Mind, which in shloka 15.7 of the Bhagavad Gita has been referred to as the sixth sense, is a person’s faculty of thought and his ability to remember things. It is the seat of one’s ideas, opinions, perceptions, emotions, memory and will etc.
One’s thoughts, which constitute the mind, are rooted in his past experiences and likely future events. The mind has immense power, whether for the good or for the evil. Mind can, thus, make or break a person.
By its very nature, the mind is very restive. It is always running after one or the other object. That is why it has often been likened to a drunk monkey, which is aimlessly jumping from one branch to another.
As stated in shloka 7.4 and 7.5, mind belongs to the material, and not consciousness, nature of the Supreme Lord. Similarly, in shlokas from 13.1 to 13.7, the mind along with other objects of the physical world has been termed as field, the area of activity. All changes such as birth, growth and death take place in the field. The self, knower of the field, is the consciousness which witnesses all the activities of the body and the mind.
Mind along with the body is, thus, the doer of all activities and self is the witness of all such activities.
The hierarchy of different levels of human existence has been narrated in shloka 3.42 wherein it is stated that the mind is greater than the senses and intelligence is greater than the mind. And that which is greater than even intelligence, is the self.
The nature of mind has been described by Arjuna in shlokas 6.33 and 6.34. It has been stated by him that the mind is unsteady ; and very fickle, restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate. These characteristics of the mind make it very unpredictable and difficult to control.
As all the functions of the mind relate to
material nature, they are transient. The mind is always in flux. It is, therefore, unsteady and fickle.
The mind is troublesome mainly because it is outward looking. Instead of being guided by the intelligence and illumined by the self, it is driven by the senses. As stated in shloka 2.67, even one of the senses wandering in its objects can carry away a man’s intelligence if his mind is constantly focussed on that sense. Such attachment with different sense objects creates a web of selfish desires in which the mind gets entangled. As a result, it remains restless.
The restlessness is not overcome even if one gets the object of his desire, because the satisfaction and happiness so obtained is only momentary. The tyranny of endless and ever expanding desires does not let one gain serenity of mind. Constant restlessness ultimately leads to misery.
The confusion created by the multiple conflicts arising in the mind from time to time keeps it disturbed. The mind often experiences turbulence due to the disturbances created by vigorous currents of fear, anger, lust and greed etc. A turbulent mind is unable to take appropriate decisions at opportune time.
The mind is said to be strong because it overpowers one’s intelligence with the strong impulses produced by attachment with the objects of the senses ; thereby destroying the faculty of discrimination. It clouds one’s power of judgement.
The mind is also said to be obstinate because when it holds a particular view, it refuses to let it go. It continues to hold it firmly inspite of it being obviously false and having harmful effects.
In view of these unwholesome and irrational traits, Arjuna feared that to control the mind was more difficult than even controlling the wind. He expressed his helplessness in managing his emotions.
Krishna conceded in shloka 6.35 that the mind being restless was very difficult to curb. Yet, He assured Arjuna, nay mankind, that it can be controlled by non-attachment (vairagya) and constant practice (abhayas). When one develops an attitude of non-attachment towards the objects of the senses, then he is not unduly influenced by the glitter of the outside world. Instead, he focuses his mind on the divine within (abhayas).
Krishna further stated in shloka 6.36 that though it was not easy to attain evenness of mind for the one whose mind is not disciplined, but the one who is self-controlled and makes sincere efforts through right means, can easily attain it.
In short, one must raise his consciousness level step by step – from senses to the mind, further to the intelligence ; and finally to the self. Non-attachment, constant practice and sincere efforts play an important role in control of one’s mind. But what is most important is the exercise of self-discipline through right means.
When one’s mind is controlled and enlightened, he then sees myriad objects and events as different manifestations of the Divine and not as things to be grasped or situations to be feared. Instead of wandering aimlessly, one’s mind is focussed on the self.
Serenity of the mind is obtained when one breaks the stranglehold of the oppressive desires. A serene mind is a joyful mind.