Control over Mind and Modifications
By Swami Rama
The second sutra explains the aim of the entire yoga psychology. “Yogash chitta-vritti-nirodhah.” There are two meanings for this. By applying the yogic methods that are being explained to you by your teacher, you can have control over mind and its modifications, and thus attain samadhi, the highest state of wisdom; this is one meaning. Having control over mind and its modifications is called yoga; this is the second meaning.
The word yoga has many connotations, but here it means “samadhi.” The word “yoga” comes from the root “yuj,” and it means “to unite, to join.” When prana and apana are joined, that is called yoga. When an individual soul is united with the cosmic soul, that is called yoga. When one attains samadhi, that is also called yoga. The aim and object of yoga is to attain the highest of all states—samadhi. Patanjali is not talking about seeing God; whether or not God exists is not the point of Patanjali. He says, “Oh man, you have to know yourself on all levels.” First, you have to understand yourself on all levels, and then you can understand the Self of all, the Absolute Self, that is called Absolute Truth.
The central theme of the yoga sutras is samadhi, that which in Sanskrit is called samahitam. The Upanishads beautifully explain it: “yada panca-vatishthante jnanani manasa saha, buddhish cha na vicheshthate tam ahuh paramam gatim” (Kathopanishad 6.10). The highest of all states is that state of tranquility that is never disturbed, no matter what happens, in all conditions of life. There is a state of tranquility in which your mind becomes balanced, and that state of tranquility leads you to a fourth dimension, turiya, or samadhi, the superconscious state. You are aware of only three states at present—the states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. All human beings are aware of these three states, but only a fortunate few, the great sages or yogis who tread the internal path, are aware of the fourth state, the highest state of tranquility, called samadhi.
Samadhi is beyond all joys. Joys last only for some time, and then again the darkness and sadness come. Samadhi is constant. There is no question of any sadness, sorrow, or misery. By attaining that state you come in touch with the source of knowledge and infinite love within, the library of intuitive knowledge. The fourth state is free from all problems whatsoever—worldly, spiritual, or divine. All conflicts within and without are resolved. Nothing in the world can disturb you.
Your mind is always going through samkalpa and vikalpa, arguing for and against, brooding on something all the time. Can you imagine a state that is free from all questions and argumentation? When all your problems and questions are resolved, in which language will you think? If your mind has attained a state that is free from all conflicts, what is the condition of your mind? If there is no question in your mind, how can your mind continue the usual thinking process? In which language will you think when you have nothing to think, when you have no questions at all? What will your mind do then?
The human mind functions within a certain field. You will go beyond that. There is nothing in the unconscious that you have not seen before. Your mind works only within the boundaries of the field of whatever you have previously heard, seen, thought of, or imagined. This is the field of the phenomenal world. Patanjali says you can cross that field. Your mind wanders within a boundary of its own, but it can go beyond. You are not aware of that. There is a way of training your mind and all the various faculties of your mind so that you can go beyond. There are many other fields where mind gets freedom from all these forms, and remains in a state of joy and happiness. “Beyond” means the transpersonal field. The field of your personal mind is small. When you know that this field is not able to help you, then you cross to the transpersonal field. Then you will find that you receive help, and you can help yourself in a better way. Self-confidence is important, but it is also essential to take help from the transpersonal mind. You will cross the mire of delusion and go to the kingdom of spirituality, the kingdom of light, where pains and miseries will not affect you, and you will be in a state of constant joy or bliss. A human being can do that.
There are five “vehicles” described by yoga science. We have described these vehicles in detail in the book, “Yoga and Psychotherapy.” The physical body is the grossest vehicle. The second is the vital force or pranic sheath—the sheath of prana or energy that you inhale and exhale with the breath. The third is the mental sheath. The fourth is the sheath of your personal knowledge, and the fifth is the sheath of bliss. The fifth sheath is blissful because it is very close to the center of consciousness; it is the mirror of the center of consciousness. It can be called the conscience within.
Patanjali does not begin discussing the body or the breath first. He directly goes to mind and its modifications. Even if you train your body, and apply all your resources to train your body, still you will never know Truth. First, learn to understand your mind and purify your mind in an orderly way. You can do it. One who has understood the mind has understood everything. You do not have to worry in order to understand God; you do not have to worry to understand the center of consciousness. It is already there, even if you do not believe it is there. It is your mind that makes a difference. Patanjali says you have something permanent with you that is called “the monkey mind.” That monkey mind always gets in your way and creates barriers for you. One day it helps you to understand something, and then the next day you undo the same thing. One moment you think you have known something; after half an hour, the same mind will say you have not known anything. Sometimes you think you are going toward insanity; sometimes you think you are doing very well. That monkey mind comes between you and realization. It is all mind. “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha- mokshayoh.” It is mind that creates a barrier for you, but mind can also help you in gaining emancipation or liberation. Mind is an obstacle for the ignorant, and a means for the wise. The same mind that is considered to be an obstacle can be a useful tool provided you know your mind.
If you put five, six, seven, or eight shades on a table lamp, you will find the light seems very dim. If you go on removing the shades, finally you will find the light. The limitations of the mind are exactly like those shades. There are various levels of mind to penetrate before reaching the kingdom of the soul—personal mind, transpersonal mind, inner mind, collective mind, and cosmic mind.
When you go to the center of consciousness, you will not find mind there. You will only find consciousness itself. Consciousness is different from mind. Mind is an instrument that has various functions. How does your mind function and from where does it receive power and energy? Mind functions because of the power called consciousness. Mind is the instrument; consciousness is the power. There is a center of consciousness beyond mind called your individual soul. The power that mind is using for thinking, listening, understanding, and judging comes from the soul. Mind has its limitations.
In Ishopanishad it is written, “tadejati tan naijati tad dure tad vantike, tad antarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasyasya bahyatah” (Ishopanishad 5). It is a description for Atman or the soul. There is no movement, yet Atman runs faster than the mind. It means if Atman is everywhere, where can you run? Mind cannot run faster than the soul because the soul is everywhere. Mind is only an instrument that can fathom a very small part of the power of the soul or the center of consciousness. Mind receives energy from the center of consciousness. Consciousness is singular in number, but there are many levels of consciousness. There are also various levels of enlightenment and various levels of ignorance. If you become aware of the levels of ignorance before treading the path of enlightenment, you can easily tread the path.
I want to teach you about mind first, and then about body and soul. In English, the word man is actually from a Sanskrit word, manas, which means mind. Man should be pronounced as “mun,” not “man.” “Oh man, you are a thinking being. You are not only a physical being and a breathing being like the animals; you are also a thinking being. The capacity to think is not found in the other kingdoms. That is why I call you man.”
Patanjali directly deals with the mind and its modifications. First of all, you should be aware that you are a thinking being. It is your nature to think. He is not talking about something abstract or over your head or about the soul. Patanjali goes directly to the point, which is chitta, the thinking self. Though chitta is also translated as mind, Patanjali is not talking about what modern psychology calls mind, but about something far more comprehensive. He is talking about the totality of all mental functioning. Chitta is the field in which the rest of the mind functions. All aspects of chitta are modifications.
Patanjali makes you aware of your mind first, because it is mind, both conscious and unconscious, its various aspects and functions, and all its vrittis or modifications that create a wall between you and Reality. Mind comes in the way and creates many problems, but you should remember that the mind is yours. You do not belong to your mind. You can control your mind provided you understand it. Controlling the mind does not mean stopping the thought process. Control of the mind means using it properly, and knowing the method of using the forces of the mind.
You know only a small part of your mind, the conscious mind. You use the conscious mind only during the waking state. Though the conscious mind is very important, it is only a small part of the totality of the mind. Most of the time you are not conscious of the things around you and you are not conscious of the duties you are performing. What you call the conscious mind is not subject to control. Anybody who attempts to control the conscious mind is committing a serious mistake and wasting time and energy. The training that you receive from your homes and environments, from your educational systems, from your colleges and universities, deals only with the conscious mind and the waking state. The educational systems all over the world teach you to cultivate only the conscious mind, but the waking state is not your total life. You have such a vast reservoir, an infinite library within you, but your education does not help you in knowing and having control over the totality of mind. That is why you are confused.
First, you should try to understand the limitations of the conscious mind. The study of the conscious mind is very interesting. The objective mind uses the five cognitive senses. Cognition takes place because of the objective mind. Even during the waking state you are not properly utilizing the conscious mind. When you do not know how to use your conscious mind, you lose the capacity of being here and now in the present. You remain either in the grooves of the past or in the grooves of future imagination; you do not know how to use the present. This is not reality: the past has gone and the future is not here. You are not enjoying life as you should. To live here and now first you have to understand the functioning of the conscious or objective mind, which is constantly receiving sensations from the external world.
You have not explored most of your mental states. A vast part of your mind remains unknown and uncultivated. No one teaches you about the unconscious mind. When you are not in the waking state, then you are in the sleeping state or the dreaming state. When you are in the waking state, you do not know what happens to the parts of your mind that go to the dreaming state or sleeping state. What happens in your dreaming and sleeping states? You wake up either when you are fully rested, or when you have been disturbed. Who tells you that now you have had enough rest, you have slept for a long time, and should wake up? Most people cannot voluntarily go to rest and say that they will sleep for half an hour, but there is a technique like that. You do not know that technique. Just tell yourself that no matter what happens, from two to four you have to sleep because you have to work. If you learn the secrets of sleep, no one in the world can disturb you, no matter how many drums they beat or how much noise they make. You have no conscious control over your dreams. Why are you not taught to dream the way you want? Why are you not taught to sleep the way you want? How do you train that part of mind that dreams and that part that goes to sleep? What does sleep mean to you? Do you understand the anatomy of sleep? Do you know there is a fourth state called turiya? All these questions are omitted because there are no scientific instruments to test and verify.
You do not know how to train the totality of the mind and the different functions of the mind. A vast part of the mind remains buried in the unknown. You have not yet explored the greatest part of your mental states. Even if you have explored them somewhat, you haven’t got the means to inspect them. You are only using the objective mind—the conscious mind and the senses together. Even if you know the method, the conscious mind and the ten senses are not sufficient to inspect the whole mind.
You cannot learn the technique of knowing the whole mind if you are restricted to the senses. You will have to go to another dimension. The conscious mind is not an instrument for knowing the totality of your mind. Unless you change the conscious mind, it is not possible for you to study the unconscious mind. You know only a covering called body and senses and conscious mind. If you only know your garment and do not know yourself, what will happen to you? You are ignoring the real you that is within—the unconscious mind and the soul. One who has not gone inside is lost outside.
You have no control over your mind. You see things the way you do because you use only a small part of your mind. If you awaken your total mind, you will see things as they are. When you know the whole mind, then the part that you use in your daily life will easily come under your control. Not only can you bring the conscious mind that you use during the waking state under your control, but also the part of mind that functions only during the dreaming state, or the part of mind that creates a state of deep sleep for you. You can control the totality of your mind and become more dynamic and more powerful.
The values of things change when you understand them. If you are sitting in front of a window, you will see a very small part of the horizon. If you go outside, you will see a larger horizon. But if you go to the top of the roof, you will see the whole horizon clearly. When you understand the totality of your mind, there will be no problem at all. At present you are seeing things with small eyes. If you are able to make your whole being an eye, everything will definitely look different.
When you learn to fathom the different states of mind one after another—the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states—you can then attain the fourth state, the superconscious state of your mind. You can attain that state during the waking state. Actually the fourth state is the expansion of your conscious mind. Just as mind functions on conscious and unconscious levels, mind also works on a higher level called the superconscious level. If you do not achieve the superconscious level, how can you verify the knowledge gained from the conscious mind? Everyone lives to attain the superconscious state.
Everyone lives with the hope of attaining happiness—if not today, then tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. We all have one and the same aim, and that aim is to attain happiness. Sometimes people experiment on the physical level and they experience some joy, but it does not last for a long time. Vishayananda, the bliss experienced in physical unity, is only momentary. It gives you hope that this small moment of happiness can be expanded, and that paramananda, the highest bliss, the highest of joys, can be realized and attained in this lifetime. It is not impossible.
When you understand the primary necessity, the goal of life, you will become aware of Reality. Try to understand the discipline and the knowledge that are being expounded, and directly apply them to the mind.
This website is devoted to sharing the teachings
of Swami Rama of the Himalayas