“When one understands that the great things of the world and of life consist of a combination of small things, and that without this aggregation of small things the great things would be non-existent, he begins to pay careful attention to those things which he formerly regarded as insignificant.”
Uncontrolled impulses cause us to neglect small things and are the reason “thoughtlessness, carelessness, and laziness are such common vices”. But the small things matter and must be treated accordingly. Developing thoroughness requires “the exercise of much thought, the putting forth of great energy, the persistent application of the mind to its task, the cultivation of patience, perseverance, and a high sense of duty”.
But instead of completely ignoring the fruits of our labour, we must simply focus on what needs it most: “Pleasure has its own place and time, but its consideration should not be allowed to enter the mind during those hours which should be devoted to duty. Those who, while engaged in their worldly task, are continually dwelling upon anticipated pleasures, cannot do otherwise than bungle through their work, or even neglect it when their pleasure seems to be at stake.”
Mind-Building and Life-Building
“Each man is the builder of himself. If he is the occupant of a jerry-built hovel of a mind that lets in the rains of many troubles, and through which blow the keen winds of oft-recurring disappointments, let him get to work to build a nobler mansion which will afford him better protection against those mental elements. Trying to weakly shift the responsibility for his jerry-building on to the devil, or his forefathers, or anything or anybody but himself, will neither add to his comfort, nor help him to build a better habitation.”
The building of something new requires the breaking down of something old and no longer required. Unfortunately, most people build themselves without much consideration, resulting in “unstable and tottering characters that are ready to go down under the first little gust of trouble or temptation”. Instead, we should build ourselves with pure thoughts: “Bracing thoughts of strength, of confidence, of duty; inspiring thoughts of a large, free, unfettered, and unselfish life, are useful bricks with which a substantial mind temple can be raised.”
Creating a stable and happy life that will “stoutly resist the fiercest storms of adversity and temptation” requires us to live by the principles of Justice, Rectitude, Sincerity, and Kindness: “He who adopts the four ethical principles as the law and base of his life, who raises the edifice of character upon them, who in his thoughts and words and actions does not wander from them, whose every duty and every passing transaction is performed in strict accordance with their exactions, such a man, laying down the hidden foundation of integrity of heart securely and strongly, cannot fail to raise up a structure which shall bring him honour; he is building a temple in which he can repose in peace and blessedness.”
The Cultivation of Concentration
“Scattered and diffused thoughts are weak and worthless. Thoughts marshalled, commanded, and directed upon a given point, are invincible; confusion, doubt, and difficulty give way before their masterly approach.”
Concentration, “the father of thoroughness and the mother of excellence”, involves bringing the mind to a centre and keeping it there. It is not an end in itself but something that aids all work. Whenever we’re absorbed in a task, “rapt in devotion or assiduous in duty”, concentration occurs.
Developing concentration requires us to bring focus on whatever must be done. Whenever our thoughts wander away (this will happen many times given how difficult the process is to master), we promptly but gently bring them back. In time, we become stronger and “experience the joy of a wider and fuller life”.
There are four stages in the process of concentration, each of which encapsulates those that come before:
- Attention. “The mind is fixed upon the object of concentration, which is the task in hand”. Perfected, this leads to usefulness.
- Contemplation. “Roused into vigorous thought concerning the way of proceeding with the task”. Perfected, this leads to skill, ability, and talent.
- Abstraction. “The doors of the senses are all closed against the entrance of outside distractions”. Perfected, this leads to originality and genius.
- Activity in repose. “Externally, there is no apparent activity, no disturbance, and the face of a man who has acquired this power will assume a more or less radiant calmness”. Perfected, this leads to mastery and power.
Achieving the first two stages (something many automatically do) is all we need for success in everyday matters. But it is only by proceeding and entering the realm of a “waking dream” where mind and work become one.
The Practice of Meditation
“When a man intensely desires to reach and realise a higher, purer, and more radiant life than the merely worldly and pleasure loving life, he engages in aspiration; and when he earnestly concentrates his thoughts upon the finding of that life, be practices meditation.”
While concentration is required for worldly success, mediation is required for spiritual success: “The perfection of concentration is power; the perfection of meditation is wisdom. By concentration, men acquire skill in the doing of the things of life; by meditation, they acquire skill in life itself.” Although the steps are the same as for concentration, the practice of meditation requires more from us: “A man can practice concentration without purifying his heart and life, whereas the process of purification is inseparable from meditation.”
Again, it all comes down to thought: “By daily dwelling upon pure thoughts, the man of meditation forms the habit of pure and enlightened thinking, which leads to pure and enlightened actions and well performed duties. By the ceaseless repetition of pure thoughts, he at last becomes one with those thoughts, and is a purified being, manifesting his attainment in pure actions, in a serene and wise life.” We then attain divine knowledge by “embodying such purity in practical life”.
If you enjoyed this post, please remember to Like, Tweet, and Share it using the links at the top or bottom of the page. And remember to subscribe to free alerts or follow me on Twitter to be notified when the next instalment is released. For more on the subject, read my review of Character Building Thought Power.