There is a Sanskrit saying that Swami Satchidananda often quoted: “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.” It means: “As the mind, so the individual. Bondage or liberation are in the mind.” In other words, “As you think, so you become.” If you think well, you become well; if you think ill, you will become ill. The mind is that powerful.
There is a story that beautifully illustrates this principle. It is about the man whose words are represented on the Shinto altar in LOTUS. His name was Kurozumi Munetada, and he lived in the 19th century.
When he was a young man, suddenly his parents died, one after another. He was plunged into such profound and prolonged sorrow that he became very ill himself. Negative emotions are known to affect particular organs in the body. Sorrow goes to the lungs, and he developed consumption of the lungs.
One day, the doctor came to visit and told him that he had little time left, that there was nothing more that could be done to help him. As Kurozumi lay there, literally on his deathbed, he began to reflect. “Have I honored the memory of my beloved, departed parents by grieving so much that now I, too, am at the point of death?” Probably, they are looking down upon me and are filled with sadness to see this. Well, maybe I can’t change my fate now, but I can change my attitude.” Immediately, he resolved to put aside the spirit of grief and embrace the spirit of gratefulness, giving thanks for all the blessings in his life.
Shortly thereafter, Kurozumi’s children rushed to his bedside to comfort their father. He seemed so different that they thought he had “snapped,” that he couldn’t handle the doctor’s prognosis. But he reassured them he was fine and asked that they help him step outside so he could gaze upon the sun one more time. In Japan, the sun represents Amaterasu O-mi-kami, the Sun Goddess. He wanted to gaze upon the Goddess once again.
So, they helped him outside, and with a heart full of gratitude, he gazed upon the sun. As he did, three events occurred: 1) As the sun’s rays penetrated him, he was totally healed. 2) He was blessed with the power to heal others. 3) He had a profound spiritual awakening. Following that experience, he founded a new sect of the Shinto faith, called the Kurozumi sect.
Sri Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras presents the technique of pratipaksha bhavana, replacing a negative thought with an opposite positive one. Kurozumi Munetada probably never read the Yoga Sutras, but he implemented one of its principles with dramatic results. He replaced sorrow with gratitude and experienced a miraculous recovery. We, too, can turn to this practice and triumph over negative attitudes, habits, or situations in our lives. We are more powerful than we realize.
About the Author:
Swami Karunananda is a senior disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda. In 1975, she was ordained as a monk into the Holy Order of Sannyas. She has had almost 50 years experience teaching all aspects of Yoga and specializes now in workshops, retreats, and teacher training programs that focus on the science of meditation, the philosophy of Yoga, personal transformation, and Yoga breathing techniques for better health and well-being. She developed, and for 30 years has taught, the Integral Yoga Teacher Training programs in Raja Yoga and in Meditation.
Swami Karunananda served as president of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Virginia and in California, as well as director of the Integral Yoga Institutes in San Francisco and in Santa Barbara. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees, and as the chairperson of the Spiritual Life Board at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville, Virginia.
Interested in fostering interfaith understanding and harmony, she is featured in the interfaith documentary entitled, With One Voice. She also compiled and edited the Lotus Prayer Book, a collection of prayers from various faith traditions, and Enlightening Tales as told by Sri Swami Satchidananda. She served as contributing editor for The Breath of Life: Integral Yoga Pranayama, as well as a senior writer for the Integral Yoga Magazine. In her book, Awakening: Aspiration to Realization Through Integral Yoga, she describes the spiritual path and provides guidance for the journey.