Restraining Mind through Abhyasa and Vairagya

Bhagavan briefly gives the technique of dhyana. First drop all the kamanas created by sankalpa. Then control all the senses slowly and steadily with persevering intellect withdraw the mind from names and forms and place it in the Self. Thereafter don’t think anything else. The mind will try to go into the world of names and forms. Again bring the mind back and place it in the Self. If we practice dhyana in this way for a long time we gain abidance in the Self.

One comes to realize I am Brahman. One gains infinite, supreme happiness.

A yogi who has attained Self-realization sees his own Self in all beings and he sees all beings as Self. It is called sarvatmabhav. This is the culmination of realization. One comes to recognize all-pervading, all-existing supreme Brahman as one’s own Self.

यो मां पश्यति सर्वत्र सर्वं च मयि पश्यति |

तस्याहं न प्रणश्यामि स च मे न प्रणश्यति || ३० ||

yo māṃ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṃ ca mayi paśyati

tasyāhaṃ na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyati 6.30

First it was said that the yogi sees his own Self in all beings. Here it is said he sees Paramatma in all beings. Many people ask whether anyone has seen God. Where is God? It is said here a yogi sees God in everything. It is not about God but it is about our vision which we should correct. Once we correct our vision then we will be able to recognize presence of God everywhere. मया ततमिदं सर्वं जगद् अव्यक्त मुर्तिना | Bhagavan says I pervade this entire world in my unmanifest form. When we gain the realization, we come to realize the presence of God in and through everything. God is the source of everything.

Just as the gold and the ornaments. All the ornaments have come from gold. In the same way everything has come from Ishvara alone. There is nothing that is not pervaded by Ishvara. ईशावास्यमिदं सर्वं यत किञ्च जगद्त्याम जगत |

For example, we are sitting in this hall and this space appears to be limited, bound by the walls. But space is so subtle that it exists within the wall. When we do not recognize the nature of the space we feel that the space is limited. Everything exists in space. Similarly, everything is pervaded by Paramatma and a jnani comes to see this. It is said that from space, air has come. Fire has come from air. Water has come from fire and then earth. This is manifestation. Everything is the manifestation of space but if you  look at the later manifestation, you feel that there is no lakshana of space in it. It appears to be totally different. But it is the product of space and space pervades it.

Let us take another example of an apple. The apple has come from the tree. The tree has come from a seed. The seed does not carry the apple in it. Where does the seed get the material from? It gets the material from the earth. If you take handful of soil and tell someone that this is an apple then no one will believe you. But that is the cause of apple. Apple appears to have different characteristics but it is the effect of the soil. Similarly, God is transcendental, beyond names and forms and is indicated with different characteristics. It is indicated as Satyam, Jnananam, Anantam Brahman. The world seems to have different characteristics, the world is constantly changing. It seems to be limited. But still it is the effect of Brahman alone.

One who recognizes this Brahman, he sees Brahman everywhere. He sees everything in that Paramatma.  A yogi sees Paramatma in all and he sees everything in Paramatma. The phala of this is that God never goes away from such a yogi, jnani. Adi Shankaracharyaji writes in his commentary न परोक्षताम् गमिष्यामि| God does not become paroksha for that yogi. For ignorant person there is doubt. There are many question in his mind about God. But there is no doubt for a jnani.

Swami Vivekananda went to Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and asked him, ‘Have you seen God?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am seeing God more clearly than I am seeing you.’ Bhagavan is sakshad for a yogi. And a yogi, a jnani, an enlightened person is sakshad for God. There is no difference between a jnani and Ishvara. They are same. There is no division of ego. It is God alone expressing through that body of a jnani.

The sky in which all the stars and galaxies are there, the same sky is there in this room. There is no difference. But we don’t see the galaxies. We are only seeing a limited aspect of the sky. We are seeing the sky bound by the walls. Similarly, there is no difference between Ishvara and a jnani.

This statement may sound blasphemous. People may get agitated. How can a person be God? When we talk about a person or ‘I’ or ‘You’, we are talking about the ego. Ego is not God.

Like ocean and waves. Ocean is ocean and wave is a wave. But there is something common in ocean and wave. Water is common. As water there is no difference in wave and ocean. There is difference in the name and form.

Many people ask if God and jnani are same then can a jnani create world.

Can the jnanai show miracles? Can a jnani lift a mountain like Shri Krishna did? Will he know everything? Can he read people’s minds?

There is a nice example given in Tripura Rahasya. There is a seeker who is dark complexioned. He does sadhana and gains enlightenment. He does not become fair. He remains dark even after gaining enlightenment. The body and the upadhis remain as they are. Whatever one does through the upadhis will have the limitation of the upadhis. Upadhi means the conditionings. A jnani will not be able to lift more weight that his body can lift. A jnani will not know more about this world than his intellect’s capacity.  One does not become computer expert or a space scientist. The wave cannot become the ocean. But as water they are same. They are one only.

सर्वभूतस्थितं यो मां भजत्येकत्वमास्थितः |

सर्वथा वर्तमानोSपि स योगी मयि वर्तते || ३१ ||

sarvabhūtasthitaṃ yo māṃ bhajaty ekatvam āsthitaḥ

sarvathā vartamānopi sa yogī mayi vartate 6.31

The enlightened yogi continues to express through his body. He continues to live even after gaining Self-knowledge. He does not disappear. He does not die. He will continue living in the body as long as his prarabdha – life-span is there. A jnani will interact with the world around. He will see the same world with his eyes just as an ignorant person sees. The body will react to the world in the same way. If a jnani puts his finger in fire, it will get burnt. Laws of nature will be same for him.

Attraction for miracles keep people away from spirituality. In Bhagavad Gita Bhagavan does not talk about miracles. Jnani continues to live in this world but his vision, understanding changes. He sees the outer names and forms but he knows the presence of God in everyone.

How does he live thereafter? He lives serving the Divinity in all. Abiding in that understanding of oneness, a jnani serves, loves his own Self in all.

For example we know ‘I pervade entire body’. If there is some problem in one part of my body, I will take care of it. Similarly, a jnani has understanding that he pervades the entire world. I am the very Self of all – Paramatma. He spends his time serving Paramatma.

Bhagavan says that though a jnani might be appearing to perform different activities but he is always in me.

For example, there is an aeroplane on ground. Whether the plane is flying or on ground, it is in space. Similarly, God is in all beings, all objects, all activities. There is nothing which is non-God. There is no such thing as non-divine. Everything is pervaded by that supreme Reality alone.

Such a person is always living in God as though a God intoxicated person. Such a jnani is called a yogi here. In second Chapter he is called sthitaprajna,  in twelfth  Chapter he is called bhakta. In fourteenth Chapter he is called gunatita. He is named differently according to his path.  Water, udak or pani are different names for water but the object is same.

In next verse Bhagavan tells who is the greatest bhakta.

आत्मौपम्येन सर्वत्र समं पश्यति योSर्जुन |

सुखं वा यदि वा दु:खं स योगी परमो मतः || ३२ ||

ātmaupamyena sarvatra samaṃ paśyati yorjuna

sukhaṃ vā yadi vā duḥkhaṃ sa yogī paramo mataḥ 6.32

This is the vision of a jnani and the very root of our values and dharma. What is natural for an enlightened person becomes the sadhana for a seeker. All the values that we talk about like kindness, goodness, compassion are good values. Why goodness is good? Why being kind is good?

All the goodness is the expression of supreme Reality. All good things take us towards the Reality. Those things which keep us away from supreme Reality are considered as negative.

The yogi sees everyone with the same vision. He sees everyone as his own Self. I like to be happy and do not want to be unhappy. A Jnani sees that all the beings want to be happy. They don’t want unhappiness. This is basic requirement of all living beings. No living being wants to be unhappy. Whatever be their gender, age, religion, status, everyone wants to be happy. Our goal is to move towards happiness. Even the animals, birds, plants want to be happy.

Every being wants to be happy because happiness is the very nature of our Self. When we are happy, we feel close to our Self. When we are unhappy, we feel a big gap between myself and my Self. I feel lonely, miserable. When I am happy, I feel the identification with everyone. At the level of ignorance we confine that happiness to our little self. I want to be happy. I don’t care if others are unhappy.

An ant is totally helpless but the life in the ant and life in me is same. The Self in the ant and Self in me is same. Though, the structure of this world is such that one being survives by eating another being. जीवो जीवस्य भोजनम्| Smaller fish is eaten by bigger fish. This body is made up of food. The body is called annamaya kosha. It is food for other creature.
One who is living in this body is called Atman which is same everywhere. He is one Self expressing through so many bodies.

It is one person who is seeing through both the eyes. Similarly, it is One God who is seeing through all the eyes. सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्ष सहस्रपाद| He is Ishvara? Who is Ishvara? We cannot draw a picture of God. He has infinite eyes, hands, legs. Everyone’s hand, legs, ears, mind, buddhi belongs to Him. He is all and He is beyond all.

I want to live. Therefore, others also want to live. The basis of dharma is live and let live. सत

I want to know, understand. Others also want to know, understand. Nobody wants to be cheated. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of. चित

All this is dharma. The way you treat yourself you should treat others. it does not mean that others should like what I like. Likes and dislikes belong to senses, mind. That is where people make mistake. People want their likes to be liked by others. Likes and dislikes are of our mind and senses. My mind and others minds are different. My senses and others senses are different. There is something that is common. Everyone wants to be happy.

If you go all over the world and ask the people of the world to name a few good qualities, most of them will give the same answer. Generally we all know what is good and bad. What is bad for me is bad for others too.

A yogi looks at everyone as his own Self.

I want joy, I don’t want sorrow. Similarly everyone wants joy, no one wants sorrow. This is the basic understanding and our actions should be based on this understanding. Then it expresses as compassion. If I see someone in sorrow I would like to remove that. If I am in sorrow, I would like to be free of that sorrow. One should put forth effort to remove sorrows of others. That is called compassion, love, forgiveness. Do unto others what you would like others do unto you. Love thy neighbour as thyself. All good values are derived from the basic understanding that God exists in all. When we hurt someone we are indirectly hurting God. He gets hurt and God too gets hurt.

When my hand is hurt, my hand feels the pain and I too feel the pain.

So-called religious people offer their devotion towards an idol but when it comes to human beings, animals, birds, plants, they do not show any compassion. They are hurting the same God whom they claim to worship.

Such a yogi is the best among all. He is the supreme yogi. He sees his Self in all and who treats everyone as his own Self.

Thus Bhagavan concluded his teachings to Arjuna about dhyanayoga. Arjuna listened to it attentively but he had a question about the sadhana. Bhagavan said that we have to withdraw the mind from the world and place it in the Self. Arjuna had a question about the mind.

This question is not only Arjuna’s but it also belongs to us. We will be able to identify with it easily.

अर्जुन उवाच

arjuna uvāca

योSयं योगस्त्वया प्रोक्तः साम्येन मधुसूदन |

एतस्याहं न पश्यामि चञ्चलत्वात्स्थितिं स्थिराम् || ३३ ||

yoyaṃ yogas tvayā proktaḥ sāmyena madhusūdana

etasyāhaṃ na paśyāmi cañcalatvāt sthitiṃ sthirām 6.33

 चञ्चलं हि मनः कृष्ण प्रमाथि बलवद्दृढम् |

तस्याहं निग्रहं मन्ये वायोरिव सुदुष्करम् || ३४ ||

cañcalaṃ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi balavad dṛḍham

tasyāhaṃ nigrahaṃ manye vāyor iva suduṣkaram 6.34

Bhagavad-gita is a dialogue between Arjuna and Bhagavan Shri Krishna. Wherever Arjuna gets a doubt in his mind, he asks question to Bhagavan.

He heard that mind has to be controlled and placed in the Self. Once we do that we gain samatwa. The yogi looks at the world with vision of oneness.

Madhusudan is another name of Bhagavan. He had killed one rakshasa called Madhu.

Arjuna asks, hey Madhusudana, you taught me this yoga that one should see the Self in all. With our eyes we cannot see sama – same. Everything is different. But it is said that yogi sees sama – same. But I don’t see the attainment of this yoga. It is wonderful but I don’t see it easily attainable because I find it impossible to gain firm abidance in this yoga because the mind is very chanchal. It cannot remain steady.

It is like you say that someone should remove all the waves from ocean and then one can see the clear reflection of sky with shining sun. You cannot make the ocean free of waves.

Similarly, the mind is very chanchal and it goes from one object to another constantly. That is the very nature of mind. Mind cannot get stuck with one thing.

It is like the movie camera. The camera moves and takes picture constantly. It is the very nature of camera to move and take picture. If the camera gets stuck with one image then it cannot take pictures.

Arjuna says that you say that place the mind in the Self by making it steady. But the steadiness of the mind is not possible. It is unnatural.

The mind is fickle, turbulent. When the mind wants it can shake the body too. Mind gets angry and the whole body of that person will shake with anger.

Mind is very strong. Even if you try to control it, restrain it, it becomes impossible. Nobody can control it. Mind is very strong. It does not depend on the strength of the body. Body might be weak but the mind is strong.

And the mind has tremendous stamina – staying power. Sometimes people maintain anger in their mind for years together. They retain it. They even pass it on to their children. To keep a thought, image, hatred requires strength. Mind is most amazing phenomenon. It jumps from one object to another. It changes every second. It can become turbulent. It is strong. It can retain a thought for years together.

These are all the obstacles on the path of dhayna. Dhyana does not require chanchal mana. It requires steady mind. Bhagavan gave the example of the lamp having steady flame kept in windless place. The mind should be absolutely still.  It should be calm and peaceful. We should hold on to the thought of Brahman and no other thought should be entertained.

Arjuna says such is the nature of mind and I consider restraining the mind is more difficult that restraining the wind. The stormy winds uproot trees and take them away. It is very difficult to stop that wind. Similarly, it is difficult to control the stormy mind. We can identify with this.

It is not that the mind is turbulent all the time. Sometimes it is calm and peaceful.

Bhagavan now speaks…


śrībhagavān uvāca

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |

अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || ३५ ||

asañśayaṃ mahābāho mano durnigrahaṃ calam

abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate 6.35

असंयतात्मना योगो दुष्प्राप इति मे मतिः |

वश्यात्मना तु यतता शक्योSवाप्तुमुपायतः || ३६ ||

asaṃyatātmanā yogo duṣprāpa iti me matiḥ

vaśyātmanā tu yatatā śakyovāptum upāyataḥ 6.36

Bhagavan says that what you are saying is true. Here Bhagavan is also taunting Ajuna by calling him Mahabaho. You call yourself mighty armed and you are saying it is difficult. But what you are saying is true. It might seem impossible but if you know the right technique then it is simple.

Sometimes you go for holiday. You check in the hotel room and go to the bathroom. You get puzzled with the high-tech gadgets. You try to open the tap but the shower starts and you don’t know how to stop it. But the same gadgets are handled smoothly by a person who knows the technique.

Similarly, what Arjuna says is right for a person who does not know and who does not follow the right technique. Mind is difficult to control.

But there is a technique. Bhagavan says that it is doubtless what you are saying. Mind is difficult to restrain. It is unsteady. That is the very nature of mind.

There is two-fold technique. This technique later was mentioned by Patanjali Rishi too. Abhyas and vairagya. Abhyas – practice and Vairagya – non-attachment. Mind can be controlled by practice and non-attachment.

Mind is made up of habit. Mind is an expression of our understanding or misunderstanding too. It is also expression of our habits and samskaras, faith, convictions, faulty ideas. You can observe the mind. If our mind undergoes modification then it starts expressing differently. The feelings depends upon our understanding.

You are in a crowded bus and you are sitting. Some people are standing. There is little space near you but you occupy it with your bag. Then you notice your friend standing. You call him and adjust yourself and make him sit next to you. This is your understanding that he is my friend.

Our expression depends on our understanding and the vision. You go to a shop and the shopkeeper treats you well and offers you tea. He does it because he wants to sell something to you.

Mind is a responding factor of our deep convictions and understanding. If our convictions are deep and positive, the mind will express goodness. We cannot practice goodness. When your heart is full of joy then you don’t have to practice smiling. Mind is an expression of our deep convictions. Our deep convictions need to undergo modification and change.

Mind is made up of habits. Whatever may be the conviction but if the habits are strong then the mind continues to do same thing. Doctor tells you to stop eating sweet but you eat because of habit. Habits are created by repeating the things again and again. Convictions are outcome of contemplation, thinking, and relying on faulty pramana.

When a person does proper thinking with the help of scriptures and the satsang and learns to distinguish between the nitya and anitya then he gains vairagya. नित्यानित्यवस्तुविवेक|

Nitya means that which is permanent, that which is good, that which is dharma, and that which is positive. Anitya means that which is impermanent, bad, adharma and negative.

When we can distinguish properly we will develop vairagya towards that which is adharma. We need satsang and study of scriptures to distinguish between nitya and anitya. बिनु सत्संगविवेक न होइ  रामकृपा बिना सुलभ न सोही|

We should try to improve our understanding of life. We should study the scriptures. Interact with right type of persons.

We should try to improve the inner-most conviction about life. What we are depends on our convictions.

Everyone has their own conviction about their self, God, world, what is good, what is bad. Convictions about dharma and adharma. Convictions about life and death. We should try to make our convictions faultless. If there are faulty convictions, there will be faulty expressions. Changing the expressions outwardly will not help. Our convictions should get upgraded.

Through proper understanding we gain vairagya but simultaneously we should also try to make the mind calm and peaceful.

The mind is made up of habits and habits are nothing but repeating something. Practice is also repeating something positive every day.

One should repeat Bhagavan’s name. We should repeatedly focus our attention on our goal. We should practice this every day, same time, consistently. The mind will become calm and peaceful. Practice regularly to place the mind in the Self.

Suppose you meditate everyday at a particular time, the mind will know at that time that it is time to keep quiet.

We can control our mind through abhyas and vairagya. Our understanding is subtler than our mind. Mana is chanchal and it depends on buddhi. If buddhi is firm on right understanding then we can control the mana.

In our scriptures mind is compared to reins. Buddhi is like the sarathi. Senses are like the horses. We control the horses through the reins. The reins are held by the charioteer. The reins are held in the hands of sarathi. Through buddhi we can gain vairagya and through self efforts we can do abhyas. The mind will become calm and peaceful.

Bhagavan says that those who don’t follow the path of abhyas and vairagya and their mind is not under control they cannot meditate.

There is no proper knowledge then how can we meditate?

If you follow the right path of abhyas and vairagya then dhyana will become easy for you. Mind will come under control.

– Swami Nikhilananda