Control of Mind

Why should one control one’s mind?
How can one control one’s mind?
How can one practice ‘concentration of mind’?
What to do if mind is very fickle and unsteady?
What is the ultimate in mind-control?

Why should one control one’s mind?

The mind uncontrolled, is one’s worst enemy causing great sorrow and bondage. So, one must control one’s mind.

indriyAnAm hi charatAm yat manah anuwidhiyate
tat asya harati prajnAm wAyuh nAwam iwa ambhasi ||2.67||

“For the mind, which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away his discrimination as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.”

As a ship with sails up and its helmsman dead would be completely at the mercy of the fitful storms and reckless waves, and cannot reach any definite harbour, but would get destroyed by the very tossings of the waves, so too, life gets capsized and the individual drowned by the uncertain buffets of passionate sense-storms. Therefore, the senses are to be controlled if man is to live a better and more purposeful life, designed and planned for enduring success. ||4.1||

How can one control one’s mind?

By practice and by renunciation.

asamshayam mahAbAho manah durnigraham chalam
abhyAsena tu kaunteya wairAgyena cha grhyate ||6.35||

“Undoubtedly, O mighty-armed, the mind is difficult to control and is restless; but, by practice, O Son of Kunti, and by dispassion it is restrained.”

Krishna admits that the mind is turbulent, strong, unyielding, and restless and that it is very difficult to control, and therefore, the goal of perfect and enduring tranquillity cannot be EASILY achieved. In the second line of this stanza, again, the eternal missionary in Krishna very carefully weighs his words and uses the most appropriate terms to soothe the mind of Arjuna. ‘O SON OF KUNTI, IT CAN BE BROUGHT UNDER CONTROL’, is an assertion which comes only as the last word in the entire stanza. Through practice and renunciation the mind can be brought under reins in the beginning, and ultimately to a perfect halt– this is the confident, reassuring declaration of the Lord in the Geeta.

Renunciation has been already described earlier in the Geeta as SANNYASA, which was defined as renunciation of (a) all clinging attachments to the objects of the world, and (b) lingering expectations of the fruits of action. These two are the main causes for the agitation of thoughts which again thickens the flood of the thoughtflow and makes the mind uncontrollable. As Sankara describes it, ‘practice’ (ABHYASA) is ‘constant’ repetition of the same idea regarding one and the same objectof-thought. This consistency of thought during steady meditation generally gets diverted and dissipated because of the frequent explosive eruptions of desires. Whipped by new desires that are rising at every moment, the thoughts wander into dissimilar channels of activities, upsetting the inner equilibrium and thereby shattering the true vitality of the inner personality.

Thus viewed, practice (ABHYASA) strengthens renunciation, and detachment (VAIRAGYA) deepens meditation. Hand in hand, each strengthening the other, the progress is maintained. In spiritual textbooks the arrangement of words is to be carefully noted, for, in all cases, the words are arranged in a descending order of importance. To every seeker the question comes at one time or the ther: whether he should wait for the spirit of detachment to voluntarily arrive in his mind, or he should start his practice. The majority wait in vain for the accidental moment of VAIRAGYA before they start their ABHYASA. The Geeta, in this stanza, clearly declares that such an expectation is as ridiculous as waiting for the harvest of crops for which we never sowed the seeds!

Let us analyse life, question its experiences, argue with ourselves, and note carefully how much we put into life and how much we gain from life as a return. When we become aware of the deficit balance each time, we, of necessity, shall start inquiring how our life can be more profitably reorganised so that our entire coffers of joy and happiness can be replenished to their brim. Soon, the study of the Sastras will follow, which will give us an inkling into the wonders of the moral life, the wisdom of the ethical values, the joys of self-control, the thrills of growth, and the suffocation of the egocentric little-life.

From the moment we are trying to become aware of our own lives, we are in the realm of ‘practice’ (ABHYASA). As a result of this, the detachment that comes to us automatically is the true and the enduring ‘detachment’ (VAIRAGYA). All else is a sham show of stupid self-denial which cramps a human soul and distorts and perverts his intelligence into an ugly figure riddled with its own hysterical ravings and bleeding with its own psychological ulcers. VAIRAGYA born out of abhyasa alone is the charter for free spiritual growth: of your own accord never renounce anything. Let your attachments with things, of their own accord, drop off as a result of your intellectual growth into the higher planes of better understanding and truer estimation of things and beings, happenings and behaviours, occurrences and incidents around you in life. When, through right ‘practice’, enduring ‘detachment’ has come rushing in full gush into our inner lives, then the mind comes under our control because it has no more any world of pluralistic objects to roam in, and the only world where it has a free access is the world of equanimity and same-ness. ||4.2||

How can one practice ‘concentration of mind’ ?

One can gain single pointedness by dropping all one’s agitation-causing desires and then, with an extra strength in one’s mind, withdraw one’s attention to the Self.

shanaih shanaih uparamet buddhyA dhrtigrheetayA
Atmasamstham manah krtwA na kinchit api chintayet ||6.25||

“Abandoning without reserve all desires born of SANKALPA, and completely restraining the whole group of senses by the mind from all sides, Little by little, let him attain quietude by his intellect, held firm; having made the mind established in the self, let him not think of anything.”

In these two brilliant stanzas the subtle art of meditation has been explained. The sacred secret as to how to bring the mind to a singlepointedness and, thereafter, what we should do with that mind in concentration and how we should approach the Truth and ultimately realise It in an act of deliberate and conscious becoming–are all exhaustively indicated in these two significant stanzas.

Renouncing ‘all’ (SARVAN) desires ‘fully’ (ASESHATAH) by the mind, control all the sense-organs from their entire world of sense-objects. Herein every word demands commentary since every phrase leaves a hint which is so important in ultimately assuring for the seeker a complete success. It is not only sufficient that all desires are renounced, but each desire must be TOTALLY eradicated. By these two terms (SARVAN AND ASESHATAH), no trace of doubt is left in the minds of the seekers as to the condition of their mental equipoise during the moments of their higher meditation. The term ASESHATAH means that even the desire for this perfection in YOGA is to be in the end totally renounced.

‘RENUNCIATION OF DESIRES’ is advised here with a very necessary and important qualification; but, unfortunately, the un-intelligent had been ignoring in Hinduism this significant qualification, and had thus perverted our sacred religion to act and behave as though it recommended a life of indolence with neither any ambition to achieve nor any desire to accomplish. The term ‘BORN OF SANKALPA‘ is a very significant term, qualifying the desires that are to be renounced totally and fully. The term ‘SANKALPA’ had been already explained earlier with reference to which we can easily understand that it is the renunciation of such agitation-breeding desires that is meant here.

When once this renunciation of the disturbing desires has been accomplished, the individual’s mind gains strength and stamina to assert itself, at first to make the wild horses of the sense-organs more tame and work under greater control, and, soon, it comes to restrain all the sense-organs from all the sense-objects, from all sides.

It is scientifically very true that our mind is not able to control our sense-organs, for it has been rendered weak and thoroughly impotent due to the permanent agitations caused by its own false desires. Once the mind gets strong as a result of its conquest over the desires, it discovers in itself all the strength and capacity to control the INDRIYAS from all sides. This process of quietening the mind can never be accomplished in a hasty action, or by any imagination, or by any strange and mysterious method. It is clearly indicated by the very insistence that the Geeta makes in this stanza that the seeker should ‘ATTAIN QUIETITUDE AS A RESULT OF HIS WITHDRAWAL FROM THE WORLD OF SENSE-OBJECTS BY DEGREES’. Slowly and slowly (SANAIH-SANIAH) the mind gains more and more quietude.

No doubt, when the sense-organs have stopped their mad onrush among their respective objects, a certain amount of mental quietude is gained. The methods of intensifying this inner peace have been indicated in this stanza.

‘PATIENTLY, WITH THE INTELLECT, THE MIND IS TO BE CONTROLLED AND RESTED IN THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SELF’. This advice is extremely important to every seeker, and it gives the next item of the programme for a meditator when he has accomplished, through the exertion of the mind, a total withdrawal of himself from the sense-world during his meditation.

The mind that is thus brought to a relative quietude is next to be controlled by the subtler personality layer in the meditator, which is his intellect. Just as the sense-organs were controlled and restrained by the mind, the mind is now treated by the discriminating intellect and brought under complete restraint. Mind cannot be restrained except by fixing it to the exclusive contemplation of one idea. Mind, we have noticed, is but ‘A THOUGHT FLOW’ and, as such, the constant thought of the Nature of the Self is the exercise by which the mind is restrained by the intellect. A mind that has merged in the steady contemplation of the Self becomes, as it were, still, and a divine quietude comes to pervade its very substance. This is, as it were, the last lap of the journey to which deliberate and conscious action (PURUSHARTHA) can take any seeker.

Krishna’s exhaustive theory, which can be practised by any sincere devotee concludes in these two stanzas with a warning as to what the seeker should avoid at this moment of inward silence and peace. The Lord here does not instruct the seeker on what he should positively do. The Divine Flute-player says: ‘LET HIM NOT THINK OF ANYTHING’, when he has reached this state of inward inner peace.

After the ‘halt-moment’ there is nothing more for the seeker to act and achieve. All that he has to do is to avoid starting any new line of imagination. ‘UNDISTURBED BY ANY NEW THOUGHT WAVE, LET HIM MAINTAIN THE INNER SILENCE AND COME TO LIVE IT MORE AND MORE DEEPLY’, is all the instruction that the technique of meditation gives to the meditator. ‘Knock, and thou shalt enter’, is the promise: the ‘knocking’ is done, and to the Supreme Presence thou shalt enter..ere long (ACIRAT).

No two simple-looking stanzas any where in the spiritual literature of the world, including the books in Hinduism, can claim to have given such an exhaustive amount of useful instructions to a seeker as these two stanzas in the Geeta. Even in the entire bulk of Divine Song itself, there is no other similar couple of stanzas which can stand a favourable comparison with this perfect pair. ||4.3||

What to do if mind is very fickle and unsteady?

Start now and strengthen it by practice.

atyatah yatah nishcharati manah chanchalam asthiram
tah tatah niyamya etat Atmani ewa washam nayet ||6.26||

“From whatever cause the restless and the unsteady mind wanders away, from that let him restrain it, and bring it back to be under the control of the Self alone.”

The wanderings of the mind may be due to many reasons: the memory of the past, the near presence of some tempting objects, the association of ideas, some attachment or aversion or, may be, even the very spiritual aspiration of the seeker. Lord Krishna’s instruction here is very categorical and all-embracing. He says: ‘WHATEVER BE THE REASON BECAUSE OF WHICH THE RESTLESS AND THE UNSTEADY MIND WANDERS AWAY’, the seeker is not to despair, but should understand that it is the nature of the mind to wander and the very process of meditation is only a technique to stop this wandering.

‘LET HIM BRING IT BACK’: The seeker is advised to bring back the mind that has, as it were, rushed out into its own self-appointed dissimilar channels of thinking. ||4.4||

What is the ultimate in mind control?

To rest in knowledge of Brahman.

iha ewa taih jitah sargah yeshAm sAmye sthitam manah
nirdosham hi samam brahma tasmAt brahmani taih sthitAh ||5.19||

“Even here (in this world) birth (everything) is overcome by those whose minds rest in equality. Brahman is spotless indeed, and equal, therefore they are established in Brahman.”

The relative existence as a limited ego-centre can be ended and the imperfect individual can realise himself to be the Infinite Godhead. This goal is not a post-mortem stage, but in this very same life, here in this very body, among these very same worldly objects, one can live in the consciousness of God, evolving oneself from the immaturities of one’s own deluded ego-sense. One ‘WHOSE MIND RESTS IN EVENNESS’ gains the divine tranquillity of a God-man. Where the thought-flow, which creates unequal and spasmodic mental fluctuations, is arrested, there the mind ends. Where the mind ends, it being the equipment through which life expresses as a limited ego, this sense of separative existence also ends. When the ego has ended, the egocentric thraldom of SAMSAR also ends. The ego, thus undressed of its SAMSARIC sorrows, rediscovers itself to be nothing other than the Self itself. Unless one comes to this mental equipoise, one is not capable of experiencing the SAMATVAM of the SAMADARSIN described in the above stanza.

‘Such an individual, who has conquered his mind and has come to live in perfect equanimity in all conditions of life and in all relationships’, Krishna vehemently asserts, ‘HE INDEED RESTS IN BRAHMAN‘. ||4.5||