The Mind

Illuminations Newsletter 50

In this issue of the audio newsletter, we elaborate on how the mind can be a friend or enemy and suggest ways in which we can empower the mind to work for us rather than against us.

Below I outline some of the main points from the audio.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma das.

The Audio Newsletter

The lecture is available here

Ignore the Mind

Our acaryas advise us to learn to ignore our mind. Why? Well, we shouldn’t ignore it when we are thinking of Krsna. But in our conditioned state, the mind really has a mind of its own. When we decided to become devotees, the mind didn’t agree. And it still is resisting surrender.  When the mind presents thoughts that are detrimental to our Krsna consciousness – or to our well-being – we can jokingly tell our mind, “Thank you for sharing,” and decide to connect more deeply with our Krsna consciousness. Since the mind is often like a nagging roommate who continually distracts us from our highest good, knowing how to neglect it is a necessary Krsna conscious survival skill.

To effectively neglect the mind, we need to become more detached from it, something we are not well accustomed to do. Of course, the mind can be the best friend, but the problem is that we often take the mind for a friend when it is acting like an enemy. “Go ahead, do that, look at that, buy that.” And we often think, “OK, that sounds good,” without thinking, “Wait a minute. That’s not what I should be doing. My mind is tricking me.” And even when we know we are being tricked, still, because the mind is so strong, we may find it difficult to resist. To be Krsna conscious means to be prepared to fight with this the mind “by constant practice and detachment.” Constant practice means to never give up no matter how difficult controlling the mind may be.

Changing our beliefs

In my forgiveness seminar, I explain that reluctance to forgive is often connected to a belief about forgiveness. For example, people often believe they cannot forgive until their offender apologizes. But if they change this belief to, “I can take responsibility to forgive even if my offender doesn’t apologize,” they immediately find they can start to let go.

So another way of dealing with the mind is to examine the beliefs that are behind your thoughts and actions. Changing a belief will change the thought associated with the belief. If you tend to have negative thoughts, it’s likely you hold a lot of negative beliefs (“nothing ever works outs well for me, things will never get better, I’ll never be advanced, my mind is impossible to control, etc.”). Ask yourself what beliefs might be causing your negative thoughts.

Instructing the mind

In the song Bhaja Hure Mana, Govinda das speaks to his mind by reasoning with it. In the same way, when we find our thinking detrimental to our progress, we can ask our mind questions as to why it is attached to things that are taking us away from Krsna. We can ask ourselves empowering questions, questions that will naturally redirect our thoughts towards Krishna consciousness. In this way, we can reason with our mind to give up self-destructive thoughts and accept real devotional qualities. And we can also tell our mind what we expect and give it reasons to behave properly.

Dealing with emotions

How do we deal with emotions, particularly emotions that appear to not be Krishna conscious?

There is a tendency to neglect emotions that are unpleasant, much in the same way that we try to neglect negative thoughts. But emotions don’t always go away when we neglect them. They often remain hidden while acting out in subtle ways. According to Vedic psychology, allowing yourself to experience negative emotions – the ones you might naturally try to bury – activates your intelligence to deal with them. In other words, your emotions speak to you and by listening to them you can learn how to improve. For example, during a time when I was not paying as much attention to my sadhana as I normally do, I was feeling guilty about not following Prabhupada’s instructions as strictly as I should. Since this was causing me to feel pretty miserable I didn’t want to confront the painful feeling that I was letting Prabhupada down, so I buried it and pretended it didn’t exist. A devotee suggested I totally face that feeling because that feeling was telling me something. When I faced the feeling I immediately felt that the misery from not following was far greater than any perceived misery I was trying to avoid by making the effort to strictly follow. So the “negative” emotion was instructing and helping me come to a higher platform, but I was only able to get the instruction when I stopped trying to bury the feeling.

Desiring Krsna consciousness

We often bring problems into our lives through our minds. Sometimes we say, “I can never… (you can fill in the blanks”) and that is exactly what happens. The mind’s vibrations are real and thus have a real effect on our external existence (and even on our physical health). Of course, this also works in a positive way. Elevated devotees desire and expect more Krsna consciousness and more of guru and Krsna’s mercy, and thus they find more of this coming into their lives. This shows that Krsna reciprocates with a negative or positive mindset.

We may look at our lives and think “why has Krsna placed so many obstacles in my path?” when it may be that a negative mindset is attracting those problems.

Constant Effort

The mind tends to be habituated to a certain way of thinking. This means that of the tens of thousands of thoughts we have daily, the majority are the same. Our goal is to habituate our minds to Krishna conscious ways of thinking. This is quite possible, but we need to make a conscious effort to do so. Then our minds will naturally pull us toward Krishna rather than away from Him.

Krsna never said this is going to be easy, but He did say it is possible. How? It is possible by endeavoring by the right means and by detachment. That means if we put our guard down, we’ll be in trouble. The more we practice, and the more we become detached from doing whatever the mind says, the more we take control of the situation and create new positive habits. Since you are above your mind, ultimately you are in control. You just have to exert that control.

Can we do it? Since Krishna has given you free will, you can choose to seek out those thoughts that inspire and uplift you, and that connects you with your greatest spiritual ambitions. Do I hear you say, “Yeah, but that’s not always easy?” (Here we go again with those negative thoughts.) Always remember that difficult things become easy for one who has the mercy of guru and Krishna.

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