The Bhagavadgita on the Stability of Mind
The human mind is the most amazing, most powerful and most complex creation of Nature. It gives us an ability to comprehend ourselves and the world in which we live so that either we can change ourselves according to its requirements or change it according to ours. Using our minds we can fathom the entire universe and understand its mysteries, infinity and dimensions. We may not be always correct in our analysis, understanding, thinking and conclusions, but we can say confidently that through trials and tribulations we have overcome many barriers in the short history of our civilization. While our minds are endowed with many talents and potentialities, its principal weakness is its instability, which is caused by our desire for things we believe are essential for our happiness, survival and satisfaction and our desire to stay away from things we intensely dislike for one reason or the other. When we do not get the things we like or when we get the things we do not want, we become agitated, anxious and emotionally upset. When we are mentally disturbed, we fail to discern the truth and make wrong decision.
The Bhagavadgita recognizes the direct connection between the mind and the buddhi or the intelligence which is responsible for our conscientious actions and decisions. It explains that the incessant activity of our senses causes disturbances in our minds giving rise to craving and aversion to things, which in turn influence our thoughts, actions and decisions. When we perform actions out of desire and attachment, we incur karma which leads to our bondage to the cycle of births and deaths.
Mental disturbances are part of our consciousness. There is almost an inseparable connection between our minds and their propensity to remain in a state of flux most of the time due to the constant barrage of information and stimuli that keeps coming into our consciousness through various channels. Our scriptures portray our restlessness not as an aberration or an abnormality but an intentional design of Nature or Prakriti as a ploy to keep us distracted from knowing who we are. They consider the triple gunas as the chief perpetrators of our inner commotion and urge us to develop purity or sattva so as to cultivate inner peace, which is the key to keep ourselves focused on the essential aspects of our spiritual growth. When we understand that the entire discourse of Lord Krishna is actually a direct response to the agitated state of Arjuna's mind, we realize how central the problem is in our lives.
The Bhagavadgita recognizes equanimity or stability of our minds as a precondition to self-realization. A disturbed mind cannot focus on anything in particular for long. In a disturbed state of mind it is also not possible for us to withdraw our senses or control our thoughts. According to the Bhagavadgita, the immediate outcome of mental stability is clarity of thinking. When our minds are calm and thoughts are clear, our intelligence shines. A person whose mind is stable and whose thoughts are at rest is described in the Bhagavadgita as sthithapragna or one whose pragna or intelligence is sharp and stable. An incisive, unwavering and precise intelligence has the ability to penetrate deep into human consciousness and discern the truth. It can focus on the most important things that are relevant to our spiritual awareness, not on what is appealing or mentally stimulating to the mind or the senses. It makes us wiser, reflective, detached and poised and yet responsive and responsible.
The Bhagavadgita suggests that a man is said to be stable of mind when he renounces all desires, remains satisfied in the self by the self, and shows the same attitude towards heat and cold, pleasure and pain, sorrow and happiness, friend and foe, success and failure, respect and disrespect, himself and others, and such other dualities of earthly life. He remains undisturbed and unmoved by the vagaries of the mind and the outside world. From our own experience we know how true this is. Most of our problems in our lives arise because of our like and dislikes or our desire to have something or not to have something. When things do not happen according to our expectations or believe what is happening is not in our interest, we suffer and complain. The truth is we have little control over the world and things that are external to us. We cannot control the world, but we can control our inner world, our thoughts, reactions, attitude, feelings and emotions. We can learn to put a saddle upon our desires and learn to put a hold upon our minds to the happenings in our lives.
It is however not easy to remain stable under all circumstances because we are so deeply drawn into the outside world through our attachments and entaglments. In the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna admits this truth before Arjuna (6.35) when he says that the mind is fickle like the wind or the candle light or water in motion. The mind is unstable because of the activity of the senses and the attachment of the mind to the sense-objects. An unstable mind verily is the cause of delusion, an enemy of the self (6.6), where as the stabilized mind is the very seat of Supreme consciousness, the doorway to self-realization and a precondition for the attainment of immortality.
But nothing is difficult for a determined seeker who wants to put a clamp upon his mind. Having traced the causes of our mental actions, the Bhagavad gita also prescribes the remedy for an unstable mind. The mind can be controlled through "abhyas" (practice) and vairagya (dispassion). We can be stabilize our minds through self-discipline and self-control, by withdrawing our senses from the sense objects the way a tortoise withdraws its limbs, overcoming our desires through detachment from the sense objects, living in solitude, free from possessiveness and by fixing our minds constantly upon God. These are however not the only means. Through pure and sincere devotion, concentration, by performing actions without desire and without seeking to enjoy the fruit of actions, living in solitude, accepting life as it unfolds, completely surrendering to God and living the life of sacrifice are equally effective. Moderation in every thing we do is another method prescribed to achieve this state of mind (6.16). The mind becomes stable when one realizes the interplay of the gunas in deluding men and transcends these gunas (14.23-25) though practice.
With the stability of the mind comes undisturbed peace and unending calm. All sorrows cease to bother the person who has become stable in mind as his mind does not crave any more for any thing, accepts every condition of life equally as divine providence (yaddruchcha labha samtushta), lives through all experiences with the same attitude and becomes immune to the play of Prakriti. He goes beyond the sense of duality (dwandatitha) and overcomes jealousy. He lifts the veil of illusion covering his mind and sees with his inner eyes the beauty and splendor of his self deep within and beyond. He becomes united with the Infinite Consciousness, sees the Self in all beings and all beings in himself.
We all know how important it is in our present world for us to keep our inner peace. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America an estimated 40 million adult Americans suffer from anxiety disorder of one kind or the other, costing the U.S. more than $42 billion a year or almost one-third of the country's $148 billion total mental health bill. Mental disorders are not just America's problem. The problem is acute in all the countries, wherever people are. It is probably more acute in the developing or less developed world because of the competition and desperate conditions in which people live.
Rich or poor, people can gain control over their minds through simple spiritual practices like yoga and meditation. Your mind and body are within the the sphere of your influence. When you gain control over them, you have better chances of controlling and molding your environment and the circumstances in your life. The Bhagavadgita suggests the best possible way for an individual to live in the world, performing his duties and not avoiding his responsibilities and yet work for his salvation without impairing his karma. It is by having a stable mind which can remain focused on God under all circumstances, letting everything else become an opportunity to see Him in action.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- The Sense Organs And Their Role In Our Suffering And Delusion
- The Yoga of Sorrow, How Change and Suffering Can Effect Our Lives
- Suffering from a Hindu Perspective
- Chitta - The Mind Stuff
- Essays on Mental Peace
- The Buddha on God
- Bring Concentration Into Your Daily Life Right Now and Right Here
- The Samkhya Philosophy and 24 Principles of Creation
- The Bhagavadgita On The Problem Of Sorrow
- The Concept of Atman or Eternal Soul in Hinduism
- The Practice of Atma Yoga Or The Yoga Of Self
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- Belief In Atman, The Eternal Soul Or The Inner Self
- Brahman, The Highest God Of Hinduism
- The Bhagavad Gita Original Translations
- The Bhagavadgita, Philosophy and Concepts
- Bhakti yoga or the Yoga of Devotion
- Hinduism And The Evolution of Life And Consciousness
- Why to Study the Bhagavadgita Parts 1 to 4
- The Triple Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
- The Practice of Tantra and Tantric Ritual in Hinduism and Buddhism
- The Tradition Of Gurus and Gurukulas in Hinduism
- Origin, Definition and Introduction to Hinduism
- Hinduism, Way of Life, Beliefs and Practices
- A Summary of the Bhagavadgita
- Avatar, the Reincarnation of God Upon Earth
- The Bhagavadgita on Karma, the Law of Actions
- The Mandukya Upanishad
- The Bhagavadgita On The Mind And Its Control
- Symbolic Significance of Numbers in Hinduism
- The Belief of Reincarnation of Soul in Hinduism
- The True Meaning Of Renunciation According To Hinduism
- The Symbolic Significance of Puja Or Worship In Hinduism
- Introduction to the Upanishads of Hinduism
- Origin, Principles, Practice and Types of Yoga
- Hinduism and the Belief in one God