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The Problem of mind control is as old as the hills. The mind never tires of playing its tricks, but there is no way to peace unless it is tamed. This is precisely why we look upto pepole who have been successful in overcoming the powerful influences of the mind. It is rightly said, “He is strong who conquers others, but he is mighty who conquers himself.”
“Manah Sodhanam” is an original composition of Swami Tejomayananda. Swamiji in his commentary on this text tackles the subject of the mind, its ways, means of purification and the reward of purifying it. With amazing insight and clarity, Swamiji analyses how the mind takes us for a ride in everyday situations, thus making us get unconsciously caught in the mesh and mess of psychological webs. The examples he gives are simple to identify with and will make one see how easy it is to be deceived by the mind and difficult it is to overcome its negative impact. Yet an understanding of its ways and regular practices such as observation, etc. definitely pave the way for its purification. Life then becomes meaningful and purposeful. This text comprises Lectures of Swami Tejomayananda delivered at St. Catherine, Canada.
In Sanskrit, manah means mind and sodhanam means purification. Purification of Mind, the title of this composition, is a topic which has relevance in all walks of life: secular or spiritual, individual or communal. Impurity of mind is the cause of sorrow and agitation in us, and this in turn is reflected in the society as well. In modem life particularly, we give too much importance either to our body, (in the way of tasty food, comforts, and physical appearance) or to our intellect (through the gathering of secular knowledge, information, and the pursuit of many academic degrees). However, between the physical and intellectual aspects of our personality, there exists another factor - the mind - which we tend to neglect to a great extent. According to Vedanta, the mind is the seat of emotions. Unfortunately, the only time we seem to pay attention to the mind is when we are going through an emotional crisis, and then too only when we are told by someone else that our problem is a psychological on.
We do not understand the cause of our problems, which is why there is so much of depression and conflict at every level of our society, national and international. One must finally see that these conflicts are born out of our own likes, dislikes, passions, hatred, racial discrimination, and other prejudices. War and strife exist because we cannot tolerate a different skin color, a different religion, or a different political ideology. Although we may generally be very rational beings, our sense of reason disappears when our mind gets clouded by such narrow prejudices. Sometimes we are very patient and helpful towards the rest of the world, but not at all towards our immediate family members! Let us consider these problems of the mind more deeply.
Power and Purity of Mind-Social leaders who have a great deal of knowledge, but not enough purity of mind often misuse or abuse their knowledge. Without purity of mind, political power becomes tyranny. Whether a society is democratic, dictatorial, or has any other form of government, the purity of thought of its leaders plays a vital role in bringing happiness to its members.
We may gain physical, financial, political, or intellectual power, out how many of us use our respective powers for the welfare of society? The jungle law of “might is right” still prevails, and though people suffer under such a system, the leaders tend to use or abuse their powers as long as possible. Consequently, a vast amount of sorrow is created in the society not by the poor but by the rich, not by the uneducated but by the learned, not by the powerless but by the powerful.
There is nothing wrong in having money, education, power, or intellectual accomplishments, but we must realize that they are not ends in themselves. They become meaningless and, even harmful, when there is no purity of mind in the one who possesses them. In contrast, there have been great people whose minds were so selfless and pure that whatever power they had they used for the welfare of all.
Freedom from Anger-The numerous mental problems of the average person today make it difficult for him or her to live happily and peacefully. Who then, is a truly happy person? A beautiful verse in the fifth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita answers this question:
“The one who can withstand and overcome the storm of passion and anger that rises in the mind alone is a happy person.” We may listen to many lectures on the Upanisad-s and Brahmasiara-s (subtle Vedantic philosophy), but until the mind is understood, our day-to-day problems will remain unanswered. During question-and-answer sessions, the most common questions people ask are “How do I control my anger?” and “How do we deal with our children?” When completely exasperated with their efforts, some people ask “Is everything predestined, including my anger? Is that why I cannot get rid of it?” Such questions about destiny, however, only show one's mental fatigue!
Many people sincerely want to get rid of their anger but do not know how to do so, for anger is impossible to remove unless its cause is understood. Some people try taking cold showers or fasting in order to overcome their anger. But please do not even try the latter method, for when one is hungry one gets even more angry! Others ignore their problem, believing their anger will just disappear in due course of time. But this never works, for the moment one feels one has freed oneself from anger, it comes back with a vengeance!
The Mind: Our Best Friend and Worst Enemy-Now let us consider the mind at the spiritual level. Regardless of whether a spiritual seeker is following the path of action, devotion, knowledge, meditation, or renunciation, the sole obstacle is one's own mind. As we have seen, this is equally true in the secular field. All our spiritual practices aim at tackling the mind. Otherwise, knowledge by itself is so simple. The scriptures say that we are not the limited body or mind but we are the infinite Self, Atman, of the nature of absolute Bliss. I do not have to produce the blissful Self; it is already me. I must only drop my identification with the body and mind and recognize this fact. Yet the mind does not allow this to happen very easily, and as long as we do not understand our true nature, we continue to condemn the mind.
In the Bhagavad Gita and Upanisad-s, it is clearly said that the mind alone is our best friend and our worst enemy. The mind is the cause of our bondage and is also the means of our liberation. One should not think either of fighting or of conquering the mind, for such ideas inherently make it one's enemy. What we really need to do is make the mind our friend, which it already is in reality; we just do not realize it. All ideas of fighting, winning over, or conquering the mind are nothing but our attempts to understand it. When we do understand it, all impurities vanish. The person possessing a pure mind will be the most successful in any given field of life. Therefore, as spiritual seekers, we need to pay much more attention to this fact.
One thing which I have learned from my own experience is that every aspect of life demands attention; nothing happens automatically. We may study Vedanta, the Upanisad-s, or other Scriptures, but if we do not pay any attention to our physical health then we will definitely suffer from physical problems. Just because one is a Vedantin does not mean that one is physically healthy. Similarly, if one pays a lot of attention to the physical body and not to the mind, one may be physically healthy but not necessarily mentally fit.
It is generally true that when we pay attention to any particular aspect of life we gain success in that field. For instance, there are those who are excellent sportsmen but have no intellectual accomplishments because they have not paid attention to that aspect of themselves. Similarly, India is traditionally considered to be a very spiritual or religious country, but it is materially poor because so little effort has been directed toward material advancement. In contrast, in other parts of the world where people primarily seek material prosperity, they gain wealth but lack inner mental peace. Thus, wherever one's attention is focused, there is sure to be achievement.
Similarly, in the spiritual field, many of us have the idea that studying Vedanta will purify our minds automatically. But knowledge alone will not purify the mind. Special attention must be paid to the process of purification, or else there will always be contradictions in our lives. For instance, there are many people in whom Vedantic knowledge and feelings of anger co-exist. Despite scriptural studies, sometimes no change is visible in a person's behaviour. However, this does not mean that Vedanta is useless, although some may jump to this conclusion. If a person is unable to put forth effort and improve his or her character, why should we blame Vedanta? The situation is similar to that of a patient who goes to a hospital for treatment but refuses to take the medicines prescribed to him. Then, when his health does not improve, he thinks that medical science itself is useless! Such a logic is fallacious. In short, if we pay attention to our body, mind, and intellect equally, there will be a total and perfect integration of our personality. For this integration to take place, the only solution is to understand our own mind. When we do so, a great peace will be experienced which cannot be described in words. Once the mind is purified for the highest spiritual purpose of life, all other purposes are automatically be taken care of.
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