Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MINDFULNESS ACCORDING TO THE BHAGAVAD GĪTĀ


Here is some wisdom from the 700-verse Hindu scripture known as the Bhagavad Gītā (§2.70-72):

One attains peace in whose mind all desires enter without creating any disturbance, as river waters enter the full ocean without creating a disturbance. One who desires material objects is never peaceful.

One who abandons all desires and becomes free from longing and the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘my’ attains peace.

O Arjuna, this is the Braahmee or superconscious state.  Attaining this [state], one is no longer deluded.  Gaining this state, even at the end of one's life, a person attains oneness with the Supreme.

There is much in the above that is worthy of attention and comment. Note, for example, that it is stated that desires ‘enter’ the mind. One might have thought the word ‘arise’ would be more suitable, but I think the word ‘enter’ is correct. Thoughts, desires, feelings and sensations will not only arise, they will inevitably enter our consciousness. It is often not in our conscious power or control to prevent these things from ‘entering’ our consciousness. However, the advice we are given is that if we want peace we should let these things enter ‘without creating any disturbance.’ Buddha Shakyamuni gave the same advice, saying: 

Whatever suffering arises
Has a reaction as its cause.
If all reactions cease to be
Then there is no more suffering.

We experience a ‘sensation,’ which may be physical or mental. If we react to that sensation with ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ – that is, with craving, attachment or aversion – the sensation ‘creates a disturbance.’ The result? Pain, suffering or distress---because we fail to be one with whatever be the experience of the moment. That is the essence of mindfulness---being one with the activity in which we are momentarily involved. For that to happen---if 'happen' be the right word---we must be consciously and choicelessly aware in the present moment, from one moment to the next, regardless of what we are doing, and regardless of what is taking place in and around us. Simple as that. 

Now, if we simply allow ourselves to be dispassionately and choicelessly aware of sensations as and when they arise---that is, if we act mindfully---then there is no ‘cause’ to produce any pain, suffering or distress. In other words, no reaction, no cause … and no effect. It is only when we act and react mindlessly that we create and suffer from ‘disturbances.’ Remember, mindfulness is not about stopping the mind, thoughts or sensations; it's about allowing thoughts and sensations to be present in the mind but not letting them 'run' you---that is, 'create a disturbance.'

Elsewhere in the Gita (in more than one place) we are told to develop and maintain a 'stable mind'---'Becoming stable, without seeing here and there,/ Concentrating vision on the tip of [one's] nose,/ With mind fully not roaming here and there'  (§6.13-14). A stable mind is, to use my phrase, a 'mindful mind of no-mind', that is, a mind which is fixed and focused in the moment, choicelessly aware of whatever is. A stable mind is a mind which, despite constant flux, and even in the midst of disturbance---for sometimes that is inevitable---is nevertheless focused on what is appropriate for our spiritual growth. A stable mind does not discriminate, nor does it 'roam here and there'---the latter being a very good description of mindlessness. Unless the mind be stable, it is impossible to have any peace of mind whatsoever. However, don't think for one moment that a stable mind is an 'unthinking' mind. No, a stable mind is a mind which has ceased to think mindlessly, and which avoids attachments, entanglements and aversions of all kinds. It is a mind which accepts relative 'good' and 'bad' equally as the way of life---that is, the way things are.

I love the statement that those who desire material objects are never peaceful. Of course that is the case, for the people in question are never without fear. There is the fear of failure---that one might fail to secure the material things sought after. Material things, once gained, tend to generate more fear---especially the fear of loss, that what has been gained might disappear ... and then what? Also, attachment to material things always results in an outflow of power to outside things, and that comes at a great cost. You see, you can't have your power as well as your attachments and entanglements. It's one or the other. Never forget that.

We are told to ‘abandon’ all desires and become ‘free from longing and the feeling of “I” and “my”.’ Anyone who is walking a spiritual path---regardless of the particular tradition---knows that there can be no peace or freedom when there are cravings, longings, attachments and the like. However, there is something even more fundamental, and that is our continued assertions of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’---that is, our identification with our false self. Whenever we say, ‘I want X,’ we are strengthening our bondage to our false self---the self that is never satisfied, the self that is always wanting more, the self that is always fearful and anxious. If you want peace of mind, stop identifying with this false self and start living as the person that you are. All these little ‘selves’ within you are not the real person that you are. They are simply ‘disturbance’ in the mind---mere mental agitation (‘mental wallpaper’) which we mistakenly take to be our true being.

The ‘Braahmee or superconscious state’ referred to in the portion of the Bhagavad-Gītā set out above is the state of dwelling in God (Truth, the One, the [True] Self). Christian mystics would often say, ‘I have my being in God,’ for it is written in the New Testament that ‘in [God] we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). Powerful words. The goal of all spiritual practice is to achieve this state of ‘at-one-ment’ with the Sacred or Divine. Even if you do not believe in a self-existent, unconditioned Supreme Being in the traditional sense, you may still have a sense of the self-sufficient ground of all being or the livingness of life. Be-ing Itself, if you wish. One may have problems with the concept of a ‘life force’---I certainly do---but it is hard to deny that life consists of living things living out their livingness, and this self-livingness of life itself is surely Sacred or Divine. Have you ever had a moment---perhaps while watching a beautiful sunset or sitting quietly by a tranquil lake---when you have felt ‘at-one’ with all life? Well, that is what I am talking about, only the ‘Braahmee or superconscious state’ is perhaps deeper and more unshakeable.

When you have attained---that is, consciously experienced---this state of ‘at-one-ment’ with all that is, you will never want to lose it. In truth, you can't lose it, but we do tend to forget our oneness with the Divine. When you become a spiritually minded person the things of earth become strangely dim---and, what’s more, you will no longer be ‘deluded.’ Now, we are not necessarily talking about ‘delusion’ in a clinical sense but it is a fact that we are ‘deluded’ when we look without for that which can only be found within us. Yes, I say this to you---if, when you hear the word 'God' or 'Christ' or 'Lord' you start to think of some Power, Presence, Person, Being, Thing or Principle outside of yourself, then your thinking is horribly awry. (That is the tragedy of mainstream Christianity, which would have you look without. It is analogous to looking for the living among the dead [cf Lk 24:5].) True, this ‘Thing’ of which I speak is much greater than you are and, being self-existent and unlimited, it also subsists in persons and things other than you, but you will never find or experience this ‘Thing’ unless you---look within! And when you look within, the veil of illusion covering your mind is lifted---and that is a wondrous thing!

This state of ‘oneness with the Supreme’ is the only thing of any importance in this life. We seek so many things---material possessions, relationships, food and drugs---hoping that those things will bring us happiness, security and peace of mind, but we neglect to seek the one ‘Thing’ of any value and lasting importance---and the only ‘Thing’ we can take with us, as us, when we depart this earthly life.

Abandon your desires. Become free from longing. And stop identifying with your innumerable false selves. Remain focused on whatever is, under all circumstances. In short, be the person that in Truth you are.


RELATED POSTS





YOU SHALL CEASE TO BE NEVER!

THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND

MINDFULNESS ACCORDING TO VIVEKANANDA AND YOGANANDA




4 comments:

  1. Dear Dr.Ellis Jones
    Greeting from the land of Krishna and Tathagat Buddha.
    I was so glad to read your blog on Mindfulness and Gita.
    You have, indeed, with great Lucidity brought clarity to the basic concepts of Gita.
    It is a scholarly and thought provoking article.
    The Gita flows in the form of an effortless dialogue between Arjun the great warrior and Krishna who literally and metaphorically holds the reins of his charriot.
    And in through the dialogue, Krishna is eloquently explains various ways with which one can attain the supreme consciousness.
    The KARMA way is beahvioral, knowledge cognitive and devotion is an emotional approach to attain the supreme consciouness.
    He also describes the process to learn and remai in mindful state. You have refered to these processes in your blog.
    The last couple of chapters have not been focused here.
    Krishna describes the three basic traits of human body and mind SATVA, RAJ and TAM. The three chapters provide a practical way of minding the body.
    I like to use a phrase BODYFULL along with MINDFULLwhen I lecture on tenets of Gita.
    Thanks again for the wonderful blog.
    And now a bit about myself
    I am a consultant psychiatrist in Mumbai-India and teach mindfulness.
    i am a VIPASSANA SADHAK(student).
    I desire to remain in touch with you and read all your blogs.

    PS
    As a Hindu and have participated in recitals of Gita since i was a child.
    My father used to recite the Shlokas(stanza) of Gita to put me to sleep.
    The first shlok(not in original text) refers Gita as a mother tending, taking care and leading us on the right path.After reading your blog i realize that Gita has reached far and wide.
    my email id drrajendrabarve@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many thanks for your kind words and informative thoughts. I greatly appreciate your sharing all that you have with me, and am especially pleased that, as a psychiatrist, you use mindfulness in your professional practice and also study vipassana, which I do as well in my personal life. Your insight into the Gita is phenomenal. I wish you every happiness and success, both personally and professionally. Blessings, Ian.

      Delete
  2. Dr.Ian have you read the work of An American writer Philip Goldberg who wrote AMERICAN VEDA espousing the contribution of Indian Thought to American thinking. it is very interesting to know how some of the great thoughts about freedom of expression,spiritual experiences have roots in some of the ancient Indian texts. i was deeply reminded of the insights expressed in your blogs.I am tad surprised that there weren't any responses or comments from people for your extrememly well written and illustrated blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I haven't, but I will check that author out. Thanks and blessings, Ian.

      Delete