“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)Download this episode (right click and save)
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
The best way to lose weight is to be so engrossed in your daily activities that you don’t even think about eating. With the mind preoccupied, you’re satisfied with very little. Your focus is elsewhere; you don’t have time to worry about whether what you’re eating is up to your standards or not. You don’t even need that much to keep going. Then, gradually, without keeping an eye on it, the weight reduces. You didn’t even have to check the scales.
The consciousness can be purified in the same way. The attention on the weight is but one symptom of a much larger problem. The mind is constantly pondering things of temporary significance. For instance, a few years back I was worried about a particular problem. I know that I was concerned, but I don’t remember the exact issue. Since it is forgotten today, it couldn’t have been that important. Yet at the time it was all I could think about. I was so nervous about the outcome that I had a difficult time sleeping.
The source of the impurities is a false identification. I think that I am my body. And who could blame me? Practically everyone thinks this way. By extension my possessions also identify me. No one would purchase a luxury car if they didn’t think this way. No one would spend so much time and money on interior decorating. No one would pay a large sum of money for a dress to be worn a single time.
The science of self-realization is there to purify the consciousness. Living things have consciousness; dull matter does not. The human being, gifted with the ability of discernment derived from their advanced intelligence, can set their mind to something and accomplish a goal. In self-realization, the mind is activated to take on the task of purification.
cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa
pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye
vāyor iva su-duṣkaram
A famous person who had his mind pretty much under control once said that the mind is so restless that getting it under grips is like trying to control the wind. If controlling the mind were so easy, no one would be addicted to drugs. No one would say inappropriate things. No one would have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning or going to sleep on time at night.
There are two primary routes for purifying the consciousness. One is to study the mind, the soul and the body and understand why we act in the ways that we do. In this route, we learn that we are spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. We descend to this planet and assume bodies composed of the three modes of material nature. Just as the many colors we see are derived from primary ones, all the bodies of the different species are simply different combinations of the three modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.
We can study why we fell into this world to begin with. The initial cause is envy of the Supreme Soul, the one person whose body and spirit remain together forever. As long as the envy stays, we continue to live in this existence, which is likened to a wheel. It is known as the samsara-chakra, as the misery goes on, seemingly without end. The pain doesn’t end at death; simply the cycle starts anew at the time of the next birth.
The second route leading to purification is much simpler. Chant the holy names of the Lord: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. If you have any spare time after that, read about the Supreme Lord, the all-attractive one. There is plenty of information to go off of. Even if you don’t like high philosophy, just appreciate the presentation He makes in the Bhagavad-gita. Take joy in His pastimes performed on this earth some five thousand years ago described in the Bhagavata Purana. Hear about His true nature from those who already engage in this service.
Advancement in this second path is almost incidental. There is no need to focus on whether or not your mind is becoming pure. The holy name has so much potency that even when chanted impurely there are benefits. The sign of purity is the lack of material desire. An easy way to assess this is to judge whether or not the enthusiasm is increasing. Am I happy to chant the holy names? Do I take pleasure in honoring the mercy of the Lord, Krishna prasadam? Am I eager to engage in devotional activities?
This is the better assessment to make, as to try to judge the purity of the mind is more difficult. I always have desires. I let lust, anger and greed run the show, and then later I am frustrated. But if I focus on bhakti-yoga instead, without even being aware of it I become a better person. I slowly learn that every spirit soul is the same, that we’re all struggling through the same journey in the material existence. I learn that the best way to purify oneself is to directly serve the Supreme Lord, who is a person. Then I try to help others become pure as well, thereby automatically acting in a compassionate way. When there is steadiness in the engagement of bhakti-yoga, even the desired destination of liberation is taken care of without a problem. This is Krishna’s promise.
Best friend could be the mind,
But also as an enemy can find.
Purify through paths two,
In one aware of progress are you.
In other advancement incidentally coming,
Through service detached becoming.
Easier since only attractive concerned,
Towards beautiful Krishna the eyes turned.