Sadhana for Mastering the Mind

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

You take great care of the body. You want it to be clean, healthy, beautiful and strong. You bathe with fragrant soaps and hot water. You feed the body regularly with nourishing food. If there is the least pain or disease, a doctor is consulted and medicine is given. But you never give a thought to something much more important – the mind. The body is only an outward appearance, a projection of the mind.

The mind operates through the senses and the sense organs. If it is well, then the body is well. If it is disturbed, the body becomes ill. The mind controls your whole life. Upon it depends your happiness or misery, success or failure. As you think, so you become.

Do you fully realise the importance of training and overcoming the mind? Mastering the mind means success in all fields of endeavour. To achieve this mastery, you must study the mind. You must clearly understand its nature, habits and tricks, and the effective methods of bringing it under control.

The mind is a bundle of desires, thoughts, feelings and emotions. These desires, feelings and ideas are not at all steady. They change constantly. Some subside suddenly and others occupy their place, like the waves of the sea. Some old ones depart from the storehouse of the mind and new ones replace them at once. The mind is also a bundle of habits. The bad habits and prejudices, although hidden in one’s own nature, come up and occupy the surface of the mind as and when opportunities occur.

The entire world is nothing but the expansion of one’s thoughts towards various objects. It is called bondage. Most people do not have the understanding and discriminative power to know the real from the unreal. They are under the grip of the illusory power of maya, and fall prey to worldly desires and enjoyments, totally forgetting their divine birthright.

The mind is like a monkey which jumps from one place to another. It is like the air which always moves. The mind is always flitting from one object to another. The mind is also compared to an elephant because of its passionate impetuosity. Most people allow the mind to run wild and follow its sweet will and desires. The mind creates great havoc through the power of imagination. Much energy is wasted through imaginary fears, exaggeration, mental dramatisation, building castles in the air.

Purify the mind

It takes a long time to purify the mind, but success is sure if the endeavour is earnest. Aspire fervently. Be on the alert. Watch your mind carefully. Check the surging emotions and bubbling thoughts. Do not allow the waves of irritability, jealousy, anger, passion and hatred to arise in your mind. Do not allow the current of bad thoughts and negative ideas to pass through the mind.

A positive thought always overcomes a negative one. This is the natural law. When the sun rises, the fog vanishes. When the light is switched on, the darkness vanishes. If you substitute divine, virtuous qualities, the evil qualities will disappear. If you entertain new, sublime thoughts, the old vicious ones will subside by themselves. Courage gets rid of fear, patience overcomes anger and irritability, love overcomes hatred, and purity overcomes passion.

Just as you saturate water with salt or sugar, you have to saturate your mind with sublime and soul-stirring spiritual thoughts. Only then will the mind be rendered one-pointed and become established in pure consciousness. Constantly think of the Lord, the hidden indweller. Remember His glories every moment. Discriminate between the unreal and the real. Determine strongly to continually think of God.

The mind can be easily contained through steady practice and dispassion. By making a constant effort to fix it on God, you can develop dispassion towards sensual objects. Enquire: “Who am I?” Practise introspection. Do mental japa of Om and meditate on the atman. Thoughts will eventually die by themselves. You will rest in your own essential nature – Satchidananda Brahman.

Sit alone and watch the thought waves that arise in the mind. Be indifferent. Remain as a witness of the mental waves. Do not identify yourself with them. Do not think of the past. Do not plan for the future. Do not allow the mind to build images. Live in the solid present.

Do something the mind does not want you to do. Do not do what the mind wants you to do. This is one method of directing the mind. Do not try to fulfil the desires. Do not hope. Do not expect anything. Destroy vicious desires through virtuous desires; and eventually destroy virtuous desires also through the one strong desire for liberation.

Transform the mind

Pranayama makes the mind steady and one-pointed. It checks the velocity of the mind and reduces the quantity of thinking. It removes the tamasic and rajasic dross of the mind. A regulated diet of light, nutritious sattwic foods calms the mind. Rasjasic foods like meat and fish, onions and garlic excite the mind. Observe moderation in taking food.

Awaken your spiritual impressions through japa and satsang. Develop the impressions. Nourish and protect them. Mantra japa and worship of God turn the mind inward. Such sadhana induces dispassion and concentration and eventually leads to control of the mind. In this present age the easiest method for transformation of the mind and attainment of liberation is kirtan or singing God’s name. Satsang overhauls the mind and changes its current and rajasic nature. It fills the mind with sattwic vibrations.

Always do virtuous actions. Watch the mind and see what it is doing. These two practices are enough to control the mind. Selfless service is highly efficacious in purifying the mind. Do not wrestle or struggle with the mind. If you do, the mind will rebel. Be regular in your concentration and meditation.

The senses are very strong and impetuous. Control them gradually by intelligent methods like enquiry and discrimination. Try not to fulfil the desires. Give up whatever object the mind likes most and dwells upon constantly. You will gain a great deal of peace and willpower. After some months the craving will slowly vanish. Violent austerities will not help much. Controlling the mind is not the work of a day or a month. It is a patient, continuous struggle.

When the mind is transformed, things which used to upset you will not affect you. Occasions which made you irritable will not do so. You have now gained strength, endurance, resistance and the ability to deal with troubles. Unkind words which used to torment you will no longer upset you. Even if you show signs of anger, you will now be able to compose yourself quickly. These are all signs of your gaining mental strength and willpower. Meditation brings about all these beneficial results.

Take everything as it comes. You will develop spiritually and gain a great deal of mental strength and evenness of mind. Patience and endurance begin to develop. Develop the power of working undisturbed amidst all kinds of difficult conditions. This comes with practice.

Be positive

Maintain a positive attitude. Dispel doubts by well-directed suggestions and affirmations such as: “It is true that I will succeed. There is no doubt about this.” Everyone should understand and practise autosuggestion. This consists of powerful assertions. The formula: “I am becoming better and better every day, in every way,” will confer upon you health and success in all undertakings. Repeat it mentally throughout the day. Think you are strong, strong you will become; think you are weak, weak you will become. Think you are Brahman, Brahman you will become.

The mind has the capacity to make a hell out of heaven and a heaven out of hell. So never give way to negative or depressive thoughts, but calmly go on with the spiritual practices. Be regular and, without missing a day, proceed onward with the practices. Little by little the power will accumulate and grow.

Ultimately, the cumulative force of all the continuous, earnest sadhana done perseveringly and patiently over a long period of time will have its inevitable grand consummation at the supreme moment, when it bears fruit in the form of blissful God-realization. May God grant you strength to master your mind and enjoy eternal peace.