Psycho-Spiritual Aspects of Yoga (II): Questions: Māya: The Wandering Mind: Meditation: Good Sense
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Caxton Hall, Westminster, London on 14th April 1971
How does one stop the mind wandering when trying to concentrate?
You cannot stop the mind wandering. You can think about it and decide whether you will do it or not do it, how you will do it and so on. Take a very unpleasant, dramatic situation. You suddenly want to shoot somebody, you are angry with him. You can take thought and your good sense will triumph, let us hope, and there will be no shooting. But consider the mind. The thought or the desire arises and you are conscious of it after the event, not before the event. How do you stop that? It is not possible. When the mind wanders, all you do is either to bring it back to the business or the subject on which you are concentrating because you have to, because you want to, or to follow just precisely where the mind is wandering, paying attention to the other subject which has been taken up by the mind. Either way, there will come the point, the stage, when the tendency to wander will become less and less, and you will develop the faculty naturally to pay full attention to what you want to pay attention to, or that which demands your attention. But in the ordinary way you cannot stop it wandering.
Can you please say something about meditation and when do you suggest is the best time to practise this?
I will merely say that the best time for one to practise this of course is when the spirit moves, when you feel the natural urge and you are in form, so to say, and you will find it quite easy to meditate. What meditation is, is another matter. I do not know precisely what the questioner has in mind as regards the meaning of meditation. The best time is really when you have the urge. Apart from that, if you wish to treat this as an imposed discipline, then you have to choose the time according to your convenience and according to circumstance, there is no escape from that. But if it is an imposed discipline, remember that that is not meditation in the real sense. Most people find, certainly in countries like India, that the dawn, sunset, midday, midnight are the conventionally accepted best times for meditation. When I was a little boy and tried to meditate, I used to do it between 4:30 and 6:00 in the morning. Then I had to do my school work and run off to school. But that time of the day is certainly quite extraordinary, especially when you are very young. You wake up refreshed, fit for the day, and of course once you get into the routine, it is very helpful in many ways. That routine becomes not so easy as one grows older and older. But you must find which time suits you best. There is a wonderful saying of Krishnamurti which I heard in the late 1920s from his own lips, “Do what makes you happy to do and you will do right.” One must bear in mind what he meant by happiness, not pleasure. “Do what makes you happy to do and you will do right.”
I know I have got commonsense, can you tell me how to get good sense?
This is a most useful question, and I am really grateful to the questioner for having put this. Good sense cannot be acquired. It is released from within oneself in the process of purification of the whole being. You may recall that I spoke about the preliminaries of Yoga which are presented as the yamas and the niyamas. The word yama means control, forbearance, moral rule or duty, and I also suggested another meaning which is not usually to be found in the Sanskrit dictionaries, namely mortification, and I explained what is meant by mortification. I will repeat the list of yamas given. Harmlessness, truth, non-covetousness, continence, kindliness, equanimity, patient endurance, steadiness of mind in gain or loss, abstemiousness in eating and drinking, cleanliness of body and mind. Every one of these yamas has to be practised in thought and feeling, in speech and in action, which means with the whole of your psycho-physical being. No part is left out. You, the whole existential person, the body-mind organism, must try to release these out of yourself. Consider the difficulties in the way. To what extent are we harmless, for instance, in everyday life? We may not actually strike a person but we can say something that hurts, we can give a look that hurts, we may hurt as a sin of omission rather than commission. If a little child wants my attention and I do not give it, isn’t that child hurt? Those things are reasonably easy to deal with, reasonably easy. But consider the hurt which one causes throughout the day, every day of one’s life, in one’s feelings and one’s thoughts. How many times, in agreement with the Red Queen, do we say, “Off with his head!” How often we do that through the day in our feelings. We are quite annoyed, we hear some news, and immediately there springs out a whole torrent of inaudible chatter which is not harmless, as far as the other person or persons or situation are concerned. It is terribly harmful all the time. And we actually do harm first and foremost to our own selves thereby. Every thought and feeling is associated with chemical reactions within the body. We all know that so many diseases are caused by emotions and so forth. So we harm ourselves to start with. But let us not say, “But that only concerns me, I don’t harm others.” Far from it. There is nothing whatsoever that I can feel and think, speak and do, but that it affects the total environment, the total situation. We have really to wake up to this and see the extraordinary responsibility that rests on our own shoulders. You can work the point out in greater detail for yourselves.
When one lives this sort of life, one becomes purified in thought and feeling. Our senses then are far keener, they operate far more efficiently than they ever did before, and the response to our sense-functioning from the mind, from the brain if you like, is of a totally different nature from the response to our sense-functioning by our minds as they are now. This is where the difference comes, and this is what I mean by the term good sense. It is the purified one who has good sense. I the sub-human may have any amount of commonsense which I use for the furtherance of my ambitions, greeds and desires and all the rest of it. You see the difference?