The Tree of Knowledge
Triangle of Life
In the triangle of life whose three angles invite efforts of harmony, the key angle is the antahkarana, the inner being of man. All the actions of this world first take place in the subtle word of thought. The antahkarana of man constitutes his subtle world. Anyone who gains entry into this subtle (formless) world and becomes acquainted with its ways and methods can control the activities of his internal and external life and is thus enabled to achieve that for which he was born. In the sacred books of East and West, the antahkarana, or inner being of man, has been described at length. In Western philosophies, owing to lack of adequate knowledge of sadhana (discipline), it has not been analyzed properly. But our sages (Rishis) have given a very beautiful description of it on the basis of their personal experience. The Upanishads and other books of wisdom have dwelt upon various forms of mind and emphasized its strict control.
In Yoga philosophy the system of sadhana for controlling mind, intellect and ego by merging them into consciousness (cit) and its attributes have been scientifically elaborated. Antahkarana means that which works within. Just as we have five senses for the perception of gross manifestation, so we have other, subtler functions working within. The four functions of the antahkaranii are mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), consciousness (citta), and ego (ahamkara). Manas is that which questions whether we should do a certain thing; it is the doubting function. Buddhi (intellect) is the function which classifies, discriminates, and decides that we should do a certain thing. Citta is a storehouse of subconscious impression from past experience, and comes into play when, for example, we begin to brood and enlarge the sphere of resolves and counter-resolves. The ahamkara (ego) is what gives our consciousness a feeling of “I” and “mine.”
Mind is like an employer of this body whose function is to carry external impressions through sense perception. Mind is an outstanding instrument without which no sadhana is possible. The whole sadhana depends upon the working, purity and concentration of this mind. It is an invaluable gift to man. With its help he derives the pleasure of the world. And if the powers of mind are rightly used, with restraint and concentration, it can also lead man onward to Self-realization. The same mind can bring man to the brink of a void and push him into unfathomable depths of destruction.
Mind is truly the controller of our life through whose agency all our organs of sense perception perform their functions. So mind is our friend as well as our enemy. All sadhana, religion, and rituals are employed for the purification of this mind within us. Saints, sages and yogis derive deep contentment grasping the source of their power through mind’s purity and concentration. Mind is a basket of resolutions and counter-resolutions. By meditation and concentration, mind is freed from the currents and cross-currents of thought. Constant practice is required. One-pointedness of mind is possible only when the entire nature of the sadhaka becomes identical with his sadhana.
We must recognize the necessity and inevitability of sadhana, or else it becomes a burden because the mind loses interest in it. We, whose true Self lies deeper than the instrument of mind, should not attempt to wrestle harshly with the mind but rather to train it gently and wisely. Those who believe in suppressing the mind must know that the mind can be brought under control not by suppression, but only by clear understanding in applying the pure and noble rules of spiritual practice.
From childhood onwards, we are taught to concentrate on given tasks, but the other aspect of concentration — the withdrawal of the senses and remaining in a thought-free state is not taught. It is as though we know how to make motor vehicles go forward but not how to pause or stop. Many explicit and implicit qualities, characteristics, acquired tendencies and appetites inhabit our mind. The mind is a storehouse of all these attributes. If only we could empty the mind of these, we would enjoy great peace.
When the mind is completely free of thoughts and appetites, the mind dissolves itself in bliss. And then, no sadhaka can keep himself away from sadhana. The mind draws a thousand times greater joy from a brief concentration than it could ever derive from the pleasures of the senses. The task of the sadhaka is to empty the mind of all thoughts. The mind free of thoughts becomes a mirror which reflects the blissful inner Self of man. A free mind is the seat of power and a channel of intuitive knowledge.
How is it that the’ flute sends forth such sweet melody? It is because the flute is all vacant inside. Why should we not make our mind ready to receive the songs of Lord Krishna?
How to make the mind thought-free?
A jug full of dirty water can only be filled with pure water after it has first been emptied. Even after throwing away the dirty water the vessel is not fully empty, as the air remains in it. In order to remove even the air from the jug, one fills it with fresh water, but only after cleansing it. It is exactly the same with the mind. Even if the mind is cleared of all sensuous appetites, it is still tainted with subtle tendencies of pleasures enjoyed or imagined, just as the vessel is full of air even when the water has been thrown out.
It is very difficult to be free from the subtle tendencies and impressions of mind as soon as it is emptied of gross desires. In order to empty the mind completely of every trace of appetites, a sadhaka should continually fill his mind with blissful and illumined realization of his objects. Meditate and meditate till the purified and one-pointed mind of the sadhaka offers him the fragrant flower of joy in his concentration. When the mind is one-pointed and stable, peace is definitely experienced within and without. This experience is the foundation of faith.
Concentration and control of mind are essential for progress in every walk of life. Just as we perform certain duties in daily life, concentration of mind is also one of the necessities. So every thoughtful person for the sake of a fully developed and concentrated mind must adopt a system of sadhana. Indolence and laxity are great obstacles in the path of enlightenment.
Sadhana is enhanced by a well-regulated life, and by moderation in diet and in the pursuit of pleasure. Thoughts are strengthened by study and the company of wise and saintly persons. Then the vine of sadhana blossoms and fructifies. Tireless and ceaseless labour is the splendour of life. Everything is possible with constant and sincere practice. By practice we can awaken our true nature, bringing it out from the depth of forgetfulness and can enjoy and give expression to the feeling of bliss in every direction of life. The life of sadhana is the only true life.
Source: Book of Wisdom ISHOPANISHAD – Swami Rama
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