Sunday, January 13, 2008

The need of concentrated mind before learning

You must have seen students toiling over to become educated and sometimes wonder why is it all that important. It is not just the process by which you attain the knowledge. But, that is the essence of the truth that a body must be tamed with self-discipline before it becomes effective in absorbing the wisdom. A Guru understands this and guides you through the process where you can control your mind and focus.

Speaking of concentration, old texts of Patanjali state the importance of Yog (or Yoga, as people call it). Patanjali wrote Ashtanga Yog to describe the process of controlling the mind. This text starts with the line, योग: चित्तवृत्ति निरोध:, meaning 'Yog limits the oscillations of the mind'. Ashtanga in sanskrit means eight limbs. Therefore this yog consists of eight limbs:

1. Yam (Moral Principles) - Non-violence, Truth, Non-stealing, Abstinence and Non-possesiveness
2. Niyam (Personal Disciplines) - Purity, Contentment, Endurance, Self-inspection and Devotion
3. Aasan (Yog Postures) - body postitions to release tension and prepare for meditation
4. Pranayam (Yog Breathing) - controlling the life forces or tendencies of the mind through breathing
5. Pratyahar (Withdrawl of Senses) - developing inner powers to reduce distractions
6. Dhaarna (Concentration on Object) - Focusing on the singleness
7. Dhyan (Meditation) - Withdrawing of mind and deep concentration
8. Samadhi (Salvation) - Realization of super joy and bliss

Goal of this discussion is to see the very high level view of the role of preparations for body and mind. In today's world, people want shortcuts. Some want to lose weight by doing Yog Aasan (as in step 3 above). Many commercial establishments cater to this need. But, is it really worth it? Yog was written by Patanjali for people to discover through a sequence of sincere steps. Before one can attain the real wisdom, the body and soul must be cleansed through Yam and Niyam. The Yog vidya or knowledge is meant to cleanse your thoughts and thus leading you to the super joy by providing a stable mind that lives in a self-disciplined body. Now, questions come as to how that is possible. And, my honest advice is that it is not, if you don't believe it. Only after your sincere efforts are put in with complete faith in this wisdom, you will spend time to fully utilize its benefits rather than wasting your resources getting entertained along with others in a skill sold at establishments. There will not be much harm either. You will flex your muscles and bones while doing these Yog aasans. Or, it could be that you are not interested that far into the world of controlling your mind.

In the ordinary life, it's a rare realization that mind cannot be controlled. Some, you would find, are so certain that they have controlled their mind and desires. But, usually it's on their own terms. That is not effective. That involves the self in the decision-making process.

Therefore, if you ever feel tired in difficulties that arise in life for you to learn a lesson or skill, just remember that it is a process that MUST occur for taming of the body and mind. Only a stable mind can acquire the precious lessons provided by the destiny. So, practice it in daily life and you will find that the ancient wisdom guides you through the process of learning and takes away your confusions arising everyday. As they said, getting prepared is half the battle.

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