Training the Mind
Everyone is not equal, so also the mind. In some of us it is well developed and in others not so well developed. However, everyone has capacity to train the mind and uplift it from whatever level it finds itself at. Three aspects can be considered: 1) vocational and secular education, 2) moral and esthetic education, and 3) making it fit for spiritual realizations and experiences.
Education, as we commonly understand to mean it, consists of school and university education related to arts and science, commerce and vocation, etc. For such education every country and society builds schools and colleges, and indeed we see quite an impressive progress and growth in this field. Secondly, based on morality at times forced by the law, some ethical progress is also visible. Punishment for stealing, crime, etc. acts as deterrent and it in turn enforces morality in a community.
However, mind can also be trained to radiate strength, peace, and honesty by way of cultivating such virtues as truthfulness, self-control, humility, and compassion. It can be said that the best direction or field to train the mind is the field of spirituality. To know one's true nature and purpose for human birth itself leads to the birth of best qualities in our personality.
Nature of the Mind
Mind is subtle matter, an energy-force that can take any form instantly. It has tremendous capacity to empower itself. However, it is insentient and has to take or borrow the Light of Consciousness for its functions. As a thought or a feeling or an emotion it can express itself only as a mixture of matter and consciousness. Consciousness is the only spiritual basis of Existence; it is our true nature, the Self. Thus mind can be separated from Consciousness, and in fact this separation of spirit from the false identification with matter is the goal of human life. It is what religion is all about.
The trouble is that in this difficult process of seeing Spirit different from the functions of 'brain and mind', one has to take help of mind itself. The road to understand our Self is through the purification of mind, the process that requires help from the mind howsoever defiant and unfriendly it might be in the beginning.
As with every form of matter, the mind also consists of three gunas, tamas, rajas, and sattva, the basic constituents of Primordial Nature (Prakriti). Relative predominance of one or the other gunas gives peculiar character to the mind. When tamas prevails the mind is dull, stupid, and lazy. It is easily caught in the mesh of infatuation of inertia. Rajas makes the mind active, ambitious, and passionate. However, such a mind is easily misled into errors. It is caught into the web of degrading qualities of lust, anger, greed, jealousy and hatred. Only sattva illumines and leads to freedom. Sattva is associated with joy, happiness, kindness and similar noble virtues. Thus, training of the mind consists of cultivating pure sattva in our character and personality.
The following are the qualities of Sattvika Mind:
a) Mental calmness,
b) Control of senses,
f) Universal friendship,
i) Creative power, adventure, experimentation
Mental calmness in every activity and under all circumstances reveals true sattvika nature of a sadhaka. We encounter many great persons, e.g. Mahatma Gandhi, who remained calm and collected under adverse conditions and thus won the battle of non-violence in his life. Devotional music, contemplation, and meditation help in achieving such calm state of mind.
Control of senses is essential for conservation of energy that is needed to progress on the spiritual path, or for that matter to achieve any sincere goal in life. Our senses are never satiated if we pamper them or easily give in to their demands. Like wild horses they pull us away from our aim. Their force is tremendous, but of little help. It is just waste of energy. They disturb our mental balance and lead to frustration and failure. Thus, senses must be controlled by conscious and deliberate efforts. Making our will power strong is the key in this regard.
We must develop the quality of fearlessness to make our mind strong so that it would follow the path we want to take. Fear of failure, fear of consequences, fear of 'what others would say', etc. are but the excuses that the mind conjures up to escape many austerities required to proceed on spiritual path. Second important reason for fearfulness is our identification with body and mind. The more we experience the truth that we are pure spirit, the more we become fearless.
Patience and forbearance go hand in hand. Instead of losing patience and becoming restless about the delay, and expecting everything instantly, we should persevere in our spiritual practices on our path of Self-realization. Prayers and discipline help us in becoming patient. Forbearance is titiksha, to remain unaffected and endure even in adversities. Blame and abuses, misfortunes and calamities should not make us impatient. Rather we should forgive the person who has done us wrong, and accept the situation or circumstances adverse to us with equanimity.
Friendship means love and compassion towards all jivas. We love our near and dear ones; we are ready for sacrifices for our spouse, sons and daughters. We are kind and helpful towards our relatives. Friendship means conscious effort to expand the scope for such love, care, and concern towards all. Spiritual friendship does not rest on element of loss and profit, but rests on the unitary truth that God is one and everyone is God. One should not live in a little pond. It is better to be insignificant fish in an ocean, rather than a big fish of a small pond.
Faith and knowledge is a subject of high importance. Whether is it possible to have faith before knowledge is a moot question! However, it is enough if one keeps faith in the knowledge of someone else whose life and teachings are universally accepted as saintly. One example is Sri Ramakrishna. It is worthwhile to accept his visions as true and have faith in them. Thus, one can follow that example in his/her own life to advance to a higher level. One day, the aspirant is sure to convert his/her faith into knowledge! Faith in one chosen ideal is called nishtha.
Faith evolves into worship and devotion. There is nothing wrong in worshipping someone who you believe to have knowledge of Self. The saint or the prophet is a spiritual scientist! One develops love for the chosen ideal. And as happens most of the time, as the chosen ideal is no more living in body one tends to worship the same in some symbol as a photo or an idol. There is nothing wrong in this, until one does not hate other symbols. All symbols represent Divine Ideal.
Lastly, it may be very difficult for most of us even to succeed in secular life; then is it futile to expect we people to succeed in the hard spiritual life or quest? No; with diligence and sincere efforts it is possible to approach God and go ahead. Whatever one reads or hears is but incomplete expression of the knowledge and experiences of Prophets and Seers. This is so because words are inadequate tools or mediums for transfering of knowledge. Therefore it becomes imperative on the part of an alert sadhaka to try to decipher the true import and meaning of the teachings and sayings of the Prophets or of the Scriptures. Training the mind calls for alertness, strong will power, and use of dormant capabilities in us.
c s shah