Mind Control through Abhyasa & Vairagya
Mind is the problem, Mind is the solution.
Nothing affects us more than our minds and hence, every one of us tries to control it. Seldom have we achieved success in our endeavor which makes us curious about this art. The reason behind calling it an art is its subjective nature.
A and B suppose are painters and both see a flower, inspired by it they decide to paint it on a canvas. The flower is same, the way of expression is same, but the manifestation will be different. Similarly, the mind control too is a mixture of conscious (technique), subconscious and unconscious which makes it very much subjective.
Mind-Control is a fascinating game. It takes a lot of practice and patience to win. This game takes skillfulness, awareness, sense of humor, integrity, strategic planning and a heroic aptitude to keep going and not get discouraged in the face of failure.
In the Gita, Shri Krishna explains Arjuna how to attain supreme state of Yoga. After listening to him Arjuna says in bewilderment:
योऽयं योगस्त्वया प्रोक्त: साम्येन मधुसूदन |
एतस्याहं न पश्यामि चञ्चलत्वात्स्थितिं स्थिराम् || 33||
चञ्चलं हि मन: कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |
तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || 34||
O Krishna, The system of Yog that you have described, O Madhusudan, appears impractical and unattainable to me, due to the restless mind.1
The mind, O Krishna, is restless, turbulent, powerful and obstinate. It seems to me, that it is more difficult to control than the wind.2
Hearing this grievance of Arjuna, Krishna gives a timeless reply:
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || 35||
Undoubtedly, O Arjuna, the mind is restless and hard to control. But by practice (Abhyasa) and dispassion (Vairagya) it can be controlled.3
Abhyasa and Vairagya
Abhyasa and Vairagya are the foundational precepts of Yoga Practice. Patanjali Yogasutra have a categorical emphasis on Abhyasa and Vairagya. Through Abhyasa & Vairagya (Practice & Detachment) the association of the mind with the thought modifications (vrittis) can be stopped and a state of Concentration can be reached.
To further understand ‘Abhyasa ’ in detail let us go through a dialogue between Sri Ramakrishna and a devotee, where Guru Ramakrishna call attention to a point which everyone needs to remember:
Sri Ramakrishna: ‘Don’t sit idle simply because your spiritual consciousness had been awakened a little. Go forward. Beyond the forest of sandal-wood there are other and more valuable things- silver mines, gold mines and so on.’
Priya: ‘Sir, our legs are in chains. We cannot go forward.’
Sri Ramakrishna: ‘What if the legs are chained? The important thing is mind. Bondage is of mind, and freedom is also of mind.’
Priya: ‘But the mind is not under my control.’
Sri Ramakrishna: ‘How is that? There is such thing named Abhyasa , yoga through practice. Keep up the practice and you will find that your mind will follow in whatever direction you lead it. The mind is like a white cloth just returned from the laundry. It will be red if you dip it in red dye and blue if you dip it in blue. It will have whatever color you dip it in.’4
Practice and dispassion are no doubt two keywords to control the mind but how to imply it in real life is the question. The armaments we need to bring it in life stream are:
- Strong will
- Desire and Aptitude to comprehend the nature of the mind
The will to control the mind can be strengthened when we deliberately surrender pleasure as the sole objective of our life. It is like having a servant who knows you are dependent on him. Servant has become the master.
Pleasure is not Happiness
Pleasure must not be confused for joy or bliss. There is much difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure means enjoyment of sense pleasures or the gratification of ‘unripe ego’. Both of which are obstacles in the path of attainment of joy or bliss. The desire of joy or bliss is integral to us, our real nature being Existence- Knowledge-Bliss. (Sat – Chitt - Ananda)
No doubt, there will be obstacles and failures on this path causing frustration and hopelessness, but at such time one should remember controlling the mind was never easy for even the men of noble stature like Arjuna.
Shri Krishna says in Gita:
यततो ह्यपि कौन्तेय पुरुषस्य विपश्चित: |
इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्ति प्रसभं मन: || 60||
इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां यन्मनोऽनुविधीयते |
तदस्य हरति प्रज्ञां वायुर्नावमिवाम्भसि || 67||
The turbulent senses, O Arjuna, do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man, striving after perfection.
Just as a strong wind sweeps a boat off its chartered course on the water, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can lead the intellect astray.
The Buddha teaches:
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself. 6
From the above opined we can understand that how difficult it is to control the mind. It is in fact a heroic task and desiring it itself is a symbol of noble mind. Hence failures should not be taken seriously as no success is achieved without it. Instead, failures should be considered as spurs to more determined, sustained and intelligent efforts. We should always believe and never doubt that the perfect mind control is possible. All thoughts to the contrary must be eschewed like poison.
5II. 60 and 67
4‘M’ The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, tr. By Swami Nikhilananda, (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1964), p.499
6Dhammapada, verse 103.