(This article was originally published in Amrtasvadanam journal No.1,July 1998.)
Sunday lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 6.35, Prague, Czech Republic, August 3, 1997.
mano durnigraham calam
abhyasena tu kaunteya
TRANSLATION: Lord Shri Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment.
Krsna Ksetra Das: Is everybody comfortable, more of less? One of the first things we learn in Krishna consciousness is the art of sitting on the floor. It is a great challenge for some of us, especially with bad knees…
Ok, so we are reading from Bhagavad-gita, this is Chapter Six, namely the end of the chapter. This chapter is called Dhyana-yoga, the yoga of meditation. There is variety of types of yoga being described in Bhagavad-gita. In fact though, it is not so much that there is a variety of different yogas; there is one yoga and there are varieties within that yoga. Because yoga means…it comes from the verbal root yuj, which means “to join”. And joining is the practice of yoga (connection) – joining with the Supreme Person. The discussion is between a yogin,namely Arjuna and Yogeshvara, the supreme yogin, or Krishna; between the Supreme Lord and the person who is trying to link up with the Supreme Lord. So very important aspect of this process of linking up with the Supreme Lord, with God, is meditation. This word dhyana becomes transformed in Chinese to chan, and in Japan it became zen. So you’ve probably heard of Zen Buddhism. Well, that comes from the Sanskrit word dhyana which we find in the Bhagavad-gita.
Ok, so there is a discussion going on here and Arjuna is occasionally have expressing some doubts. Krishna has been describing the process of dhyana, and Arjuna, in the previous verse to the one we’ll read today, is complaining. He said: “O Krishna, the mind is restless. It is cancala” , cancala means flickering, always moving back and forth. And he says: “Besides that, the mind is pramathi, it is very agitating. And not only that, but it is bala-van, it is very, very strong, very powerful. Not only that – it is drdha, it is obstinate.” So he says, tasya-aham nigraham manye vayor iva su-duskaram: “as far as I am concerned,” or “I think (manye), that to control, or subdue the mind it is like controlling the wind.” Vayu means wind or air and vayor iva means like the wind. So all this time Krishna has been talking about nigraha, about controlling; graha means grasping, nigraha means literally grasping, pulling down. And now Arjuna says: “Forget it, not possible.”
So it’s something like in the beginning of Bhagavad-gita when Arjuna was saying, “I cannot fight in this battle.” He gave lot of reasons at that time also. And in the end what did he do? His bow had already fallen out of his hand; he sat down and he said, “I will not fight. Not me; anybody else, but not me.” Fortunately though, for the rest of us, Arjuna was very sincere in desiring to understand what actually is the right thing to do. So he said: “All right Krishna, now You be may guru, I will be Your disciple and You tell me what to do.” Krishna said: “All right, here is what you should do – you should fight in this war.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait a minute – not so quick. We need more explanation.”
“All right”, and then Krishna tells Arjuna more and more reasons why he should act in this way. Well, now we are in the end of the first third of the Bhagavad-gita and seems like Arjuna is giving up again. Sometimes we might feel like that. Spiritual life is basically very simple and sublime, but sometimes it seems like it’s difficult. And we may feel very sympathetic to Arjuna at these times who seems to be giving up. But, we should not forget Arjuna’s example of honesty. He is not just saying -when Krishna says, “Control your mind”, -he is not just saying: “Yes,yes,yes. I will do it, ” and then he does something else. No, he is being straightforward and he is trying to really get to the bottom of the whole issue at hand.
So then Krishna is responding:
mano durnigraham calam
abhyasena tu kaunteya
Lord Shri Krishna said: “O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment.”
This is interesting because Krishna is expressing sympathy with Arjuna. Krishna is not…He is God, He is the Supreme Lord, the supreme controller, but He is not a tyrant. He is not rejecting, He is not not listening to what Arjuna is saying. He is not ignoring Arjuna’s feelings. He is agreeing. He says: “Yes, mano durnigraham calam, I agree – the mind is very difficult to control.” Dur means far away or also means difficult. So durnigraham means “difficult to grasp down; difficult to control.” And He says: “Asamsayam, it is no doubt; what you say is true.” So Krishna is agreeing with Arjuna. Now,at this point Arjuna might feel a great relief: “Ah, good, Krishna is not going to demand that I control my mind, after all. He is agreeing that it is impossible to control, so now He is going to say, ‘All right, just don’t worry about that. We will talk about something else.’ ”
Well, no, not quite. Then Krishna says, abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena ca grhyate. He says: “It is possible and here is a little formula for you. A little formula for controlling the mind.”
The peace formula
Everyone likes formulas. Simple set systems for doing things. Like in the end of the previous chapter Krishna gives, what Srila Prabhupada calls “the peace formula.” Everybody knows the peace formula? What’s one element? One of the guests? There is three elements in the peace formula for perfect personal peace and world peace both. If one understands three things about Krishna then there is perfect peace. Yes.
Guest/Translator: Krishna is the Lord of all planets and demigods.
Krsna Ksetra Das: Ok, in other words He is the supreme controller; very good. What else? Anyone else of the guests? Yes.
Guest/Translator: Krishna is the friend of all living beings.
Krsna Ksetra Das: Ah, very good. Yes.
Guest/Translator: The Lord of all sacrifices.
Krsna Ksetra Das: Yes. Another way of saying that is that He is the supreme enjoyer. Very good, we got it – peace formula. If we remember that Krishna is the supreme enjoyer, that He is the supreme controller and that He is the actual friend, the best friend of all of us, of all living entities then peace is obtained.
Now, here Krishna is giving another little formula. Two things, so it’s even simpler. Vairagya and…well, first abhyasa and then vairagya. Abhyasa literally means “repetition.” So it comes to mean “practice” because when you practice something you generally repeat it. So, abhyasena, by means of practice, which also means…and practice implies that we don’t give up when you fail. Anyone here plays piano? Any violin players? No, trumpet players? Yes, trumpet? Ah, sometimes you are bringing for a kirtana?[laughs] Very nice. So you know about practicing musial instrument. When you make a mistake, you hit the wrong note, do you say: “Oh, no” I can’t do it anymore. Never again…” No, and you play again and you play again and you play again; you keep practicing.
Actually, where I live – presently I am living in Berkeley, California – I’m living in the parking lot of the Berkeley temple. Ha-ha, yes. I am living in a caravan. And I’m right next to a high fence and just behind the fence there is some residential houses. So, somebody in one of those houses, just across the fence, he is also a trumpet player. And when he is not practicing his trumpet, he is practicing his saxophone. [laughter] And he is a very good example of abhyasa; he never gives up. [laughter] Phew, yeah…Anyway, this is also required for the practice of yoga. We have to understand that we have gone out of practice in the matter of controlling the mind over several lifetimes. So we have to get back in practice.
The other principle of these two in this formula Krishna is giving is called vairagya. Vairagya comes from the word raga which means attachment or passion. And then vi-raga means going out from, away from passion; so then it becomes vairagya or the principle of removing oneself, or renouncing. Or as Prabhupada translates it here, “detachment.” So, abhyasena tu kauntea vairagena ca grhyate: abhyasa, practice and (ca) detachment grhyate – bring about control of the mind. Yes, the combination of these two things – practice and detachment – these can bring about control of the mind.
The mind is always under some control
All right, lets read what Srila Prabhupada says in the purport. Prabhupada here speaks of this process of learning to control the mind as a kind of “treatment for the mad mind.” Our modern culture is very much, we can say, diametrically oppressed to the principle that’s being discussed here. Modern materialistic culture is determined to have us learn not to control the mind for spiritual advancement, but rather to loose the mind for sense gratification. Now, an interesting feature of the mind is that in fact it will always be controlled one way or another. If it is not controlled by one’s self, meaning by the higher intelligence, then what it will be controlled by? It will be controlled by the senses. So modern culture, especially consumer culture, is very much determined to have our minds controlled by the senses. They also have this understanding about repetition and practice. Have you noticed here in Prague that any company with their advertising they have their billboards all over town. So there will be, for example, advertisement for cigarettes. And you are not allowed to just see it once. You have to see the same stupid advertisement again and again and again and again all over town. What are most of these advertisements? They are mostly for cigarettes or for alcohol; basically that’s it. So they want to remind you again and again and again that you should smoke this cigarette or that cigarette; you should drink this beer or that beer again and again and again. What are all of these signs doing? They are telling you: “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK. Don’t listen to your intelligence but just respond to your senses. Your senses want these things and it’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK.” That is also repetition, abhyasa. And it is detachment from all intelligence. So, in all cases, there is control of the mind, but there are different ways by which the mind will be controlled.
Mind control – Possible even today
Now, we might very well ask, realistically speaking, how is one supposed to learn proper spiritual control of the mind in such a society as this. With all of the theory, all of the theoretical instruction we get from the Bhagavad-gita – that’s all very good, but when we walk outside the whole world is telling us: “Just enjoy.” So we might feel again like Arjuna, saying: “Oh, I’m sorry but it’s not possible.” Well, we should remember that Bhagavad-gita is spoken not only for Arjuna 5,000 years ago; it is also spoken for us in Prague in 1997. And if we think that it will be valid only till the end of 1997 and then there will be something else come along – no,sorry. No, Krishna…even if the science of Bhagavad-gita would somehow or other become lost again within our lifetime, and I don’t think we have to worry that that will happen because so many Bhagavad-gitas, so many transcendental books of Srila Prabhupada are being distributed. Soon again Bhagavad-gita in Czech language will be there. New edition? Very nice. How soon? [chuckles] Just now coming.
We from the Hare Krishna club
Yes, this science of yoga, of reconnecting with Krishna it will always be there. And when we speak of applying the science of yoga in our own particular lives, if we are sincere we find that in fact there is a great deal of facility to do this.
The whole Krishna consciousness society of course is dedicated to this. In fact, I remember when I first came to Europe, I heard that one feature of European culture is that it’s a culture of clubs; a lot of people, everyone belongs to different kinds of clubs. So, all right, we are the Hare Krishna Club[laughs]. And in this club, like clubs with so many different interests, we have a particular interest, but our interest is really very sublime. We are interested to find facility for ourselves and for all who are interested to actually practice and actually realize our eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord. We cannot make excuses that we cannot do it for one reason or another. Well, we can make excuses but we shouldn’t. Because however many excuses we may make, there are so many more reasons why we should practice Krishna consciousness. And one of the very convincing or strong reasons why we should practice is, as Prabhupada is explaining in the purport, it is essentially quite simple; the practice is quite simple, focusing mainly on hearing. And we all know, sooner or later we always get to this point that by chanting Hare Krishna mantra (that is also involved in hearing), we can become Krishna conscious. All right, so here it comes – if we chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra then we will be successful in spiritual life, in the practice of yoga. Now we all know about…we’ve heard that one before. And I’m sure, many if not all of you are doing this and that is wonderful.
Why sixteen rounds on 108 beads?
Now sometimes people ask, when they hear that the devotees of the Krishna consciousness movement, particularly those who aspire for or have accepted initiation, that they chant sixteen rounds on these beads of Hare Krishna mantra and they ask, “Why, why sixteen?” Or else they ask, “Why a 108 beads?” As if by not getting an answer satisfactory for this, then they will have an excuse for not chanting, “Ha, the don’t know why.All right, then I won’t do it.” We were just a couple of days ago in the north of Poland where His Holiness Indradyumna Swami is holding his wonderful festivals on the beaches. Thousands of people are coming and hearing and enjoying the Hare Krishna festival. And they always set up a Question and Answer tent; people can come and ask whatever question they have. And they usually ask: “Why you wear these clothes?” “Why vegetarian?” and so on. So someone asked: “Why a 108 beads?” Well, my answer was: “What’s wrong with the 108 beads? It’s a very nice number.” In fact, it’s twice the number of the standard Christian rosary, which is fifty-four beads. According to some scholars, the Western rosary originally came from India. In any case, sometimes then people ask: “Ok, but why sixteen times around these 108 beads? Why not seventeen? Why not fifteen?Why not…four?” Srila Prabhupada prescribed – we are talking here about treatment for the mad mind – he prescribed sixteen rounds.
Sixteen rounds non-stop – try it out
Now, how many of you have ever had the experience of chanting non-stop sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna mantra? Aha, very good. So how was it?
Krsna Ksetra Das: Wonderful! Yes. Well, that’s why Srila Prabhupada prescribed sixteen rounds. That especially when you chant non-stop. you find after some time that actually your mind is very nicely surrendering. You are actually lifting off from the material existence. So if you haven’t experienced this, this is what we recommend – not only do we recommend, chant sixteen rounds. We recommend: if possible, chant non-stop siyteen rounds. Some of you may be…our friends, nama-hatti members, you have perhaps some work or you go to school. So maybe you are chanting a few rounds in the morning before you go to school and then later you are chanting more rounds. Yes? That’s all right. That’s nice. But you might want to try as an experiment; maybe start out with once a week. Working it out that you can go to sleep earlier the night before and then get up in plenty of time to actually chant sixteen rounds before you go to your work or whatever.
The trick with the alarm clocks
Don’t just set your alarm. Get two alarm clocks. Or three alarm clocks. Alarm clocks are not so expensive. You can have one alarm clock right next to you. That one when it rings, you can turn it right off. Then you have the second alarm clock little bit out of reach from your bed. Little, just enough so that you have to actually get out somehow to turn it off. Well, then you might still decide to get back in bed. But the third alarm clock…you put it inside your bead-bag[laughter]. And you put your bead-bag on the other side of the room. Or if you have bookshelves in your room you hide it behind the bookshelves. A different place each time so that you have to look for it. So you’ll have to get out and you’ll have to reach into your bead-bag in order to turn the alarm clock off. And while you are turning your alarm clock off – ha, your beads will be there smiling at you! And you will immediately remember why you are getting up so early.”Oh, yes, I was going to chant this morning sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna mantra.”
So then you get up, you go brush teeth, take shower, put on fresh clothes, sit down, and get yourself nicely settled there for chanting. Open the window a little bit so that there is some fresh air. Not that you have this stuffy air and you are falling asleep again. Sit in front of picture of Krishna. Also you can have a little piece of paper next to you with a pen or pencil so that when your mind says, “Hey, what about this?”, you can note it down. Paper is going to worry about that for the next two hours, not the mind. “Hey, what about that!” – write it down, put it on the paper, you can think about that later. Like that, you can deal with those things. And then you can chant…
Now, after the first round you may say, “Where is the ecstasy? I think I’ll go to sleep again. No, I already took a shower, I already went through all this trouble…All right, will try another round.” Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.”Oh, I chanted a whole round and I forgot to put a bead down, I forgot to count one. Now, did I chant one round or did I chant two rounds? Or maybe it was four?” [laughter] So like this, you have to also practice remembering that when you come to the end of a round, then you take that bead. Some like to take it down like this and others, they like to start down and go up – it really doesn’ t matter. [laughter]
The wonderful effect – it’s really a fact!
The whole point I am making here is that if you keep going, you will find, as you are nearing the end of the sixteenth round, something very wonderful is happening. In the beginning it may sometimes feel like the tongue is very thick in the mouth, like it almost doesn’t even fit inside the mouth. So it’s very difficult to chant. But if you keep chanting, keep chanting, keep chanting, eight rounds, ten rounds, twelve rounds, fourteen rounds – then you will find your tongue starts loosening up. And then…oh, what happens – you find that it is really a fact! Just like the devotees say, Krishna is dancing on your tongue. And then you get to round sixteen. And then you start to lament: “Oh no, I am coming to the sixteenth round. I will have to stop.” No, you don’t have to stop. That’s the real point. The real point is to go on chanting and never stop. But if you come to this point of chanting sixteen rounds non-stop, then you will find the rest of your day goes very nicely, the control of the mind goes very nicely….
“Professional” Hare Krishna chanters
So this is what Krishna is talking about here – practice and detachment. Practice of, for us especially, the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, detachment from the demands of the mind to kind of shrink from the duty. To remember that I am doing my best to become krishna-bhakta. And what do krishna-bhaktas do? They chant Hare Krishna. They are Hare Krishna chanters. “What’s your profession,sir?” “I’m a Hare krishna chanter.” Yes, that’s our profession. We should become professional. Not, you know…not Micky Mouse, not amateur. Professional. Professionals do things expertly because they’ve practiced again and again to perfection. Not that professional in the sense that at one point we say: “So, where is my payment?” Aha, no, that would be forgetting about the principle of detachment. The detached yogin is not expecting any profit for him or herself. But the profit is coming; the transcendental profit of being fixed in yoga.
So,this is my practical suggestion for the day – sixteen rounds non-stop. Or maybe, you can take a short break. Sometime, you know, “Oh,I have to go to the bathroom.” All right, but quickly and then back into the chanting. It all comes with determination. If the mind…if one is starting the day thinking: “Oh[yawns],yeah, let’s see what shall we do today…Well, I’ve got to this and this and this and this and this. And oh,yeah, I should chant Hare Krishna also, sort of somewhere in between that.” Then your mind will be all splayed out. So we don’t want that, therefore determination is required. And that is something which we have as human beings, we have the ability to determine for ourselves which direction we want to go in this life. And that determination has to be every day. Yes.
All right, any questions about these points or any discussion?
Dvaraka Isvara Das: If because of our service in the morning hours it is not possible for us to chant sixteen rounds non-stop, is it better to read for a while and then after finishing our service, chant sixteen rounds, or try to chant as much a possible in the morning and later complete the rounds?
Krsna Ksetra Das: You can experiment. You can see, if you find that you can chant all the rounds together a little later in the day, that’s very nice. The instruction of Lord Caitanya is that there is no hard and fast rule. And generally we like to chant as early in the day as possible. But you have to see for yourself what is the best formula.