Control of the Mind

Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda

Control of the Mind

Relinquish without exception all longings born of sankalpas (plannings), and completely control, sheerly with the mind, the sensory organs, the sensory powers, and their contact with the ubiquitous sense objects. (24)

With the intuitive discrimination saturated in patience, with the mind absorbed in the soul, the yogi, freeing his mind from all thoughts, will by slow degrees attain tranquility. (25)

Whenever the fickle and restless mind wanders away —for whatever reason—let the yogi withdraw it from those distractions and return it to the sole control of the Self. (26)

The yogi who has completely calmed the mind and controlled the passions and freed them from all impurities, and who is one with Spirit—verily, he has attained supreme blessedness. (27)

The yogi, free from all impurities, ceaselessly engaging the Self thus in the activity of yoga (divine union), readily attains the blessedness of continuous mergence in Spirit. With the soul united to Spirit by yoga, with a vision of equality for all things, the yogi beholds his Self (Spirit-united) in all creatures and all creatures in the Spirit. (28)
—The Bhagavad Gita VI:24-28

(24) The yogi, while meditating upon God, should not distract his attention by allowing himself to ruminate on material objects, mentally planning and replanning material activities for the fulfillment of desired ends. He should renounce without reserve all such desires born of egoistic mental plannings; and he should scoop out from within all desires that are already entrenched in the subconscious. His mind should be withdrawn from those material objects all around him that give rise to sensations of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and their resultant multifarious thoughts and new longings.

When the mind is singularly concentrated in meditation, all distractions are arrested. But until such interiorization is mastered, the devotee must persistently practice mind control; and he should also take commonsense measures to eliminate, or at least minimize, invasive external stimuli. ...

(25) The yogi whose mind has been freed from external and internal distractions is then advised to guide his intuitive discrimination (buddhi in its pure or sense-transcendent state) gradually inward to perceive the soul's bliss, not permitting any form of mental wandering. No matter how often the yogi's mind is distracted during meditation, he should exercise great patience; by continuous daily effort, he will succeed in establishing his mind on the joy of the soul.

The new devotee may be discouraged by receiving only occasional blissful perceptions, interrupted constantly by fierce invasions of restless thoughts. The yogi is therefore exhorted to try patiently again and again until he is able firmly to fix his concentration on his inward Goal.

If a glass vessel is filled with muddy water and is then placed on a table, after a little while the mud particles settle down to the bottom of the glass. Similarly, if a person patiently waits for his mental mud to settle down, and does not nervously stir up the water, the mud will not again rise to the surface.

The particles in a glass of water will be clearly seen to be settling down to the bottom if the glass is not disturbed. The movements of the mud do not indicate agitation, but a mere settling-down process. The ordinary man's mind, similarly, is muddy with myriads of restless thought-streams running into the river of his consciousness. During ordinary activity the invading thoughts are completely homogenized with his consciousness. This is why the average man does not know how restless he is. He discovers it, to his dismay, when he starts to practice yoga. For the first time in his life, he begins then to stand aside as a conscious witness of the bewildering torrent of his thoughts. ...

(26) No matter how many times restlessness invades the mind, the yogi should guide his thoughts toward Self-realization. Mental restlessness during meditation causes unhappiness. Inner concentration on the soul produces unending joy.

(27) By interiorized concentration, he has stilled the mind, disconnecting it from sensory stimuli, and has also controlled the passions (rajas), the activated and activating emotional responses to sensory stimuli. All activities of nature are a result of rajas, the activating quality (guna) of material creation. Rajas is either good or evil according to which of the other gunas—sattva or tamas — predominates in that activity. The nature-born dualities of good and evil are the "impurities" from which the soul must be freed in order to express its true nature. When the activating power in the mind is stilled by concentration, unruly thoughts wane into nothingness, and all restlessness ceases. ...

(28) Every yogi should therefore refuse to succumb to the invasions of restlessness during meditation. When he is able to hold his concentration steady in the state of inner calmness, he perceives the soul. (p.629)