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6 Obstacles Caused by the Mind
Lord Krsna says, "For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy" (Bg. 6.6). The mind is part of the subtle body, consisting of mind, intelligence, and false ego. Mind is the center of sensory activities. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Mind is the center of all the activities of the senses, and thus when we hear about sense objects the mind generally becomes a reservoir of all ideas of sense gratification; as a result the mind and the senses become the repository of lust" (Bg. 3.40 purport). All transcendentalists seek to control the mind, rather than being controlled by the mind. In many cases it is the mind alone which makes the obstacles on the path seem insurmountable. Therefore, by controlling the mind we can solve many of the problems we have been discussing: doubts in Krsna consciousness, illicit sex, inability to chant, and so on.
There is valuable information about the mind in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, in the chapter called "The Song of the Avanti brahmana." The Avanti brahmana was a rich businessman who was prone to anger and cruelty. By the will of providence and by karma, he lost all his money. Then he took to renunciation. But when he sat to meditate, people would tease him and abuse him. Enduring all insults, he sang a song about detachment:
These people are not the cause of my happiness or distress. Neither are the demigods, my own body, the planets, my past work, or time. Rather it is the mind alone that causes happiness and distress and perpetuates the rotation of material life. All these senses have been under the control of the mind since time immemorial, and the mind himself never comes under the sway of any other. He is stronger than the strongest, and his godlike power is fearsome. Therefore, anyone who can bring the mind under control becomes the master of all the senses.
Failing to conquer this irrepressible enemy, the mind, whose urges are intolerable and who torments the heart, many people are completely bewildered and create useless quarrel with others. Thus they conclude that other people are either their friends, enemies or indifferent to them. —Bhag. 11.23.46-48
The Avanti brahmana concluded that he should take shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna and thus solve all his problems. Seen from the viewpoint of the Absolute, our problems are imaginary. That is, they are mostly in the mind. Take, for example, physical illness. When you are sick, you may become depressed and even lose your faith in God, who "made this happen to me." But when you control your mind, you accept your illness and deepen your relationship with Krsna. Physical disease is not imaginary, but whether we see it favorably or unfavorably depends upon the position of the mind.
Real mental control is achieved by fixing the mind in service to Krsna. A person who is situated in self-realization meets obstacles on the path by dealing with them in a practical, philosophical way, and remains fixed in Krsna consciousness. But persons whose minds are weak find even small-sized problems very troublesome. Therefore, we say that their real problem is the mind itself. An important breakthrough for persons who are dominated by their minds comes when they are able to see themselves as different than the mind. If I am entirely dominated by my own mind, then I cannot detach myself from its "reality." I described this experience in a stanza of a poem:
This subtle mind-stuff! You cannot see it jump,
it does not have a color, it's not reflected in the water,
but it seems more real than the five great elements.
When I go out to walk it goes with me,
struggling through the mud.
An uncontrolled mind becomes especially destructive when it turns in the direction of illicit sex. Once the mind (the center of sensory activities) becomes obsessed with the desire to perform masturbation or sexual intercourse with another person, then there is little a person can do but become a slave to the compulsion. Our only hope is to catch hold of reality before the fearsome mind seizes onto its own version. Srila Prabhupada has described three psychic functions, thinking, feeling and willing. As far as possible, we have to become aware of the mind's actions in the thinking stage, and use our intelligence to overcome the mind. Then right thinking will be followed by right feeling and acting. According to Rupa Gosvami's Upadesamrta, only one who can control the pushing agent of the mind as well as the tongue, belly, and genitals can be considered a gosvdml or controller of the senses.