We may often be disturbed by troublesome thoughts and sometimes by regular thoughts or even pleasing thoughts. These thoughts that keep popping up into our Citta are called Vitarkas and Vicharas.
The question therefore arises as to where these Vitarkas and Vicharas come from. These are actually stored impressions in our Karmashaya (the hard disk attached to our spirit bodies. These Samskaras have existed ever since we have existed as individual beings. These have also been generated by us, by adding emotion and feeling to the reactions that we had to external thoughts.
These too get stored into our Karmashaya as impressions or samskaras. Too much of sensual thinking or anger as a constant emotion or reaction, can get stored into the Karmashaya and keep popping out of the bag all through our lives until, over a process of time, the extent of these stored Samskaras reduce. The Vitarkas are considered to be the slightly more negative version of the Vicharas though in reality they are both almost the same thing (we do not wish to get too technical about it).
Naturally the Vitarkas, having the trend of negative notions, mental chatter and reverse inclinations to our positive intent, will act like a counterbalance to our spirit of evolution. They act like an impediment to people who want to meditate or have a calm and collected state of mind. This can be quite disturbing for someone who is new to meditation.
New seekers are hopeful that they can sit in a cross-legged position and focus on a spiritual symbol or a human icon and get into a state of meditation as they imagine it. Unfortunately these Vitarkas are a constant disturbance and do not allow the mind to either focus or defocus in an attempt to attain a meditative state.
A marginally more pleasurable form of disturbance are Vicharas. They are considered to be more rational thoughts, reactions and notions. Because they are more subtle we are slightly less disturbed and find them easier to deal with.
The way forward for a person who wants to meditate or quieten his/her mind is to accept these and let them pass. They have to pass. They are stored and they need to be exhausted. The steam has to be let out of the pressure cooker. That is how they are extinguished and slowly but steadily phase out and reduce. A positive effect of such an acceptance is the reducing of the load of the Samskaras and a cleansing of the Citta.
People often form a bad impression of themselves because they feel that their attempts at meditation are a flop. It is frustrating and often de-motivates people who practice meditation. But this isn’t true. You just have to let the steam out of the pressure cooker, as this is a part of the natural process. So it is better to hold your horses, play the game of patience and let these Vicharas and Vitarkas die a natural death.
But you must be careful not to store your frustration by adding emotions and feelings, thereby storing them a second time into the Karmashaya. The two points to take away from this are: 1) acceptance of these is the long-term solution and 2) understanding this concept will help you be patient and say pass.
When both, the Vitarkas and Vicharas are fairly exhausted, we can look forward to a quieter mind, a stiller Citta and a more effective meditation experience.
A PERSONAL TALE
I was travelling with Gurudev to one of his Soil and Survey Department camps in Madhya Pradesh. It was a long journey. On the way, I had confided to him that I suffered a lot from negative thoughts and asked if he could help me. He had a wicked smile. We got into the jeep and away. Oops! What a bumpy ride.
I started thinking of very strange things. I got thoughts of Gurudev urinating, of behaving badly with him, getting nasty feelings towards him. I got thoughts of profanity, more profanity, and even more profanity. It was 30 years back, so I don’t recall every thought, but it was nothing short of disaster in my mind. The thoughts were worse than I had ever remembered. Their speed was supersonic. One after the other. One worse than the other. I was doomed. I wished I could jump out of the pathetic jeep (Never have I felt worse shock absorbers). Relentless. Merciless. The state of my mental activity! How to stop it? No way out!
It felt like a few thousand years had passed by the time we made it to the camp and got to the tents.
I could not stand being near Gurudev so I took his permission to go to bed early. . The next morning, I woke early. To use store terminology, I was first in, first out. I could hardly think!
It was so quiet in my mind. I could feel the crispness of the air, smell the leaves, the mud. It was abnormal. Too good to be normal. Was this peace of mind? It had to be. There were lesser thoughts and more observations. A complete flip from the last evening’s jeep ride (I hate jeeps!).
The Vitarkas had faded for that morning, giving me some relief. Probably due to over-exhaustion the evening before.
A man who had mastered the knowledge on thought waves was Maharishi Patanjali. According to him there are five kinds of thought-waves – some painful, others not painful.
“A “painful” wave, according to Patanjali’s use of the term, is not necessarily a wave which seems painful when it first arises in the mind; it is a wave which brings with it an increased degree of ignorance, addiction and bondage. Similarly, a wave which seems painful at first may actually belong to the category of those which are “not painful,” provided that it impels the mind towards greater freedom and knowledge. For example, Patanjali would describe a lustful thought-wave as “painful,” because lust, even when pleasantly satisfied, causes addition, jealousy and bondage to the person desired. A wave of pity, on the other hand, would be described as “not painful,” because pity is an uselfish emotion which loosens the bonds of our own egotism. We may suffer deeply when we see others suffering, but our pity will teach us understanding and, hence, freedom.
This distinction between the two kinds of thought-waves is very important when we come to the actual practice of yoga discipline. For the thought-waves cannot all be controlled at once. First, we have to overcome the “painful” thought-waves by raising waves which are “not painful.” To our thoughts of anger, desire and delusion we must oppose thoughts of love, generosity and truth. Only much later, when the “painful” thought-waves have been completely stilled, can we proceed to the second stage of discipline; the stilling of the “not painful” waves which we have deliberately created.” (Yoga Sutras by Swami Pravananda and Chistopher Isherwood)