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Mind

Mind

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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.

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Everything we've ever done and everything that has ever happened to us is stored in the mind in the form of memory. The impressions made upon our mind influence how we see the world and how we behave. Our behavior, in turn, results in further impressions being made on our mind. This cycle of action and reaction, also known as karma, continues until the mind receives direction from a superior—spiritual—source.

Krishna says that it's difficult to control the mind, but that it can be trained by practice and detachment. The mind, like everything else, is part of the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person, Krishna. Focusing our mind on the Supreme, especially by hearing and chanting Krishna's names and activities, reorients the mind to act spiritually. Then it naturally becomes peaceful, detached from material ideas of pleasure, and attracted to superior, spiritual pursuits.

When the self leaves the material body—the time commonly known as death—it goes to its next destination based on the state of mind we've cultivated throughout our life. If the mind has been sufficiently trained in Krishna consciousness, there's every possibility of our being able to return to the spiritual world, also known as Vaikuntha, "the place of no anxiety," where the mind finds the lasting happiness this world can't offer.

[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."

ARTICLES:

  • 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.

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The Mind

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The mind is our central sense
The mind is our central sense. Our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell constantly gather information and send it to the mind. Our mind sorts this information into two categories—agreeable or disagreeable—based on how we see the world and what our goals are. For example, if we see this world as meant for our enjoyment—as we tend to do—our mind will accept those things that give pleasure to our senses and reject anything that goes against that pleasure.

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.

Read More

Everything we do, and everything that happens to us as a result, is stored in our mind in the form of memory. The impressions made upon our mind influence how we see the world and how we behave. Our behavior, in turn, results in further impressions being made on our mind. This cycle of action and reaction, or karma, continues until we begin to act on higher authority than our mind's materialistic pronouncements—such as God's representatives and scripture.

Krishna says that controlling the mind isn't easy, but it's possible by practice and detachment. Our mind, like everything else, is ultimately part of the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Person, Krishna. So when we focus our mind on the Supreme, especially by hearing and chanting Krishna's names and activities, our mind begins to act spiritually. It becomes habituated to accept things favorable for our spiritual progress and reject whatever isn't. Then we can enjoy a peaceful existence—detached from material ideas of pleasure and attracted to the natural, eternal pleasures of the spirit self.

When we leave the material body, at the time commonly known as death, we go to our next destination based on the state of mind we've cultivated during our life. If our mind has been trained in Krishna consciousness, there's every possibility of our being able to return to the spiritual world, also known as Vaikuntha, "the place of no anxiety," where we find the lasting happiness this world can't offer.

The Need for Constant Mindfulness - #95 Spiritual Warrior 5, Ch 5

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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."

Meditation for a “Nasty and Brutish” World

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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.