Stopping the Mind-M.S. Srinivasan

We have discussed in some detail the Rajayogic conception of bondage, described interms of five afflictions of the human mind.   These afflictions have important implications for the sadhana of Rajayoga.  Let us now briefly examine how it is related to one of the major objectives of Rajayoga.

The Yoga-sutra of Patanjali defines Yoga as “stopping the modifications of the mind”. In other words, as we have indicated briefly in one of our earlier articles, when the mind becomes pure, still, silent and transparent like a crystal, it acquires the capacity for reflecting or  identifying with the truth of any object presented to it or meditated upon. This power of identification can be used for any type of knowledge, spiritual or mundane. There are many levels or depths of identification and the highest level of identification is called as Samadhi. In Samadhi the mind is totally absorbed in and identified with the object of meditation. In Raja Yoga this power of identification, is used mainly to unite with the spiritual Reality, Purusha.

But success in Yoga depends mainly on how perfectly the seeker is able to achieve, “stopping the modification of the mind”. According to Raja Yoga the source of all mental unrest or “modifications of the mind” are the five fundamental afflictions of the mind, which we were discussing so far.  They are the facets of primal Ignorance or Unconsciousness which is the source of all bondage and suffering; egoism which arises from this primal ignorance; attachment and aversions of desire which proceeds from egoism; and finally the craving for life which is the essence of desire. These are the primal spiritual and psychological maladies of human consciousness recognized by all spiritual masters of the East. In the Indian spiritual thought these essential bonds, limitations or conditioning of human consciousness taken together, is called as “Ignorance”. So ignorance means in the Yogic philosophy is not lack of intellectual knowledge but a state of consciousness obscured, limited and conditioned by ego, desire and unconsciousness and lack of self-knowledge, knowledge of our deeper spiritual self. And knowledge in Yoga means not intellectual knowledge but inner illumination which liberates the human consciousness. This inner illumination comes when the five afflictions of ignorance are eliminated and as a result “stopping the modification of the mind”.

However we would like to mention here no amount of rational explanation, however deep, luminous and profound can help us to understand or convince others the extent to which our consciousness is bound by these afflictions. Only when we are able to inwardly experience them as concretely as we feel our outer physical bondage when we are bound hand and foot to a pole, we can understand the extent to which we are bound by these inner bonds.

 But still intellectual clarity has a utility and purpose in yoga; it helps in pursuing the discipline with a clear understanding of the purpose and rationale behind the method and the process.

This dissolution of ignorance is achieved by first weakening the five afflictions of ignorance by a moral and psychological discipline and then dissolving these affliction in their very roots in the subconscious in deep meditation. When in this way, the afflictions are eliminated at their source, the mind becomes spontaneously sill and pure without effort. Just like restlessness and agitation is natural to our ordinary mind afflicted with Ignorance, Peace and Silence become natural to the pure mind freed from Ignorance. This does not mean that silent mind is incapable of thought and action. In fact thought and action of the silent mind will be infinitely superior to the restless and conditioned mind sick with the afflictions of Ignorance. But the silent mind will think and act only when it is needed. Otherwise it remains still. And in this effortless and spontaneous stillness of the mind shines the light of the Spirit, the Supreme Illumination! The eight-fold Yoga of Patanjali is the practical discipline by which the afflictions of the mind are eliminated, mind stopped and the supreme inner illumination is achieved.

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