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The Power Of Thought

By Swami Sivananda

Thought Is A Living Force

Thought is a vital, living force, the most vital, subtle and irresistible force that exists in the universe. The thought-world is more real relatively than this physical universe. Thoughts are living things. Every change in thought is accompanied by vibration of its matter (mental). Thought as force needs a special kind of subtle matter in its working.

Mind assumes the form of anything it contemplates. When you think of an object, your mind shapes itself into the form of that object. When you change your thought, your mind also changes its shape. Many modifications continually arise in the mind. Your thoughts rapidly change. Your mind also changes its shape rapidly. Every moment, mind is continually creating hundreds of these thought-forms and continually dispersing them again. It never holds on steadily to one thought-form for some time.

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. But, these three are one. It is the unity in trinity, the three degrees of existence of the same thing. Wherever the one is, the others also are there. Suppose your mind is now perfectly calm, entirely without thought. Nevertheless, as soon as thought begins to rise, it will immediately take name and form. Thus you find that every idea that man has, or can have, must be connected with a certain word as its counterpart.

Language is different, but thought is one. Mental image is the same in all. Sound has got four forms, viz., Para, Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari. Vaikhari is the ordinary speech. It differs in different countries. But Para, Pasyanti and Madhyama are one and the same. Para is undifferentiated sound that lies dormant in Brahman. The language of the Devatas, the language in the mental plane is one. It is Madhyama. The rotatory vibration of the causal body (Karana-Sarira) is Pasyanti. That is your real name. When you operate through your Karana-Sarira, (lower Prakamya or lower Divya Drishti), you will hear the Pasyanti sound, your real name.

Thought Is Subtle Matter

Thought is subtle matter. A thought is as much solid as a piece of stone. You may die, but your thoughts can never die. They have form, size, shape, colour, quality, substance, power and weight. A spiritual thought has yellow colour; a thought charged with anger and hatred is of a dark red colour; a selfish thought has a brown colour; and so on. A Yogin can see directly with his inner Yogic eye all these thoughts.

The stronger the thoughts, the earlier the fructification. Thought is focussed and given a particular direction and, in the degree that thought is thus focussed and given direction, it is effective in the work it is sent out to accomplish.

Thought Is A Creative Force

Thought is a great force. Thought is a dynamic force. Thought moves. Thought is infectious. Thought creates. You can work wonders with the power of thought. Through the instrumentality of thought, you acquire creative power. There are nowadays numerous books on thought-power, thought-dynamics and thought-culture. Study them. You will then have a comprehensive understanding of thought, its power, workings and usefulness.

The power of thought is very great. Every thought of yours has a literal value to you in every possible way. The strength of your body, the strength of your mind, your success in life and the pleasures you give to others by your company-all depend on the nature and quality of your thoughts. You must know thought-culture.

Thought Gives Health

If you entertain healthy thoughts, you can keep good health. If you hold on to sickly thoughts in the mind, thoughts of diseased tissues, thoughts of weak-nerves, thoughts of improper functioning of organs or viscera, you can never expect good health, beauty and harmony. The body is the product of the mind. If you hold on vigorous thoughts in the mind, then the physical body also will be vigorous.

Evil thoughts of all kinds befoul and infure the mind and, if persisted in, will become veritable diseases and maimings of the mind, incurable during the period of life.

Thought Builds Character

"As a man thinketh, so he is." "Man is created by thought; what a man thinks upon, that he becomes." Think you are strong; strong you become. Think you are weak; weak you become. Think you are a fool; fool you become. Think you are God; God you become. A man forms his own character, becoming that which he thinks. If you meditate on courage, you shall work courage into your character. So with purity, patience, unselfishness and self-control. If you think nobly, you shall gradually make for yourself a noble character, but if you think basely, a base character will be formed. Steady persevering thought sets up a definite habit of the mind and that habit manifests itself as a quality in the character. The thread of thought is woven into mental and moral qualities and these qualities in their totality form what we call character. You can build your character as surely as a mason can build a wall, working with and through the law.

The first step towards a deliberate creation of character lies then in the deliberate choosing of what we will think and then of thinking persistently on the quality chosen. Ere long, there will be a tendency to evince that quality; a little longer, its exercise will become habitual. Thought makes character. You spin the thread of thought into your destiny.

Thought Weaves Destiny

That which man thinks upon in one life, he becomes in another. If the mind dwells continually upon one train of thought, a groove is formed into which the thought-force runs automatically and such a habit of thought survives death and since it belongs to the ego, is carried over to the subsequent earth life as a thought tendency and capacity.

Every thought has got its own mental image. Every man has a mental world of his own, his own views, his own sentiments, his own feelings, his own habitual thoughts, his own experience and his own mode of thinking. The essence of the various mental images formed in one particular physical life is being worked out in the mental plane. It constitutes the basis for the next physical life. Just as a new physical body is formed in every birth, so also a new mind and a new Buddhi are formed in every birth.

It is difficult to explain the detailed workings of thought and Karma. Every Karma produces twofold effects, one on the individual mind and the other on the world. Man makes the circumstances of his future life by the effect of his actions upon others.

Every action has a past which leads up to it; every action has a future which proceeds from it. An action implies a desire which prompted it and a thought which shaped it. Each act is a link in an endless chain of causes and effects, each effect becoming a cause and each cause having been an effect; and each link in the endless chain is welded out of three components-desire, thought and activity. A desire stimulates a thought; a thought embodies itself in an act.

Selfish coveting of the possessions of others, though never carried out into active cheating in the present, makes one a thief in a later earth-life, while hatred and revenge secretly cherished are the seeds from which the murderer springs. So again, unselfish loving yields as harvest the philanthropist and the saint; and every thought of compassion helps to build the tender and pitiful nature which belongs to one who is a friend to all creatures.

Like Attracts Like

The great law, "Like attracts like," is ever operating. This is a great cosmic law. This is a law in nature. This law operates in the thought world also. People of similar thoughts are attracted towards each other. That is the reason why the maxims run as follows: "Birds of the same feather flock together... A man is known by the company he keeps." A doctor is drawn towards a doctor. A poet has attraction for another poet. A songster loves another songster. A philosopher likes another philosopher. A vagabond likes a vagabond. The mind has got a 'drawing power'. You are continually attracting towards you, from both the seen and the unseen sides of life-forces, thoughts, influences and conditions most akin to those of your own thoughts and lives.

In the realm of thought, people of similar thoughts are attracted to one another. This universal law is continually operating whether we are conscious of it or not. We are all living, so to speak, in a vast ocean of thought; and the very atmosphere around us is continually filled with the thought-forces that are being continually sent or that are continually going out in the form of thought-waves. We are all affected more or less by these thought-forces either consciously or unconsciously and in the degree that we are more or less sensitively organised or in the degree we are negative and so are open to outside influences, rather than positive, which thus determine what influences shall enter into the domain of our thoughts and hence into our lives.

Carry any kind of thought you please about with you and so long as you retain it, no matter how you roam over land or sea, you will unceasingly attract to yourself, knowingly or inadvertently, exactly and only what corresponds to your own dominant quality of thought. Thoughts are your private property and you can regulate them to suit your taste entirely by steadily recognising your ability to do so. You have entirely in your own hands to determine the order of thought you entertain and consequently the order of influences you attract and are not mere willowy creatures of circumstances, unless indeed you choose to be.

Good Thoughts And Evil Thoughts

A good thought is thrice blessed. First, it benefits the thinker by improving his mental body (Manomaya Kosha). 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. First, 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.

Every evil thought is as a sword drawn on the person to whom it is directed. If you entertain thoughts of hatred, you are really a murderer of that man against whom you foster thoughts of hatred. You are your own suicide, because these thoughts rebound upon you only.

A mind tenanted by evil thoughts acts as a magnet to attract like thoughts from others and thus intensifies the original evil.

Evil thoughts thrown into the mental atmosphere poison receptive minds. To dwell on an evil thought gradually deprives it of its repulsiveness and impels the thinker to perform an action which embodies it.

The Progeny Of Thoughts

It is not sufficient that your thoughts are not bad. You must transmute bad thoughts into good thoughts. This is the first part of your Sadhana. You must make them helpful thoughts. When they are sent out, they must be capable of doing immense good and benefit to the suffering humanity and your neighbours.

Thoughts are your own real children. Be careful of your progeny of thoughts. A good son brings happiness, name and fame to the father. An evil son brings infamy, discredit to his father. Even so, a noble thought will bring happiness and joy to you. An evil thought will bring misery and trouble to you. Just as you rear up your children with great care, so also you will have to rear up good, sublime thoughts with great care.

Thought Is Contagious

Thought is very contagious, nay, more contagious than the Spanish Flu. Thought moves. It actually leaves the brain and hovers about. It enters the brains of others also. A sympathetic thought in you raises a sympathetic thought in others with whom you come in contact. A thought of anger produces a similar vibration in those who surround an angry man. It leaves the brain of one man and enters the brains of others who live at a long distance and excites them. A cheerful thought produces cheerful thought in others. A thought of joy creates sympathetically a thought of joy in others. You are filled with joy and intense delight when you see a batch of hilarious children playing mirthfully and dancing in joy.

In broadcasting, a singer sings beautiful songs at Calcutta. You can hear them nicely through the radio-set in your own house at Delhi. All messages are received through the wireless. Even so, your mind is like a wireless machine. A saint with peace, poise, harmony and spiritual waves sends out into the world thoughts of harmony and peace. They travel with tremendous lightning speed in all directions and enter the minds of thousands and produce in them also similar thoughts of harmony and peace. Whereas a worldly man whose mind is filled with jealousy, revenge and hatred sends out discordant thoughts which enter the minds of thousands and stir in them similar thoughts of hatred and discord.

Thought is very contagious. Keep a good and honest man in the company of a thief. He will begin to steal. Keep a sober man in the company of a drunkard. He will begin to drink.

Thought-TRANSFERENCE Or Telepathy

What is the possible medium through which thoughts can travel from one mind to another? The best possible explanation is that Manas or mind-substance fills all space like ether and it serves as the vehicle for thoughts as Prana is the vehicle for feelings, ether is the vehicle for heat, light and electricity, and air is the vehicle for sound. Mind is Vibhu (all-pervading) like Akasa. Hence, thought-transference is possible. Thought-transference is telepathy.

If we throw a piece of stone in a tank or a pool of water, it will produce a succession of concentric waves travelling all around from the affected place. The light of a candle will similarly give rise to waves of ethereal vibrations travelling in all directions from the candle. In the same manner, when a thought, whether good or evil, crosses the mind of a person, it gives rise to vibrations in the Manas or mental atmosphere, which travel far and wide in all directions.

While electricity travels at the rate of 1,86,000 miles per second, thoughts virtually travel in no time, their speed being as much faster than electricity as their vehicle Manas is finer than ether, the medium of electricity.

Thoughts are like things. Just as you hand over an orange to your friend and take it back, so also you can give a useful, powerful thought to your friend and take it back also. You must know the right technique to handle and manipulate a thought. The science is very interesting and subtle. You can aid a friend in trouble by sending him thoughts of comfort, a friend in search of Truth by thoughts clear and definite of the truths you know. You can send into the mental atmosphere thoughts which will raise, purify and inspire all who are sensible to them.

If you send out a loving, helpful thought to another man, it leaves your brain, goes directly to that man, raises a similar thought of love in his mind and returns back to you with redoubled force. If you send out a thought of hatred to another man, it hurts that man and hurts you also by returning back to you with redoubled force. Therefore, understand the laws of thought, raise only thoughts of mercy, love and kindness from your mind and be happy always.

When you send out a useful thought to help others, it must have a definite, positive purpose and aim. Then only it will bring out the desired effect. Then only that thought will accomplish a definite work.

The Duty Of An Aspirant

You should learn the method of sending out helping, loving thoughts to others and the whole world at large. You should know how to remove distraction and collect all thoughts and send them out as a battalion of helpful forces to do good to the suffering humanity. Thought-transference is a beautiful science. It is an exact science.

Just as the flowing Ganga brings joy and coolness to those who live on its banks, so also your strong thoughts of love and peace must flow out as a healing stream to bring solace, peace and glee to those persons whose minds are filled with care, worry, anxiety, tribulation, affliction, etc.

Even some good natured householders entertain some occasional good thoughts and send out into the world some helpful thoughts. This is not sufficient for an aspirant in the path of Truth. A continuous stream of helpful thoughts must gush out from his mind. It must be a perennial, healing stream of loving, helpful thoughts. He must be able to charge groups of twenty persons, masses of hundreds and thousands with love, joy and cheerfulness. He must stir them with a mere glance and a few sweet, powerful words into enthusiasm, high spirits and exalted moods and exhilaration. That is spiritual strength, will-force (Atma-Bala).

How Sannyasins Serve The World Through Their Thought-Vibrations

Indians have now imbibed the missionary spirit of the West and cry out that Sannyasins should come out and take part in social and political activities. It is a sad mistake. A Sannyasin or a Yogin need not become the President of an Association or the leader of a social or political movement. It is a foolish and puerile idea. A true Sannyasin can do everything through his thought-vibrations.

It is not necessary that a Sannyasin, a saint should appear on the platform to help the world, to preach and elevate the minds of people. Some saints preach by example. Their very lives are an embodiment of teaching. Their very sight elevates the minds of thousands. A saint is a living assurance for others for God-realisation. Many draw inspiration from the sight of holy saints. No one can check the thought-vibrations from the saints. Their pure, strong thought-vibrations travel a very long distance, purify the world and enter the minds of many thousands of persons. There is no doubt in this.

A sage living in a Himalayan cave can transmit a powerful thought to a corner of America. He who practises Nishkama Karma Yoga in the world purifies himself through disinterested works and he who meditates in a cave in the Himalayas and tries to purify himself really purifies the world, helps the world at large through his spiritual vibrations. Nobody can prevent his pure thoughts coming out and passing to others who really want them. Worldly-minded social workers cannot understand this point.

Clear Thinking-how It Is Accomplished

The common man does not know what deep thinking is. His thoughts run riot. There is a great deal of confusion in the mind sometimes. His mental images are very distorted. It is only thinkers, philosophers and Yogins who have well-defined, clear-cut mental images. They can be seen through clairvoyance very vividly. Those who practise concentration and meditation develop strong, well-formed mental images.

Most of your thoughts are not well-grounded. They come and slip away. They are, therefore, vague and indefinite. The images are not clear, strong and well-defined. You will have to reinforce them by clear, continuous and deep thinking. Through Vichara (ratiocination), Manana (deep reflection) and meditation, you will have to make the thoughts settle down and crystalise into a definite shape. Then the philosophical idea will become firm. Through right-thinking, reasoning, introspection and meditation, you will have to clarify your ideas. Then confusion will vanish. The thoughts will get settled and well-grounded.

Think clearly. Clarify your ideas again and again. Introspect in solitude. Purify your thoughts to a considerable degree. Silence the thoughts. Do not allow the mind to bubble. Let one thought-wave rise and settle down calmly. Then allow another thought to enter. Drive off all extraneous thoughts that have no connection with the subject-matter you are handling at the present moment.

Independent And Original Thinking

Thinkers are very few in this world. Most of us do not know what right thinking is. Thinking is shallow in the vast majority of persons. Deep thinking needs intense Sadhana (practice). It takes innumerable births for the proper evolution of the mind. Then only it can think deeply and properly. A man who speaks the truth and has moral purity has always powerful thoughts. One who has controlled anger by long practice has tremendous thought power. If a Yogin whose thought is very powerful speaks one word, it will produce tremendous impression on the minds of others.

Independent and original thinking is resorted to by the Vedantins. Vedantic Sadhana (Manana, reflection) demands a sharp intellect. Hard thinking, persistent thinking, clear thinking, thinking to the roots of all problems, to the very fundamentals of the situations, to the very presuppositions of all thoughts and being is the very essence of Vedantic Sadhana. You will have to abandon an old idea, however strong and ingrained it may be, when you get a new, elevating idea in its stead. If you have no courage to face the results of your thinking, to swallow the conclusions of your thinking, whatever they may mean to you personally, you should never take the trouble to philosophise. Take up to devotion.

Applied Thinking And Sustained Thinking

Applied thinking applies the mind to the object and sustained thinking keeps it continually engaged; rapture brings about the expanding and bliss of the developing mind whose motives for non-distraction have been accomplished by those two kinds of thinking. Meditation can arise when applied and sustained thinking, rapture, bliss and collectedness of mind arise.

Thought is a great force. It has got 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.


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