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Tactics: The Broom and the Shoe
The Vaisnava dcdryas offer various tactics to help us in controlling the wayward mind so that we may place it in service of the higher self. One technique is to ignore the mind. Visvanatha Cakravarti states that this can be done by making prior vows or fixing our determination for Krsna consciousness. He gives the example of a vow a devotee takes for fasting on Janmdstami day. During the day, hunger will come, and the mind will demand food. But because the intelligence has become fixed in its decision for fasting, one can ignore the mind's clamoring voice.
Another tactic offered by Bhaktisiddhanta Saras-vati Thakura is that "as soon as you wake in the morning you should beat your mind a hundred times with a broom and at night before taking rest beat it another hundred times with a shoe." When this example is spoken, it usually draws smiles. But it is a serious proposal. Does it mean that we should actually strike our head with a stiff broom? Yes, it can be obeyed in that literal way. It also means figuratively beating some sense into yourself. As soon as we wake, our mind is filled with dictations based on the desires of the senses. But rather than submissively obeying these proposals, which are often nonsensical, we should take hold of the mind and "beat it" by intelligent decision-making, followed by determined action.
For example, when I wake in the morning and look at my clock, I may see that it is time to rise for attending mangala-drati. But my mind may say, "No, I want to stay in bed. It's too cold to get up." This proposal is unacceptable to my real purpose, so I have to reject it. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Tha-kura's recommendation of "a hundred times" implies that there is not only one silly or destructive idea but many of them. They need to be beaten while they are in the formulative stage. And so he has told us to reach for the broom. If the advice sounds humorous, that is good. Unless we are able to laugh at ourselves, we may end up taking the mind's demands too seriously. No, I am not my mind. I am pure spirit soul, eternal servant of Krsna.
The beating proposed here is not a masochistic act. The negating of foolish demands is accompanied by positive instructions from guru, sastra, and sadhu. But we have to first show the mind who's boss, or else we will follow the way of the fickle (cancala) mind.