“Is it a sin to have impure thoughts? How can I get rid of such thoughts?” someone wrote to me the other day. Before, I answer this question, allow me to share with you that I don’t believe in the notion of sin. There’s nothing called sin. I’m not suggesting that everything we do or think is right, but sin means you have done something that has led to estrangement from God, because of which God is now upset with you. I don’t think God would be God if He got upset. God’s love is unconditional. Sin is a religious concept whereas your true nature, and God too, is beyond any religion, book, or belief system.
If there’s no sin, does that mean, everything is acceptable? Not quite. Nature operates on a self-fulfilling prophecy. You plant an apple seed and it’ll sprout and grow into an apple tree. Nature is not punishing you or rewarding you for this karma. To judge as good or bad, right or wrong is the human way. The divine way is to simply be aware, to be a witness. There is no sin in having impure thoughts, but acting on impure thoughts can amount to undesirable actions. And, this leads me to our topic today: how to rise above your impure thoughts?
If anyone ever tells you that they can give you a practice, or a way to not have impure thoughts in your mind, they are lying. No power in this world or any other can give you that guarantee. An average human mind goes through 60,000 thoughts in 24 hours, and, it is but natural that some of those thoughts are going to be undesirable. To have an impure thought doesn’t make you impure, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s not the thought itself that matters, it’s what you do with it.
Everyone experiences thoughts of hatred, jealousy, impropriety. There’s nothing destructive about it, because a thought can come from any direction, at any time. One could be thinking about philandering or deceit while praying in a temple and the same person could be thinking of compassion and morality in a brothel. It’s possible. Thoughts are involuntary, they come uninvited. There’s nothing unusual about having impure thoughts. It’s not the thought itself but its pursuit that ultimately impacts your emotional and mental state.
Therefore, it’s not realistic to expect that you never have any impure thoughts but it’s quite doable to not pursue such thoughts nor act on them. When you get a thought you deem impure, simply shift your attention. Focus your mind elsewhere. Don’t go after the thought. Let’s say you are thanking God for everything you have in your life including a wonderful family. And, out of nowhere, the thought of a woman surfaces in your consciousness. At that moment, don’t chase the thought or feel bad that you thought what you did. Just gently bring your attention back to the present moment, the woman will go away.
If, however, you start to follow the thought-trail and begin contemplating on her, her body, or being with her, the thought will rapidly gather momentum soon overpowering your ability to think straight. A tiny, harmless flake of snow will turn into a juggernaut as it rolls down. It may nudge you to translate your thought into an action you may regret later on.
A disciple fell in love with her master. She felt guilty for feeling those emotions, but guilt could not help her emerge stronger than her ardor. With her heart ruling over her mind, she could contain it no longer.
“I’m sorry, master,” she said, “but, I have tremendous feelings for you.”
“Don’t be sorry,” said the master. “If you have tremendous feelings for me, I’ve enough discipline for both of us.”
Think of yourself as the master and your thoughts as the disciple. When they come to you, no one has to be sorry, you just have to be aware and choose a course of action accordingly. Give your thoughts the freedom to approach you, while you keep the strength to direct them. If you repeatedly get the same impure thought, then, we need to get to the bottom of it. It could be because of deprivation. Those who are fulfilled in their lives are lot less likely to experience constant jealousy or hatred than those who never experienced true love.
If someone’s fasting, it’s quite natural that they’ll get thoughts of food more than any other. So long as they are busy, they may not feel hungry but, the moment they’re free, the thought of food will emerge strongly. Similarly, when you give your mind a free moment, most probably, you’ll have an impure thought, a negative thought or a depressing thought. It’s natural. Why? Because, most people are constantly battling with themselves to not think impurely, to not be negative, to not be jealous and so forth. You are fasting and you are trying to eliminate the thought of food from your mind.
Mindfulness is the key. Accept, don’t react, don’t pursue, don’t feel guilty. Just let it be. You can build mindfulness with meditation, with contemplation, with determination. You never have to be sorry for your feelings or your thoughts. They are not pure or impure, they just are. You just have to watch out what you do with them.
When you simply draw yourself back to the present moment, all thoughts, both good and bad, vanish. There’s no battle then. There’s nothing to escape in the present moment. This is the simple truth.