In our last essay on Mind over Matter we dealt with the subtle aspects of mind, matter and the Self. Matter is what we perceive through the mind. When the mind is held in check and used as a tool and as an enabler, the objectivity of the observer increases. The consciousness – the Self (I) –merely exists as the witness and participant in all actions of the mind as well as the matter. This knowledge of the unconnected nature of the Self as a witness of everything other than the Self – the mind and the matter – is considered as the True Knowledge.
In this essay we shall consider the application of the above principles in our day to day life.
It is said that Success is getting what we want; Happiness is wanting what we get. In both these definitions of success and happiness, the operating word is “want”, which is determined by the mind and its connection to the world of matter.
Since there are always three strands of connectors – Guna – then these must be at work in our wants as well. It is also said that our perception of the want (experience) is governed by the dominant role of one of these three connectors. Thus when Tranquility (one of the three Guna – Sathvam) is dominant, the want has a clear sense of purpose, with an intended good for a larger cause. I am happy when I see that my actions create a smile with whomever I come in contact with. When Turbulence or bias (Rajasam) is the dominant connector, the want has a sense of purpose which is ambiguous and hence never fully satisfied. I am happy when my actions bring a smile only in my family member or someone close to me. No sooner this thought crosses the mind, it is already off to the next step: Who is the close one to me? The purpose of engaging in positive actions that bring smile is lost in the mind that is searching for the close one! Thus starts the series of unfulfilled chain of events, with waves of happiness and sorrow. When ignorance (Thomasam) is the dominant connector, the mind has no clear sense of purpose. The smile in others brings tears of sorrow in our mind! Note that the Self (I) behind all these experiences is one and the same. This knowledge of the constancy of Self in the world of experiences (through the mind and its connection to the matter) is the True Knowledge.
The connection between the mind and matter is also a matter of our awareness of the sense organs and their role in collecting and transmitting the signals and also their role as a response to the signal from the mind to act. It is often said that there is no noise, when the tree falls in the forest with no one to witness. Hence to a large extent, the role of the sense organs and their senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) can be under control of the mind merely through voluntary separation from them. The connections of the mind with the matter can also be actively managed , through the mind and its direct control of the sense organs. This process of separation from the sense organs or their active control by the mind is what we call as the initial steps of “Yoga”. Even when the sense organs are held in check, the mind can wander through the realms of emotions and thoughts. Voluntary conditioning of the mind – to remain still and hence gain detached from a large body of matter (perceived through the body, mind and intellect) – is acheived through meditation. This is the next step in Yoga.
The aspects of mind over matter could take unexpected twists and turns in our daily life. As an example what you see – through the eyes – and hence perceive as the real, may not be what it actually is! The classic example given is the mistaken view of the rope as a snake and the fear that engulfs our emotions. The surprise in discovering the rope, where it was seen as a snake only moments earlier brings a sense of relief and joy in the new found safety. All these are aspects of the mind over matter. To become conscious and constantly aware of this interconnected nature of mind over matter is an aspect of Spirituality in Practice.
There is a story in Mahabharata, one of the Indian epics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf5ticUjp1Y
This story will require visualization (another aspect of mind over matter). So, read the story carefully and visualize the scenario. The story is told in this link in Tamil language. Hence let me briefly transcribe it here as noted below:
Before the great battle of Kurukshetra – where the conversation between Lord Krishna serving as the charioteer and Arjuna the warrior took place (which is called Bhagawath Geetha) – Krishna visited Ashwaththama, another great warrior on the opposing side lead by Duryodhana. As the two met, the ring on Krishna’s finger slipped off and fell on the ground. At the same time Krishna said, “It looks like it might rain today”. Ashwaththama pointed to the sky and mentioned, “The sky is very clear and there are no signs for rain today”. Then he leaned to the earth to point out the ring that had fallen down, which he picked up and placed it on the outstretched palm of Krishna.
It is traditional in ancient in India to make a promise by stating that “with the sky and the earth as my witnesses, I promise to you that ……. ”, while pointing to the sky first and then to the earth followed by a hand shake to seal the promise! Someone who observed this series of events from a far off location, concluded that Ashwaththama pointed to the sky and the earth followed by a hand shake, as part of his secret promise to switch his allegiance away from Duryodhana’a army and commit himself to the opposing army, where Krishna was to serve as a charioteer! Since then Ashwaththama was never totally trusted by Duryodhana or his fellow leaders! Hence he lost his usefulness in the war, despite all his skills and valor.
All epics are rich with stories like this. It is always prudent to go beyond the story and not get bogged down by their literal details. Consider this story as an example for our better understanding of the mind over matter.
Mind over matter – Part 3 (to be continued)