Taming the Mind

Swami Satyananda Saraswati's closing speech at the World Yoga Convention, held at Satyananda Ashram, Australia, in Oct. 1978

Outside I hear some children crying and laughing and making sounds. I don't see them, but I hear them. What they are doing is not perceptible to my eyes, but I know about the noise going on behind the curtain. In the same way there is some noise going on within all of us, behind the curtain. We are not able to see it, but we feel it. That noise is the mind. It causes restlessness, anxiety, disturbance. It diverts our attention and makes us two-minded. It is this noise which definitely has to be silenced. This is the purpose, the mission of yoga. This is why yoga should be learned and taught.

Even if you change your situation in life, change your house, apartment, job or business, country, guru, method of sadhana, husband or wife, unless you change and silence this screaming child within you, you can never experience peace and joy, you can never be at rest. It is no good blaming the circumstances, your job, business, health, wife, husband, bank balance, or property. There is only one thing that has to be laid to rest, and that is the mind. The philosophy of yoga rallies around this one thing- the mind.

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras the first sutra says: "The definition of yoga is to be able to control the mind". Some people say that the definition of yoga is union of the individual soul with the cosmic soul. Others have their own definitions, but Rishi Patanjali, the codifier of raja yoga, defines yoga precisely as having absolute control over the tendencies of the mind. These tendencies are formations on the superstructure of the mind. Mind is consciousness- chitta. The homogeneity of consciousness throws out wave after wave- vrittis- just as a pond throws out ripple after ripple when pebbles are thrown into it. The formations on the superstructure of the mind are the tendencies of the mind which we experience in our day to day life. Anger and jealousy are not unholy. Passion and hatred are not sinful. These are the tendencies of the mind caused by external stimuli from the life which we face during our period of experience of raga and dwesha- like and dislike, attraction and repulsion, passion and anger. I assure you that we can never control these unless we go to the very base. The base is chitta, the mind, not the formations of the mind. Once you have been able to hold total control over the whole chitta, you are master of the subject. Yoga is nothing but this. It's not magic, a religion, a cult, a mystic philosophy, it is just a science of mind- the whole mind. Psychology is a science of mental symptoms (vrittis). Yoga is the science of the whole mind (chitta). Therefore where psychology ends, yoga begins. Psychology talks about symptoms but we don't talk about the symptoms, we talk about the whole subject.

What is the mind then? Mind is a reflection of supreme consciousness. The mind that is free from disturbances and psychotic manifestations, free from all its so called attributes, the mind as it is, a thing in itself, that mind is a clue to the supreme consciousness. Indeed, the person who has been able to visualise the mind without its external manifestations can reach the highest experience.

Therefore, the first thing in yoga is discipline. The second thing is total control over the tendencies of the mind. The third is becoming aware of your inner being. The fourth is becoming free from the day to day turmoil that makes you move like a shuttlecock, from this end to that end, or like a boat on the ocean. This is the yoga which we have been practicing, discussing, and trying to learn. Dhyana yoga, the yoga of meditation, is the nearest definition of yoga which I can give you, and which you can understand. But by dhyana you should not understand that you close your eyes and enter into darkness and total unconsciousness. Dhyana is a dynamic state of awareness in which you know nothing of this lower existence, but you know everything is One. Dhyana is at once total unawareness of everything else but One. It is when meditation comes to the point of fulfilment.

When meditation is matured, when the consciousness blooms within, at that time awareness does not die. The light of the soul is not extinguished, but a great revolution takes place. One dies, surely one dies. It has been hinted at in the Bible, "By God, I swear I die every night". The death of normal consciousness takes place. At that time when the inner awareness blooms, external awareness which leads to the knowledge of time, space and objectivity, dies. So here you die, and here you are reborn - that is dhyana.

At this moment we live in the body; we know by the senses; we think by the mind. We are alive externally, but we are dead to the inner consciousness. Can you experience inner life? Yes. I experience this world. I am aware of time, space, objects and duality. I am. I know. Therefore, I am alive. But what about the inner consciousness? Am I aware of it? No. Do I experience it? No. In meditation I see many things, but I know they're not that. They're the way to that. All that you see in meditation, all that you experience in dhyana yoga from light to candle flame, flower, angel, sky, moon, gardens, and oceans, none of them is that. That experience has no form, no attributes, no comparison. That experience is only that experience.

Dhyana yoga is the nearest possible definition of yoga. Asana, pranayama, and all other forms of concentration are accessory; they are aids for the different categories of the mind. If we belong to the sattvic category then only meditation will do. Please note this point carefully. But we have some rajasic nature in us too. We have ambitions and passions - we can't deny it. Involvement in activity, restlessness for acquiring something, desiring to have something which you have already experienced is all rajasic. When you have a rajasic nature, direct meditation is not possible. Then you have to go through the practices of sense withdrawal which are known as pratyahara in raja yoga, such as ajapa japa, trataka, nada yoga, kriya yoga, laya yoga, mantra yoga and various forms of pranayama.

If you have a tamasic nature, which is full of procrastination, laziness and too much sleeping - going to bed late at night and waking late in the morning - then the sadhana, the practices, are different. But kindly remember that we are never just a single quality. We are a mixture of the three gunas or qualities of nature. Our mind is a composition of sattva, rajas and tamas. All three qualities compose the structure of the mind, and we are a combination of them while being either predominantly sattvic, rajasic or tamasic.

When we are predominantly sattvic we have to follow the course of meditation directly - close your eyes, bring the mind to one point and Hari Om Tat Sat - just like a jumbo jet. But when we are rajasic we have difficulty, because we are tied down to the gravity of maya. We are all representatives of maya, which is beautiful and false. We are unable to get out of it unless we have a higher force attached to the mind. In order to get out of the pull of gravity, the centre of gravity, we need additional power, strength and energy. Therefore, when the mind is rajasic, we practice pranayama, asanas, kirtan and bhajan, mantra, austerities and live a simple, harmonious life. All of these things are taught in the lower forms of yoga and can be practiced by all.

Along with practicing these things in the home, the first thing you should teach your children is Hari Om Tat Sat. Om is the supreme, transcendental being. Hari is all-pervading, immanent reality. The supreme reality is not only transcendent, it is immanent as well. It is not only here, it is everywhere. So Hari represents immanent reality that is everywhere. Om represents the transcendental reality that is beyond attributes, beyond gunas, beyond name and form, beyond maya. Tat is 'that'. Sat is 'real'. That is real and this existence is real. We have to see the reality on both planes, the immanent as well as the transcendent. Therefore, I always say Hari Om Tat Sat. When your children open their mouths, "Hari Om". When you bear them, always give them good samskaras, good karma, "Hari Om". If you have missed the great opportunities of spontaneous spiritual revelations, why should your children also miss? You have been making great efforts to spiritualize yourselves because your parents failed to do so. Why should you fail your children? They should grow up in such an atmosphere that spiritual awareness is a spontaneous event in their lives. This is how a new psychic race will be born. All of you should be the harbingers of that psychic race.