This article is a chapter from the book “What the River Has Taught Me”. I would like to share some good ideas..
Do Not Criticise Anybody or Anything
Forget and Forgive
Do Not Aspire for Worldly Things
Never Be Jealous
Do Something Positive
Make Others Happy
Introspect to Gain Right Direction
Preya and Shreya
Reduce Your Wants
Do Not Disturb the Peace of Others
Mind Your Own Business
Have No Expectation
Gain God’s Friendship
Pray to God
Obey the Will of God
Believe Utterly in the Unreality of the World
It is common knowledge that good health and economic security are a “must” for peace of mind. But having both, many are still in a state of perpetual mental restlessness. Do you belong to this category? If you say “Yes,” then read on. The chances are that your trouble is mostly of your own making and therefore avoidable. Let us see how.
Do you interfere too often in the affairs of others? May be they are wrong. But why should you be disturbed on that account? Do not criticise anybody or anything. God has not delegated to you the authority to sit in judgment over others. All men act the way they do because they are prompted that way by the God within them. It is a good rule to mind your own business to keep your peace.
Mind your own business. An excellent dictum to follow for the man who prizes peace of mind above everything else. Nothing in this world requires your attention. There is a God to look after everything in fact. He looks after you as well. Do not forget this fact.
Let me repeat: Mind your own business. Do not criticise anybody or anything. Criticism is tantamount to blasphemy. Why? Because whatever happens happens by the Will of God. Nothing can happen without the concurrence of God. The fact that something has happened—no matter whether it is good or bad from your point of view—is in itself proof positive that it has God’s approval. And if you criticise the happening, you are questioning the Will of God, the Wisdom of God, the justice of God. Do not do that. You will keep your peace.
God sees things by the whole. Man sees things by parts. God sees happenings over the three periods of time. Man sees events only in the present, isolated from the past and the future. That is why man sees discord where God sees harmony. Man sees lack of logic where God finds perfect logic. Put yourself in the place of God. Feel you are God. Feel that the entire universe is your creation and operates by your will. At once you will feel tremendous peace and strength surging within you.
You say others insult you without reason, injure you without cause. Even if that is true, do not get agitated. Face the situation calmly. You will find that calmness can be a powerful weapon to overcome difficult situations. Shut your eyes to insults. Let others think what they like, say what they like. This is a world of ignorant people. You be wise. Be humble before everybody. Be humble in every situation. This will be possible if you give up the idea of inferiority and superiority and learn to see God in everybody and everything “God wills it so. So be it.”: Say that to yourself and keep quiet in the face of insults. Be unruffled. If you put up with insults, you will grow in humility and purity. You will grow spiritually rich.
Do not develop ill-feeling inside your heart for the man who has insulted you or injured you. This is worse than open anger. This is mental cancer. Do not nourish grievances. Forget and forgive. This is not just an idealistic maxim. This is the only way to retain your peace. The habit of nurturing grievances is highly injurious to one’s own self. You will lose sleep. You will poison your blood. You will develop blood pressure and neurasthenia. After all, the injury or insult was done to you once. Now it is past. It is all over. It is spilt milk. Why do you want to perpetuate the misery of that injury or insult by constantly remembering it? Why do you want to feed the dying embers of hatred and ill-will? Is it not high foolishness? The span of human life is so short that you cannot afford to waste time and life in such trifles. Get over the bad habit. The best way to do so is to keep yourself ever busy in any work which absorbs your interest. You can gain peace of mind if you actively follow a calling or profession, or even hobby, which holds your interest. You will then have a sense of fulfilment, of achievement. Remember the proverb: Man does not live by bread alone. If you can afford it, and if you value peace of mind more than money, you would even do well to take to a calling or job which you like but which is monetarily less rewarding than one which you dislike all the time but monetarily more rewarding.
Do not aspire for worldly glory, worldly recognition. This is the surest way to mental and physical restlessness. Why do you crave for recognition by others? The “others” are mostly ignorant people. The most successful men of the world are often men of little real wisdom. Why do you place so much value on their recognition? Instead, aspire for God’s blessings, the blessings of wise men of saintly souls. That is worth earning, worth striving for.
Do not attach much importance to public opinion. Public opinion is often wrong. Attach importance to moral values, codes of conduct, scriptural teachings, opinion of saints and holy men. You can never go wrong.
Jealousy often disturbs peace of mind. Are you jealous of somebody? Jealousy is a canker. It is incorrect to imagine that A has blocked your promotion in office or that B has ruined you by competing in the same business. Again and again remember: no one can make or mar your career. Your career and your life are shaped by your previous Karma. If you are destined to rise, not all the world can stop it. If you are not so destined, not all the world can help you to come up either. Each man is governed by his own destiny. Each man’s life is independent, though seemingly interdependent with the lives of others. Remember this. Understand this point well. Never again be jealous of others or blame others for your misfortune.
May be, you are fed up with your environment which disturbs your peace. Instead of trying to change the environment—the chances are you may fail—change yourself for the better. Purify yourself. As you do this, even the environment which has remained bad for you, may be for years, will mysteriously begin to dance and change for the better. The more you grow in purity, the more congenial and harmonious the environment will become. Do not ask. “How?”. Try and experience. Try and experience, friend.
Put up with things. What cannot be cured has to be endured. Endure cheerfully. Learn to live with a hundred inconveniences, annoyances, irritations from morn till midnight. You will gain in patience, in inner strength, in will-power. You will turn disadvantage into an advantage.
A prime cause for losing one’s peace of mind is dependence on others even for one’s basic needs. Paradhinam Prana Sankatam. Dependence is pain. Independence is bliss. Become self-reliant. As far as possible, of course. If you earnestly try, you will discover that there are many areas left in which you can become self-reliant. Learn to wash your clothes, sweep your room, cook your food, type your letters. You need not do them daily, but in an emergency, these small talents will come to your rescue.
Do not evade responsibilities. Do not shirk. You cannot gain peace of mind that way. You will only gather more worries, because the thought that you are shirking your duties will corrode your mind and take away what little peace there is. Rather, face your responsibilities to the best of your ability. But—and this is important—do not add on to your responsibilities every day by taking additional loads on your own egoistic initiative. In colloquial terms, this is what is called purchasing trouble. Do not purchase trouble. Rather, cut down your external activities more and more consistent with your responsibilities. Yearn to spend more and more time in an inward life of prayer, introspection and meditation. Perfect peace of mind arises when the mind itself dies down. Mind means thoughts. Thoughts mean restlessness. The lesser the activity the fewer the thoughts. The fewer the thoughts, the greater the peace of mind. Thoughtlessness is the highest state where perfect peace reigns.
Have regular hours of meditation. Meditation calms down the mind. It induces quiescence in the mind. If you meditate earnestly for one hour, even during remaining twenty-three hours, the tendency introduced by meditation in the mind persists and the mind does not oscillate as much as before. Gradually increase the period of daily meditation. This will not interfere with your daily work, because meditation increases your various faculties and gives you the capacity to turn out more work in less time.
Always be doing something positive, something worthwhile. Do not waste time wondering, “Shall I do this? Or shall I do that?” You will spend days, weeks, months—why, years—in that futile mental debating and end up doing nothing. Don’t plan too much. The planning is done by God. Be doing something good all the time. Allow no gap in your concrete activity. You can never do enough to take time for rest. Let there be no spare moments, no wasted moments in your life. Even a few careless moments can pull you down in life. Time is life. Value your time and spend it most profitably.
Even if you are resting physically, do not keep the mind vacant. Occupy yourself in healthy reading or Japa or mental prayer. All havoc starts in the mind. Harsh words and evil deeds originate in the mind. Keep the sources clean. The river of your life will flow as crystal.
Doing things gives self-confidence. It does not matter if you fail the first time. You can rectify your mistakes and succeed the next time. Sitting back in the chair and worrying will lead to nothing. It will only make you a total pessimist.
Some people get upset when they attempt to do something good and obstacles come in. It is natural for obstacles to crop up in the way of any good work. They come to test the mettle of the performer of the good work. They come to test his sincerity, his patience, his faith. You will experience that the stronger your resolve to do something worthwhile, the more powerful the opposing forces. Do not feel frustrated. Do not give up. Do not yield. Overcome the obstacles by faith in God and faith in yourself. You cannot win laurels in any field without undergoing tests and tribulations. It is unfair to expect a Degree while showing unwillingness to undergo a qualifying test.
If you fight shy of obstacles, then you can do nothing worthwhile in life. You can at best vegetate, but that is not living. Living, to be true, must be purposeful. You must have goals to reach, ideals to strive for. And goals cannot be reached without encountering opposition. Such opposition should not upset your peace of mind, but should strengthen your will to fight the battle of life heroically. It will be possible if you learn to accept these opposing forces as an inevitable part of phenomenal life, as unavoidable evil.
Never regret. Learn the lessons from your past experiences. Remember the lessons. Let the lessons guide your future actions. But do not brood over the past. Do no regret “If I had done that, I would have become this… If only I had.”—it is all futile thinking, waste of time and energy. Because worry depletes energy. Does nothing more. The fact is whatever happened was destined to happen only that way. It could not have happened in any other way. Everything, from the tiniest movement of a particle of the mightiest disturbances in the universe, everything in the past, present and future, every cause and every effect, has been ordained in certain way by the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Will of God. Things happen as they are destined to happen. Whatever will be will be. No man has the power to alter the course of God’s Will. Que sera sera is eternally true, universally true. To regret, to brood is to show your cowardice in the face of the inevitability of events and to disturb your peace of mind for nothing. Wisdom lies in seeing the working of God’s Will in every happening and remaining at peace with your self and the world.
Are you utterly selfish or do you think of others at least sometimes? A selfish man can have no peace. On the other hand, if you are selfless, if you serve others without motive, you will feel great peace… at once. Motiveless service yields pure joy. Make others happy. You will begin to delight in their happiness. This is something which is open to everyone to experience. Serve others in a small way or a big way as is given to you but without thought of reward or recognition. Service for the sake of service. Service at every turn. Whenever opportunity offers itself.
Almost twenty years ago, late in the evening, in a big city, out on my evening walk, I was stopped by a girl in a quiet comer, in an imploding tone: “Bhai Saheb, Dar Lagtha Hai.” In a moment, I sensed the situation. In that lonely place, she was being pursued by a Tongawala. In her fright, the girl had lost all sense of direction and was searching for her house. I reassured her, and in a little while we discovered that the house she wanted to reach was well within a furlong of where we stood. I escorted her to her place and went my way. A trifling good turn that cost me nothing, but the fullness and joy that I felt that day lingers fresh in my memory even now. There are many ways in which one can help others at little or no cost. Only a pure heart is required.
In life, the person who desires peace of mind should learn to discriminate at every stage. What is right? What is wrong? What is possible? What is not? In a particular situation, what is the course of action suggested by wise men? By the scriptures? By your own conscience? How have great souls reacted in like situations? Introspection at every stage is necessary to clarify the vision and to gain right direction. A mechanical life where one follows the natural call of the senses and emotions is only to walk straight into the trap set by Maya.
Constantly discriminate between the Preya-Marga and the Sreya-Marga, the Pleasant Path and the Good Path. You will have to do this again and again every time the mind tempts you to follow the ways of the world, to imitate others. This desire to imitate others is exceedingly powerful and overpowers even a wise man. Worry not about finding money to buy a scooter (when you have no need for a scooter) just because all your friends come on scooters. Do not bother about how to send your son to the States only because your neighbours have sent theirs to California and Cambridge.
Keep away from temptations of all sorts. Do not walk into places of temptation and then struggle to resist temptation. It will tax your will unnecessarily. Even if you succeed in resisting the temptation, it may leave a craving in the mind. Craving induces restlessness.
Do not multiply your wants and then feel like a beggar. Reduce your wants and feel like a king. Why should you enter a cloth shop and see many varieties presented before your eyes when you have enough clothing at home? Either you will buy unnecessary things. Or feel sad, “Oh, I don’t have this. Ah, how I wish I could buy that!”
Peace of mind and material greed are incompatibles. They do not go together. Make your choice.
Reduce your wants to the barest minimum consistent with your general external activities. The fewer the wants and possessions the greater the peace of mind. Possession gives pain. The point is so obvious that it needs no explanation. Hire a taxi rather than own a car. Live in a rented flat rather than possess your own house.
Most of us suffer, not for want of right knowledge or wisdom, but for want of exercise of that wisdom in our daily life. If you want peace of mind, at once stop doing all those things which you know you should not do. And, equally important, start doing all those things which you know you should do. This will set you on the right track, and when you are on the right track, God’s Grace will flow into your life and make it more and more sublime. You will gain peace of mind and radiate peace all around you.
Faith has to be exercised. Love has to be exercised. Selflessness has to be exercised. Charity has to be practised. Dispassion has to be practised. Devotion has to be cultivated. These qualities, these virtues do not arise, in you over night. They have to be assiduously cultivated before they can become a natural, a habitual, an integral part of your being.
If you hate others, if you injure others, if you abuse your servants, if you taunt your children, if you ill-treat your wife at home and subordinates in the office, if you cheat people in business—if you do all these and much more and still expect peace of mind, you are asking for the impossible. Also, you do not deserve it. A man who disturb the peace of others has no right to expect peace of mind for himself. So, mend yourself.
Peace of mind arises out of spiritual growth. It is true that spiritual growth is an inward process that spiritual life is an inward life. But it is equally true that such growth is greatly aided by external support and greatly marred by external incompatibles. Hence they prescribe Sattvic diet, Sattvic dress, Sattvic reading, Sattvic company, Sattvic environment, Sattvic habits in general. Hence they prescribe prayer and pilgrimage. Svadhyaya and Satsanga, fasts and festivals. Do not give up these powerful external aids. Rather resort to them purposefully for quicker evolution. When you have advanced enough, they will drop off by themselves.
When you are in utter despair, turn to our lofty scriptures. Or read the works of great souls. Or take leave for a month and go on a pilgrimage. Or visit a holy place and stay there for a fortnight or a month—spend the time in prayer, Japa, Kirtan, meditation, long walks. These are the methods to revivify your shattered mind and body and give yourself a new joy and confidence. Some people take to drinking and loose living, vainly imagining that they can forget their worries this way. Impossible. Their cure is worse than the disease. Sleeping tablets? They solve no problem. They only perpetuate your weakness of will to face up to realities. Suicide? Utter foolishness. You will turn into a ghost. More trouble than being a human being.
Keep on adding to your peace of mind. Do not stagnate. Do not worsen. Stagnation is also bad, because it often leads to worsening at some point. Improve the quality of your life. Inward richness is real richness. Let your wealth be in-built. Let the wealth of your children be in-built. Great teachers say that a man has to be judged not by what he does, but by what he is. Cut out all worldly ambition. In its place, develop intense ambition to grow spiritually, to grow in saintliness. Replace all petty desires and ambitions by this one ideal.
Once you have set the ideal for your self, begin to be true to yourself. Bring about a greater and ever greater measure of co-ordination between your thought, word and deed. Say what you think and do what you say. Shed all hypocrisy. Remove all hypocrisy from your life. Hypocrisy is the sworn enemy of peace of mind.
On the material plane, compare yourself with those who are less fortunate than you and on the spiritual plane compare yourself with those who are more fortunate than you. This will induce material contentment and awaken in you spiritual discontent. That way lies progress and peace. But if you do the other way round, viz., compare yourself with those who are materially more well-off and spiritually inferior,—and many do just that—it will bring in the disastrous effects of material discontent and spiritual pride. A sure way to hell indeed.
Stick to a few tested friends. Do not multiply acquaintances. Do not become intimate with anyone. Familiarity breeds contempt, disturbs emotions, upsets peace of mind.
Talk only with purpose. Abstain from all unnecessary talk. Speak measured words. Even innocent, well-meant words, are quite often misunderstood and they produce discord. Never go to advise any one in anything, unless you are asked to. Mind your own business.
Never argue. Never enter into an argument. Why do you want to win an argument? It offers you no tangible benefit. It will only inflate your ego, wound the other man and lead to friction between friends.
Let the other man hold his opinion. There are incorrigible idiots in this world who can never be converted, who can never be made to see sense. Do not waste your time and breath on them. You will only suffer exhaustion and earn enmity.
Have no expectation. Because expectation leads to anxiety and often to disappointment. You wait for the postman day after day. And ultimately he does not bring that important letter which you are expecting from your friend. Your frustration knows no limits. Why all this mental torture? No expectation, no disappointment. Whatever you are destined to enjoy or suffer, you will enjoy or suffer. Neither you nor anyone else can add to, or take away from, your quota of enjoyment or suffering. Knowing this, why should you waste your energy and time in anxiety? Forget the past. Have no thought for the future. Live in the present. To the best of your ability, discharge your responsibilities as they present themselves before you. There is a God to take care of the results.
Some people say, “I do not care what happens to me. But I am worried about others.” This is another kind of ignorance. Those who say like this are deceiving themselves. Do not worry about your son’s madness or your daughter’s running away with someone. By all means, do all you can to minimise life’s tragedies, but do not worry an iota. Each individual is governed by his past Karma (despite all the ‘rationalists’ in the world) and no one has the power to alter anyone else’s fate by so much as a hair-breadth. Even when A seems to be helping or harming B, it is God (nay, it is B’s previous Karma) which is working through A and not A himself. Once you have understood this, you will not worry about others or about yourself. Worry saps energy and wastes time. It is effeminacy. The man who worries betrays ignorance of spiritual laws.
No one is interested in you. Remember this point well. Don’t expect the world to rush to your rescue in every bad situation. It will just not happen. Be up and doing, with faith in God. If God supports you and all the world opposes you, you will still succeed. But if you lose God and gain all the world’s support, you will yet fail. Gain God’s friendship. It is the greatest wealth. Once you have that, peace of mind is yours. You now have everything. Fear has fled. Anxiety has disappeared.
See God in all. Feel unified in spirit with everyone and everything. You are not separate from the rest of creation. God is just another name for that mysterious life principle in you. Call it Life, call it Consciousness, call it Existence. This mysterious principle is all-pervading, eternal, one without cause and effect. Feel happy. Think, talk and walk in a manner befitting the grandeur of thy inner Being, the God within you. Shed all meanness, crookedness, cunningness, selfishness which are the hall-marks of a degraded man. Feel one with all in spirit. Your life will begin to move along right lines. Your spiritual evolution will be rapid. You will have all the peace of mind you want.
Each day when you get up in the morning, pray to God for just two minutes. Surely you can afford that much time for your Creator every day. “O Lord! Use me today for working out Your Will in whatever way You deem fit. I make myself hollow and lay myself at Your disposal.” I heard a song on the A.I.R. years back. One line still lingers in my memory: All can repeat it in the morning before getting up from bed: “Aaj Meri Gati Tumhari Arati Ban Jaye! (May the course of my life today become an offering unto Thee, my Lord!)” If you say that, and remember your prayer to the Lord throughout the day, you will think twice before indulging in wrong act or taking a false step. Rather you will like to fill the day with as many good deeds as possible so that there may be more flowers in the garland that you offer to the Lord at day’s end.
Accept every experience in life as it comes. Do not grumble. Do not grudge. Do not feel sad. Do not feel glad either. Rest serene. If you gloat over something, you are inviting trouble. There is always action and reaction on the relative plane. If you laugh now, you will have to weep later. On a level ground, if you want to make a mound, you can do so only by making a pit to dig out the earth to make the mound. There is no mound without a pit, no smile without a tear. So remain level always. Remain serene always. Serenity is superior to boisterous giggling and laughter and the so-called happiness which only hides sorrow for the moment.
Learn to accept. Accept every happening in your life as the Will of God. “O Lord! Thy Will will be done”—let this be your only reaction to every twist and turn in life. God is your real friend. He is your greatest well-wisher. He gives various experiences—good and bad—only to mould you, chisel you, shape you into an effective instrument for the working out of His Will. Allow yourself to be shaped by His divine hands. Abandon yourself to His care.
Do not struggle. Do not oppose. Allow yourself to be tossed by God’s Will. Become a straw in the cosmic wind. Have no individual ego. This you can do only if you recognise the existence of God and the Will of God imperatively, only if you learn to see the absolute supremacy of God’s Will over all human initiative and endeavour. Humility is not weakness. It is strength. The more the humility, the greater the accretion of strength. Your life will flow smoothly, because you offer no resistance to God’s Will. There will be no friction. There will be no failure too, because you do not attempt to achieve anything by your own choice and will. But your life will turn out to be a tremendous success, because God’s wisdom and strength will enter the vacuum of your being emptied of your egoism and fill it in the same manner as air rushes into a vacuum and fills it. This is the Law.
The fundamental mistake that people without peace of mind make is to imagine that the whole world is made for their enjoyment and that everything and everybody in this wide universe should subserve their individual ends and that the whole world should bend to their plans. Do not try to extract enjoyment from this world. You can as well extract nectar from cobra’s fangs! You will meet with disappointment, frustration, failure, misery. Rather know the world for what it is. The world is made for your experience, for your evolution. Grow wiser and spiritually richer with every experience. Experience is education. Experience is the greatest teacher. It is only the fool who thinks that this world is made for his pleasure. Says the scripture: Anityam Asukham Lokam. Asasvatam Duhkhalayam (Impermanent and joyless, verily, is this world). Read your scriptures with respect. Ever remember their teachings. Live by their teachings. There is no other way to peace of mind.
Lastly, believe utterly in the unreality of the world. Believe, because all the seers of yore have proclaimed in no uncertain terms that the phenomenal world is only a dream world and that phenomenal experience is only a dream experience. And remember: they said that only after personally experiencing the unreality of the world and the Reality of pure consciousness. They were not fools. Nor are you wiser. Even when confronted with bitter experience, tell yourself: “All this is unreal. I am Pure Consciousness. I am God.”
“Om Sai Ram”