Some days life can get a bit boring or uninspiring. Perhaps the dopamine levels are down, for example. Sometimes we just get a bit mental, when our minds get stuck in a mood, as certain unconscious psychic energy overwhelms our consciousness, in the form of emotions that we have not consciously expressed or have been unable to channel through constructive outlets. This is our own minds being split into sub-personalities and competing with itself, or being in two minds, so to speak.
These disconnected complexes, as Jung might have labelled them, can cause our own energy to be scattered and add odds with itself. In other words our mind is like a chariot being pulled by more than one horse, and the horses may pull in conflicting directions. This is where we really need to take a firmer grip on the reigns and actually use the intelligence to steer the mind, otherwise we will go nowhere. We may even end up in a ditch, or a rut.
Usually there is the matter of survival which inspires or motivates us to pull ourselves together and grab the reigns with which to direct the mind so that we can make money to survive. We do the needful, despite perhaps not feeling inspired emotionally or feeling tired or unmotivated. Life is not designed nowadays to facilitate our well-being with ease. We have to work hard to manage under the degraded system presented to us by our fallen leaders in politics and finance.
It seems curious that we may sometimes be our own worst enemy, or get in the way of ourselves. There is no one else to blame, and we end up blocking our own best interests. It remains a mystery how this play out, but the battle rages on within the one person like this. We appear to be in two minds or perhaps even more as the sub-personalities grapple for dominance.
Naturally we have multiple layers of our brain – the reptilian stem, mammalian cerebrum or cerebellum, and human prefrontal cortex. And the one is primitive and unconscious as well as deeply instinctive, while the others have a certain degree of lucidity. A mind divided against itself can be the greatest challenge, without even worrying about external obstacles to our goal.
Therefore the yoga system of the ancient Vedas is precisely a mechanical method to grasp the mind and use it as a tool to help us in our journey toward the goal of life, namely self-realization and ultimately liberation from the bondage of the temporary material life within this body and mind. In the text book on yoga, namely the Bhagavad Gita, it is stated:
उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत् ।
आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मन: ॥ ५ ॥
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.”
Bhagavad Gita As It Is chapter 6:5 translated by Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta
The fortunate thing is that the mind responds to good leadership very well. It simply requires a good intelligence to dictate the odds and the mind will fall into line like a domesticated animal, not a wild animal. If educated intelligence is lacking, then it may be more of a challenge to harness the mind. After all, intelligence is built by training and education over time and effort. We cannot whimsically expect results without proper training.
Even with years of training the mind will still sometimes rebel and become unruly. The torchlight of knowledge may shine and the sword of knowledge may sparkle in the glint of the light, but the mind has its nature too, and if suppressed for too long under artificial circumstances, it will rebel.
Therefore we need to gradually coax it and also pacify it with rewards occasionally. With maturity one can get to know the parameters and ways of the mind while simultaneously not identifying with it. We cannot afford to become bewildered into thinking that this material body and mind, which is but a product of the genes of the parents, is in any way our true self. We are actually the soul within the body and mind.
In this verse quoted here we can see the repeated use of the word “atma” in different forms. Sanskrit is such a complex language that the same word can mean different things based on the context. “Atma” translates to mean “self” but is sometimes used to mean “soul” as well as “mind” depending on which level of self one is referring to. It can even mean “body” in some regards. But the overall conclusion is that we are the eternal spirit soul, housed in the temporary body and mind which were formed from the genes of the parents.
This vehicle has strengths and weaknesses based purely on the genetic predisposition of the lineage. These are not our personalities, we are not these propensities, and none of these characteristics that emerge from our mind or body are the real self. They are the vehicle alone. The vehicle carries the spirit soul around – but we end up identifying with the vehicle like a person identifies with their car. But it’s not you. You leave this vehicle at death and adopt another one with totally different characteristics.
It’s obviously almost impossible for us to dis-identify with the vehicle in our conditioned state, but that’s the aim of life really – to wake up and climb out of the matrix. In the mean time we can at least harness the current body and mind like we do a horse, and direct it to lead us to our destination. If it objects sometimes, then we can pacify it with some treats or rewards, and we can coax it on, but we should never allow it to dictate to us the direction in which we are going.
If we do this then we are falling into the category mentioned in this verse as those who find their mind to be their enemy, instead of their friend. We cannot avoid the mind and body so the best we can do is engage it with love in our chosen path of self-realization and awakening. But never think it is you. None of it is the real you, it’s a shell or a costume in which we reside. And we need to remember how to take off the costume when the party is over, which will occur to us all at death, so start preparing while you are still of healthy mind and consciousness. It will pay off in the end.
Bhagavad Gita reference: https://prabhupadabooks.com/