Manas: The Mind

Exclusive to Vedic Management Centre by U. Mahesh Prabhu

Let’s start this topic with an ancient Vedic tale:

Long ago there happened to be a greedy person always in pursuit of ways to make lot of money and quick. He persuaded a rishi to give him a mantra which could make him materially rich. Rishi tried his best to dissuade him; but the person was persistent. Eventually, the rishi reluctantly agreed. He said “I will give you a mantra to chant, and a rakshas (goblin) will come to help you. However, you must be extremely careful, because the rakshas is restless and needs to be constantly put to task. Be warned: If you do not have work for him to do, he will kill you that very instant. Now, do you still want the mantra?”

The man, who was already fantasizing about his riches, laughed and said, “I will give him enough and more work to do! I will keep him busy day and night.”

The rishi gave him the mantra along with set guidelines. The person did as he was instructed. As foretold, the rakshas appeared. “He, why did you call me?” said his ill-tempered new assistant. Remembering the rishi’s warning, the man immediately instructed the rakshas to construct a ten-storey building. He thought this project would keep the rakshas busy for at least two years. However, the task was completed almost immediately. Quickly he told the rakshas to build all the furniture and decorate the rooms. Within no time, the rakshas returned asking for more work. Whatever the man told him to do was completed in a moment’s time. Whenever the rakshas returned it said, “Give me work, or I will kill you!”

The person began to feel nervous. “Oh, rakshas,” he said, rather timidly. “Kindly wait here for just a few minutes and I will be right back.” Then he took off running as fast as he could to the rishi’s house. When he arrived, the rishi was sitting outside on his veranda. Out of breath, the man fell to his knees and said in a pleading voice “Revered sire, you must help me. Because of my foolishness, I am in big trouble. I wanted quick success and I got it. But now I am stuck with this dreaded rakshas who will not hesitate to kill me if I do not keep it busy. Sire, I have run out of things for this rakshas to do. Please help me. I am desperate.”

The rishi patted his head and calmly told him, “My child, do not despair. Tell the rakshas to dig a well to draw water. When he is finished, have him attach seven iron rungs on each side, like a ladder that one can use to go up and down. Instruct the rakshas to go down the seven rungs and then come up continuously until you tell him to stop.”

Hence the man hurriedly made his way back to the goblin, who by now had grown quite impatient. He immediately repeated what the rishi told him to say. The rakshas followed the orders it was given, and from that time on it never troubled the man again.

The rakshas in the story is none other than the mind. The mind needs some activities; it needs to be kept constantly busy. If you do not keep the mind engaged, like the rakshas in the story, it will make your life miserable. It is not healthy to allow the mind to do whatever it wants. Therefore, keep the mind busy with something constructive and it will not have time to cause you any trouble.

No matter what you want to achieve; there’ll be detractors and supporters. Detractors who will try to demotivate you and supporters who will try to motivate you. However, neither that demotivation or motivation would work unless your mind approves of it. Mind is the supreme judge, jury as well as executioner of all decisions, perceptions as well as paths all your life. Mind is, therefore, the supreme reason for you to succeed or fail. That’s why Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita says “Mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy.” But how do we make our mind our best friend? How do we ensure that our mind, against all external influences, continues to inspire us on the path of success and never gets demotivated?

As per Ayurveda – which has its essence and inspiration from Vedic knowledge and wisdom –  says “Healthy mind leads to healthy body”. Amirtabindu Upanishad suggests “Mind is the cause for both; problems as well as solution.” Mind is the tool which enables us to understand and undertake that which is unknown. Unknown can be known exclusively through the known. Since mind is the instrument of knowing – we need to know our mind first!

Western philosophies suggest that “I think therefore I am”. It suggests we are thought. But, then, thoughts emanate in and from mind. External influences are just reason. Mind is not static. Like our body, it’s ever subjected to change in diverse ways. If our mind is happy today; tomorrow it couldn’t be acting contrarily. Mind is, then, also, a chain of emotions of variety.

As per Ayurveda – which has its essence and inspiration from Vedic knowledge and wisdom –  says “Healthy mind leads to healthy body”. Amirtabindu Upanishad suggests “Mind is the cause for both; problems as well as solution.” Mind is the tool which enables us to understand and undertake that which is unknown. Unknown can be known exclusively through the known. Since mind is the instrument which enables us to know – we need to know our mind first!

When the mind is unknown to us – i.e. mind acts without any specific reason or rationale – it’s to be understood as one that is untamed. To Vedic Seers, insanity was a condition where there’s no control of the self over mind – i.e. losing of mind. Many of the Vedic rituals were essentially designed by the Rishis for controlling the uncontrollable mind as well as to focus it on specific objective(s).

Kathopanishad places mind above the Indriyas (senses) but below buddhi (intellect): “Know that the self (atman) is like the lord of the chariot. Know that intellect is the charioteer and the mind the reigns. The senses they say are the horses are to be controlled by the buddhi (the charioteer) through the reigns (mind).” The mind is often lured by sensory organs towards sensual pleasures (Indriya Rama) or they may lead to the path of joyous experience (Atma Rama) of the bliss.

Kathopanishad places mind above the Indriyas (senses) but below buddhi (intellect): “Know that the self (atman) is like the lord of the chariot. Know that intellect is the charioteer and the mind the reigns. The senses they say are the horses are to be controlled by the buddhi (the charioteer) through the reigns (mind).” The mind is often lured by sensory organs towards sensual pleasures (Indriya Rama) or they may lead to the path of joyous experience (Atma Rama) of the bliss.

For anything you desire to achieve worthwhile it’s important that your put your mind in line. This is done by understanding and overpowering the six natural enemies – Arishadvargas. Ari mean negative, Shad means Six and vargas means qualities. These are Kama (Lust), Krodha (Anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (Infatuation), Mada (Ego) and Matsarya (Jealousy). Unless these six quintessential elements are won to a certain level – mind can seldom be at peace. And when the mind isn’t at peace; there can seldom be peace in life either! For Healthy mind ensures healthy body and body when unhealthy can seldom achieve anything worthwhile. Or can it?

It is important to know that while western philosophers have often looked outside the mind and body for joy and happiness – Vedic seers saw deep within also to answer trivial questions facing mankind. For Vedic Seers instrument of knowing became the object of investigative research. So, their understanding of the mind is by far unbeatable; you only need to read the Vedic texts to admire it more.

Focus of Vedic seers was to find that knowledge which when known everything becomes known – Para Vidya – the highest knowledge; to achieve salvation “here and now” in this life and not the post-mortem heaven.

Meditation or Dhyana when reached China became ‘Chen’ and on reaching Japan became ‘zen’. “Among thousands of men scarcely one strives for perfection, and those who strive and succeed scarcely one knows me in truth.” says Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna advocates the attainment of the state of steadiness of mind (Stithaprajna), mental evenness (Samatvam) and mental peace (Shanti).

Important to recollect in this regard is Bhrigu’s doctrine of five Koshas or sheaths present in human body, namely:

  1. Annamaya (food sheath)
  2. Manomaya (mind sheath)
  3. Vignanamya (intellect sheath)
  4. Pranamaya (energy sheath)
  5. Anandamaya (bliss sheath)

Kathopanishad says “The senses are the horses that grasps whatever they can; hence they are yoked to reigns of the mind (for sense control) through Yoga.”

Yoga is not for weaklings. “The mind is restless, turbulent strong unyielding. I regard it as hard to control as that of air.” complains Arjuna to Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita. Objective of Yoga is “To control the fluctuations of mind and intellect.” What Yoga desired to achieve through control and actions; Kapila achieved that through knowledge. Yoga brings harmony of body, mind and spirit. Yoga is the way of life aimed at Self-realization through peace of mind.

Meditation or Dhyana when reached China became ‘Chen’ and on reaching Japan became ‘Zen’. “Among thousands of men scarcely one strives for perfection, and those who strive and succeed scarcely one knows himself in truth.” says Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna advocates the attainment of the state of steadiness of mind (Stithaprajna), mental evenness (Samatvam) and mental peace (Shanti).

Troubles of mind are from within – not outside. Adi Shankaracharya suggested that there are no devils other than those in the mind of men. So mind your very own mind before anything else.

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