Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
THE MASTER MIND
In the first place, what is the mind? Is it the intelligence of the brain, is it the activity of the brain, or is it something else? When a person limits the word mind to brain, he certainly puts cause and effect on the same level.
There are two ways of looking at things: one looking from the cause to the effect; the other from the effect to the cause. The first is like looking from the top of the mountain to the foot. The other is like looking from the foot of the mountain to the top. The one who looks from the foot often fails to see what is going on at the top. Therefore, the mystic follows the other way. He perceives that a person who investigates a higher truth by standing at the foot of the mountain may sometimes succeed in seeing what is at the top, yet sometimes he will not. Even when he does see, he does not see fully. It is different when a person looks from the top of the mountain to the foot. That is why the mystic goes to the cause, and sees from the cause to the effect.
But the great thing is to get to the cause. It is easy to agree with the teaching of Jesus Christ, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added.' This teaching may be applied even in the investigation of human life, for as soon as one reaches the root of the cause, one can see the light, and the light guides one. But what is difficult is to get in when one is on the outside.
Humanity has striven after truth for ages, and yet there is no period in the history of the world in which some of mankind have not realized the truth. The only difference is that one says, 'I have discovered something,' and the other says, 'there is nothing new under the sun.' The mystic's view is, 'What I have known today has been known before, and will be known afterwards. 'It has never been known by all, and will never be known by all. But, as the sight becomes keen, so man will be able to see.
In the first place, what the master mind is, is really explained by the power of spirit over matter. When man sees that mountains are pierced through by the effort of man, that man has crossed the seas, and that he flies in the air, that in itself shows that he is the master of creation.
But what is man? Is man a physical being, or is there something else called man? If the physical being is man, then what of the elephant, who is twenty times bigger? Then the elephant would never has listened for one moment to what the man says, and yet when he says, 'Sit down,' the elephant sits down; 'Stand,' and the elephant stands; 'Walk,' and he walks. At the same time the elephant is conscious of his heavy body, and the strength that he has. Then not only the elephant, but the tiger and the lion – the kings of the forest as they call them in the East – we see them mastered in the circus by one man. Although these most brutal animals keep killing other animals, and live by the terror they evoke, so conscious are they of their strength, yet man has mastered them. Evidently there is something hidden in man. The word man means mind, and when the time came for mind to develop man came into being. The physical being had been developed as long as the animal being.
There is also the question as to whether every man can really claim to be human, or as to what a human mind should be. This is shown by the story that one day Diogenes went searching in the market place with a lighted lantern at midday. When they asked him what he sought, he answered, 'A man.' And Ghalib, a Hindustani poet of Delhi, has said in his verse, 'There seems to be a difficulty in all things. It seems difficult even for a man to claim to be a man.'
The question is, what is the difference between man and animal? Is it not in the form of man? But if only the form is man, strictly speaking, all natural forms in this world gradually change into the human form. The more we study the life of birds, insects, creatures, or even the vegetable kingdom, the more plainly we shall see how the face of man has emerged, step by step, from the primitive preparatory stages, through all the different manifestations, until it has appeared as man. Thus, if it were only the form that makes man man, he would never have been called mind. So it is something beyond form that makes man.
The whole matter is explained by Rumi in his Masnavi, 'Our life on earth is as a captivity, an imprisonment.' An imprisonment in what? In a physical body, which covers the light of the soul. And the mind is also helplessly attached to the body. It is the bodily desires, passion, anger, appetite, all the different desires and needs, that make the mind helpless and make man hold on to them. All the worries, anxieties, depressions, and despairs arise from them. There is not a single moment in which the mind is able to stand aloof so as to reflect the light within, the light of the soul, so limited has it been made by the limited existence on earth. In reality this is the whole tragedy of human life.
The one and only thing that hinders man from advancing spiritually, or at least from advancing towards the goal, for which he is destined, and which he is longing to attain, is this: that the mind is so absorbed by the demands and wants of the physical body that it has hardly a moment to give itself entirely to the reflection of the light of the soul.
A person may say, 'I do not even believe in such a thing as a soul, since there is no evidence of such a thing. I do not believe in a hereafter. I do not believe in anything spiritual or higher, only in what I see or enjoy in this worldly life.' But what then? One could answer, 'You believe at least in being happy. You believe in happiness being something worth attaining in life. You also believe in living. You do not wish to die. Not only do you believe in these two things, but you believe in being left alone when you are tired, in being left in peace and having rest. You believe in understanding things you cannot yet understand.' So he believes in four things. He may not believe in inspiration, revelation, or some higher spirit coming and instructing him, yet he believes in trying to understand things that puzzle him; in seeking to remove that cloud of confusion which veils the light that would guide him to the understanding of those very things, which at present confuse him. So there is a longing in him to find out about something that he does not know.
In every person, therefore, whether spiritual or material, whatever his outlook, there are these four inclinations or desires: to live, to save his life even to the extent of risking it in order to defend himself against being killed; to be happy, enjoying the theatre, music, dancing, singing, a game, sport, something that pleases; a desire to know, and a desire to have peace, to rest, to be left alone. Whether he believes in God, in spirit, in heaven, in a scripture, in a hereafter, or not, he certainly believes in these four things. They develop gradually. As one studies more and more the way to acquire these things, that study itself becomes a form of religion, and attainment to the root of the four things is spiritual perfection. The difference is only that one takes a religious path, another the path of wisdom, another the path of devotion, and another the path of the form or ceremonial of worship. Whichever way it be, the constant pursuit of these four things brings the attainment of the same goal in the end, the goal for every soul. Some paths lead there sooner than others, that is all.
If we think more about the desire for happiness, we see that although every soul seeks after pleasure, or wealth, or position, or power to become happy, he finds that everything in life is changeable. Whatever pleasure, or success, or achievement he gains, are all forms of desire for happiness, and these can only be held like air. How long can one hold that? Is it not always slipping from one's hands, be it wealth or position? The most difficult thing in life is to hold it when one has it. It is true it is difficult to acquire, but how much more difficult to keep! Thousands of people are after it. 'How can we get it from him?' they ask. Relatives, friends, enemies, thieves, everybody is contemplating his wealth. While he holds it tight, more and more worried about it every day. So on the one side there is the happiness of holding something, which is not his own, and on the other, the strain of keeping safe that which does not really belong to him, and which is changeable and temporary. This takes away his happiness.
All the things that give happiness seem so great a prize beforehand. But, however much pleasure and comfort they may give, when it comes to paying the cost of having them, one begins to understand that there is no comfort or pleasure that is really worthwhile. As Omar Khayyam says, when man is seeking for happiness, all pleasures and comforts seem to be a blessing for that moment. But in the end, everything is dust.
There is a beautiful story illustrating this idea. In the palace of a Mogul king, there was a housemaid, and once when making the bed she was overpowered by the sense of the beauty of the king's room, the fragrance all round, the windows open allowing the cool breeze to come in, so grateful when the summer's are as hot as in the East. She felt she would like to sit on the bed a moment and see how it felt. How very soft and nice and how very fragrant, she thought. And she sat there, and then felt she would like to lean back on the cushions. But, unfortunately she fell asleep. Then the king and queen happened to come in. He said, 'What impertinence,' and the queen was very displeased too.
In a moment a whip fell on her back, and she got up in horror, and looked hither and thither and then smiled. And the king and queen were astonished to see her smile on receiving the whip. Said the queen, 'Why do you smile?' She said, 'O it was a thought.' The king said, 'Tell me the thought.' She said, 'The thought was that it is so fragrant in this room, and cool breeze so balmy and this bed so soft and comfortable, I thought I should like to see how it felt, and I slept. Perhaps I did not sleep for more than half an hour and you came, and I received the whip. By sleeping there for half an hour I receive the whip, so I do not know what you will receive. You have been sleeping here for years together.'
This is a lesson. There is no pleasure to be gained without a cost. It may be at the cost of wealth or of time. It may even be at the cost of life. Man, absorbed as he is in the pleasures and comforts of life, thinks very little of this, and goes on until the time comes when it is too late to think of it. Life has been nothing but a captivity to this constant longing for happiness and pleasure, which when it comes he finds himself unable to enjoy.
So this teaches that the source of real happiness lies somewhere else. It is not in a building of sand that comfort can be got. The building in which one can get comfort is in oneself. Having discovered the nature of pleasures one may well think, 'After all, these pleasures were just like lips touching the wine and not drinking it. The wine is somewhere else.' But in the end, even the pleasure seeker comes to the same goal, that of the truth.
The third thing is the constant desire to live. Every bird, every animal, even the smallest insect in the world, as soon as we try to touch it, it wishes to save its life, it runs away, it wants to live. Even if it lives in the dirt, its desire is to live. How dear life is to every creature. How much everybody wishes to live! At the same time there is this force of destruction in the form of diseases and death, which sweep away so many. Yet still the desire in every heart is to live. This thought teaches that it is not believing in God, in spirit, in religion, that is the secret. It is the desire for life in every heart. This too, man can find by searching within himself. The life is hidden within him, and when he begins to find it, then he feels he is safe.
If we think about the desire for understanding, we notice how everyone wishes to learn, to read, to study, to learn about things in every possible way. But the desire cannot be satisfied until the light within is disclosed by which he may understand. We come then to the truth that all things can be accomplished by mastery of mind. And so the question arises, 'How can the mind be mastered?' The answer is that the mind cannot be mastered until a man is master of the body. The difference between a master mind and a person without mastery is the difference between a man sitting on a saddle horse, holding the reins in his hand, and a man trying to ride bareback while the horse is bucking and going wherever it likes, and there is the fear that it will throw him at any moment. He is not able to control it.
A person may realize all the various weaknesses in himself, and be very sorry about them, and he would like to give them up if he could. But he finds that whether he likes some little weakness or not, he cannot hold himself back from doing certain things, whether it is weakness of mind or weakness of action. This shows that though the desire of the soul is always to direct man on the right path, on the path of virtue, on the good path, yet at the same time he has lost his control, and he is led astray by some force he cannot control. This weakness of character is shown when a person says, 'I do not wish to be angry; after being angry I am very sorry, but at the same time I cannot help it. I do not wish to hurt others, but when the moment comes, I cannot help myself, I am abrupt.' Then even vices such as drink, or thieving, or any weakness, are all caused by weakness of the mind. When the mind has no control over its thoughts and feelings, when it is not mastered, all these things come to pass.
From all this it is plain that man has two aspects of being: the servant aspect and the master aspect. When only the servant aspect is nourished and the master aspect is not, then the master aspect of his being longs to be master, and cannot be; and the whole conflict in life depends on that. When a person is interested in the master aspect and wishes to be master, then he becomes master of himself. And he becomes not only master of his thoughts, feelings, and actions, but he becomes master of his affairs. Then the key to what we call fate is in his hands. He becomes the king of the kingdom that has been given to him from God; and when he has arrived at that stage, then comes a still greater and more exalted stage, which may be understood in the following way.
Sometimes we notice that a person is guided by someone, or listens to him, or gives in to him. Why does he do this? The answer is that the one who does not give in is the one with the master aspect alive in him. The person who gives in has the servant aspect alive in him. To understand this secret is to understand the secret of the spiritual hierarchy. It is the secret of the coming of the prophets and of the master mind, of what is called the superman. The picture of this is shown in Hindu symbology, where the Devatas have four hands, two hands for the body, and two for the mind. The four make a perfect man. When there are only two external hands, material hands, and the other hands are not yet attached to the mind, the mind is not active and cannot control. These are these four different forces: the two physical arms and the two arms of the mind, which make life complete. The four arms that make the perfect man, the master mind.
Having these, he becomes responsible for his affairs as well as the affairs of others. And the people who have been leaders of nations, leaders of humanity, and have led humanity to the spiritual, the right, the religious path, have not done so just through their intellect. No, there was some other power behind.
There are many intellectual people who from morning till evening spend every moment of their time in using their cleverness and polish of mind. But this is only an activity; it is not the power of mind. The power of mind is such that without speaking words the mind speaks. Without the help of words, the mind reflects what is in this mind or that. Things that the outer arms cannot accomplish, the arms of the mind can. Means are procured for the accomplishment of every object. In the ancient fairy-tales about the jinns, it is said that one day a village teacher was teaching a class. Among them was a jinn, and he had taken the form of a boy. But the village teacher did not know that he was a jinn. One day he wanted something at a distance, and he asked the boy to bring it. This boy, instead of getting up, just stretched his hand and got it. And the teacher was so frightened that next day he would not come to school.
This story tells us of the master mind. It is not necessary to be of a certain age to have this mastery. Sometimes a child may have greater mastery than a grown up, and greater will. Therefore, it is not dependent on age. 'Where there is a will, there is a way.'
For a man to say, 'Beware of me, I cannot keep a secret. I cannot control myself, I must tell it. I cannot manage this. I cannot remember that' – all these weaknesses denote lack of mastery of mind. The master mind shows mastery in everything: in speech, in listening, in understanding, in doing all things.
Is this to be attained by contemplation, by concentration, by meditation? No, actually it is in our everyday life, in our simple everyday actions that we develop the power of mind by this simple law: when we are doing some work and the desire comes, 'No, I must go and rest and sleep,' and we go and rest, we give in to our desire. We go and rest, but the work is not accomplished. Then a person may say, 'I must not be abrupt, inconsiderate. I must have consideration from now on.' Next day something happens in which he should be considerate and gentle, but he thinks, 'In this case it does not matter. It is a small thing. It is a very small thing,' and gives in; the excuse comes to the rescue. But as soon as he gives in to a slight weakness, next time he falls down again because the weakness wins every time. So every person seeking to attain mastery will find some weakness waiting for him; if it is not one weakness, then it will be another.
The one who does not think of this law is neglectful. He may think it does not matter. It is only a little finger. But if the finger fails, next time his hand will fail. And in time he will be in the mouth of weakness until he is swallowed up by it. Then it has become too late. And when his power has gone, there is no strength.
So what is the religion of a sage? Every religion is his religion, and yet no religion is his religion. His religion is that of wisdom. He masters the mind not only by all these things, but at the same time he practices this mastery by means of contemplation, by learning how to concentrate, and by learning how to live. For if he does not master his mind, concentration will not help him. If the small things are not controlled, how can he manage contemplation? How many people say, 'when we sit down to concentrate our minds go to a thousand things. We seem to be sitting in a chair, but our mind seems to be jumping all over the place.' Where is the concentration?
Therefore, it is helpful to concentrate, and it is helpful to be guided by someone who knows the path of concentration; but at the same time if a person will not practice the law of mastery in his everyday life and in everything he will not be able to accomplish this great work.