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                                         3.5 EMPIRE OF THE MIND

Man versus Mind :


Mind is the meeting point of science, religion and philosophy. It is the human mind that understands scientific phenomena of nature and coordinates with nature to work out man’s ‘conquests’ of natural phenomena. It is in Man’s mind that religion is  born, when he needs internal solace and satisfaction. It is with the same mind that man is able to abstract the concrete world before him and go into speculations of philosophy.  But with all this it is the mind itself that is man’s greatest enemy,


mana eva manuShyANAM sharIrastho mahAripuH

probably from Manu-smRRiti


because Man can never say with finality that he is in control of his mind. Hindu Vedanta therefore,  placing a great emphasis on the need to control the mind,  dwells repeatedly on efforts and strategies for controlling it, even partially. Any effort made in this direction, says the Gita,  saves one from great disaster.  


svalpam-apyasya dharmasya trAyate mahato bhayAt’

B.G. II – 40       


Intellect versus Ego :


 Mind is made up  of four constituents:


·        The first is the receiving mind, which receives all impulses and impacts from the external world. It just receives, like an antenna.

·        What sifts these pieces of information and analyses them is the buddhi, the intellect. It is the discerning function of the mind.

·        There is cittaM, the storage part of the mind,

·        The agent of all these activities is the ahamkAra part of the mind, which by its very nature possesses authority over all actions of the other parts of the mind and therefore constitutes the EGO of man.


These four parts are together called the mind, very often in the literature, without care being taken to distinguish the different functions. The physical framework through which all of them work is of course the brain. But just as the body is the physical basis for the soul which is a subtle entity ‘residing’ in it, so also the brain is only a physical basis for the mind. Mind is too subtle to be put into any physical framework.  But the mind has a power, just as Godhead has a power which is generally called Shakti. This power of the mind is mostly the power of the intellect to decide on a course of action, to fight within itself its own pulls and pushes, mostly prompted, influenced and monitored by the other part of the mind, viz., ahamkAra.   This power is Will-power. It is the power of the will of Man.


Will versus Fate :


At a crucial point in  the discourse of the Bhagavat-Gita, Arjuna wails, (cf. VI – 34): ‘Restless indeed is the mind, O Krishna; it is vehement, strong and unconquerable; I deem it as hard to control as the wind’.


CanchalamM hi manaH krishna pramAthi balavad-dRRiDhaM /

tasyAhaM nigrahaM manye vAyoriva suduShkaraM //


Arjuna has spoken for all of us. And Krishna replies: Yes, the mind is restless and difficult to restrain. But says He, it may be controlled by constant practice (= abhyAsa) and dispassion (= vairAgya). (VI – 35):


asamshayam mahAbAho mano durnigrahaM chalaM /

abhyAsena tu kaunteya vairAgyeNa ca gRRihyate //


The Will of man must be made more supreme than the mind. Everywhere in the Upanishads the ultimate appeal is to the will and not to the intellect. They would have us not only understand, but do, that is, realize God. This requires an action by one’s own will, to start making the effort. The sensations, thoughts, images and facies are all in the mind; but if the will-power is exercised properly with discrimination, all of them can be monitored and channelised. It is not as if man is a helpless creature as a leaf in the storm or a feather in the wind. Man’s will has an element of complete freedom. It is the power which enables him to act in directions opposite to his spontaneous tendencies (VasanAs). In other words, he can pilot the ship of his personality against his accumulated character and thus control his own future. In this sense Man is the architect of his own fate. Inevitably and ultimately man’s will must prove stronger than fate, because it is his own past will which created his present fate.


Restraint versus Resistance


It is not enough to just observe the mind in its normal planes of consciousness. Our will-power is capable of controlling the pulls of the sub-conscious mind also. The normal mind must be taught to restrain (through the intellect) its own vagaries, with the aim of gaining supreme mastery oiver itself and of ultimately rising above itself to the superconscious state. The villain of the piece is of course the ahamkaara part of the mind.


There is a general misconception that control of the mind, exercise of dispassion etc. are austere and forbidding.


It is not so. There is a certain joy and freedom in all these disciplines. The more we master our lower instincts the more we will find ourselves lions of happiness. There is a resistance, no doubt, by the mind. In fact, this resistance itself is nothing but will. To meet this is a challenge, indeed, thechallenge. It is necessary to take the challenge at some point of time, if not in this life, in one of our human lives. The sooner the challenge is met, the better, for the spiritual journey of the soul.


To thus change oneself, one has to look at oneself, observe and experiment. This is what is called enquiry followed by practice. That this is possible is what has been taught by all the great spiritual and religious teachers of the world. All self-help books dwell on this in great detail. We shall look at it in the context of religion, particularly, Hinduism.


Do it yourself


The mind is certainly meshed up with all other components of the self, like ahamkaara but fortunately the mind itself has the capacity and the role to take the lead in changing the lower self into the higher self. By overcomin g desire, vanity, violence and untruth, by its own efforts, the normal mind with discretion as master, and an exercise of will-power, can train the lower self to rise above its barbarian nature and rise in spirituality. Purity of mind is nothing but the state of being filled with divine consciousness. This is where Vedanta helps us to approach the problems of life with clarity and firmness. It helps us  loosen our spiritual ignorance and ultimately destroy it. This is what exactly the word ‘upanishat’ stands for.


For more on Upanishads, go to  17. ​Essence of Upanishads


The Gita also lays emphasis on self-exertion for the sake of self-improvement.


B.G. VI – 5


Divine sight does not mean seeing God in flesh and blood but seeing the One Divinity as both the material and the efficient cause of the world. A logical consequence of this would be to be able to see in every other person a reflection of one’s own self.


Atmaupamyena sarvatra samaM pashyati yo’rjuna

sukhaM vA yadi vA dukhaM sa yogI paramo mataH

B.G. VI -32


He who sees with equality everything in the image of the self

Whether it be grief or it be happiness, him I hold, O Arjuna, to be the supreme Yogi



This equanimity is the goal. To move towards the goal individuals have to adjust themselves to one another. The process of adjustment, the changing of habits, begins with the family and gradually expands comprising the community, the nation, and finally the whole of humanity.


Die, mind


Habits can be changed only by creating new habits. These new habits have to come from a spiritual discipline. The usual reaction to the imposition of a spiritual discipline is to say: ‘I am not in a mood to practise them. I will do them only on my own terms, not when told by somebody or forced by circumstances’. But the very moment you say this you have sacrificed your will to be dictated by moods and desires.


To live in subservience to the calls and appetites of othe outer world is the origin of all sins.


Such subservience contributes to 'inhuman' and 'undivine' vAsanAs piling  up in the mind. From vAsanAs to thoughts and from thoughts to actions is a very familiar chain. To break it, one has to substitute the evil vAsanAs by divine vAsanAs . When we keep on  pouring the clear water of the thought of God in to the reservoir of the mind, we naturally dilute the impurities in it. Eventually the divine thoughts will completely fill up the mind, hopefully. This is the spiritual self-discipline needed. This is what strengthens the will.


When  once the attachment to the thought of God sets in, in stead of thinking about our own weaknesses, our heritage, our environment, our training, we start integrating our personality by means of a process that exploits the lessons of religion, philosophy and psychology. It is the conviction of all religions that the only way to overcome the vagaries, pulls and pushes of the subconscious mind is to obey the psychology of religion. A complete transformation of the mind in all its awareness levels, including the subconscious zone is what is taught by the psychology of religion. The lessons from the psychology of Hinduism, for instance, would require one to


have the intellect as the driver of this horse-drawn vehicle, the body,

with the senses being the horses,

 to hold the reins of the horses  with the mind as the whip and pilot of the vehicle,

 not where the horses would go,  but where discretion would want to go.


This is the meaning of the famous quote from Katha Upanishat (3.3):


AtmAnaM rathinaM viddhi sharIraM ratham-eva tu /

buddhiM to sArathiM viddhi manaH pragrahaM eva ca //

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