Radiant Immortal Atman? Beloved and blessed children of the Divine! The human mind is influenced and affected by all things that surround it. It is also equally true that the human mind, with its various moods and varying states, has an affect upon all things around it. Your mind is affected by people, things and occurrences, sights and sounds around you. Equally you keep on affecting everybody, everything, wherever you go.
If you are sitting beside a very calm, serene, collected person, a centre of serenity and calm, the vibrations radiating from that person, the aura emanating from that person, puts your mind also into a state of relative, comparative calmness. Even if you are by nature prone to be very agitated and restless, nevertheless, for the time being, to an appreciable extent, the calm goes into your mind. On the other hand, if you are sitting near a very high-strung, tense, agitated person, then you are likely to gradually feel uncomfortable and begin to feel somewhat agitated and restless.
This is the power of anything into whose proximity you place yourself. If you place yourself close to a fire, you will start feeling warm, even uncomfortable. If you are close to something very cold, you will be influenced by it. Different types of features and factors, certain odours, certain sights, immediately create a certain strain of thought or feeling within. Therefore, to a very great extent we are swayed and influenced by outside factors.
There is an important point here that you have to ponder with great earnestness, with great understanding. If you have to be constantly amidst various things, various persons and different environmental situations, does it mean that you can never be stable? Must your mind also be in a constant state of instability, always changing, always being influenced, always being made serene or made agitated, always producing some reaction?
Are you merely a bundle of reactions? Have you no personality of your own? Have you no intrinsic, basic, fundamental born nature which may be influenced but which also remains constant? It cannot be! Each one is born with a certain innate nature, inborn nature. One has a certain constant individual nature. From the highest standpoint that innermost, innate nature is divinity. It is sat-chit-ananda. Ultimately you have to find that centre and become fixed in it. It requires much effort, but from another angle it requires no effort, it should not require any effort at all, because it is that which you are already. But we have been so long accustomed to wrong thinking, that to get rid of that wrong thinking becomes the real task before us. We have indulged in wrong thinking since our birth. It has become a habit pattern, not our nature but a habit pattern. To change this habit pattern and liberate ourselves from this wrong thinking may take some time. It may spread over a period, but that does not matter. That should not deter us from calmly and silently initiating a process of right thinking, and as and when the wrong thinking reasserts itself, due to habit, calmly rejecting it, turning away from it, affirming our reality. That becomes the thing needful. That becomes the process of liberation. That becomes the process of transcendence, of rising above. And if this process is kept up, then ultimately the habit pattern of the wrong thinking way of life gradually recedes into the distance and ultimately vanishes.
This process is an inner process. In following this process you must know that it is Truth that will ultimately assert and manifest Itself, because It is positive. Erroneous thinking, being a negative thing, cannot persist for a long time.
We do not realise that we have to purposively take ourselves by the hand and initiate this process of transformation. If this process is started it will start giving effects. It will begin to manifest itself and bring about a desired transformation. But in the vast majority of people this process is never purposively taken up and carried on. Therefore, even after years and decades of sadhana, we still continue to remain what we were. That is because, together with our other sadhana, this inner transformation has never been attempted, this inner transformation has never been seriously pursued and effected. This is subjective sadhana within the interior of your own antahkarana, and day after day it must be simultaneously going on along with your japa, or meditation, or kirtan, or reading, or satsang, or asanas, or pranayama.
In this you have to understand an important truth. Even though environmental factors and features, occurrences or individuals may have an influence upon you—you may be irritated or frightened by someone, or you may feel a state of alienation or actual hostility from someone else; or you may feel kindness and composure from another person—nevertheless, if only you wish, you can successfully make yourself immune to these outer influences.
What is the key to understanding this? It is simply this: even though in the natural state it is a fact that the individual is affected by his environment, in the ultimate analysis it is the individual that endows these factors with the power to influence him. It is only if you give credence to the reality of these things, if you focus on them, give too much importance to these outside factors, that you expose yourself, make yourself constantly open and vulnerable to the influence that these things exert.
If you are practising pratyahara or withdrawal of the mind according to Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, then you will find that things which once had a very powerful effect on you are no longer affecting you. Why? Because you are in a state of inwardness. You thus succeed in becoming introspective. Then the exaggerated focusing of attention upon things, occurrences and people outside, endowing them with too much importance, will gradually lessen. Because your attention, instead of being directed towards things, people and events outside, is directed inwardly, where there is the eternal centre of peace, stability, strength, light, power and wisdom.
Therefore, how much your environment will influence you is a thing that is not decided by the environment; it is decided by you. If you are wise, if you invoke in your mind viveka and vichara (discrimination and right enquiry) and resolutely turn the mind inward, then the outer environment becomes powerless to affect you, to influence you, or to keep changing you and agitating you. On the other hand, if you continue to regard these outer things as terribly real, as very, very important, as having power over you, then they will have power over you; they will go on constantly shaking you, influencing and affecting you.
Vedanta makes quite clear that this world, and all things in it, is only a long drawn out dream. It is temporary, it is an appearance only. So you should regard these outer things as ultimately not being very important to you: “Why should I unnecessarily distress myself too much over them? What does it matter what some person is thinking about me? Let that person think; it is his problem, not my problem.” Because, if you keep thinking about other people’s thoughts, you completely expose yourself to agitation and distress. So, if instead of being concerned about what other people may think of you, if you think about the indwelling reality, the indwelling splendour, the indwelling satchidananda, then you will come out triumphant. In all environments your mind will be in a state of satchidananda, in a state of peace and bliss. So, it is not what people think that affects you; it is, rather, what you think.
Therefore, mind your thought. Be wise, and wisely direct the thought within, into the centre of your being. Thus you can triumph over your environment and soon become established in a state of peace, poise, stability and joy.
Sivananda Yoga (Yoga DVD)
Yoga, A Way of Life - Sri Swami Adhyatmananda
"Yoga and Health" - a complete book with Question & Answer section by Sri Swami Adhyatmananda
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