Over aeons of lives we have succumbed to the mind because it was comfortable and easy to do so, and we have fallen into the bad habit of letting the mind control us. When we relax our control of the mind, we give it the power to create havoc in our lives. If we want spiritual enlightenment we have to take back that power and, as the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.
In Die to Live, Maharaj Charan Singh said:
Mind is the deadliest of foes, but the most useful of servants. When it turns wild and gets out of control, it heads for certain destruction.
We can use the analogy of a motor vehicle to explain the scenario of the mind being in control of us, rather than us being in control of the mind. Although many cars today have software apps that require the driver to do little more than steer the car, the application of those apps must be initiated and set by the driver – the car has no will of its own to do this. When under the control of a responsible driver, a motor vehicle is a safe and convenient form of transport. But driven by a reckless driver it probably will head for destruction.
Our body represents the vehicle; the mind is the reckless driver and the five senses are the boisterous passengers. They entice the driver to recklessness as they relentlessly chase insatiable desires and seek ever more and greater thrills. We have the power to put a stop to this scenario. It means we must allow the soul to move back into the driver’s seat to take charge of the steering wheel and take back control of the vehicle and its unruly passengers.
The mind belongs in the navigator’s seat next to us. It may be a reckless driver, but it is a very good navigator. After all, its primary function is its work under the law of karma steering us through our lives in the world – which it does to perfection. In this activity we see the mind as the very good and loyal servant that it obviously can be.
As conscious beings we are aware of the mind because we use it constantly. It enables us to think, reason and feel – to be aware of the world and our experiences of it. It gives us imagination, perception, judgment, language, memory and numerous other faculties that are necessary to negotiate our karma. It is responsible for processing the feelings and emotions which result in our attitudes and actions.
The mind is a masterpiece with immense potential – but most people do not explore or realize that potential. In spite of all its wonderful attributes, however, the author of The Path of the Masters tells us that mind is not self-acting. He says:
Mind alone cannot think, cannot will, cannot love. It cannot remember nor suffer nor enjoy. To do all of these things it must, in every instance, be activated by spirit.… Without spirit, mind is as inert as steel.
It is this association with the soul that gives the mind its exclusive potential, that of acting as a conduit through which we are able to reach the soul and consciously experience its great power and love. If we learn to harness the mind and work with it, then this potential ‒ which is spiritual awakening ‒ is within our grasp, and this should be our focus as we coerce the mind to change its tactics.
If we have learnt one thing from our meditation practice it is that the mind is not a pushover. Changing seats is not easy because the mind is rigid and resists change. It clings tenaciously to the steering wheel ‒ the age-old grooves from which it so comfortably operates. But unless we make that change it will never support us in our spiritual quest, making our meditation extremely difficult.
We may feel as though we have already changed much of our thinking, and to a large extent we probably have. But the very mind that is thinking it has changed is the self-same rigid and inflexible mind that we have always had. Perhaps we simply have moved from one set of beliefs to another, as the mind surreptitiously continues in the habitual grooves in which it is so very comfortable ‒ and remains largely unsupportive of our spiritual growth and our spiritual quest. We need to remove the blinkers of rigidity by occasionally pressing the refresh button of our thinking.
The French philosopher, René Descartes, famously said, “I think; therefore I am.” He found that he could not doubt that he himself existed, as he was the one doing the doubting in the first place.
But our existence is not reliant on our thought. If I suspend thought, the body still exists – only the thinking process has stopped. The mind is no longer active, but the senses, which are a function of the brain, still are: the eyes still see, the ears hear and the nose smells. It’s just that the mind is no longer interpreting those activities. Its constant commentary has been suspended temporarily.
Our senses provide a very necessary mechanism, helping us to negotiate the physical world. The sensations they produce also help protect us from harm. However, it is not necessary for the mind to comment every time the senses are engaged. Yet that is precisely what the mind does.
The brain and the senses are already connected so we don’t have to initiate a constant commentary on what’s happening. But we do! We appear to have an innate need to tell ourselves about everything we see, smell, hear, touch or taste.
The mind has no power of its own; it is simply a narrator delivering a running commentary on the actions of the brain and the senses. Again, the author of The Path of the Masters writes:
The mind is not self-conscious or self-acting. It has no power of automation or of initiative. It is simply a machine, though highly sensitive and extremely powerful when motivated by spirit.… It will never do anything different from what it was fashioned and trained to do.
And we have trained it – by allowing it to run a constant commentary on everything perceived by the senses, and we are not even aware of this useless repetitive chatter. But we can suspend thought, and simply allow the senses to send messages to the brain without the wearisome commentary, without telling ourselves about it.
The Master has given us a foolproof method for doing this ‒ simran. If we occupy the mind with simran we can learn to witness our environment without engaging the mind’s ceaseless commentary. But we have to work at the art of suspending the commentary and filling the gap with simran.
How can we ever hope to experience spirituality while living a life characterized by the pursuit of worldly desires and the resultant constant commentary? We must allow our soul to take back control of the car and subdue its unruly passengers. It is therefore incumbent on us to focus on our meditation and practise bringing our mind under control ‒ letting the Master take control of everything else.