The Bhagavad Gita has several strategies for controlling the mind, which can be adopted and worked upon, explains H. H. Swami Mukundananda
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most sacred gems of Vedic literature. It is a comprehensive manual expounding knowledge of the Absolute Truth and how to reach spiritual perfection. The Gita emphasises mental discipline and explains that one of the fundamental self-transforming tools we have is our mind. With 60,000 thoughts running through our mind each day, if we can harness their tremendous power, we can learn the art of being happy and fulfilled.
“Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and do not degrade yourself, for the mind can be the greatest assistant of the self and also its vilest enemy.” (BG 6.5)
A pure and controlled mind will produce good thoughts, and if we allow it to run amuck, it will create unproductive thoughts. Good thoughts will further fructify into good actions, while bad thoughts will result in bad actions. Hence, there is cause and effect at play here. If we wish to draw favourable circumstances in our life and be peaceful, we must begin by improving our thoughts.
The Bhagavad Gita provides us with multiple mental discipline strategies. Let us explore some of them.
Buddhi Yog (Yoga of the intellect)
The mind creates thoughts, feelings, and desires, and harbours attachments, anxieties, fears, etc. Along with the mind is the intellect (buddhi), whose function is to analyse and decide, e.g., “This is good and this is bad.” The intellect has the ability to control the mind; this is called vivek (power of discernment). We use this faculty daily. Though the mind prefers to sleep in, with discernment, we ensure we make it to the office on time. We restrict our anger before our boss in fear of losing the job. Children focus the mind on their studies in preparation for the exams by shunning luring distractions. In this way, we control the hankerings and aversions of the mind.
Likewise, we can uplift the quality of our thoughts through vivek. The Gita tells us to empower the intellect with the right knowledge from the scriptures and then use that illumined intellect to properly govern the mind. This is referred to as Buddhi Yog (Yoga of the intellect). By understanding the higher principles of the scriptures, we can fashion our intellect with better beliefs. This will enable us to live with wisdom and override the whims of the uncontrolled mind.
So, how do we put the wisdom of our intellect into practice? We may know that anger is bad for us; yet, when the situation presents itself, invariably, we lose our temper only to regret it later. Why? The mind is so strong that it can overpower the intellect and destroy the faculty of discrimination. That is why Arjun says to Shree Krishna: “The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong, and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.” (BG 6.34). Lord Krishna agrees with Arjun and then illumines him with two tools to subdue the mind.
Abhyās means practice, or a concerted and persistent effort to change an old habit or develop a new one. By repeated practice, we master mundane activities such as typing and driving. That is due to the neuroplastic nature of our brain that forms new neural pathways when we endeavour in a particular way over and over again, making it easier for us. Likewise, if we repeatedly practise thinking good thoughts, our mind will naturally gravitate to that in all circumstances, and vice versa.
For example, tax auditors spend 8–14 hours scanning tax forms for errors. With time, their brains become wired to look for mistakes. This makes them good at their jobs. However, for many, this habit spills over into other areas of their lives. They become experts at seeing faults and scanning for the worst in the world.
If we wish to become positive thinkers, we must learn to repeatedly look for goodness and cultivate positive thoughts while weeding out negative ones. This practice will greatly enhance our mental discipline.
Shree Krishna teaches Arjun the art of a peaceful and stress-free life by explaining the science of work. Presently, our work binds us to consequences. We work for our self-gratification, moving from one source of happiness to another, without finding inner satisfaction. Instead, through knowledge, we must understand that being fragments of God, our happiness will come from Him. We will then change the intention behind our work to please God. This is the principle of working—the science of Karm Yog—which is not to renounce work but rather to detach from the fruits of the work by working in the spirit of service to God. By doing so, we accept all outcomes as the grace of God and do not get disturbed. This frees us from anxiety, stress, and other mental vagaries.
The Bhagavad Gita reveals the highest wisdom to live life by, spoken by God Himself. Westland Amazon India has recently published internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher, philosopher, and authority on Yog Swami Mukundananda’s commentary on this sacred text, Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God. Swamiji has authored an array of bestsellers, and this is his next magnum opus. Do procure a copy for yourself to benefit from the wisdom therein.
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