Dhanurdhara Swami August 25th, 2002
Vasant Falls, New York
What is the Mind?
The mind is a repository of conceptions, desires, and emotions.
The function of the mind is to automatically accept and reject whatever comes into the consciousness based on its likes and dislikes.
The likes and dislikes of the mind, until purified by a spiritual process, are connected with the false ego–our desire to control or enjoy. (In fact, the mind is a direct manifestation of the false ego.)
If the mind acts indiscriminately according to its own selfish desires, the false ego will be bolstered fostering illusion and further degrading the consciousness. The mind has become the enemy.
The intelligence can control and train the mind to accept and reject based on discrimination (what is right and what is wrong).
If the mind is controlled by the intelligence to accept those things that imbue it with selflessness and to reject those things that foster selfishness, our real ego as a servant of God will be nurtured. The mind has become our friend.
The “mental platform” is when the mind is not under the full control of the fixed intelligence because either the mind’s desires are too powerful, or the intelligence is not resolute due to a lack of knowledge or realization. Either way, when the intelligence is not fixed, one painfully hovers on the “mental platform”–a distressful state ofattachment, struggle, and indecision.
The “mental platform” is especially excruciating when the irresoluteness of the intelligence is directly due to the mind because the business of the uncontrolled mind is to relentlessly and unendingly seek even the smallest increments of pleasure. Although such wavering is because of the mind, such indecisiveness is often mistaken as discrimination, a function of the intelligence.
To transcend the “mental platform” one must first identify the mind as the source of indecision, and then sincerely guide it by an intelligence fixed on principles, whether those principles come from the conscience, books of revealed knowledge, or learned guides.
One is usually much more decisive on the platform of intelligence than the platform of the mind because on the platform of intelligence there is a standard of set principles by which decisions are made, and in applying those principles, more often than not, many
viable options are acceptable–especially in devotional service. On the “mental platform,” however, only one option is acceptable: the choice that gives one the most material pleasure. And until this option is clearly discerned, even for the smallest upgrade in stimulation, the mind hesitates. When a devotee is indecisive it often indicates that he is on the “mental platform.”
Making vows is a simple psychological technique to keep one on the platform of intelligence and off the platform of the mind. For example, a strong vow to chant sixteen rounds a day will not allow the decision to chant daily become influenced by the mind,
where the attraction for chanting may not have yet matured and where the decision to chant may be irrationally rejected.
Breaking vows, even a little bit, subjects one to the “mental platform” and a potential fall from one’s principles. For example, if a recovering alcoholic who has vowed to abstain from drinking breaks his vow with the rationalization, “I will only drink a little socially,” he is at serious risk of falling into the mental plane where his acceptance and rejection of alcohol is dictated not by good sense, but by addiction–a very dangerous situation. Similarly, if a devotee in the neophyte stage breaks his solemn vow to chant sixteen rounds, they are at risk of having their number of rounds dictated not by good sense, but by the mental platform where so many rationalizations for not chanting will arise based on a lack of attraction for harinama. One should therefore be vigilant in maintaining one’s vows.
Not only will failure to control the mind lead to degradation, without controlling the mind one cannot move forward in spiritual life. Therefore, all processes of yoga focus on controlling the mind.
The mind is controlled in the process of karma by regulating the impulses of the mind and senses by prescribed duties (karma).
The mind is controlled in the process of jnana by detachment (vairagya), militant neglect of the irrational impulses of the mind and senses.
The mind is directly controlled in the process of bhakti-yoga by engaging the mind and senses in theservice of Krishna (sadhana-bhakti). Rupa Goswamihas thus defined the main principle of sadhana-bhakti as “to remember Krishna and never forget Him.”
Of all practices of sadhana-bhakti, the most potent devotional practice for purifying the mind is chanting Hare Krishna.
The Hare Krishna mantra purifies the mind in the following ways:
- By focusing on the Hare Krishna mantra, one is automatically neglecting the irrational impulses of the mind and thus, as in all methods of yoga, he gradually strengthens the mind by constant practice (bringing it under the intelligence) and detachment.
- Chanting the name of God is a form of service, and God reciprocates that service by gradually removing from one’s mind the selfish desires based on false ego that are the obstacles to one’s spiritual advancement.
- God’s names are nondifferent from God, who is all-attractive, and thus by focusing the mind on the Hare Krishna mantra, attachment for the Supreme Lord arises developing within the mind selfless or devotional desires.
A purified mind imbued with devotion will automatically (spontaneously),without the action of the intelligence, accept and reject whatever comes within the consciousness for the purpose of serving God. However, until one is sufficiently purified from material attachment, one must be extremely cautious in relaxing the control of the mind from the strict exertion of the intelligence. If the mind is not vigilantly under the control of the intelligence or insufficiently attached to Krishna, it can easily spontaneously regress to selfishness and degradation.
How one discriminates (the intelligence) what the mind accepts and rejects is based on its faith, what one accepts to be true.
Unless one’s faith is based on sastra, which reveals the Supreme Truth and includes knowledge of the living entity’s relationship with God, controlling the mind by the intelligence will not necessarily purify oneself. For example, one may strictly control his senses with the purpose of gaining greater material enjoyment in the future based on one’s faith that there is no God and that he himself is the supreme enjoyer.
Conclusion: To progress in spiritual life one must control the mind by an intelligence imbued with transcendental faith based on sastra that develops from the association of pure devotees. A faithful person who desires to conquer the mind will sincerely take to devotional service based on chanting the holy name, which is the ultimate conclusion of all sastra.