Mind—A Great Blessing and a Great Curse
Sri Swami Chidananda
This article is a chapter from the book Swami Chidananda Talks in South Africa.
Blessed Lord! All the activities and movements in this life, the speech of this tongue, the actions of this body, the thoughts of this mind, the reasoning processes of this intellect, the spontaneous expression of this innermost nature, they are offered up as worship and adoration unto Thy Feet! May that life and its activities be acceptable unto Thee!
May all beings in this universe attain happiness!
From the unreal lead us to the Supreme Reality,
From darkness lead us to the Divine Light,
From death and mortality lead us to Immortality
and everlasting Life in the Spirit.
Peace, peace, peace to all beings.
Beloved Immortal Atman, blessed children of Light!
There is a great happiness this evening, because yesterday we have observed what is known as the commencement of the northern journey of the sun. It is a way of saying it—we know that in this solar universe the sun is the unmoving centre, but we speak of the northern journey and the southern journey. The northern journey is regarded as the more auspicious six months, and the astronomical point of time when the northern journey commences happens to be 14th of January. Today we are in the middle of this special day of the sun as he has started upon his auspicious northern journey. May it mean to you greater and greater Light day by day. May it mean to you an inner unfolding of the awareness of your timeless, uncreated nature. Your true identity is that dimension of your being where you are an ever luminous light of Divine Consciousness, in which you are inseparably one with the Infinite Cosmic Light which we call the Supreme Being. May each day of this auspicious northern journey of the sun mean to you an ever-increasing awareness of this wondrous eternal deathless nature. This is my good year wish.
Today I have the privilege of sharing with you a subject that has been suggested as something that might be very helpful to all who have recognised that the human status is not the top rung of the evolutionary process, but on the contrary it is the commencement of the evolutionary process upon a different dimension. Biologically, yes, the human status is the top-rung. But what is a conclusion biologically is a commencement spiritually, which culminates in perfect divinity. And those who have come into the path are souls who have recognised the fact that we stand upon the threshold of a great journey. If it is lived in the consciousness of this truth, then life becomes an ascent into ever expanding consciousness; from the ordinary body-bound awareness as a biological and a psychological individual awareness gradually begins to expand, and you become aware that you are also a moral being. You are not merely to live as a physical and a psychological being, expressing the normal nature of the body and the mind—but knowing that there is within you the potential for idealism, because there is a Being who expects you to over-reach your human nature. You have got potential for being an ideal being and to live for a cause. Now that this has been awakened, you are prepared to even sacrifice something that was so very precious at one time, that you would never have thought of renouncing it. But now you have changed your values and thus expand into an awareness of idealism: “I shall not merely live to satisfy the demands of the senses, satisfy the desires and cravings of the vital and mental nature. I shall rise above them in order to satisfy the call of an ideal, a high emotion, a great idea—something within me that I did not suspect was there—but it is there: the dimension of Dharma.”
After that the consciousness will expand even more into a feeling of oneness with all; beyond the moral and idealistic vision one begins to see that there is a still greater dimension wherein all are one. There is a cosmic harmony, a universal unity, underlying the apparent variety that nature is presenting. We are not different. The joys of all are my joys. The sorrows of all are my sorrows.
This expansion to embrace all creatures in friendship, compassion, loving kindness—the great Buddha called it Metta, loving kindness. Ultimately, there is in us the ability to expand even beyond this universe into infinity, because that is the reality of our being, boundless and eternal. Thus arises within us the awareness that life should be made into a conscious process of ascending into Light, of expanding into universal infinity and realising our being as timeless and eternal. We are standing upon the threshold of this spiritual journey, or we are upon the first rung of this ladder, whose top is lost in a Light that we cannot see—we can only imagine it. We cannot see the top, because it is lost in that dazzling radiance, in the pure white Light of Reality.
We are standing at the bottom of that ladder and life means stepping onward and upward on this great ladder that leads beyond all darkness. When this awareness is there, life becomes a spiritual process. It is no longer a physical process. It is no longer a mental or a psychological process. It is no longer even an idealistic moral adventure in which one is prepared even to lose one’s life, because life does not have any value when compared to one’s ideals. It is more, it becomes a spiritual process.
The Supreme Faculty with which the Universal Being has endowed us and which makes us capable of setting forth upon this journey is the human mind—the power to think, feel, reason and to see beyond. You can conceive of a goal which is not visible, but at the same time, the mind has the power to conceive of it and then work towards it. This great faculty also makes us distinct and unique compared to all other brethren that populate this world in astronomical proportions. If we were to make a comparison between all the creatures that abound on this planet with the human society—we will not even be one percent! Then we begin to understand the uniqueness of the human individual. In one square mile of sea, God knows how many times more fish are present compared to the whole population of the world. In one square mile of any field here—if you start digging and see the ants and insects and the little worms that crawl and live under ground and over ground, maybe they outweigh the human population of the whole world. Then we begin to realise the uniqueness of this creature, who is made in the image of God and can become fused in divine infinity and consciousness. This faculty, this instrument can make you attain the state of God-consciousness. It is all joy, light, wisdom, peace—it is perfection, lacking nothing, wanting nothing.
I have put it as science of the mind and not as psychology, because psychology as developed in the West is only one aspect of the study of the human mind. But the study of the same inner man by the seers and the followers of the path of Yoga is another aspect. The part of the Indian study of the mind was not a study made by a deductive method, but by the inductive method. They did not make a study, they intuitively gained knowledge of the mind, and when it is intuitive knowledge, then one is on absolutely sure ground. It is ultimate knowledge, not knowledge gained through a process. The mind is the instrument or the medium through which the individual consciousness can link itself with the Universal Consciousness called God. Whatever we do in order to approach Him, we do through the mind. And yet you will be amazed to hear another definition of mind.
A seeking disciple asks his teacher, “Master, what is the mind?” And the master says, “Beloved disciple, it is the barrier between you and God. It is a wall that separates you from God.” I am saying that it is a wonderful gift, by which you have to seek and find God and attain Him. And yet, here is a Master saying, that between you and God stands a wall, and only when you break it down, you behold the Divine. This is something for you to work out, and we shall consider this also. It is both, it is a mysterious something.
The normal human mind has a distaste for things of this nature. And so it is to this mind that the master answered, “Mind is that what separates you from God. It is a wall, a barrier which you have to break down.” But to an awakened mind it is a link with the Divine, it is the God-given instrument through which alone you can approach Him. It is possible for the mind to be the barrier as well as the link; precisely because it stands midway between the earthly, physical and sensual aspect of the human nature and the higher spiritual nature in man. It can be a passage way, it can also be a block. So the mind is like a door.
And it can become more! I saw a cartoon recently. Two monkeys are having a conversation. One monkey says: “Well, I was called, and I was given a chance to evolve into man; but I have seen enough, so I refused the offer.” Because it has seen what man has done with the human status, his superior ability to do things, and it says, “Therefore, I am content to remain what I am, and I don’t want to be demoted.” See, there is a thing called promotion and there is also demotion. So the monkey said, “Human behaviour is not something that is going to be a promotion, it is going to be a demotion.” Why? Man has got the mind, and if you see certain aspects of human life, you will see that he cannot always take pride in his human status. Sometimes we have to be ashamed. In a single sentence Gurudev said, “Man is the only being in this creation who deliberately breaks the laws of nature. All other animals keep to certain laws, and therefore they have a fair amount of uniformity in their life. Man breaks the laws, and he suffers in consequence.”
Yet he does not want to learn the lesson. He refuses to do it and breaks the laws, suffers the consequences and then tries to escape those consequences and still goes the same wrong ways. Perverting his God-given intelligence, he devises ways and means of going in wrong ways without suffering the consequences. This is the height of perversion, and it is also the height of folly. It cannot go on endlessly—ultimately he ruins himself physically, mentally, morally and brings upon himself great pain. And if you think in a wrong way, you can do foolish things which animals don’t do. They keep up an instinctive wisdom. If an animal falls sick, it gives rest to the system and refuses to eat. It tries to safeguard itself, and therefore it is kind to itself. It instinctively does what is good for it. But man deliberately endangers his own welfare and his health. Why? Because he wants to indulge in the gross physical aspects of his being, knowing full well that it is harmful. Knowing full well that yes, beyond a certain limit it is dangerous and can bring about great harm. What do you call this? It is the height of unwisdom.
And if you go a little beyond and consider human history, you see the diabolical things that man has contrived with the sole intention of harming others, destroying others in a very painful way. I don’t know whether it was a misfortune that I had the occasion to read the description of some types of bullets and little bombs which they have perfected with very careful research and all their knowledge of chemistry, physics and mathematics. They tried them in Vietnam, and it was described in detail what exactly they do when they explode, what exactly they do to the human being. It is terrible. One would never think that it had been created by the human mind. One would think that such a dimension is only possible in the mind of what they call Satan or the devil. Seeing this, one hesitates to define the mind as a great faculty given by the Universal Being to the individual being. It seems that the mind can make the human creature far more bestial and brutal than any jungle animal.
The law of the jungle is that one species preys upon another species. It hunts. But these creatures in the jungle that have no university qualifications, no civilisation or education, they hunt only for food. They kill only for appeasing hunger. They don’t kill for pleasure, and when they are fully satisfied, they don’t go hunting. They go and sleep. It is man alone who kills for pleasure. He goes fox-hunting, he goes for safaris, for shooting down animals that have never done any harm to him, which he doesn’t want for his stomach but for the sake of the hide or the tusks. So this is something which makes us wonder whether this endowed part of the human mind is a “blessing or a curse”. Is it an endowment or a burden?
It seems to be both—a great blessing and a great curse. It is a blessing because the intelligence of man has conceived great marvelous things, architecture, means of communication and transportation which have brought the whole world together, in the field of medicine and surgery—ever so many things have been achieved. But at the same time, if you see the pages of human history they are red with the blood of man, shed of his brethren. And if you see natural history and the way in which man has started to exploit nature all around him, wanting to convert everything into money, thus destroying the balance of nature, endangering hundreds of species of creatures and endangering himself, then you begin to see it as a curse.
Now it is very important for the human individual and the human race to reflect on principles and to reflect how this double-edged sword, this unique faculty can be converted from this dual nature into a pure blessing.
We know from the effects that it can be a curse. But how can it cease to be a curse? How can it become man’s friend and a pure blessing? Is it possible to convert it into something, which will no longer bring sorrow but only become a force that lifts him upward, into higher and higher states of consciousness. Is it possible? Yes, this is worthwhile pondering and knowing.
We thank the Lord who has given us this life. We thank Him that He has given us the mind, and we pray to Him that He will give us the higher understanding to know the ways and means of transforming the mind from its dual nature into a purely positive factor, that He helps us in fulfilling the mission for which we are here on earth and a being in the image of God.
We thank the Lord for this occasion, and it is my privilege to share what little I have gained from the great Master, Gurudev Swami Sivananda, from the other masters and the holy scriptures. Because we draw light and guidance and matter for our talks from the Bhagavad Gita, from the New Testament and other great scriptures.
God bless you all, Grace be showered upon you! All benedictions and blessings of the saints be with you! Aum!