Layman Reads Bhagawad Gita Part – 6


                                           Associate Vice President of a reputed IT Company, India

Ready Steady Don’t Go

In the last edition, we had seen how mind as an instrument can swing between extremes and play havoc with what we want to achieve. This aspect of the mind has been variously described as ‘wavery’, ‘fickle’, ‘turbulent’, ‘unyielding’ and ‘difficult’ in the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. We also saw that ‘mind control’ was compared to ‘wind control’.

The introduction of ‘wind’ brings two famous personalities to our discussion viz. Anjaneya from the Ramayana and Bhima from the Mahabharatha. Why these two great beings amongst so many that the great epics  project and glorify? The answer is simple and straight forward – both are vayuputras (sons of wind) and have played a very major role in the respective epics. It is interesting to have a quick look at their resume!

Anjaneya is known by several names of which two deserve an attention in the context of mind control : ‘Manojava’ – the one who is swift as mind and ‘Maarutatulyavegam’ – the one who has a speed equal to the wind god. As a child he leapt to the sky to catch hold of the red mango that was Sun! While in search of Sita in the forest, Rama comes across Anjaneya (who has been sent by Sugriva to find who these strangers were) and was truly impressed with him. Anjaneya’s tremendous feats include locating Sita, the ambassadorial role in the Lankan court, the assuring way in which he communicates the message to Rama. The lifting and carrying of Sanjeevani mountain to revive Lakshmana, possibly is the crowning jewel.

Bhima who could be considered as the younger brother of Anjaneya, has an amazing sequence of achievements. Like Anjaneya, Bhima’s exploits start from childhood when the rock upon which he falls as an infant breaks into pieces! The extrication of Pandavas from the house of wax was mainly engineered by Bhima. The killing of Hidimba, Bakasura, Jarasandha, Keechaka and many more demons and equivalents is awe-inspiring. In the mother of all battles i.e. Mahabharatha, Bhima is credited with slaying of all the hundred Kauravas as well as almost six of the eleven akshauhinis (army units) of the Kauravas. While there is a view that Bhima was quick to boil, it is worth noting that during the ill reputed game of dice, it was Bhima who resisted and countered the most. What is the use of a strength if it does not come to the fore against malpractices?

A comparative study reveals that it was not mere physical strength that was at disposal but it was powerfully backed by a mind obeying what they wanted to do. This was further steeled and sealed by their supreme devotion – that of Anjaneya to Rama and Bhima to Krishna, both being immaculate. The mind is often derisively referred as a monkey on account of its gyrative tendencies. Sathya Sai Baba gives a deeper view by splitting the word monkey as mon + key meaning mon (Sanskrit for Mind) is the key! The lives and exploits of these two heroes is a testimonial to this statement and a practical demonstration of what we saw as Krishna’s comments in the last essay that ‘mind can be brought under control by dispassion and spiritual practice’.

When we seek some more guidance from Krishna, we hear him saying that ‘One should uplift one’s lower self by the higher self. One should not depress or downgrade one’s self. For the self verily is both the friend and the foe of the self’ [6-5].

In the next verse, he further expands by stating that ‘To him who has subdued the lower self (mind, senses, body) by the higher self, the self acts like a friend. But to him who has lost his higher self by the dominance of the lower one, the self functions as the enemy, always to hostile to him’ [6-6]

The mind as a key (mon-key) to success (or the lack of it) is well established by the above. Like a kerchief is a bundle of threads, mind is defined to be a bundle of thoughts. It is estimated that in everyday life some 60,000 thoughts cross our mind. What are we supposed to do with them? Sage Ramana advises that “It is within your competence to think and become bound or cease thinking and thus be free.” Nisargadatta Maharaj echoes the same when he states that “To be free from thoughts is itself meditation. You begin by letting thoughts flow and watching them”

The idea of ‘watching the mind’ or ‘watching the thoughts’ could be elucidated by a funny story of a man, a stranger to both the bride and the groom, who enters a marriage party. Whereever he went, he was showing authority. The girl’s side thought that he was a representative of the boy and so did not question him. Similarly, the boy’s side considered him to be from the girl’s side and so did not resist him! When it was going beyond limits, both sides came together to observe who he was. Knowing that his game was over, he quietly slips away. It goes without saying that the stranger in this story is akin to our mind. When left unquestioned and unresisted, it has a field day running all over and amok. But the moment it starts getting noticed or observed, it loses its power of mischief and is subdued into silence.

Gary Weber, a 29 year old PhD student at Penn State university had a problem in 1972, his brain was generating thoughts! Later he happened to read the famous Zen poem – “Hakuin’s song of Zazen” the first six lines of which go as :

From the beginning all beings are Buddha.

Like water and ice, without water no ice, outside us no Buddhas.

How near the truth, yet how far we seek.

Like one in water crying, “I thirst!”

Like the son of a rich man wand’ring poor on this earth we endlessly circle the six worlds.

The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.

The first line had a profound impact on Weber and the entire world seemed to open up. It seemed that he had what Zen calls as “kensho” – an awakening, though he did not have a  clue of what Zen was at that time. For the next 25 years, apart from routine worldly activities, he read books, practiced meditation, mastered complicated yoga postures and attempted ‘self-enquiry’. And one day when he was moving between postures, his thoughts stopped, permanently. Over time, Weber figured out that it wasn’t that all his thoughts had disappeared; rather a particular kind of self-referential thinking had cut out, what neuro-scientists now call as default mode network (DMN). This is the thinking process that we default to when not engaged in a task. On the other hand, During goal-oriented activity, the DMN is deactivated and another network, the task-positive network (TPN). is activated. When Weber got in touch with Judson Brewer, a neuro-scientist who was studying how DMN responds to meditation, he figured out that experienced meditators had lower DMN activation when meditating. While having Weber under scanning, Brewer observed that Weber’s baseline itself was a relatively deactivated DMN. Any effort to meditate, actually disturbed his peace!

We can sum this up now with the title of this article – Ready, Steady, Don’t Go!!

(To be continued)

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