The Mystery of the Mind
Kabir tells us in one of his poems:
He who unravels the mystery of the mind,
Through the mind merges in Him
Who is the Bestower of bliss.
Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name
This mind that constantly bedevils our efforts to lift ourselves spiritually is a mysterious thing – a complex, devious, obstructive thing. And there’s absolutely no getting past it. We have to merge back into our Creator through the mind.
In one of the question-and-answer sessions with foreigners, Maharaj Charan Singh answered a whole string of questions on the mind. He made it clear that at our level the soul had no power whatsoever. The mind was calling all the shots, he said. And if the poor, browbeaten little soul was going to make any headway in its journey home, it had no choice but to work with the mind.
It was an unusual session in that many of the questions were from the same person. In fact, it was almost a long dialogue between him and Maharaj Ji. This person was finding it difficult to accept that just about everything in our lives happens under the direction of the mind: “As I walk through this world and live from day to day,” he asked, “that’s mind?”
“That is mind,” Maharaj Ji said, “one hundred percent mind.”
The questioner was troubled by the idea that the soul is helpless, even with regard to meditation. “Is it mind or soul that has the willpower,” he asked, “the will to sit, to do anything …?”
“Mind,” Maharaj Ji said quite emphatically.
“So there’s actually no action in this world that’s from the soul?”
“No,” Maharaj Ji said. “No.”
This may well surprise us, even alarm us. We can sympathize with the man when he then asked: “So the ‘I’ – if we say ‘I want to meditate, I want to go home’, it’s not me?”
“It’s the mind,” Maharaj Ji told him. “Soul is part of the mind, soul is not separated from the mind, but now when you say ‘I’, it is 99 per cent mind.”
“So,” the questioner asked, “the mind is stronger than the soul?”
“At this stage,” Maharaj Ji told him. “Till Trikuti. Once you go beyond mind and maya, the soul dominates the mind. Then soul is stronger than the mind.”
But exactly what is this mind that we’re up against? In Spiritual Gems Great Master defined mind as Kal on a small scale. “It is Kal’s agent,” he said, “attached to every soul to keep it out from the eye focus and keep it entangled in the world.”
So this is a formidable adversary that we’re dealing with. We’ve been told that it’ll take time, and a long struggle, to tame the mind.
Earlier in the session the questioner confessed his anxiety about being able to control the mind: “I’m really scared when I look at where I am today, how long it has taken me even to get here – 16 years! I don’t have a chance by the time I die to go to the eye centre.”
Then he remembered Maharaj Ji having said earlier that if the mind is always moving in one direction, that’s the way it’s going to keep going even after we die.
It seems that if we understand the nature of the mind, we’re better able to work with it. Elaborating on his previous explanation Maharaj Ji now told the man that’s what our meditation is for: that we’re training our mind to go upward – creating that inward tendency, withdrawing it from the outside and bringing it back to the eye centre… that is the purpose of meditation. But to train the mind to turn inward and upward means consciously working to hold the attention at the eye centre.
In Spiritual Gems Great Master told us it’s all a matter of unwavering attention. So now, how to work at bringing the mind into focus, achieving this unwavering attention?
The book Living Meditation talks quite a lot about focusing the mind in meditation: “The first step in meditation,” it says, “is to place simran at the eye centre. It takes a deliberate act to extract the mind from its involvement with its thoughts. We have to take our mind away from its thinking and consciously contain it in simran.”
This conscious effort to focus the mind in its repetition of the words is important. We have to do it right from the start and then keep it going, one deliberate round of simran at a time. In fact, it’s not difficult to keep our focus for one round of simran, and then focus on the next, and then focus on the next. For one round of simran at a time we can keep our attention there, in the darkness. At least for some time.
But we’ve got to watch this mind. It doesn’t want to be pinned down and it’s going to try to slip away. And when it does slip away we have to bring it back, and again bring it back. Bring it back where? – to that darkness in the forehead that we see when we close our eyes.
In Die to Live Maharaj Ji gave a simple explanation of how we should start our meditation:
When you close your eyes you are automatically here at the eye centre … Being there, you do the simran. You also feel that your Master is there and that you are there in the darkness and that you are doing simran in the presence of the Master … That will hold your attention there in the darkness.
In the same question-and-answer session he also told someone else – in just three words – how to focus the attention: simran and dhyan.
In our teachings the word ‘dhyan’ means contemplation, and that’s generally taken to mean gazing at the inner form of the Master. But most of us can’t see the inner form and we might find it difficult to visualize him. In that case, Maharaj Ji often told us, we could just hold our attention in the darkness and do simran, look into the darkness and imagine we are sitting in his presence. Simran and dhyan need to go together, he said, and this will help to hold the attention in the eye centre.
It becomes clear to us after some time that there is a proper way of doing meditation. We can meditate for years, even for decades, in a haphazard sort of way and just feel increasingly hopeless because we seem to be getting nowhere. Or else we can take a good hard look at how we’ve been meditating and consider whether we could do it better.
Ultimately everything depends on the Master’s grace. Without his help we can do nothing. And certainly we have absolutely no say over the results that might come from our meditation. We know that. But the fact remains that he does ask us to try. He doesn’t let us get away with acting helpless and pathetic. He expects us to make the effort and do the work. So it makes sense to try to do the work as effectively as possible.
We optimistically seem to think that just repeating the words of our simran in any haphazard way will produce some kind of magic, some kind of miraculous transformation that will change us from ugly ducklings into swans. But no. It’s not that easy.
In Spiritual Letters the Great Master wrote:
The names by themselves carry no value. It is their practice in the proper way that brings benefit. Names, if repeated at the centre of attention, will bring the attention in concentration. No more, no less.
It’s the difference between just playing with a blunt kitchen knife, or sharpening it and then using it to chop up your onions and tomatoes. In itself the knife is potentially very useful, but it needs to be sharp and we need to use it properly. Let’s have no doubt that if we do use our simran properly, marvellous things can happen. It can bring about real spiritual change in us, and eventually even rein in the power of the mind.
Then there’s another important aspect to achieving any sort of focus in our meditation. We’ve been told that every bit of time we give to meditation is good. But if we want concentration, if we want to get any enjoyment and bliss out of our meditation, it should be done with love and devotion. Placing ourselves in his presence with a feeling of love for him – even if we can’t see him – holds our attention there in the darkness. We want to be there with him because we love him. That makes us want to meditate, not just as a duty, but because we want to please him.
But even if we don’t automatically feel that love and devotion, Maharaj Ji told us, mechanical meditation is still good – because in time it will bring that love and devotion in us.
There may be times now when we feel dry, when it seems we have little love for him. We may feel bad about that, and we no doubt feel helpless to do anything about it. After all, we can’t just conjure up love out of the air!
But actually we can, although it might be so slowly that we don’t see it happening. We’re growing our love for him every time that we sit to meditate. And the time will come when we wake up to the fact that he is more important to us than anything else or anyone else in this whole world. And that will be when we’ve reaped the reward of detachment, the detachment that will make it possible for him to take us out of the creation forever.
The same anxious satsangi who asked most of the questions during the session was worried about not being able to clear enough karmas in this lifetime of meditation so as not to have to come back. Maharaj Ji told him that it’s not the karmas that would bring him back. It’s attachment – attachment to the creation.
When we become detached there necessarily has to be a change in the tendency of the mind from outward to inward. If we achieve nothing else with our meditation, if we can just start persuading the mind to look inward sometimes rather than outward, that will be a lot!
We need to make the mind our friend. And the really odd thing is, the mind also wants to become our friend. It’s also being forced to go against its own inclinations because of its involvement with the senses.
Then Maharaj Ji said something really interesting. He’d been saying that everything we do and hear and see at this level is through the mind. And the man who’d been asking all the questions was perplexed. He asked: “So mind, which hates trying to sit in meditation, is forcing itself to sit in meditation?”
“That’s mind,” said Maharaj Ji.
“And it feels the yearning and the love – that’s also the mind?”
“That’s mind … mind is also not happy in the creation, you see. Mind also gets frustrated from these sensual pleasures. It also becomes miserable after some time in the sensual pleasures. It also wants better peace, better happiness. So mind also gets peace when it goes back to its own source. That is why these pleasures are short-lived. They’re not permanent.”
So that’s why the poor old mind is never satisfied for long with anything in this world. It knows it wants something else. And herein lies our hope of making a friend of the mind.
Through our persistent meditation it will eventually be made to realize that it can have something better. And that’s what so much of the path is all about. That’s what Maharaj Ji said to the questioner: “The satsangs, the meetings, the books, the discussions, the conversations – it’s all for the mind.”
The person who’d been holding this dialogue with Maharaj Ji was distressed that his meditation was not producing any results that he could see – that it was not good enough to save him from having to come back here. And Maharaj Ji’s reply was just wonderful. It showed that the results are there.
“Results do come and go,” Maharaj Ji said. “Many times you may not see anything, but you will feel so happy, so contented, so much peace within yourself. You feel so detached from everything. You feel the effect of meditation within yourself.”
“And is that enough at the time of death to take us up?” the man asked.
The answer was emphatic: “That is more than enough. Because your tendency is not towards the creation now.”
It has been well said that no man
ever sank under the burden of the day.
It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden
of today that the weight is more than man can bear.
Never load yourselves so, my friends.
If you find yourselves so loaded, at least remember this:
it is your own doing, not God’s.
He begs you to leave the future to Him,
and mind the present.
George MacDonald, as quoted by Lillian Eichler Watson in Light from Many Lamps