Consciousness - Strength and Weakness
by Swami Veda Bharati
In continuing his penetrating analysis of the mind through the perspective of Indian
psychology, the author turns his focus on the characteristics of the strong and weak mind.
If one were to ask on which science the Indian sages have done the most thinking, short of meditation itself, the answer would be 'psychology' - understanding the mind. This exercise was not done by objective observation alone. The sages used themselves as guinea pigs. They led their own mind through various states of sentiment (bhavas), concentration, visualization, silent recitation and other interior devices and observed their effects on the mind. Of these methods and devices we shall speak later in greater detail. Here we continue with our attempt to understand the definition of the mind and its stages.
It must be reiterated that there is no such thing as one single collective Indian philosophy, just as there is no such thing as one single collective European philosophy in which all philosophers may agree on certain premises and draw identical conclusions. The various systems of philosophy differ widely. For example, if we were to expound the Indian theory of mind according to the vijnana-vada or yogachara doctrine, or were to give all the thousands of charts of terminologies worked out by the abhidharma philosophers, it would take us several generations to complete this article.
The following are our resources for the sake of this column:
o The Sankhya yoga systems are the primary source.
o Vedanta where it corresponds to the former.
o Suggestions given in epic literature (Mahabharata including the Bhagavad Gita, the Puranas and so forth), with regard to the totality of the schema of mind and its operations.
o Ayurvedic texts like the Charaka-samhita, a vast source of study of the mind.
No science developed in India can be studied without fully evaluating its connection with the study of mind. For example, the theory of art and literature is primarily a psychological one. Without the concept of bhavas, havas, anu-bhavas, sanchari-bhavas (to be defined later) - the entire spectrum of emotion and its expression - there is no theory of art and literature.
And yet, all of this vast detail about the mind can be understood holistically as one single frame only in the context of the practice and experience of meditation. Self-observation in meditation is the root, all the rest are the branches.
In other words, statements about the mind and its functions are not to be believed as sacred doctrine, inspired word, final authority and so forth. They are to be verified through the lab work of spirituality called meditation. If the internal test supports the previous 'laboratory notes' made by sages like Patanjali, one believes them to be true. Even if a few beginning level tests render desirable results, one proceeds with the rest. Similarly, one tests suggestions about emotional states through self-observation and inner experimentation. Only then does one accept statements like "through the practice of non-violence all enmity ceases in the vicinity of the practitioner".
In the first part of the series we spoke of mind as an energy field. An energy field may be weak or strong; so a particular mind-field may be weak or strong.
A weak energy field may be made stronger through the application of appropriate technology. A weakened mind may be made stronger through the application of certain methods of self-experimentation in mental, vocal, and physical behavior; it can also be remedied through self-observation, concentration, and meditation.
A weakness is a reduction of strength just as darkness is a reduction of light. Appropriate enhancement of light eliminates the darkness. Similarly, amplification of a given strength dissipates its corresponding weakness. This applies to individuals, societies, religions, nations and other groupings.
A piecemeal approach to strengthening of the mind will not be holistic, complete or permanent: atyantika in the words of Ishvara Krshna, the author of Sankhya Karika. Any re-strengthening of a particular area of the mind must be accomplished within the context of strengthening the total mind-field. This is obtained through meditation.
These are some of the basic principles of 'therapy', or rather, personal reconstruction applied by spiritual guides to help elevate their beloved students and disciples. They may be used by parents, teachers and counselors (or leaders of groups and nations).
What are the signs and symptoms of a weak or strong mind? Here are some of the indices.
o A weak mind is hard; it lacks in resilience and fluidity, and compassion; a strong mind is resilient, fluid, and compassionate.
o A weak mind is egotistical; a strong mind is humble.
o A weak mind makes statements that contradict each other; a strong mind is consistent, harmonious.
o A weak mind looks at oppositions; a strong mind sees complements and strives after resolution ( samadhana).
o A weak mind starts its sentences (in speech and writing) with "I" and frequently repeats various forms of this pronoun. A strong mind avoids the first personal pronoun and its variants.
o A weak mind is addicted to words like no, not, refuse, deny, challenge, 'my stand', 'my view', and other such expressions. When a strong mind refuses it does so with sensitivity and consideration for others' feelings.
o A weak mind feels that others are resisting or refusing it. A strong mind has faith in others' positive and good reaction.
o A weak mind remembers the hurt and harm caused by others to it; a strong mind forgets these.
o A weak mind forgets the good and kind acts others have done to it; a strong mind remembers these.
o A weak mind forgets what hurt and harm it has caused to others; a strong mind remembers these.
o A weak mind remembers the good and kind acts it has done for others; a strong mind forgets these.
o People submit to a weak mind out of fear; people submit to a strong mind out of love.
o A weak mind defends its own position; a strong mind defends its opponent's position and finds excuses for one who has resisted him.
o A weak mind forgets things for lack of interest in others, and because of emotional befogging; a strong mind remembers what interests others, and emotional fog does not obscure his/her 'recall' mechanisms.
o A weak mind justifies its acts; a strong mind apologizes.
o A weak mind does not forgive; a strong mind forgives and also forgets the incident.
o A weak mind criticises others and speaks ill of them; a strong mind seeks to understand the other's weaknesses and grants strength.
o A weak mind gets tense and stressed; the same stimuli that cause tension in a weak mind immediately trigger a relaxed state in a strong mind.
o A weak mind resists others and blames them for resisting it; a strong mind meets no resistance and its path is made easy by others.
o A weak mind is hurt by others' anger; a strong mind sympathetically seeks to find the history of the pain and suffering that is causing anger and seeks to remedy the same.
o A weak mind sees others' faults; a strong mind sees its own faults.
o A person with a weak mind is easily fatigued; one with a strong mind regenerates quickly.
o A weak mind makes a mental issue out of physical illness; a strong mind introduces mental healing into the body.
o A weak mind wants others to be responsible for it and then resents them; a strong mind takes responsibility for others without feeling burdened.
o A weak mind follows set patterns; a strong mind invents.
o A weak mind is lethargic and complacent; a strong mind takes initiative.
o A weak mind is suspicious; a strong mind trusts.
o A weak mind struggles to accomplish any objective; a strong mind does without doing and accomplishes by its mere presence.
o A weak mind finds small irritants to be too large to suffer; a strong mind has an oceanic capacity to absorb and does not register the irritation.
o A weak mind cannot taste the fullness of any experience and therefore its craving is never satiated; a strong mind, being well-centered, tastes and experiences everything in fullness, enjoys 'more of less' and is contented.
o A weak mind is self-centered, seeking its own pleasure and often being thwarted in it by those in whom it generates resistance; a strong mind constantly seeks the fulfillment of others, thereby ceasing to evoke resistance, and causing others to find pleasure in giving it fulfillment.
o A weak mind reacts to trivia; the strong mind holds the larger picture in a more expansive time frame (dirgha- darshi and doordarshi); therefore it is not disturbed by small events, little words, temporary situations.
o A weak mind has a small horizon; a strong mind has a large horizon in all subjects and matters.
o A weak mind sees only parts; a strong mind carries the vision of a complete whole in which all atoms and galaxies, all ideas and sciences are a single interconnected whole.
o A weak mind finds it difficult to learn new things; all sciences are easily opened to a strong mind.
o A weak mind lives in fear (of loss, repeat of natural disasters, ghosts and possessions, attacks, illness, poverty, death); a strong mind grants reassurance to all beings by his/her very presence.
o A weak mind, suffering from inferiority, keeps reasserting his (individual, religious, national, tribal, political) superiority; a strong mind holds back on such assertions because of an interior self-assurance which embraces all opponents and opposite views.
o A weak mind is full of inner conflicts and a thousand questions about the smallest step, seeking answers to each question and each answer raising a crop of a million more questions; a strong mind flows in harmony and his/her questions have not been answered but have been resolved.
o A weak mind demands; a strong mind gives.
o A weak mind feels insulted; a strong mind honours.
o A weak mind rejects everything; a strong mind assimilates what may seem most unacceptable in appearance.
o A weak mind seeks its own pleasure and gratification; a strong mind discovers a subtler, more refined, more intense and more lasting pleasure, that of knowing that someone has been pleased by his/her acts.
o A weak mind speaks loudly; a strong mind speaks only from within a depth of interior silence.
o A weak mind struggles to choose one of many options; a strong mind incorporates the most contradictory options into a single scheme.
o A weak mind overindulges, overeats, over-possesses, overstates, overdresses-because it tries to fill its emptiness with exterior objects; a strong mind has an inner fullness, is therefore mild, restrained, without feeling restricted or deprived. A strong mind under-indulges, under-possesses, understates.
o A weak mind lives in fear of others, constantly overprotecting itself and thereby inviting attack; a strong mind lives in love and that love alone is its protection.
o A weak mind's endeavors and relationships are unstable; in the presence of a strong mind all is stabilized.
o A weak mind cannot concentrate on any effort, and wanders aimlessly; a strong mind is a concentrated one and thereby well-centered in life and in meditation.
o A strong mind, finally, is a saintly mind that grants freedom to others and liberates them from their own enslavement.
This is a very incomplete list, only an indication for assessing whether we are of weak mind or of strong mind, that is, whether our mind-field is fully energized or only partly or feebly so.
We shall discuss later how feeble minds may be strengthened.
May all enfeebled minds that cause conflicts and wars regain their divine strength and become playgrounds of gods.