The central aspect of yoga practice is the mind. We will begin
with some analogies to understand the mind, the origin of the mind, and then we go on to heal and purify this mind.
The mind is an organ of perception for the soul. The Yoga sūtra and the Bhagavad-Gītā explain that we are the soul or Ātmā and the mind is a mere instrument for the soul to understand and explore this world. A more in-depth discussion on the soul, intelligence, the mind, energy is given in a sequence. One who
can make the mind his friend can be successful in the practice of yoga — one who cannot lives with his greatest enemy.
A yogi told me that there are three cardinal rules of success in life.
1. Concentration of mind
2. Persistent effort
3. The grace of God.
Without the concentration of mind, no activity can be successful. Let’s understand with analogies the relationship between the soul and the mind.
Mind the cause of either misery or happiness
Everything that we experience is a perception of the “Mind.” The mind can turn everything we experience one way or another, making it miserable or pleasurable, or the mind could even stay neutral depending on how it’s trained.
Yogic scriptures explain that the secret behind our experiencing something in the way it is experienced is the “state” of our mind, which in turn is a result of latent impressions stored in it, impressions of our past experiences, ideas, attachments, aversions, and so on.
How the mind Perceives an object – Analogy Mind compared to colored glass.
A beam of white light reflected from colored glass appears colored. E.g.: Light reflected by green glass seems green. Similarly, when we perceive an object with our senses, the mind’s resultant emotions are based on our mind’s state or coloring. The coloring here refers to the total of all our memories, experiences, desires, attachments, and aversions.
E.g., My friend and I were on a stroll, and we came across an ice-cream shop. He was addicted to eating ice-creams, and we both eventually ended up having ice-cream. I could see that he had such a strong urge that he couldn’t stop himself, and I was forced to accompany him. So the experience of previously eating ice-creams has had such a strong impression in his mind (which I compare to color) that he could’ t stop himself. In the Yoga Sūtras, these “thought waves” “impressions” or “colors” are called “Vrittis,” which can be triggered and create an urge or desire. We have to overcome wrong impressions/habits (called Anartha Nivritti) and cultivate good habits (called Artha Pravritti)
Coloring/State of mind the filter
The mind is subtle matter and is energized by the soul.
The mind in itself is inert or dead matter but has life because of the soul. The symptom of a soul is consciousness, and when it comes in contact with matter, it appears as though the matter has consciousness. Just like a spoon remains (dead, unconscious) wherever it is, until we use it when we eat it, the spoon acts per our need and looks to be moving. So the soul (consciousness) uses the mind as an instrument, and although it seems the mind is moving, this movement is caused by the consciousness provided by the soul to the mind.
Mind and the video-game
Example 1: Suppose we play a soccer video game and choose a particular player to represent us. We identify with that character representing us. If the player wins, we enjoy, and if he loses, we become disappointed. But in reality, nothing happens to the physical player, i.e., us.
Here the player, i.e., us, is compared to the soul, and the virtual computer player to the mind-body. The soul, due to illusion, identifies with the mind-body. The soul is only an observer to the body and mind activities and chooses to enjoy or suffer based on the degree of attachment to the body.
Mind and the dirty mirror
Example 2: Another relevant example is that of a dirty mirror; when a mirror is unclean, and we use it, we also appear dirty. When we clean the mirror, the reflection is also perfect.
The soul (consciousness) is encaged in this body and mind and experiences the world through the mind. The dirtier the mind, the dirtier the reflection and perception. The pure mind perfectly reflects the soul and experiences the highest happiness (as the soul is full of joy, Ānanda).
The purpose of yoga is to purify the mind (of any dirt) to become a pure medium for the soul to perceive itself and this world. A pure mind also allows the soul to perceive God and take His dictation. This state of mind is called yoga or union with the Supreme, the highest form.
Mind and the broken mirror
Example 3: If you have ever used a broken mirror, you will notice that the image is unclear and distorted. When not concentrated (or disturbed), the mind gives a different view of reality, just like a broken mirror that does not reflect the object accurately.
The concentrated pure mind is a perfect mirror that allows the mind to perceive the object correctly without disturbance. The first goal of yoga is to concentrate the mind. A concentrated mind can comprehend the essence of an object and meditate.
Mind and the Clear Lake
Example 4: Mind is also compared to a clear lake. When the top surface of the lake is calm, the bottom of the lake is visible. When the body is disturbed, some ripples are created because of which we cannot see the bottom of the lake.
The purpose of yoga is to calm the mind so that the lake (compared to the soul) is perceived. When the mind is disturbed, the mind only identifies with the emotions associated with these disturbances and cannot be at peace. Or meditate on the soul. The Bhagavad-Gītā explains that there cannot be happiness without peace.