असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् ।
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते ।। 6.35 ।।
asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate
The Blessed Lord said: O mighty armed one, undoubtedly the mind is untractable and restless, but O son of Kunti, it is brought under control through practice and detachment.
~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 35
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Questioner (Q): What is meant by bringing the mind under control? Also, please explain how practice and detachment help in achieving the above.
Acharya Prashant (AP): In the very same chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna has very lucidly explained what is mind control. Mind control is not about suppressing the mind. It is about supporting the mind to take the right route and reach the right destination.
The word ‘control’ has not very friendly vibes or connotations. One controls a disease. One controls something that must not be there. The mind does not really need control. The authority in the Gita makes it amply clear. The mind needs to be brought to Ātmān. That is the central message of Chapter 6—bring the mind to Ātmān.
What is Ātmān? Ātmān is the highest potential of the mind; Ātmān is the destination of the mind. It is for the Ātmān that the mind exists, and it is due to the Ātmān that the mind exists. Therefore, the Ātmān is the beginning and the end of mind. Therefore, the Ātmān is the point from where the mind emerges and the point into which the mind submerges. That is what is mind control.
The mind really wants peace. Peace is Ātmān. But the mind is a little foolish. Why do I say so? Had the mind not been foolish, why would it have left its Ātmān state and become the mind? Does the mind not have the choice to exist in the Ātmān state, which is the topmost state, which is the peaceful state, which is the natural state, all the time? And when you exist in a state all the time, then there is no time; there is timelessness.
Time is only when time is bounded, right? Time is a concept that demands boundaries. Something has to begin at a certain time and something has to end at a certain time. Where there is a beginning and there is an end, there is time.
The mind does have the option to remain in its top potential, at its maxima, always. And anything that is always, is now timeless; beyond the scope of birth and death, rise and fall, coming and going. But the mind didn’t take that option. What has the mind chosen to do? The mind has chosen to be itself. The mind has chosen to be the mind. Therefore, I’m calling the mind a little foolish. Right?
So, even though this foolish mind does have the option always to go for the top state, the natural state, the peaceful state, the restful state, it being what it is, it takes other options. It wants Peace, but will not directly take Peace; it will want Peace through this and that. It wants rest, but won’t directly take rest. It wants security, but won’t directly settle into security. That’s the Prakriti of mind.
The Prakriti of mind is not in alignment with the nature of the mind. The Prakriti of mind is to go about in cycles. All Prakriti is cyclical, right? Like seawaves. Aren’t seawaves cyclical? Like birth and death, like day and night, everything in Prakriti is cyclical. That’s the Prakriti of mind.
But, nature is not cyclical. Nature is submergence, a final settlement, a closure, a peacefulness; no more running around. In Prakriti, there is always movement, a lot of running around.
So, the mind is sandwiched between these two: its Prakriti, and its nature.
Nature says, “Settle down.” Prakriti says, “Run around.”
Nature says, “Be simple.” Prakriti says, “No, no, no! If you are simple, you will be killed!”
Are you getting it?
Mind is always in this conflict. What helps mind in this phase of conflict? Its very nature. Just as Prakriti allures you, your nature too beckons you. When Prakriti allures you, it is called Maya. When your nature allures you, what you get is a Krishna.
So, the two sides of the mind, rather the two forces of the mind, both work on the mind in their own ways. Prakriti works on the mind by appearing very convincingly, very enchantingly, very compellingly, very colourfully as Maya. Does that not happen? You open your eyes, and all that you see around you is Prakriti; whether Prakriti of the existential kind, which Shri Krishna calls as apara-prakriti, or whether Prakriti of the man-made kind, which Shri Krishna calls as paraprakriti.
So, through your senses, through your brain, Prakriti always keeps luring you, you could even say trapping you. ‘Trap’ is not a very suitable word, because Prakriti by itself is not conscious. It only does what its own constitution, what its own predestined dynamics command it to do. Remember that it is called ‘Prakriti’. 'Prakriti' means that which comes before any other kind of existence. It is at the root of all existence. Getting it?
So, there is the mind, the mind of the man. On one hand, this mind, this man is being enticed by Prakriti, Maya. On the other hand, there is someone like Shri Krishna. Now, someone like Shri Krishna does not belong to the usual scheme of Prakriti; therefore he’s called an avatar. That’s the difference between an avatar and an animal, an avatar and a normal human being, an avatar and anything else.
Everything else on the earth, everything else in the universe belongs to the usual scheme of Prakriti. They were to be there. They are like the waves of the sea. If the sea is there, the waves will be there. Nothing unusual, nothing surprising. Right? So, a man is born, a woman is born; there is the child, there is the animal, there is the rock, there are the stars, there is stardust. All this is just run-of-the-mill Prakriti. Nothing astonishing in it. But a Shri Krishna is not called 'Prakriti'. He’s avatar. He’s avatar because he’s appearing to the mind, the man not as Maya, but as the dispeller of Maya. Are you getting it?
Any ordinary man, any ordinary woman would come in contact with you, and that contact will be the contact of Maya, rest assured. But when a Shri Krishna comes in contact with you, something extremely unusual happens. It is not that now Maya will take you further in its fold; rather that contact with Shri Krishna will come to liberate you from Maya.
Therefore, I am saying, even your nature works upon you. It is almost as if your nature, your destination is very interested in you coming to the destination.
The Upanishads say, "The one who takes a few steps in the direction of Truth finds that the Truth has taken multiple steps to reach him."
That will tell you of a crucial difference between Maya and Truth. The more you move towards Maya, the more distant it seems. Keep running after her all your life. She’s unattainable; charming, but unattainable. Truth—you move towards Truth, and you find that the Truth is assisting your movement. You grow a little in wisdom, and you’ll find that the very beginning of your movement towards the Truth was due to the blessings of the Truth, not due to your own internal inspiration.
Go to a bookstore, you pick up a particular book—what do you think? If the book is the Bhagavad Gita, it is not you who has picked up the book; it is the book that has picked you up. On the other hand, if you go to the bookstore and pick some usual nonsense, then it’s again not you who has picked up the book; the book has picked you up. Both are working on you. Who will win? The one you fall in love with. So, be very-very alert about the quality of your love. Who is it that you have fallen in love with? There are only two. And both of these are present to be chosen. Always. Which of these are you falling in love with? That’s your fate. Getting it?
What does it then mean to bring the mind under control? Fall in love with the right one— that is what is meant by bringing the mind under control. There is no need to probe too much into a man’s life. Just ask him, "Show me the picture of your beloved." And that’s all. You have known the man, and you have known the man’s fate. Whose photo are you carrying in that wallet held to your chest? That’s what is meant by mind control. Therefore, mind control is not about suppressing the mind, or killing the mind, or taming the mind, it’s about giving the mind the one and only befitting lover.
What is the normal tendency of the mind? Remember that it is foolish. Do not consciously give the mind what it needs to have, and mind will for certain, in its own primitive unconsciousness, choose the wrong one. Therefore, you cannot leave things to chance. If you are not with total determination making the right decision, the wrong decision is default; you don’t have to make the wrong decision. That’s man’s problem. Do you see this? Do you now see why mankind is usually in turmoil and suffering? Because the right decision has to be made with determination and discipline, and the wrong decision is default. Now, what would occur more frequently: determination and discipline, or default? The default is obviously more common.
Man's default state is of foolishness. Liberation comes through determination. Liberation is not your default destiny.
Don’t leave things as they are. Don’t say that you go with the flow. Don’t say that life will take care of things or that experience will correct things on its own. No, life will not at all take care of things. No, age and experience will not make corrections in you by themselves. You require a steely resolve. Otherwise, you can live for forty thousand years—nothing will change.
Your default state is foolishness. We are all born like that; what to do? Nobody’s fault. We are born like that; our physical configuration is of foolishness. All wisdom, all spiritual practice, therefore, is about going against oneself. Don’t go against yourself, and your course is well-set. Your life is pre-scripted.
Don’t believe in the natural ones. There are many naturals, no? They say, “No, we have had no wisdom education, but we understand things on our own.” No, sir. On your own you only have your own foolishness. That’s what you have on your own.
Any kind of ascension, any kind of Wisdom or Liberation will require concerted effort. Want to know the real status of a person? Interested in knowing his stature in life? Just ask him how much has he invested in his self-development, the inner development. How many years has he given? How much of his resources has he put into his own Liberation?
If he says, “No, I have never put time nor effort into liberation,” and still claims that he has understanding or wisdom, then he’s just bragging. Don’t take him seriously.
Wisdom and all higher order things in life will never come on their own.
What is it that you experience on your own? You only experience hunger, sleep, lust, no? The moment you turn thirteen or fourteen, lust arises on its own. That’s what you experience without any effort or discipline. Correct? You don’t require to be disciplined or determined for your pubic hair to grow, or your periods to start. Stuff just flows on its own. So don’t say that Wisdom too will start flowing in your mind on its own. That won’t happen. You’re not recognizing the nature of things when you make such claims. Are you getting it?
This is the most ignored aspect of human life, especially in the contemporary world. We want to acquire all kinds of skills; we would enrol to a three-month course to learn a new language, a new technology, a new skill. But Wisdom, we suppose, will come on its…
AP: Own. Never sir, never! It won’t come on its own. I know this admission, this assertion from my side hurts the ego badly. We hate to hear that we are foolish by default. But then, that’s what we are. Why and how should I hide it? It’s so glaringly obvious.