How to control the mind? What Veda has declared for this problem? As it is very difficult to control the mind on path of achieving enlightenment.
Mind control is very difficult but it has very little to do with enlightenment. You do need certain level of mind control to concentrate on the studies. If you can do that you can study the scripture and get enlightenment.
Perspectives from Vedas is given below.(6 lessons)
1. Nature of Mind
2. Mind Control – Why?
3. Mind Control – Who?
4. Mind Control – How?
5. Mind Control – Tools
6. Mind Control – Summary
Lesson 1: Nature of the mind
The display screen in a video camera can display either the objects seen through the camera lens or the edited version of the past recordings. It cannot display anything else. It will go blank when switched off. Similarly, we will either have thoughts corresponding to the sense objects perceived through the sense organs or modified version of the thoughts from our memory. In deep sleep, the mind is totally blank.
When we wake up in the morning, thoughts come one after another depending on their importance. Mostly, the pending task about which we were thinking prior to sleeping will be our first thought. Inputs from the sense organs take precedence over stored thoughts. For example, if someone wakes us up and inform some interesting news, it will take a while for the previous day’s thoughts to reenter our mind.
Thoughts always occur one by one in our mind. It is not possible to entertain more than one thought at any given point in time. If there are ten articles on the table they can get converted as thought-objects one by one only. As we indulge in more action the speed at which the thoughts come to our mind increases. However busy one may be, the thoughts occur in mind one at a time.
The universal answer to the question ‘What are you thinking NOW?’ is ‘Nothing’. Even though thoughts occupy our mind continuously they occur one by one with a distinct gap in between. In general we do not notice this gap. When we hear this question, the previous thought is gone. The next thought is yet to come. Therefore, we say ‘nothing’ indirectly referring to the gap between two thoughts. The mind cannot be silent without any thoughts for more than few minutes. Thoughts return soon after our answering ‘nothing’ and we catch hold of one of that thought and claim ‘I am thinking about this now’.
We can only talk about the past thoughts. It is not possible to predict the next thought. The second thought will have some connection with the first thought. But what that thought will be is completely unpredictable. Thoughts come to us. We do not think. Therefore, it is not possible for anyone to claim ‘I am thinking’. Whatever thoughts come to our mind, the ego catches hold of it and claims ‘I was thinking about this’. Since ego cannot think, it cannot stop the flow of thoughts as well.
Deliberate thinking means selecting a topic (which comes to our mind) and trying to think about it with a particular aim in mind. Aimless thinking happens automatically when the mind is free. What thought comes next, is not in our control whether the thinking is deliberate or otherwise.
The connection between one thought and the next thought will have some logic. In aimless thinking, thoughts will continue to wander on different but related subjects. In deliberate thinking it may revolve around a particular topic but it might stray into unrelated areas and might become aimless thinking. When we realize the deviation, the thoughts might return to the chosen topic for a brief period but soon it will start wandering again. The importance of the topic determines the length of the ‘brief period’.
It is not possible to keep thinking about a particular object unless our sense organs perceive that object continuously. What is out of sight is out of mind too. We do not have any direct control over our thoughts. It is not possible to order our mind not to think about a particular object. We cannot decide to forget. We can neither stop the flow of thoughts nor direct the flow of thoughts in a particular path.
Lesson 2: Mind Control – Why?
Before we attempt to control the mind we need to understand why we want to control the mind. We would like to concentrate on the chosen job and not get distracted. Secondly, we would like to avoid bad, evil or negative thoughts so that we do not get hurt or hurt others. Thirdly, we may want to direct the mind to perform super natural tasks. There are no other reasons.
Thoughts come to us and we do not think. Therefore, it appears that we cannot control thoughts at all. If we see an obscene poster, bad thoughts are bound to come in our mind. If we read a pornographic book lustful thoughts will occupy our mind. It is difficult if not impossible to control the mind AFTER it receives the inputs through the sense organs. Therefore, the only way that we can control our mind is by censoring the inputs. We must totally avoid reading, seeing, listening, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling those objects that will remind us about the thoughts that we want to avoid. We must live in an environment that facilitates nice and pleasant thoughts. This is the only way to control our thoughts.
After watching a late night movie, it is not possible to study for an exam the next morning. Thoughts about the movie will distract the attention and it will not be possible to concentrate. It is of no use telling the mind to concentrate if it is already full of thoughts about the movie. If we really want to concentrate on studying for the exam, we should totally shut ourselves in a room and study all the time without giving a chance to any of our sense organs to gather inputs that are not related to our studies.
We do not have to teach a student to concentrate when he is watching a world cup match on television. Similarly, we do not have to tell our mind to concentrate if we are interested in the subject that we are reading. If we are not interested we will not be able to concentrate.
If we are involved in an argument with our neighbor, our mind will not be peaceful. Thoughts pertaining to the duel will continue to haunt us for a long time. It is impossible to control our mind and demand that the mind should stop thinking about the fight. It is like shaking the water bottle and expecting the water to remain still. It will take a while for the mind to settle down. If we want to be peaceful we should not have argued in the first place. If we argue, there is no way we can avoid a disturbed mind. We can certainly speed up the process of recovery if we seek forgiveness. It will be difficult or impossible to forget about the fight by going to a movie. The mind will continue to be disturbed and may not allow us to watch the movie peacefully. Drinks, party and such will temporarily distract our attention away from our anger but it will return soon. Time is a natural healer. It is not possible for us to keep thinking about a particular subject for a length of time. So, through the passage of time, the mind will slowly become peaceful just as the water settles down in the water bottle after a while.
Controlling the mind for performing supernatural tasks will involve extraordinary practice of meditation. There are people who can completely stop the flow of thoughts and make the mind still for an extended period of time. This stage is called Samadhi. Those who can reach Samadhi effortlessly can further train their mind to perform miracles. In order to gain such abilities one must live in isolation away from the civilization and practice meditation for many years. In addition, guidance from an able teacher who has studied and practiced Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an absolute necessity.
Lesson 3: Mind Control - Who?
It is the nature of a mirror to reflect the object placed in front. Similarly, it is the nature of the mind to create a thought picture of an object it is exposed to. We are exposed to many different sense objects and we would like the mind to think about only a certain sub-set of sense objects (for example thoughts relating to exam) and avoid thinking about the rest. Or we would like to be peaceful without any thoughts (about the past or future) in the mind. Who can exercise such control?
Sense Objects: The world does not have the power to control our mind. But due to ignorance we assume that the sense objects can control our mind. A sports magazine or a film magazine appears to be more attractive than a text book. Books are made up of inanimate paper. How can they dictate what our mind should think? Unfortunately, they seem to have such power. As a result if we happen to see a photograph of a film star on the magazine cover our mind refuses to concentrate on the text book that we are holding in the hand. As long as we remain ignorant, our mind will be in the control of sense objects and it will not be in our control. We need to take responsibility for our thoughts.
Sense Organs: Even if we understand that the sense objects do not have the power to control our mind, we wrongly identify ourselves with our sense organs and claim ‘I want to eat burger and not curd rice’. Any food will satisfy our hunger and it is our tasting tongue that demands a particular sense object. Since our invisible sense organs are independent of our body and mind they demand what they like without any concern of our wellbeing. As we do not understand that the sense organs are independent, we yield to their pressure. It is like allowing our neighbor to dictate what we should do. As long as we do not realize that sense organs are mere tools that we own, our mind will be under their control.
Mind: Mind is helpless in controlling itself since its duty is to reflect the sense objects presented to it. Mind is the controller of our organs. However, most of us are under the control of our sense organs. Although we know that we do not have enough time to prepare for the exam, our mind allows the legs to go into a pub. Since mind does not have its own preference – just as a mirror that does not have preference on what to reflect – it goes about fulfilling the demands of our invisible sense organs.
Memory: Repeated exposure to a specific set of sense objects creates imprints in our memory. We start liking some of them and dislike some. In addition, the memory stores the wrong knowledge that sense objects are capable of giving happiness to us. Therefore, memory supports the demand of the sense organs and drives the mind towards sense pleasures in line with the imprints in our memory.
Ego: ‘I want to control my mind’. What is the meaning of the word ‘I’ in this sentence? It actually represents our Ego. Sitting in a cross legged posture and stating to oneself ‘now I will stop the flow of thoughts’ is similar to a corrupt politician getting appointed as a the chairman of the enquiry committee. Ego is a mere I thought. It can never control the mind. In the process of driving away other thoughts it will come up with a new thought ‘Now I am not thinking’ and then quietly move on to think about the very topic one wishes to forget. It will keep creating noise in the mind by shouting ‘Keep quiet. I told you not to think. Next time you think of that, I will punish you…beware’. Thus we will end up with a more disturbed mind when we attempt to control the disturbing thoughts in our mind.
Intelligence: There is a constant struggle between mind and intelligence. While the mind oscillates between likes and dislikes, the intelligence knows what is good for us. Setting the alarm clock to 5 am is the work of the intelligence. But when the clock rings, the mind quietly directs the hand to shut it down without waking up the intelligence. As a result, we end up sleeping more and miss our work. In order to increase the power of intelligence, it needs to gain more knowledge and conviction on what is right. In addition, the intelligence should also know the limitations of the sense objects in meeting our ultimate goal in life. As and when intelligence gains such knowledge, the mind will not hesitate to obey.
Who controls our mind?
As long as we are ignorant on this subject, our mind is controlled by our environment. If everything goes according to our expectations we feel happy. Else we suffer. We are not in control of our mind. The environment controls our mind through our sense organs. Although intelligence knows what is right, mind starts overpowering it and directs it to find out ways and means to justify its actions. For example, the intelligence knows it is wrong to accept bribe. But it will start listing down reasons to prove that bribe is part of the system and it cannot be avoided. Thus, intelligence merely supports the actions of mind. This is the situation in which most people are living.
The current control structure is: Sense Objects -> Sense Organs -> Mind supported by
We need to make our intelligence the master. Intelligence should have complete control over the mind and the mind in turn should have complete control over the sense organs. This is the right way of living to get liberation from the control of the environment. We can decide how we want to perceive every situation that we encounter and thereby create the thought-world according to our wish.
It is not possible to correct the environment. However much we try we will surely fail. People normally work all through their productive age trying to correct the environment so that they can live happily. Since Sense Objects determine the status of the mind, people are trying to correct the world. When they repeatedly fail they may realize their mistake and then explore the possibilities of correcting the mind.
The correct control structure is: Intelligence -> Mind -> Sense Organs feeding on the Sense Objects.
We need to empower the intelligence with the right knowledge so that it can start controlling the mind.
Lesson 4: Mind Control - How?
Intelligence should control the mind which in turn should control the sense organs. But currently, Sense Organs are controlling the mind. People identify themselves with the sense organs and demand, “I want this sense pleasure”. What we really want is to be happy. But we wrongly equate happiness with sense pleasures.
Sense pleasure refers to the pleasant feeling one gets while indulging in a sense object. If one likes to drink coffee, he gets a nice feeling while drinking it. This nice feeling is nothing but a thought which has transformed into feeling due to repeated exposure to coffee. The tasting tongue merely reports the taste. The taste of the coffee is stored in the memory as a thought. As one drinks coffee more frequently this taste gets reinforced and the tasting tongue gets used to that particular taste. Just as our dog gets used to a particular type of food and demands the same, our invisible tasting tongue demands coffee at coffee time. If coffee is not provided the thought ‘I need coffee’ haunts the mind. This thought will transform into anger if coffee is delayed. If good coffee is given at the right time, then the coffee-taste-thought becomes a pleasant feeling. We assume that this pleasant feeling is happiness.
Sense Pleasure comes from external sense objects. Happiness comes from within us.
Sense Pleasure is limited both by time, object and quantum. Happiness is unlimited.
Sense Pleasure belongs to the sense organs. Happiness belongs to us.
Once we gain clarity on the above then we will not attach importance to sense pleasures and run behind sense objects. This knowledge is essential for gaining control over the mind. As longs we think that our happiness lies in sense pleasures, we will continue to be slaves of our environment. Once we gain this understanding we can start using the various tools that are available to control our minds effectively.
It is not easy to gain this knowledge because our sense organs will not let us study. If our mind debates whether to read this lesson again for better understanding or watch a television serial, the sense organs will win the debate. Therefore, we keep postponing the process of gaining the knowledge.
As we gain some knowledge we need to bring in certain discipline in our routine so that we progress towards gaining the ultimate knowledge on this subject.
Thoughts become words and words become action. It is difficult to control the thoughts without adequate knowledge. But we can certainly have complete control over our actions. If we allocate and follow a strict schedule for studying the lessons on Mind, then progressively this action will become a habit and the sense organs will lose the power to protest. As we start enjoying the lessons, sense organs will start liking the experience of studying. Then we gain the required knowledge.
To support our effort to control our actions, we should control our words too. We should talk about the chosen subject and avoid talking about say films and sports. It is easy to hold an ice cube. Holding water is a little more difficult task. Holding steam is even more difficult. Similarly, one should first try and control actions. Then control speech and finally attempt to control the mind. The famous three wise monkey dolls of Gandhi contain the essence of mind control.
Lesson 5: Mind Control – Tools
Mind control essentially means releasing the mind from the grip of the sense organs and making it function strictly under the guidance of our intelligence. In order to achieve this objective we have many tools.
Abstinence: Imposing self-restriction to exposure to specific sense organs is a good way to begin mind control. Not eating our favorite food, denial of mattress or footwear and not visiting entertainment houses like pubs, theaters etc for a specific period are example of this tool.
Obedience: Compelling ourselves to do actions which are good such as waking up early in the morning, exercising, doing social service and such will act as a positive tool in making our mind obedient to our intelligence. Maintaining punctuality, preparation of a to-do-list for the day, being systematic, adherence to a fixed time-table, organizing, planning and cleanliness will lead to effective mind control.
Yogasanas: By controlling our physical body the mind can be controlled indirectly. Mind is normally busy with activities that relate to earning money or running behind the sense objects. This tendency of the mind is curtailed by Yogasanas. Yogasana involves bending the body in different postures and staying in that posture for a specific period of time. Although initially thoughts will continue to oscillate, as we practice yogasana it will slowly learn to be still.
Pranayayama: Inside our physical body, we have a physiological body comprising of pranas. Pranas are responsible for breathing, digesting and such vital functions. By controlling the breathing it is possible to control the mind more effectively. If we do breathing exercises, the mind will get trained to stay in the present and not wander in the future or past.
Meditation: Using the mind to control the mind is the direct way of controlling the mind. Meditation involves repetition of a particular mantra. Normally we have no control on what thoughts will occur in our mind next. When we attempt repetition of a mantra we will know not only the next thought but also the tenth or hundredth thought. Repetition of the mantra can be done aloud in the initial stages and then softly. In the third stage the mantra can be repeated within our mind.
Knowledge: This is the most important and most fundamental tool. Firstly it is essential to know correcting the mind is more important than correcting the world. Secondly, we should learn that there is no happiness in the sense objects. This knowledge comes mostly by experience unless the student is shrewd enough to learn it from a teacher. As long as we think that we are getting happiness from the world we will not be able to control our mind. Few attempt meditation and such tools for the purpose of improving their performance in the external world. This will have opposite effect and lead to a more disturbed mind. Another mistake committed by people in general is to think ‘if happiness is not in the external world, it should be within’ and try hard to find it through meditation and such tools. Unless we gain self-knowledge, we will not know the source of happiness. When we gain this third and final level of knowledge, we will achieve the purpose of mind control.
Except for the first two tools, the rest of the mind control tools require the guidance of expert teachers.
Lesson 6: Mind Control - Summary
Oscillating between the alternatives and exploring the various possibilities are very essential functions of our mind. This essentially involves thinking about the past and future. If we do this consciously it is fine. But the problem is, this happens unconsciously. Therefore, thinking about the past is termed as ‘worry’ and thinking about the future is termed as ‘anxiety’. People normally resort to Mind Control techniques for avoiding worries and anxieties. We need to get the basic understanding that we do need the indecisive thoughts of our mind to support the decisive thoughts of our intelligence. Without considering the various alternatives we can’t take the right decision. In addition, we should also know that there is no such thing as ‘right decision’ since we can never be sure of the future.
When we enjoy the sense pleasures of the world, we plant the seed for suffering. It is like a cutting tool which holds the nut in one arm and cracks it with the other arm. Similarly, enjoying binds us to the sense objects and we get hit when the situation changes for worse. Just as fish gets hooked we get hooked to sense objects leading to suffering. It is no use trying to control the mind when the suffering starts. By getting hooked, we have already consented to oscillation of the mind and therefore it cannot be controlled.
This does not mean that we should renounce the world and withdraw into a forest. Mind will be totally under our control if it is not exposed to sense pleasures for an extended period of time. We can easily reach the state of Samadhi, if we get used to living alone for ten or twenty years. Keeping the mind peaceful through such means defeat the purpose. We are endowed with this wonderful instrument called mind and we need to make the best use of it by enjoying the pleasures of the world and not by withdrawing away from it.
Therefore, the key is to gain the knowledge on how to use our mind to enjoy the sense pleasures without risking the possibility of suffering. Mere mind control, without this knowledge, will not help us achieve this goal.