Krishna's Discourse About The Stable Mind
Continued from Part LII
Stable and serene mind is the mental state of being free from any disorders like delusion, agitation, excitement, or disturbance or conversely it could be referred to as person having achieved the state of equilibrium, tranquillity, and peace. Although in the normal circumstances and relaxed mood, many people would appear calm and serene but the real test is how they respond during active phase and more so in the odd and trying situations. On the face of many emotional stresses on account of external and internal stimuli, distractions and unforeseen developments, one usually needs a lot of patience, practice and trained mind to stay calm and serene. The negative attribute and emotions pose the multiple challenges but disciplines like prayer, yoga, meditation, breathing and relaxation exercises help a lot to stay calm and achieve stable mind, and such practices have a long history of several thousand years in Indian civilization.
While the importance and impact of prayer finds mention in several scriptures, the disciplines of Yoga and meditation are best explained in Sage Patanjali’s Yogasutra, which is over two millennia old treaty. It is beyond doubt or debate that those with stable mind (sthita prajna) are enlightened people in this world. In the Dharmashetra Kurushetra, after hearing from Shree Krishna about the person with equipoised mind who is steady and undistracted situated in trance (samadhistha) in meditation on God, Prince Arjuna asked the most obvious and natural question (BG: Chaptet2, Verse 54) about the nature of the mind of such person as also how this pious state of mind impacts the person’s overall conduct and behaviour. Consequently, Shree Krishna assiduously went on to explain the highest level of Perfection in a human being with the entire discourse encapsulated in eighteen verses (54-72) of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2.
Consequent to Arjuna’s inquisitive queries, Shree Krishna gave the definition of a God-realized person in the verse 55 and in the following four verses, He expounded on the same definition with greater descriptive clarity. Then in verse 60, He talked about how the turbulent senses attack the mind and lead it astray. In verses 61-66 he explained the importance of the mind in achieving perfection. In the very following verse, Krishna explained how the mind losing control of senses is ruined, then in verse 68 the imperative need to control the senses is underlined. In a nutshell, the key to a stable mind lies in the control and regulation of the senses in the ever-going trickery game of the senses enticing the mind to spoil the intellect. In the last four verses (69-72), the conclusion is drawn about the person with a stable mind.
Disposition of A Stable Mind
The discourse on the God-realized person with a stable mind began with Prince Arjuna posing the following questions to Shree Krishna:
Sthita-prajnasya ka bhasha samadhi-sthasya keshava,
Sthita-dhih kim prabhasheta kim asita vrajeta kim.
(Arjuna said, O Keshava, what is the definition of one established in wisdom i.e. sthiti-prajna, absorbed in meditation i.e. samadhi? How does one rooted in wisdom speak, sit, walk?) (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 54)
In response to Arjuna’s queries, Shree Krishna responded in the next four verses as under:
O Parth, when one discards all selfish desires and cravings of the senses that torment the mind, and becomes satisfied in the realization of the self, such a person is said to be stable in mind or Self-realized. One whose mind remains unperturbed amidst sorrow, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from passion or attachment, fear, and anger, is said to be stable of mind. One who remains unattached under all conditions, and is neither delighted by good fortune nor dejected by tribulation, his mind is stable with perfect knowledge. One who is able to withdraw the senses from the sensory-objects, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell, his mind is said to be steady. (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 55-58)
The aforesaid is indeed easier said than done because in a world driven by Maya and its material objects, it is not easy to discard or curtail all desires and cravings; also, it is not so easy to remain unperturbed in sorrow or elated in joy. Most people in the world remain attached with their worldly possessions and distractions till the end, although this attachment also becomes the cause of insecurity, fear and anger among them. While it is easier for the sages and ascetics to manage their sensory organs but for the ordinary person and householders, notwithstanding it’s merit, the task of sensory control poses a tough challenge.
In Hindu scriptures, the material world has been described as mrigtrishna (mirage of the deer) at many places. In hot desert, the reflection caused by the sun rays often creates an impression of the water for the deer, and for that matter other creatures as well. The illusion thus caused compels the deer to think that the water is just ahead of it where it can quench thirst. But practically what happens is that more the deer runs towards the water, more the mirage fades away. With its dull intellect, the deer can’t understand that it is actually experiencing an illusion. In the height of its cravings for water, it continues its run for the illusory water and ultimately dies of fatigue in the desert sand. In the same manner, the Maya creates illusion of happiness in the material world and people driven by sensory organs keep on chasing illusory happiness and end up without reaching the goal of life.
This aspect has been beautifully explained in the Garuda Purana also as under:
Chakradharo ’pi suratvam suratvalabhe sakalasurapatitvam,
Bhavtirum surapatirurdhvagatitvam tathapi nanivartate trishna.
(A king wishes to be the emperor of the whole world; the emperor aspires to be a celestial god; a celestial god seeks to be Indra, the king of heaven; and Indra desires to be Brahma, the secondary creator. Yet the thirst for material enjoyment does not get satiated.) (Garuda Purana: 2.12.14)
One could also find the contrast and other extreme depicting the truth in the following verse of Katha Upanishad:
Yada sarve pramuchyante kama ye ’sya hridi shritah,
Atha martyo ’mrito bhavatyatra brahma samashnute.
(When one eliminates all selfish desires from the heart, then the materially fettered soul attains freedom from birth and death, and becomes Godlike in virtue.) (Katha Upanishad: 2.3.14)
What is documented in many scriptures, a fifteenth century saint and mystic poet Kabirdas had captured so well in his poem “Maya Maha Thugni Hum Jaani”; a brief translation and essence of the same summarized below:
“Her Hands hold and sway a lattice-like trap, while she speaks in a sweet voice: For Keshava (Krishna, God), she represents an embodiment of abundance, and for Shiva the empress of the world; she is seated as the priest’s idol and in the places of pilgrimage manifests as the holy water; she is the yogini in yogi’s abode and the queen in the king’s palace; for some people, she is the priceless diamond and for others she is just a petty penny; devotees find her seated in the object of devotion, and for Brahma she is consort. Kabirdas says that all this is a long and untold story of Maya, who is the greatest illusory power.”
While Shree Krishna maintained that the one who learns to detach his mind away from the material allurements and thereby renounces the desires of the senses, such a person experiences the inner bliss of the soul and becomes transcendentally situated, the Katha Upanishad, one of the principal Upanishads, goes to the extent of declaring that one who has renounced desires becomes like God, very akin to the Vedanta concept that a liberated soul merges with the Supreme Soul. Also the definition given in the BG, Verse 55 of the self-realized soul is so well explained in the Brihadarankya Upanishad in just three words “Aptakama, Atmakama, Akama”. Aptakama is all desires fulfilled; Atmakama is when one desires for the Atman (soul); and Akama is the state of desirelessness. This implies that when a person has earnest desire for the soul, this craving for the soul neutralises all material cravings leading to a state of desirelessness, which is the realization of Self.
One whose mind remains unshaken with sorrow and tragic events, whose mind does not crave for worldly pleasure, and one who is free from all attachment, fear and anger, is said to be equipoised with a stable mind. Such a person does not foster the material frailties of greed, envy, lust and anger, etc., and also does not brood over the miseries or vagaries of life. It is so common in the material world that people are drawn towards the past troubles and pains even more than what they experience in the present but the person with steady mind is free from the impressions and impacts of the present and past temporal sufferings. On the other hand, an ordinary person craves for the worldly pleasures, in the process he is swayed with the influence of the objects of enjoyment, which ultimately diverts his attention from the divine path. A person with stable intellect and mind does not succumb to mundane urges and thus adheres to the transcendental level.
Wise people often tend to compare the desires with an itch in the body. The itch creates an irresistible urge to scratch the body part causing physical and mental irritation and discomfort; scratching the body part appears to give a temporary relief and satisfaction but then the process is repeated time and again without curing the part, and in fact, next time itch recurs with even greater intensity. On the contrary, if the person it able to bear with the itch for some time without scratching the spot, slowly but surely the itch starts losing its bite and nuisance value, and after some time it suo moto subsides. Exactly, the same principle applies with the human desires as well, because driven by the sensory organs, senses try to dominate mind and intellect in craving for umpteen desires for material pleasure and happiness. This is a never ending game and as long as the person is engaged in the vicious game of succumbing to desires, the true happiness remains elusive; but when someone discards material desires and seeks happiness in pursuing spiritual path, senses make peace with the Self and mind becomes stable.
Senses vis-à-vis Mind and Intellect in Achieving Perfection
In the following verse, Shree Krishna highlights the compelling force of the human senses as to how by their sheer turbulent nature, they are capable of dominating the minds of even those people who are wise and quite capable of exercising restraints and control over self.
Yatato hyapi kaunteya purushasya vipashchitah,
Indriyani pramathini haranti prasabham manah.
(The senses are so strong and turbulent, O son of Kunti, that they can forcibly carry away the mind even of a person endowed with discrimination and practicing self-control.) (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 60)
In Hindu texts, there is a famous legend about the sage Visvamitra, who despite of his hard-earned spiritual prowess and penance had fallen for the Indra’s court damsel Menaka. According to a legend, Visvamitra was in deep meditation when the beautiful Menaka came down from the devas’ abode and started seducing him with her dance and song. Sage Visvamitra could not resist her temptation for long and succumbed to the desire of association with her. Same way everyone is in a constant struggle with the material world (Maya); those who succumbed to the attractions and infatuations, first their intellect is vanquished and then the mind is lost. As the senses are impetuous and reckless, the first challenge before every devotee is how to discipline and control them; those who are able to do it with sustained efforts and patience, they win this battle and achieve a stable mind.
Shree Krishna then goes on to explain to explain the importance of mind in verses 61-66 in achieving perfection inter alia narrating the role and importance of the intellect and thinking process:
They are established in perfect knowledge, who subdue their senses and keep their minds ever absorbed in me. While contemplating on the objects of the senses, one develops attachment to them. Attachment leads to desire, and from desire arises anger. Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of the memory. When the memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined. But one who controls the mind, and is free from attachment and aversion, even while using the objects of the senses, attains the Grace of God. By divine grace comes the peace in which all sorrows end, and the intellect of such a person of tranquil mind soon becomes firmly established in God. But an undisciplined person, who has not controlled the mind and senses, can neither have a resolute intellect nor steady contemplation on God. For one who never unites the mind with God there is no peace; and how can one who lacks peace be happy? (BG: Chapter 2, Verses 61-66)
To explain the objects of senses, living beings’ attachment to them and consequent sad nemesis, Adi Shankara described five creatures in his text Vivekacudamani that get killed by their weakness for the sensory objects as follows:
1) The moth is attracted by the sight of the intense light of flame, it goes round it and gets roasted to death.
2) The fish has a weakness for the taste (bait) in sight, it bites and gets destroyed.
3) The honeybee is attracted by smell of flower, it enters and the flower petals close thus the bee is trapped and killed.
4) The deer is lured by sound such as the beating of the drums, it approaches and gets shot down.
5) The wild elephant gets restless during the mating season, and is trapped in the laid pit.
Aforesaid is the nemesis of the lower creatures when they have a desire or weakness for just one sensory object. On the other hand, the human beings desire for all the five i.e. sight, taste, smell, sound and lust; hence their chances of survival become even more challanging. The only positive point in favour of humans is that they are gifted with intellect whereby they can discipline and control senses if they so resolve.
The dilemma of steady mind and desire driven nemesis is so well explained in the legendary tale of Sage Saubhari in the Bhagavat Purana. Saubhari had attained so much control over his body that he used to meditate while submerged under water in the holy river Yamuna. One day, while accidentally watching two fishes mating, he developed an irresistible desire for sexual association. During his time, King Mandhata was the ruler of Ayodhya, who had fifty beautiful daughters. The sage approached him asking the hand of one daughter; the king doubted his sanity in mind but fearing a curse in case of a denial, he proposed that he would bring all the daughters and whoever would choose the aging ascetic, shall be endowed for marriage. King did this under impression that his daughters would refuse to accept old sage as their husband. But the sage used his yogic powers to turn self into a handsome young man and all the fifty princesses chose him to be their husband.
The king was bound by his commitment, so all the fifty sisters were got to be married with Saubhari. Now again using his yogic powers, the sage assumed fifty forms and married all the princesses. Thus, fifty palaces were created, one for each sister, and the sage lived a happy life with them in his different forms for hundreds of years. They had children, the children grew, married and had their own children with the passage of time, and a small city was created with their populace. Then one day, the sage realized as to what was his spiritual accomplishment at one time and how he had disintegrated in pursuance of the desire ridden worldly pleasure; so he exclaimed, “O humans! Those of you, who make plans to attain happiness through material acquisitions, be careful. Look at my degradation—where I was and where am I now. I created fifty bodies by my yogic powers, and lived with fifty women for thousands of years. And yet, the senses did not experience fulfilment; they only kept hankering for more. Learn from my downfall and be warned not to venture in this direction.” (Bhagavatam 9.6.50)
In fact, Hindu Vedic scriptures consider anger, greed, lust, etc. as manas rog i.e. diseases of the mind. We all know that even one disease of the body makes life miserable; so, when multiple ailments torment the mind, they have potential to destroy the body, mind and intellect as well. The problem is that human beings do not recognize anger, greed, lust, etc. as the mental diseases, and, therefore, they do not make efforts also to cure it. The modern Psychology based on Western thoughts has attempted to analyse them as negative attributes and proposed some solutions but that leaves much to be desired to effectively tackle them. When a person desires for mundane accomplishments, it essentially leads to greed and anger; greed for more, if the desire is partly or fully met and anger if one observes obstructions in fulfilment of the desire. All this triggers a chain reaction because greed or anger often clouds judgment that leads to the bewilderment of the memory. When memory is bewildered, intellect gets destroyed making the person’s mind unstable and ruined.
This is the reason why our Vedic scriptures and Shree Krishna put emphasis on the control of the mind to get rid of all attachment and aversion. An undisciplined person without control on senses and mind can neither have a resolute intellect nor steady contemplation, therefore, he cannot attain real peace and happiness. Actually, the attachment and aversion are two sides of the same coin, for the aversion is nothing but a negative attachment. Both keep agitating the mind, the attachment by continuously hankering and brooding to possess the object and the aversion by hateful feelings with the rejection of the object. Shree Krishna says that just as a strong wind sweeps a boat off its chartered course on the water, even one of the senses going haywire on which the mind focuses can lead the intellect astray.
The aforesaid could be best elucidated by relating popular bee’s story from Sanskrit literature. A bee was attracted towards a lotus flower and started drinking nectar while sitting among its beautiful petals. Towards the sunset, the petals started closing but the bee was so attached enjoying nectar that it didn’t fly off. The lotus flower closed, bee was trapped but it thought there was no harm, next day when petals would open, she will anyway fly away. In the meantime, an elephant came, broke the lotus and swallowed it. The bee still blissfully remained in illusion that the beloved lotus was moving along with it and soon she died under the gush of digestive juices in the elephant’s stomach. In the same manner, many human beings constantly engage in the sensual gratification and the old age engulf them taking close to death. The truth is that only a self-realized person enjoys the real peace and harmony with the divine grace.
Stable Mind for Ultimate Peace and Bliss
While cautioning Arjuna of the dangers of being captive to senses and consequent maladies, Shree Krishna firmly advises him to restrain senses from the such objects to save the mind going astray:
Tasmad yasya maha-baho nigrihitani sarvashah,
Indriyanindriyarthebhyas tasya prajna pratishthita.
(Therefore, one who has restrained the senses from their objects, O mighty armed Arjun, is firmly established in transcendental knowledge.) (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 68)
In the next four verses, Shree Krishna summarises the true meaning and purpose of a stable mind. The first verse starts with an interesting analogy of the day and night, in the last one he talks about liberation of the self-realized soul from the cycle of life and death to attain the supreme abode of God.
What all beings consider as day is the night of ignorance for the wise, and what all creatures see as night is the day for the introspective sage. Just as the ocean remains undisturbed by the incessant flow of waters from rivers merging into it, likewise the sage who is unmoved despite the flow of desirable objects all around him attains peace, and not the person who strives to satisfy desires. That person, who gives up all material desires and lives free from a sense of greed, proprietorship, and egoism, attains perfect peace. O Parth, such is the state of an enlightened soul that having attained it, one is never again deluded. Being established in this consciousness even at the hour of death, one is liberated from the cycle of life and death and reaches the Supreme Abode of God. (BG: Chapter 2, Verse 69-72)
Here Shree Krishna’s words carry a deep meaning and wisdom when he cites day as the night of ignorance and night as the day for introspection by the wise people. There are people in this world who consider the material enjoyment as the real purpose of the life. For them, the worldly pleasure is the success, or the “day”, and indigence from the sensual pleasures as the failure, or the “night” in the life. On the contrary, the wise people with divine knowledge and vision see sensual pleasures as waste and harmful for the soul, and hence they view it as the “night”, while the act of refraining from sense objects as soul elevating or the “day” for them. Thus, what is the day for men with stable mind is actually night for people with mundane life, and vice versa.
In essence, people who nurture the material desires actually fall in the trap of the greed and anger, and, therefore, the inner peace comes through eliminating the desires rather than fulfilling them. Greed is an endless attribute that could be best illustrated through the life of rich people, or even countries. They have more than enough material prosperity yet most of them remain unsatisfied, unhappy and perturbed because of their insatiable greed and hankering for more. These possessions also lead to an inflated ego and misplaced sense of ownership which is the main cause of the conflicts and quarrels among people and even nationalities. The Communist China is a classic example of greed, ego and ownership in the world today, a country that wants everything and all resources viz, land, sea and natural resources for its exclusive use at the expense of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region of the world. Consequently, it has conflicts with almost every neighbour endangering the peace of world.
This trait or tendency could be illustrated through yet another individual example. A young woman walks in a shopping mall with an intent to buy an outfit for her. She has fairly good idea of the kind of outfit she wants as also the budget she can afford for it. As she checks in the designated shop, the salesman offers to assist her and she explains her requirement. However, the salesman takes out over a dozen outfits including the one type she had actually demanded. In the beginning, her mind is alert and she tells the salesman that this is not all that she is actually looking for. The salesman nods but tells her ‘okay’ but there is no harm in having a look at the variety available. Now she faces a dilemma, she shortlists about half-a-dozen fancy dresses that the salesman keeps aside for her final take. At the end, the woman only buys the one for which she had visited this shop keeping in view her budget constraints and leaves the shop. While going back, she carries one accomplished desire and about half-a-dozen unfulfilled desires that would keep hankering her with potential of making her mind unstable for some time. This is what really happens in mundane life with most people driven by desires.
Shree Krishna says that people, who gives up all material desires and are free from the anger, greed, ownership and egoism, attain perfect peace. In Hindu scriptures, the term Brahman has been used for God; the verse (BG:2,72) refers to Brahmi sthiti which means the state of God-realization. The person who has given up all desires, and one who is free from attachment, egoism and thirst for material pleasures, attains the real peace with a steady mind. Such wise person can be said to be a God-realized soul; and having reached this state, he is never deluded and firmly established in this position at the last moment, he attains liberation.
In the beginning, Prince Arjuna wanted to know the definition of a god-realized soul - a person with stable mind and established in Samadhi (perfect tranquillity), including how such a person conducts himself in the material and spiritual life. Shree Krishna gave the definition of such a person in the following verse as the one who has completely cast off all the desires and cravings of mind to become a God-realized soul and further explained his merits in further discourse. Clearly, as long as a person is slave of his desires, he cannot progress spiritually. In order to evolve to that stage, one needs to have knowledge, the knowledge of true nature of Self that comes from detachment of senses from worldly pleasure and progression on the spiritual path. This self-realization reveals the true relationship of the soul with God whereby all desires and material cravings automatically drop, and the person still experiences the sense of fulfilment.
Continued to Part LIV