Layman Reads Bhagawad Gita Part – 5


                                           Associate Vice President of a reputed IT Company, India


In our journey with Krishna thus far, we have been able to grasp how we could handle the three life situations using the three approaches which could be summed up as :

i)       living by ‘My ideal’ derived from innate nature while facing choice of approach due to conflicting needs

ii)      ‘Connecting to the Unlimited’  when we feel helpless and over-powered

iii)     ‘Total involvement’ with the task on hand, irrespective of the nature of the task and to the extent to which it is mundane or repetitive

What are the difficulties in practicing these? What type of challenges are likely to be encountered? Let us take the third one for the simple reason that this happens to be the major portion of our life. Are we able to have 100% involvement in whatever we do? Most of us would affirm that the answer is negative and would blame the mind to be the culprit. Why does the mind waver? What takes the mind away?

“Mind your business”, thundered a voice somewhere in the neighbourhood. My train of thoughts was definitely disrupted. Within seconds, I realized that the target was not me, but a child in an adjoining apartment guided (chided?) by its mother.  Apart from the plethora of satellite channels, our modern day living is endowed with such ‘free-to-air’ channels! With some effort, I was able to regain my mental trajectory. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the lady’s shriek, with a slight twist was in fact addressing to what I was thinking about. Making ‘mind’ as a noun instead of a verb, the message had transformed into – ‘Mind – Your business”

The mind apparently is our own business! What is the nature of the mind? Sathya Sai Baba explains “But so far no one has been able to unravel the mystery of mind and matter. All the activities of man, from dawn to dusk, are related to these two. Even the highly educated do not make any effort to understand this. If you ask them, what is ‘mind’, they say, “It does not matter”. If you ask them, what is ‘matter’, they say, “Never mind”. First and foremost, man should understand the relationship between mind and matter”

A detailed description for this is found in the Taittriya Upanishad which is part of the Yajur Veda. The second division of this Upanishad known as Brahmananda Valli describes the five sheaths or layers around the Self (The Self is also referred to in various ways viz. the Soul or Atman etc) viz. Food (anna maya), Energy (prana maya), Mind (mano maya), Intellect (vijnana maya) and Bliss (ananda maya) with the layers becoming progressively subtler.The food sheath corresponds to the physical body which is well experienced while we are awake, the next three viz. energy, mind and intellect correspond to the subtle body which is in fuller play during the dream state, and lastly the bliss sheath corresponding to the causal body coming into action during the deep state of sleep. While the food sheath (physical body) needs no introduction or elaboration, it is to be noted that the energy sheath pertains to the energies provided by the harmonious functioning of breathing, circulation, nervous systems, digestion etc. The mental sheath refers to the reflex capacities, emotions and all such functions of the mind and it responds to stimuli.The intellect sheath equates to the discriminative faculty that helps in doing action based on ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Lastly, the bliss sheath is literally that – a layer of unbroken happiness and the feeling that ‘I am happy’.

Looking at the way the layers are constituted, we can see that the mind (the hero of our current topic) occupies the central stage viz. third in a set of five sheaths. Unfortunately, the hero, when led astray turns into a villain. It is interesting to note what Michael James says in his book “Happiness and the Art of being : An introduction to the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana” : In deep sleep our mind is absent, and along with it all forms of thought are absent, whereas in the waking and dream states our mind has risen and is active, thinking thoughts of innumerable different things. When our mind and all its thoughts are absent, as in deep sleep, we experience perfect happiness, whereas when our mind is active, thinking one thought after another, as in waking and dream, we experience only a mixture of partial happiness and partial unhappiness. Is it not clear, therefore, that the rising of our mind and its thoughts is what obscures our natural state of absolute happiness?

The Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi spells out an approach to management of thoughts which fleet the mind in the below poem :

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door, laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

–       Jalaluddin Rumi

We now pose this subject to Krishna to see his views about the mind and its management. Chapter 6 perfectly titled as ‘Yoga of Meditation’ records Krishna’s exhortation that ‘From whatsoever reason this wavering and fickle mind wanders away, it should be curbed and brought to abide in the Self alone’ [6-26]. Arjuna is no hypocrite and does not merely nod his head in agreement. He is candid and submits his views when he says ‘Verily, the mind is fickle, turbulent, powerful and unyielding. To control it, I think, is as difficult as controlling the wind itself’ [6-34]. While under the tutelage of Drona, when the preceptor asked the students to take aim at a bird’s eye, Arjuna was the one (and only one) who could just see the bird’s eye. This observation about mind, coming from a man of Arjuna’s stature and concentrating abilities goes on to underscore the enormity of the challenge. Though Krishna has a partial agreement with this view, he emphasizes that the task is very much achievable when he says, ‘Undoubtedly the mind is fickle and difficult to be checked. Yet, it can be brought under control by dispassion and spiritual practice’ [6-35].

We will connect again to take this further.

(To be continued)


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