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Volume XI - Philosophy, Psychology and Mysticism

Part II: Psychology

Chapter XV

Psychology is a science of human nature, human tendencies, human inclinations and human points of view. And the more a man touches the depths of this science the more it enlightens him, making life more clear to his vision. The word psychology is not used here in the sense in which it is generally understood today, as a branch of modern medical science. What I mean by psychology is the point of view of the thinkers, the way of the wise of looking at life, the manner of the thoughtful, the ideas of those who know life more fully. There is individual psychology and psychology of the crowd. Also, it is very interesting that the more one becomes acquainted with psychology, the more one begins to see the thoughtless side of the thoughtful and the foolish side of the wise, the intoxication of the sober and the weakness of the strong.

An important aspect of psychology is attitude of mind. The mind takes a certain attitude, and then the whole world comes under the shadow of this attitude. If one has a fear, a doubt, or a suspicion, it becomes the attitude of the mind, and everything that one sees one begins to suspect, to fear, or to doubt, and as Sadi says, every brain may have a little of it. One never knows when one changes one's attitude. Life is an intoxication. Whatever happens to be a person's attitude, it is according to that attitude that he looks at life. He may be the most thoughtful, wise, qualified, and learned man there is, but if he happens to have one of these attitudes of fear, doubt, or suspicion, the whole world will become the subject for proving to him the truth of whatever he has at the back of his mind. This does not mean that things and people in the world actually become what he fears. What happens is that first the shadow of his mind falls on them, and then the action of the shadow convinces him of the rightness of his doubt, of the truth of his suspicion, and of the reality of his fear. In other words, his doubt, his suspicion, or his fear becomes like a living entity before him.

There is an amusing story of an opium-eater who, half asleep, half awake, was lying on the grass with his hat on his knees, thinking, 'Suppose a thief came along, what would I do?' And no sooner had he thought this than he saw a thief before him. He looked for a stick, and he struck the thief hard, whereupon he woke up suddenly and said, 'Well, you gave it to me, but I gave it back to you all right!' There was no thief. It was his own knee. His knee with his hat on it appeared for the moment to be a thief because the thought of a thief was in his mind. He gently, slowly, raised his stick, and when he struck he never thought that he would strike himself. In this moment there was fear, there was a thief, there was a fight and there was a hurt. And what was it all? He himself.

Such is the life of man. Man takes this opium from life. He has deep impressions of fear, of doubt, of suspicion, of prejudice or of distrust; and when these impressions fall upon others they make him see in these others the same thing that he is keeping hidden in the depths of his heart.

A young man one day said to his friends, 'You can send me to any place that is haunted. I can stand it, for I do not believe in such things.' One friend asked him, 'Do you think you can stay all night in the graveyard?' He said, 'Yes.' And so all night long he stayed there without any fear. Nothing appeared, but just before sunrise, when he got up after waiting all night for the ghost and started to leave the graveyard, his long cloak was caught by some thorns on the ground and he felt a pull. That shock made him faint and he almost died.

When a person thinks, 'Everyone is unfriendly to me. No one is my friend,' wherever he looks he will see unfriendly faces. They may be most friendly and lovable and kind people but he sees them as unfriendly. When a person suspects that people are working against him, he believes he sees this in everything they do. If he knows that somebody has been writing a letter he thinks, 'He is writing something against me.' If he sees somebody following his own thoughts he thinks, 'He is thinking about me. He is planning against me just now.' If he finds a man who is asleep he will even think, 'He is dreaming against me!' In the end what happens is that this thought falls upon the mind of every person that he sees or thinks about like a shadow, and this shadow turns that person into itself. And then, if that person happens to be weak he will do something unconsciously against the other. He does not do it consciously. The one who had that thought inspired him to do it and to prove thereby that he was against him.

It is the same with distrust. When we do not trust someone, we think that everything that he does is untrustworthy. It appears like this. And if we were to fight against every person who shows us the shadow of our own thought, there would be no end to the fight. We would become excitable and in the end we would die of that excitement. We would become mad and all kinds of ill luck would be attracted by that attitude, or we would become very frightened at our own fear. This happens in so many cases that we cannot say that even one person in a hundred is free from it. If we cured ourselves of this impression, we would change the outer circumstances of our life even without trying to do so. Just by changing ourselves we can change the outer circumstances. We can also change those whom we cannot trust into trustworthy people. We can change objects and individuals of whom we are afraid into great friends. Once suspicion had been cleared from the mind we would have very little chance of suspecting anyone any more.

This does not mean that it is a great virtue to trust everybody. To do this would be making oneself responsible for everyone's purse. It would be taking a great responsibility upon oneself. The Prophet has said, 'Tie your camel to the tree, and then trust in God.' But if a person developed trust so much that he trusted the camel to space and himself to God, then he would not wish for the camel any more. To trust or not to trust, these different attitudes follow our experience. We gradually gather experience from life, and this experience teaches us whom to trust and whom not to trust. No doubt there are people who distrust everybody, but that is a disease, that is not normal.

One need not say that one should fear nothing, though one may say that fear is a bad thing. There is a story of a Brahmin, a young man who was very much impressed by what his guru told him: that the whole of manifestation is the immanence of God and that, therefore, there is nothing to fear, nothing to distrust. This thought made the young man feel quite at home in the world, quite comfortable. Then one day a mad elephant came along the road on which the young man was walking. The men running before the elephant yelled, 'Away, away! The elephant is coming!' But the young man would not get out of the way. With palms joined he stood as fearlessly before the elephant as one stands before God, as his guru had told him. The consequence was that the elephant gave him a shove and he fell down. He was brought to the guru who asked him what had happened. The young man said, 'Guruji, you said that all is the immanence of God, and therefore, in all reverence, I stood before the elephant with joined hands.' The guru said, 'Did anyone tell you to get out of the way?' He replied, 'Yes.' 'Why then,' said the guru, 'did you not stand before that man with joined hands and listen to him?' Not to be deeply impressed by distrust does not mean that we should be over-ready to bestow our trust upon anyone, nor does giving up fear mean that we can stand in front of a moving motorcar thinking, 'I trust it will be all right.' Everything has its place in life, and if we do not let it influence us unduly then everything is useful.

There is another aspect of psychology which is of very great importance. It is that often a person thinks, 'I feel like this. I cannot help it,' or, 'I think like this. I cannot help it.' But in reality it is not so. One is master of one's thoughts and master of one's feelings. One cannot think or feel unless one wants to. And when a person says, 'I cannot help this thought coming to me,' he is the slave of his thought. Instead of being master of his mind, his mind is his master, and this is a kind of poverty and helplessness which is greater than any other in the world. Some even become so negative that the thought of another person works in their mind, the thought or the feeling of someone they know or even of someone they do not know works in their mind. They can no longer distinguish between their own thoughts and feelings and those of someone else. But as soon as a man begins to say, 'I think like this, but I do not know why,' or, 'I feel like this, but I do not want to feel so,' then he has gone down one step below the normal state of mind. A man who is helpless before his own mind is helpless before everything in the world. And therefore, the great mastery is to stand before one's own mind and make it think what one wishes it to think, and make it feel what one wishes it to feel.

Still another aspect of psychology is an unconscious suggestion against one's own wishes. This happens, for instance, when a person says, 'I see it, my attitude is quite wrong.' But it is his attitude, it is in his own hands, and yet he watches and only says, 'My attitude is wrong!' If he knows that his attitude is wrong why can he not make it right? It only means that he suggests to himself that his attitude is wrong. Or a person says, 'I would like so much to have a friendly feeling towards you, but I feel like hitting you, I cannot help it.' This means that he has suggested to himself that he must hit the other, and yet he is helpless before his own idea. When someone says that he wishes that he could be your friend, but that he is sorry that he happens to be your enemy, this is the greatest helplessness that one could ever have. It is as if he did not exist, as if he were worse than a log of wood, for the log of wood would not re-echo. The one who accepts a suggestion which goes against himself and his own wishes is poisoning himself and working against his own happiness.

However much knowledge of science or art or philosophy a man has, if he does not consider these simple aspects of psychology he will allow his mind to develop many illnesses which cannot be cured by external remedies. Our attitude with regard to illness should be that one is resigned to the illness of the past, but one must try and avoid the illness of the future. And if a person is anticipating that something good will come his way, he must say to himself that the time is coming closer and closer every day. But if it is something he does not want, he must say that the time will never come.

The mind can be trained by regarding it as a separate entity, watching it and teaching it. There is the ego and there is the mind. The ego is our self and the mind is before us. We should look at the mind and think, I am the ego, my mind is before me,' and then analyze it, imagine it to be an entity, speak with it, and the answer will come. Even animals are trained; can man not train himself? When one cannot train oneself this only means that one does not want to train oneself. It is laziness, lethargy. One does not want to take the trouble. For instance, very often people, when asked to read a poem, will say, 'Yes. I shall be glad to read it presently.' They do not want to exert their brain, and they may arrive at a state where they do not even want to take trouble for themselves. First they do not want to take trouble for another, and then their laziness increases and they do not want to take trouble for themselves. It begins with selfishness. They do not want to think about another, and then it ends by a person not wanting to think about himself. Then what is he thinking about? Nothing.

One should say to the mind, 'Look here, you are my mind, you are my instrument. You are my slave and servant. You are here to help me, to work for me in this world. You have to listen to me. You will do whatever I wish. You will think whatever I wish. You will feel whatever I wish. You will not think or feel differently from my wishes, for you are my mind and you must prove in the end to be mine.' By doing this we begin to analyze our mind. We begin to see where it is wrong and where it is right. What is wrong in it and what is right in it; whether it is clouded, whether it is rusted, whether it has become too cool or whether it has become over-heated. We can train it ourselves, in accordance with its condition, and it is we who are the best trainers of our mind, better than anybody else in the world.

checked 03-Sep-2006