Purity of mind

“It is all in the mind” goes a familiar saying.Similar thoughts are to be found in Indian Vedantic literature. Adi Shankaracharya’s Treatise Vivekachudamani expounds on this subject exhaustively. The essence of this is that all of man’s  troubles as well as joys arethe creations of his mind. 

Controlling of the mind is a logical extension with the reining in of passions and material desires. When this is done, a mental cleansing is achievedwhich is the prerequisite to lead a well balanced, emotionally stable and spiritually aware existence.  Shankara says that the mind alone is the cause for bondage as well as liberation of man. The wind brings the clouds together and again disperses them. Similarly it is within the powers of the human mind to either get engrossed and entangled in sense pursuits or to pursue a path of sensible materialism as needed for a comfortable life. Just a rope binds an animal to a tether, the mind binds man to objects.  Later, the same mind creates an aversion for them and liberates man from its clutches. Now Shankara proceeds to elucidate on attaining purity of mind. 

He says cultivation of discrimination between the real or permanent (attainment of spiritual awareness) and the gross or impermanent objects of the world is the first step. Here, Shankara says material pleasures are like a forest in which a fierce tiger called the uncontrolled mind wanders and warns seekers to be careful about entering this forest. As the Kathopanishad says, it is natural for the mind to stray towards sense objects, just like water tends to flow from a higher to a lower level. Hence, it is essential to turn the mind inwards to seek the indwelling divinity. This is called emotional wisdom by the wise.  

Shankara explains that attaining purity of mind is very important and once control is established over the senses, further progress becomes much easier. Here, guidance from a learned person, following the example of capable persons and most importantly, faith in the words of the preceptor and that of the scriptures is vital. By doing this, correct knowledge is obtained. Shankara gives the comparison of muddy water. Due to the presence of the mud, water appears turbid.

Once it is filtered, the water appears clear. Once the mental impurities are removed, the mind becomes clear, pure and unagitated.One who does not understand this difference is like the fool, who, looking at the reflection of the sun in a jar of water takes it be the sun itself. True knowledge incinerates ignorance into ashes. In a reiteration of the well known Upanishadic statement “you are that”, Shankara establishes the truth that such knowledge leads to the awareness that all things in this universe are but a manifestation of the supreme power. 

Realising this intrinsic non -difference between oneself and the divine spirit elevates man to higher realms of consciousness and confers purity of mind. 

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