2. How to change your circumstances
Faced with many challenges and failures in life, instead of looking for solutions in the external world, Mohan started a life-long journey of self- discovery. He was not just a thinker and arm-chair philosopher but a man of intense action.
Thoughts are similar to seeds in a brain. Almost every human being can think. But only those who understand the creative power of thought and properly apply it, accomplish their purpose in life. Through this basis we can construct an ideal home, business, relationships, an ideal environment and so on. Thoughts can materialize into words and actions. Hence we should have control over our thoughts.
Years later an American missionary met Mohan, then popularly known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhiji or Mahatma, and asked him what have been the most creative experiences in his life. Gandhiji replied relating the Maritzburg train incident as below.
|Such experiences are multitude. But as you put the question to me, I recall an experience that changed the course of my life. Now the creative experience comes there. I was afraid for my very life. I entered the dark waiting-room. There was a white man in the room. I was afraid of him. What was my duty, I asked myself. Should I go back to India, or should I go forward, with God as my helper, and face whatever was in store for me? I decided to stay and suffer. My active non-violence began from that date. -Gandhiji|
Gandhiji could see an independent India in his very lifetime and also rose to the status as father of the nation. But his achievements did not happen in one sitting. They happened little by little, beginning with a burning desire to have the right of being treated as equal.
After getting thrown down from train in Maritzburg station, instead of running away from problems Gandhiji started thinking of his duty. He realized that he will keep tested by the trials until he fights them head-on. He understood that the hardship to which he was subjected was only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice. He resolved to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process.
And when this impulse of thought first flashed into his mind, two difficulties stood in his way. First, he was facing the British, a force, feared and respected as the most powerful empire on the earth. Second, the people on his side were divided and fighting among themselves based on castes, religions, languages and so on. The British were further playing ‘divide and rule’ politics to cause Indians fight among themselves and get further weakened.
In later chapters we will see how he overcame these obstacles. Many people believe that they are victims and always blame other people or situations. They keep repeating ‘if I was born under right star’, ‘if I was born in a richer family’, ‘if only somebody had helped me’, and so on. But this approach is a path to disaster. It is making others responsible for our problems and our life. Instead the correct approach is to own responsibility, even if the problems were created by others.
After being thrown out of the train and having seen for himself the plight of his countrymen in South Africa, one of Gandhiji’s first actions after he had reached Pretoria was to make necessary contacts with his client’s agents, and call for a meeting of the Indian community.
His speech at that meeting may be said to have been the first public speech in his life. This time he did not fumble, nor falter nor sit down in shame. He had unconsciously struck the well of courage within him, the perennial well whose waters would henceforth never fail him.
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist. Because he belonged to Jewish, religion he was imprisoned along with other Jews by the Nazis in extermination camps and was subjected to cruel tortures. There he lost his parents, wife and brother. But he continued his psychiatric research even under such unbearable circumstances. He used to dream about escaping from the prison and later continue teaching about his findings to his students.
He observed that some prisoners chose to work as agents for Nazis to escape tortures or to get more food. They caused more suffering and harm to other prisoners. On the other hand some prisoners went about comforting and helping fellow prisoners, sacrificing their share of food, or even bearing tortures on behalf of others. He found that there is a kind of ultimate freedom, namely spiritual freedom, which cannot be stolen, even by the most ruthless tyrants. People may lose their political or economic freedom, physical or mental freedom. But the spiritual freedom, how a person responds to a given situation, cannot be taken away. He said that between stimulus and response, a human being has freewill to choose his response. This is the greatest gift only we, the human beings unlike other creatures, are endowed with.
|Hunger||Eating Vs. Fasting|
|Tiredness/sleep time||Sleeping Vs. Remaining Awakened|
|Threatened by a weapon||Running away to save life Vs. Standing up for a cause|
|Failure in exams or |
|Dropping out of school or life Vs. Getting ready for test again|
Freewill is the greatest blessing to us human beings because it lets us challenge our limitations and climb the heights of human potential. All of us have the potential to control our own lives but many of us are too afraid to do so. As a result we give up our freedom and allow our lives to be governed by other people and circumstances.
Relation between thoughts, actions and habits: Our parental upbringing, schooling and social influences shape our thought process. We have a general understanding of what we like, what we dislike, what is good for us and what is not. Based on this we choose our friends, objects, activities and so on. Thus our behaviour and choices to use free will are subject to hereditary or social influences. The source of this behaviour can be called ‘Vasanas’ or ‘samskara’ in Sanskrit and ‘belief system’ in English.
Like a computer which is fed with information and brings out answers, we feed ourselves with vasanas and bring out corresponding thoughts, words and actions. If the vasanas are good, the thoughts, words and actions are good. If the vasanas are bad or mixed, the thoughts, words and actions also will be bad or mixed.
Great joy awaits the man who succeeds in improving his input of vasanas because he gains immense strength. Hence it is very essential to avoid bad company and be in the company of good natured people. It is also necessary to devote time to study moral stories, scriptures such as The Bhagavad Geeta and Upanishads. Gandhiji once explained about few books which he had red that influenced him greatly. These include Sravana Kumar Charitra, Satya Harischandra and Unto the Last.
|Two other incidents belonging to the same period have always clung to my memory. As a rule I had distaste for any reading beyond my school books. The daily lessons had to be done, because I disliked being taken to task by my teacher as much as I disliked deceiving him. Therefore I would do the lessons, but often without my mind in them. Thus when even the lessons could not be done properly, there was of course no question of any extra reading. |
But somehow my eyes fell on a book purchased by my father. It was Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka (a play about Sharavana’s devotion to his parents). I read it with intense interest. There came to our place about the same time itinerant showmen. One of the pictures I was shown was of Shravana carrying, by means of slings fitted for his shoulders, his blind parents on a pilgrimage.
The book and the picture left an indelible impression on my mind. ‘Here is an example for you to copy,’ I said to myself. The agonized lament of the parents over Shravana’s death is still fresh in my memory. The melting tune moved me deeply, and I played it on a concertina which my father had purchased for me.
There was a similar incident connected with another play. Just about this time, I had secured my father’s permission to see a play performed by a certain drama company. This play-Harishchandra- captured my heart. I could never be tired of seeing it. But how often should I be permitted to go? It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number. ‘Why should not all be truthful like Harishchandra?’ was the question I asked myself day and night.
To follow truth and to go through all the ordeals Harishchandra went through was the one ideal it inspired in me. I literally believed in the story of Harishchandra. The thought of it all often made me weep. My common sense tells me today that Harishchandra could not have been a historical character.
Still both Harishchandra and Shravana are living realities for me, and I am sure I should be moved as before if I were to read those plays again today. -Gandhiji
During a long train journey in South Africa, Gandhi was given John Ruskin’s book ‘Unto This Last’ by one of his friends. About this book, he has written that it brought an instantaneous change in his life. Gandhi derived the below three messages from this book:
- The good of the each individual (Antyodaya) is contained in the good of all (Sarvodaya). These two concepts were the products of influence of Ruskin on Gandhi. Here we note the famous talisman of Gandhi, which is inspired from the ideal of Antyodaya:
‘Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away’.
We know that when people are impoverished and driven to the curb, they tend to become criminal elements of the society. Thus for Gandhi, ‘Unto The Last’ would mean the uplift of the last (Antyodaya). This book had directly or indirectly had a profound influence on Gandhi in adopting the ideal of Sarvodaya as his life’s mission.
- Gandhi also derived from this book that a Lawyer‘s work has the same value as the barber’s as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work.
- The third message Gandhi derived from this book was that a life of the tiller of the soil and that of handicraftsman or farmer or labourer is the life worth living. This message gave him a teaching that he would live a life of labour.
Power of emotions
It is a well-known fact that people are driven more by feelings or passionate emotions than by rational thoughts. Thoughts which are mixed with any of the emotions constitute a magnetic force which attracts from the vibrations of space, other similar thoughts.
A thought thus magnetized with emotion may be compared to a seed which, when planted in fertile soil, germinates, grows, and multiplies itself over and over again, until that which was originally one small seed, becomes countless millions of seeds of the same nature.
We know that internet carries the words, sounds and visuals of thousands of human beings, all of which maintain their own individuality and identity. Similarly the space is a great cosmic mass of eternal forces of thought-vibrations. It is made up of both positive constructive such as noble desires, faith and love and also negative destructive vibrations such as fear, greed, anger.
From the great storehouse of space, the cells in human mind constantly attract vibrations which harmonize with that which dominates the human mind. Any thought, idea, plan, or purpose which one holds in one’s mind attracts, from the vibrations of space, a host of its relatives, adds these “ relatives” to its own force, and grows until it becomes the dominating, motivating master of the individual in whose mind it has been stored.
The subconscious mind, (the chemical laboratory in which all thought impulses are combined, and made ready for translation into physical reality), makes no distinction between constructive and destructive thought impulses. It works with the material we feed it, through our thought impulses. The subconscious mind will translate into reality a thought driven by fear or hatred just as readily as it will translate into reality a thought driven by courage or love. Change your thoughts to change your circumstances. However, not just ordinary thoughts, but dominant thoughts (energized by mixing with emotions such as desire, faith, love, courage, enthusiasm) have the potential to become the most creative and powerful of all.