Sunday, 14 May 2017


Self-mastery is described as the ability to take control of one's life without being blown off course by emotions, urges, circumstances etc.  It is that condition whereby your body-mind complex is your servant and not your master. Emphasising the need for self-mastery, Lord Krishna explains in Gita (6-6):
बन्धुरात्माऽऽत्मनस्तस्य येनात्मैवात्मना जितः। ( Bandhuraatmaa’tmanastasya yenaatmaivaatmanaa jitah)
अनात्मनस्तु शत्रुत्वे वर्तेतात्मैव शत्रुवत्।। (Anaatmanastu shatrutwe vartetaatmaiva shatruvat)
One becomes one’s own friend when one has conquered oneself; but in the case of one who has not conquered oneself, one turns one’s own enemy.

Conquest of oneself means control over the mind and sensory organs.  Control implies mastery.  Mind and sense-organs must become one’s slaves obeying one’s commands and not the other way about where one surrenders control to one’s mind and senses.  They are good servants but bad masters as by themselves they lack the discretion to choose between right and wrong and they are governed by desires and emotions. In Kathopanishad, body is compared to a chariot, intellect to the charioteer, mind to reins, sense organs to horses and the worldly objects to the paths they travel.  A chariot can move in the right direction only if the horses are kept in control by the charioteer by proper handling of the reins. Same way if the intellect does not have the control of mind and through mind the sense-organs, it will spell ruin and disaster to the person.  Lord Krishna gives an analogy of a boat in the ocean to emphasise this point in Gita (2-67):
इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां यन्मनोऽनुविधीयते। (indriyanam hi charatam yat manah anuwidhiyate)
तदस्य हरति प्रज्ञां वायुर्नावमिवाम्भसि।।(tatasya harati prajnam wayuhnawam iwa ambhasi)

The mind, which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away his discrimination as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.

A ship with a weak or ineffective helmsman would be completely at the mercy of the fitful storms and reckless waves, and cannot reach any definite harbour and would get destroyed by the very tossing of the waves. So too, life gets capsized and the individual drowned in the ocean of samsara by the uncertain buffets of passionate sense-storms and a wayward mind. Therefore, the mind and through it the senses are to be under the control of intellect if man is to lead a better and more purposeful life, designed and planned for enduring happiness and success. 

Lord Krishna Himself has given the key to the control of mind in Gita (6-35) “ Through abhyasa and vairagya it (mind) can be controlled (Abhyaasena tu kaunteya vairaagyena cha grihyate.)”  So let us see what is meant by abhyasa and vairagya and how it works.  Let us first take vairagya, which  has been discussed in the blog SadhanaChthushtayam.  Vairagya is the dispassion for worldly objects arising out of the understanding that they are only ephemeral and not eternal and so cannot be the source of permanent happiness and security. Dependence on them is like leaning on a cardboard chair.  A cardboard chair can be treasured in the showcase, admired as an ornamental piece but cannot be leaned upon.  This vairagya has to be cultivated through discrimination between eternal and ephemeral.  One need not shun the worldly objects but through vairagya guard against senses and mind falling a prey to their influence and attraction and run after them either physically or mentally.  If one is not vigilant and watchful, one will go down the ladder of fall as Lord Krishna outlines in His description of Sthithaprajna in Gita chapter 2.  “From thinking of objects, attachment develops. Attachment gives rise to desire. Desire when fulfilled fuels more desires, when thwarted breeds anger. Anger turns into delusion, delusion results in loss of discrimination which leads to one’s fall.” 

Abhyasa stands for practice. Mind is fickle but it will dwell without wavering when it is interested in a subject. Interest is aroused when it understands the importance of the subject and its usefulness. By dragging back the mind and dwelling on the importance of the thing again and again when mind tends to stray, one can create interest in the subject when concentration improves and love is evoked in the subject and then the mind gets absorbed in the subject on its own.  Here the subject is Nitya-anitya vasthu viveka i.e the discrimination between the eternal and the ephemeral, which builds vairagya. Abhyasa is not only in this field of Nitya-anitya vasthu viveka but in other fields of mind control and development like Pranayama.

Breathing and mind are interconnected.  This can be verified by observing the fast breathing when the mind is agitated, disturbed or excited and the steady and normal breathing when the mind is calm.  We can quieten the chattering mind through Pranayama.  So through regular practice of Pranayama we can arrest the wandering thoughts of the mind. Another important attitude to cultivate is Samathvam or equanimity.   Lord Krishna describes it as “Sukha dukhe same krithva labha labhau jaya jayau” i.e. treating alike victory and defeat, gain and loss, pleasure and pain.  One does not go overboard with joy when things go favourable nor loses one’s cool when things turn adverse. One maintains the mental poise and equanimity in all circumstances. Typical example of Samathvam is Sri Rama in Ramayana who was not elated when king Dasaratha informed him of his resolve to crown him as king next day nor he became depressed when Kaikeyi informed him that he has to go to forest the same day making way for His brother, Bharatha, to be made the king.

Besides the practice of Pranayama and adoption of Samathvam at all times, one desiring self-mastery must eschew desire, anger and greed described as three gateways to hell by Lord Krishna in Gita 16-20. Compelling desires should be avoided or converted into preferences, so that they are no longer demanding.  Anger is to be avoided through practice of Samathvam. Greed should be eschewed by limiting one’s wants to one’s needs only and not extending them to needless luxuries.

We had all along been talking about mind as mastery of mind enables one to be master of oneself.  As mind is to be steered properly by intellect, we should take care of the intellect as well through association in proper Satsangh and through the careful study of Scriptures with Shraddah that will enable the intellect to stay in the path of Dharma and also to move from world-dependance to God-dependance. This movement helps one not to bottle up any resentment, frustration or disappointment but share it with God in the privacy of one’s Puja room. For if bottled up, they take shelter in the subconscious to explode as anger or hatred at a later date. These activities have double advantage as they also keep the senses that feed the mind out of mischief making mind management much easier. 

Self-mastery also enables one to be happy with oneself as well as the outside world.   Further Self-mastery helps one to succeed in the area of man-management as well for as Leonardo da Vinci stated  ..the height of a man's success is gauged by his self-mastery; ---- He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.”



No comments:

Post a Comment