Mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy.
It depends on how we deal with it.
It depends on how we deal with it.
Often we see that the mind creates more problems than those caused by adverse situations. For some it comes in the form of psychosomatic diseases such as schizophrenia, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression or mania, while for others it might be in milder forms such as insecurity, inattention or lack of interest. They come under adhyatmika kleshas, sufferings caused by one’s own body and mind. The disturbances caused by the mind can be traced to previous conditionings or experiences called anarthas that are not limited to this lifetime.
The most prominently observed effect of the mind is inattention, a common condition faced by all categories of people, especially students. Inattention sometimes also causes irrevocable mistakes leading to severe losses in various fields of life. Those practicing different forms of yoga and meditation too encounter this problem of inattention, for the mind gets easily distracted by extraneous stimuli. Practioners of mantra meditation too are involved in the struggle as the mind fails to pay attention on the transcendental sound vibration. While chanting on beads, despite engaging most of the senses, the mind steers off in its own direction, the realization of which comes very late.
HOW TO CONTROL THE MIND?
Why is it so difficult to control the mind? In the Bhagavad gita, Arjuna raises this question:
cancalam hi manah krishna
pramathi balavad drdham
tasyaham nigraham manye
vayor iva su duskaram
“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Gita 6.34). Krishna admits this, but He reveals the key to control the mind.
asamsayam maha baho
mano durnigraham calam
abhyasena tu kaunteya
vairagyena ca grhyate
“O mighty armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment.” (Gita 6.35)
Elsewhere in the Gita, Krishna talks about the need to employ intelligence: “Gradually, step by step, one should become situated in trance by means of intelligence sustained by full conviction, and thus the mind should be fixed on the self alone and should think of nothing else.” (Gita 6.25)
And in the next verse Krishna says, yato yato niscalati manas cancalam asthiram/ tatas tato niyamyaitad atmany eva vasam nayet: “From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.” (Gita 6.26)
The mind by nature is flickering and unsteady and one should bring it back and thereby control it rather than be controlled by it. Also if one engages in Krishna conscious activities, the senses can be brought under full control. This is the highest perfection of yoga practice.
DO NOT FEED GARBAGE TO THE MIND
If we put in the garbage displayed by the media via television, movies, newspapers and internet, then we will certainly be disturbed by ill thoughts. Furthermore, if we contemplate on these thoughts, then it becomes increasingly difficult to put an end to them. On the contrary if we choose to be in the association of devotees and engage in devotional activities chanting, reading, dancing, honoring prasada and serving then slowly the mind gets cleansed and its fickle and contrary nature is laid to rest even though it might show reluctance initially.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that in the morning our first business should be to beat the mind with shoes a hundred times. And, before going to bed, to beat the mind a hundred times with a broomstick. In this way one’s mind can be kept under control. In a lecture, His Holiness Radhanatha Swami Maharaja correlated the shoes with the lotus feet of the spiritual master, which in turn are non different from his instructions. Beating with shoes thus means repeatedly contemplating on his divine instructions. And the holy name of Krishna is like the broom that cleans the mirror of the mind (ceto darpana marjanam). So beating with the shoes refers to constant chanting of the holy names.
The great devotee poet Govinda Dasa sings in his prayer to the mind, bhaja hure mana, sri nanda nandana, abhaya caranaravinda re: “O mind, just worship the lotus feet of the son of Nanda, which make one fearless.” If one follows the prescribed process one can free oneself from the shackles of the prison house of the uncontrolled mind and attain true tranquility.