Thursday, April 11, 2013

mind- friend or foe?

Verse 2.55: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O Pārtha, when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.

A few questions to begin with today: Do you consider your mind to be your servant or your master? Would you like to become a more focused individual? Don't answer these questions right away! Just hang on to them for the moment...

The mind is one complex subject! In fact, there are fields of study dedicated to it such as that of psychology. However, the one thing that psychology has yet to offer is the answer to the question of how to control the mind without trying to repress it.

The yoga texts, specifically the Gita, not only give the answer to this million dollar question, but they also offer more insight as to the nature of the mind. Simply put, the Gita defines the mind as the leader of the senses. The great bhakti master Prabhupada further elaborates, "The principle activities of the mind are of thinking, feeling and willing which are expressed through our senses."

The mind is constantly making plans so that the senses can enjoy. That is, when the mind is not purified. This is an important distinction that the Gita makes. The living entity, the soul, is spiritual. The mind, however, is material. It is not possible to purify the mind with material objects or processes, at least not in any way that has a long-lasting effect. The only way the mind can be purified is through spiritual engagement.

Let's take a moment to talk about what happens with the mind if it isn't purified: it will constantly accept and reject ideas. It does so because it lives in the realm of duality. It assigns labels to people, places, situations and things of "this is good" and "this is bad". Those labels are not founded in any permanence and that is why you may observe that one second you may think something is good and the next second something is bad. For example, say your favourite food is pizza. When you are first eating it, your mind is exclaiming, "So good, we want more!" You're so happy that there's pizza that you keep eating and eating and eating...and suddenly as you finish off that seventh piece and your stomach starts protesting, that same mind starts chastising, "Stop! Pizza bad, causing pain."

Why does the mind do this? Because it is making judgements on behalf of the senses. When the senses feel pleasure, the mind perceives something as good and as soon as it starts causing pain or any type of discomfort, that same thing becomes bad.

One could rightly argue, "But that's necessary isn't it?" On the material platform, absolutely. But remember, the goal of yoga is to transcend the temporary. The pleasure we feel coming from the senses doesn't last and so by constantly letting the mind "make the call" as to what's good/bad or right/wrong, we are operating on the material level. As spiritual beings, we seek eternal pleasure which can only be attained when our mind is spiritualized.

So how do we purify the mind? In the beginning, one can start by trying to control it. The mind is like a little child in that it always needs to be engaged. If it isn't engaged, it just wrecks havoc and that's why "An idle mind is a devil's workshop."

So how does one go about controlling the mind? A word to the wise, artificially repressing doesn't tend to work well. In fact, often times it may even exacerbate the craziness going on inside. The yoga texts present mantra meditation as the solution. In fact, for the current age we live in, mantra meditation is stated be even more effective than silent meditation. With silent meditation, the mind may still be internally going crazy because the senses aren't engaged. Remember how the mind is the leader of the senses? If the mind is going crazy, you can be sure the senses are also crying out for something to occupy them.

Mantra meditation is a sensory experience that calms the mind. By holding mantra beads, one is engaging the sense of touch. Through saying the mantra and hearing it, one is engaging both the tongue and the ears. One can either close their eyes or look at the written words of the mantra and thus engage the eyes. Although not necessary, one can even engage the nose by burning incense or choosing to be outside in the fresh air.

The key in mantra meditation is to focus on hearing the sound of the mantra. That's it. Just by hearing the mantra, the mind is pulled from it's whirlpool like thoughts and starts resting in the mantra. This is the spiritual engagement we were speaking of before. As one practices this daily and slowly increases their time engaging in mantra meditation, it's amazing how the focus one experiences transfers to all aspects of one's life.

The question may arise then of what mantra to chant. There are so many mantras given in the Vedas. However, the recommended mantra for this age is that of the maha mantra - the greatest mantra which includes all other mantras. That's right. Just by meditating on this one mantra, you get the benefit of chanting every other mantra, even the ones don't even know about!

You may have heard of the maha mantra before but not realized its significance. The mantra goes: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. These three names of Hare, Krishna and Rama refer to names of the Divine. Hare is an address to the feminine divine and Krishna and Rama refer to the the Supreme. The mantra is a call for help to the Supreme consciousness to help us reconnect with our true identity.

So in conclusion, I ask you to revisit the questions I asked at the beginning. The first one is just something to think about. If you answered yes to the second one however, I invite you to try meditating on the Hare Krishna mantra. Just try it for a few minutes everyday when you wake up for a week. If you choose to do so, please write down on your observations. I would love to hear your experience!

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