The Thought of Dying
For seven days Confucius ate no cooked food.
"It looks as if you're going to die," said T'ai king Jen.
"It does indeed."
"Do you hate the thought of dying?"
"I certainly do!"
Jen said, "Then let me try telling you about a way. There is a bird, Listless, that escapes disaster. The straight-trunked tree is the first to be felled. And you show off your wisdom . . . shining as though you were carrying the sun and moon in your hand! Yet the Man of Great Completion does not dwell in fame, wants no repute. - Chuang Tzu, (Watson 1968, 213-14, abr.)
Yogananda about Fast Thinking
Think wisely rather than fast, unless fast is wise - it often applies.
The famous guru Paramahansa Yogananda came to the West in 1920 and remained for some thirty years until his death in 1952. He talked much about the meditation method he should spread, and claimed much that was free from proof and evidence.
Among his sayings is this one,
A deep thinker puts forth about fifty thousand [thoughts a day]. I have found that by concentrating it is possible to produce as many as five hundred thousand thoughts in a day." (Yogananda 1982, 330)
Yogananda told in effect that he could think approximately 5,8 thoughts per second for 24 hours on end, or faster still if he found he needed a nap during those hours. He also had to count his thoughts somehow. Thus, there is more to his undocumented claim is rather astounding at first glance. "Undocumented" is a serious word -
Well, thoughts that matter are thoughts to mind. What is thought? Malcolm Rae holds that thought is patterned awareness.
What is thought?
Quality thought and health-serving thought could well be needed, but not just thought-bulk. One quality thought may take the mantra meditator to the other side. That is a deep secret of Sri Vidya or mantra-meditation. If you learn a proper mantra to meditate on aptly, it could be good for you and you could "get far, far, although you are here (Brooks, 1992)
With Transcendental Meditation, or TM, you may get help to develop too. See the research into the averaged effects of TM. Average statistics suggests "it tends to help. Odds are for it and not against it." Learn to gauge the odds and adjust expectations. [Effects of TM: Research findings] And learn how to go for good thoughts rather than many thoughts. [More]
Yogananda's claim of thinking 500 000 thoughts are without excellent proof. Should we trust an unverified claim? "Don't count my word for anything," said Yogananda (Dietz 1998). He might have thought it is good not to get dumbfounded.
Yogananda did not say he kept count of his thoughts along with thinking them. Yet he had to keep track of his thoughts. He seems to tell: "500 000 thoughts plus keeping count of them". Was his claim too modest?
The goodness of mantra meditation like simple Transcendental Meditation rests on replacing vagaries and other thoughts with one selected thought, and make good use of it so as to transcend (go beyond) thinking altogether.
Beginners in TM are instructed to sit comfortably and think-repeat one thought for about 20 minutes twice daily. Many benefits of the practice are well documented. Some find them delightful.
So "Simplify well!" could be a fit motto. It has many variants. "Keep it simple, scientist, or KISS . . ." can be more or less aligned to it. And then there is the Occam's Razor, for example.
In the words of the Kaushitaki Upanishad: 'It is not thought which we should want to know: we should know the thinker.' (Mascaró 1965, 18)
Yogananda does not say his "500 000 thoughts a day" means many different thoughts. Yogananda could have thought "1-2-3-4-5-6" on and on, once a second, and after 24 hours it could have added up. By thinking a repeated series of numbers or syllables he could think and hold count of his thoughts more easily. Otherwise he would have more work to do . . .
A few simple thoughts that will save a person may be of more value than 500 000 that never amount to much, for example.
Such givens had better be taken into account - and also that thought of good quality often takes time, even lots of time - and good study too -
Quality ideas should favour quality living.
Rudolf Steiner and the power of thinking
Great meditation takes a person to the well-spring of thought, says Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. How? Think a sound often, and it may "lift you up" - if the sound is well chosen, that is.
Now what is meant by 'thought'? In common language, the word 'think' covers numerous and diverse psychological activities. Why not discern between fit, good, savourly, proficient thinking and other forms of thinking while we are at it? To be able to think one clear thought must be better than fifty thousand foolish ones. Hence, we should take the quality of the thinking into account too, and focus on the helpful, rewarding ideas to the preference of the rest of them, so that we can do well in the long run. Isn't that a nice idea? And what is more, one does not fail if one learns to ride on some thoughts (sounds) back home and go on positively from there. That is deft use of thinking. Maharishi is far from the only one to advocate good use of one's thinking ability for spiritual ends. Dr Rudolf Steiner is another, for example. [Wikipedia, s.v. "thought", "idea"]
He who is unwilling to trust to the power of thinking cannot, in fact, enlighten himself regarding higher spiritual facts. [Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy]
As we have been into above, Yogananda talked of "much" (quantity) to the preference of "good" (quality) at other times too. Here is another example from his mouth:
If I had a thousand mouths, I would speak through them all to convince you. (Yogananda 1982, 111)
He did not have a thousand mouths, and did not get it either.
Moreover, he escaped much tooth-ache and dentist treatment. But 'convince' has a bad taste to it among rational beings, and sound scientists. It means such as (1) "to make somebody and/or yourself believe that something is true", and/or (2) "to persuade somebody to do something". That was what Yogananda was about.
Compare with Einstein: The sculptor Jacob Epstein tells this story:
When I was doing Professor Albert Einstein's bust he had many a jibe at the Nazi professors, one hundred of whom had condemned his theory of relativity in a book.
Thus, what helps many not be to impress-convince others to make them conform believers in something, but to present ideas fit for rational handling and careful consideration.
The way of scientists if things go well: practical, handy solutions
A scientist tells it is good to present given facts or measures, and hope that others are able to deal with the material as fit the best and most shapely premises, find out what fair facts or data allow for, and be tentative if the data do not allow for any clear-cut conclusion yet. If things go well, some practical solutions may be reached eventually. Study Einstein:
Einstein once declared that his second greatest idea after the theory of relativity was to add an egg while cooking soup in order to produce a soft-boiled egg without having an extra pot to wash. [More Einstein anecdotes]
Advocating sound measure
Back to the "much and many" of Yogananda:
Ancient Greeks advocated sound measure, metron. At times it suggests being balanced. If you have a thousand mouths with false teeth in all of them, you may not need to go to the dentist so very often. But if the teeth are your own and most of them are in need of treatment, you may come to realise that one mouth is a cause of much pain anyway.
There is another good lesson here:
An evangelist was exhorting his hearers to flee from the wrath to come. "I warn you," he thundered, "that there will be weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth!"
Even though Yogananda once said that God could give you a third set of teeth (but will He?), he himself did not get a new tooth after he broke one on a visit to India. Instead he got a gold tooth, his biographer Sailendra Dasgupta tells:
On his return trip to India in 1935-36, in Gorakhpur, Yogananda "bit into a sugar-cane and accidentally cracked a tooth from the lower mandible [jawbone]. Everyone became flustered by this and Swamiji was eventually taken to the finest dentist in the city, who pulled the broken tooth out and replaced it with a gold one. No news was sent to Calcutta about this. After Swamiji returned to Calcutta, the gold tooth caught the writer's eye, and when he asked about it, Swamiji put his right index finger on his lips and said, "No negative talk!" Later he fell into a pensive mood and said, "God told me, 'Just like this, one day I'll snatch your life away from you." (Dasgupta 2006, 83)
It stands out that God did not even give him one third tooth. Beware of those who do not do the walk, and get ample reasons to say, "Me and my big mouth."
Life is elusive. - Yogananda 2000, 410, abr
He could have said, "Life is a silver bridge," and solved many issues better.
Tomorrow you are not. - Yogananda 2000, 410.
Many say, "Until now, not true!"
One by one we slip away. - Yogananda 2000, 410
Compare with the proverb "There is no smoke without fire (Speake 2015, 289-90)." At times it is so.
Brooks, Douglas Renfrew. Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Srividya Sakta Tantrism in South India. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992.
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006.
Dietz, Margaret Bowen. Thank You, Master. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity, 1998.
Fuller, Edmund. 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions. New York: Wings, 1970.
Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Upanishads: Translations from the Sanskrit. London: Penguin, 1965.
Speake, Jennifer, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Tansley, David. Dimensions of Radionics. Bradford: Health Science, 1977.
Watson, Burton, tr. The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Journey to Self-realization: Discovering the Gift of the Soul. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2000.
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