Thinking is not just a matter of thinking

Self-help literature often exhorts people to avoid pessimism and to think positive. Such exhortations, even when well-intentioned, frequently overlook the reality that thoughts can’t be cultivated in a vacuum.

Our thoughts are like seeds. Seeds don’t grow in isolation; they can’t grow, or even live, in infertile soils or inimical environments. Similarly, our thinking is not just a matter of thinking, but is a function of our inner disposition and outer association. If we are internally stuck with self-sabotaging impressions and externally influenced by hypercritical or pessimistic people, then we can’t think positive for long.

While some negative impressions and influences are self-evident, others are subtle. One such subtle negativity-inducer is a materialistic worldview, be it our own or that of those around us. Materialism fuels within us the mode of passion (Bhagavad-gita 14.12), which makes us believe that success and happiness are found in material things. Due to this belief, we keep chasing material things. No matter how many things we acquire, our vision stays glued to the things we don’t have. This scarcity mentality sentences us to negative thoughts about both ourselves and others: we are deficient because we don’t have certain trappings of success; and others, if successful, don’t deserve that success, or, if unsuccessful, are worthless.

To sustain positive thoughts, we need to change our worldview and association from material to spiritual. For spiritualizing our worldview, the Gita offers a compelling philosophical rationale centered on immortal love between us eternal souls and Krishna, the supreme spiritual person. The bhakti worldview enriches us with the supremely positive conviction that Krishna’s love for us is unfailing and unflinching. And bhakti practice places us in the association of spiritualists who encourage us to bring out our latent spiritual potential. Thus, our thinking becomes positive – purely, powerfully, perennially positive.

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