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Worst Enemy – Outward Looking Mind – How to Defeat the Enemy?

An outward looking mind is our worst enemy. Here are some tips on how to defeat the enemy.

SourceExtracts from Prabuddha Bharata Magazine October 2004.

Story of Four Monks

Four monks decided to observe silence for a month. They started out well enough, but after the first day one monk said, ‘I wonder if I locked the door of my cell at the monastery before we set out.’ Another monk said, ‘You fool! We decided to keep silence for a month and now you have broken it.’ A third monk said, ‘What about you? You have broken it too!’ Said the fourth, ‘Thank God, I’m the only one who hasn’t spoken yet.’

The story lends itself to some reflection. Hardly does our mind let us carry out our intentions. More often than not, our resolutions remain as resolutions. Not only being unable to live up to our pious intentions, we sometimes act in an entirely opposite way, despite knowing that such a course of action will be detrimental to us. Knowing what was right but unable to follow it, and knowing what was wrong but unable to desist from it is our predicament.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Describes the Outward Looking Mind

The bound creatures, entangled in worldliness, will not come to their senses at all. They suffer so much agony, they face so many dangers, and yet they will not wake up.

The camel loves to eat thorny bushes. The more it eats the thorns, the more the blood gushes from its mouth. Still it must eat thorny plants and will never give them up. The man of worldly nature suffers so much sorrow and affliction, but he forgets it all in a few days and begins his old life over again.

Again, a worldly man is like a snake trying to swallow a mole. The snake can neither swallow the mole nor give it up. The bound soul may have realized that there is no substance to the world — that the world is like a hog plum, only stone and skin — but still he cannot give it up and turn his mind to God.

Can the Worst Enemy Be Defeated?

For the most part, it acts as our enemy. Can we ever tame this unruly mind? Vedanta says yes, it is possible, but it needs effort: there is neither a short cut here nor an instant result. It calls for protracted struggle, sometimes enough to unnerve the bravest of us. But yes, the rewards are also commensurate with the struggle: control over the mind implies more and more identity with our real Self, the Atman, the source of eternal Being, Knowledge and Bliss.

When we are able to satisfy a desire without obstruction, we feel how free we are. True, there is an element of freedom there, but it does not belong to us, but to the mind and the senses: they have the freedom to drag us wherever they want. We fail to understand this because of our total identification with the mind. True freedom, however, is not freedom for the senses but freedom from (the hold of) the senses. When we understand this, we become aware that we were taken for a ride by the senses and the mind.

How to Overcome The Outward Looking Mind

A strong determination to change

An abiding faith in oneself and a resolute mindset are a prerequisite to control the outward looking mind. A man endowed with determination does not give up easily even if he fails in his attempts at change. Swami Vivekananda wrote to his disciple Goodwin,
‘The road to the Good is the roughest and steepest in the universe. It is a wonder that so many succeed, no wonder that so many fall. Character has to be established through a thousand stumbles.”

Being alert about our thoughts

Our actions and thoughts leave their impressions on the mind. Though it is certainly helpful to know what goes on in our mind by witnessing its functions, it is more useful to proactively think wholesome thoughts, not letting the mind brood over undesirable things.

Consciously thinking about our higher nature and ordering our actions accordingly is thus an indispensable means to self-culture. In fact, only wholesome thoughts can counteract bad impressions.

Entering into a contract with God

Fasts, vigils and taking vows are some well-known means to strengthen will power. To the extent, our will becomes strong, we are able to detach ourselves from our unruly mind and forge ahead on the path to perfection. External rituals remain just mechanical and lifeless observances if they do not strengthen our will. So use the tools for betterment not to get trapped.

Association with the wise

This is a great cure to worldliness. Today, we categorize spiritual people as bore. But such people have the cure for the outward looking mind.

Regularity in prayer and meditation

Do not pray for material gains but do japa and meditation to fix the mind on the Supreme Truth. Do it regularly without fail.