S: My goal is to reach a continuous peace of mind. I think that knowing and controlling my mind/thoughts is the key to reach it. Self-mastery!
V: That’s a good goal, assuming continuous peace of mind is even possible. Since the mind changes constantly how could you keep it one way alone? You might try to slow down or temporarily stop the changes in the mind by using techniques to control it but the changes themselves are often caused or influenced by a factor you can’t control at all: the external world. Since you can’t predict what the world is going to do you never know how your mind is going to react to it. It’s true that you can—and should—work on lessening your reactions to external situations. But the hitch is that your reactions to external situations are often dictated by the subconscious and unconscious mind, two things you can barely access, let alone control.
Because of the external world and the subconscious/unconscious you can never be sure what your mind will do next, regardless of how much you try to keep it in check. That’s why you can make the mind more peaceful but it’s impossible to make it continuously peaceful. There’s no harm in trying but it’s very frustrating when it doesn’t work. And ironically, that frustration further robs you of peace of mind.
That’s why Vedanta is different than science, psychology and other kinds of spirituality. While those things treat you as if you are the mind, Vedanta says that you aren’t the mind. Therefore Vedanta asks, “How can mastering the mind be self-mastery if the mind isn’t the self”?
This a radical difference, and if understood, the benefit is that you can work on your mind with total objectivity, never taking the condition of the mind personally. When the mind is angry you don’t think “I’m angry” and then get even more emotionally disturbed thinking, “I shouldn’t be angry!”
The mind is something that ‘belongs’ to you. It’s merely an instrument, the same as your car. The difference is—despite the fact that both the mind and the car are objects known to you—that you don’t identify with your car. When your car is running poorly you don’t take it personally saying, “Oh no, my fuel injectors are malfunctioning! I feel terrible about myself because they shouldn’t be doing that!” This doesn’t happen because you know clearly that the car isn’t you. So you’re able to look at the situation objectively, free from emotional disturbance or guilt, and deal with it. You get to work on the car. If the car can be fixed you don’t say, “Hurray, I fixed myself!” Nor if the car can’t be fixed do you say, “Woe is me, I’m broken!”
Do you understand the value of what Vedanta is offering here? It’s saying that if you want to work on the mind, great, but working on the mind is much easier and more effective when you do it objectively, with the clear understand that you aren’t the mind. Furthermore, when you understand that you aren’t the mind, the mind’s problems become a lot less important because you know they don’t belong to you or affect you, the same as the problems of your car.
S: I’m struggling to figure out how my mind works through Adavaita Vedanta.
V: I want to save you the trouble of struggling by saying that Advaita Vedanta won’t help you figure out how your mind works. It doesn’t even really try. Its goals are to 1) Show you that the mind isn’t real and 2) Show you that you aren’t the mind. That’s it.
If you’re trying to understand how your mind works, psychology is the way to go. If you want to go the ‘spiritual’ route, then yoga and meditation is the way. Meditation has taught me A LOT about my mind. It’s an excellent practice. But to be clear, Vedanta is not the answer.
It’s true that Vedanta is sometimes presented as a means to self-mastery but that comes from teachers co-mingling yoga/meditation with Vedanta. Vedanta isn’t against yoga/meditation in any way—in fact it encourages it as a preliminary step—but their goals are totally different. Yoga/meditation is for manipulating the mind, Vedanta is for transcending the mind altogether. And by “transcend” I mean the full understanding, “I am not the mind nor does it affect me.”
S: I’m continuously looking for practical tools to improve my being.
V: That’s why it’s so helpful to know that your true being, pure consciousness-existence, can’t be improved. It’s perfect, which means YOU’RE perfect. Knowing that, you can take the condition of the mind in stride and work on it much more objectively and effectively, always understanding that has nothing to do with you.
All my best – Vishnudeva
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