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Mental health

Bad thoughts*

The Mother

Haven’t I told you why bad thoughts come?... For as many reasons as there are bad thoughts! Each one comes for its own special reason: it may be through affinity, it may be just to tease you, it may be because you call them, it may be because you expose yourself to attacks, it may be all this at once and many more things besides.

Bad thoughts come because there is something corresponding somewhere within you; otherwise you might see something passing like that, but they would not come inside you. I suppose the question means: why do you suddenly think something bad?

Because the stages are very different. I have already explained to you that the mental atmosphere is worse than any public place when a crowd is there: innumerable ideas, thoughts of all kinds and all forms criss-cross in such a complicated tangle that it is impossible to make out anything precise. Your head is in the midst of it, and your mind even more so: it bathes in it as one bathes in the sea. And all this comes and goes, passes, turns, collides, enters, goes out.... If you were conscious of the mental atmosphere in which you live, obviously it would be a little maddening! I think personal cerebral limits are quite necessary as a filter, for a very long time in life.

To be able to get out of all that and live fully in the mental atmosphere as it is, seeing it as it is — it is the same for the vital atmosphere, by the way; that is perhaps yet uglier! — to live in it and see it as it is, one must be strong, one must have a very steady sense of inner direction. But in any case, whether you see it or not, whether you feel it or not, it is a fact, it is like that. So one cannot ask where bad thoughts come from — they are everywhere. Why do they come? — where would they go? You are right in the midst of them!

What governs this filter of consciousness which makes you conscious of certain thoughts and not conscious of others, is your inner attitude, your inner affinities, your inner habits — I am speaking of the mind, not of the psychic — it is your education, your cerebral development, etc. That is a kind of filter formed by your ego, and certain thoughts pass through it and others don’t — automatically. That is why the nature of the thoughts you receive may be quite an important indication for you of the kind of character you have — it may be quite subconscious for you, for a man is not in the habit of really knowing himself, but it is an indication of the general tendency of your character. To put things in a very simplified way, if you take an optimist, for instance, well, in general, optimistic ideas will come to him; for a pessimist they will generally be pessimistic ideas — I am speaking very broadly — for a person with a rebellious nature, they will be rebellious ideas; and for a very sheepish person, they will be sheepish ideas! Granting that sheep have ideas! That is the usual normal condition.

Now, if it so happens that you have decided to progress and if you enter the path of yoga, then a new factor intervenes. As soon as you want to progress, you immediately meet the resistance of everything that does not want to progress both in you and around you. And this resistance naturally expresses itself in all the thoughts that correspond to it.

Suppose that you want to make a progress regarding attachment to food, for example; well, almost constantly there will come to you thoughts particularly interested in food, about what should be taken, what should not be taken, how it should be taken, how it should not be taken; and these ideas will come to you, they will seem quite natural to you. And the more you say within yourself, “Oh! how I would like to be free from all that, what a hindrance to my progress are all these preoccupations”, the more will they come, quietly, until the progress is truly made within and you have risen to a level of consciousness where you can see all these things from above and put them in their place — which is not a very big place in the universe! And so on, for all things. Therefore, your occupations and affinities are going to put you almost contradictorily into contact not only with ideas having an affinity and relation with your way of being, but with the opposite. And if you don’t take care from the beginning to keep an attitude of discernment, you will be turned into a mental battlefield. If you know how to rise to a higher level, simply into a region of the speculative mind which is not quite the ordinary physical mind, you can see all this play and all this struggle, all this conflict, all these contradictions as a curiosity which does not touch or affect you. If you rise a step higher still and see the goal towards which you want to go, you will gradually come to discern between ideas favourable to your progress which you will keep, and ideas opposed to this progress which harm and impair it; and from above you will have the power to set them aside, calmly, without being otherwise affected by them. But if you remain there, at that level in the midst of that confusion and conflict, well, you risk getting a headache!

The best thing to do is to occupy yourself with something practical which will compel you to concentrate specially: studies, work or some physical occupation for the body which demands attention — anything at all that forces you to concentrate on what you are doing and no longer be a prey to these ramblings. But if you have the misfortune to remain there and look at them, then surely, as I said, you will get a headache. For it is a problem which must be resolved either by a descent into practical life and a concentration on some practical effort or else by rising above and looking from above at all this chaos so as to be able to bring some order into it and set it right.

But one must never remain on the same plane, it is a plane which is no good either for physical or moral health.

* Heading provided by the Editor.

The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 8. Cent ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1977, pp. 207-10.

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