The mind is our central sense. Our five gross senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell—send the mind information, which the mind judges as either agreeable or disagreeable. Typically, the mind makes its judgments based on false ego, the misconception that we are our bodies, and the assumption that we can find lasting happiness by gaining control over the material world. The mind constantly calculates how to find and sustain pleasure and how to avoid discomfort, and sends us signals—thoughts—how to do so.
But the material world is an endless, unpredictable mix of pleasant and unpleasant circumstances, and when we act on the mind's decisions, our happiness isn't guaranteed. The mind can't lead us toward genuine fulfillment of any kind. For us to succeed in any significant endeavor, especially anything involving long-term, goal-directed activity, the mind must be trained to make judgments that support that success.
The system of yoga, as Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, is meant to help quiet the mind's constant chatter and bring it back under the control of the self, the atma. When the mind is controlled by superior, spiritual direction, it can be our best friend, and help lead us to our life's perfection.
[book reference: Coming Back]
We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:
- Bhagavad-gita, 6.5:
"One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well."
- Bhagavad-gita, 15.7:
"The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind."
- Amrita-bindu Upanishad 2:
"For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from the sense objects is the cause of liberation."
- Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 6.5, Purport:
"In the yoga system, the mind and the conditioned soul are especially important. . . the mind is the central point of yoga practice . . . The purpose of the yoga system is to control the mind and to draw it away from attachment to sense objects. . . the mind must be so trained that it can deliver the conditioned soul from the mire of nescience. . . the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature, and in this way the conditioned soul may be saved . . .The best way to disentangle oneself is to always engage the mind in Krishna consciousness."
- Bhagavad-gita, 6.6:
"For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy."
- Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 6.7, Purport:
"When the mind is misled by the external, illusory energy, one becomes entangled in material activities. Therefore, as soon as one's mind is controlled through one of the yoga systems, one should be considered to have already reached the destination. One has to abide by superior dictation. When one's mind is fixed on the superior nature, he has no alternative but to follow the dictation of the Supreme. The mind must admit some superior dictation and follow it. The effect of controlling the mind is that one automatically follows the dictation of the Paramatma, or Supersoul. Because this transcendental position is at once achieved by one who is in Krishna consciousness, the devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of material existence, namely distress and happiness, cold and heat, etc."
- Bhagavad-gita, 6.26:
"From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self."
- Meditation for a Nasty and Brutish World
- the mind reacts to whatever input we give it, so it pays to be selective about what we meditate on.
- Bhakti-yoga—A Method of Nonmechanistic Science: Part II
- To understand some of the practical problems involved in controlling the senses, we must first understand the concept of the material mind.
- Between Matter and Spirit
- Is the mind merely an “emergent” property of the physical body that really has no existence of its own, as many modern philosophers would maintain? Or is the mind something completely different from matter?
- Coping with Depression
- If we repeatedly maintain certain thoughts in our minds, they will eventually turn into words and then actions.
- Video series: The Mind—Saving Yourself From Yourself
—practical suggestions on how to become more peaceful and focused, especially in spiritual life, through controlling the mind.
- Video: The Need For Constant Mindfulness
—how to remain aware of what our mind is doing, while staying focused on our life's goal.
- Online Bhagavad-gita Audiobook
- Browse Krishna.com Videos
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- How is it possible to control the mind?
- Does the mind determine a person's consciousness?
- How is it possible to focus the mind on Krishna?
- My mind is disturbed even though I try my best to recite Hare Krishna. Any advice?
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But this material world is an endless, unpredictable mix of pleasant and unpleasant circumstances that we can't control. When we let our mind's decisions—based on our desire for temporary pleasure—dictate our choices, our happiness isn't guaranteed at all. A materially oriented mind can't lead us to permanent fulfillment. For that, we need to train the mind to make judgments based on a more elevated worldview.
The system of yoga, as Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, is meant to make our life peaceful by giving our mind a superior objective—specifically, meditating on the Supreme Person. Scriptures say that this, Krishna consciousness, is the perfection of all mental activity. When the mind is controlled in this way, it can be our best friend and help lead us to genuine happiness. Then we can be undisturbed by the temporary comings and goings of pleasure and pain in this world.
Indrani dasi hosts this hour-long program discussing chapter 5 of the book Spiritual Warrior 5 by Bhakti-tirtha Swami. As Bhakti-tirtha Swami writes, "The practice of mindfulness enables us to perceive the essence of all things. Every entity and element has its essential nature, but the ultimate essence of everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Furthermore, the Godhead is so mystically creative, cleverly subtle, and extraordinarily diverse, that recognizing Him and honoring Him at every moment requires great mindfulness."
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
One of the first pieces of Krishna conscious literature widely distributed in the western world, "Who Is Crazy?" inspired many people to investigate the spiritual dimension of their lives.
Lord Sri Krishna says, "My dear Arjuna, there are different classes of men. One class of men, they are sleeping. And another class of men, they are awake. They are not sleeping." And how is this so? This chanting, which we have performed just now, is the wakening process for the sleeping soul. The soul is sleeping, covered by this material body. These bodily activities are in the sleeping stage. Just as we see dreams in the sleeping stage, similarly, all these bodily activities are dreams. Just think for yourself: how many incidents have there been in your past life? If you think of them, they will appear just like dreams. At least for myself this is the case. I was born in India, educated, then married, then I had very good days with my wife, got some children, some of whom died, some of whom are living, some of whom are married; now they have begotten children. All this occurred in my past life. Now it is all a dream. I have no connection with it. Similarly, in dreams I sometimes find that I have become a king. Oh, there are so many riches and so much opulence. Then, as soon as the dream is over, I come home and all is gone.
So actually, these bodily activities which we are now engaged in are not our actual life. Therefore, the Vedic mantra says, "O human race, please wake up. Just utilize the opportunity which you now have." You have a special opportunity. And what is that? This human form of life. Utilize it; don't waste it. Don't go on sleeping. This very same matter is taken up by Sri Krishna. Those who are accustomed to the yoga process know this. The first principle of the yoga process is to control the senses. This is so for every process. In any bona fide process for spiritual realization, the first principle is to control the senses. This is because the senses are dragging us into the darkest region of life. But we do not realize this.
In the Srimad Bhagawatam there is a nice verse. It says, first, man is too much addicted to this materialistic way of life. The materialistic way of life involves eating, drinking, making merry, and enjoying. That's it--that's all. Have very good food, sleep well, and defend yourself so that enemies may not enter into your country, or into your home. And, have sexual enjoyment to your heart's content. This is the materialistic way of life. But persons who are so sleeping do not realize that their real self-interest is different. Our real self-interest is that we must know of our lost relationship with the Supreme Absolute Truth.
The Supreme Absolute Truth is realized from different angles of vision, as impersonal Brahman, or localized Supersoul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. One who realizes the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, automatically understands the other two features. But one who has approached only the impersonal feature of the Supreme Absolute Truth, has no information of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Now here, in the Bhagavad Gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is present before you.
Here is the picture of Sri Krishna, with his eternal consort Srimati Radharani, His pleasure potency. In this material world, the reflection of Sri Krishna and His pleasure potency exists pervertedly. As one can see in the picture, Sri Krishna is always consorting with Srimati Radharani. His features are described in Vedic literature: He stands in a very nice curved posture, blowing His flute. This picture is not drawn from artistic imagination. It is a descriptive painting from the Vedic literature. This description is in the Vedic literature.
So, in the material world there is the perverted reflection of Sri Krishna's Pastime with Radharani. It is not sex life as we have it, although it appears to be like that. It is transcendental. But that which we are after here--that is real. A young man wants a young woman, and a young woman wants a young man--this is natural. This is not artificial. It is natural because we are all part and parcel of that Supreme Being, Krishna. His attitude is in me because I am His part and parcel, just as the quality of gold is present in the minute particles of the gold. The chemical composition of gold is one hundred per cent present in a small particle of gold. Qualitatively. Therefore the enjoyment which we want between man and women is not a perversion of love and friendship. It is simply a perverted reflection. The real enjoyment is awakened in association with the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna. It is the same pleasure, but is in its pure form. That same bliss is there for you, but don't become entangled in this perverted form of enjoyment. Don't remain asleep. Don't remain in this dreaming condition. Have the real thing. Awaken from the dream. That is the message of the Vedas.
This is the opportunity. If you miss this opportunity in the human form of life--the developed consciousness--you will slip again into the cycle of 8 million, 400 thousand species of life that is developing, one form after another. That is the gradual process of evolution. We are still within the evolutionary process, but that evolutionary process should be forward, progressive. Not degraded. Don't slide. Don't go downward. By your many years of endeavor, you have come forward to this stage of life. Now, make further progress. Progress toward Sri Krishna. Don't go back.
The Srimad Bhagawatam says that most people do not know their self-interest in life. It is like coming to a crossroads and not knowing the way. Suppose you are going to Philadelphia, and after crossing New York City, you see a crossroads, and you do not know the road. Of course, in America, there is a very efficient system of direction on the roads. That way, you have no misguidance. Similarly, in the scriptures the Vedic literature gives you direction. Yes, here is a crossing. If you want to go this way, you may. So the Bhagawatam says that people do not know the direction by which to make progress. One must know that he must make further progress toward Vishnu. Why? Because this is a very highly developed life. In this form of life, we have very high intelligence. We have more intelligence than cats and dogs and other animals. Why misdirect it? The misdirection is due to being attracted to this bodily concept of life. One is thinking, "I shall be happy utilizing the body and the senses to the utmost."
Because we do not know what our progressive life is, we are trying to squeeze the essence out of this body. To enjoy it. In the Bhagawatam there is a very good example cited about these foolish men. They are compared with the camel. The camel is a desert animal very fond of twigs containing thorns. They have very long necks, and they take a bunch of twigs with thorns and begin to chew. By contact with the thorns, blood oozes out the tongue. Naturally, if you chew thorns, your tongue will be cut. So, when they take those thorns within the mouth and begin to chew, the blood comes out. And when the blood is mixed up in that form, they eat it, because blood has a taste he likes. He thinks that twigs with thorns are very tasteful. Our sex life is like that. Just squeeze it out of the body, and we think we are enjoying it. This is our position. Another example is given. In India the washermen keep asses. They load the ass as much as possible. The ass works all day and in the evening, his is offered some grass, and he's satisfied. For a morsel of grass, he is ready to work the whole day with a half ton of clothing on his back. Similarly, we also, the karmis, are very busy working all day and all night. And when we come home, we eat only one piece of bread. For one piece of bread, which costs not more than ten cents, one is working all day and all night. So the comparison is to the ass. The ass does not know for whom he is working so hard, and taking some bread. "This is the aim of my life." Is it my aim of life--to eat something and go to sleep, and have some sex pleasure and then die? No, this is not the aim of life. Your aim of life should be to realize yourself--that you are part and parcel of the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Krishna is awaiting your arrival, so that you can enjoy life in His association.
One does not know what the progressive way of life is. Why? Because he has understood that this sense enjoyment is life's greatest pleasure. He is foolishly thinking that he will be happy by this sense enjoyment. This is just like having a horse which is not properly bridled. It is running on, running on, and you do not know where it will throw you. Similarly, uncontrolled senses are just like unbridled horses, dragging your chariot. You do not know where it will throw you. We do not realize how responsible we are for every action. To every small part of our action, there is a reaction. And our uncontrolled senses are putting us through the chain of action and reaction and dragging us into the darkest part of the universe.
Therefore, Lord Sri Krishna says that one who has learned how to control the senses is called swami. To a controlled person, worldly activities are darkness. Those who are situated in pure consciousness see that people who work hard simply for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending--these people are sleeping. And, to the persons who are engaged in these material activities, we are sleeping. They see that Swamiji has come to America to preach something to make us inactive. He is just trying to drag us from our general engagement, and he's trying to engage us in the process of Kirtan and hearing Bhagavad Gita, and wasting time. So, they believe we are sleeping. Somebody may think, these poor fellows have gathered here to waste their time in discussing something dry, which has no meaning, which is not bringing forth anything. Let us have some business discussion, so that we can gain something from it. We see that these people are sleeping and they that we are sleeping.
Now, actually, who is sleeping? He is awake who comes to the platform of consciousness that I am not this body--I am consciousness. One is awake who has understood this simple fact, that I am not this body, I am consciousness. Without consciousness, my body is useless. Therefore, I am actually consciousness. I am pure soul, and the symptom of my presence is consciousness. I am not this body. When I think deeply, I can understand that this is my body. This is not I, body. This is my body. So, one who has understood this--he is awake.
Now, the whole process described in the Bhagavad Gita is to be awake. You are pure consciousness--spirit soul. And, not only to be awake, but to act accordingly, so that, at the ultimate end, your pure consciousness may be liberated from this bodily entanglement. Then you'll get your healthy life. This is a disease, this material life. This material body is the symptom of my diseased form of life. I am not actually subject to birth and death. I am eternal. I never take my birth. I never die. This is my real position. Then, what is this birth and death? It is due to this body. Changing the body like a dress is called birth and death. But actually, I am pure soul.
Now, people are saying that god is dead. This theory is popular. They are making propaganda that the Lord is dead. But neither God nor we will ever die; neither do we have birth. In Bhagavad Gita Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, says, "Arjuna, why are you afraid of fighting? Myself, yourself, and all these kings and soldiers who have assembled before us--all of them--they existed before, and they're existing now, and they will continue to exist in the future. There is no birth and death. So, this warfare should be on the condition of the body. Don't be afraid of it."
This point we have already discussed. One must understand this point: I am pure soul. My presence as pure soul is symptomatized by my consciousness. I know what has happened in my past life. And what is happening, that I can remember also. And, I can guess about my future life. At least, I make plans for my future. Unless I have my future, why should I plan? But, I am beyond this past, present and future. I am eternal. The Lord is eternal, and I am eternal also, as part and parcel of the Supreme God. Therefore, my self-interest is to attain that life of eternity. Life of full bliss. Life of full knowledge. That is the mission of my life. And one who takes that position seriously, who has taken up this mission of life, and is trying for that perfection, he is actually awake. And others who are not at this point, they are sleeping. This is the mark of a sleeping man. A man who is working strenuously the whole day, he is not actually awake. He is sleeping because his real intelligence is asleep. He has lost his self-interest. He does not know what the real interest of human life is.
All Vedic literature is imploring us, "Don't sleep! Don't sleep! Be awake! Be akake! Get up! Get up from this sleep! Utilize the boon which you now have. Don't be foolish."
People are working hard, and earning enough to eat. Especially in your country, there are sufficient means for eating, and nobody is starving. That's all right, but they are still not satisfied. I have studied this very carefully. The younger people all appear to be frustrated. It is not a very good condition, when the young generation, which is the future hope of the country, feels that there is no hope. Their future is dark. Why? Because they have no direction. What is the aim of life? What will they become? The philosophy is, work hard, get dollars, and enjoy as you like. This is misguidance. Therefore, the young are not happy. So, they take center of something which is objectionable for satisfaction. But that cannot give total satisfaction.
Now, here is an opportunity. The Bhagavad Gita can show you your actual life. Take advantage of it. Appeal especially to the younger people. Don't be frustrated; don't be disappointed. There is full enjoyment in your future. You are all part and parcel of the Supreme. Iswara parama Krishna, sat-chit-ananda vigraha. The Lord says, "Oh, these poor living entities. They are suffering so much. They are feeling frustrated. Oh, they are my parts and parcels." He is claiming. So He comes to claim you. "My dear boys, my dear children, why are you suffering? Please hear me. Give up all your engagements. Just hear Me. Try to follow what I say. I shall liberate you from all the reactions of sin." You'll find in the Bhagavd Gita that this is guaranteed. Simply surrender unto the Lord. Not only Sri Krishna, of course. Lord Jesus Christ also spoke in the same way: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew: 1/28-30) That is the message of all persons who come from that Spiritual World--from the Kingdom of Godhead. That is the only message.
So, actually, this Bhagavda Gita is giving you the light to a happy life. Don't miss this opportunity. Try to hear it, to have it. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has made it very easy. To fulfill the mission of our life, there are nine different processes of devotional service: hearing, chanting, remembering, worshipping, accepting, service, offering everything, friendship and praying. Out of these nine, the first two processes, which are principle and primary, are Sravanam Kirtanam Vishnu. Hear and glorify. That will cleanse your heart of the dust which has accumulated for so many lifetimes, and you will see things very clearly.
Swami and Goswami are different synonyms of the word for persons who are in full control of the senses. Don't be thinking that you cannot control your senses. Everyone is able. You'll get strength by this process. This chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare will help you. Don't be dejected by thinking that you have no strength. You'll get strength. Continue this process. Kirtanam Sravanam means chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. And, hear some passages from the Bahgavad Gita and Srimad Bhagawatam. Utilize these two processes, and you'll find strength for your spiritual life. One has to become situated in that position of sense control.
Now, you have no doubt seen the ocean. How full it is! The ocean is so powerful that, if it rose, all New York City would be submerged under water. But it does not disturb us. It does not go beyond its limits. For example, the Narrows is the brink of the ocean. The ocean does not come on the other side of the Narrows. This is the example. When we have controlled the senses, we shall be just like the big ocean--although full with spiritual knowledge, calm and quiet without disturbing anyone, and without being disturbed. Peaceful.
In Bengal there are about five hundred rivers. All these rivers flow down water, to the ocean. But still, the ocean, the Bay of Bengal, is calm and quiet. Quiet. Similarly, for those who have become as full and as big as the ocean, material desires may come, but they are not disturbed. Although so many rivers are flowing down water, you won't see an inch of increase in the ocean. It keeps the same level. You can take any amount of water out of it, and you can pour any amount of water into it. The sea level is always the same. This example is given. Desires we must have. We cannot extinguish desires. It is foolishness to think that we can subdue desires. Desires are the symptoms of life. Let there be desires. If I have life and consciousness, then desire must also be there. Just as, when the water flows down from the rivers to the ocean, the ocean is not disturbed, so a person need not be disturbed by these desires. This is the art. This is the secret of the perfection of your life.
Desires may come, but if you are fixed with a proper understanding, you convert your desires. The whole process is to dovetail your desires with the Lord's. The example is that Arjuna desired not to fight, but after hearing Bhagavad Gita, his desire changed. He said, "Yes, I shall fight!" He desired to fight. So there was desire. The mode of desire was changed, that's all. Similarly, we cannot stop desiring. That is not possible. But we have to change the quality of the desire. That is all. It's not very difficult: I shall do this, I shall not do this. Bhagavad gita is meant to show us these things. Arjuna desired something before hearing Bhagavad Gita, and he desired something else after hearing Bhagavad Gita. The quality of desire changed. Similarly, by hearing the Gita you can change your desire. You don't have to stop your desire. You simply have to purify your desires. Then you'll not be disturbed by them. When your desires disturb you, you may know that you are not yet spiritually established. And when your desires enlighten you, enliven you, give you happiness--you may know that that desire is spiritual. Just as with Arjuna, the desire has to be changed.
Let desires be. Now, you can change the desires. Desire for Krishna. Don't desire for yourself. Desire for Krishna. How can I desire for Krishna? Take a practical example. Krishna came to this material world to call us; "My dear boys, please give up all your nonsensical engagements. Become a follower of Mine, and I shall protect you." This is Krishna's message. Now Bhagavad Gita is present, the message of Krishna. If you desire to preach this message of the Gita to the people of the world, that means you have changed your desire. And you can thereby purify yourself. There will be sufficient activities to execute the desire. But all those activities will be purified.
So, we don't have to stop our activities, nor our desires. But we have to dovetail them with the desires of the Lord, as Arjuna did. After dovetailing his desires with Sri Krishna's, his activities became more responsible. Just like a coward, he was refusing to fight. He was a Shatriya, a military man. His duty was to fight for a good cause. And what is a good cause? Sri Krishna instructed him to fight: "it is My plan." What can be a better cause than this? When the Supreme Personality of Godhead says that this is My wish, what can be more important? And what can be a better purpose, than one which is coming directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
When we dovetail with the desire of the Supreme Lord, then our responsibility becomes more imperative, and we become more active than we are otherwise. In material activity you will get tired. This is the difference between material activity and spiritual activity. When you are engaged in spiritual activities, you'll not get tired. You have newer and newer strength to act. Therefore, desire is not to be stopped; activities are not to be stopped. Whatever potency you have in you, that is the potency given by the Supreme Lord, because you are the part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Therefore, all the potencies that you have, they are also part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. And if you utilize them for the purposes of the Supreme Lord, then you become dovetailed with Him, and your life becomes successful. You'll not be disturbed by material desires, you'll attain peace. The peace for which you are hankering in life after life, moment after moment--that you'll get at that time, when your desires are purified, and dovetailed with the Lord. One who desires sense gratification, the enjoyment of material satisfaction, will never be happy. That is not possible. If you want peace, if you want happiness, if you want perfection in your life, then just begin to dovetail your desires, activities, and potentials with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then you will see what real happiness is, and can tell who is really crazy.
by Drutakarma Dasa
Dr. John Heider, a psychologist, believes that meditation “is as necessary to a life of growth as regular brushing is to dental hygiene.” Sounds harmless enough. But what if you were to brush your teeth with a harsh abrasive or a corrosive chemical? That would definitely be detrimental to your dental health. In the same way, how much your meditation is helping you spiritually depends on what kind of meditation you’re practicing and why.
When we focus our minds on sensory input from the external world or on thoughts and feelings that arise within us, we are engaged in a type of meditation, in the broadest sense of that word. So you could say that all of us are already meditating at every moment. To help us understand this kind of meditation, let’s enter briefly into the mind of Richard Morland, a college student in Boston, to see what he’s meditating about.
Richard’s on his way to school. Driving on roads slick from freezing rain, he’s concentrating so as not to spin out or slam into someone’s rear bumper. He thinks about meeting his girlfriend, Susan Johnson, for lunch today, and he smiles and feels a touch of desire coming on. But before he gets to see her, there’s the chemistry midterm. That’s on his mind too. Richard is applying to some top medical schools, so he’s determined to finish his premed studies with the highest grade-point average he possibly can. His mind feels fatigued from the couple of hours of sleep he lost studying last night. That’s all right, though: he’ll make it up on the weekend. No proper breakfast this morning either, so Richard’s feeling a little hungry, but then there’s lunch with Susan in just three hours.
For Richard, the only bad thing about the chemistry midterm is that Fred, Susan’s old boyfriend, who had even been thinking of marrying her, is going to be there. Richard’s mind spins out on that for a while and then settles in on the Beach Boys tune on the radio. The song ends with news on the half hour. More hostage trouble in Lebanon. The United States has moved another carrier into the eastern Mediterranean. Richard tries to picture it—it’s a few years from now; he’s married to Susan; he’s taken hostage; Susan, alone at home with their child, pleads for his life.
Then he starts thinking about his uncle Bob. Richard received a call from his mother last night. Uncle Bob had gone into the hospital for what he had thought was pneumonia, but it turned out to be lung cancer. Richard’s father had died from lung cancer just two years before. Aunt Sarah isn’t taking Uncle Bob’s illness too well, so Richard’s mother is going to stay with her for a while. Richard likes Uncle Bob, who was helping pay for his tuition.... God, Richard prays, God, please let him get through this. With proper medical treatment and some luck he might make it a few more years.
Richard steers the car up the ramp of the campus parking garage and parks. As he gets out of the car and starts walking to class, he suddenly feels he’d like to take a break—not just to take a vacation, but to getaway fromthe whole thing. But he keeps walking, and the feeling merges into the stomach numbing anxiety of his last-minute mentalreview for the chemistry midterm.
From the standpoint of the Bhagavad- gita,Richard’s daily flow of thoughts typifies that of a person in bodily consciousness. Such a person constantly thinks of eating, sleeping, sex, and self-protection or of things related to these four basic activities. Richard, for instance, was feeling hungry and tired, thinking about his girlfriend, and worrying about a possible car accident. Bodily consciousness also creates a widening circle of identification based on the body. One’s ownbody is designated by sex, race, age, and so forth. And this body is connected with other bodies in relationships of family, community, and nation. Richard is involved in his own unique complex of relationships: with Susan, Fred, his mother, his relatives, his fellow Americans facing another international crisis.
Bodily consciousness also limits our activities to those involving dharma (materially motivated religion), artha (economic gain), kama (sensual pleasure), and moksha (attempts for liberation), Generally a person in bodily consciousness thinks of God only to obtain some material favor. Richard, we saw, wished God would give his uncle Bob a fewmore years of life. Economic concerns are also important to Richard. Though he often confides to friends that he isn’t going into neurosurgery for the money; he assumes his life won’t be one of poverty. His desire for sensual pleasure inspires, at least partly, his new and deepening relationship with Susan. And from time to time thoughts of liberation enter his mind: he wants to get away from it all.
Of course, it’s no wonder that a person in bodily consciousness sometimes wants to “get away from it all,” because the body is a storehouse for misery. The Bhagavad-gita lists four primary bodily miseries: janma (birth), mrityu (death), jara (old age), and vyadhi (disease). For a person in bodily consciousness, these distresses insinuate themselves—sometimes subtly, sometimes with overpowering force—into every aspect of life. On turning forty eight, Brigitte Bardot said, “It’s the decomposition that gets me. You spend your whole life looking after your body, and then you rot away—like that!” Richard is confronted with his father’s death, his own possible death, his uncle’s disease, his mother’s and his aunt’s’ old age. His medical career will bring him into daily contact with these unavoidable components of material existence. In fact, someday a person might die under his care. We can classify material miseries in yet another way: adhyatmika (those arising from one’s mind and body), adhibhautika (those inflicted by other creatures), and adhidaivika (those resulting from the forces of nature). Again, Richard, like everyone else in bodily consciousness, is suffering from each of these miseries. He and his relatives are experiencing various degrees of physical and mental discomfort. He is also worried about threats fromothers (Susan’s old boyfriend and Middle East terrorists), and he’s enduring the cold and hazards of a New England winter.
Some meditation systems promise a means to cope with the stress arising from the multipronged assaults of material miseries. Typically they are “easy” and involve little more from the practitioner than a financial commitment. But no amount of “peace of mind” gained by listening to tapes of mellow new-age music or the wind and the ocean waves can change the inevitability of old age, disease, death, and rebirth. Maintaining asuperficial peace of mind in the face of these grim realities is not to one’s credit. Even more pointless are meditation systems that promise the mental concentration and power to achieve’ material success by influencing others, competing more successfully, defining one’s goals more clearly, and so on. Any success achieved in this wayis extremely temporary, vanishing without a trace at the time of death.
Confronted with the realization that life is, as the English philosopher Hobbes once observed; “nasty, brutish, and short,” many people unfortunately adopt the inadvisable solution of suicide. Others adopt meditation practices that are the spiritual equivalent of suicide. Those who adopt these practices are, in effect, trying to dissolve their personalities into nothingness, though they usually express their goal in more attractive terminology: becoming one with the universe, becoming one with each other, becoming one with God (who is, in their conception, the impersonal white light). The psychology of this attempt is rooted in the grossly imperfect idea that personality and selfhood are ultimately illusory. To extinguish the self, therefore, is not the solution to the miseries arising from bodily consciousness. Rather, we must restore the self to its healthy condition.
The Bhagavad-gita states that’ to dissolve the self is impossible. Lord Krishna says to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, “For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time.” Understanding this, one experiences release from material miseries. “In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi,” states the Gita (6.20-23), “one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities. ... This perfection is characterized by one’s ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated inboundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses.”
Lord Krishna also explains the natural position of the soul: “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind” (Bhagavad-gita 15.7). The soul’s constant struggle with the material body throughout many lives is unnatural, for the soul is actuallypart of God. The Vedas explain that the individual eternal souls are related to the Supreme Soul just as sparks are related to a fire. The souls are of the same spiritual substance as their source, the Supreme Soul, but are infinitely smaller. In their original condition, the souls are meant to exist in a relationship with Krishna in the spiritual world.
According to Bhagavad-gita, the real object of meditation is therefore the Supreme Self, Krishna. By meditating upon Krishna, the true nature of the individual self becomes automatically revealed. Consider this analogy: If you venture for a walk along the seashore on a moonless, starless night, you may not be able to see yourself or anything around you. But when the sky lightens with the first glimmer of light, then you can begin to see everything, including your own self, at first dimly and then more and more clearly as the sun rises. Self-realization works like that. To see the self—to step beyond bodily consciousness—we must first see God. The Bhagavad-gita (8.9) states: “One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is Meditation the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun and, being transcendental, is beyond this material nature.”
Srila Prabhupada states, “Since the Lord is absolute, deep meditation upon Him is as good as yogic trance” (Bhag. 1.15.28, purport). When, immersed in such trance, we perfectly understand ourselves to be part of God, related to Him as His eternal servants, several important improvements in our lives naturally follow. First, we quickly become free from the material miseries outlined above. Krishna says in the Gita (12.6—7),
Those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pritha—for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death. (our italics)
Even in this world, the practitioner of Krishna meditation remains undisturbed. “As a lamp in a windless place does not waver,” says the Gita (6.19), “so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self.” Srila Prabhupada comments, “A truly Krishna conscious person, always absorbed in transcendence, in constant undisturbed meditation on his worshipable Lord, is as steady as a lamp in a windless place.”
The system of Krishna meditation outlined in the Bhagavad- gita and other Vedic books of knowledge is variegated, embracing many forms of mental concentration. First and foremost is meditating upon the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Krishna, being nondifferent from His names, is personally present in this mantra. In Bhagavad-gita (8.7), Krishna says, “He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha, is sure to reach Me.” Srila Prabhupada comments: “One’s memory of Krishna is revived by chanting the maha-mantra, Hare Krishna... This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord.”
Just as Krishna is present in His name, He is also present in transcendental literatures that contain His instructions and narrations of His pastimes. The instructions of Krishna are found in the Bhagavad-gita,while His pastimes are contained especially in the Srimad- Bhagavatam.Devotees meditate on Krishna by absorbing their minds in these transcendental literatures. The Bhagavatam recommends,
To hear about Krishna from Vedic literatures, or to hear from Him directly through the Bhagavad-gita, is itself righteous activity. And for one who hears about Krishna, Lord Krishna, who is dwelling in everyone’s heart, acts as a best friend and purifies the devotee who constantly engages in hearing of Him. In this way, a devotee naturally develops his dormant transcendental knowledge.
Such reading is an easily practiced form of meditation. “Even a child,” states Srila Prabhupada, “can hear and derive the benefit of meditating on the pastimes of the Lord simply by listening to a reading from the Bhagavatam that describes the Lord as He is going to the pasturing ground with His cows and friends” (Bhag.3.28.19, purport).
We can also meditate on Krishna in His form of the arca- vigraha, the Deity in the temple. Because our present material senses are incapable of perceiving Krishna’s original spiritual form, Krishna kindly consents to become visible in the form of the Deity. Srila Prabhupada states, “Nowhere in the universe are there such beautiful bodily features as those of Lord Krishna. Therefore His transcendental body has nothing to do with anything materially created” (Bhag.1.9.33, purport). Krishna Himself says, “Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect” (Bg. 12.2).
Is the Deity simply a stone statue? Srila Prabhupada explains:
Because the elements are the Lord’s own energy and because there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the Lord can appear through any element. Just as the sun can act through the sunshine and thus distribute its heat and light, so Krishna, by His inconceivable power, can appear in His original spiritual form in any material element, including stone, wood, paint, gold, silver, and jewels, because the material elements are all His energy. (Cc. Madhya 5.97, purport)
“The Vishnu forms of worship in great temples of India,” Srila Prabhupada informs us, “are not, therefore, arrangements of idol worship, as they are wrongly interpreted to be by a class of men with a poor fund of knowledge; rather, they are different spiritual centers of meditation on the transcendental limbs of the body of Vishnu” (Bhag. 2.1.19, purport). If one is not able to visit a temple, one can also meditate upon Krishna’s form as depicted in paintings, such as those found in the pages of this magazine.
The bona fide spiritual master directs the disciple in the performance of meditation. Srila Prabhupada explains,
One should not meditate according to one’s personal whims. One should know perfectly well from the authoritative sources of scriptures through the transparent medium of a bona fide spiritual master and by proper use of one’s trained intelligence for meditating upon the Supersoul dwelling within every living being. (Bhag. 1.6.15, purport)
The spiritual master instructs one how to constantly meditate upon Krishna even in the performance of one’s work. This functional meditation helps awaken love for Krishna and fixes one in transcendence. Every action one performs thus becomes a meditation.
“Bhagavad-gita makes it clear,” states Grila Prabhupada, “that one can attain the highest perfection of spiritual life simply by offering service according to his ability, just as Arjuna served Krishna by his ability in the military art. Arjuna offered his service fully as a military man, and he became perfect. Similarly, an artist can attain perfection simply by performing artistic work under the direction of the spiritual master. If one is a literary man, he can write articles and poetry for the service of the Lord under the direction of the spiritual master” (Bhag. 3.22.7, purport).
No matter what our position, we can apply these principles and practices of Krishna meditation in our lives. Let’s suppose that our friend Richard has taken up the process of Krishna meditation and incorporated it into his life. Here’s his typical day now: Each morning Richard spends an hour chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on his meditation beads. Sometimes he chants indoors, and when the weather’s good he goes to a nearby park.
The chanting is spiritually refreshing. Then Richard prepares breakfast: fruit, yogurt, a hot cereal. He puts everything on a special plate and places it before a picture of Krishna he keeps on top of his bookshelf. Meditating upon Krishna, he softly repeats some mantras.
After breakfast, it’s time for the half hour drive to school. In the car he listens to a taped lecture on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. Arriving at school, he spends the rest of the morning in class. He is still studying to be a neurosurgeon, but he realizes that the real cure for the miseries of disease, old age, and death lies in reawakening the soul’s eternal spiritual nature in relation with the Supreme Soul, Krishna.
After class, he meets Susan for lunch. She has prepared enough for both of them—some hearty vegetarian sandwiches and carob-walnut cookies. They still plan to get married, but they see their relationship as a spiritual partnership, a way to help each other progress toward the goal of becoming free from material attachments and developing their unique personal loving relationships with Krishna. That means some restriction in the matter of sex, but they feel they have gained a great deal of mutual respect and understanding in return.
After lunch, Richard and Susan spend some time reading together from Bhagavad-gita, something they do every day. They appreciate the insights the Gita offers into their personal relationships and the world around them. On weekends Richard and Susan visit the temple, which has recently acquired some new computers, and Richard and Susan use their knowledge of computer programming to help the devotees set up a computerized accounting system. They also attend classes on the Bhagavad-gita, take part in the temple ceremonies, look at the beautifully decorated Deity of Krishna, and enjoy a feast of delicious vegetarian food that’s been offered to Krishna with devotion. In this way, Richard and Susan are practicing Krishna meditation throughout the day.
Should you meditate? The answer is yes—meditate on Krishna by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, reading Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam (there’s a sample in the center section of this magazine), seeing the form of Krishna, and offering your talents in His service. And if you think you have more important things to do, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.22.32) offers this advice: “There is no stronger obstruction to one’s self-interest than thinking other subject matters to be more pleasing than one’s self-realization.” So make time for Krishna meditation in your life. That might mean sacrificing something, but you will gain the highest reward.