Use your mind-key to open the door to eternal happiness.
My friend at the Indian Institute of Technology, where I used to study, said one day, “It’s hard to carry on, but it’s harder still to let go.” When a college student says this, he’s almost always referring to a situation in which his sweetheart considers him just another Homo sapiens. Or it might refer to more than a problem with an unrequited and juvenile infatuation; he could mean something as serious as having to bear the burden of financially maintaining a family while trying to study as much as any single student. But in all cases, this catchy line implies suffering from an attachment that is both unfulfilling and painful, yet one the mind cannot release either because it’s formed around an obligation or, as in most cases, because it’s a mental fancy. When it’s a fancy, the mind becomes preoccupied with a “perfect” world where everything is ideal even as the sights and sounds around us remind us of the harsh reality. A mental utopia is so intoxicating and the sobering bouts of reality so agonizing that we naturally prefer imagination to reality. It’s hard to carry on, but harder still to let go. There’s just enough happiness in the reality for us to remain bound to its miseries.
Mind: Oscillating Between Past and Future
Yes, to let go of an obligation because it’s painful is undutiful. But most often, it’s not really our pressing obligations that bother us. Rather, it’s our mind. It is the nature of the mind, as Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.6.30–31) explains, to latch onto become obsessed by unfulfilled desires, only to reject them later. For example, the mind tends to dwell on unfortunate events from our past maybe a missed promotion at the office or something sad from our childhood. It also tends to dream of a grandiose future we’ll live in a big house or have all kinds of money or power. We then hanker for this fantastical idea like mad. Not only that, but even if our desires are fulfilled, the mind remains dissatisfied. Even that big house at the seaside will not keep the mind at bay. It will find something else to want, something else to moan about. A mind so engrossed in the past and future is uncontrolled, and an uncontrolled mind saps our energy for living in the present. The fickle mind forces us to run behind targets that move tirelessly and erratically.
Go on with this long enough and it will lead to a mental breakdown. But it’s not actually the mind that breaks; it’s us who become tired of chasing the mind’s whimsical demands, us who get tired of what the mind does best torture us.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (6.6): “For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” The mind is our closest neighbor. The combination is terrifying. Yet we tend to ignore the situation and play into the traps of the mind. In the art of war, it’s vital to know the opponent’s strengths. Only then can one devise a strategy to neutralize the enemy’s advantage and perhaps even use it for our own good. The uncontrolled mind’s greatest strengths happen to be our greatest weaknesses: (a) we think, subconsciously, at least, that our happiness lies outside ourselves, in favorable situations; and (b) that we can control those situations.
The Nature of Material Happiness
We think that happiness is found in situations external to ourselves, so the mind can lure us into its obsessions by showing us the promise of favorable situations to be created or grabbed. Why do we believe the mind? Because we think we control the world around us, so can create and maintain those situations. It sounds outrageous to say we think we are the controller when it’s so obvious that we are not; yet we hanker for future favorable circumstances as if they are within our grasp. Since we don’t control the circumstances of this world, it’s obvious that even if we find ourselves in a favorable situation, it will not last. The Bhagavad-gita (5.22) warns us that running after temporary external situations is a recipe for misery: “An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.”
The quest for happiness is natural to the soul. The Bhagavad-gita (15.7) explains that all living beings are sac-cid-ananda eternal souls with full knowledge and bliss and part and parcel of the Supreme Lord Krishna. We are meant for an eternal life of happiness and enjoyment, lovingly serving the Lord in our original home, the spiritual world. The souls in this world are typically those who desired to experience an existence independent of Krishna and for whom Krishna kindly provided this material world along with a body they could use to interact with it. He also allowed us to forget our true identity. However, because we souls once tasted sublime love and happiness in the spiritual world, we are ever seeking that same happiness out but in the material world, without serving the Lord. Since we are generally averse to serving anyone, we have developed the notion that we can become happy only by gratifying our own mind and senses. Yet our temporary and limited material senses can never taste in material pursuits the happiness the soul tastes through its spiritual senses when we offer loving service to the Lord. Thus the mental dissatisfaction.
The Secret of Mind Control
This leads us to the secret of mind control. Controlling the mind does not mean stopping the mind’s activities but engaging the mind in the Lord’s service. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.27.5) offers this infallible technique: “It is the duty of every conditioned soul to engage his polluted consciousness, which is now attached to material enjoyment, in very serious devotional service with detachment. Thus his mind and consciousness will be under full control.” The great devotee King Ambarisa exemplified this technique; he engaged not only his mind but all his senses in serving the Lord.
According to the Gita the art of transforming our day-to-day walk through life into a spiritual journey is called yoga. By constantly engaging in the joyful process of devotion, we not only control the mind but attain spiritual perfection. Instead of brooding over the temporary ups and downs of our life, why not use them as opportunities to serve and remember Krishna? Why not look at our life as a tool to be used to help our spiritual advancement? Why look at our life, insignificant as it is, as the end in itself? The human form of life holds the key to spiritual perfection. Why brood over the rust on the key when you can use it to open the door of eternal happiness?
Abhijit Toley did M.Tech.in Computer Science from IIT Mumbai and is presently working as a Senior Software Engineer in an MNC in Pune. Check his blog at http://thebandwagonofmoltengold.blogspot.com/