The Importance of Clear Thinking
Sardar Bahadur Maharaj Jagat Singh makes a powerful statement on the importance of clear thinking when he says in The Science of the Soul:
Satsangis should form the habit of ‘thinking’ – clear thinking. Very few people ‘think.’ Why do we lose our temper? Because we do not reflect. Why do people fall prey to the attack of lust? Because they do not think. Why does a mother weep at the death of her son? Why do people commit suicide at the loss of property or wealth? Because they do not think. ‘Vichar’ (clear thinking) is ninety percent ‘abhyas.’ Clear thinking is a blessing. It can easily be attained by a little practice. Most of our actions are done on the spur of the moment, without thinking. Always reflect calmly.
To create a good habit one must first recognize the bad habit we want to replace. In our case, clear thinking must replace confused thinking, muddled thinking, reactionary thinking, and just plain lack of thinking.
Although Maharaj Jagat Singh tells us that “very few people think,” we obviously think all the time; we just don’t think clearly. We’re not aware of our thoughts; we don’t observe our minds when we think – we just let the mind do its thing unmonitored. Surely our minds are very active throughout the day, but very rarely do we take the time and make the effort to stop the automatic nature of the mind, or take a deep breath and simply observe exactly what our mind is doing at any particular moment. This takes intentional effort because we have let our mind roam unchecked for our entire lives – actually, for many lifetimes.
We are very fortunate that we, as satsangis, are forced to come face to face with the power of our mind every day in meditation. Most go through life completely unaware of the destructive power of an uncontrolled mind. Few people know how difficult it is to still the mind and concentrate it.
So, what is it that clouds our thinking? What prevents us from thinking clearly? Maharaj Jagat Singh gives us some examples of unclear thinking. He asks, “Why do we lose our temper?” Good question! He answers for us: “Because we do not reflect.” We become angry when things don’t happen the way we want them to; when people say or do things against our wishes. We react rather than pause, breathe, become present and then reflect with a balanced, clear mind.
We might go through life assuming that we have to lose our temper – it’s “natural.” But Sardar Bahadur questions that assumption. He tells us that, in fact, we don’t have to go through life angry, that anger is a product of an unclear, reactive mind. We can actually disconnect the mind’s autopilot and take control of our mind.
He then asks us, “Why do people fall prey to the attack of lust?” We may allow ourselves to fantasize about an attractive person we’ve just passed on the street. Or we keep eating even though our stomach tells us it’s full. We don’t think first; we just give our minds free rein and then act – unthinkingly. The lower mind falls prey to five reactionary tendencies – lust, anger, attachment, greed and pride. Left unchecked, without self-reflection, the mind naturally reacts negatively. But we actually have the ability to think before reacting.
Maharaj Jagat Singh then asks a very bold question: “Why does a mother weep at the death of her child?” Can there be a more wrenching loss, a more painful life experience than the death of one’s child? Certainly, it is natural to feel sorrow at such a time. But Sardar Bahadur shows us the power of clear thinking. Life can be extremely cruel. Very bad things can happen to us every day. Things that are completely out of our control can simply lay us flat. But Sardar Bahadur tells us that we have the power, the ability to withstand any blow – even the death of a child, even a cancer diagnosis, even financial ruin, even public disgrace. He makes a bold point: that the misery we experience in this world is just a reactionary state of mind. And that the reason we experience mental pain is that we do not think clearly.
He then reveals how we can achieve the ability to think clearly – through spiritual practice. As a result of our meditation, we can become aware of both our mind and our true self. We seek to merge our consciousness with the inner form of God, the Shabd, by bringing our attention to the eye centre, stilling the mind and becoming receptive to the sound and light of Shabd. We are training the mind to slow down. In meditation, we take the mind off autopilot and begin taking control of our consciousness. This, like any skill, takes practice. Clear thinking requires a controlled mind. For ages our mind has run amok. For ages our thinking has been unclear, confused, controlled by the five perversions. Now, in this life, as satsangis, we are fortunate to finally start the process of regaining control of our own mind by thinking clearly.
We can’t think clearly by sheer force of will. Our mind must be transformed. Our current mind is cluttered, unclear and weighed down by years – lifetimes – of neglect. On autopilot, our mind has automatically been pulled down and out into the world by strong attachments. Our thinking has been overwhelmed by our lower mind, and has been helplessly indulging in the five perversions – lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride. Only through meditation can we transform our lower mind to a higher one – a sublime mind, a pure mind. And only with the higher mind can we think clearly, free of the influence of the five perversions.
With clear thinking, we see the world for what it is – an illusion – a place that, by its very nature, is continually subject to change and decay. With clear thinking, and the Lord’s grace, we can view the world as if we are merely watching a play, happy and unmoved by the drama, knowing that the players are merely actors playing a part written by the Great Playwright. And we learn to go through life with a light, happy heart, seeking our true home, the Lord. With this attitude we can appreciate the creation just the way it is, accepting our destiny and interacting with our fellow actors without judgment, but with love, compassion and understanding. This approach is reflected in the following words of the American spiritual philosopher Ram Dass:
When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees … and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are – whatever. And you look at the tree, and you allow it.… You see why it is the way it is, you sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way, and you don’t get all emotional about it, you just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that, and you’re constantly saying, ‘You’re too this,’ or ‘I’m too this.’ Or that judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.
Through meditation and a little practice, we can develop the habit of clear thinking and reflect calmly rather than react helplessly to the ups and downs that will always be part of the play of life in this world. We can just allow people and life to be the way they are, as we go through the drama of our life and our journey home.