Methods for Quietening the Mind
For the subsidence of mind there is no other means more effective and adequate than Self-enquiry. Even though by other means the mind subsides, that is only apparently so; it will rise again.
For instance, the mind subsides by the practice of pranayama (restraint and control of breath and vital forces); yet such subsidence lasts only as long as the control of breath and vital forces continues; and when they are released, the mind also gets released and immediately, becoming externalized, it continues to wander through the force of its subtle tendencies.
The source of the mind is the same as that of breath and vital forces. It is really the multitude of thoughts that constitutes the mind; and the ‘I’-thought is the primal thought of the mind, and is itself the ego. But breath too has its origin at the same place whence the ego rises. Therefore, when the mind subsides, breath and vital forces also subside; and conversely, when the latter subside, the former also subsides.
Breath and vital forces are also described as the gross manifestation of the mind. Till the hour of death the mind sustains and supports these forces in the physical body; and when life becomes extinct, the mind envelopes them and carries them away.
During sleep, however, the vital forces continue to function, although the mind is not manifest. This is according to the divine law and is intended to protect the body and to remove any possible doubt as to whether it is dead or alive while one is asleep. Without such arrangement by nature, sleeping bodies would often be cremated alive. The vitality apparent in breathing is left behind by the mind as a ‘watchman’. But in the wakeful state and in samadhi, when the mind subsides, breath also subsides.
For this reason (because the mind has the sustaining and controlling power over breath and vital forces and is therefore ulterior to both of them), the practice of breath-control is merely helpful in subduing the mind but cannot bring about its final extinction.
Like breath-control, meditation on form, incantations, invocations and regulation of diet are only aids to control of the mind. Through the practice of meditation or invocation, the mind becomes one-pointed. Just as the elephant’s trunk which is otherwise restless, will become steady if it is made to hold an iron chain, so that the elephant goes its way without reaching out for any other object, so also the ever-restless mind, which is trained and accustomed to a name or form through meditation or invocation, will steadily hold on to that alone.
When the mind is split up and dissipated into countless varying thoughts, each individual thought becomes extremely weak and inefficient. When, on the contrary, such thoughts subside more and more till they finally get destroyed, the mind becomes one-pointed and, thereby acquiring strength and power of endurance, easily reaches perfection in the method of enquiry in quest of the Self.
Regulation of diet, restricting it to sattvic food1, taken in moderate quantity, is of all the rules of conduct the best; and it is most conducive to the development of the sattvic qualities2 of the mind. These, in their turn, assist one in the practice of Atma vichara or enquiry in quest of the Self.
Countless vishaya-vasanas (subtle tendencies of the mind in relation to objects of sense-gratification), coming one after the other in quick succession like the waves of the ocean, agitate the mind. Nevertheless they too subside and finally get destroyed with progressive practice of Atma dhyana or meditation on the Self. Without giving room even to the thought which occurs in the form of doubt, whether it is possible to stay merely as the very Self, whether all the vasanas can be destroyed, one should firmly and unceasingly carry on meditation on the Self.
1 Simple and nutritious food which sustains but does not stimulate the physical body.
2 Purity of heart, self-restraint, evenness of temper, tenderness towards all beings, fortitude and freedom from desire, hatred and arrogance are the outstanding virtues of the sattvic mind.
Sri Ramana Maharshi
Words of Grace
Who am I ?