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Control of mind
Date: Wed Aug 26 1998 - 17:08:07 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,

Recently there has been a discussion of how to control the mind. A very
important question indeed and a very troubling one  not only for us but right
from the Maharishis of yore. I would like to add a few thoughts but let me add
that there cannot be any magic solution for this problem.

Perhaps the most difficult  part of `Yoga' is the control of the mind. The
word `MANAS' meaning mind is at the root of the word `Manushya' human being,
not that other beings do not have a mind. It is in the human that the mind is
capable of reaching heights other beings cannot reach and, it is in the human
that the mind is also capable of stooping down to unfathomable depths.        
Lord Krishna says 
"One should elevate oneself by One's self not degrade the self 
for the self is its own friend and its own worst enemy"

According to - Amrita Bindu Upanishad I.4 the mind has 2 parts one impure, the
other pure. The impurities are due to desire and passion. Mind is thus the
cause of both bondage and liberation. It binds the individual when it is
overtaken by desire for enjoyment of sense objects; it makes for Mukti
(liberation or release) when it becomes peaceful and silent. It compares mind
to a river. Water always flows to a lower level; mind always gets attached to
one or the other object of enjoyment.

When the mind is controlled, it is a useful servant; when not kept under
control, it can become a capricious master dragging one along the downward
path to degradation. If you control mind, you can direct it to think what you
want it to think and not what it likes to. 

As the nervous system is not you, the mind is also not you but an external
agency. Once you allow this external agency to tell you what you should do,
you lose your self-control at that very moment.

But then, how to control the mind? Is it possible? Reality seems to point to
the contrary. In fact, mind is compared to a monkey - one that is already mad,
further intoxicated by booze and smitten by a wasp all at once. You can well
imagine how it will behave !.

Mahopanishad V 99-101 asserts that mind is always unstable and it is well nigh
impossible to get rid of this instability because it is a quality `as basic to
the mind as is heat to fire'.

In one of his Kalakshepam discourses, our Azhagiya Singhar mentioned how the
mind would seem to be interested precisely in things expressly prohibited. A
doctor prescribing some medicine cautioned the patient not to think of monkey
while taking the doses. The patient did exactly the opposite  because he could
not help in controlling the mind. Everytime he took a dose, the thought of the
monkey occured almost involuntarily !. 

A famous `Pramana' says - 
"Even the waters of the ocean can be drunk (as was done by Agastya); even the
great Meru mountain can be uprooted and thrown up; even fire can be eaten.
But, controlling the mind is a difficult task".

Difficult it is, but not impossible. By constant practice and gradual
progression, one can attain a control over mind provided of course, the grace
of God blesses the `Sadaka' . That is why in our daily prayers we invoke
`Gayatri' to kindle the wisdom that would enable the control of  mind.

Do you know why when Gayatri is required to be done 1008 times , a relaxation
is also prescribed requiring it to be done   108 times, or 28 times or even
just 10 times ? The idea behind this is that when you recite a 1008 times, you
will be able to muster some concentration for a split second during the
process which is enough to secure the benefit which Gayatri is known to confer
on the Sadaka. In other words, if you are able to muster that amount of
concentration within 108, 28 or even 10 times- that would serve the purpose.
Ultimately as in everything else, practice makes for perfection. There is no
shortcut for this.
Anbil Ramaswamy