The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine                                                           

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The Vedic Technique of Eliminating Negative Thoughts

© 2002 Scott Gerson, M.D., M.Phil. (Ayu), F.I.I.M., Ph.D. (Ayu)

The Practice of Pratipaksha Bhavana

A healthy state of mind implies keeping one’s mind free from sadness, dejection, worry, and tension and negative sentiments such as anger, hate, greed, and pride. It also implies eliminating these negative impulses and replacing them with constructive ones.

In Ayurveda, there is a useful method for promoting healthy thinking known as Pratipaksha Bhavana. The literal meaning of this term is “moving to the other side of the mansion” and it points to the mind’s ability to completely transfer its awareness from a negative object to another more positive one (prati-other, opposing; paksha-wing, half; bhavana-dwelling, home, mansion, being).

It has 3 stages: dilution—you dilute the power of the negative thought back by denying it your attention; substitution—while holding back attention from negative thoughts, start asserting that which is positive; and sublimation—as you continue doing this, you will find that the negative becomes sublimated (i.e. vaporized) and fades away. To your great amazement, you realize that what seemed impossible to overcome has been overcome.

The First Stage: Dilution

In the first stage, you recognize the presence of a negative thought the moment it arises, and take control of it. In this stage the negative thought is not allowed to root itself in the mind and held in check not so much by force but rather by simply withdrawing the attention.

You must practice the art of watching your mind at all times, and not allow yourself to entertain negative thoughts. For example, if you have a bad temper or you procrastinate and you notice these detrimental qualities within yourself, you should not conclude that you can do nothing about them. Do not assert: “I am a weak person....This negative karma is coming from a past life, so what can I do about it?” Do not condone or justify the negative in this manner. However, at the same time, you should not become too upset about any negative thoughts, because that will only draw additional energy to them and intensify your negativity.

One of the common mistakes people make is to resist and struggle with their thoughts, emotions, habits, and situations.

The Second Stage: Substitution

Instead, as you notice the negative thought and gently restrain it by not attending to it, try to develop a positive affirmation within the mind. Substitute positive thoughts that are contrary to the negative thought that is disturbing your mind. Try thinking exactly the opposite of what is going on in your mind. This is the second stage of Pratipaksha Bhavana, referred to as the substitution stage.

For example, if you are perplexed or worried about something, try overcoming this feeling by reflecting on those great personalities who never worry. Try visualizing the blissful face of Buddha or Jesus or any spiritual ideal. Present before your mind feelings of cheerfulness. Relax your face and eyes. If you become angry, try presenting before your mind a state of forbearance in which your anger is converted into compassion.

The Third Stage: Sublimation

As you practice the substitution process of Pratipaksha Bhavana, the negative may come back again and again, but it will gradually dissipate and lose its force and momentum. The positive will begin to assert itself—it is just a matter of time and patience. With sustained practice, as you go on developing the positive within yourself, the negative becomes sublimated and, to your surprise, soon vanishes. This process of sublimation represents the third stage of Pratipaksha Bhavana.

Live In The Present Moment

As you do your best to be positive, do not pursue the negative by trying to discover when it began. Do not worry whether it began in childhood when your parents whipped you, or if it is because of that bitterness that your mind is now always ready to jump to negative conclusions. Such a preoccupation is not for those who are normal and who are striving to become supernormal. This kind of analysis should be left to the psychologists. Let it be their headache to treat the mentally ill and determine the causes for the abnormalities of the mind. For spiritual aspirants though, this is of very little importance. “When did it begin?” is a meaningless question because you have had many lives and finding a cause in this life is only scratching the surface; it is not really the answer to the problem. You can only solve the problem of a negative development by living in the present and gaining an insight into the nature of the Self moment by moment.

Remember Your Energetic Nature

Our bodies, our minds, and our entire life circumstances are a direct reflection of our energetic patterns. These energetic patterns determine what we like and dislike, what we attract and push away, what we have and don’t have. Like a powerful magnet, our energetic patterns pull our lives in a specific direction. The more we resist the pull of our lives, the more our innate energies draw us towards what we are resisting. For example, the more we try to give up smoking or alcohol or gambling or over-eating or snacking or judgment or anything, the more we reinforce the energetic patterns of the object of our distress. Most physical problems are only revealing themselves superficially on the physical plane and usually signal the presence of other issues involving self-esteem, fear, lack of or unhealthy relationships, disregard for natural law, or a faltering spiritual life.In order to change one’s habits and attract different experiences one realign one’s energetic patterns with one’s original healthy configuration.

The Divine Self Within

As you develop more understanding of your Self, you will discover that Its positive qualities are able to overcome all that is negative. There is a boundless ocean of peace and harmony within yourself. There is boundless light within you and when you even crack open the door of your soul to that light, the darkness will quickly vanish. This door has become a little jammed, so it will take some time to open. But no matter how long it takes, you must have patience day by day. No matter how many times your mind may falter in this project, you must keep on ignoring the negative. Negativity is just like a mirage; it is only an illusion. The reality is the supremely positive presence of the Divine within you.

Transformation of the Personality

The goal of positive thinking and of practicing the art of Pratipaksha Bhavana is to bring about a total change in your personality. People who are not following the path of Yoga or who do not have serious insight into life go on changing, but they experience no total change. All their negative traits remain, having been modified only slightly.

Thus, there are people who are well-educated, and to society seem very advanced and cultured. However they still have all the negative traits and characteristics that they had when they were teenagers. The same fears, attachments, ego and assumptions continue; they are only veiled. Ordinary people dare not point out their shortcomings to them, because surely these pale in significance to scholarship and status. The moment someone thinks of pointing out the error of a well-known individual, he remembers his important titles and becomes awed by his apparent greatness. Of course, he is a great man to the extent that he had attained scholarship. Greater attainment, however, lies in gradual and steadfast transformation of one’s personality.