(To understand the ways of the mind and its control is an important part of all psychological and spiritual discipline. Here are some stories on the subject which are at once witty, amusing and instructive.)
There once lived an eccentric king who was afflicted with a disease. The king ordered that every day a physician in the kingdom has to be sent to his palace to cure him within that week and if he is not able to cure him, he would be beheaded. Days and months passed; many physicians in the kingdom lost their lives, unable to cure the king.
One day physicians of the kingdom, alarmed and frightened by the bizarre order of the king, convened a conference to put a stop to this mindless massacre of doctors in the kingdom. But even after long deliberation, they were not able to arrive at a satisfactory solution. One of the physicians, who was sitting silently, finally rose and said, “I will put a stop to it.”
The next day, the physician went to the king and told him, “I have prepared a special medicine for you which will cure your disease. But on one condition: When you take the medicine, you should not think about the monkey.”
But the king was never able to take the medicine because, the moment he tried not to think about the monkey, the thought and image of the monkey came strongly to his mind.
As long as the king lives in his mind and does not loose his patience in not thinking about the monkey, physicians of the kingdom are safe!
The message of the story is that in dealing with negative thoughts, one should not get negatively obsessed with them. The more you say “I don’t want this thought”, the more it comes.
A wary traveller on a long journey was resting under a tree. He was hungry and tired. His hungry body and tired mind started indulging in fanciful imaginations. He thought “How nice it would be if I could have now a delicious meal served on a rosewood table and in golden plates”. And immediately, and miraculously, a rosewood table appeared before him, and then a golden plate, and then a full meal with many delicious mouth-watering dishes. The traveller surprised and delighted, feasted on the faery food.
After gorging to his stomach’s content, the traveller thought, “What a feast. Now I would like to have some nice wine to drink.” Again, miraculously, many bottles appeared on the table with wines of various hues and types. The traveller happily drank the wine and said aloud, a little inebriated, “How nice it would be if I can see a beautiful woman dancing”. Again, a beautiful noutch-girl appeared from nowhere and started dancing before him.
But now the traveller has become frightened. “What is happening to me”, the traveller thought “whatever I am thinking is coming true. It I think about a monster swallowing me it may also happen.” And immediately, a huge monster appeared before the traveller and swallowed him!
The story brings out the need and importance of keeping a close watch and control over our fancies and imagination. For they are not mere powerless abstraction but has a certain power of realisation especially at the mental level. A wrong turn of imagination in our instinctive and emotional being can dilute, diminish or even destroy the power of our positive thoughts and higher aspirations.
A seeker complained to the great Indian saint, Tulsidas, “I am not able to control my mind. It wanders all over”. The saint replied:
“Let it wander. But you don’t wander along with your mind. Stand back from your mind and watch it as a witness.”
A Zen master was queried by his disciple, “How to know the ways of mind”. The Master replied: “keep the mind idle and watch”. The disciple said, “But it is said that an idle mind is the Devel’s workshop”. The Master replied, “Study the Devil’s workshop. Watch and observe carefully and vigilantly how the Devil works in your mind. Understand the methods and strategies of the Enemy. Then you can easily outwit the Devil.”
“How to deal with disturbing thought” asked a seeker to a sage. The sage replied.
“Don’t be disturbed by the disturbance. That is the first step. The more you are disturbed by the disturbing thought, the more the disturbance grows. And the more calm you are lesser becomes the disturbing noise.”
“The second step, try to withdraw consent to the disturbance in your thinking as well as your emotional being. Don’t dwell on it indulgently or negatively. Many of these disturbing thoughts are like attention-seeking children. As long you pay attention to them, they go on indulging in their noisy unruly and adamant behaviour. But the moment you ignore them, they stop their noise and mischief. So ignore them with a calm, sovereign and dismissive not-attention.”
“If the disturbance persists, then there is something in you which is clinging to it with a perverse attachment. Look within you deeply and carefully; and try to locate the part which is clinging to it; persuade the part to uncling; speak to it, or cajole or threaten it, make it somehow understand the need to let go of the grip. If the disturbance is of a very negative kind, like for example ill-will, you have to use your will to forcefully throw it away from your mind.”