Monday, March 17, 2008

Peace of Mind and Emotions

I recently found one of my childhood and still favorite albums of all time, The Bhagavad Gita as song by K.J. Yesudas. As I kid, I used to think this recording was the actually recording of the Gita and that Yesudas's voice was the voice of Krishna. Ya, I'm an idiot but whatever. You can listen to it here: Yesudas Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2. I was just listening to it again and decided to reflect on two of the passages which I think are very pertinent and penetrating:

nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham

indriyāṇāḿ hi caratāḿ
yan mano 'nuvidhīyate
tad asya harati prajñāḿ
vāyur nāvam ivāmbhasi

Gita, Chapter 2, verse 66-67

the meaning is this:

For one without a controlled mind there can be no discerning intelligence
Nor also can they have meditation
Without the ability to meditate (on oneself) there is no peace
Without peace where can there be happiness?

The mind which follows the wandering senses
carries away one's discrimination
like the wind which carries
away the boat on the waters

A person whose mind is erratic, clouded and pulled in different directions without being reigned in or controlled will not be able to gain the discerning intelligence and insight that is needed. If they can't gain discerning intelligence then how can they reflect or meditate to get peace and peace is the foundation for happiness. In our lives we find that many times our mind is torn and clouded by numerous experiences, thoughts and interactions. All these things weigh us down and keep us from seeing the world as clearly as possible but even more they keep us from seeing ourselves. Our decisions in the world are based on how we view ourselves, do we have the peace of mind to know who or what we are. When we are confused to our own identity and our own inherent being we find that our actions and thoughts reflect that. Our emotions will rage in various directions as if beyond our control much like a boat is carried away in whatever direction the wind blows.

Krishna's advice is one of keen psychological and mental impact, the individual who tries to control their mind and their senses will be able to make decisions that are much more clear, they will be able to develop wisdom which leads to peace which provides happiness. The analogy of the boat is highly descriptive because a boat which is manned and controlled can weather the storm and use the wind to navigate the waters but one which is without proper equipment, crew and leadership will be lost at sea. Another key underlying point to all this that, many times when we do things we do them because we've lost control and the discerning intelligence to make the right or good choice. We all get caught up in the sway of our minds and emotions. When it happens to me, I always think of these verses and take a step back and analyze my current situation and thought processes. I find by doing that and reflecting on it all, I develop a certain peace about my mindset and can then make a more conducive and informed decision. Krishna isn't saying that we must suppress our emotions but control them, there is a vital difference. To suppress something requires that we ignore them and hold them down, which creates a pressure cooker situation, at some point all those emotions will explode out. Controlling something is absolutely fruitful because it allows to harness and guide those emotions to better and more stable decisions. A dam that only holds back the water will inevitably break but a dam that directs the waters and controls its flow will not break. Learning to control our emotions and thoughts will lead to peace of mind and that will lead to happiness.

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