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Swami Suhitananda (English)
Developing one's Divinity
Swami Shridharananda (English)
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Swami Tyagananda (English)
Legacy of Vivekananda's historic Chicago Address
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Saints: Their common denominators
Swami Manishananda (English)
Karma and Divine Grace
Karma and Divine Grace
Strength: The Soul's Armour
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Prabuddha BharataLatest Issue
Editorial : Impressing the Mind
Every perception leaves an impression on the mind. This perception could be through the senses or through the memory of a perception. Every action also produces a mark on the mind. That is because while performing an action, the mind refers to previous perceptions and also makes new ones. An action could be one that produces some material effect or one that produces knowledge.
The action that produces a material effect impresses the mind not only by the action itself, but by the qualities of the material produced by such action. For instance, if one is engaged in the action of cooking, it involves the mind broadly at two levels: the process of cooking and analysing or assimilating what has been cooked. The recipe is remembered and the earlier or previous experiences regarding such cooking come to mind— how the food tasted, smelled, and looked like. The mind relives the entire experience. Some parts of the experience are accentuated, some others attenuated.
Thus the first part of the action of cooking is to remember or draw from memory the previous cooking experiences. However, this memory is put into action again. The recipe and the related experiences in the mind come out as action. Only this time, there are many changes. So, every time one cooks, one also modifies one’s memory of cooking. This cycle of unending retrieval of memory and its modification enforces and adjusts the impressions of such actions that the mind holds. So, the experience one has of any kind of action is not an isolated memory or even a series of memories, but a constantly modified version of what is derived out of various instances of recalling and re-acting. Hence, no experience is made up of just one incident.
Human experiences or life experiences are complicated and so are their memories. Though we suppose that when one cooks, the previous memories of cooking alone are recalled, in reality what is recalled is any experience that resembles any of the experiences that occur while cooking. If the cook sees a particular colour of food, she or he is reminded of the object that had the same colour. The same is true for appearance and smell of the food that is cooked. That would mean that even if a person were to cook for the first time, there would be numerous experiences which that person would recall.
Let us suppose that a person does some action for the first time and does not have any previous experience of any action. That is, this is the first action of the person. Let us also suppose that it is the first lifetime of this person. With no experiences to recall and a clean slate for the mind, why does this person leave a mark on one’s mind with one’s action? What is the basic cause of any action creating a mark on our minds?
To understand this, we should understand what the mind is made up of. Mind is matter. Matter as we see it, is composed of five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements, as we perceive them, contain parts of the other elements. We do not perceive these elements in their pure form. In their pure form they vary in the quality of being impressed upon. And this variation is predominant even in the mixed forms that we perceive. It is difficult to make an impression or mark on space. The difficulty reduces with air, but it is very difficult to make a mark on air also. This difficulty gradually reduces with the other elements and is finally completely removed in earth, which can be impressed or made a mark upon with ease.
Thus, the element directly connected with the mind is the earth. Earth produces food. Mind is sustained by food. Mind dies without food. It takes all the characteristics of food, both specific and general. Just like the food we consume is digested and makes our bodies, the mind is influenced by all matter it comes into contact with. Space or vacuum can have no influence on the mind. But an untrained mind would not be able to stay in a vacuum.
Since mind is susceptible to impressions because of its containing the five elements, particularly the element earth, the only way to make mind free of impressions is to make it free of elements or to destroy it. And the best way to destroy it is to transcend the elements.
A seed sown in earth leads to the birth of a sapling. Any matter, including thought, when in interaction with the mind, creates desires and consequent chains of bondage. That is why if we need to free the mind of bondage, we need to train it to get dissociated with matter. That comes from practice. Training the mind to be independent of desires would eventually free the mind. Also, the process of recalling old experiences has to be stopped. The mind thinks and acts in patterns. We need to get free of the established grooves of thought. By training our mind to think free from a logical pattern of cause and effect, we can get used to non-linear thinking, which would help us to break free of various mental and physical conditionings.
Another important reason why the mind is influenced by any matter or action is that it is prone to dualistic dealings. An impression can be made only when something or someone is susceptible to impressions or is open to influence. By its very nature, the mind needs an external being or object to establish its existence. It cannot exist in the knowledge of non-duality. Matter comes into existence only by perception. And thus, all that is perceived is matter. Light cannot exist in the absence of shade, knowledge cannot exist in the absence of ignorance, and the perceiver cannot exist in the absence of the perceived. Similarly, the mind cannot exist without thought. Since thought is the seed of all our dealings with this universe, the mind cannot exist without the universe. Mind is the manifestation of ignorance.
We create impressions on the mind because of three reasons: the stuff the mind is made up of, its dual nature, and the primal ignorance. Once created, impressions on the mind work in cycles, creating further impressions till it is rid of all dualistic leanings. Mind can be free of suffering only on its annihilation. Control of thoughts and practice of detachment are some of the several methods to kill the mind. The search for spiritual knowledge is an attempt to lose one’s individuality and get identified with the one whole that is manifested through ignorance as this universe.