From our childhood, and as we grow up, we hear it often from our peers and colleagues that our mind is very powerful and we used to ponder what is the power of the mind? This post attempts to describe the power of the mind.
The Mind is recognized as the main factor governing our entire life, the basis of life is the mind and the body extends externally from this ground of mind in the manifest dimension. The world of name, form, and idea is the external manifestation of the mind. The world of senses and objects is the external experience and manifestation of mind. The world of spirit, of psychic experiences, and knowledge is the internal manifestation of mind.
So, in the yogic tradition mind has been given a place of high importance and all the practices of yoga evolve around managing the mind. The second sutra of the “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” states that “Control of the mental patterns is yoga”. That is what people generally refer to as their understanding of yoga, but there is another statement before this which is of the utmost importance: “Yoga is a form of discipline.”
Here, Rishi Patanjali has brought our attention to the aspect of the discipline, not only mental or internal discipline but also physical, social, external. He says it is as the result of this acquired discipline that it becomes possible to control the modifications of the mind, and then comes the third statement, “After this, it becomes possible to realize the inner nature.”
These three statements are of utmost importance in the yogic system. In fact, all the systems of Hatha and Raja Yoga, and the other systems of Yoga revolve around these three statements. We can come to a conclusion that first of all yoga is a form of discipline which we must try to develop in our lives. The second conclusion we can derive is that we have to learn how to manage our mental expressions and experiences.
Self-discipline – What does it mean? One has to look at it from different angles, the physical, the psychological and the spiritual. Of course, discipline is not the correct word to describe what Patanjali initially thought. The Sanskrit word which he originally used was anushasana which means to govern the different expressions of human personality. This governance of the body, the mind, and the psyche is known as yogic discipline.
Definitely, discipline does not mean a self-imposed daily routine. Governance of body and mind begin with making the effort to harmonize the various functions of body and mind. This governance, or discipline, begins with something external with which we identify every moment – our body. We continuously and constantly identify with our body as the main tool of our expression in the manifest dimension. All the activities and interactions take place through the senses and the body but we do not take proper care of our body.
For example, we purchase a car and after driving a certain number of kilometers we have to take it for service, and we do this regularly. Your body is like a car. Since the time of your birth till today, how many times have you taken it for servicing? Any idea? Maybe none. Maybe no time at all! We have, in this way, created a great imbalance in our physical systems and because of this, we experience different illnesses and diseases which represent malfunction of our physical structure, lack of service to our physical structure. In order to provide the servicing, yoga comes with the practices of asana and pranayama, first trying to harmonize the physical, external activities of the body.
Apart from the practice of asana and pranayama, which is known to everyone, there is another system of yoga which is as important as them and is designed to harmonize the body. These are the six Hatha Yoga practices for purification, the shatkarmas. Of course, there is resistance to the practice of shatkarmas because we are not used to the difficult practices of asana and pranayama.
In brief, these six practices are neti, cleaning of the nasal passage; dhauti, cleaning of the upper digestive tract; basti, cleaning of the lower digestive tract; nauli, activation of the pranic centers in our physical structure, kapalbhati, purification and stimulation of the brain and trataka, focusing the mind by isolating it from the world of the senses.
Now in these six practices of Hatha Yoga, we find that there are three physical practices: neti, dhauti, and basti. Nauli is a pranic practice, trataka is a technique of concentration and the final one, kapalbhati, is a technique for cerebral stimulation. So these six practices aim at harmonizing the subtle functions of the physical structure. Combined with the practice of asana and pranayama they all become a very powerful system of inner harmony.
The aim of yoga is meditation, but yoga has not isolated the meditative process from the body. Yoga does not say that the meditative state is of the mind alone. Yoga says that the meditative state is a state of body as well as the mind, and that asana, pranayama, and shatkarma lead to the physical meditative state. In this context, mediation means awakening and using the natural faculties of body, mind, and spirit.
After the practice of asana, pranayama, and shatkarma, when we have been able to regulate the physical activities and harmonize the functions of our inner body, the effect of physical harmony and balance influences the mental behavior. Then we begin with the practices of concentration which specifically deal with the mind.
The Mind has been viewed in two parts by the yogis. The manifest mind is known as ashuddha, the impure mind. Why is it impure? Because of its distractions in the world of senses and objects. Due to these distractions, the mind does not have the ability to naturally express its qualities and therefore experiences stress. Thoughts remain unclear. There is no clear direction for our actions and motivations. We are influenced by attractions and dislikes and we are aware of the surface currents which disturb our entire life process.
The shuddha or pure mind is the second half which is the developed, harmonized and concentrated mind. This pure mind relates more to the spiritual dimension and its interaction with the external world. In order to give you the experience of the inner mind and the ability to harmonize the external mind so that you are free from the different influences and stresses of life, yoga speaks of the techniques of pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana.
I have mentioned that the aim of yoga is meditation; what is meditation? Meditation is the realization of mind, but not mind as an independent unit, rather mind as part of the physical structure and the spiritual dimension. This should be understood carefully. Most of the time, the mind is relating to the external world and when we try to become aware of the inner dimension it takes a lot of effort from our side, and so we encounter certain states which we are not able to understand rationally.
However, it is not just a question of understanding the mental states of meditation. We have to make the effort to bring the higher realization into our daily activity. That realization then manifests in the form of refined qualities, refined behavior and interaction with the world, and a deep understanding. When we have these things in our life, and we are experiencing them, then that state is similar to the state of realization. This spiritual realization is the system of Vedanta where one does not only relate to a state of experience intellectually but one lives it.
Please remember that it is not necessary for every teacher to have actually experienced that spiritual realization. A professor who teaches atomic theory in the university does not necessarily have the experience of the atomic systems. You have to experiment yourself in order to have that realization of atomic principles. In the same way, with yoga or meditation, it is necessary that you make the effort to realize that inner experience.
The systems of pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana enable one to come to that level of understanding and to realize and apply that experience in normal life. Pratyahara is a method by which we begin to gradually observe the activities of the mind in relation to the external world. We learn how to avoid the stresses and tensions which affect the sensitivity of our personality and nature. After we have come to this point of managing the external interactions of mind we move into the practices of dharana. Dharana means gaining the ability to focus our attention at one point without distractions.
Dharana means gaining the ability to focus our attention at one point without distractions. After we attain perfection in this state of meditation we move into dhyana. In dhyana, we begin to change the nature and the quality of the mind. Once the nature and quality of the mind changes then its manifestations in the external life becomes different.
Then comes samadhi which means total inner harmony and union with the inner self so that the external nature and the internal nature are in harmony with each other.
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