Right from the very beginning of your spiritual life, you must understand that it is in true humility combined with a sincere desire to gradually root out pride, anger, egoism and jealousy, and an earnest and unceasing introspection to find out your defects and to improve yourself, lies your hope of progress. Without this basis, all sadhanas become a delusion and a waste. They make you puffed-up, more proud and egoistic. When this happens, all good advice and instructions begin to fall flat. Higher influences cease to have any effect as you become deliberately and obstinately non-receptive to them.
You must have a pure mind if you want to realize the Self. Unless the mind is set free and casts away all desires, cravings, worries, delusion, pride, lust, attachment, likes and dislikes, it cannot enter into the domain of supreme peace and unalloyed felicity of the immortal abode.
To practise meditation or contemplation in a mind unprepared by non-adherence to the moral precepts is like building a house on a rotten foundation. You may build the house, but it will surely fall. You may practise meditation for many years, but you will not realize any tangible result or fruit, if you have no ethical foundation. You will fall down. Therefore, mental purity through ethical training is of paramount importance if you wish to achieve success in meditation and samadhi. Before you attempt to practise meditation, you must lead the necessary correct moral life. You must have the necessary right understanding. Then only you will have sanguine success in meditation.
Much more time is required in the preparation of the mind for meditation than for the actual practice. When you have led a moral life, you may further try to build up discrimination and other such steps. Only then can you cultivate the mind in concentration and finally devote yourself to meditation. The more you lead a moral life, the more you will be able to meditate.
If you try to light a wet piece of wood it will not burn, but if you apply fire to a piece of dried wood it will at once catch fire and burn. Even so, those who have not purified their mind will not be able to start the fire of meditation. They will be sleeping, dreaming or building castles in the air if they sit for meditation. But those who have removed the impurities of their mind by japa, service, charity, pranayama, etc. will enter into deep meditation as soon as they sit for meditation. The pure, ripe mind will at once burn with the fire of meditation.
Mind is compared to a garden. Just as you can cultivate good flowers and fruits in a garden by ploughing and manuring the land, removing the weeds and thorns, and watering the plants and trees, so also you can cultivate the flower of devotion in the garden of your mind by removing the impurities of the mind such as lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride, etc. and watering it with divine thoughts. Weeds and thorns grow in the rainy season, disappear in summer; but their seeds remain underneath the ground. As soon as there is a shower, the seeds again germinate and sprout.
Even so the vrittis or modifications of the mind manifest on the surface of the conscious mind, then disappear and assume a subtle seed state, the form of samskaras or impressions. The samskaras again become vrittis either through internal or external stimulus. When the garden is clean, when there are no weeds and thorns you can get good fruits. So also, when the mind is pure, when the mind is free from lust, anger, etc., you can have the fruit of deep meditation. Therefore, cleanse the mind of its impurities first. Then the current of meditation will flow by itself.
If you want to keep a garden always clean, you will have to remove not only the weeds and thorns and other small plants, but also the seeds that lie underneath the ground which again and again germinate during rainy season. You will have to destroy not only the big waves or vrittis of the mind, but also the samskaras which are the seeds for births and deaths, which germinate the vrittis again and again, if you want to enter into samadhi and attain liberation or perfect freedom.
When you sit for meditation, all sorts of evil thoughts will crop up. As you attempt to suppress them they want to attack you with redoubled force and vigour. However, positive always overcomes the negative. Just as darkness cannot stand before the sun, just as a leopard cannot stand before the lion, so also all these dark, negative thoughts, these invisible intruders, enemies of peace, cannot stand before the sublime divine thoughts. They must die by themselves.
Suppose the evil thoughts stay in your mind for twelve hours and recur every third day. If you can make them stay for ten hours and recur once in a week by daily practice of concentration and meditation, that is a definite improvement. If you continue your practice, the period of stay and recurrence will be gradually lessened. Eventually they will disappear altogether. Compare your present state of mind with that of last year or the year before last. You will be able to find out your progress. The progress will be very slow in the beginning. It will be difficult for you to gauge your growth and progress.
Watch your mind always very carefully. Be vigilant. Be on the alert. Do not allow waves of irritability, jealousy, anger, hatred and lust to arise from the mind. These dark waves are enemies of meditation, peace and wisdom. Suppress them at once by entertaining sublime and divine thoughts.
Negative thoughts that have arisen may be destroyed by originating good thoughts and maintaining them by repeating a mantra, performing positive actions, dwelling on the misery that arises from negative thoughts, abstracting the mind, analyzing the origin of the thoughts, or by the force of the will resolving to suppress the negative thought. In the beginning all sorts of evil thoughts will arise in your mind as soon as you sit for meditation. Aspirants leave their spiritual practices of meditation on account of this. Why does this happen during meditation when you attempt to entertain pure thoughts?
If you try to drive a monkey it attempts to pounce on you with vengeance. Even so the old vicious samskaras and thoughts try to attack you with vengeance and redoubled force only at the time when you try to raise good, divine thoughts. Your enemy endeavours to resist you vehemently when you try to eject him out of your house. There is a law of resistance in nature. The old evil thoughts assert and say Do not be cruel. You have allowed us to stay in your mental factory from time immemorial. We have every right to abide here. We have helped you up to this time in all your evil actions. Why do you want to oust us from our dwelling place? We will not vacate our abode. Do not be discouraged. Go on with your practice of meditation regularly.
When you attain the state of purity, no negative thoughts will arise in your mind. Just as it is easy to check the intruder or enemy at the gate, so also it is easy to overcome an evil thought as soon as it arises. Nip it in the bud. Do not allow it to strike deep root.
The substitution method is very easy and effective in the destruction of negative thoughts. Cultivate positive and virtuous thoughts of mercy, love, purity, forgiveness, integrity, generosity and humility in the garden of your mind. The negative thoughts of hatred, lust, anger, greed and pride will die by themselves. It is difficult to destroy the evil thoughts by attacking them directly. You will have to tax your will and use your energy.
Positive always overcomes the negative. This is the law of nature. Negative thoughts cannot stand before positive, good thoughts. Courage overcomes fear. Patience overcomes anger and irritability. Love overcomes hatred. Purity overcomes lust. The very fact that you feel uneasy now when an evil thought comes to the surface of the mind during meditation indicates that you are growing in spirituality. In earlier days you consciously harboured all sorts of evil thoughts. You welcomed and nourished them.
Examine your character. Pick up the defects in it. Find out its opposite. Let us say that you suffer from irritability. The opposite of irritability is patience. Try to develop this virtue by meditating on the abstract virtue of patience. Every morning, regularly sit down at 4 am in padma or siddha asana in a solitary room for half an hour, and begin to think on patience, its value, its practice under provocation, taking one point one day, another on another day, and thinking as steadily as you can, recalling the mind when it wanders. Think of yourself as perfectly patient, a model of patience and end it with a vow: This patience which is my true Self, I will feel and show from today.
For a few days no change may be perceptible. You will still feel and show irritability. Go on practising steadily every morning. A stage will come where when you see an irritable thing, the thought will flash into your mind: I should have been patient. Still go on with the practice. Soon the thought of patience will arise with the irritable impulse and the outer manifestation will be checked.
Still go on practising. The irritable impulse will grow feebler and feebler until you find that irritability has disappeared and that patience has become your normal attitude towards annoyance. In this manner you can develop various virtues such as sympathy, self-restraint, purity, humility, benevolence, nobility, generosity, etc.
Concentration of the mind on divinity after purification can give you real happiness and knowledge. You are born for this purpose only. You are carried away to external objects through raga and moha. Dive deep. The divine flame, the light of lights is burning there. Plunge deep. Merge within.