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What is mind?

What is mind?

Hindu philosophy gives lots of weightage to grasping what mind really is. At the pinnacle of its conclusion, the whole universe is nothing but a projection of mind. A man thinks he and the world around him exists because his mind makes him believe so. Where the mind ceases to exist, everything in the perceptible world ceases to exist. For ordinary mortals, the mind stops to function only during deep sleep state and at that state one forgets the existence of his body and the world around him.

In absolute reality, it is just the Atman that exists; Atman has two projections born out of maya in an individual soul: One is the mind and the other is prana, the life force (which is usually associated with breathing, whose existence is basic for the existence of the physical body ). Prana and mind are intricately interconnected.

It can be easily observed that when mind is agitated, breathing also becomes fast. When the mind is calm, breathing also slows down. When the mind stops, breathing also stops. Great yogis in deep Samadhi state totally calm their minds and during such periods their breathing also stops, though they continue to be alive.

The converse is also true. If one can control and slow down breathing, the thought flow in the mind also is controlled and the mind gets slowed down. This is the basis on which the practice of Pranayama was evolved by yogis as a means for practicing meditation.

What is mind? Mind is nothing but thought flow. Mind is like a river. A river exists only when there is a flow of water. Mind is frequently compared to a monkey. A monkey can hardly remain unperturbed even for a moment at one place. It keeps swinging and jumping from one branch of a tree to another. Likewise, the nature of mind is to keep swinging from one thought to another with seemingly no respite during waking state.

Here is an analysis of what sort of activities the human mind keeps engaging itself unceasingly and an attempt to put them into some typical categories, with examples, that most of the people can easily relate to.

  • Relishing and rewinding past sweet memories: Like the games you played with your street children / class mates and your winning a particular game in a spectacular way that made you a hero for an evening
  • Licking the pain by rewinding past bitter memories: Like your first girlfriend ditching you right royally and then flirting with your staunch enemy…
  • Regretting the past mistakes/ rewinding guilt : like the blatant lie you made knowingly about a friend of yours to his girlfriend that ended up in breaking their relationship and making your friend near mad afterwards.
  • Justifying your past mistakes and acts: You fumbled up in a decision making in your office and the repercussions were bad. You are asked to appear before the CEO for an explanation. You mind churns out excuses and justifications to justify your decision.
  • Rehearsing a talk: In the above case, you have formulated your justifications. Now you keep thinking on how you will word your explanations, how you will counter the accusations and how you will put the blame on others very smartly.
  • Thoughts of hate: Your boss insulted you publicly in a meeting. You keep on thinking about his act and you anger and hatred against him keeps on rewinding in your mind.
  • Scheming vengeance: It is the continuation of and aggregation of hatred. You start scheming as to how to insult or offend your boss in the next opportune moment to teach him a lesson…
  • Thoughts of love: “Oh! The first meeting I had with my girlfriend… In the cool breeze at the sea shore, when she came with a bright smile that seemed to light up the whole beach…”
  • Grieving: “I just can’t bear the death of Johnny, my little younger brother…”
  • Arguing in absentia: You picked up an argument with your friend about something and he cornered you; you could not defend your viewpoint at that time. Now your mind works overtime to get you points over points to counter his argument !
  • Extrapolated imagination: Your boss scolded you this morning about a serious lapse of you on your job. Your ego refuses to believe that the mistake was yours, though deep within you, you know it. Now you find your colleague walking with your boss in the corridor and both of them are laughing together. “Ah! It is this fellow who must have informed the boss about my lapse; I know he was always conspiring to corner me in some issue or other. See! Both of them are laughing together about me, for sure. Rascal! I know this useless fellow wants to snatch my promotion …”
  • Worrying about body/ health: “My face looks ugly; my body stinks; this dress does not suit me. This cold is going to lead me to fever and I am afraid I may become bed ridden. This back pain is unbearable…”
  • Day dreaming: “If I were to be the President of USA, I will …..”
  • Planning, Problem solving: Your computer broke down this evening. Tomorrow you have to prepare a spreadsheet present it in a meeting. How to rectify the computer yourself, how to find alternative means of preparing the spreadsheet, how to postpone the meeting ….
  • Creative thinking: Remembering a past incident and then trying create a short story out of it that you can write later. Seeing a movie and then thinking “If I were the director of the movie, I could have ended the story this way…”
  • Imagining/ planning for future: “If the appointment order comes from the company that interviewed me last week, I am sure they will agree to double my current salary; I will dispose my old car first and buy a new one…..”
  • Worrying about the future: “What if I don’t do well in the examinations? What if I don’t get a job? …”
  • Harping on the current anxiety: Your dearest mother is hospitalized. You are sitting beside her and nursing her. Her pain, her suffering, the worry about the possibility of her dying keep on nagging your mind.
  • Praying: “Oh God! Please give peace and quick recovery to my mother. Don’t take her life away now…..”
  • Worrying about the world: “What will happen if another great earthquake triggers a huge tsunami across several continents?”
  • Frustrating/ negative thoughts, feeling helpless: “Oh! My country is going to dogs. There is so much corruption, inefficiency, useless politicians, overpopulation, traffic problems on the roads, accidents, pollution,…..” “Right from childhood, I was not lucky. I was not the favorite child of the parents…”
  • Analyzing / criticizing others: “ K. is very greedy; B. is very moody; F. is too talkative……”
  • Self analysis: “For the past three days, I am able to get up promptly at 5:00 AM. I should strengthen this habit further; I eat too much sweet. This is one bad quality that I should get rid of”. “I thought it was a harmless joke, but my father-in-law was very visibly offended by it. I think I should not have said it….”
  • Understanding and absorbing: “This specific piece of advice I read in that book today is very apt for me to follow. However the author said something differently in another chapter that ….”
  • Feeling proud/ pampering the ego: “Ah! I felt so happy when my boss said in front of the CEO that I am the most valuable person in his team….” “My writing must be really impressive. See many appreciative posts have come from readers for my blog….” “ I predicted one year back that this government will fall within one year and it just happened! I seem to have the right political acumen…”

The funny way of working of the mind is that it may not cling to any one stream of thought for long. If you are in a despondent mood, your mind may start with a current anxiety, then switch to a worry about future, then go back to thoughts of hate on somebody, and then start worrying about the world next. In moments of despondency, your mind will refuse to entertain any positive thoughts or joyful thoughts. Likewise, when your mind is particularly upbeat, it will refuse to entertain negative and depressing thoughts at that juncture.

If the mind is just allowed to go on and on with the thought flow day and night, one will end up a lunatic. That’s why nature has provided sleep to give a forced rest to the mind.

However, for a person to evolve spiritually, resting the mind only through the normal process of sleep is just not adequate. The mind has to be stilled when it is awake. Only in a stilled mind, the reflection of the Atman can be seen. Meditation is the way for it.

Why Paramatma should turn to become Jivatma

26th February 2013 – Tuesday

One question posed to Amma in today’s satsang was “Why the nameless and formless God, the Paramatman should become a Jivatman (Individual soul)?  If Paramatman has no attributes, where from God’s love came?

The gist of Amma’s reply was as below:

It is indeed true that what exists in reality is Paramatman. Only the individuals feel they are separate because of their identification with ego. (Amma used to say frequently ‘everything is created by God, but ego is our own creation’).  Think of a pot that gets immersed into a ocean. What exists outside and inside the pot is nothing but the ocean water. (Ocean is akin to Brahman and the ocean water inside the pot is akin to jiva). It is the pot that seemingly creates a feeling that the water inside is different from the water outside. Our ego is like the pot.

Out true nature (Atman/Brahman) is like a sweet pudding. Just like mixing hot chilli or salt with sweet pudding (and spoiling its taste) our ego functions as the hot chilli or salt to prevent us to enjoy the bliss of our  true nature.

We all breathe the same air in the atmosphere. Whatever portion of air that one breaths cannot be claimed as one’s own.

Gold is same whether the ornament is a necklace, ear ring or bracelet. Wood is same whether the furniture is a table, chair or a cot. It is God who created the gold and wood. It is we who make ornaments and furniture and treat them as different.

With ego comes I and mine. When we are in deep sleep state (‘Shushupti’) we don’t have any knowledge of the existence of our body, mind or intellect. We have no feelings of mine — “my house”, “my watch” etc. But we do experience a state of bliss that is felt, but not expressive at that state. When we wake up our ego rises up with the feelings of “I” and “mine”. Thus the same person who existed as nameless and formless in the state of Sushupthi is the one now having a name and body at wake up state. (In a similar way, Brahman and jivan exist).

We have the feeling of mine to things — “My watch”, “My house”, “My car” etc. When we start discriminating: “This is my watch, am I the watch?”, the answer is no. “This is my house; am I the house?” – No. In the same trend, if we question “This is my body; Am I the body?”, the real answer is no. But unfortunately, we identify the body as “I”. That’s where the problem lies.

(We have to understand that our wakeful state is also like a dream).

In our dream, suppose we see a thief breaking open our vault and stealing our golden ornaments, we get grief and we start crying. But when we wake up, we grasp immediately that it was after all a dream and we have nothing to grieve about. Likewise, when the true spiritual  awakening happens in us, we understand that we are none other than the Brahman and all duality like pleasure and pain, love and hatred, happiness and anger vanish.

All of us know our real existence deep inside us. The knowledge of our oneness with Brahman is with us like a seed. Just as the seed is product of the tree and it contains the future tree in it, our Jivatma has the Brahman inside it.

All of us love ourselves. It is because our true nature is love.

Only in the outlook of a Gnyani, God is without name and form. For a devotee (Bhakta), the concept of Brahman is with name and form. A devotee (like we love ourselves) loves THAT God form.

As long as “I” and “you” exist, the feeling of “I love you” exists. Once true realization dawns and the unity is grasped, the feeling ends up as “I am love”.

It is only through sadhana, we can grasp our true divine nature. It is like a process of purification of sewage water into good water.