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The Mind Compared

by Swami Sivananda


The mind is like a ghost which is restless. Once, a Brahmin Pundit, through Mantra-Siddhi, had control over a ghost. The ghost said to the Pundit, "I can do any work for you in a minute. You must always be giving me some work. If you leave me even for a second without work, I will at once devour you." The Brahmin agreed. The ghost dug a tank for the Brahmin, ploughed the fields and did various sorts of work in a short time. He was not able to give the ghost any further work. The ghost threatened the Brahmin, "Now there is no work for me. I will devour you." The Brahmin was quite puzzled. He did not know what to do. He went to his Guru and explained to him his whole situation. His teacher said, "O Chela, use your common-sense or Yukti (Buddhi). Install a big, stout, soft, wooden post in front of your house. Apply castor oil, wax and other greasy substances to the post. Ask the ghost to get up and get down the whole day and night." The disciple acted accordingly and controlled the ghost. The ghost became very helpless. Even so, you must give always some kind of work or other to the mind, e.g., Japa, meditation, Svadhyaya, service, Kirtan, prayer, Pranayama. You must keep it fully occupied. Then only the mind can be easily controlled. You can be established in physical and mental Brahmacharya.


The activity of the mind is compared to the mobile mercury. If you place a small quantity of mercury on the ground, it will split into several small pieces and run in various directions. You cannot collect them again. Even so, the rays of the mind are scattered in various directions, in sensual objects. It becomes difficult to collect the dissipated mental rays. Vairagya and Abhyasa will help in making the mind one-pointed.


The mind can be compared to the shameless, wandering street-dog with so many wounds on the body. The dog goes to the door of a house. Someone throws a stone at it and it runs away. It goes to another house. There also, it gets a good hitting and thrashing. Then it comes back again to the first house wherefrom it received a pelting of stone. Someone again throws a big stone and it gets another wound. The dog will never leave off its wandering habit in spite of the repeated bad wounds it receives. Even so, this mind always runs towards sensual objects, even though it experiences immense miseries, griefs and sorrows, pains and tribulations. It will never leave off its old habits. You will have to thrash this shameless mind and take it to its source, Brahman, by chanting OM with feeling again and again. Let it taste the Ananda, the Infinite Bliss of Atman. Then alone it will find its rest in OM, its original Abode of Eternal Peace.


When you play tennis, the ball goes very high in the sky and the next second, it comes down to the ground. Even so, the mind jumps high to the divine glory, dwells on Sattvic divine virtues for a very short time in the beginning of meditation in neophytes and, at once falls down into its old rotten grooves, nasty ruts, foul avenues, stinking channels and dwells on useless, abominable thoughts. The developing soul, the new flame shudders and quivers at the sight of these shocking thoughts. It does not matter; you need not worry. Just as you raise the ball again to the sky by a good, fresh cut or twist or gentle beating, so also, you will have to raise the mind again with effort to the heights of divine glory and divine consciousness.


The mind of a man is compared to a mirror in which Reality (Brahman) is reflected. The extent you know about Reality depends upon the state of your mind-whether it corresponds to the full wealth of Reality or not. Colours are not revealed to the blind nor music to the deaf nor philosophical truths to the feeble-minded: "Nayam-atma balahinena labhyah." The revelation will be imperfect or distorted if there is any taint or imperfection. The selfish desires and passions get between the instrument of mind and the Reality to be revealed. Hidden subtle desires (Gupta Vasanas) attack the Sadhakas (aspirants) in a variety of ways. Sadhakas should be ever watching the mind through serious introspection. When the personality of the subject affects the nature of the instrument, the reflection becomes blurred.

Again, if you place a big mirror in front of a dog and keep some bread in front, the dog at once barks by looking at its reflection in the mirror. It foolishly imagines that there is another dog. Even so, man sees his own reflection only through his mind-mirror in all persons, but foolishly imagines like the dog that they are all different from him and fights on account of hatred, malice and jealousy.


In a clock, the pendulum moves to the right and thence to the left. When the children play on a swing, the swing moves high to one side and at once rises high to the other side. Even so, in the case of aspirants who are not established or well settled in deep meditation, their minds also resemble the pendulum or the swing. They sometimes think of Karma Yoga, enter the world and do actions; while, at other times, they run to the Himalayas for leading a contemplative life. There is struggle inside whether to take up Karma Yoga or Dhyana Yoga. You must decide it once for all and be firm in practising Karma Yoga or in shutting yourself up in a room or cave for some years in the practice of meditation. To run for work into the world for six months and then again into the forest for six months for meditation is no good. Decide one way or the other. Cut asunder the Gordian Knot. Work till you get Chitta-Suddhi. Then meditate till you realise. This is the wisest course.


If you allow a tennis ball to drop from the highest stair-case, it will not stop at any of the middle steps in the stair-case. It will come down to the ground floor at once. Even so, if you do not take the proper precautions, if you mix with the worldly-minded persons, you will get a quick downfall like the tennis-ball. The mind that you elevated by spiritual practices in six or eight years will become tainted with various sorts of impurities. Beware, therefore, O aspirants!


Mind is compared to a SMALL VESSEL which contains small articles, because mind also contains Vasanas, Trishnas, Samskaras, Vrittis, ideas, Gunas, etc.

Mind is compared to a DHARMASHALA or public resting place, because the Vrittis such as lust, greed, anger, pride, hypocrisy, egoism, etc., take their rest in the mind. Mind is Dharmashala for those Vrittis.

Mind is compared to a PUBLIC ROAD. In a public road, anybody can walk. All sorts of people are moving in a public road. Similarly, all sorts of thoughts are moving in this mind.

Mind is compared to the HOUSE OF A PROSTITUTE, because mind is attached to one object this moment, to another object the next moment, like the prostitute. It has a liking for one object at one time, for another object at another time.

Mind is compared to a DEER, because it is unsteady. It is compared to a MONKEY, because it jumps from one object to another. It is compared to a BIRD, because it flies like a bird. It is compared to the WIND, because it is impetuous, like the wind. Mind is compared to a Ghost, because it behaves like a devil.


Mind is compared to an ENGINE, because it works when the food-fuel is supplied.

Mind is compared to a GARDEN. There are beautiful flowers in a garden. You can cultivate several kinds of flowers in a garden. Even so, you can cultivate the flowers of peace, equal vision, contentment, etc., in the garden of mind.

Mind is compared to a TEMPLE (Mano-Mandira). When the mind is purified, when the evil Vrittis such as lust, greed, etc., are destroyed, the Lord takes His seat in the mind and so it becomes the temple of the Lord.

Mind is also compared to a FLOWER, because it is offered to the Lord by the devotee.

Mind is compared to REINS according to Upanishads. He who holds the mind-reins tight can reach the abode of Bliss.

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