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Mind and Matter - in light of Yoga

The illumined teachers of India, besides being knower of truth, were masters of human psychology and compassionate preceptors. Through investigations and verifications they have developed a great understanding of mind and its nature.

Swami Vivekananda in his Complete Works has discussed various interpretations leading to the attainment of perfection and illumination. Let us understand mind in light of Hindu Psychology:

Recently, I happened to see an interview of Shivraj Singh Chauhan (C.M of Madhya Pradesh, India), where the interviewer asked him:

Interviewer: You visit various countries for various purposes. What are the things you feel Indians should learn from them?

Shivraj Singh Chauhan: People there know the value of time better than us. I want Indians to learn timeliness and tidiness from them. But I also want them to learn certain things from Indians.

Interviewer: What?

Shivraj Singh Chauhan: The art of living happily in scarcity. In the holy gatherings like, Sinhasta, people come from afar, sitting or standing in a general compartment of train, bearing with all the inconvenience just to be a part of it. Carefree and unaffected by the troubles they find freedom and joy in this.

The answer introduces mindset of a common man in India. When he (Shivraj Singh Chauhan) says, the art of living happily in scarcity, he means gaining control over the mind till such an extent that scarcity or abundance doesn’t affect it.

According to Dharma Psychology, man with such a state of mind is known as ‘Sthitapradnya’ and every practice of mind control is ultimately to attain this state.

What is mind?

It is actually a subtle body residing within the gross body (matter). Physical body is just an outer crust of mind. Both affect each other. Physical illness makes us feel mentally exhausted and mental problems find their way through physical body.  From a scientific point of view, only rate of vibration differentiates between the matter and mind.  Mind at low rate of vibration is called matter and matter at high rate of vibration is called mind. Both matter and mind are governed by the same law of time, space and causation.

Buddha golds gym venice

Relation between Mind and Matter

In the Upanishads, there is an instance where Uddalaka teaches his son Svetaketu by practical experimention, how matter is converted into mind. The chapters run thus:

‘That, my dear, which is the subtlest part of curd rises, when they are churned, and becomes butter. In the same manner, my dear, that which is the subtlest part of the food that is eaten rises and becomes mind. The subtlest part of water that is drunk rises and becomes prana. Thus my dear, the mind consists of food, prana consists of water, and speech consists of fire.’

The son Svetaketu said: ‘Please, venerable sir, instruct me further.’

‘So be it my dear. A person my dear consists of 16 parts. Do not eat (any food) for fifteen days, but drink as much water as you like. Since the prana consists of water, it will not be cut off if you drink water.’

Svetaketu did not eat for fifteen days. Then he came to his father and said: ‘what, sir, shall I recite?’

His father said: verses from the Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda verses.’

He replied: ‘They do not occur to me sir.’

His father said to him: ‘Just as, my dear, of a great blazing fire a single coal, the size of firefly, may be left, which would not burn more than that , even so, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part is left; and therefore with that one part you do not remember the Vedas. Now go and eat and you will understand me.’

Svetaketu ate and approached his father. Then whatever his father asked him, he showed that he knew it.

Then his father said to him: ‘Just as, my dear, of a great lighted fire a single coal of the size of a firefly, if left, may be made to blaze up again by adding grass to it, and will thus burn much more, even so, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part was left, and that when strengthened with food, blazed up. With it you now remember the Vedas. Therefore, my dear, the mind consists of food, the prana, consists of water, and speech consists of fire.’

After that he understood what his father said, as he experienced it.

From the above conversation we can easily conclude that mind is not a free agent, it works only when proper care of body is taken. Does that mean its power is limited? The answer for this is NO; the power of mind is incalculable.

If man has been able to split an invisible atom, or realize the Atman - Self, it is only due to the power of mind. All the other achievements in the diverse fields that fall between these two poles are also the byproducts of the powerful minds. Each mind is a part of the universal mind. Each mind is connected to other mind.

Though it seems to cognize but it is not the cognizer, it is not the source of light even if it seems luminous. It borrows its radiance from the Self (Atman) and acts just as an internal instrument (Antahakaran) for it. It is through mind, the Self i.e. Atman or pure consciousness, that is free and eternal, apprehends and responds to the external world.  Therefore, it is very important to channelize matter and mind properly for the true manifestation of the self.