How would you like to drive a powerful, top-of-the-line, luxury car that has all the conveniences and features that you enjoy but is missing one vital part—the brakes?
You wouldn’t like it at all!
In fact, you wouldn’t even try to drive such a dangerous vehicle.
This car is a metaphor for the current state of our minds. The mind is a sophisticated tool for gaining knowledge of the world and transacting with it. But it has a tendency to run off into many different directions on its own, causing us great confusion and stress.
It becomes especially problematic when we are faced with a significant life challenge such as a serious illness, loss of a job or a cherished relationship, or the death of a loved one.
The mind often starts to project the worse-case-scenario of doom and gloom. That’s when we are tortured by our own negative thoughts and start to feel fearful, depressed, or overwhelmed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
A mind that is not in your control can seem to be a powerful inner adversary, but if it’s in your control, it can be your best friend. It can help you navigate through life’s difficulties with greater composure and focus.
How can you make your mind into an efficient tool over which you have more control?
The ancient spiritual teachings of the Bhagavad Gita have great wisdom to teach us.
Don’t allow yourself to become weak
One of the very first things mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita is to not allow your spirit to become weak in the face of difficulties. It tells us to remain steadfast and not allow our minds to slip into worry and overwhelm.
Situations become overwhelming only when we are weak.
We should not give in to blaming things or people for our difficulties.
Only you can uplift yourself. Others can help to uplift your spirits for some time, but not permanently. Positivity and courage have to come from within yourself.
These qualities have to be cultivated in the mind over time through regular self-discipline and having a spiritual vision of life.
There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita that conveys a universal discipline for all people regardless of their gender, age, race, religion and background.*
Practicing it will help you build a strong, positive mind, increase efficiency in your work and enable you to grow spiritually at the same time.
The discipline is simple. It is based on the fact that your mind is uplifted every time you remember the divine.
It involves mentally offering all your duties and everyday actions to God, Source, Spirit, the Universe, Nature or any other concept of the divine that appeals to you.
Ordinary actions such as eating, walking, bathing, folding laundry, cooking, and cleaning can all be dedicated to a higher power.
To make it easy for you to remember to offer up your actions, find something to be grateful for in what you’re doing. Then simply say, “Thank you! For you.”
When you remember the divine with gratitude and dedicate your actions to it, even your most mundane actions become acts of worship.
This is the way that you can uplift your mind and spiritualize your life.
3 types of purifying actions—austerity, sacrifice and charity
The same verse of the Bhagavad Gita describes three categories of actions that purify our minds and accelerate our spiritual growth.
The mind needs to be purified because it harbours negative tendencies like selfishness, fear, anger, greed, jealousy, and traits such as being unkind, quick to judge, jumping to wrong conclusions, talking ill of others behind their back and so on.
Acts of austerity, sacrifice and charity are great mental purifiers.
Austerity involves practising self-control in an area of your life that will help you compose your mind and evolve spiritually.
Here are some examples:
- Going to bed early so you can wake up early to meditate.
- Substituting watching TV with reading spiritual literature.
- Being careful to always speak the truth and speak it in a pleasant way so as to avoid hurting the feelings of others.
- Practicing silence one day a week.
- Exercising patience with people in your care such as a child with special needs or a senior with dementia.
- Switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet for ethical reasons.
Practicing austerity helps you to conserve your energy that would normally leak out into unproductive activities. It helps to strengthen your inner resolve and integrity.
The extra energy that you gain should then be channeled into doing your daily duties as an offering to the divine. This constitutes sacrifice, the second purifying discipline.
Offering your actions to the divine constitutes as being a sacrifice because you are giving up your egoistic feeling of “I did it.” And, by offering your actions, you also relinquish your insistence on receiving particular results from your work.
You can think of it as sacrificing your ego.
All actions produce results. When we reap the rewards of our actions, they should be shared with others in a spirit of gratitude and generosity. This is charity, the third type of purifying actions.
Charity doesn’t only mean donating your money to those who need it, but it also means sharing your talents, time and expertise with others. Charity should come from a place of gratitude and generosity of heart.
It’s a way of giving back to the world from which we have derived countless benefits and blessings.
If you were successful in accomplishing a goal at work, remember that your success was aided directly or indirectly by the people around you, the support of your family—your parents who raised and educated you, for example; the people who laid a conducive infrastructure that enabled your ready access to food, water, electricity, heat, gas,the Internet, convenient transportation, political stability and so much more.
Therefore, sharing some of your results with others is the right thing to do.
An uplifted and purified mind
A mind that is uplifted through divinely dedicated actions and purified through acts of austerity, sacrifice and charity will become strong, steady, cheerful and positive.
Such a mind will be less likely to slip into negative thinking, worry, depression, doom and gloom. It will be a reliable and useful vehicle that can safely steer you through life’s most challenging situations.
This article is based on the talk by Swami Tejomayananda entitled, The Message of the Bhagavad Gita.
*Bhagavad Gita chapter 9, verse 27
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