Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mind Over Matter

In an earlier blog, with my limited capacity, I was playing with high-sounding words like intellect, conscience and god. Needless to mention, the blog attracted quite some visitors and few interesting questions. I tried to find answer for one of those in another blog. The deeper question still remains open.

The question is, why our intellect is impure and who gains by that.

I will put aside the philosophy here as we have abundance of it. One needs to dig for that in Gita and Upanishad, as far as Indian philosophy is concerned. Another reason, I should refrain from it is that, Indian philosophy is essentially about realization. The person, who realizes finds it amusing, painful or sheer stupid to see other people still suffering. It is like you wonder why a kid is unable to read and you do not know how to teach it. Fortunately, we had few sympathetic philosophers who could connect the philosophy to the world and showed a way to improve our intellect. Gautama Buddha, Krishna, Swami Vivekananda are few examples of such people. It is important to note that decrypting mind and intellect requires extreme dedication (try tracing the origin of your thoughts for a day), which makes it doubly difficult to explain that to a lay person. Therefore, apparently, it is hard for a lay person to connect a custom (say vegeterianism) to a state of mind. One needs to practice and realize. There, the wordsmithing does not help, at least at the first place.

I can, however, interpret some subtlety from the gross results. Naturally the question comes that, why the effort to do this. Are not we doing just fine, living, eating, dancing ? Yes, it is good. As long as we are dancing to our own tune.

If you are buying a car just because it rings in your subconcious that somebody else possesses that car and some particular celebrity endorsed it then, you are fooling yourself. If you are overeating at your favourite restaurant and allowing your nerves to go loose with some drinks then, you are deliberately losing the grip over your mind. The mind gets tuned to the senses and your entire existence slowly becomes a slavery of senses. A connotation of our bodily existence can get apt here.

Imagine you love to eat and dislike exercise regiment. Nevertheless, you want to get in shape. If you have done that you should know that it is hard. More fat you are the harder it is to even start a regimen. Obviously, mind being a subtler thing, it gets harder.

If you are a slave of your senses, is it not easy to undestand who gains by that ? The consumer is not god. The senses are god. Whoever caters to the senses becomes god. With increasing proportion the senses turn blunt leading to the most obscene demonstrations of life. This leads to degradation of life from humanity. Interestingly, these bluntification of senses are related. If you allow your palate to cater to the extreme spicy dishes, it is likely that your choice of music will reflect it.

Now, is it the only purpose of life to remove the impurity of intellect and gain mastery of the senses ? I do not know the answer. But, I am sure whatever the purpose of our existence is, cannot be achieved without making the best use of our intellect. This calls for mastery over the senses. In practical life, we see numerous examples of hardships leading to success. While I do not consider success - especially materialistic - as an ultimate thing however, one can surely relate toils with success. And what is hardship, if not controlling the senses ? And another pertinent point is that most often we are not sure about our purpose and therefore, do not bother about the intellect's impurity. If you restrict your abilities to solve simple additions for a living, why care about learning higher algebra ?

A completely different perspective comes when someone says then, who remains to appreciate the beauty if you turn yourself blind to the pleasures of the world ? Sure, one should appreciate it. But, one should appreciate the depths and not just the shallows. Shallows divide, depths unite.


Let me end with a story from the life of Swami Turiyananda. Swami Turiyananda was a brother-disciple of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Turiyananda was and is known among the monks of Ramakrishna order to be a Yogi of highest standard. This is a story from his twilight years of life. Hari maharaj, as he was fondly referred to, was sitting in a hot and humid day. A young monk brought him a glass of sherbet. He was pleased and took a sip saying "Aah". He kept the glass on a table. Hours passed but, he did not touch the glass again. On an enquiry by the monk, he mentioned that his tongue wanted the pleasure, which he did not allow.





This is a rare photo of Swami Vivekananda with his brother disciples. Swami Turiyananda is sitting second from the right.


Further reading and the original metaphor of chariot presented in the earlier blog, can be found at Katha Upanishad, third part, verses III to XIII, of which english translation is available here.

7 comments:

  1. "If you are buying a car just because it rings in your subconcious that somebody else possesses that car and some particular celebrity endorsed it then, you are fooling yourself." .... MBAs in Marketing wont be too happy with you :D

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  2. @Anonymous,

    Two things. First, marketing gurus claim that they provide the information needed for us to make a decision. I believe it is partially true, though I will not comment on the percentage.
    Second, the marketing MBAs know how difficult it is to shrug off the campaigns and be conscious.

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  3. Anupam-da, once again very simply written, what essentially appears to be very complicated. I tend to agree with the fact that senses win by impuring our intellect. The example of Swami Turiyananda's self control reminds me of a similar statement from Swami Vivekananda regarding control over mind. It goes like;- the ultimate control over mind is achieved when one can engross into a subject with full concentration, but can leave it in no time, and concentrate on something else (fast context-switch). The very reason why other animals' learning ability is less than humans because of this control-over-mind, which I guess is synonymous to the word concentration.

    Anyway, it is so strange to see that we human being in different ways actually confuse our mind, and inflame our senses. Not only that, in many cases we even glorify some of these senses. Let me take the most glorified human emotion (now Ive used emotion instead of sense) -- love.

    What really baffles me that how much 'love' is glorified in this world, that too in a way that love is analogous to 'Maya'. Doesn't 'maya' captivate our mind to win over our intellect? But then Swami Vivekananda has said himself to 'love' everyone and serve them. I guess the love he meant was different from what we common people feel. Its a virtue without any kind of attachment, which is beyond common peoples ability, as we are so much slave to our senses.

    Truly speaking anything that makes us feel either happy or sorry actually impures our reasoning or intellect.

    But then shouldnt we feel sorry when our near ones die, or shouldnt we feel rage when my country is captivated by foreigners? You said dancing to your own tune is ok. But then what is this tune? Who sets this tune? Isn't it the senses? Without senses what we are? Do we possess a pure intellect then? But then whats it use for? Without senses we are like trees, nowhere to go, nothing to do, just live until death arrives.

    No wonder Krishna asked Arjun to just carry out his duty without thinking too much about it. The more I think, the more I get confused and get myself tangled into nowhere.

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  4. Nice post Professor! The way you write makes a supposedly "boring" subject of philosophy appear captivating; and thereby persuading many 'slaves of senses' to leave a comment here ;-)
    Well, it seems it would be impossible to "live", after one masters his/her senses, as there will be no point in keeping your body then (aka 'nirvana').
    This implies that whosoever achieves this state of self-realization, will never be able to give back the same (i.e. the path) to the world. Thus, everyone will always have to reach this state all by themselves!

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  5. @Deathmill,
    again - some thought-provoking questions on the difference of emotion and senses, the difference of virtue and attachment, the difference between a tree and a mind-conqueror ! let me pick one, the last one and come back again with a blog.

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  6. @The Recluse Rhymer,
    i am glad to bring you from reclusion and doubly glad to see you rhyming here. similarly, there are people, who comes back from the nirvana or so to say, suffers in the cage of body for the sake of fellow human beings. a beautiful modern day example is Swami Ranganathananda. a story about him goes like following - "A monk once asked Swami Ranganathananda “Is this my last birth?” Maharaj replied, Yes, this is your last birth; but I shall have to come again to do Swamiji’s (Vivekananda) work."

    as per indian philosophy, you have to reach the state yourself. however, a realized person as guru can make a huge difference to your efforts.

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