LAYMAN READS BHAGAWAD GITA- PART 7
Associate Vice President of a reputed IT Company, India
Reading the Bhagavad Gita as a layman would do, has given us thus far :
a) Simple but very effective methods to deal with different life situations. We have seen that we can neutralize situations that have tendencies to tear us apart due to conflicting demands by living by ‘Our ideal’ stemming from our own nature. While ‘‘Connecting to the Unlimited’ helps us when we are overwhelmed, ‘Total involvement’ with whatever we do not only beats out the boredom of mundane tasks but also help us achieve the ‘flow’ or be ‘in the zone’
b) Dispassion and spiritual practice as the tools to be deployed towards the challenge of what we do with our mind or rather what our mind does with us. Admittedly, it is a very tough task, nevertheless possible. Thoughts have the ability to assail, but if we do start watching or observing them, then over a period of time we are able to gain the upper hand
What we have seen in the last edition as the process of thought watching, can be summed up, in a quasi-verse form :
What is NOT the way?
Thought is NOT the way
What is then the way?
Let thoughts not lead astray
Slowly the mind does not sway
And it comes to stay
As we continue to explore the factors that sway our mind, we realize that despite the best of our efforts the mind slips away much like a sieve attempting to hold water. We hear from Krishna that ‘the turbulent senses do violently draw away the mind of even a discerning person who is earnestly striving’ [2-60]. He elaborates further when he says that ‘the senses are naturally disposed to move towards their objects. Whichever of these senses the mind pursues, that sense carries away the mind as a gale does a ship on the high seas’ [2-67]
And what happens when the senses are able to influence the mind? This is explained by Krishna as a chain reaction. In one who dwells longingly on sense objects, an inclination towards them is generated which develops into desire and desire begets anger. Anger generates delusion, and delusion results in loss of memory which brings about the destruction of discriminative intelligence ruining the man [2-62, 2-63]. This is like a flow-chart used in the good old days of computer programming, tempting us to confer the title of ‘System Architect’ to Krishna!
Krishna dwells not only on the negative effects and impacts of senses drawing out the mind, but also clearly mentions on how to rein them, when he says that ‘when a person can withdraw his senses from their objects just like the tortoise, its limbs on all sides, his wisdom is firmly set’ [2-58]. He reinforces this message further in [2-64] and [2-68]
In ancient India, several schools of philosophy flourished. Of these, Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Purva and Uttara Mimasa were classified as Aastika (roughly orthodox) or which were accepting the authority of the Vedas in some form. The Yoga herein is also known as ‘Raja Yoga’ or ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ (yoga with eight limbs) and is elaborated by the aphorisms of Sage Patanjali called as ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutras’. The eight steps of Raja Yoga are : Yama (code of conduct), Niyama (austerities and practices), Asana (postures), Pranayama (energy balancing thru breath control), Pratyahara (inward withdrawal of senses), Dharana (one-pointedness of mind), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (state of bliss). The focus of our current subject is Pratyahara which is derived from two words Prati (= away) and Ahara (= intake), meaning ‘weaning away from intakes’ or more aptly ‘gaining mastery over external influences’. Pratyahara is the stage when the consciousness of the individual is internalized in order that the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell don’t reach their respective centers in the brain and takes the sadhaka (practitioner) to next stages of Yoga. It is to be noted that the preceding four stages of Yoga viz. yama, niyama, asana and pranayama lead the way for pratyahara.
In his lectures on Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda exhorts us to use our own minds (rather than suggestions, involuntary approaches etc), wait and watch. The initial days are going to baffling, to say the least! Over a period of time, vagaries of the mind settle down and one gains the ability of attaching and detaching the mind from the senses. He emphasizes that it is tremendous work and is not achieved in a day. It takes years of effort, before we succeed.
A common technique is to reduce the physical stimuli and then concentrate on one sense, say hearing. With no major inputs and tired of hearing, mind starts turning inward. In the advanced stages, the electrical currents which flow through the nerves are turned off by the practicioners.
The impact of the senses and how they were overcome (even though by violent force!) become clearer when we listen to Swami Vivekananda’s narration of the story of a young man called Vilvamangala [Complete Works Vol 1]. One night, despite a heavy downpour, he tries to go to the house of a woman, with whom he was madly in love. He crosses the river which was in spate, by using what he thought as a wooden log. Later he gets hold of what he thought as a rope (assuming that the woman had left it for his use!) and jumps across the compound wall of her house. When he landed with a thud, the woman came out to see who it was. She was puzzled to hear from him about the log and the rope. Upon verification, it was found that the rope was nothing but a cobra trying to enter its hole and the log was a dead body! Though amazed by his intense love, she tells Vilvamangala, how great it would be for him if he were to place such an intense love on Krishna. This stirs him and he becomes an ascetic. Years roll by and one day he happens to see a young woman, wife of a local merchant. He follows her to her house. Vilvamangala requests the merchant if he could see the young lady. When she comes out, he looks at her for a while and seeks from her two hair pins. Upon receiving the pins, he thrusts them in his eyes saying “Get away, you rascals”!
If the question “What nonsense?” arises, then the answer is “Yes, it is non-sense! Mind should move inward, away from the senses”.
(To be continued)