06. Control Of The Mind
27. How To Attain One-Pointedness Of Mind?
But how to attain it? What should be done for it? The Lord says, one should fix the mind in the Self and think of nothing else. ‘न किञ्चिदपि चिन्तयेत् ।’ But how to do this? To still the mind is extremely important. Concentration will always elude us if we do not forcefully stop the revolving wheels of thought. The ‘outer wheel’ may perhaps be stopped somehow—we may put a stop to worldly activities—but the ‘inner wheel’ continues to revolve. As we go on employing different means for the concentration of mind, the ‘inner wheel’ revolves all the faster. You may sit in this or that posture and fix your gaze; by itself it will not achieve concentration of the mind. The important thing is that one must be able to stop the ‘inner wheel’.
The mind is crowded with the thoughts of limitless samsara—affairs and happenings in the outside world. Concentration of the mind is impossible until all those thoughts are put out. We dissipate the Self’s boundless potential power of knowing in brooding over worldly trifles. This must not happen. A man who has become rich, not by robbing others but through his own hard work, will never squander his money. We too should not waste the Self’s power in gross and petty matters. This power can lead us to enlightenment. It is our priceless treasure. But look, how we waste this power! If we find at the dining table that there is not enough salt in the vegetable, we grumble and complain about it. Is it that important? We waste our power to know on such petty matters. Children are taught within the four walls of the class-room. We are afraid that they would get distracted by the crows and the sparrows if they are taught in the open. Poor little children! Their minds can get concentrated if they do not see a crow or a sparrow. But what about us? We are grown-ups! We have lost our innocence and have become worldly-wise, and therefore cannot concentrate our minds even if we are kept within a seven-walled fortress. We go on discussing merrily, each and every trivial matter in the world. We go on expending our power of thought, which can lead us to the Lord, in discussing the taste of vegetables and pat ourselves on the back for this feat!
Day and night, this frightening samsara is always surging around us, within and without. Even our prayers are for some material gain. There is no longing to become one with the Lord, forgetting samsara at least for a moment. Our prayer is nothing but a show. When such is the mental state, sitting cross-legged and closing the eyes is bound to be in vain. As the mind is disposed to get distracted all the time by the things without, a man’s strength is completely sapped. He loses any kind of discipline and controlling power. We are witnessing this state of affairs at every step in our country. Truly, India is a land of spirituality. It is believed that her people live at the high altitude of spirituality. Still, how pitiable is our condition! It is painful to see us engaged in hair-splitting over trivial matters. Our minds are always immersed in such matters.
‘कथा पुराण एकतां । झोपें नाडिलें तत्त्वतां
खाटेवरी पडतां । व्यापी चिंता तळमळ
ऐसी गहन कर्मगति । काय तयासी रडतीं’
(‘While listening to the narration of epics and stories from mythology, sleep overtakes us; but when in bed, anxieties keep us awake. Such is the inscrutable way of karma—actions accumulated in the present and the earlier lives. What is the use of shedding tears over it?’)
The mind is either focused on nothing or is focused on too many things at the same time, but it is never fixed on one single object. Man is such a slave to the senses. Once a gentleman asked me, “Why is it said that the eyes should only be half-open while meditating?” I replied, “I give you a simple answer. If the eyes are fully closed, one is likely to go to sleep and if they are kept wide open, attention would be diverted and there would be no concentration. Proneness to sleep when the eyes are closed is tamas and the diversion of attention when the eyes are open is rajas. Therefore, an intermediate state has been prescribed.”
In short, there cannot be concentration of mind without change in its disposition. The disposition of mind should be pure. This cannot be attained merely by sitting in particular postures. All our worldly activities should be purified for this purpose. This requires a change in the goal of those activities. We should not engage in them for our own personal gains or for satisfying baser instincts and desires, or for any material purpose.
The whole day, we are engaged in doing some or the other worldly activity. What is the purpose of all this toil? ‘याजसाठीं केला अट्टाहास । शेवटचा दिस व्हावा ।।’ (‘All my persistent efforts were to make the last moment happy.’) All the toil in this life is to be done to have the last moment happy. Throughout life bitter poison is to be swallowed—suffering and hardships are to be borne—to have a calm, serene and holy end. The last moment of the day comes in the evening. Had the activities throughout the day been carried out with a pure heart, then the night prayer would be sweet, bringing a sense of contentment and fulfillment. If the last moment of the day is sweet, it means that the day’s work has been fruitful. Then the mind can easily get concentrated.
Purity of life is essential for concentration. Mind should never be preoccupied with worldly matters. A man’s life is not long, but even in a short span of life he can experience the eternal, divine bliss. Two men may appear to be cast in the same mould, but one of them becomes God-like while the other sinks to the level of a beast. Why does it happen? When all are the children of God—‘अवघी एकाचीच वीण’—why is there such a difference? why does one ‘nara'1 become ‘Narayan’ whereas the other becomes ‘vanara’?
There have been men in the past who have shown what great heights man can scale. Such men are there even now in our midst. This is a matter of experience. The saints have shown what a man can achieve even while remaining caged within the body. If some men can do miraculous deeds while remaining within the body, why should it not be possible for me? Why should I set bounds to my imagination? I too possess the same human body, dwelling in which others have done heroic deeds. Why should then I be in such a sad plight? There must be something wrong with me. My mind is all the time focused on things outside. It is too preoccupied in finding faults in others. But why should I judge others? ‘कासया गुणदेश पाहों आणिकांचें । मज काय त्यांचें उणें असे ।।’ (‘Why should I be concerned with the virtues and vices of others when I myself have them in abundance?’) If I remain busy in observing and criticising the faults in others, how could I have concentration of mind? Then I am bound to be caught between rajas and tamas—the mind will either wander aimlessly or it will go blank.
It is true that the Lord has given suggestions about the sitting posture, the fixing of gaze etc. for attaining one-pointedness of mind. But they could be useful only when one has realised the need of having one-pointedness of mind. Then one will seek and find for oneself the means to attain it.
28. Moderation And Regulation In Life
One more thing that aids concentration is to set bounds to one’s life. All our actions should be measured and weighed. This is an essential characteristic of mathematics and it should be there in all our actions. As we take medicine in measured doses, so should be the case with our food and sleep and, in fact, with everything. All the sense-organs should be under strict vigil. We should be ever alert lest we should eat too much or sleep too much, or have a roving eye. All our activities should thus be continuously examined with meticulous care.
I once heard of a gentleman who, within a minute of entering a room, would note what things are kept in it and where. I said to myself, “O Lord! May I never have such a faculty!” Am I somebody’s personal secretary to keep in my mind an inventory of his possessions, or am I a thief? How does it concern me where he keeps his soap or his watch? Why do I need such information? We should prevent waywardness of our eyes; and of our ears too. Some people seem to feel that it would have been wonderful to have ears like a dog’s that could be turned in any direction at will. ‘God has not provided man with this facility,’ they rue. But no, excessive curiosity must not be there. The mind of a man is a very powerful thing. It is wayward too; it gets distracted by the slightest disturbance.
Therefore, there should be regulation and moderation in life. Let us not look at bad things. Let us not read bad books. Let us not listen to anybody’s slander or even praise. Let us turn away not only from bad things, but also from the excess of even good things. Indulgence in any form should be avoided. Things like liquor, sweetmeats or fried eatables should no doubt be positively shunned, but even fruits should not be taken in excess. A fruitarian diet is certainly pure and healthy. But the fruits too should not be taken in excessive quantities. The master within should never allow the tongue to have its own way. The sense-organs should feel awe for the master within; they must ever be on guard and realise that if they misbehave, they will be punished. Moderation and regulation in life means having a disciplined and regulated life.
29. Equanimity And Evenness In Outlook
The third thing is to have equanimity and evenness in outlook. It means having an outlook infused with goodwill, a disposition to look at the positive side of men and matters. It implies faith in the goodness and order in the universe. There cannot be concentration of mind without it. The lion is the mighty king of the forest and yet he does not take four steps forward without looking behind. How can the lion, that lives by violence, attain concentration of mind? Tigers, crows and cats are always looking here and there with apprehension. Such is the state of animals that are violent. One should look at the world with a sense of equanimity. One should feel that everything in the world is good, friendly and auspicious. Just as we trust ourselves, so should we trust the whole world.
What, after all, have we to fear? Everything is good and sacred. ‘विशवं तद् भद्रं यदवन्ति देवाः’—The universe is full of goodness, as God is looking after it, protecting it. The poet Browning has said in the similar vein: ‘God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world!’
Nothing is really wrong with the world. If there is wrong with something, it is with my vision. As is my vision, so is the world. If I put on red-coloured glasses, the world is bound to appear red and aflame.
When Saint Ramdas was writing the Ramayana, he used to read it out to his disciples. It is said that Hanuman2 used to come incognito to hear the same. Once Ramdas read out, “Hanuman went to Ashokvan3. There he saw white flowers.” Hearing this, Hanuman came forward and said, “I did not see white flowers. What I saw were red flowers. Please correct what you have written.” Ramdas insisted, “No, what I have written is correct. The flowers you saw were white.” Hanuman said, “I myself was there. How could I be wrong?” Finally the dispute was taken to Lord Rama. He said, “The flowers were indeed white, but Hanuman’s eyes were red with anger; hence they appeared red to him.” The point of this charming story is that what the world appears us to be, depends on the way we look at it.
So long as we are not convinced that the world around is good, our mind will not become one-pointed. As long as we think that the world around is bad, we are bound to look around with suspicion. Poets eulogise the freedom of birds. Let them become birds for a while; they would then know the worth of that freedom. A bird is never calm. Its neck is always moving back and forth. It is always afraid of others. If you put a sparrow on the seat for meditation, will its mind attain one-pointedness? If I try to go near a sparrow, it will immediately fly away, fearing that I may hurt it. How can those who entertain the frightful idea that the whole world is out to destroy them can ever have peace of mind? So long as a man thinks that he alone has to defend himself as everybody else is an enemy, he cannot attain one-pointedness of mind. An outlook that treats everybody with equality and fairness is the best means for attaining one-pointedness of mind. When you find goodness and benevolence all around, the mind will automatically attain peace.
Take a grief-stricken man to a running stream of river. The sight of clear, pure and peacefully flowing water will assuage his sorrow. He will forget his troubles. What gives the stream such healing power? It is because of the manifestation of the benign power of God in that stream. There is a beautiful description of the streams in the Veda: ‘अतिष्ठन्तीनाम् अनिवेशनानाम्’—The stream flows without break, it has no resting place, no home of its own. It is like a sannyasi in this respect. Watching the flow of such a sacred stream concentrates the mind in a moment. Should that stream not motivate me to create a spring of love and wisdom within me?
If the flowing water, which is part of the material world, can bring such peace to my mind, imagine how much peace the mind would have if the stream of divine consciousness, devotion and wisdom begins to flow through the valley of the mind. Once a friend of mine was travelling in the Himalayas in Kashmir. He used to write to me about the holy mountains and the beautiful streams there. I wrote to him, “Those holy mountains and the streams and the winds blowing there give you immense joy. I can see and feel all that within my heart. I daily view such marvellous scenes in the inner recesses of my heart. Even if you invite me, I would not come there, leaving the great and divine Himalaya within me. The Lord has said, ‘Among the fixed and immovable things, I am the Himalaya.’4 The Himalaya is the symbol of steadfastness and should, in fact, be worshipped to imbibe that quality. What is then the point in forsaking the duty and rushing towards it, enamoured by the description of its beauty?”
So, calm the mind a bit. Look at the world with a positive and friendly eye. Then an infinite number of springs will begin to flow within your heart. Your inner firmament will be illuminated with the stars of noble ideas. If auspicious objects made of stone or clay can bring peace to the mind, would not the vision of the inner world have this effect? I had once been to Travancore (Kerala). One evening I was sitting on the beach, silently listening to the majestic roaring of the boundless sea. I was just still, full of peace, lost in myself. My friend brought fruits for me. Absorbed in another world, I felt distaste even for such a pure sattvik food. The sea was as if chanting ॐ ॐ (Om, Om) remiding me of the Gita’s exhortation, ‘Remember Me and fight on.’5 That was what the sea was doing; it was ceaselessly doing karma. Its waves were surging back and forth without a moment’s rest. That sight had made me lose appetite for anything. What was there in that sea to have such an effect? If my heart could overflow with joy at the sight of waves of salt-water, how ecstatically would I dance when the waves of wisdom and love surge in my heart? Vedic seers had this experience in their hearts.
‘…अंतःसमुद्रे हदि अंतरायुषि
….घृतस्य धारा अभिचाकशीमि….
(‘I am witnessing all around the streams of ghee6 ... in the sea, within the heart, in all the living beings ... waves of sweetness are arising in the sea ...’)
This divine language has non-plussed the commentators. What is meant by the streams of honey and ghee? But, how can there be streams of salt-water in my heart? It is bound to have waves of milk and ghee and honey surging within it.
30. A Child As Preceptor
Learn to behold the surging waves of the sea within. Look up at the clear blue sky outside and make your mind pure and unsullied like it. In fact, attaining one-pointedness of mind is a child’s play. It is the occupation of the mind in umpteen matters that is unnatural. Look into the eyes of a child intently. He looks with a constant gaze, while you blink every few seconds. A child’s mind easily becomes one-pointed. If you show the greenery outside to a child, four or five months old, he will be absorbed in observing it. Women, in fact, believe that such an intent observation of the greenery causes the children’s stools to be green. It is as if all their senses come together in their eyes when they see. Any small thing can make a deep impression on the minds of children. Educationists say that what the children learn within the first three to four years is what is firmly imprinted on their minds. You may open any number of schools or colleges or any other institutions to educate them; it is during the early years that real learning takes place. I have been associated with education and I am getting increasingly convinced that only the impressions formed in the early years prove to be indelible; subsequent formal education has little effect. That is nothing but outer polish. A soap can remove a stain; but can it wash off the black colour of skin? The impressions of the early years are likewise hard to remove.
Why are these impressions strong and indelible and the subsequent ones weak? It is because a child’s mind gets concentrated effortlessly. Such is the wonderful power of the concentration of mind. Nothing is impossible for those who have achieved it.
Today our whole life has become artificial. We have lost childlike innocence. Life has become dull and joyless. Our behaviour lacks any rhyme or reason. It is not Darwin who proved that human beings are the descendants of apes; we ourselves are daily proving that through our actions!
A child is trustful. He believes in everything that the mother tells. He never questions the truth of even the fairy tales wherein crows and sparrows speak like human beings. His mind can quickly become one-pointed because of such an attitude.
31. Abhyasa (Constant Practice), Vairagya (Non-Attachment) And Faith
In short, the yoga of meditation needs one-pointedness of mind, regulation and moderation in life and a friendly, fair and positive outlook. Two other aids have also been suggested: vairagya (non-attachment) and abhyasa (cultivation through constant practice). One is negative in nature while the other is positive. Vairagya is akin to uprooting weeds from a field. It is negative in nature. Abhyasa is akin to sowing the seeds. To sow seeds is constructive work. Abhyasa is constructive. It involves rumination over pure thoughts.
How could one imbibe vairagya? We say that a mango is sweet. But is sweetness really a quality of the mango? No. Sweetness is really an attribute of the Self, and a particular thing tastes sweet when it is infused with that sweetness. One should, therefore, learn to taste the sweetness within. Sweetness is not in things themselves; it is in the Self which is an ocean of sweetness. As this realisation sinks deep within us, vairagya will become ingrained in us. Sita gave Hanuman a pearl necklace. Hanuman cracked every pearl to see whether Lord Rama was within it. In no pearl could he find Rama. So he threw away all the pearls. Rama was there in his heart. Fools would have gladly paid millions of rupees for that necklace.
While explaining the yoga of meditation, the Lord has made one important point at the very outset—one should make a firm resolve, ‘I want to redeem myself, I shall go ahead, I shall scale great heights, I shall not remain within this human body for ever, I shall have the courage to make efforts to realise God.’
Listening to all this, Arjuna had a doubt. He said, “I am no longer in the prime of my life and am destined to die soon. What is then the use of spiritual pursuit?” The Lord replied, “Yes, you will die. But death is nothing but a long sleep. We sleep daily. Are we afraid of it? On the contrary, we are worried if we do not get sleep. Death is as necessary as the daily sleep. We resume our daily work after waking up; likewise we resume our spiritual pursuit in the next birth from the very point we had reached at the time of death. We do not lose what we have already gained. No spiritual pursuit ever goes waste.”
Jnanadeva appears to be referring to his own life when he writes in ‘Jnaneshwari’ on the concerned verses of the Gita e.g. ‘बालपणींच सर्वज्ञता । वरी तयाचे’ (‘All knowledge comes to him in childhood itself’), ‘सकल शास्त्रें स्वयंभें । निघतीं मुखें’ (‘Words of spiritual wisdom come out of his mouth of their own accord.’) Abhyasa in the previous birth pulls you onward. That is why some persons are not drawn to the objects of senses. They are not tempted by them. This is because of their sadhana in the previous birth. The Lord has given an assurance at the end, ‘शुभकारी कुणी बापा दुर्गतीस न जातसे ।’ (‘No well-doer ever meets with a sad end.’) Good done is never wasted. One should have faith in this assurance. What remains incomplete in this life will be completed in the next one. Understand the essence of this teaching and attain fulfillment in life.
There is a pun on the word 'nara' meaning man. Narayan means God and vanara means monkey.
Hanuman, the devotee of Lord Rama, who helped Rama in his fight against Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka, is believed to be one among the seven immortal men. So he could come there, even in the 17th Century.
The ashoka-grove where Sita was confined by Ravana.
Clarified butter, obtained after heating the butter.