by Swami Krishnananda
The "mind" is a name given to the policy of affirming one's finitude. The assertion of individuality is known as "mind." It is a pressure exerted upon the limitedness of our personality, and there is no such thing as mind independently existing, as we may imagine it to be.
Childlike considerations may form the opinion that the mind is something moving inside the body, like a ball of mercury changing its position frequently, within the body only. No such thing is the mind. It cannot be located as "something." It is, to explain it precisely, the body asserting itself: "I am." This body feels "it is." That vehement feeling of physical existence is termed the "mind" for purpose of easy comprehension.
Fickleness is the nature of the mind. It will never occupy a particular position because the physical affirmation spoken of is a tantalizing phenomenon, not sure of itself. The body does not finally know what it wants; that is to say, the mind, so-called, does not know what it wants. This is so because there is a contradiction between the affirmation of individuality through the physical body, and the infinite longings that seem to be there, lying at the back of the personality. The infinite longing contradicts the finite affirmation and, therefore, life is before us as a great contradiction.
Everywhere we see problems, and no problem is finally capable of solution. Kings and ministers, statesmen, work hard throughout their lives to solve the problems of life. But they go, and the problems remain, because life is constituted of an insoluble contradiction. Inasmuch as the very basis of our existence is contradiction, no one can find a solution to it.
But, is there not a way? The very longing within us is a pointer to the problem capable of solution. Our longings are so firm, so convincing, so irrefutable, so unrelenting that we seem to be enshrining within our own selves a non-finite impulse simultaneously with the finite impulse of bodily affirmation.
The control of the mind is, therefore, equal to the finding of the relation between the finite and the Infinite. Great persistence, great understanding and capacity to discriminate is here called for. Ancient masters and seekers of truth, to one of whom I made reference yesterday, had their own way of solution. Sometimes the solutions seem to be very humorous, but very practical. The mind has to be handled in an intelligent manner, but persistently.
When we drive a nail continuously on the wall, without changing the spot, with the determination to drive the nail into the wall, it will go inside and yield to our pressure. But, if we strike at one place and find a brick, at another place a stone, in a third place something else, we will not succeed in driving the nail at all.
In a similar manner, several methods have to be adopted in a continuous determination to achieve a purpose. This determination takes various phases of expression. It is not that everyone can manifest this determination in the same way. There is a world under every hat, they say, and there is a different type of solution within every individual. My solution is not yours, and yours is not somebody else's. Peculiarity, novelty, and a kaleidoscopic character of the method to be adopted – all these are some of the features of spiritual determination. There are some stories of humorous instances adopted by great saints and sages. We will be inclined to laugh at these analogies, but they are very practical and prove very useful.
There was a great saint called Swami Narayana. His followers are very large in the area of Gujarat, though he hailed from Uttar Pradesh. One day he observed some villagers struggling with a cow. They were unable to milk it because it was giving a kick the moment anybody approached it. They could not go near the cow. Whenever it felt that somebody was coming near it, it would kick with its foot.
Swami Narayana was not only a saint but also a seeker in himself. He told these villagers, "I shall find a way of stopping this kicking." He took a long stick and, sitting a little away from the cow, slowly touched the cow's leg with that stick; it gave a kick immediately. After a few seconds he again touched it; it gave another kick. He sat there for the whole day, without taking food from morning to evening, doing only one work – touching the leg of the cow with the stick. To the surprise of all the people who were witnessing this phenomenon, for a continuous twelve hours, this touching went on. How long will the cow give a kick? It is also a living being. It got fed up, tired, and stopped kicking. Then he told them to milk the cow; it never kicked afterwards.
The mind is turbulent in some way of this kind. It has to be treated in the same way as the swami treated the cow. Whatever we say, the mind will not agree. It has its own voice and something else to say, quite different from what we are wanting it to do. If we say, "Do this," it will say, "No, I will do another thing."
There was a couple, husband and wife. The wife always did the opposite of what the husband said. If he said, "Today will you prepare some good meal with coconut?" she would say, "No, I will not use coconut." She would make a thin, watery dal and give him. Then, he would say, "Today I am not feeling well, so don't make any dish. I want only a little thin watery dal." "No, I will make a good dish for you," she said, and she made a sumptuous meal, and he took it. "Today some venerable guests are coming," he said; "Will you cook some good meal for them?" She said, "No, I will not. I will give only water to the guests." Then, after some days, when the visitors were actually expected, he told the wife, "Today I am not expecting anybody and I don't think any special meal is necessary." "No, I will make a very good meal for twenty people," she said, and she cooked twenty people's food; the visitors came and they were fed.
This is what the mind is telling us: "I will not listen to you. You may say anything, but I have some other way." How will you deal with it? Use the same way as the husband or Swami Narayana handled the situation.
Sometimes, we may have failure when offering a frontal attack to the mind. A direct attack is not always going to be a success even in military operations. Great wisdom is to be exercised. We have to retreat, we have to move forward, we have to become invisible for some time, if necessary.
There was a fierce bull. If it saw any human being from a distance, it would make a hissing noise through its nose. There was a gentleman who decided to control that bull. How will he control it, if he cannot go near it? What he did was that he built a fence around that fierce bull. Now, one step for success has been taken – the bull cannot go outside the limit of the fence. Previously, it could roam anywhere and attack anyone on the road; now it cannot go, because a fence is there. Likewise, do to the mind. It goes everywhere, roaming throughout the world, wanting anything and rejecting anything. Put a fence over it: within this limit only it must operate. Give it whatever it wants within the limitation; do not deny everything.
The bull was within the fence. The next step was that the gentleman took a bundle of green grass, thrust his hand through the wire fence and showed the bull the grass. The bull slowly came near. The man knew very well the ferocity of the bull – he could not touch it. But, because of the grass, it forgot the man outside and was thinking only of the grass. He fed it every day; daily feeding it with grass was his only work, so that the bull became acquainted with the personality of this individual. Every day it was seeing the same person. Then, with or without the grass he could gently touch the bull's forehead, and it would just look up. Then he lessened the circle of the fence and made it more restricted, so that it was not more than a few square yards; he could go on patting the bull with his hand continuously, and feeding it with green grass.
The acquaintance became so intense that the bull started slowly licking the hand of the gentleman. It developed an affection for him. Previously, fierce it was; animosity was its nature. It became friendly because of this affectionate treatment; it yielded to his touch. Then he removed the fence and went near it with the grass. Without the fencing he went near it, touched it, gave the grass, patted it on the head, and even sat on its back. Can you imagine the success, to the surprise of all people?
The ways of saints, the methods adopted by masters and seekers of yore, are very interesting. They are not always logically rigid, but a beautifully construed methodology of handling the mind.
I have told you many years back, perhaps, a Sufi saint's story. There was a great mystic called Jalaluddin Rumi in the Middle Ages. He had many followers. He recited an instance of how a person can change himself by changing his circumstances. There was a Sufi guru who had several followers and disciples, many of whom were poor Arabs, but very devoted to their master. One of them came in the early morning to pay homage to his master. The master asked, "How are you, my dear boy?"
"Master, I am living in hell."
"What is the trouble with you?"
"I have one room only, which is a small area where I have my family, my wife and two children. There inside I cook my food. I have a camel which brays continuously, and there is a dog barking all night. We cannot sleep. You can imagine our condition. Don't you think, Master, that this is veritable hell?"
The master said, "There is no problem; I can solve this difficulty."
The obedience of disciples to the master was so amazing, especially in ancient times, that they would not argue with the guru. Though his suggestions may look funny, irrational, and sometimes unusual, the devotion and submission to the guru supersedes rationality. The guru told the disciple, "Tonight you tie the dog inside your house when you go to bed." The man could not understand what kind of solution this was, but obedience is obedience.
The dog made matters worse. It went on barking inside the room and howled throughout the night. Nobody slept even for a minute. The disciple went to the guru the next morning. The guru said, "Hello, how are you?"
The man said, "I cannot say anything. It is worse than hell. The dog did not allow us to sleep."
"There is a solution for it. You have got a camel? Tie it inside."
He thought, "What is this? Am I going to be alive?" But the guru is guru, and he did not say a word against him. He tied the camel inside the room. There was no space to sit. The camel occupied the entire area, making kicks and jumps, and the dog was barking also, the fireplace was giving sparks, the children were crying, the wife was standing only, and he was also sitting.
The next morning he went to the guru and said, "I cannot speak, Master. I am dying today. I think it is the last day for me. I thought it was hell; this is worse than hell."
"I will find a solution for it, the guru said. Tie the camel out; put the dog also out."
He slept very well that night, no noise, no disturbance of any kind. The next morning he went to the guru. The guru asked, "How are you?"
"Heaven, heaven!" he said.
"Heaven? Hey! You came to me in the beginning, saying it is hell. Now how has it become heaven?" he asked. "Do not complain."
The mind is a great mystery. It can deceive you every moment and tell you everything is wrong – nothing is good anywhere, everybody is foolish, the world is a devil's abode and it is better to be rid of it. It will go on telling all kinds of things; yet, till the last moment of your breath, the desire to live long will not leave you. You may be a patient with incurable disease, utterly poverty stricken, but you would like to continue the existence in this body as much as possible. Nobody would like to abolish the personality, destroy one's individuality, negate one's existence.