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by Swami Sivananda

You must know the habits and ways of your mind. Then alone it will be easy for you to control the mind, to develop the will, memory and thought-culture. One of the most important habits of the mind is the wandering habit. It cannot stick to one point. It is like air. That is the reason why Arjuna says to Sri Krishna: “Chanchalam Hi Manah Krishna Pramathi Balavad Dridham Tasyaham Nigraham Manye Vayoriva Sudushkaram—For the mind is very restless, O Krishna! It is impetuous, strong and difficult to bend. I deem it hard to curb, as the wind” (Gita, Ch. VI-34). Sri Krishna answered: “Without doubt, O mighty-armed, the mind is hard to curb and is restless; but, it may be curbed by constant practice and by dispassion.” Sri Krishna describes, in unambiguous terms, the ways to check the wandering habits of the mind. Destruction of desires and control of Indriyas are the essential steps for the control of mind. It is desire that makes the mind restless. The Indriyas run after objects, and the mind also follows the Indriyas just as a dog follows its master. The rays of the mind get scattered in sensual objects. All the mental rays are dissipated in the acquisition, possession and enjoyment of sensual objects. Now the mind thinks of hearing some pleasant music. At once it gives command to the Karma Indriya (feet) and Jnana Indriya (ears). The feet say: “Dear Mr. Mind, I am ever ready to take you to the Triplicane beach. I am waiting for your commands only. Get along.” The ear also joins hands now and says: “Now sir, I am only waiting for your company. I am very keen and anxious, and more eager than you. I am only expecting your command.”

This little hopeless Jiva (human being) falls into the meshes and nets of this mind and the deluding Indriyas. After a little while, the tongue says: “Why are you cruel and partial to me? I am also as much a dear friend to you as the ears and feet. Now let us go to the Royal Restaurant or the Taj Mahal Hotel. You can have first-class coffee, bun, cakes and Rasagullas.” After sometime, the reproductive Indriya gets excited, because he is the fast friend of Mr. Tongue. Both Indriyas are born of the same source or Tanmatra. Tongue is born of the Sattvic portion, hence it is a Jnana-Indriya (organ of knowledge); the organ of reproduction is born of the Rajasic portion, and hence it gets the name of Karma-Indriya (the organ of action). After you have finished a rich, heavy meal, the reproductive Indriya gets very much excited, and you become very passionate. Mr. Tongue says: “Do not ignore me. I am always your best friend. It is I who keep the life of this body. If I do not take any food, this body will perish and you will have to leave this body.” Reproductive Indriya says: “I alone keep up this world-show. This world will come to an end, should I put a stop to my activity. It is through me alone that people procreate. So, come along. Join me and satisfy me as you did the ears and the tongue.” In this way, man runs after the five kinds of sensual pleasures and has no rest even for a second. The mind runs in these grooves in company with the five Jnana-Indriyas and this little Jiva.

Therefore, if you want to check this wandering mind, you will have to renounce all sorts of desires and control the Indriyas first. Then alone you will be successful in the practice of concentration, meditation, will-culture, memory- culture and thought-culture. I have come across several educated people during the course of my lecture-tour in the Uttar Pradesh, the Punjab, Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh. They asked me: “Dear Swamiji, how to concentrate and meditate? We have been meditating for the last twelve years, yet we have not found any improvement.” The obvious reason is that they are not doing meditation in the right scientific manner. They have not purified themselves. They have not renounced the desires of this world. They have not disciplined their minds. Without having these preliminary training and discipline, they are trying to achieve the impossible, viz., concentration. How can this be possible? This is something like trying to tie an infuriated elephant with a slender piece of silken thread. Sri Krishna gives the method to curb the wandering mind: “Abandoning without reserve all desires born of the imagination by the mind, curbing the aggregate of the senses on every side, little by little let him gain tranquillity by means of reason controlled by steadiness; having made the mind abide in the Self let him not think of anything. As often as the wavering and unsteady mind goes forth, so often reining it in, let him bring it under the control of the Self.” Now hear the fruits that one gets from this practice. Supreme joy is for this Yogi whose mind is peaceful, whose passionate nature is calmed, which is sinless and of the nature of the Eternal.

Mark carefully the words of Sri Krishna's instructions: “All desires should be abandoned without reserve.” Most of the Sadhakas or students keep some desires for their satisfaction. Some desires do lurk in the mind. Householders who practise concentration cannot leave some of their desires. They keep them for their secret gratification. Hence energy leaks; and they do not get any improvement. They rise up five steps and suddenly fall from the spiritual ladder. Perfect dispassion is necessary for checking the mind-wandering or mental oscillation. The senses should be curbed on every side. Mark the words: ‘on every side.' Control of one Indriya alone will not do. All the Indriyas should be controlled from every side. This is also another vital point. As the practice is difficult and tedious, you should not be discouraged. You will have to wait patiently for the results. Some people do practice by fits and starts. They practise concentration for six hours daily for three months. When they see that they have not found any tangible results in the shape of powers or Siddhis, they give up the practice. This is very, very bad. Hence Sri Krishna says: “Little by little do the practice, and be steady in the practice.” Practice (Abhyasa) consists of bringing the mind again and again back to the point, fixing and concentrating it on the point or Lakshya. Dharana means concentration of mind on a point. When the wandering mind becomes one-pointed, the state is called Ekagrata. It is single-mindedness.

The subject of concentration is disgusting, and tiring for the neophyte; but it is the most interesting and beneficial science in the world. When one advances in concentration, when one takes real interest, when one has realised some benefits, he cannot leave the practice. He cannot remain even for a day without concentration. He becomes restless when he fails to have the practice. Concentration brings supreme joy, spiritual inner strength, unalloyed felicity and infinite eternal peace. Concentration brings profound knowledge and deep inner sight, intuition and communion with God. It is a wonderful science in the three worlds. I cannot adequately describe its benefits.

Concentration on a chair really means getting full, detailed knowledge of the chair, its different parts, the particular wood out of which it is manufactured, such as Devadaru, rose wood, etc., its workmanship or finish, its durability, its cost price, the degree of comfort it gives to the back, arms, etc., whether the parts can be detached and fixed again, whether it is manufactured on modern lines and made bug-proof, what sort of polish or varnish is used to make it durable, etc. When you concentrate on the chair, these sorts of ideas occupy your mind. Mind generally wanders wildly at random. When it thinks of one object, in a second it leaves this present object and runs to another object like a monkey, then to a third object and so on. It cannot stick to one point.

If you can carefully watch the mind-wanderings, you will find that there is an intimate connection though the mind wildly wanders about like an unchained monkey. The law of association operates always, though the links are broken. The mind may think of a book, then the bookstall wherefrom Mr. John has purchased it, then the friend whom he met at the railway station when he was purchasing, then of railways and of the directors of the railways who live in London. The thought of London may bring in the idea of skating. From skating, it may jump to Alps. It may think of pine trees, consumptive hospital, open-air treatment. The thought of a pine tree will bring in the remembrance of Almora in India and its vicinity where pine trees grow. The thought of Almora will bring in the thought of Swami Vivekananda, who founded the ‘Advaita Ashram' at Mayavati, near Almora. It may entertain some divine ideas of concentration and meditation and of Advaita Brahman. Then, suddenly, it may drop into sensual grooves. It may think of the prostitutes in Almora. It will entertain lustful thoughts.

All these will take place within the twinkling of an eye. The mind works and moves with a tremendous speed that is impossible to imagine. It catches one object and fabricates one idea, and through association, it leaves this object and this idea and jumps to another object and another idea. There is a sort of concentration all throughout its wanderings though the concentration is not a continuous one. When the thought runs in one definite groove continuously on one subject alone—like the flow of oil from one vessel to another, then it is concentration. The aspirant should withdraw his mind whenever it runs outside and put it in the same groove in the same line of thought on one subject and on one idea. This is spiritual Sadhana. This is Yogabhyasa. This is Dharana and Dhyana. This will result in Samadhi or the superconscious state, the fourth dimension or Turiya.

The vital point in concentration is to bring the mind to the same point or object again and again by limiting its movements in a small circle in the beginning. That is the main aim. A time will come when the mind will stick to one point alone. This is the fruit of your constant and protracted Sadhana. The joy is indescribable now. When you meditate on a chair, bring all thoughts connected with the chair and dwell on these ideas. Do not allow any other thought connected with another object to enter the mind. There should be one line of thought. There should be one continuity of thought, like the steady flow of oil from one vessel to another vessel, like the continuous sound of a church-bell. There may be several ideas connected with one subject. This does not matter. You can reduce the number of ideas and come to one idea of one subject. When this idea also dies, you get the superconscious state or Samadhi. When there is one idea, it is called Savikalpa Samadhi, which is a lower stage. When this one idea also dies out and when there is not even a single idea, the mind becomes blank or void. There is mental vacuity. This is the stage of thoughtlessness of Patanjali Maharshi in his Raja Yoga philosophy. You will have to rise above this blank Vritti and identify yourself with the supreme Purusha or Brahman, the silent witness of the mind, who gives power and light to the mind. Then and then alone you can reach the highest goal of life. The mind is insentient (Jada), but it appears as Chaitanya (Chaitanyavat) by borrowing the light from the Adhishthana (source)—Atman, just as water exposed to the sun borrows the heat from the sun. Because there is reflection of intelligence in the mind from the background, the source or womb for this mind, this insentient mind appears as intelligent. This is the real truth. This is the bold, genuine philosophy of the Hindu sages of yore. Western psychologists and occultists are still ignorant. They are groping in utter darkness. They say: “There is nothing beyond mind and reason. Reason is the ultimate.” Let them have their own convictions. Sooner or later, they will have to admit the Truth. There is no other go. There are some philosophers and psychologists who do believe that mind is secretion of the brain. What a wild absurd conviction! They have come to admit the presence of the subconscious mind—the “Dual-Mind Theory”—which was known to the Hindu sages from time immemorial. Mind is not self-luminous like the self-effulgent Atman or the Supreme Spirit. It shines in borrowed feathers. It is like a glow-worm of the rainy season. Atman is the Sun of suns and Light of lights. It is Param Jyoti (Infinite Light). It is Svayam Jyoti (Self-Radiance).

Back to the point: When you concentrate on a chair, do not allow any other thought of different objects. Again and again bring the mind that wanders to the object, which is chair. When you meditate on a rose, think of rose and rose alone. When you think of a book, think of all that is connected with the book, and nothing outside it. When you think of a radio or a talkie, think of the radio or talkie alone. Exhaust all matters connected with the subject on hand. You can take any subject that is pleasing to the mind. Slowly you can take up any subject that is displeasing to the mind by creating interest in it again and again. You should always remember the maxim: “One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell.” When you take up any work, apply your whole heart, full mind and soul, to the work. Do it with perfect concentration. What another can do in six hours, you can turn out within half an hour, smoothly, in a methodical and orderly manner. This is Yogic activity. You will be taken for an accomplished Yogi. Even when you study, study the subject with perfect concentration. Do not allow the mind to wander. You must shut out all external sounds. Fix the gaze on one point. Do not allow the eyes to wander. When you study a subject, do not think of coffee or sweetmeats, or your friend. The whole world must be dead to you for the time being. Such must be the nature of the concentration. It will come to you after some steady and constant endeavours. Be not troubled. Be not discouraged. There will be some delay. Wait coolly and patiently. Rome was not built in a day. It is all a question of time. Do not leave the practice even for a day, even when you are sick. In your failure lies the secret of your success, and in your weakness the secret of your strength. Plod on. Push on. Gird up your loins. Nil desperandum. Be bold. March on courageously. Be cheerful. A brilliant future is awaiting thee. Practise. Feel. Rejoice. Become a Yogi or world figure. I can make you one. Follow me. Be sincere and earnest. Rise up. Awake. Thy light has come. O my dear children of Light and Immortality! Brahmamuhurta is drawing now; it is 3.30 a.m. This is the best time to practise concentration on Atman, memory and will-culture, and to catch hold of the mind. Sit on Virasana and do rigorous practice now. May success and divine glory attend on thee. I shall take leave of you now. I shall leave you there. Melt the bubble mind in Brahman—the ocean of knowledge—and enjoy supreme bliss.

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