Bringing the mind to steadiness

The mind is a jungle and sometimes a snakepit of thoughts

The mind is a jungle and sometimes a snakepit of thoughts, feelings and will but we do not know where they come from. What is their source? Who or what drives the mind? The Upanishads give a method of penetrating to the power beyond the mind. When this is consciously touched inspiration and energy from the cosmic purpose flow into the yogi.

I’m going to try and make this not merely theoretical, but with a little bit of practice for those who want to engage in it. One of the traditional means of bringing the mind to steadiness is to centre the attention here, a point roughly between the eyebrows on the forehead. Now I can touch the finger there or press the fingernail there, or even pinch there and use the aftersensation, which lasts for a little time, to bring the attention back to this point. One side is the minister of the exterior and the other side is the minister of the interior. Away from both of those, disregarding the exterior, disregarding the interior of memories, and so on, and just bringing the attention calmly instead to this point.  Now, if you like to try to touch this finger here, and then concentrate for about a couple of minutes, I’ll begin by saying, ‘OM’.  Then we’ll just sit silently, for those who want to do it.

When we learn Judo, we have to acquire a moving balance. One of the ways to acquire it is, not simply standing still and balancing oneself, but being pushed, and then coming back to balance again. In the same way, when we do these practices, if there’s a shout from outside, take that as a little push and come back to the balance again. Then if a sudden memory comes up, e.g. ‘Why did they say that?’, take that as a little push and come back. This is a useful practice for daily life. If we have to wait under irritating circumstances, just touch here.  Nobody need notice or you can do it sometimes afterwards. A little facility just to bring the attention there. Half-close the eyes, and then when these interruptions come from outside or from inside, to bring the attention back.

Now we are going to look at the Kena Upanishad which begins, the first word is, ‘Kena’ – ‘by whom’ or ‘by what’. Some of the Upanishads are known by their first word.  The Kena Upanishad is the Upanishad, ‘By what’.

Prompted by whom does the directed mind go out to this object? Under whose direction does the prana vitality the basis of all function? By whom is this speech willed that the people matter? Who is the radiant god who directs ears and eyes? The eye does not go there nor speech, nor mind. We cannot categorize it. We do not know any means of teaching. It is different from the known and again it is above the unknown. Thus, we heard from the ancients who indicated to us. That is not expressible in speech, but by whose power speech is revealed. Know that to be Brahman and not what the people here worship.”

“What man does not grasp with the mind, but by whose power the mind is grasped. Know that to be Brahman and not what the people here worship. What man does not see with the eye, but by which man is aware of his eyesight. Know that to be Brahman and not what the people here worship. What man does not hear with his ear, but by which man is aware of his hearing. Know that to be Brahman and not what the people here worship.”

This is an Upanishad which begins by saying, “By what is the mind directed?”  The mind doesn’t just go anywhere at all, it’s directed. What directs the mind? We can say, “Oh, the necessity of eating and so on”. No, no, that’s just one tiny sphere. The mind goes to many places, many directions. It’s directed to look. It explores, it’s not a question just of survival. There is something, there is a search in man to find something.  It’s especially strong in Western people now. They have lost the faith of the fathers, and now they’re looking for something. Some people in the east say that Western people are always going around as though they’ve lost something. They’re looking, trying to find something.  We’re trying to find a purpose and a sense in our lives. “He whom the mind cannot grasp, but by whose power the mind is grasped.” We don’t know where the thoughts come from. They’re my thoughts, but where do they come from? I don’t control them. I control some of them.  They come up in a flood. Where do the thoughts come from?

Now, if we like, again, just sit quietly and look at the thoughts.  Without straining, see where they come from and where they go to. A thought comes up from memory, don’t shake hands with it. Don’t talk to it. Just watch it rise and then fall. Now, if you like to just try…  These are little exercises.  They can be developed. If we develop them, we shall begin to acquire an inner balance. Then even though they are considerable shocks, shocks of disappointment, shocks of excitement and success, then we shan’t be crushed by the disappointment. We should be able to recover balance. We shan’t be over-excited by success, but get an independence of it.

These things are to be practised while circumstances are fairly good. One teacher used to say, “When the ship is sinking, it’s too late to learn to swim. You should have done that long ago, before you even went to sea, in calm water, in the local pool, or in the calm sea.” These practices can be done when circumstances are relatively good and we can get some facility in them, recovering to a centre point.  Then, if we practise and get facility in them, the time will come when we shall stumble. When we stumble physically, something pulls us into balance again. When we stumble morally or mentally, if we practise some of these things, there will be something which will bring us back into balance again, of itself.

These things are to be practised when the circumstances are favourable and if they are kept going, they will come to us. There is a power in us which observes the mind. Generally, we don’t see anything observing the mind. We think the mind looks at itself. I can feel I’m irritable today. I’m on top of the world today. I’m full of fighting spirit today. I feel crushed today. I can observe these things in the mind. There’s something which knows. The heart is not available to inspection, but we can feel the pulse. By practising these exercises, we begin to feel the pulse of our inner state.

We think, “Oh, I know what I feel now.” No, not so. A magician came to a master of meditation and to impress him he said, “I can do this and this. I can read the heart of others.”  The master, a Yogi, said to him, “Oh, that’s not so great. Can you read what is in your own heart?” We need to be able to read what is in our own heart – things that we are only vaguely aware of, but which can be brought into the light and we can see them.  When we see them, we can control them.

Talks in this series are:

1. Bringing the mind to steadiness

2. Making our thoughts fewer 

3. Finding God in ourselves

4. Our thoughts become controlled

The full talk is The direction of the quest

© Trevor Leggett


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