An article by Pratiksha Apurv published in the Sunday Times, June 12, 2022
Why treat the mind as an opponent that needs to be won over, use it as friendly tool to assist you and then go beyond it in three stages — concentration, meditation and mindfulness, writes Pratiksha Apurv.
The mind is always very defiant. If we are trying hard to concentrate on the Light, for instance, it will resist, revolt and drag us everywhere else but to the Light. And this tussle continues every day for everyone.
Understanding this trait of the human mind, sages and scriptures have suggested that instead of trying to control it, one must put the mind completely aside. Stop treating the mind as an opponent that needs to be won over, instead we need to use it wherever and whenever it is required, as a friendly tool to assist us in our lives. And at the same time, also realise and go beyond the mind, where pure awareness awaits us. This journey follows three stages — concentration, meditation and mindfulness.
Concentration is disciplining the mind, but meditation is going beyond the mind. People think that meditation is all about concentrating on some object, like a source of light, or in-haling-exhaling our breath. Meditation is neither of these. It is not a mind activity. Meditation means dropping everything. In dropping, we become a witness and then, when one becomes a witness, what remains is pure awareness. This is a beautiful space of solitude. The mystic saint Kabir says: Tera bairi koi naahi, jo mann shital hoye – ‘when the mind transforms into pure and cool space, you won’t find any other enemy.’
Concentration is an external effort, but it is also necessary in life. In concentration, our mind is focussed upon a single object, instead of continuously moving from one state to another. And that’s why for scientists and other professionals, concentration is like oxygen. They need to focus in their respective areas to experiment and to go deeper into the object of their study and bring out something valuable for humanity. Therefore, we must use the mind wisely, but be careful not to let it become the master. Its nature is like that of a wanderer, always moving from one place to another. This was the state of Arjun’s mind at the start of the Mahabharat, when he tells Krishn that his mind is in a turmoil and it is more difficult to control than the wind. To which Krishn replies, it is possible to control the mind through the practice of detachment. By being in sakshi bhav, a witness, one can put aside the mind. Krishn further adds that the mind is the reason for bondage and also the reason for our liberation.
There is an anecdote about the great Japanese poet called Matsuo Basho. A scholar once asked him whether a lecture is possible without using the mind. Basho replied in the affirmative, saying that no-mind can also lecture alright. It is a significant statement from Basho. He is saying that mind can lecture and can also retreat giving space to no-mind, which has a continuous presence in our life. If thought is not needed, the mind should simply disappear like a dewdrop in the sun.
The second stage, which is meditation, is not a struggle against the mind, but in a way, it is a process to observe, understand and experience the mind, and in turn have a glimpse of existence. When concentration ceases and one simply enjoys one’s pure being, meditation arises. This state of pure being too is a process and one can arrive at it just by being indifferent to one’s thoughts.
Then there is a third state which is called mindfulness, a state of unadulterated awareness. We continue to do our daily chores but are always mindful, always aware. The Buddha calls it ‘right mindfulness’. It is a pure space of no-mind. Osho describes it as a state of pure awareness. He says mindfulness is not a goal. When the mind disappears, thoughts disappear. It is not that you become mindless, on the contrary, you become mindful. And mindfulness, I believe, creates a space within us where the whole existence is available.