About the Mind

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Yoga as a subject is of great importance. Yoga is called parinama, a result or consequence. In the yoga shastras, the example of cotton, thread and cloth has been used to illustrate this concept. Thread is the result of cotton, cotton is the result of the cotton plant, and the cotton plant is the result of a seed. Everything in creation is the result of something or the other. Body, mind, matter – everything is parinama. Curd is made out of milk, butter out of curd, and ghee out of butter. Like this, everything in this world is a parinama. It is important to know what is not a parinama.

Let us think about the mind, intellect or chitta. All three are parinama. When your mind turns from sankalpa, firm resolve, to vikalpa, confusion between choices, it is also parinama. This is not the reason, rather it is the result or parinama. Whenever you experience anger, passion or perversion of the mind, it is a result and not the reason. You have to keep this in mind without fail. Even though these things are the result of something, they can be changed. Like our body is a parinama, yet it keeps changing. When it is twenty years old, it is called yuvavastha, youth; when it is forty, it is called proudhavastha, middle age; when it is eighty, it is called vriddhavastha, old, and after that it dies. That means there is a change.

Whether you like it or not, there will be definitely a change in your mind. In a hundred, a thousand years or more, there will definitely be a change. What we call the mind is not only an individual mind. This mind is a part of the universal mind. You also have to keep this in mind so that there is no mistake.

In this room you see so many bulbs, tube lights and this microphone in front of me. The electricity which flows through all these is one and the same, it is not different. In the same way, when you see different animals or people, they do not have different minds. It is the circuit of the universal mind in all of them. It appears that your mind is different to my mind, but in reality that is not so. It appears like that according to your need, your karma, your time and according to your desire and ambition. The mind is not different, it is one channel, one energy, only the connection is different.

Energy is nature. This energy is connected to this fan and microphone. I am telling you that your mind and my mind are not different but they are one. Tendencies, impressions, senses are different, even the outlook which we have inherited from our parents is different from birth to birth in the cycle of time. A hundred years ago, man thought he would be happy if he had an elephant. Nowadays, man may be happy even with an orange, so even the tendencies in man change according to time and place. Thirty years ago man was satisfied by becoming an officer, now he wants to be an engineer. Twenty years later man may think of becoming a sannyasi. According to time and place, these ideas keep changing. One hundred years ago man was proud to possess an elephant. Fifty years ago man wanted a horse. Afterwards, he started thinking of having a palanquin with beautiful designs. In earlier times he preferred a bullock cart, now he wants a car, either a Mercedes Benz or some other make.

Four years ago when I was travelling to Denmark, an incident took place. In the aircraft, in a special VIP section, screened with glass, there was a lady who was about twenty-five or twenty-eight years old. She was good looking and smartly dressed, but her head was clean shaven. I was wondering about this, because nowhere else in the world have I seen the head of a woman shaved, unless she is a Jain muni or a sannyasin. However, this young lady was neither.

A little later there was an announcement in the aircraft: “We are very happy and proud to announce that such and such personalities are here on our flight whom we have the pleasure to introduce . . .” So, I came to know that she was a Hollywood actress. I recalled having heard the name before.

She must have been thinking about how to start a conversation with me. I was also hesitating, but then I decided to break the ice. I started by wishing her a good evening and asked her where she was going, and then we had a long talk. She asked, “How is it that your head is so shiny?” I said, “Yours also is shining.” She said, “I apply cream.” I spoke to her about biological, psychological and physical energy. Then she said that she shaved her head just for fashion. When most people have long hair and if somebody famous shaves it off, it becomes fashion.

The reason for telling you this is that according to time and place, there is a change in the mind. When mind is concentrated on one single thing, it is called samastichitta. You find this state in animals, birds, plants and other animate beings also. Maharshi Patanjali has said in Samkhya darshan that there are many stages of chitta. According to him, even inanimate matter has chitta. This varies according to the different stages of evolution.

When a youth attains yuvavastha, the condition of his chitta is called vikshiptavastha, a state of dissipation. There are five stages of chitta. At moodhavastha, an inert stage, the chitta is not active. This was thought to be present in birds and animals, though nowadays scientists have found out that even plants can understand what is happening within other trees and flowers close to them. Many scientists who are closely researching physiology say that one-fourth of plant life is very alert. Suppose you give a garland to an elephant and it puts the garland round your neck, you cannot say that it is moodha, it understands. However, it is kshipta. That is the second category. Kshipta means that though there is an understanding for a second, it is not sustained.

Man starts from vikshipta chitta. Vikshipta means that the mind does not remain steady on one thing. We also call this vikshipta mind, a fickle mind. The important goal of yoga is to change the mind, to clean and weave chitta into parinama. Just like you take cotton, clean it, take out the seeds, and then you make it into a thread. Like that, you have to take this unsteady mind towards the state of parinama. There are many methods. A drastic method is when you have to curb this mind by hurting it. A simple method prescribed by saints is that you should study your mind. This is known as manovishleshan. Modern scientists use this method very often, which is the analysis of the mind. In the classical shastras it is called swadhyaya.

Suppose you say your mind is fickle, ask the question, ‘Why it is fickle?’ You must analyse your mind. While doing so, you should not interfere with it, or try to control it. When you are in the first stages of sadhana, you will definitely think of controlling your mind, but this is not correct. When you do not know your mind properly and when you have not studied it, there is no point in trying to control it. If you give me wood and all the other necessary instruments and then ask me to make a table, how can I do so? How can I make a table when I do not know how to use the instruments? If you give the same things to a carpenter, he will produce a nice table. Similarly, when you do not know the nature of your mind, there is no point in meddling with it. This is the reason why many sadhakas go mad when they try to control their mind.

When I see famous artists, painters, poets, writers, scientists – all their work is the result or the creation of the mind. The beautiful paintings, attractive buildings, pleasant music, grand statues, who has made all these things? This is all the mind’s strength. The mind has got so much creativity. If you do not try to destroy it, if you do not misbehave with it, one day this mind will make you a great poet like Tulsidas or Valmiki, or a yogini like Mirabai, or a great emperor like Ashoka, or a saint like Buddha, Mahavir, or a famous scientist like Einstein or Newton, or a famous revolutionary like Karl Marx. Karl Marx was a very inspiring revolutionary whose literature made people bring down a kingdom and destroy the royal family. That was the kind of brain he had. You can also become a great literary genius like Shakespeare or Tolstoy.

The purpose of saying this to you is that your mind should not get hurt by your attempts to control it while doing yoga. For example, if you are sharpening a pencil and you go on sharpening it until the blade gets blunt, the pencil also is reduced to nil. I feel that on the spiritual path we make the same mistake. Mind is only one thing, not different things. You get angry with your children, you are unhappy with your husband or wife, and your mind is disturbed. Your mind gets angry and you get good or bad thoughts, though mostly bad thoughts. When you get these feelings, you think, ‘I have done something wrong’. So you try to curb or control this feeling. You are trying to stifle the very same mind which can make you a great scholar or a rich man. That is not correct. It is very difficult to handle the mind.

Until you know how to handle your mind properly, it is better that you do not touch it. Why? There is only one thing that is responsible for man’s salvation and that is the mind, chitta or chetana, consciousness or awareness. There are many different names, but they mean the same thing. Mind is power and that mind is within us. When an electric wire is inside an insulator, you can measure it in amperes or volts. Not only that, you can also raise or lower its current.

About twenty years ago, a scientist was conducting some experiments on the brain to study what happens inside it. While we are asleep, dreaming, having thoughts or any feelings, simultaneously waves start to appear in the brain. There are four types of waves and among them, the scientists could not understand the purpose of one wave. Each wave has a different velocity. They could not make out anything about this particular kind of wave. Once a scientist was studying someone with an ECG instrument attached to that person. When this person started meditating and the concentration was focused on bhrumadhya, the eyebrow centre, the voltage inside the brain immediately began to fall and reached that point which this scientist was experimenting upon. This energy should be considered as shakti, like an electric current. This current works differently at different times. While meditating, our mind comes to such a position that it changes.

Let us think about this because it is very important to understand, only talking is of no use. In the shastras, the ida nadi is also called chandra nadi. We sometimes also call it the cool nadi. The right nadi is hot. Ida nadi is connected to the left side of the spinal cord. In the spinal cord there are two nadis, on the left side is ida, on the right side is pingala. Each nadi has six distribution centres, chakras, known as mooladhara, swadhisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddhi and ajna. The energy is distributed from these centres to every part of the body, from the bottom to the top. It reaches the brain and then goes down to the soles of the feet. This shakti or mind flows throughout the body. This is energy, you should not think of it as psychology. Where is the original place of the mind? It has got two points. One is down below and the other is on top.

The mind has got two points. The first is at the tip of the tail bone of the spinal cord, at mooladhara, and the other point is in the brain. These two points should meet each other. Ida and pingala flow between these points and distribute all the energy to your body. Yogis do pranayama and ask you to also practise it. Why? When you do pranayama, you inhale from one nostril and exhale from the other, and then inhale from the same nostril and exhale through the other. This is known as nadi shodhana pranayama. Why is it called so? You have to purify the nadis. Nadi is taken from the Sanskrit word nad which means current, nadi means flow. You have to purify the flow by doing nadi shodhana pranayama. When nadi shodhana is completed then the breath flows in both the nostrils equally. Do not think that it will remain like that throughout the day or for a lifetime. No, it will only flow for half an hour or so, and at that time you should meditate.

When the nadi is impure, you are not able to meditate. When only pingala nadi flows you cannot meditate either, and when only the left nostril is active you will feel sleepy. Then how can you concentrate? When you meditate, you will hear noises and think that God has come to give darshan! When only pingala flows, your mind starts jumping like a monkey. This is pingala’s greatness! That is why both the nostrils should flow equally. The purpose of pranayama is to equalize the flow in both nostrils and bring equilibrium between mind and prana.

That is why I was telling you not to misbehave with your mind. Do not thrust any guilt upon it. Study the mind, do pranayama for half an hour or so. After completing pranayama, sit in padmasana or siddhasana, then you can meditate as you like. If you want to meditate like the Jains, Buddhists or Vedantins, do so. You can meditate whichever way you want to and it will take you to the right path.

30 January 1982, Jain Association, Coimbatore