This is a monograph which tells you why you suffer from mental tension and what you have to do to
cope with it. Swami Gokulananda, the author, is not a psychiatrist. He is a monk to whom people of all
age-groups come and unburden their minds. Why? It is difficult to say why. One reason perhaps is that
he is loving and lovable. Once you meet him, you want to meet him again and again. Soon you discover
he is a person to whom you can confide all your secrets. You tell him about things weighing on your
mind. He gives you some advice and the advice turns out to be very helpful.
But how come that without being a psychiatrist Swami Gokulananda is able to give such
advice? It is because he meets people of all classes and he knows what are the common problems of man
today. He has observed how selfish and greedy man is today and how he will go to any length to satisfy
his desires. Self control is the only solution to such problems, but to attain self-control is not that easy.
The only way to control the mind is to direct it to more interesting things. Why do people risk life
climbing mountains? They love it. They find it more pleasant than anything else. It is a question of tastes
you develop. Change the mind from one things to another. The things that create tensions do no attract
you any longer.
Swami Gokulananda’s approach to the problem of tension is positive. He tells you what to do
and he tells you what you may love to do. It is like learning how to swam. At first, you are nervous, but
once you overcome your nervousness. You enjoy swimming. Most of the steps Swami Gokulananda asks
you to take are like that. Once you start, you go on doing what he asks you to do merely for the pleasure
The book is readable and highly useful to everybody in the present age.
The genesis of this book lies in the repeated requests I get as Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, New
Delhi, for personal interviews by people who are bogged down by the problems of life. Most of them
come to discuss their personal problems and almost all these problems are related to mental tension.
Therefore, I decided to give a series of lectures which were taped and edited to take the shape, finally, of
It has been rightly said that the present century is a century of stress. The only way to control
stress is to control the mind. Unless we know how to train the mind, it is very difficult to lead a
In these lectures, I have approached the problem of stress and its control from two
standpoints-the Eastern and the Western. I have referred to what our ancient yogis said about mental
control and also what the modern Western psychologists are saying about it at present.
One thing that has become obvious from this discussion is the psychosomatic nature of
nervous tension and stress which cause major health hazards. The various conflicting urges and desires
within us clamour for fulfillment simultaneously. Often there is a tug of war between the desires of the
flesh and the aspirations of the spirit. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, as a famous saying tells
us. The result is acute tension.
Mental stress can also arise due to an erroneous understanding of religion. As Sri
Ramakrishna said in his usual pragmatic way, instead of suppressing desires, we should turn them
towards higher goals. In other words, we should recycle them. The emphasis should be on sublimation
rather than repression.
Apart from religion most people also have a wrong understanding of life itself. Excessive
ambition, intellectual rivalry, overwork, the dual inner tendencies-extrovert and introvert-vying with
each other, are all detrimental to peace of mind. To regain faith in ourselves we have to first have a
balanced perspective of the meaning of existence. Instead of regretting them past or worrying over the
future, we should give all our attention to the present.
Our aim should be to develop our will power by avoiding useless talk, purposeless work,
futile controversies, fault-finding tendencies, back biting, lurid thoughts, and all such distractions which
dissipate our vital mental energies. Good thoughts brig rewards while bad thoughts bring
We should learn to review our mental processes from time to time. Praying to God for
will-power or icchha shakti is essential, rather than praying for the transitory material gains.
Concentrating on this single idea to the exclusion of all others is a sure path to success in curing mental
We must have a positive attitude even in the face of the worst adversity. It is good to
remember that even depression has a therapeutic side-it leads us to greater achievement. Depression
brings to the forefront of our mind guilt, fear and anger which have to be faced before we can attempt to
learn to control them.
The secret of achieving tranquility is to cultivate the attitude of acceptance and surrender.
These are not passive attitudes but come only through great effort of meditation, introspection and
self-analysis. The best method to achieve them is by what Swami Vivekananda called the samanvaya yoga
which is also depicted in the emblem of the Ramakrishna Order. In it the sun stands for jnana or
knowledge: the ability to discriminate between what is right and what is wrong; the lotus stands for
bhakti or devotion: total faith in God’s design for our lives and our acceptance of this divine design
whole-heartedly. The waves in the water stand for karma or action: the ability to work in a disinterested
manner without any overt anxiety about the result of our actions. And finally, the coiled serpent
symbolizes raja yoga or the technique by which one can achieve psychic control. Practising this
samanvaya yoga in our everyday life is a sure cure for mental disturbance of any variety.
Once we have overcome tension we reach a dimension of inner bliss as is expressed in the
immortal verse of the poet Rabindranath Tagore:
This volume is an effort to bring this kind of continuous existential bliss within the reach of
all people. It is hoped that all the readers of this volume will benefit immensely by practicing sincerely
and regularly all that is suggested in the following pages.
My sincere and deep debt of gratitude goes to Revered Swami Lokeswaranandaji, Secretary,
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta, for his kind and precious Foreword to this book
which, I am sure, will greatly enhance the value of this book, and also for bringing out this publication
from the Institute of Culture.
Before I conclude, let me record my gratitude to Prof. M. Sivaramakrishna and Dr. Sumita
Roy of the Osmania University, Hyderabad, and Devipriya Guha Biswas, E.V.N. Chari, Malay Chatterji
and others for all the help they have given in making this book acquire the present shape.
About the Book
This book is a bit different from the regular meditation. Concentration books which are frequently
published. It has taken the judiciousness of the yo9gis of the East together with the scientific approach
of the psychiatrists of the West.
Along with the rat race ingrained in human nature and the competitive spirit accentuated by
globalization, depression could be a serious threat to ambitious youth. According to Gokulananda, the
counter strategy would call for ‘a change in our attitude towards ourselves, a change in our attitude
towards others and breaking some unwanted fixed habits’.
About the Author
Swami Gokulananda is a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, and is currently the Head of the
Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi. He has a facile pen and has to his credit a number of books, chief
amongst which are, ‘Our Holy Trinity’, ‘Swami Vivekananda – the Ideal of the Youth’ and ‘Some
Guidelines to Inner Life’. Besides taking part in some international conferences, he has visited the
U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom. France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, the
Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, Italy, Malta, Singapore, Malaysia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana (West
Africa), Mauritius, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Japan, Nepal Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
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