Thoughts & Emotions
   Date :27-Aug-2023

Neuroscience defines thoughts as cognitive function of the human brain. When neurons fire, thoughts arise. Thoughts may be in forms of belief, concepts, ideas etc. They may be good, bad or neutral. Thoughts become good or bad when some identification is established with them. These good and bad thoughts are emotions which have profound impact on our psychophysiological mechanism. According to psychologists, thoughts are self-arising, but thinking is deliberate and intentional. When thinking becomes judgemental and some value addition is done to it, it turns into emotions. Emotions are the powerful tools of the human mind . They are constructive as well as destructive. Love, brotherhood, inclusiveness, kindness, empathy etc are the constructive emotions, while hatred, cruelty, exclusiveness etc are the examples of destructive emotions. In Indian traditionYoga and Buddhist philosophy have delved very deep into the dimensions of thoughts and emotions. In the Yogic philosophy they have used four words, Mana (mind), Budhi (intellect), Ahankara (individuality) and Chitta (emotions). All these four dimensions of cognitive functions of the human brain are collectively called Antahkarana (inner instrument).
Mana or mind is the stuff full of thoughts. They are neutral. When they are processed and some choice is made, the play of intellect or Budhi appears there. In order to understand the diversity of the world, our mind differentiates one thing from another and that is Ahankara or the faculty of the mind which makes it possible to distinguish between two things. Chitta is the emotional state of the mind when value is added and judgements are passed. Yoga techniques are prescribed to control the Chitta or the emotional state of our mind. In the Patanjala Yoga Sutras we find a great number of such techniques which calm our emotions and establish our awareness in tranquillity and bliss. In one of the formulae Patanjali prescribes the use of opposite emotions to counter destructive or negative emotions – Vitarka- badhane- pratipaksha- bhavanam. For example, in order to mitigate the emotion of sadness, there is a need to cultivate the emotion of happiness and positivity. As a higher practice, the Geeta talks of Samya Bhava, a state of equilibrium when all emotions are witnessed without being attached to it Sama - DukhaSukham- Dhiram. The latest branch of Psychology which we know as the Positive Psychology emphasises on the strengths of life rather than on its weaknesses. It teaches us to cultivate a sense of happiness rather than sadness.
The founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman was frustrated with the negative dimensions of psychology which mostly talks about illness, neurosis, psychosis, unhappiness etc. So he expounded that by cultivating a happy state of mind, life will be more worth living. Until the nineteenth century it was believed by psychologists and neuroscientists that the human brain cannot be changed. But the research specially of William James showed that the brain and its structure undergo changes. Later on the research proved that the brain is plastic and changes by thoughts, habits , experiences etc. Yoga, Tantra and Buddhist philosophy have prescribed many techniques to cultivate positive and even -state of the mind. In the concept of Triguna, three attributes of which the entire nature is made, it is believed that Sattva Guna - Purity, Rajas Guna - Activity and Tamasa Guna - Inertia are interchangeable. In other words we can say that Indian traditional belief from time immemorial is that the good can become bad and vice versa. The different theories of meditation have the potential to change the neural paths of the brain and lead to bliss. A number of scientific research done on meditational practices have proved this fact beyond doubt.