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How does one control the mind?

The human mind is notorious for its fickleness. So much so, it has earned itself the moniker ‘monkey-mind!’ Much like sand held in a tight fist or water borne in a cloth, the mind races, leaving man baffled. It engages with objects of the world, leaping from object to object with lightning speed. It embraces that which it mustn’t and relinquishes easily, that it shall do well to dwell on. Summarily, the human mind is an intractable mystery. Yet, our Scriptures exhort that it is only by the taming of the monkey-mind that man may progress. They speak endlessly of the immense possibilities of the stilled-mind. Summarizing the seemingly impossible task, Arjun states in the Bhagavadgītā,

चंचलं हि मनः कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम्।
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् ॥

caṃcalaṃ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavaddṛḍham।
tasyāhaṃ nigrahaṃ manye vāyoriva suduṣkaram ॥

“O Kṛṣṇa! Indeed, the mind is fickle, turbulent, strong and obstinate. It appears to me that controlling it is as difficult as controlling the wind.”

Kṛṣṇa offers a simple solution.

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम्।
अभ्यासेनतु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते॥

asaṃśayaṃ mahābāho mano durnigrahaṃ calam।
abhyāsenatu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate॥
[The Bhagavad Gītā, 6: 34, 35]

“O mighty son of Kuntī! The mind is undoubtedly fickle and difficult to control, yet it can be controlled by practice and detachment.”

The inherent nature of the mind is such that it attaches itself to the senses. It identifies with the emotions of pleasure and pain. It courts the pleasurable and shuns the unsavory. Man gains mastery over the mind when he detaches himself from pain and pleasure, treating both with equanimity. Such detachment proceeds from discernment of the eternal and the ephemeral. When the mind is trained to treat sorrow and pleasures as passing clouds, the mind grows accustomed to identifying less with the passing emotions thus caused. When the mind is repeatedly refocused on the higher force that pervades all, a dispassionate force that lies within merely a witness to everything, the mind dawns to a stillness. When thus stilled, the mind allows for the experience of man’s true nature.

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