17. Mind control

A disciple went to an Alchemist to learn the art of converting copper into gold. The master taught him the art and when the student was about to put it into practice, the guru said. ‘But, my dear! Remember one thing. When you chant this mantra, you should not think of monkey!’ ‘Oh that’s easy’ thought the Sishya. He chose a wonderful place, sat down for meditation, but lo! The first thing that ever came to his mind was monkey! However much he tried to drive it away, it kept lingering to him.

This story shows that we cannot control our mind easily. Oscar Wilde, a famous poet said, ‘I can resist everything but temptation. Our elders compared our mind to a monkey. It is like a monkey, which is drunk, which leapt over fire, which is infected by a ghost and which is stung by a scorpion. This shows the intensity of the wavering mind. But that need not be the finale. Such a monkey mind can be made a gem of a mind. It is all in our hands.

Lord Krishna has given ways and means of mind control in the sixth chapter - ‘Atma samyamana yoga.’ Atma here doesn’t refer to soul. It refers to the mind.

Arjuna, who stands for the entire human race, raised the question ‘how do I control my mind ?’

chanchalam hi manaha Krishna pramadhi salavaddrudam
Tasyaham nigraham manya karosiva 6-34

chancalam--flickering; hi--certainly; manah--mind; krsna--O Krsna; pramathi--agitating; bala-vat--strong; drdham--obstinate; tasya--its; aham--I; nigraham--subduing; manye--think; vayoh--of the wind; iva--like; su-duskaram--difficult.

For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.

He Krishna! You ask me to control my mind, but how? It is very restless, since it is so strong it is so lured to the material things, it is as difficult to hold it as it is to hold air.

Arjuna defined it well! Can we hold air? Accordingly can we hold mind? It is impossible! Krishna proves nothing is impossible in the dictionary of man. He has a short and sweet solution, a two point formula for this problem.

Asamsayam mahabaho mano durnigraham chalam
Abhyasena tu kounteya vairagyena cha gruhyate (6-35)

sri-bhagavan uvaca--the Personality of Godhead said; asamsayam--undoubtedly; maha-baho--O mighty-armed one; manah--the mind; durnigraham--difficult to curb; calam--flickering; abhyasena--by practice; tu--but; kaunteya--O son of Kunti; vairagyena--by detachment; ca--also; grhyate--can be so controlled.

Lord Sri Krsna said: 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.

Oh Arjuna ! No doubt, the mind is restless. I agree it is difficult to control it, but it is not impossible. You can control it through Abhyasam and Vairagyam. It may look difficult to those who don’t make an attempt, but it isn’t for those who try! So Arjuna try!’

Do it yourself
This answer comes as a thunderbolt to sluggish people. The very first step in mind control demands an attempt from our side. ‘Mind control’ is not a medicine or a treatment to be given by an outsider or even by God, but it has to be practiced by oneself. So Krishna has already proclaimed, ‘Uddaret atma atmanam’. Make an effort yourself.

As we have seen many times, the problem lies in us. It is sown, nourished, nurtured and grown with love by us. So, if we ask any saint, ‘Oh Swamiji, I am suffering due to my Ajnana, my mind is restless, why don’t you show me a way out?’ The first question he puts us back is ‘who entertained the ajnana? Who nourished the wavering attitude of the mind? Who nurtured all the earthly comforts to it? You, Yourself! So change yourself!

The best example for this is found in Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘vicar of Wakefield.’ Once a family in a certain village was shifting to a new house from an ancestral house. They have been shifting every item in the house. Finally they had to shift a big mirror. The mirror was beyond the size of the door. The wiseacres were breaking their heads regarding the solution. Some said, break the mirror into two, bring it out and then paste it together but others were against it. They said, instead you break open the front door and bring it out in tact. Then somebody from the corner raised this question.

‘But the beauty of it is how it ever came in!’ This is a profound question! So when we seek mind control we should in the first place realize that we have purposely led our mind rule over us. Now it is high time we seek to have an upper hand over it.

To come up in our life, to achieve success, mind control plays an important role. Unless we control our mind, there is no point in achieving success in various fields. To control mind Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (detachment) are essential. They are two in one Abhyasa without Vairagya is useless and vice versa.

Abhyasa - The repeated performance of a thing to achieve something is called abhyasa.
‘Sa tu dirgakala nairastarya satkara sevitho druda bhoomihi - patanjali

If we practice for long and incessantly, then we can attain control over our mind. The mute animals like monkey, elephant, lion and tiger are brought under control by continuous training given by the ring leader. When man can control a mute animal can’t he an intelligent person, control himself?

A Hindi proverb means that if a line of ants crawl on a stone continuously, for a long time groove will be formed on the stone. How delicate an ant is when compared to hard stone? If you draw water from the well and keep the water pot at the same place for years together, a depression is formed on the ground. How brittle the pot is compared to the hard stone? This continuous practice is called Abhyasa!

Vairagya - The second step is Vairagya - a detachment, when our mind is after the material comforts, how do we control it? Vairagya means the change our state of mind. The mind which is interested in the temporary pleasures should be tuned to derive pleasure from permanent objects. We don’t have to add temporary nature to the external objects. They are basically temporary. All that we have to do is to realize it and we should learn that all these objects are fleeting joys - with a destructive element in them.

Once upon a time a king wanted to construct a beautiful palace which could be treated as second to none! He sent for many builders, architects and finally selected one who could make it in one word, a Heaven on earth. When it was finished, it was a feast to the eyes! People were thrilled at the grandeur, at the richness at the marvel and at the beauty. The king challenged he would give a huge ransom to any who could point out a mistake in it. Many made a sincere effort, but couldn’t find any. A Sadhu rose up and said humbly ‘Oh my king! There are two mistakes in it!’

Everybody held his breath. The Sadhu explained, ‘Oh king! The one who got it constructed will in due course of time die. The building which looks a marvel will in due course loose its grandeur.’

The king then realized how foolishly he has been spending his time in pursuit of fleeting joys. ‘The spider weaves its web where Caesars rule’ The past glory fades away.

The contextual meaning for a student is his goal is to get a first rank. He should give up temporary pleasures like watching his favourite serial, playing a video game, chatting with his friends and browsing silly web sites. He should be detached from the tempting deviations.

Inculcate interest

It is not enough if a student controls himself from these deviations. He should concentrate on the main path his goal of achieving first rank. So detachment alone will not do. A sadhaka should detach himself from the world outside and introspect himself. He should develop ‘atmasakti’ (who am I). ‘A student should develop interest in his path. Success doesn’t depend on vairagya alone. It depends on concentration.

A man has taken many loans let us say. If he wants to lead a happy life, it is not enough if he clears all his debts. He should have enough and to spare in the sense he should clear the debts and should hoard some money for himself.

Accordingly a Sadhaka should gain the wealth of atma jnana through dhyana. A student should reach his goal through concentration.

Mind is a monkey no doubt
Practice and detachment makes it a gem no doubt!