(Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talk to Yuva Veers of Youth Empowerment Program 6thbatch)
Praanaayaamam pratyaahaaram, nityaanitya vivekavicharam
Jaapyasameta samaadhividhaanam, kurvavadhaanam mahadavadhaanam || 30 ||
Meaning: Do Praanaayaama (controlled breathing techniques). Enquire with the discriminative mind what’s permanent and what’s not. Do Japa and Meditation. Do all this with utmost care.
Praanaayaamam & Pratyaahaaram are techniques in Yoga using which one can calm his mind using regulated breathing exercises and similar practices. When one sits down in the correct posture with closed eyes and focuses on his breath, his mind is withdrawn from the outward thoughts and is centered on only one aspect – his breath. Another way of calming the mind is becoming conscious of one’s own body and focusing his attention to each and every part of his body. These practices helps a person calm down his mind, but for some time. Once the person is back in his daily routine, he gets back to his earlier nature.
Second aspect of Praanaayaamam here is, being conscious of whatever that goes in through our sense organs. The quality of our mind depends on the quality of our thoughts. The quality of our thoughts is a result of the food that we supply for thought. If a housewife is constantly engrossed in the soap operas on TV, then the quality of her thoughts will be according to what she sees. We cannot expect the mind to be pure if we supply impure material to it. Our only choice is on the food (what we see, what we hear, what we speak, what we touch and what we eat) that we take in through all the five sense organs. One should be very conscious of these aspects because mind does not discriminate. And it is the mind that gives instructions to the sense organs. To train the mind, we should seek the advice from the Intellect. Intellect starts functioning better when we become conscious of every single action that we perform.
Mind and Intellect, though we use different terms, are one and the same. When we become conscious of our actions, our discriminative mind (Intellect) starts its enquiry. When we are not fully conscious of our actions, our mind cannot discriminate. It is then controlled by impulses, emotions & feelings. In Vedanta, such a state of mind that cannot discriminate between good and bad is called ‘Mind’ and when the same mind starts enquiring; it is called ‘Intellect’. Intellectual thinking helps us set the right value for things that we perceive. E.g. Mind may get depressed if the power goes off while watching a movie. But Intellect will remind that it’s just a movie. Big deal! This way we can discriminate between what’s important and what’s not; what’s good and what’s bad; what’s permanent and what’s temporary.
All the prominent religions, be it Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, give emphasis on Japa (chanting the Lord’s name by rotating beads on a chain). Irrespective of all the different practices in different religions, this is one common thing. Despite having known this, have we tried to enquire the reason behind it?
When a person does Japa, his eyes are turned inward, nose is engaged in breathing, tongue chants only one name (usually a mantra or a name of the Lord) and the body becomes conscious only of the touch of the bead in its hand. This way, all the sense organs and mind are directed towards one common action which helps in taming the mind and sense organs. Such a tamed mind is like a tamed wild animal whose energy can be put to use for achieving great things. An untamed mind is like a wild horse or an elephant that has tremendous strength and energy but its Master is unable to use it for any good purpose.
After doing Japa, one has to do Meditation. Now, meditation is one of the most misconceived things today. Meditation that we hear today is not meditation in the truest sense. It can only be called as an aid that can help in Meditation. Meditation is not concentrating upon something. Meditation, for that matter, is not an action but a state of mind where there are no thoughts. In other words, Meditation is a noun and not a verb. That state cannot be attained by thinking of something. Thinking of anything is the opposite of Meditation. After practicing Japa, when one practices to sit quietly focusing on one thing, say a form of the Lord, then the number of thoughts in his mind gradually gets reduced. Only with regular practice one can experience the state of meditation. So what is expected is, to sit quietly for some time after Japa and try to reduce the thoughts.
Shankara says, do all these practices with utmost care. Swami Chinmayananda used to say this in two words – Hasten Slowly. If one is slow and irregular in such practices, he cannot expect a miraculous change in his personality. Neither can he control his mind if he does all these things in a hurry. The only way to reach the goal is ‘Regular practice’. Sant Gondavalekar Maharaj used to say, “No matter how many barrels of water you empty on a rock, its shape will not change. But if drops of water fall on the rock regularly at the same place, it definitely will.”
To tune a guitar, to what extent we should tighten its string? Too loose will not produce good music and too tight will break the string. Our Sadhana (regular practices) are also like that. Not too loose. Not too tight. Just right.