Bhagwad Gita is considered as one of the highest scriptures in Hinduism. It was mainly written for God-realization preached by God himself, Shri Krishna. Gita has also gained popularity among non-Hindus due to its practicality. Though it was written thousands of years ago, it is still relevant in the modern world. Out of many eternal lessons of Gita, two teachings can be applied to mind control. They are part of verse 35 of chapter 6.
Bhagwad Gita is written in the form of communication between Arjuna (the disciple) and Shri Krishna (the teacher) on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna was about to start the war with his cousins to take the revenge of all the wrongdoing. However, Arjuna was not yet ready to kill his cousins and teachers standing on the opposite side. That is when the greatest knowledge of God-realization was revealed in the form of Gita. While Shri Krishna was blessing Arjuna with the truth, Arjuna asked Krishna as to how can I control the mind which is not still for a moment.
Every one of us is facing the same difficulties. We know what is right but we are not able to act as our mind is not in our control. We know that thinking negative thoughts are not good for us and for people around us but we can hardly replace it with the positive ones. Shri Krishna has shown two ways through which we can control our mind. They are Abhyasa and Vairagya as mentioned in the below verse. The meaning of the verse is “Lord Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice (Abhyasa) and detachment (Vairagya), it can be controlled.”
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || 35||
śhrī bhagavān uvācha
asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate
Abhyasa means practice and Vairagya means renunciation. Both these words can have different meaning to different people. My aim is to present them in the form relevant to today’s world. Even though how we interpret them might have changed, fundamentals remains same. We may not be able to go to a forest or to Himalayan but we can still apply them. Don’t forget that Gita was preached on the battlefield and not in any cave. This shows how practical Gita is.
The practice is about doing the same activity every day till it becomes a habit. The definition of practice in Wikipedia is “Practice is the act of rehearsing a behaviour over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving or mastering it, as in the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’.” Now the question is what should we practice? As this is about controlling the mind, we should practice that helps calm the mind. Creating a positive experience helps. This does not mean you get into the trap of sensual pleasures which ultimately results in pain.
Shri Krishna preached the practice of real Yoga in Gita. Yoga means the union with God. Even if we are not on the spiritual path, we should practice that increase satvik (moral) element in the mind. A pure mind is easier to control. Few of the practices that I follow are meditation, reading scriptures, chanting of mantras, worship and listening to calm music. Some also prefer hath yoga practices. Body and mind are interconnected. One affects the other. You can identify your own methods and observe the mind. It is critical that you practise anything that you decide on a daily basis. Consistency is the key here. Regular practice of activities like meditation also helps in concentrating the mind. This improves the way we experience life.
Vairagya or renunciation mentioned in Gita is not related to sacrificing everything and start living in complete isolation. The renunciation that Shri Krishna referring to is of the internal world. This message was given to Arjuna who wanted to run away from the war. He already thought of leaving everything. Shri Krishna told Arjuna to renounce his weakness and to pick up his bow and arrow to fight against the evil. Gita is misunderstood by those who only look at the external world.
The real renunciation is from within. We have to fight the evil which is residing within us. We need to let go of all the weakness and all the impurities. Renunciation is not about sacrificing but about holding on to something more important. It is about dedicating our life to the highest and noble goal. Instead of giving up our mind to all the negative and low thinking, we should fill it with righteous thinking. Gita teaches us to sacrifice this small ego and expand ourselves to the world.