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7-Body and Mind

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Kathopanishad-Page 7
p 83-97

Body and Mind

[83] When we talk about our emotional states we usually relate it to our physical health, we usually say, "Anger causes the heart to race", or "Intense dislike makes the skin break". But in fact the distinction between Body and Mind is no more than a matter of linguistic convenience. They are not really two, they are one. So Gross and Subtle lie on a continuum of Praan.

When we look at a person through physical glasses, we see him as Gross; but if we put on Praan glasses - as we can do after years of meditation - we could see the same person as Subtle - a highly complex field of forces. The person is the same, but we are seeing him with two different perspectives.

Emotional stress can trigger various kinds of illnesses. The person who gets angry, jealous, or upset easily is said to be hypersensitive. And these emotions react physically too. If the person does not correct himself, his body becomes conditioned to these emotions and consecutively manifests physical symptoms. Sometimes the mere presence of a person is enough to bring on Asthma; or even a feeling of insecurity is enough to produce hay fever.

[86] An example is given here by Easwaran regarding this - if it is at all true. A man was allergic to Zucchini. He went to a friend's house for dinner. He enjoyed his meal thoroughly. The friend's wife knew his problem with the food, so she asked him if he had any problem with the food, he said - "No, no, not at all, the food was delicious." She said - "I asked you this because I put Zucchini in the casserole." The man broke into violent rash immediately. But the real surprise was yet to come - that there was no zucchini in the casserole. No one knows why the body's defense system reacts in such a way even to imaginary enemies.

[88] Stress is the body's response to any demanding challenge in environment, and sometimes this stress can create severe illnesses too, if the body cannot face that challenge.

[89] Although Gross responds to the environment, but it is Subtle, the Mind, who interprets it and decides and takes action when her equilibrium is threatened. Stress is not caused so much by difficult conditions, as by what we think about those conditions. Anything can be stressful - physical pain, cut in salary, to be put through which we thoroughly and intensely dislike. So normally the world does not put stress on us, we ourselves impose it onourselves. Any powerful dislike can be stressful.

In the same way, any strong self-centered desire can also be stressful. A mind can write a sonnet on kiss, but Gross is not a poet. It can respond to a passionate kiss much the same way as an auto accident. So the stress comes entirely from our response to our desires, excitement and anticipation.

As not to have what we want, is stressful; in the same way, to have what we do not want, is also stressful. The question is not whether the mind can regulate our physiology; but whether we can regulate our mind. As your mind is conditioned to be angry at a thing, it can be trained to be calm at the same thing.

A Field of Forces

[91] Now how can you train your mind to be calm? Look at your mind more closely. Taken individually, these forces are called Sanskaar. Our personality is a dynamic interplay of our Sanskaar. Sanskaar is a conditioned automatic way of thinking and responding to the events of life. When a Sanskaar is strong, it is a fixed part of a person's personality. Jealousy, indecisiveness, being ambitious - we laymen call it our nature; biologists say it is in our genes. But these Sanskaar are not permanent, they are a process. A Sanskaar is a thought, repeated over and over a thousand times, resulting in an action also over a thousand times. At the beginning, it might be a thought, but once it becomes rigid, a Sanskaar is born and it starts dictating our behavior. So it begins with a conditioned habit in the mind internally and grows into conditioned behavior externally.

For example - resentment is a powerful Sanskaar. It does not burst full-blown into mind, it grows there. At first you simply expect people to behave in a particular way, but when they don't behave in that way, or they behave differently, or they behave in their own way, you get surprised, upset, and then irritated. Thus this Sanskaar is digging a little channel in your consciousness. In early stages this channel may look like a scratch but gradually it grows deeper, maybe a couple of inches deep. Then thoughts start to flow down it, but then they can flow somewhere else also.

Every time we face the situation of this resentment and we behave in the same way, the channel grows deeper and deeper - and we get conditioned to the patterns of thinking within our brain. And finally there may be a huge canal in the mind. Then any small thing is enough to provoke our resentment to that kind of behavior. When the canal is as deep as the bedrock, the mind starts reviewing the past events of resentment and as it is being done, every time the walls of that canal are strengthened to make sure they never crumble down. Once this is done, the personality has become rigid. Afterwards you cannot recognize what is kindness and what is forgiveness.

"San" means 'intensely', "kaar" comes from the root meaning 'to do'; so a Sanskaar means 'to do something intensely'. Once a Sanskaar is established, you don't have to think, Sanskaar thinks for you. You can't think of anything else beyond that. Sometimes it is so automatic that even if you are doing something else, but you will be thinking only about it.

[94] Our personality is the sum of these Sanskaar. Since we know now what is Sanskaar and what is stress and illness, we can say that our Sanskaar put us under stress.

As we think, that is how we perceive. Most negative Sanskaar spring up from insecurity and where vision is shaped by insecurity, everything in life seems to be threatening. Different people grow with different Sanskaar, so they respond to the same event in different ways, but the result in all is stress - first in mind then throughout the body, because that is not our own way to react 

[95] Sanskaar have a positive side too. Since they are a process, development of the personality is also a process. We constantly shape it by what we think, what we say and what we do. When our Sanskaar become rigid, we have a very little choice and we continue to remake our same old personality. 

And since Sanskaar is a process of thinking, it can be changed totally from the inside out by conditioning our mind in some other way. Although this is strenuous, painful and difficult, but it is not impossible. Why, because the meaning of conditioning is to relate a thought to a certain action, so that both act automatically and simultaneously to each other. In this sense the whole purpose of meditation is to extend the conscious up to bedrock deep into the unconscious mind from where these Sanskaar sprang.

The underlying principle of this is very simple - we become what we meditate upon. When you are reading a Shlok (Sanskrit verse) of Geetaa and go through it slowly in your mind, you are following its ideals deep into consciousness. Thus you may dig new Sanskaar - maybe kind ways of thinking instead of resentful ones, or patience instead of anger.

At that time you are drawing on the power released in meditation to try to act on these new Sanskaar. Nothing is more difficult. When someone is rude to you, just try to be kind. Every time you succeed, you have dug your new Sanskaar a little deeper. When they are dug deep enough, Praan will start flowing through them naturally and a major part of your character, consciousness and conduct will be transformed.

Your nervous system will also be transformed like this. Where the destructive Sanskaar like anger, creates illnesses, the positive Sanskaar like patience, kindness, forgiveness, protect and heal. Patience and forgiveness are best health medicines. Patience, not repression, is a dynamic quality. A patient person is usually not subjected to ulcer and hypertension, because he is not under stress. A patient mind is a calm mind, secure mind. Thus a disease is not at too advanced stage, it can be reverted. It all depends how much is your desire to change. For this we need to master our desires.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11