The mind works in mysterious ways yet we can analyse some important broad aspects of this mind process. What is the mind of a person? What is it made up of? What are the grooves that are in the mind? The mind is a product of previous experiences. In exactly what way is it a product of experience? We shall take one instance and multiply it ad infinitum. The experience may be in the form of a perception. We smell something, touch something, taste something or experience something - a combination of so many things may happen and immediately, just as a groove is created in a gramophone plate, an impression is made in the mind. This impression is called a samskara, an impression in the mind coming out of an experience of perception.
What is the nature of samskaras? Is it like a furrow made on the ground or the grooves in the gramophone record? No, it is dynamic, and a number of such experiences making grooves upon the human mind make that impression a vital impression. It becomes active, it begins to be a factor in one’s life. It becomes a dynamic tendency in the person’s character. In fact, when it comes to this stage, the repeated taking in of a particular impression makes it take the form of a vital or living force in the person’s character. It becomes a vasana, a craving and the sum total of vasanas always keeps the mind in a state of agitation. They always go on starting ripples in the mind-lake, and these constant ripples create vrittis, modifications.
In an ordinary mind, so many vrittis are rising and sinking. We begin to desire the experience that formed the samskara which is the cause for the rise of the vritti. Even at this stage of desire, iccha, there is no great harm, but when the play of ego, the ‘I’ in each one of us, identifies itself with that desire, then all trouble starts. Instead of ‘want’, it is ‘I want’, and at this point the individual is in the grip of the mind.
Whether you reside in a cave or in a city, when ‘I’ joins in, you may be doing meditation, but when you have a desire for a particular object, meditation becomes secondary. Then the mind has two aspects. When a desire comes, the mind thinks, “Should I fulfil this desire? Or should I continue my meditation?” If the shuddha manas, pure mind, gets the upper hand, it says, “No” and pushes off the desire and continues meditation. If on the other hand, the mind gives way to ashuddha manas, impure mind, the desire gets the upper hand. Then the iccha becomes a strong impelling urge. The person immediately strives to fulfil the desire and falls from yoga.
Yoga not only means the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi. Yoga should function every moment. If an impure thought comes and you are not able to put it down, you have failed in yoga. In every thought, in every action, you have to assert your mastery over your vrittis – then yoga is fulfilled and divine life is lived. What is the time taken for this process? Within a split second a decision is made and the long process of the samskara which crystallized the impulse is subdued, the higher mind achieves a resounding victory over the lower mind.
The process of the mind is such that from experience you get samskara, from samskara you get vasana, from vasana you get vritti. The imagination makes the vritti into a desire. Then ego attaches itself to the desire and it becomes an urge, a trishna. Then you are forced to do cheshta or effort to fulfil the desire.
Scientists are trying to find a perpetual motion machinery which never stops but is always in motion. That perpetual motion machinery is in you now. It is the mind. You have to deal with the mind, the vasanas and samskaras. Those which you have formed are already there, you cannot help it, but at least you can do one thing. You can prevent the formation of new samskaras and stop past samskaras becoming further strengthened by fresh ones. How is this possible?
Daily you receive new experiences, daily you perceive so many things with the five organs of senses. So how can you prevent these experiences making impressions upon the mind? Is there any technique? If the ego is not there, the object does not go deep into the mind. If the mind is engaged in some other thought, a particular impression brought by the senses will not produce any effect, but if the ‘I’ is there, it will easily take these perceptions and create in you a desire for objects. There is only one fire to burn all desires. Nachiketa had that fire. So many attractive and alluring things were offered to him. He was offered money, beauty, strength, power, kingdoms, all vidyas and tempting objects for the senses, but Nachiketa reduced all impressions into ashes, because he had that one fire, and that was mumukshutva, spiritual aspiration. Aspiration is a positive fire in which desires and cravings are reduced to ashes. This is the fire that should characterize all sadhakas.
If you want to lead the divine life, your inner heart should be a place of aspiration, a fire of yoga should burn in you always. This blaze should be maintained. You cannot completely change the outward mode of life, but inwardly there should be aspiration. This fire should burn day and night: when you are awake, when you are sleeping, when you are alone, when you are among others, when you are in meditation, when you are engaged in work. This fire should not be put out.
This aspiration should always form an integral part of your being. Then you are living the divine life. If this fire is there, you need not worry what work you are doing or in which place you are living, because you will be leading a divine life. You cannot be a victim of sense pleasure, but if, in spite of your vigilance, an impression of a sense object goes to the inner consciousness, know how to burn it through aspiration. Before it enters the outer threshold, you have to burn it.
—Extract from Water the Roots