In2-MeC

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Sridhama Mayapur
12 March 2003

A few days ago I wrote that I received a letter from a devotee who lives in a flourishing ISKCON farm community in Europe; in her view, only 10 percent of the devotees residing there are satisfied with their lives in that community, despite the enormous spiritual and material advantages of the project. And I wrote that I hoped to apply my mind to the question of why so many devotees remain restless and unfulfilled, even after years of steady practice of devotional service.

Now I shall begin a series of articles in In2-MeC on the subject of Transcendental Psychology, or the spiritualization of the mind. Today I publish here an introduction to this series.

I beg the reader to kindly, with just a bit of care, discern my motive here. Passing psychological or moral judgements on devotees is not my intention. However, it cannot be denied that devotees do fall into the grip of troubled psychological states. In these states they do blunder into mistaken life choices. Mistakes proceed from misunderstanding, and may lead to grave misfortune. For years I have observed in ISKCON how not a few devotees, myself included, attempted to handle delicate psychological issues without a clear understanding of the Vedantic Vaishnava philosophy of the mind, and without the cultured touch of Vaishnava etiquette. Needless to say, the result of that "rough and ready" approach was too often disasterous.

Regarding the situation I mentioned in the first sentence of this journal entry, I am in no position to say whether the 90 percent of the devotees who are allegedly considering to leave that ISKCON farm are right or wrong, or whether they are in good Krishna consciousness or are in maya. I am not even suggesting they ought to take psychological-spiritual counseling. What I shall firmly argue here is that every devotee in ISKCON has an individual duty to know that he or she is not the mind. And so it follows we should not permit these minds to drag us into misfortune. Srila Prabhupada mercifully provided us with encyclopedic transcedental knowledge; it is up to each individual to take advantage of this knowledge, to apply it wisely and thus maximize his or her good fortune in this otherwise precarious human condition.

Just a note before you begin reading the introduction: these articles are a work in progress, not the chapters of a finalized book. (It may become a book in the future; no guarantees on that, however!) Anyway, because I am in the process of researching and writing this series, I cannot give you a schedule of when each article will appear here in In2- MeC. Just know that from time to time I will share with you the fruits of my study and reflection of Transcendental Psychology.

INTRODUCTION to Transcendental Psychology

It appears that as ISKCON evolves from its origins as a tightly-focused missionary movement into a broad-based spiritual culture ("a house in which the whole world can live"), more and more devotees find it important to understand the mind. There is no doubt that in his teachings Srila Prabhupada emphasized the importance of discriminating between mind, intelligence, false ego, and the actual self.

In the past, say 10 and more years ago, it was more fashionable for devotees to advertise themselves as being callous and insensitive toward the mind. The mind was just something to be beaten a hundred times every day, like a mangy flea-bitten dog. Or it was a thing that simply is not real.

No, the mind is a very real thing. It is listed among the eight elements of creation. It is subtle, but it has substance. It is substance. In this connection, kindly note these two quotations from Srila Prabhupada's purports.

Since mind is a product of the mode of goodness, if it is fixed upon the Lord of the mind, Aniruddha, then the mind can be changed to Krsna consciousness. It is stated by Narottama dasa Thakura that we always have desires. Desire cannot be stopped. But if we transfer our desires to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that is the perfection of life. As soon as the desire is transferred to lording it over material nature, it becomes contaminated by matter. [ SB 3. 26. 31p]

The essential point is that the mind, which is contaminated by material attraction, has to be bridled and concentrated on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [ SB 3. 28. 7p]

In these two quotations, five basic points can be discerned. The five points make up the foundation of this introduction, and indeed the whole series I plan to write. What are they?

1. The essential substance of the mind is the mode of goodness, which is the energy of Lord Aniruddha, who is the localized Supersoul feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

2. When that sattvik mental substance is dedicated to the Lord, it is transformed to Krishna consciousness, the state of infallible goodness above the three material modes of nature.

3. To dedicate the mind to the Lord, we must channel the flow of our desires toward His lotus feet. Hence there is no question of "controlling the mind," "fixing the mind," "pacifying the mind," without the reformation of desire. Our quality of mind is subject to the quality of our desire.

4. From the logic of the above point 2, it is clear that the original condition of the mind is Krishna consciousness. That original condition is contaminated as soon as our desire flows toward the lording over of matter.

5. Thus what we know to be "the material mind" is in essence the condition of material attraction.

The mind is a real thing because it is the energy of the Supersoul. Thus on the energetic level our mental activities--thinking, imagination, visualization, concentration and so forth--are real movements. They are real movements that unfold as per a complex pattern. And why so complex? Why does the study of the mind's movements (the study we know by the word psychology) become so mysterious and convoluted? That is because the mind moves according to our desires. Hence, it is our desires--meaning, in our present state, our material attraction--that complicates our mental processes.

The mind can be perceived as a real thing due to the fact that by nature's arrangement, the movements of the mind have physical effects. These effects are both immediate and remote. In Bhagavad-gita your immediate environment is called "the field of activities. " What is that field? It is your body. The remote environment is practically everything beyond your body.

Because the body and the world surrounding it respond to our state of mind, we have this often-discussed notion of "mind over matter. " Some people believe "mind over matter" means that they can change themselves and their whole world simply by a mental adjustment. However, as indicated above, changes of mind, or what we term mental activity, is itself impelled by desire. Yes, you can control matter with your mind. In fact this is happening constantly. But what controls your mind? Desire.

To wrest the mind from the control of desire is not easy. (Actually, it is impossible; the only option we have is a choice as to whether our mind shall be controlled by material or spiritual desire--but more about that later. ) Repeatedly we find ourselves girding up for a final battle with our desires, the aim being to defeat desire once and for all and to be free of it at last. This is very daunting, to say the least.

But before we enter the fight we must know that our desires constitute an extremely powerful and mostly invisible army called kama (lust) that has captured our senses, mind and intelligence. This is made clear in Bhagavad- gita 3. 40. In the purport, Srila Prabhupada explains that the mind is the reservoir of all ideas of sense gratification, and therefore lust infiltrates the senses and the intelligence from the mind.

After their minds get them into trouble, people are so quick to say, "I never wanted this!" But are you so sure you know what you want? Desires are by nature more subtle than the mind. To illustrate this fact, I offer you a quotation from a 1974 Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture by Srila Prabhupada:

Just like in the water, in a pond sometimes you will find all of a sudden one bubble comes from within. Phat! That means the dirty things are within, stocked.

The surface of the pond is the surface awareness of the mind. The bubble that rises from the bottom of the pond is a desire. Suddenly, phat! There it is, a filthy desire breaking into our sublime thoughts. "Why?" we ask ourselves. "Why am I again troubled by this nonsense which I thought, after so many years of chanting Hare Krishna, I had rid myself of?"

Well, the point here is that it is not all that difficult for sadhakas (devotees engaged in the practice of bhakti-yoga under rules and regulations) to make the visible surface of the mind calm and peaceful; yet mostly we don't even know about the host of desires that lurk beneath the surface. That stock of hidden desires is sometimes called the subconscious, a more subtle level of mental activity than commonplace thinking.

This rising of desire bubbles, this unexpected bursting of the subconscious into your surface awareness, demonstrates that your mind is capable of reproducing any type of sensual impression you have ever experienced. It can even manufacture impressions you have never before experienced, as long as they are constructed out of known elements. (We find in Srila Prabhupada's books the example of the mind combining the known elements of "gold" and "mountain" to create an impression of a golden mountain. ) Thus the mind is a most formidable television into the storehouse of subconscious desires. By the power of mind you may see, hear, taste, smell and feel things that are not directly present before the senses. As sadhakas we control our external sensory impressions. For example we do not permit our eyes to see forms that stimulate lust. But the mind is capable of introducing such forms into our consciousness even without the help of the eyes.

Except in deep sleep, the mind is always active. It is always responding to your various desires. Not only that, but there is also a feedback. As you contemplate the mind's "show," new desires are generated out of the mind's contemplation of the mind! Therefore it is often said that the mind produces unlimited desires.

maya manah srjati karmamayam baliyah
kalena codita-gunanumatena pumsah
chandomayam yad ajayarpita-sodasaram
samsara-cakram aja ko 'titaret tvad-anyah

O Lord, O Supreme Eternal, by expanding Your plenary portion You have created the subtle bodies of the living entities through the agency of Your external energy, which is agitated by time. Thus the mind entraps the living entity in unlimited varieties of desires to be fulfilled by the Vedic directions of karma-kanda [fruitive activity] and the sixteen elements. Who can get free from this entanglement unless he takes shelter at Your lotus feet?" [ SB 7. 9. 21]

Prabhupada, in his word-for-word translation, marked the word manah (mind) with an asterisk and in the footnote elaborates: "The mind is always planning how to remain in the material world and struggle for existence. It is the chief part of the subtle body, which consists of mind, intelligence and false ego. "

It is not possible at this stage to know what all your desires are. You are only able to perceive desires that are well-established, those that took tangible shape earlier in your life in the context of your social, moral and other patterns of conditioning. For example, some of our desires are agreeable to most other people around us; they match the idea of what we think we are or want to be. I observe here in Tarunpur how Sudevi, the daughter of my friend Murari Gupta, likes to pay careful attention to what clothes she wears each day. Murari's three sons, on the other hand, are not nearly so attentive to how they dress. So even though Sudevi is only three years old, some of her feminine desires are already apparent. The female interest in looking nice is socially agreeable. It gets reinforced by family and friends and thus becomes a part of a grown woman's identity.

But there are other desires--and here I am still talking about the ones we are conscious of, that get "concretized" into our identity from a young age-- that are disagreeable. We are well aware we have such desires, but we hide them from others and even from ourselves. An apt example is masturbation. Studies show that many, many people, both men and women, form this habit early in life. But people are conditioned by society and morality to be ashamed of masturbation. Nobody wants to talk about it. So masturbation constitutes a dark side of the personality. The mind censors it from our public self-image by mental contortions that are well-understood by psychologists to be unhealthy.

Many desires are so "underground" that they get their chance only when we sleep. Our dreams alone are where we act them out. But even these desires exert their influence on the mind during the wakeful state.

It is generally not so practical for devotees to go through a process of identifying all their desires. We begin with an assumption that our basic desire, the one that brought us to the material world, is to enjoy and control, or in other words, to be God. To meditate on this point is the beginning of Transcendental Psychology.

It can seem really uninspiring for a devotee to have to contemplate, "The undercurrent of my psycho-physical being is: 'I actually HATE Krishna and do not want to serve Him. Rather I want to take over His position. '" But to admit this to oneself and to others is the evidence that one is becoming purified! Consider the message of such songs of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura as Hari Hari Biphale and Gopinatha.

Basically, there are two sides to gaining control of the mind. One is positive and the other is negative. The negative aspect consists of rules, restrictions and mechanical exercises that close off the channel to lower, material consciousness. The positive aspect opens up the channel of higher consciousness that leads the soul back home, Back to Godhead. Opening this channel means contemplating transcendental subject matter plus occupying the senses with varieties of devotional service.

A devotee in the sadhaka category masters both positive and the negative systems. It is actually not possible to separate these two processes and to become accomplished in only one of them. We are advised to develop sbvkills in both.

Here is more from the purport to SB 3. 28. 7 that I cited earlier:

Etair anyais ca. The general yoga process entails observing the rules and regulations, practicing the different sitting postures, concentrating the mind on the vital circulation of the air and then thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His Vaikuntha pastimes. This is the general process of yoga. This same concentration can be achieved by other recommended processes, and therefore anyais ca, other methods, also can be applied. The essential point is that the mind, which is contaminated by material attraction, has to be bridled and concentrated on the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

"Bridling the mind" means the negative aspect, and "concentrating on the Supreme Godhead" means the positive aspect. Both constitute what Srila Prabhupada here terms "the essential point. " Dear reader, kindly note carefully that Srila Prabhupada states, "This same concentration can be achieved by other recommended processes, and therefore anyais ca, other methods, also can be applied. " In this series of articles on Transcendental Psychology I shall discuss the process of gaining control over the mind from a number of angles of vision, all of which can be helpful in this formidable task of turning our worst enemy (the mind) into our best friend.

We must come to the point of discriminating between the self and the mind. Memorizing the technical details of sastra is not enough to do that. Mechanical repitition of rituals is not enough to do that. We need to enact the transcendental level of our existence. This is so because the self is by nature pure spiritual energy. We are spirit soul, and so the nonmaterial force innate to the real self must be initialized. By the mercy of a pure devotee you can rise to the transcendental level and catch a glimpse of your true nature. This is initiation, the entry point into your svarupa or original identity. In a 1970 initiation lecture, Srila Prabhupada explained:

If you simply stick to this principle, gopi-bhartur pada- kamalayor dasa-dasa-dasanudasa, that "I am nothing except the eternal servant of Krsna," then you are in the liberated platform. Krsna consciousness is so nice. You keep yourself. And for keeping yourself in that consciousness, the simple method is this chanting, Hare Krsna. You keep yourself chanting as many hours, twenty-four hours. Why as many hours? Twenty-four hours. Kirtaniyah sada harih. Lord Caitanya says, this is to be practiced twenty-four hours. And that you can do. It requires simply practice. Even in sleeping you can chant Hare Krsna. Even in sleeping. And there is no bar. In sleeping, in eating, in going to the toilet room, there is no restriction. You can go on, "Hare Krsna. " You see. That will keep you in your svarupa, in your real identification, and you'll never be attacked by maya .

Chanting twenty-four hours? "I am not on that platform," the mind wants us to say. But Srila Prabhupada says, "That you can do. It requires simply practice. " By the mercy of the spiritual master, we are initiated into the chanting of Krsna's names. Look in the dictionary. Initiation means beginning. So our task at hand is to work on the practice of perfecting what initiation has introduced us into. The perfection of initiation is described by His Divine Grace in the preceeding quotation.

Understand that as you continue to chant Hare Krsna, the merciful favor of the spiritual energy flows your way and enlivens the real self, the soul. Without this chanting, there is no way to know how to discriminate between mind and the self. Thus there is no way to control the mind.

Your endeavor to control the mind begins and ends with chanting. This chanting is a combination of the positive and negative control I explained before. The positive part is the holy name itself. The negative part is the exclusion of any other thought and activities other than the holy name and service to the holy name.

Again, only a small fraction of your desires are known to you. So many strong desires lurk deep within the subconscious portion of the mind. The mind is thus your personal battlefield.

Know that you can win over the secret army of anti-devotional desires. How? By investigating the difference between you and your mind. Yes, it is not easy. Still, you must at least be interested in doing it! Maintaining that interest by trying to chant seriously is your key to ultimate victory.

The Paingala Upanisad 2. 11-12 states that the jiva remains in bondage as long as there is no desire in him for liberation. Bondage is lack of investigation, while liberation follows investigation. In the years I have been part of this movement for Krishna consciousness, I have known more than a few devotees whose krishnanushilanam (determination to serve Krishna) crumbled because the investigation into the difference between their selves and their minds held little appeal for them. With apparent humility some folded their hands and begged, "Please forgive me for my ignorance. " Then, flashing the badge of "honesty," they dove straight into the depths of ignorance and disappeared. "It's my nature to be this way, so what can I do?" they sighed. "After all, as the Gita says, 'What can repression accomplish?'"

Yes, but the Gita has a lot more to say than just that; what we actually find out from Krishna's instructions to Arjuna is that this way of arguing "don't repress your nature" is but a feeble, soul-ignoring excuse for shirking what Krishna really wants us to do. It's fatalism, and Bhagavad- gita is certainly no text that advocates fatalism. Krishna does not tell Arjuna, "O son of Prtha, I hate to admit it, but you are fated that your present conditioned nature will not allow your eternal spiritual nature to rise to follow My command. Fate is indeed insurmountable. Maybe when you're older you'll get serious about spiritual life. Or maybe in another life. "

One who resorts to such pleas about his insurmountable fate and about the heavy weight matter has loaded upon his fragile spirit soul often defends his position with half-baked varnasrama arguments. In this connection, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes in Brahmana and Vaishnava:

If varnasrama and other fruitive activities enjoined in the sastras become prominent in one's life, then one cannot become kincana, or fully dependent on the Lord; rather these activities provoke offenses against the chanting of the holy names in the form of conceptions of "I" and "mine. " If a person who is fully surrendered to Krishna becomes proud of following varnasrama principles, then it must be considered he has become most unfortunate. Due to the influence of association with women, the whole material world is daily advancing in aversion to Hari.

This resistance to God- and self-realization in the name of "accepting my nature" really just proves that one takes more comfort in the gross and subtle bodily conception than in his or her true identity. And that is what is unfortunate: not simply that one is in the bodily conception (after all, who isn't?), but that one finds comfort in it and is loath to being shaken out of it.

yathaihikamusmika-kama-lampatah
sutesu daresu dhanesu cintayan
sanketa vidvan kukalevaratyayad
yas asya yatnah srama eva kevalam

Materialists are generally very attached to their present bodily comforts and to the bodily comforts they expect in the future. Therefore they are always absorbed in thoughts of their wives, children and wealth and are afraid of giving up their bodies, which are full of stool and urine. If a person engaged in Krsna consciousness, however, is also afraid of giving up his body, what is the use of his having labored to study the sastras? It was simply a waste of time. [ SB 5. 19. 14]

No doubt the bodily conception continues for a long time to haunt those who attempt sadhana-bhakti, but if we can keep alive a burning interest to be free of our false identity, this interest will create an atmosphere of watchfulness around us. We will take note how our attempt to hear Krsna's name is repeatedly interrupted by various thought patterns. Though we really don't want to get involved with these things, they keep attacking our concentration. This disturbance is indeed troublesome, but it shows us that what is actually going on is that two opposing desires--one spiritual, one material--are battling over which will have control over our mind. And in the beginning we will find the spiritual desire to hear Krsna's name is the weaker one. But take heart in Sri Krishna's personal encouragement!

Lord Sri Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment. [ Bg 6. 35]

In short, this spark of interest to know the difference between self and mind takes practical shape in the form of practice (positive) and detachment (negative). And when our practice and detachment is directed by Lord Krishna's teachings, our efforts attract His mercy.

Now, there is another challenge to our attempt to purify the mind. Not only do we have conflicting material and spiritual desires, but furthemore the mind is not inclined to accept any control at all--neither spiritual nor material. The mind has a natural proclivity to roam about, to "flip out" and to zoom in as near and zoom out as far away as it likes. There needs only be a little push in some direction and the mind will doggedly pursue that line of thought for a long time. Great effort is required to stop it or to change its direction. Thus as I indicated at the start of this introduction, we must admit to ourselves, "This mind is a real thing--a stubborn, independent thing. It is not a mere wisp or shadow, something I can trifle with. " The mind is a powerful mechanism that needs to be handled with great expertise.

Then there is what is sometimes called compulsive thinking. "Compulsive thinking" is actually a term for a pathological mental state, but to some degree it is present in all of us. We all know that the mind babbles constantly like some inner radio. Some call this the inner dialogue. It is the nature of the mind to generate a continuous stream of thoughts and images; but along with the mind's babble is our fear of losing things we are attached to. The combination of the two yields compulsive thinking. How does it effect you? When you read here that a devotee ought learn to control the mind, your mind may get all excited and shout that if you did this you would lose your ability to make decisions or to solve problems or to deal with even the most simple things in the world, because you need to have this inner voice ranting and raving in your head all the time. Compulsive thinking is rooted in the notion that "I will cease to exist if my mental dialogue stops. "

Gradually, by trying to chant properly and by giving the mind and senses higher engagements, you will begin to uncover the desires that are stored deep in your heart. When you know these desires, you can perfect your mind control. You can support the spiritual desires and uproot the bad ones. You will also begin to discover things about your personality. For example, you may see that you have been only artificially humble, or simply not humble at all. But now that your mind has become a little clear, now that you have learned to keep it bridled, you can have a closer look at the material conditioning that for so long you took to be your own self: lust, anger, greed, madness, illusion, and envy. It is not pretty. Some devotees protest: "I can't bear to see myself so negatively. " But here's the point. That ugly thing you see is not your self. You only think it is, and that's your mistake. When you really see this false self for what it is, then you can really become humble. Only then can you really appreciate other devotees because you stop struggling to surpass them. Instead you struggle to serve them. A pure devotional servant: that is our real svarupa or form. From out of the spiritual heart of this liberated form the true desire of the living entity shines forth in absolute pristine glory. That desire is to love Krishna.

Spiritual truths--"I am not the body; I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Sri Krishna"--are simple truths. Srila Prabhupada told Dhananjaya Prabhu, "Krishna consciousness is so simple you'll miss it. " "Simple" means "straightforward. "

It is a fact that our mental problems have something to do with our karma from previous lifetimes and our childhood upbringing in this life. They may have something to do with genetics (for example in my case, on my mother's side of the family there have been numerous cases of depression, and thus I have inherited from her the tendency to become depressed). All such factors can be analyzed in so many ways, and in this series I will look at some of these factors and their psychological ramifications. But in the end there is a simple, spiritual explanation for the mental troubles we suffer as devotees. And that is, we are not always well-situated in the pure, blissful practice of bhakti-yoga. Thus we become affected by material psychological disturbances. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to texts 23-24 of Chapter Twenty-six of Srimad- Bhagavatam Canto Three:

Not only must one come to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness, but one must also be very careful. Any inattentiveness or carelessness may cause falldown. This falldown is due to false ego. From the status of pure consciousness, the false ego is born because of misuse of independence. We cannot argue about why false ego arises from pure consciousness. Factually, there is always the chance that this will happen, and therefore one has to be very careful. False ego is the basic principle for all material activities, which are executed in the modes of material nature. As soon as one deviates from pure Krsna consciousness, he increases his entanglement in material reaction. The entanglement of materialism is the material mind, and from this material mind, the senses and material organs become manifest.

In his purport to Text Two of Bhagavad-gita Chapter Seventeen, Srila Prabhupada makes the same point in short summary as follows:

Those who know the rules and regulations of the scriptures but out of laziness or indolence give up following these rules and regulations are governed by the modes of material nature.

If one remains under the modes of nature, where there can be no pure service to the Lord, why would one still assume for himself the prestige of being an advanced devotee? The devastating answer is found in Chapter 89 of Krsna book, where Srila Prabhupada writes,

One should therefore not take to the demoniac activity of claiming to be a Vaisnava just for false prestige, without performing service to the Lord.

Look at your condition in the light of these simple, straightforward truths. Is there any wonder you suffer from mental stress in your life as a devotee? You are warring with your own demonic nature! Or rather it is a war with an ancient ignorance that covers your true nature. Ignorance is at the heart of the demonic nature. "But those who are asuras," said Srila Prabhupada in a lecture, "they do not know how to end this life of suffering and accept the life of anandamayo 'bhyasat, simply ananda in Vaikuntha, in Goloka Vrndavana. "

Fortunately, as Lord Krishna confirms in the Third Chapter of the Gita , the soul's innermost nature is to be the jnani or knower of the Absolute Truth. This is what "psychology" is really about. Psyche, a Greek word, means soul, and logy means "knowledge of. " Real psychology reveals the knowledge that the soul needs to have in order to be what he really is: a pure eternal servant of the Supreme Soul, Sri Krishna. This is the psychology we shall be discussing in this series here in In2-MeC.

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