The Mysterious Mind

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Most people are unfamiliar with the mind and do not understand its language or behaviour. Although the mind is an inseparable part of our being, our knowledge of it is very limited. We are continually happy or unhappy, desirous or frustrated, loving or hating, thinking, dreaming or sleeping. But all of these are beyond our control. If we stop thinking, it is because we can’t think anymore, and if we think too much it is because we cannot stop. We are happy, not because we choose to be, but because the emotion arises due to the fulfilment of some desire or condition.

The behaviour and reactions of the mind are not under our control. We have been living with the mind, yet we are totally unfamiliar with it. It is like two friends, who have no common basis of understanding, living together in the same room. One is deaf and the other is dumb. There is total lack of synchronization, total absence of participation. One prepares lunch and dinner and whatever he cooks, the other has to eat. He may not like spaghetti or hot, spicy food, but he has to eat it, because that is what has been cooked for him.

Why is it like this?

People are ignorant of many things. Whatever we are taught in the schools is inadequate. When we learn something it is not for practical purposes but in order to get through an examination. So there are many fundamental things which we do not know. Similarly, we do not know about the mind.

Yoga is a science which teaches you about the mind through practical experiences. It is unnecessary to tell you what the mind is; you have to experience it yourself. I can explain to you what sweetness is, but until you have tasted it, you can never really understand. Once you have had the experience of sweetness, you know it, and I don’t have to explain. Likewise, the mind has to be practically experienced.

The unseen mind

The great thinkers say that the mind of a man is like a subterranean volcano. A little can be seen, but the rest is below the surface. We know many of the mental manifestations such as anger, happiness, unhappiness, greed, passion, emotion, worry, fear, anxiety. These are only the upper part of the volcano which we can see. If I get angry, I can experience it. If something happens to my wife or children, I have certain melancholy feelings. I feel and I know. This is the perceptible mind that can be seen, but it is beyond our control. When you are full of frustration, you do not know how to get rid of it because the root is in the unseen mind.

The psychologists call this unseen region the subconscious and unconscious mind. Yoga calls it the astral and causal mind. When you practise yoga, you are able to see this subterranean area of the mind. If someone goes crazy or blows up, that is the subterranean mind coming to the surface. Just as smoke comes from fire, all the mental manifestations emerge from the subterranean base. Anger can be felt in the brain; fear can be felt in the heart, but both emanate from the same place. Dreams, visions, doubts, prejudices, all come from the same base. It is therefore necessary for every man to go deep into the base of the mind.

Developing the seer

How do you get to the base of the mind? One way is to follow a pattern of thought, right back to the source. But this is very difficult, because while you are following the pattern of thought, you become part of it. Once you become part of it, you are completely lost. If your mind is jumping about and you try to follow the thoughts, it is very difficult. After some time, what often happens is that you begin to fantasize the whole process.

In yoga, the path of following thoughts is not considered to be easy, because for most people, the thinking and the thinker are inseparable. In order to practise this successfully, you must first be able to separate the thinking and the thinker, and then you should separate the thinking and the thinker and the thought. There are definitely three factors combined.

The thinking, the thinker and the thought are the three components of the mind. When these are assembled, the process of thinking and feeling takes place. When a thought is in your mind, there is a thinker, and a process of thinking. But in yoga we have a fourth component – the seer. So in yoga we have thinking, thinker, thought and the seer of it all.

Yoga really begins when you are able to add this fourth component to the whole thinking process. The seer is a spectator. As you are the spectator of a grand race or a viewer of the TV, in the same way, you have to develop within you a spectator of the whole triple process. You do not have to create the seer. The faculty of witnessing what is happening in the mind is already there in a very subtle form.

That is the differentiating quality of human beings; other-wise, we are merely animals. Animals walk on four legs; we walk on two. Animals react to different situations and we also do. Animals, eat, sleep and live in the body and we also do. Animals have insecurity and we also do. Animals love and perform the sexual act and we also do. The only thing that makes the homo sapiens different from the animals is that faculty of knowing.

I am talking to you; I know I am talking to you, and I know that I know I am talking to you. You are listening to me; you know you are listening to me, and you know that you know you are listening to me. This is called the faculty of the seer. This faculty of the seer in time and space is man’s special heritage. As man evolves, he develops this faculty. When you lose this faculty, and many people do, you become as ignorant as the animals, living an animal life in an animal body. This faculty of the seer is developed through the process of meditation by which the whole mind is transformed. We no longer say, ‘thinking, thought and thinker’; we say, ‘meditation, meditator and object of meditation’. I am the seer of this triple function that is taking place in meditation. With this faculty I am able to connect past, present and future and maintain a time-space continuum.

The source of creation

Mind is much subtler than an atom, molecule or electron. Mind is definitely the subtlest of all the energies that man has discovered so far. You know about the subtler states of matter which are discussed in physics, but mind is subtler than any kind of matter that we have conceived of, measured or analysed in science.

According to yoga, this mind is connected to the time-space continuum. Time, space and object are qualities of the mind. The time-space-object continuum is the whole existence, and these three are manifestations of the mind. If you can disintegrate the mind, totally withdraw it, then time, space and object do not exist. This is taught in modern physics also.

Religions say that God is the creator, but what is this creation? Is it made out of mud or stone, flesh or bone? The leading scientists of our time have given a definite conclusion that the creation of time and space is a manifestation of mind. Once the mind is withdrawn, there is nothing.

Few people understand the power of the mind. You can create anything by the mind, good or bad. Everything exists on account of the mind. Mind is more powerful than the body. We don’t understand it, because our science is based on matter. It seems that mind is a thinking machine, but this is not so. It is a force, an energy. By this mind we knowingly or unknowingly create disaster for ourselves. All our sufferings are due to the mind.

In physics, the scientists have clearly stated that both matter and energy are creations of the mind. Time and space are both spanned by the mind. The time-space-object continuum is created by the mind, just as we make a candle out of wax. The wax is the candle and when it melts, there is no candle. In the same way, the mind is extending itself.

Taming the mind

In physics, Vedanta, yoga and tantra, we read that time, space, and object are qualities of the mind. Just as this nose is one of my organs, the ears and eyes are other organs, but if I die, everything dies. So, these three – time, space and object – are the different manifestations of the mind. If you withdraw the mind, then everything is withdrawn.

You can live for a certain period beyond this creation. If you develop this art, you can transcend time, space, and object.

By transcending the mind, you can attain samadhi, the highest state in evolution, the acme of human life. But the problem is how to withdraw the mind. Modern science has accepted this, but it has not shown us how to manage the mind, nor has religion. The only science that has shown us the way is yoga and tantra. The purpose of yoga is to raise the mind, and for this, meditation is one of the greatest systems.

Meditation is dhyana yoga. It is not the yoga of unconsciousness; it is the yoga of complete consciousness of all that is happening within you. First you develop the awareness of the seer and become a witness of the thoughts. When this awareness is developed and the mind is completely withdrawn, then it is time to focus the awareness on an object like a fame, star, point, sound, idea, experience or mantra. Then you need to develop the total awareness of that object. When this happens, you will spontaneously enter that state of meditation. Go on meditating and transform the gross mind into subtle mind. Then transform the subtle mind into causal mind, to such an extent that the cosmic mind is drawn to a point. This is bindu, the nucleus of creation.

If this process does not take place, take the help of other forms of yoga, because they all prepare you for developing this faculty. But don’t expect it to be easy. The mind is the greatest force and in order to tame and harness this wild stallion, you must be ready to travel a lot.

First you must realize that the mind is a creative force. A thought is an expression of creation and you don’t know it. You think a thought and something happens somewhere. Therefore, man’s unhappiness, physical illness, intellectual limitations, emotional breakdowns and lack of many other faculties in his life can all be attributed to incorrect handling of the mind. In order to handle the mind, we must first develop the faculty of the seer. Unless we do this, we can never manage the mind.

Know thyself

Everyone should understand that meditation is a very important practice. There are various practices which you can learn according to your capacity. It is therefore important to encourage yoga and meditation seminars for beginners and old students alike. As we organize courses and you come to hear of them, please pass on the information so that many more people can take advantage of these opportunities. If you can put a few people in touch with yoga, you are doing them a great service, because man must know his own self. Without this, he cannot extricate himself from the tragedies of life. Happiness is within and that one has to know by practical experience.

Though man has tried everything, he has failed to secure happiness so far. Man has been following a mirage, a world of delusion. He should realize the world within, the happiness which is non-material does not depend on the object. There is a greater happiness which is homogeneous and absolute, and that is the self, beyond the mind.

28 August 1979, Satyanandashram, Barcelona, Spain Printed in YOGA, Vol. 18, No 8 (August 1980)