Gita’s Techniques of Controlling the Mind

The mind is the seat of feelings which are technically superior to the senses. But unfortunately it is usually the senses that mould the feelings. But, for any spiritual exercise to succeed, the senses must be subdued first. For that their immediate bosses, the feelings, must become sufficiently good and strong. That means, again, the mind; the seat of those feelings should be properly trained and strengthened. Thus, though the mind is, by nature, very restless and uncontrollable, its disciplining assumes primary importance in the practice of any earnest spirituality.

Kathopanishad (see my article: The Immensity of the Hindu Scriptures Part 1 Part 2 ) says Know the soul as the rider and the body as the chariot to which the senses are yoked like horses: The mind works like the reins with which the charioteer, viz. the understanding holds the horses, i.e. the senses, in check. The road is the material world in which the senses move. If the reins are not held wisely and firmly, the senses, like wild horses, will get out of control and the chariot will not reach the destination. But if the man is wise and controls his mind, the senses behave like good horses and the rider safely reaches the end of his journey

Gita’s Techniques

In the Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 6, Shloka 35 Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:

Asamsayam mahabaho mano durnigraham calam
Abhyasena to kaunteya vairagyena ca grhyate.

Doubtless O mighty armed, the mind is restless and hard to control but by practice and non-attachment, O son of Kunti, it can be controlled.

In my opinion the Lord has given us via Arjuna the secret of controlling our mind which remains ever so restless. But before one strives to understand what the Lord is saying, one must be able to recall what Arjuna asked in previous Shlokas. In Shlokas 33 and 34 of Chapter 6 of The Bhagvad Gita Arjuna had talked about the restless nature of mind and hence, he had told the Lord that the mind is as hard to control as the wind. In the above cited shloka the Lord gives Arjuna the technique of controlling the mind. However, first the Lord agrees with Arjuna that the mind is not easy to control and then the Lord gives us via Arjuna two important means to control the mind. The first one is Practice and the second one is Non-attachment.

Techniques Explained

Now let us try to understand these two techniques. Why do we find it hard to control our minds? Because we have become slave to our minds. We have completely surrendered ourselves to the bent of our minds. The Lord says we can change our old habits if we so desire. The uncontrollable and restless mind can be controlled and made calm by earnest and persistent practice. What is Practice? A consistent attempt.

To wean the mind from its old habit of restlessness requires regular and persistent attempt to draw it towards someone who is always at peace. Who is that someone? God who is always at peace. Mind becomes pacified as it gets drawn to God. Lord Krishna however cautions that the practice alone may not work because the mind runs after those objects to which it has been attached. What should we do then?

The Lord gives us the second watchword – “Non-attachment”. How? Tell your mind that you as the soul are its boss and you have experienced the evils of such attachments of the mind. You have to remind the mind of these evils every time it wanders. Ask your mind what had it achieved by running after worldly attachments? More pain than pleasure? Is there any worldly relation that is not based on selfishness? Is there anything in the world that has given your mind everlasting pleasure? Remind your mind about all the sufferings due to attachments. Thus, you will see that when all the worldly attachments are put down through discrimination, the mind slowly but surely comes under control.

The essence of Lord’s message is that if we want to succeed in the practice of meditation for controlling our mind, we have to learn the practice of non-attachment.

Practical Hints

Even if you are convinced with all that is said above, it may be very difficult for you to adopt a nonchalant attitude towards everything you possess ant related to. Many times the very properties of the elements with which we are made, offer great resistance to all our attempts at practicing non-attachment. They persuade us to neglect all philosophy and logic and make us attached to the worldly possessions. But, it is here that you should exercise your free will, put up a strong fight against the destructive in the form of determined practice against the seductive influence of those basic elements. In such a practice you may give a fair trial to the following practical hints:

  • At the end of anything important you acquire, get in the habit of saying to yourself, This is not mine and I am not the doer. Everything belongs to God and He is the real doer. By repeating these words again and again, and as often as required, saturate your psychology and entire being with the attitude of non-doer ship and non-ownership. Always by thinking that you are a garden-keeper, but not the owner of the garden; an office clerk, but not the proprietor of the office. Then it will yield you good results in your experiment of eliminating attachment to worldly possessions and relations. For when the things are not yours, and when you are not the doer, what attachments can you have to them?
  • You should look at everything you come across in your lives dispassionately and do any work for its own sake, as matter of duty but not wishing for the fruit of your effort. For example, love the child for the sake of love. Bring him up as your parental duty. There is no harm in doing so; but to give your mind to him and have attachment with him is undesirable. And last but not the least,
  • You must first bring under your complete control the triple weakness of fury, fear and fondness. Your inner nature should be so trained as to remain unaffected by pain and pleasure, and honour and dishonour. You should neither rejoice nor hate and renounce both good and evil. You must be the same both to a friend and a foe and be contented and devoted to God. You must thus raise yourself above the ups and downs of life, conquer the senses and be satisfied with divine grace. Then follows the quality of non-attachment mentioned above as stated in the Bhagvad Gita:

He who is not perturbed mentally in sorrows, who does not crave for happiness, and who is free from passion, fear and anger, is the sage of stable mind. (II-56).