By Swami Veda Bharati
In this third installment of his incisive probing of the mind, the author lists the qualities of the sattvic mind and prescribes methods to attain one.
In the previous installment of this article we indicated some of the characteristic features of minds that may be weak or strong in spiritual terms. Here we may ask, what are the sources of mind? Of what is it constituted? How is our own mind generated?
Mind, in Indian philosophy, contrary to common perception, is not at all separate from matter or nature. It is part of nature. In Samkhya philosophy, it is a product of prakriti, the essential and primary nature from which all else springs forth. It is the finest, subtlest, most high frequency field of a material energy, chitta-kshetra.
The various aspects of mind, according to their functions, are named as buddhi (or mahat), aham-kara, chitta and manas. The earliest references to the mind are found in the Vedas where it is referred to both as chetas and dhi (as in the Gayatri-mantra), with different connotations. The Bhagavad Gita prefers the term manas. Sometimes even the word hrd, or hrdaya (heart) may be used to define the deepest consciousness as it dwells in the mind. Depending on the particular purpose of a certain school of philosophy, the definitions of each of these terms may differ somewhat. Here we use the word ‘mind’ in the sense of the totality of the mind field. In this sense, the word chitta (along with buddhi and asmita) is used in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and its commentaries.
A primary source of knowledge about the operations of the mind in the personality is Charaka Samhita, the most ancient and authentic text of ayurveda. For our purpose we shall use the word mind in the sense of chitta-the totality of the mind field (a) from and in which all operations, vrttis, arise, (b) in which all imprints called samskaras are stored, and (c) which has to be brought under control, ni-rodha, by a practising yogin.
We are repeatedly told in the Yoga Sutras that the attributes of prakriti, the original Nature, are inherent in chitta. These are the well-known gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. Thus a person’s mind may be predominantly sattvic, or rajasic or tamasic. We have used the adverb ‘predominantly’ because all nature’s products are constituted of all three gunas. Their predominance determines the outstanding characteristics of an object or a personality. Personality is the kind of mind-field one has.
A refined and purified sattvic mind has four inherent attributes. These are:
o Dharma: inclination to virtue
o Jnana: knowledge
o Vairagya: Dispassion
o Aishvarya: Sovereignty, freedom, mastery.
Everyone has a sattva element in the mind. Therefore, everyone is endowed with these attributes. These may become subdued, suppressed, if the predominance of rajas or tamas occurs. The sattvic characteristics can be evoked through training, abhyasa. One trains them by strengthening certain natural urges within oneself.
The path of peace, purification and spirituality lies in recognising and giving way to our natural urges. Prominent among these are the urge to love, give, share, perform selfless acts without seeking returns, forgive, sacrifice oneself for others, generate peace in one’s surroundings, seek solitude, recognize the spiritual resource within oneself. One would aspire to purify oneself to add to the sattvic content of one’s personality, create a bond with others, energize oneself when feeling low, postpone dying by will, heal oneself by the power of will, exercise control over one’s senses and desires and seek knowledge. Most of us also endeavor to cultivate patience, humility and loyalty, curb our anger, learn to respond to hate with love, conquer greed and sloth, be truthful and most of all, seek knowledge.
Love, peace, happiness and satisfaction depend on our will, our decision. For this reason the aforementioned natural urges exist in varying levels in different individuals. The higher these strengths of mind, the more we love, we are at peace, happy and satisfied. That is true contentment, santosha.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say: santoshad-an-uttama-sukha-labhah
(Yoga Sutras 2.42)
(From santosha is gained unexcelled pleasure.)
Only our own minds know when we have had this level of true pleasure.
But if these are indeed our natural urges, why do we see so much in human history and contemporary life that is obviously contrary to these?
The two of many answers to this argument are:
o When we permit the dominance of rajas and tamas over sattva within ourselves, it is then that the destructive and negative tendencies become manifest. Sage Vyasa in his commentary on Yoga Sutras states that it is sattva that suffers. So, the sattva in ourselves constantly strives to overcome the rajas and tamas; it is what is popularly known as the strife between good and evil. The good triumphs: satyameva jayate.
o Because the opposites of the above stated strengths and natural urges are actually unnatural to us, their manifestations render us so unhappy. Like a spot on the clean sheet, we are trying to wash off these manifestations to restore the dominance of our true nature. We are constantly trying to reassert our natural urges against the unnatural ones.
Then why are the opposites to these sattvic attributes so dominant in the world? Our answer is that there is still more love in the world than hate, more peace than strife. A husband and wife fight over dinner, that is news; but a million households have a peaceful dinner together is, well, natural, so no news. We notice the dark spots because they do not fit in with our true nature, svabhava. Let us rediscover this divine within that alone is our true nature, and make the mind a playground of the gods
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