If you had to complete a task, how easily and efficiently are you able to organise your thoughts, focus your mind and get it done?
Do you put off what you need to do until later? Does your mind wander when you start working?
In the language of spirituality, a lack of purity of mind is a way of describing a wandering, unfocussed, easily distracted mind.
A mind is said to be pure when it is calm, alert and focused. It is able to perform and achieve any goal it sets out to reach.
We experience failure and disappointment because even though we claim the mind to be ours, we’re unable to use it to our benefit. The mind is easily distracted and wants to go off and do its own thing.
And so, even though I say, “my mind,” it’s not available to me.
The mind has two aspects—a higher, wiser voice of reason and an emotional, indecisive nature. Think of them as two brothers—an older one who knows what the right thing to do is, and a younger brother who is like a playful child.
When the older brother tells the younger one that it’s time to stop playing and start doing his homework, the younger brother tries to avoid it, protests or pleads for more time.
This is what it’s like within each of us. The two aspects of our mind are out of synch with each other. My mature mind may value one thing, but my immature, emotional mind wants to do something else.
When I am able to want what I value, then the two aspects of my mind are said to be integrated as one.
What causes the disintegration within? Vedanta explains that there are impurities in the emotional mind.
These comprise negativities such as anger, greed, jealousy, pride, personal prejudices, impatience, dishonesty, hatred, and so on.
Purity of mind in the spiritual field
Your mind is the manager and the prime mover of your life. Whether your goal is material or spiritual, you can’t do it without the cooperation of your mind.
But unlike material success which can be gained without purity of mind—a business owner, for instance, doesn’t have to be patient or kind to make money— purity of mind is absolutely necessary in the spiritual field. If you have it, it will accelerate your spiritual growth and ensure your success.
What is success in the spiritual field? According to my guru, Swami Chinmayananda, success in the spiritual field is measured by the “amount of transformation we can bring about in our character and behaviour.”
And what is the purpose of transforming our inner lives? Inner transformation will quiet the mental disturbances and enable us to go within and discover our true spiritual nature.
Rediscovering our spiritual nature is the goal of human life. We are not mere humans living finite lives. We are in essence, pure blissful spirit.
Yes, bliss is who we really are.
Vedanta states that our nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda—Eternal Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
And yet, we suffer because we don’t know this true nature of ours. We have fallen victim to spiritual amnesia—a forgetfulness of our true Self.
We don’t experience Sat-Chit-Ananda. We think we are mortal and die when the body dies. We neither experience ourselves as all-knowing Consciousness, nor are free from worldly pain and suffering.
To rediscover the bliss that we really are, we have to go within in meditation and gain a personal realization of our true nature.
But right now, we are unable to do it because our minds are focused outward and preoccupied with everyday worldly desires and concerns. The inner restlessness and impurities make it impossible to quiet our minds for a sufficient length of time for deep meditation.
Purification of the mind will help to alleviate these conditions and is the first vital step on our journey inward.
Spiritual practices and disciplines that bring purity of mind and accelerate your spiritual growth
All spiritual practices and disciplines are meant to break down the ego and the false sense of separation from others. They help to reduce the inner restlessness and negativities and thereby bring purity of mind.
Here are a few examples:
Giving and sharing with others. Aside from the obvious way of gifting our money to those who need it, we can share our skills, time and attention. A kind look, encouraging words, a warm hug, prayers and good thoughts are all ways we can give to others.
For giving to be a means for our spiritual growth, we have to remember to give without expecting anything back in return such as monetary rewards, special favors or privileges. Also, there shouldn’t be any expectations of receiving words of praise or appreciation.
The giving must be without a sense of ego thinking, “I did it” or “I gave…” but it should come naturally from a feeling of genuine humility and a sincere intention to help and serve.
When we share our gifts with those who need it, it dilutes our ego and selfishness and cultivates love and compassion for others. This is surely a practice that helps us grow.
Prayer. Sincere and regular prayer to the divine is a beautiful way to quiet and uplift your mind.
Prayer doesn’t have to be formal and the best prayer is one that comes directly from your heart. It is a sincere call to the divine in whichever form appeals to you to help you remove your negative traits and bring you closer to It.
Swami Chinmayananda describes the best prayer as being totally without any selfish wants. All you pray for is for more and more love for God or the divine.
Cultivate noble virtues: Virtues are universal traits that we all value in ourselves and others. Examples are humility, sincerity, kindness, patience, forgiveness and accepting others without judgement or criticism.
There are three fundamental values in particular that are prescribed by the spiritual masters of Vedanta. They are truthfulness, non-injury and self-control.
Truthfulness is more than being honest in our dealings with others. It is being truthful to ourselves in being able to live up to what we personally know to be good and right.
Non-injury is to not cause harm to others. It is also often referred to as non-violence or ahimsa in Sanskrit.
Non-injury is mostly thought to mean not to cause bodily harm. But we can also harm others at the level of our thoughts and words. Negative thoughts, even though unseen, travel to the person they are directed towards and create an underlying tension in the relationship. Unkind words can often be more painful and linger longer in our memory than physical hurt.
Self-control is to be practiced at the physical level. Self-control does not mean depriving ourselves of the simple pleasures of life, but rather careful moderation in life.
Meditation: Meditation is an indispensable habit for a spiritual seeker. It is more than a practice that relaxes the mind. It is the discipline that will eventually lead you to your own higher nature, the Self within.
Advantages of cultivating purity of mind
Cultivating purity of mind will make it readily available to do your bidding. Procrastination, restlessness, inner conflicts on what to do and negative traits will all begin to diminish.
Your mind will be quiet, alert and focused and allow you to be relaxed and efficient in your work.
It will accelerate your spiritual growth and enable you to eventually rediscover the bliss that is your true nature.
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