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This article was originally published in Amrtasvadanam journal No.1, July 1998.

Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 6.26, Wroclaw, Poland, September 23,1994.

yato yato niscalati
manas cañcalam asthiram
tatas tato niyamyaitad
atmany eva vasaḿ nayet

TRANSLATION: From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.

Krsna Ksetra Das: So, yatah yatah, wherever the mind is wandering, wherever it can possibly go, it’s going, but where is it going? Basically it’s going where it perceives the opportunity for gratification of the senses. The mind, like we see some insects, they have big, long antennas. You have seen? Some bugs they have antennas which are twice as long as the whole body. And as they walk along, they have their antennas going…touching this, touching that…[laughter]. Just checking everything out. So the mind is sometimes like that – it is checking everything out for possible opportunity for sense gratification. Is there sense gratification here? Is there sense gratification over there? Or up there, or down there? In here, out there? This is the business of the mind, the materially contaminated mind. So yato yato niscalati, it becomes very agitated in this condition. One example given is of the surface of a lake, body of water, where there is waves constantly. So of course if the surface of a river or lake is very wavy, then there is no question of seeing deep into the lake. So, similarly when the mind is agitated, then there is no question of self-realization, there is no question of seeing the self. Self-realization means to realize, well in one platform we could say, means realizing the Supersoul in the heart. So if the mind is always agitated, where is the question in perceiving the presence of the Supersoul? And therefore, what is the question of taking higher intelligence for controlling the mind and the senses? We learn from the Third Chapter that the senses are superior to sense objects, and that the mind is superior to the senses, the intelligence to the mind, and the soul is superior to the intelligence.

The first step – conviction

So, niscalati, this is the nature of the mind. So, the mind tends to be an obstacle in the matter of self-realization. Srila Prabhupada explained in one lecture to this verse that the mind and the senses they are always very much working together. So if the senses are trained for sense gratification, that means the mind will be oriented in that way. Now, our minds are oriented in that way since a long time. Since so many lifetimes. So we are very practiced in that way of using the mind. Now, in the practice of yoga we are trying to completely turn the direction, the modus operandi, the way by which the mind works. To do this, of course the preliminary step, the first step is to be convinced that this is necessary. If one is not convinced that sense gratification is bad, then there is no question of learning to control the mind. Now and then the intelligence may say: “Hey, you mind, how about getting little under control?” And the mind will say: “Hey, what are you talking about? What’s your problem? We’re having a good time – the senses and me. Don’t spoil the party. Keep quiet, will you?” And the intelligence will say: “Ok, go to hell, what can I do?” So unless that conviction is there that sense gratification leads nowhere fast, or in other words that it leads one to one or more of the gates leading to hell. And what is hell? Well, hell means ultimately forgetfulness of our identity, forgetfulness of Krishna. Then there is no question of release from material life, and there is no question of happiness. So, that conviction has to be there. Now, we have to be a little truthful, we are not maybe fully convinced, but we are working on it. Sometimes material energy is very attractive. So therefore we hear again and again and again and again about the shortcomings of sense gratification, the logic of sense gratification. And then eventually the mind goes: “Oh, yeah, maybe it makes sense what you are saying.” So then at that point the mind starts cooperating, starts becoming our friend. It start to act in a very wonderful way to help us go back home, back to Godhead.

Pull it back

So in this verse, also the previous verse, Krishna is giving some principles of abhidheya, or the practice of spiritual life. When one understands the necessity of practicing spiritual life, then he…[break] the previous verse He says: 

sanaih sanair uparamed
buddhya dhriti-grihitaya
atma-samstham manah kritva
na kincid api cintayet

“Gradually, step by step, one should become situated in trance by means of intelligence sustained by full conviction, and thus the mind should be fixed on the self alone and should think of nothing else.”
Well, that’s a very tall order; that’s a very difficult order. Ok, how to do that? Here Krishna gives this hint. From wherever your mind is wandering, and Krishna knows that our mind is wandering, pull on the leash and bring it back. Nowdays we always see people they are walking with their dog on the street and now they have these leashes that the dog pulls the leash goes out some distance. And the dog always runs as far as he can, following his nose, and then when the line norm…when it is stretched out as far as it can, then the dog, he chokes. He is running and then he is pulled back. And then he runs again, full speed, and then he gets pulled back again. He never learns. Again and again and again we see this dog choking on his…because the nose is just dragging him, so powerful. Similarly the mind, it’s very powerful, it tends to drag in a similar way. So what to do? One has to pull it back with the line. One cannot say: “Ok, mind, go ahead, go wherever you want.” Than the mind will go, it will go and it will get itself in trouble. And where it thought there would be great happiness, it will come to great pain.

Withdraw the mind and fix it on Krishna

So, a yogi, tatas tato niyamya - niyamya means regulation. Yama and niyama – these are the first principles of yogaYama means relation to other, controlled relation to other living beings, ethics, morals, like that, ahimsaasteya, not stealing, and then niyama means controlling one’s own mind, one’s own senses. Learning these regulation, learning to withdraw back; to wind up the senses and the mind. Then example is there in the Bhagavad-gita, the tortoise withdraws his limbs into his body…not in use. So also a devotee learns to withdraw the mind and fix on Krishna. That’s called Krishna consciousness. This is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. So, we don’t have to go very far to figure out where to put the mind once we withdraw in it. “Let’s see now, once I draw the min in, where should I put it? Hm…” It’s not a problem for the devotees. Devotees know always where to put the mind. So that is our practice and that is the sublime practice, that is the practice of devotional service.

Guru will help you

Ok, now this practice, because it is a practice, it takes endeavor. And endeavor means, there is this element of control which is mentioned here, vasam, “control”, the mind must be brought under control. Control means that there is something or someone superior. And actually this is the beginning of spiritual life, is superiority, some authority. So one of the things we learn early on in spiritual life is the need for direction from superior source, from guru. So the spiritual master, this guru, he is in addition of engaging us, he is controlling our minds. And he is teaching us how to learn control, how to learn to control ourselves under the direction of the Supreme Lord, the Supersoul. So to do this the spiritual master teaches us in so many ways.

The twenty-four gurus

Just like the avadhuta brahmana who was learning himself from so many, what he called gurus. Now there is a whole controversy that floats around in some parts of ISKCON and on the periphery of ISKCON about gurus and how many you can have, and diksa-gurus and siksa-gurus – all kind of things. So this avadhuta brahmana, he presents a very radical position, or apparently radical, but actually at the end of this whole discussion Jiva Gosvami explains, it’s not that he just goes around window-shopping for gurus. He says: “One’s worshipable spiritual master will instruct one in many departments of knowledge by giving lessons gleaned from ordinary objects. As recommended by this brahmana avadhuta, one can strengthen the teachings received from one’s acarya and avoid transgressing his orders by observing ordinary things in nature. One should not mechanically receive the teachings of one’s guru. The disciple should be thoughtful and with his own intelligence realize in practice what he has heard from his spiritual master by observing the world around him. In this sense, one may accept many gurus, though not those who preach against the knowledge received by a bona fide guru. In other words, one should not hear from persons like the atheist Kapila.” Well, I don’t think we are interested in hearing from the atheist Kapila.

Now these gurus are mainly different aspects of nature. He learned from the earth, he learned from the mountain, he learned from the tree, he learned from the wind, he learned from the sky, he learned from water, he learned from fire, he learned from the moon and many other, twenty-four all together. Now, one nice thing about all of these that we mentioned so far is, they are easy to see. There is no problem having darshana of the earth. Sometimes we lament that we get such rare darshana of the spiritual master. Well, we can get darshana of the earth any day or night. So, what can we learn from earth, from the earth-guru? We can learn tolerance of aggression from other living entities. Sometimes we may be attacked unjustly. Someone says something, someone does something, and we think: “What is this?” Or we think: “Ugh, what is this?” But the earth is tolerating all kinds of rascals roving over her surface; digging into her, drilling oil. And when there is a war, then so much bloodshed and…spills on the earth – earth is not complaining. And the earth is always, or generally, quite solid. Of course, sometimes there is earthquake, but in general earth is very stable.

Then we can learn, as did the avadhuta brahmana, from the mountain. Now in…certain parts of this country you may not see a mountain, but it’s easy to remember mountains. So, what can we learn – we can learn service to others, that welfare of others is the sole reason for our existence. Hm, what it his called, pararhaikanta-sambhavah, the one purpose of the existence of the devotee is for the welfare of others. Just like mountains, mountains are providing fresh water, they are providing minerals, and they are providing caves, shelter in so many ways. So, they are very helpful in this way.

So then we can learn from the trees. They are called naga-sisyahNaga means tree. Yes, they become sisya of the tree. So, paratmatam – one learns dedication to others, not just welfare, but dedication. Because the tree gives his whole life in the service. Then we can also learn…well another example of the tree of course is tolerance, taror iva sahisnuna, Sri Caitanya Mahabrabhu says.

Then we can learn from the wind. The wind is always blowing in so many different places, but it is not affected by the place or the situation where it’s blowing. So similarly, the thoughtful person who learns from the wind, he does not become entangled in material situations. The mind, it tends to intermingle with so many things and get entangled with them. But the wind, it will low here, blow there and it will blow away from so many things, and it continues on. So, it’s a very nice guru that we can learn from. And is there any difficulty finding some wind? No, there is generally some wind blowing somewhere (except in this room right now because all the windows are closed).

Then from the sky we can learn the nature of both the living entity and Paramatma. So, any trouble seeing the sky? No, we can always have darshana of the sky. And from the sky…the sky is all-pervading. Within the sky there is wind, within the sky there are all the other elements. So, it’s not that jiva is also all-pervading, but there are jivas everywhere and in that sense jiva is all-pervading. Actually this simple thought for a devotee is very inspiring. If we think about it for a moment, this is really amazing. Of course, we can just take it for granted: “Yeah, of course” , but when you go out and see all the different plans and bugs – so many different types of living entities everywhere – it’s actually amazing. And in every body of all these living entities who else is sitting there – Paramatma. And not only that, Paramatma is within every atom. All right, we can’t see every atom, but we can take it that atoms are there. And however small those atoms are, Paramatma is smaller because Paramatma is inside each one of those atoms. And what is Paramatma doing? Well, one thing Paramatma is doing is witnessing. So just as the sky is everywhere and all-inclusive, so Paramatma is everywhere; there is no question of getting away from Paramatma. We may get away from the spiritual master, we may hide somewhere: “He won’t see what I am doing now…” but Paramatma is there and He is acting as witness, upadrashta, He is observing everything. So in that way we can learn from the sky.

Then we can learn from water. Any problem finding some water? Well, we’re not in the desert, so we can find water everywhere, we can learn or we can remember this example from water. What are some qualities of water? One is that water is free from contamination. Water is very gentle, yes, soft; it’s not hard unless is frozen. So a devotee can learn from these qualities of water to become free from contamination and be gentle. Another quality is attractive sound when water is splashing, like from a waterfall, then it makes some nice, attractive sounds. People have water fountains in their backyard just to hear splash, splash, splash, such a pleasant sound. Similarly, devotees have very attractive speech. They don’t speak harshly, they speak attractively. And what else do they do – they chant, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. So this is also like bubbling water. When we hear devotees chanting japa in the temple in the morning it sounds like transcendental water fountain going bubble, bubble, bubble.

Ok, so there, let’s see, three, six…these are six gurus that we can learn from. Maybe we can discuss some more gurus tomorrow from whom we can learn to control the mind and thus become successful in the path back home, back to Godhead.
Ok, I think I’ll stop here because tomorrow is another day and we want to get up early. Unless someone has a question.

Dhyana-kunda-devi Dasi: How to understand that there is sometimes water that is free from contamination?

Krsna Ksetra Das: Well, water may have so many things in it, but if it’s distilled, it comes out pure water. Similarly, our mind, our consciousness may be contaminated in so many ways, but soul is actually in his original nature pure. Like Krishna says: “I am the taste of water”, He doesn’t mean He is the taste of muddy, dirty water. He means He is the taste of pure water. And that pure water, because of its purity it is tasty. We may say: “It doesn’t have any taste, come on.” No, it has taste, it’s adi-rasa…not adi-rasa, but it’s like that, it is original.

Devotee: [indistinct]

Krsna Ksetra Das: Yes, therefore Narahari Sarakara Thakura says that if in the course of your devotional service you hear something from someone other than your guru and you are not so sure about it, then you bring that to your guru and present with full humility at his feet. He gives the example of the son of the father. The son, traditionally speaking, he will go out, he will collect…So it’s kind of recycling process. Sometimes the guru may say: “I don’t know where you heard this from but this is not our understanding. This is our understanding, like this.” And then we hear and we say: “Ah, very nice.” Or he may say:”Yes, what such and such devotee has said is exactly right. And it is your good fortune that you have heard this instruction. So, take this as…take this to heart and imbibe this instruction.” And because the disciple takes it from his guru, then he can take it like that.