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Monday, February 6, 2023

The Art of Thinking

Benjamin Franklin in his list of virtues mentions Sincerity as the seventh virtue and highlights the importance of positive thinking as “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” In human thinking, the brain plays a key role. Napoleon Hill in his book Thinks & Grow Rich comments ‘every human brain is capable of picking up vibrations of thought which are being released by other brains.’ Our thoughts and communication process are directly associated with our brains and sense organs

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By: Manik Dhar

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care of what you think.

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Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly.”

~Swami Vivekananda

Who am I? This is one of the most important questions in our life. Science and religion have their influences on intellectual, social, and religious transformations. Science says we are descended from apes whereas Sastra says human life starts when one begins to inquire about the absolute truth- the self and God. A human being inquisitive only about eating, sleeping, reproducing, and defending is considered a two-legged animal.

Are we just mere animals? I think our thoughtful nature differs us from theirs. Thinking is unique to human beings. Our productive thoughts make our life meaningful and better. John Milton in his epic poem Paradise Lost quotes ‘The mind is its place, and in itself can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. Therefore, controlled thinking is a part of skill development. Self-practice will help one to achieve the art of thinking.

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Benjamin Franklin in his list of virtues mentions Sincerity as the seventh virtue and highlights the importance of positive thinking as “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” In human thinking, the brain plays a key role. Napoleon Hill in his book Thinks & Grow Rich comments ‘every human brain is capable of picking up vibrations of thought which are being released by other brains.’ Our thoughts and communication process are directly associated with our brains and sense organs.

The Katha Upanishad describes ‘the atman (living being) to be the master of the chariot; the body, the chariot; the buddhi, the charioteer; and the mind, reins.’ Here the body is compared to a chariot because it is moved here and there by the sense-organs. The word buddhi denotes the discriminative faculty. A person is mainly dependent on his/her action upon the buddhi, which determines what he/she should be doing and what he/she should refrain from. Through the mind, the buddhi directs the senses to their respective roads, as the charioteer guides the horses along the right path using reins. The controlled mind can bound us to the goal.

“When the five senses and the mind are stilled, when

the reasoning intellect rests in silence,

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then begins the highest path.”

~ The Katha Upanishad

How to manage our thoughts

Self-introspection is vital to cultivating the art of thinking. The mind is the factory of inner activities and to manage these actions one needs to acquire the skills of introspection. Once a person is well established in the art of introspection he/she will be able to see the type of thoughts that pass through his/her mind and assess if he/she has been able to cultivate a healthy mind.

Developing the art of thinking

Meditation: In the 21st century of the super-fast digital world, we human beings are enslaved by gadgets and gizmos. Here thinking abilities are curbed by social media, short videos, video content, video games, etc. We have been developing desires to get everything in no time. Our patience and tolerance are affected by our increasing envy and jealousy. People are addicted to screens for long hours living in a virtual world of unreality. Globalization has increased distances in human relationships. There is no doubt why have we been trained like this. Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, observed her students’ addictive relationships with their smartphones. One student shockingly admitted: “I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

To overcome this mental health crisis and social anarchy we can cultivate the habit of doing meditation in our daily schedule to develop absorption in daily practices. Meditation is a continuous flow of the same idea, associated with an object, unmixed with any foreign ideas. It improves the quality of thoughts and concentration. Meditation is just like food to our mind, enhances patience and tolerance among human beings and strengthens human relationships. It immensely helps people to nourish their thinking abilities.

Awareness: Thinking is like trying to find the truth, analyzing the facts, or moving towards the light. Without thinking there won’t be any development in science and literature. We will live life just like animals. So, if we wish to improve our ability to think, we have to widen our awareness in the following ways-

  • be curious and observant
  • read good books to develop constructive ideas, Francis Bacon mentions in one of his essays ‘Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and ability.’
  • always be careful about mental health and emotional well-being
  • create literature such as verses, stories, novels, etc.
  • maintain cordial relationships with friends and relatives
  • organise debates on current issues to find the rational and philosophical outputs
  • try to achieve the spiritual culmination
  • develop an understanding of which is higher power responsible for the conception, judgement, reasoning, and self-consciousness
  • listen to good people.

Writing: To acquire the art of thinking writing is a deep and thought-provoking tool. According to Bacon ‘Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.’ Writing is a medium through which every person can give vent to his/her opinions and views of the world. Writing has the power to start the revolution and Renaissance in history. It opens the mind and widens the range of thinking.

Public speaking: Speaking and thinking are closely interrelated. To acquire speaking as a skill one needs to inculcate the habit of constructive thinking with courage and self-confidence. In the words of Dale Carnegie “A great many speakers will tell you that the presence of an audience is a stimulus, an inspiration, that drives their brains to function more clearly, more keenly.” Speaking has the power to influence others with our ideas, views, opinions, philosophy, and ideology. To be a good speaker one needs to possess a beautiful mind.

Admiration for beauty: Beauty leads to the source of healthy and higher imagination naturally and brings the expression of truth to our tongue. Beauty is thought-provoking and teaches us moral lessons and gives us inner delight. According to John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” If we try to find beauty in our work and relationships it will give us immense joy and never diminish. In Indian philosophy, the concept of Satyam Shivam Sundaram which simply means truth, goodness, and beauty, according to some scholars was first used by Maharshi Debendranath, father of Rabindranath Tagore. Admiration for beauty is a key element to gaining the art of thinking. In the words of Keats:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

~ Ode to a Grecian Urn

The desire to know: Curiosity is inbuilt in every being. Even a tree follows the path of light. It winds its way towards the source of illumination. In human beings the desire to know is a journey towards the light from darkness – asato ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya (Lead me from the unreal to the real; lead me from darkness to light). If one wants to polish his/her art of thinking then it is better to be in doubt than to be in false certainty. It will lead to a certain truth. Our intellectual curiosity may make our thinking wiser and stronger.

Safe journey in the digital world: The digital world is a vast platform for saints as well as cavemen. In the words of Swami Vijnanananda ‘Real welfare lies in using things properly; wrong use of things brings misfortune.’ We can indeed be paralyzed without the help of modern technology. But necessity and addiction are two different aspects of human beings. The choice is ours whether we use it for our welfare or addicted to it. Here, we need to think critically to rationalize the use of digital tools. Digital tools only exist to facilitate certain activities. They don’t substitute for life.

Thinking is a critical process of the human brain. For creative and productive thinking every person needs to take care of his/her mental health. Our mind is a part of the body; so, taking care of the body is also important as there is a famous proverb a healthy mind lives in a healthy body.’ Regular meditation and exercises can take care of both mind and body. A healthy diet is a prerequisite to remaining energetic. Our awareness will enhance our knowledge to wisdom to think more deeply and critically. Develop the skills such as listening, speaking, and writing to enlighten the mind. Try to find beauty in our thoughts and ideas to germinate aesthetic joy in thinking. Desire to know to eliminate ignorance. Travel well in the digital world without losing your independence because no longer a digital tool we use – ‘it uses us, it possesses us.’ Develop the philosophy of simple living and high thinking. In the words of Dr. Sunil Jogi ‘Simple people possess pure thoughts. They don’t think about themselves but aim towards the wellbeing of the general public.’ Keep yourself busy doing something that requires planning and thinking.

“Keep busy. The worried person must lose himself in action, lest being wither in despair.”

~ Dale Carnegie

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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