What exactly is purity of mind? When I posed this question to someone, that one said, ‘absence of desire is purity.’ How can one be without desire? All our actions are propelled by the motivating force of ‘desire.’ And each of us is helplessly compelled to take action without even a single moment of restraint. //Bh. Gita Ch. 3.5 //
There seems no end to our desires like the waves in the ocean. Just as one wave hits the shore, another wave follows and so also with desires. As each desire is fulfilled, another one sprouts up. Even if the waves subside and lose force there are still some waves that are constantly present causing agitation. So it is with our mind. Our minds are full of thoughts; and some thoughts propel us to take actions while others seem to simply disappear like the waves that die down without rising too high or having any force. So when we reduce our thoughts, we can experience a calmness or peace like the sea with subdued waves.
Our true priceless treasure is peace of mind. My Guru once said, “We all want peace of mind. Yet some people don’t even understand what peace of mind is.” This statement stuck in my mind and I have been pondering over it ever since.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to be in a continuous state of desire-less-ness. Meditation is defined as ‘dhyanam nirvishayam manaha – meditation is emptying the mind of thoughts’. If, in meditation, we restrain our senses and organs of action, but dwell on the objects of the senses, then we are hypocritical because then our mind becomes very active in thinking. The purpose of meditation is to be silent without thoughts, at least for that brief period of time. However, if we our mind focuses on the images on the screen of the mind that the mind has recorded from all the sense perceptions, then the mind again gets attracted to those objects and hankers after them and doesn’t really experience the silence.
Imagine watching the sky. When we focus on the clouds or any other object in space, then our mind focuses on the object and the space itself recedes from our focus. Thoughts are like that in the space of our minds. When we become too extroverted and run after the sensory objects and pleasures then we lose touch with our inner space and focus only on the images and our mind runs after those senses and craves for it more intensely.
However, if we can control our senses restricting the thoughts and desires, then we become eligible to experience a natural state of peace that is our birth right. In the beginning of meditation, the mind is flooded with thoughts of the sensory impressions that it received earlier. With time and continued meditation as our thoughts decrease in speed and quantity, we can experience the silence between the thoughts. Extending that period of silence between the thoughts takes a longer sitting in meditation. When we are in that state of silence, we become aware of only our existence oblivious of any objects. This is the state of “existing in our true light.” This is the self-evident, self effulgent truth which is full of bliss and which is eternal, without a beginning or end. (Bh. Gita Ch.2:55) A person who has renounced all desires and stabilizes oneself in this state of being happy in the Self by the self, such a wise person is said to be in stitha prajna! – stable intelligence! Such a wise person only is in peace!
If you can experience this, then you can say ‘proof is in the pudding!’ (your proof is your experience). You know it is a sweet pudding only when you taste it. You can taste the sweetness in every drop of the pudding! Pure love, joy and peace! Only meditators can understand this experience.
This reminds me of the Lalita Sahasranama name, “Chideka rasa rupini!” “SvatmAnanda-lavi-bhuta brahmAdyAnanda santatihi!”
Chit-eka-rasa-rupini: She is of the nature of only one essence, which is Consciousness.
svAtmAnanda- the bliss of the experience of the Self
lavi – fraction
brahmadyAnanda the bliss of Brahman
santatihi – continuous
When the bliss of the Self Is experienced continuously, then it becomes Brahmananda, which love and joy is multiplied when the individual consciousness merges with the universal Consciousness!
The Upanishads have described God or Brahman as sat-chit-ananda. It is indivisible and indestructible. One can experience this aspect of Brahman when one sits in meditation and withdraws one’s mind from all ‘objects’ of perception, emptying the mind of all thoughts. There is a continuous state of silence and concentrated self awareness. This is the pure mind devoid of any thoughts or desires, which make the mind extroverted instead of introverted. When the mind is withdrawn from all thoughts it shines in its own identity which is Absolute, and unrelated to any object it perceives or relates to.
The technique described to understand this is, “Neti Neti” – not this, not this when trying to understand the identity of the self. The Self is not to be realized as an object but to be experienced! It is experienced as the subject without the object. We generally identify ourselves through our personality, relationships with people, possessions, name and fame and forget our true nature, that is Brahman – Sat, Chit and Ananda. When we negate every object in the process of self inquiry – neti neti – not this, not this (this is not the self, this is not the self) we come to a point of ‘no object’ where only the Self remains. In this process of enquiry, “Who am I?”, we hit upon the ‘Self’ that is the cause of everything. This Self is called ‘pratyagatma’(Bh. Gita 10:20).
When we are in this state of pure awareness of the Self, independent of everything else, then we are in a state of bliss. This state of ‘being’ (or is-ness) is ‘sat,’ and the awareness of this state is ‘consciousness.’ Awareness implies knowledge. This state is also described as ‘satyam, jnanam, ananta!’ that we are – infinite knowledge and Truth. This state of existence or being is called Truth, which is formless, and therefore, infinite. Being or existence is infinite and formless, and the awareness of that existence is Consciousness which is also formless and infinite and therefore Consciousness and Existence, both are one and the same, and only One. When we experience this state of “Pure Consciousness”, we feel the ‘oneness’ with all beings. (Bh. Gita Ch. 10:22 ~ bhutAnAmasmi Chethana!)
To describe this purity with an analogy, the oft quoted example is that of ornaments having pure gold as their substance. The gold is molded into different forms as per the requirements of the ornaments. They are named differently as bracelet, bangle, necklace, ring, etc. depending on their form. However, in their composition they are made of pure gold. So it is also with our consciousness. While all creatures are different in form, they have Consciousness as the common substance. The form can be destroyed but not Consciousness!!! Just as when we melt all ornaments to their essence, it melts into its pure form of gold, so also our true essence of Consciousness is revealed when we withdraw our mind from all thoughts and focus on our being. This is the real purity of mind we want to achieve.
Absence of desire is not the goal but realizing our natural state of peace is the goal. Because just like the ocean that is full and not ruffled when the rivers merge into it, an enlightened person or a ‘stitha prajna’ who is well established in peace is not in the least disturbed by desires produced by the objects of enjoyment which he happens to come across in his life. He is neither elated when a desire is fulfilled or disappointed when a desire is not fulfilled. But a person who hankers after objects of enjoyment can never enjoy peace. ~Bh. Gita Ch2:70~
All our thoughts stem from our Consciousness and take different forms but in essence it is only Consciousness. When we identify with our Pure Consciousness we are in a state of pure mind with no pollution of thoughts. When we identify with our thought forms we are divided in our consciousness limited by its name and form (nama and rupa) as in the gold ornaments cited in the above analogy. So our thoughts are what cause the impurity in our minds. Also, of equal importance is the nature of our antah-karana (inner organs of mind, intellect and heart) whether it is sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. This aspect is reserved for elaborate discussion in another article.
Meditation has been defined as a state of thoughtlessness. “Dhyanam nirvishayam manaha.” We cannot sit for long without thoughts and without moving. It is against the law of Nature or Prakriti to be motionless. Everything is in motion. Our thoughts mobilize us to act to fulfill our desires. So to be desire less is as impossible as to be thought less. But when we focus on that state of pure consciousness on the background in spite of all the thoughts coming through, we can experience our natural state of peace as the interval of silence increases between the thoughts. Somehow we gain clarity in our thinking later and then we can master our actions by weeding out unnecessary thoughts and acting on the thoughts that do matter to produce a result. So to be concentrated on an end goal, we streamline our thoughts to simply achieve that goal without much emphasis on the desire itself – nishkama karma. But when we entertain too many thoughts and desires of all kinds, our actions are also diverse, diluted and not concentrated enough to achieve our goals. (Bh.Gita Ch.2:41) Therefore, we need to have purity of mind to achieve our goals as well as to experience our true nature of peace, love and joy – sat, chit and ananda. It is important to be peaceful and happy to perform any action with concentration and excellence.
The practice of meditation helps us to gain self control and achieve both our goals of karya siddhi (accomplishment of goal) and realizing our true nature of peace, love and joy, by purifying the mind. However, meditation doesn’t come easy for a lot of people because we are so steeped in endless thinking. Moreover, rarely does one even aspire for liberation or moksha! (freedom from bondage) ~Bh. Gita Ch. 7:3~
When we do worship or upasana also we gain purity in mind to focus on that which is higher than us. Mingling with like minded people, who are also doing a self-study and seeking the same end goal-that is Self-Realization, is also a step toward purification of mind.
In order to experience the Self, we need to concentrate our thoughts on Brahman. The world is so attractive that we become busy doing various things that take our mind away from the desire to know the Self. Not knowing what we are seeking, the desire to know our Self is not as strong as the desire for worldly things that are tangible. However, it is said, on knowing the Self, there is nothing else one would desire.
The man whose mind is not under his control has no Self-Knowledge and to the unsteady no meditation is possible and to the un-meditative, there can be no peace, and to the man who has no peace, how can there be any happiness ? ~Bh. Gita Ch.2:66~
Lord Krishna himself has said, “I am the desire in all beings,” but that desire that is not inconsistent with dharma.
When we change our desire to find happiness from worldly objects and turn it inward to experience our true nature of Supreme Consciousness then we live true to our dharma. Once we get a glimpse of Paramatma, then our attraction to the worldly things disappear totally without even leaving a trace of that attraction. Bh. Gita 2:59
We are born out of desire to fulfill our desires in the natural course of our birth and growth – to expand and express ourselves like a flower that blooms and fully expresses its beauty and fragrance. Hence, the analogy given of the Lotus flower that blooms in spite of growing in a pond of mud is appropriate here. We have to perform our actions and express ourselves without being affected by the surrounding impurities. It is said that just like taking a dip in the water everyday cleans the body, taking a dip in the waters of the Bh. Gita every day removes the impurities of our worldly existence in our mind.
Malanirmochanam pumsAm jala snAnam dine dine
Sakrid GitAmbhasi snAnam samsAra malamochanam!
~~ Bh. Gita DhyAna Shloka ~~
As we expand our individual awareness to touch the Supreme Consciousness from dwelling on the nature of the Supreme Brahman, the worldly activities (papa, sinful actions) do not affect our mind just as the lotus flower is not affected by the water droplets that easily fall off its petals. ~~ Bh.Gita Ch.5:
MEANS OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE
True happiness lies within! “Kingdom of heaven is within!” This knowledge and wisdom is only experienced when we give up all our desires for worldly things, control our self and direct the mind inward sincerely, toward knowing the self. The Lord chooses one who chooses the Lord! Once again it all starts with our desire. Do you have the desire to know the God within? Once you know God there is nothing else in the world that you would want to know. Bh. Gita Ch. 7:2
shraddhaavaan labhate jnaanam tatparah samyatendriyah
jnaanam labdhvaa paraam shaantim achirenaadhigacchati
// Bh. Gita Ch.4:39 //
The man who is full of faith, who is devoted to it and who has subdued all the senses, obtains this Knowledge ; and having obtained Knowledge he goes at once to the Supreme Peace.