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Suffering and Involuntary Thoughts by Swami Paramarthananda

A Mature Human Being, 1. Discrimination, 2. Dispassion, 3. Control of the Mind, 4. Control of Senses, 5. Doing What Is Appropriate to Your Nature (Svadharma), The World Does Not Need Fixing, My Relative Nature, 6. Single-Pointedness, 7. Forbearance, 8. Devotion, 9. Faith , 10. Burning Desire for Freedom, A Qualified Teacher, Walk the Talk, The Grace of God.

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Suffering and Involuntary Thoughts by Swami Paramarthananda

Postby georgschiller » Sat Mar 17, 2018 2:27 am

Hi Everybody,

here is one of my favorite essays by Swami Paramarthananda on: Involuntary Thoughts and Suffering. I don't think there is a limit to how often one can read this essay :mrgreen:

Mind has a unique capacity to convert heaven into hell and hell into heaven. A person with every convenience can feel miserable and a person weighed by so many negative things can feel so wonderful. The quality of our life is dependent on the most powerful organ, the mind.
Ultimately a successful person is one who is the owner of this own mind. Once I reduce involuntary thoughts I gain freedom from worrying habits.

The powerful mind also has another dimension; it has a serious problem in its nature. The mind has the nature of producing/generating continuous thoughts without taking permission from us. Without our will, without our permission, without our involvement the mind which is supposed to be our instrument – we are the owner but the mind acts on its own. The mind must produce thoughts of our choosing but its nature is to produce thoughts continuously. The involuntary thoughts is happening even now….(laughter). I have no way of knowing all the involuntary thoughts that are going in the audience and who all are listening to me now. This generation of “continuous involuntary thoughts” is a very serious problem. And because of which several adverse consequences takes place. When there are involuntary thoughts, the thoughts kidnap the mind. And this means the mind is not available for my use. Even though Bhagawan has given me a wonderful mind, I am deprived of the benefit. Like I buy a car for my use and all the family enjoys it. I want to come to the morning class and the car is not there! The most powerful gift god has given us but these involuntary thoughts encroach upon it. There is a property dispute which we are not even aware of. The dispute is who the owner of the mind? Involuntary thoughts are the encroachers that kidnap the mind and the biggest problem is “I don’t have the mind for my use most of the time.” I do all the actions as an absent minded person as a mindless person or “living in absentia.” I go through the entire life because the mind is not available, as a kartha I am inefficient. In all the actions many mistakes are committed as forgetfulness is a problem. I misplace something and waste hours searching for it – always searching for a pen or book or anything. As a Bogtha I cannot even enjoy a beautiful concert in Marghazi season. I am in the auditorium and “I am here but I do not hear” – such absented mindedness and all due to the involuntary thoughts that the mind produces without my permission. As a kartha I fail, as a bogtha I fail, as a pramatha the learner I fail because I don’t listen. I don’t listen because the mind is not behind it. It is engaged elsewhere and robs me of my efficiency. I experience is often: I announce a class in the morning while one or two will come in the evening and find the hall empty. They will call me saying,” Swamiji there is no one.” Case of announcements not registered…..(laughter).
Involuntary thoughts are the greatest enemies we have not recognized. The second problem when these involuntary thoughts are constantly moving in the mind, several times they produce disturbing emotions also. These involuntary thoughts produce toxic emotions like worry, anxiety, fear, depression, regret, hurt, guilt – all these are generated in the mind by the involuntary thought without my invitation. These come and encroach my mind. Even when I ask them to go, they don’t go away. The problem of emotional disturbance is a serious one. When these toxic emotions stay for a long time, I even lose my health. Loss of efficiency is first problem, loss of health is second adverse effect of involuntary thoughts in the mind. In fact many of our modern diseases are caused by a stressful mind. Stress means involuntary thoughts continuously running in my mind and running very very fast. And in the old age when I retire from most activities I own a mind that I don’t really own. I am stuck with a mind I cannot set away, it comes with me wherever I go. Owned by whom actually? Involuntary thoughts! Thoughts keep piling upon one another and all kinds of problems flare up. I call them “FEDEREL” problem. Fe means fear, De for depression, Re is regret and L is loneliness. I am here and the children are away. Even here L stands alone! I am stuck with a mind with FEDEREL problem in old age. My life becomes miserable because of what? I did not realize the problem and seriousness of “involuntary thoughts”.
Astanga yoga is a scheme by which I learn to be aware of this serious problem and take measures to tackling it. As the very word shows, Astanga yoga consists of eight steps. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The first two are general disciplines and this we have seen in my lecture “The ten commandments of Hindusim”. We will now see the later six disciplines called the yogic meditation. Only when I am aware of this problem of “involuntary thoughts” only then I will be serious to tackling them. These six yogas will let me see whether these involuntary thoughts are the owner of my mind or I am the owner of my mind and capable of giving a job to the mind. Who is the boss? I or the Mind? What are the “Shadaga Yoga”?
The first is “Asanam” in which I sit in a posture deliberately. I sit in a physical posture and am intensely and totally aware of my entire body from top to bottom. I am conscious of the body, I am conscious of the posture, and I consciously relax the body. If I consciously do that it means that my mind is available for that job I have set for it. Incidentally it will help in relaxing also. This is asanam or consciously being seated. The whole principle of Astanga Yoga is deliberate and conscious action.
The second step is “Pranayama” – consciously and slowing breathing and being intensely aware of the breathing process. Conscious and slow inhalation and exhalation and making sure my mind is aware doing this job deliberately. If I do both “Asanam” and “Pranayama” I have used my mind and the “flow of involuntary thoughts” would go away. Because I have taken possession of my mind doing them deliberately; I have snatched my mind from wandering and for a moment free from the terrible and powerful involuntary thoughts. By consciously doing “asanam” and consciously doing “pranayama” I am exerting my ownership of my own mind. And if have succeeded in snatching my mind from involuntary thoughts I have come to “Pratyahara”.
Pratyahara means retrieving, bringing back from the clutches of involuntary thoughts; indicating I am the original owner of the mind but unfortunately the mind had been owned by involuntary thoughts. We try retrieving the mind for 15 minutes by being aware of this serious problems and deciding to take steps.
Having retrieved the mind in the third step, I continue to make sure I own the mind. If I don’t take any step then the involuntary thoughts are waiting there. You will retrieve your mind for a minute and these thoughts would swamp you under. These are most powerful internal enemies. So after retrieving the mind in the third step, I continue to give a job to the mind. I suggest whatever prayer you know in any language by-heart; say it mentally with a lot of deliberation. That you chant mentally with total awareness. It may be a guru strotram, it maybe Gita dhyanam or Shiva manasa puja by being aware of every word; like you are hearing yourself or the words appearing in your mind screen. You don’t have to think of the meaning for this a shabda pradhana manasa parayanam. I should be aware of every word for 5 minutes only. When I am doing that I am only extending my attention; dharanam is attention in a particular area and then I go to the next step “Dhyanam”.
“Dyanam” is remaining in that thought for a length of time, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Dharana is attention while Dhyanam is attention span. Many people have attention but they don’t have attention span. In any lecture they will be attentive for ten minutes and after that OUT. They will then look around, exclaim that there is a good crowd and start looking for the face of your friend in the audience! And all this happens without your permission – involuntary thoughts can take your attention away at will. If one can listen to a 60 minute lecture with attention then that mind has a converging power. Dyanam is these thoughts must continue in the same field.
If Dyanam determines the length of attention the last part is “Samadhi”; which is the depth of attention. How deep and total my attention is? Samadhi means “absorption” and if I can have my mind absorbed in the field I have provided. We are not talking about one hour now; we are only seeing if we can remain aware in one thought for five minutes. What is the yardstick that you are absorbed totally? In that case you will forget the surroundings; I don’t hear anything, I don’t smell anything (in the neighborhood they may be preparing masala vada!). In Samadhi I am ignorant of the world; it is called Savi Kalpaka Samadhi. Not only do I forget surroundings, I forget myself also. This total self-absorption is called Nirvilpaka Samadhi. These six steps put together is called Shadaga Yoga Abyasa. When we practice them we will know whether we are the owners of our mind or the involuntary thoughts own our mind. If we don’t practice this yoga we will never know the seriousness of this problem. And if we don’t diagnose the problem how can we attempt a solution?
Therefore we go through Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi for ten or fifteen minutes and by that time we will know where we stand; whether I am yogi or a rogi (manasa roga). Manasa roga is called samsara roga. Once you discover this problem then you will need a sankalpa – “Acknowledge I have this problem of involuntary thoughts” and these become masters of my mind. Now I have to get back my property back by defeating these involuntary thoughts. When my war becomes with my involuntary thoughts then I am called an “Astanga Yogi”. This war is not with my family members or any external actor but with my own involuntary thoughts. I take a strong sankalpa that I will live an alert and conscious life. I will watch involuntary thoughts and gradually reduce them and slowly they become weaker. They may not be totally removed but I can achieve an FIR reduction – frequency and intensity of reaction. How frequent are the involuntary thoughts that snatch away the mind and the intensity of these involuntary thoughts that rob my mind and how long these involuntary thoughts lasts; I will be alert and vigilant. My goal would be reduce involuntary thoughts and they must become weaker while I must become stronger and owner of my own mind.
And what are the steps to lead an alert life? The shadaga yoga will help me become a master of my own mind and it is called “Karma Yoga”. Karma yoga not only includes doing the duty, not only includes Ishwara Arpanam, and Prasada Bhavana; Karma yoga includes according to Sankara’s Bashyam Samadhi or Shadaga yoga. This Astanga yoga is integral part of Karma yoga which is spending some time to find out where my mind is and try to lead an alert life. As Krishna says: traigunya-visaya veda, nistraigunyo bhavarjuna, nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho, niryoga-ksema atmavan by leading a mindful life. Even in Buddhism they talk about “Right Mindfulness”. Which means whenever you are doing an action, do them consciously. When we do actions consciously we have two-fold advantages: when I am deliberate my efficiency improves (if you place your pen or book consciously then you will not have to search for them), as opposed to doing actions mechanically where involuntary thoughts proliferate. So one method of defeating involuntary thoughts is by being deliberate in one’s actions; before we start the class we chant guru strotram. Now see whether you can chant deliberately, or mouth chants and the mind rants! So the first benefit of deliberate action is we become efficacious and we make fewer and fewer mistakes.
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Re: Suffering and Involuntary Thoughts by Swami Paramarthana

Postby Mira » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:26 pm

Thanks Georg! This is such a wonderful article. Thanks for posting. It's one of my favorites too.

Just wanted to add that having a calm mind really helps with actualizing self-knowledge too.

If the mind is agitated, then one can also mentally invoke an image of one's ishta devata (personal deity) and this calms the mind and reflects consciousness, helping to stabilize in the knowledge.
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Re: Suffering and Involuntary Thoughts by Swami Paramarthana

Postby Stan » Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:40 pm

Hi Georg,

Thanks for posting Swami Paramarthananda`s essay on `Suffering and involuntary thoughts`.

The two indeed go together and it takes a fair bit of work to overcome them and achieve a peaceful mind.
Swami Paramarthananda describes the six fold yoga we need to practice culminating in karma yoga. It sounds like a lot of work !
Just what is the pay-off for doing these sadhana`s ? What is it like when involuntary thoughts are no longer dominating the mind ?
There is another type of thinking altogether, and this is how James describes it....


Spontaneous thinking is appropriate to every situation and it is effortless.
It takes a lot of disciplined thinking to get to this point, but it is totally worth it.
Its feels as if you aren’t thinking, which you aren’t!

Reality in the form of the dharma field is thinking through you.
The thoughts just naturally arise and pass through your mind without disturbing you. There is no resistance (rajas) or attachment (tamas) to them because the rajasic doer has been neutralized by self knowledge and only the sattvic enjoyer remains.

The thoughts are appropriate, interesting, humourous, ironical and truthful and they always have a beneficial effect on others.
They are guna free in the sense that they are not motivated by a desire to get something or to fix something. "

They are guna-free because it is Ishwara thinking through you and in this way, you and Ishwara are non-different.
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Re: Suffering and Involuntary Thoughts by Swami Paramarthana

Postby georgschiller » Mon Mar 19, 2018 2:07 pm

Great continuation, thank you Stan!

Yes, the fruit of self knowledge :D
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