samādhau na vidhīyate
In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination of devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place. Bhagavad Gita 2.44
We define our goals, and our goals define us. Humans without goals are like animals succumbing to their gross nature. We do what animals also do: eat, sleep, mate, defend.
What we aim for determines our future not only in this life, but in our next birth, too. The ripple effect of the choices we make in this life continues in the next life. It’s said in Srimad Bhagavatam that each moment we write the script of our next life. And this cycle seems never-ending until we become rightly conscious and determined to take the route that goes back Home, to the spiritual world.
Oblivious to the effects of our choices, we remain drunk on gross and subtle pleasures. The aim of all the goals we set is the pleasure of the body, mind, and of the intellect! From short term goals sprout fleeting pleasures. And goals whose fruits last longer give us relatively stable gratification. No matter what we aim for in this world, in the eternal scheme of existence, the results become ephemeral. While deep within we long for joys that never fade, in the world outside we aim for momentaneous delights. Why do we do that? Either we don’t know where to find eternal joys, or we don’t like to accept the process of finding them, or worse we don’t believe in the eternity of joyful existence.
The ultimate joy that continues to expand comes from love. The love that lasts forever is called bhakti or devotional service in the scriptures. At the highest culmination of our love for Krishna ecstasy oozes through us. The showers of this ecstasy wash off from our vision the layers of matter. And we begin to see Krishna in every atom of the existence. But what prevents us from achieving the highest goal of the purest love? It’s the contamination of our mind. The mind longs for a variety of pleasures rooted in matter, and devoid of spirit.
“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” says Krishna in verse 6.6. The mind can be a faithful servant, or a cruel and deceiving master. In a pleasure-seeking state, the mind becomes our master. And we follow its instructions as a robot would obey its program. From waking hours to sleep, we serve our mind like a slave would serve his master.
In the conditioned state, the mind becomes a dangerous zone to be in. When our mind is filled with the toxins of material desires, it’s quite challenging to detoxify its content. Because it’s the mind’s tendency to plunge us into the labyrinths of maya, we believe our actions to be ideal and our thoughts to be the wisest. We don’t believe in the words of scriptures. And our words become the scriptures.
In this verse (2.44) Krishna says those who have been engaging their minds in worldly pleasures, the determination to serve Him with love doesn’t arise. Our mind can give us thousand logics to keep doing what we’ve been doing, or to start doing the same thing in another cover. Mistaking the insinuations of our mind for the calling of our heart, we keep yielding to our enemy, the conditioned mind.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Srila Prabhupada’s guru, used to say that in the morning our first business should be to beat the mind with shoes a hundred times, and, before going to bed, to beat the mind a hundred times with a broomstick. In this way one’s mind can be kept under control.
We need to understand that we’re not our minds just like we are not these bodies. Next, we need to accept that we’ve been slaving around for our mind. Then comes yet another challenging task: How do we set ourselves free from the clutches of the mind?
Srila Prabhupada once said to a disciple, “We must destroy the mind – it must be eliminated. The mind is the king amongst all the senses. The senses supply the mind with knowledge of the external world. Through such knowledge supplied by the senses, the mind sometimes engages in gross enjoyment and sometime in subtle enjoyment. The human soul has made the mind its agent to deal with the world of enjoyment. When this mind becomes engrossed in its own principles, then various anarthas arise. If one wants to attain real pleasure by removing displeasure, then the mind is to be destroyed. There is danger when the mind acts independently – chastising the mind is the first statement found in all the sastras. However, there is no way of chastising the mind except by serving the lotus feet of Hrsikesa.” Hrsikesa, a name of Krishna, means the lord of the senses. We have two choices: serving the lord of the senses, or serving the senses.
The mind can’t remain still. It’s not its nature to remain silent. Therefore, it should be engaged. In verse 6.34, Arjuna admits to Krishna “For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.” The highest engagement for the mind is to serve Krishna with love and purity. It’s the highest goal. In Kali yuga, the modern age, this goal is achieved by chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra with purity, under the guidance of a bonafide spiritual master.