed, ekagra. Or else, a mind that simply has no thought. Thoughtless, nirvikalpa. One can easily ascertain which of these states of mind is superior in terms of potential. A mind that is one-pointed can easily unravel the mysteries of what is has set its mind upon. And a thoughtless mind can unravel the mysteries of everything. Barriers simply do not exist in a thoughtless or nirvikalpa state of mind.

But a mind that is full of chatter in the form of ceaseless thoughts is like a charioteer being pulled in different directions by the horses reined to his chariot. Imagine his fate. One horse is pulling him right, the other left and the others up, down and into a ditch nearby. Our greatest achievements can be attributed to a mind that has risen above the dissipated thought tendencies. Although diverse thinking is a natural state of mind, it is perhaps one of its most rudimentary and unskilled exhibitions.

A one-pointed mind is sharp and exceedingly adept in breaking through these thought patterns, simply because the object that it is set on is far more attractive and compelling than the diverse thoughts. At the moment the mind assumes a concentrated form of energy, which gives insight illumination and intuition into the nature of the object of concentration.

The mind is the same in both states. Your mind remains your mind with all its thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, memory, inhibitions, likes, dislikes, attachments. But for some time they lose their hold on you, they become unimportant and something else gains focus. This is a moment of great rest and relaxation too. Thereby the mind is rejuvenated and through the mind, the body too.

As the mind becomes focused and one-pointed, time and space also begin to lose their hold on it. Thus a one-pointed mind is even known to transcend time and enter into another space, which may give momentary illumination about what it is focusing on. One of the most important qualities of illumination is that it always adds something to the mind in which it dawns. In other words, illumination is nourishing and rejuvenating rather than disturbing and destructive.

Now, when we come to the thoughtless mind, we must once again remember that it is the same distracted mind that has become thoughtless. It is not a different mind. This is known as transformation of mind from distracted and dissipated to one-pointed and then completely thoughtless altogether.

Imagine yourself standing above a completely still, motionless and clear lake in which you can see your exact replica. Then, accidentally, a stone drops into the middle of the lake and ripples are formed, at first one, then a few, then many. This is the story of your thoughts too. Into a crystal clear mind drops a thought which creates ripples that keep multiplying, taking the mind far, far away from its centre, its source. Until sometimes you are unable to direct the mind back to the point of crystal clarity.

Why thoughtlessness? Imagine yourself totally relaxed and at ease. Not the comfort and relaxation which you experience sunbathing on the beach or trekking in the mountains. That too is worth a lot but this is even better, because it brings with it the experience of impermanence. As if that realisation will never cease because it is your birthright, and it is if only you knew it. You begin to understand how futile were those mental exercises you were undergoing of thoughts and counter thoughts.

It is for this reason that ekagrata is termed mental poise. We all know how wonderful it is to see someone move with poise and grace. If that is true of physical poise, then it must be true of mental poise as well. Poise is grace along with a certain amount of control, on account of which it emits a kind of unattained purity which is simply so attractive.

Thoughtlessness of mind is a state that exhibits the full potential of that substance each one of us is born with – a mind. Is anyone ever born without a mind? No, each of us has it and each one of us is experiencing one or many of its diverse potentials. Thinking nationalising, understanding, remembering, applying solving, explaining, feeling, wishing, resolving, disputing – these are some of its multifarious potentials without which we would find it difficult to function in this complex society. You see how well it does all of that because that is how you have trained it.

It is a matter of training. Just as you have trained your mind to understand the riddles of living in a complex society, in the same way you must simultaneously train it to focus on the world within. They are both realities of your existence. Gradually you may even come to realise the permanence of that inner world which outshines all other experiences.

Is thoughtlessness a spiritual state of mind? Up to the point of ekagrata, which is an immensely powerful state of mind capable of achieving anything it sets its mind upon, one can turn the attention to the material and spiritual, but beyond that, as the energy of the mind becomes more and more refined, the gaze is purely spiritual or on the magnificence of spirit. Matter cannot hold such a mind anymore. Because it has become thoughtless. Thoughts are matter. Just as you give someone a gold ring, you can give him a thought too and then take it aback.

It is the thoughts that drive your mind to matter. Your thoughts are controlled by your desires. That subtle underlying force of desire stems from attachment which is born out of your karma. Karma is that force that drives you to act and think. It is the motivating force. So if you want to know what motivates you, first of all you have to understand your karma.

Along with understanding you also have to refine your relationship with your karma. Are you the doer, or are you the enjoyer, or are you neither, or are you both? Is there any other that plays an important role in this relationship of yours with your karma? Or are you the sole player?

The moment you begin to understand this law of action and reaction known as karma, that endless cycle, you will automatically begin to rebuild your thoughts. They are so intimate with one another that this takes place on its own without much effort. For example, a knife in the hands of a butcher and a doctor serves different purposes on account of their differing karmas. One uses the knife to save a life and another to destroy life. Will they not have differing thoughts? The karmas you do influence your thoughts and vice versa.

Thought is a force. Just as you can knock someone down with a blow of your fist or with a beautiful smile, you can knock someone down with a thought too, because thought is a force that can be directed even to far and distant places that you have never been. A thought can travel faster than any speed known to man, even that of light. If you know how to transmit your thoughts, you can even send them to satyaloka, the highest plane of existence, where the vibrations are subtle and refined and the frequency extremely high, inaudible to the human ear.

Everything you think is stored anyway, just as whatever gibberish you type on to your laptop gets stored somewhere. Each and every single thought is recorded in the hiranyagarbha or cosmic womb. It is reverberating with thoughts, echoing in all directions, colliding with one another. If you knew that all those silly stupid thoughts of yours were being recorded somewhere as your contribution to this awesome recording station, you might think twice, or should I say twice as less.

If you keep a diary of your thoughts and maintain it with utmost honesty, without being kind and lenient to yourself, you will find that you may not like to identify with many of your precious thoughts and feel a bit amazed that you could think like that. A thought is a release of energy. Certain thoughts such as those of anger, passion and hatred cause a greater amount of energy to be released, resulting in a feeling of loss of energy. If you want to conserve energy, you must try to think good wholesome thoughts, rather than those which divide and dissipate your energy.

One of the practical ways of regulating thoughts is by regulating your breath. Every time your breathe in you carry electrically charged impulses that resound inside, creating ripples of thoughts which you send out with every exhalation into the akasha. If the thought is potent, it will boomerang back on to you with greater force, compelling you to act accordingly. Some thoughts never return, losing their hold on you.

What is obsession? It is a state of mind where the same thought keeps recurring in the mind, gaining greater force and momentum. This is a perfect example of how thought, karma and the breath combine to keep you bound to this cycle. A person suffering from this condition would find great relief through the practices of pranayama combined with karma yoga. Pranayama is a practice by which the breathing is perfected to such a degree that it is possible to stop the breath altogether, at first a little and gradually for extended periods of time. This causes a break in the thought patterns as they stop altogether, having no entrance or exit, and no impulses being smuggled in from outside to generate the ripples of thought.

Through continued practice this break gradually results in an ability to actually decide what you want to think. Have you ever done that? Decided what you will think this moment. Usually we just allow our mind to run riot. We simply follow its dictates and simply do whatever the mind suggests. But a person who attains even a small degree of control over his thoughts and thereby of his mind begins to sparkle and shine with divine lustre.