Which requires the greater strength, letting go or restraining?

In this post, I would like to share an excerpt from Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda where he is interpreting the second sutra from Patanjali’s 195 Yoga Sutras. He compares the mind with the lake and describes the states of mind.

The bottom of a lake we cannot see, because its surface is covered with ripples. It is only possible for us to catch a glimpse of the bottom, when the ripples have subsided, and the water is calm. If the water is muddy or is agitated all the time, the bottom will not be seen. If it is clear, and there are no waves, we shall see the bottom. The bottom of the lake is our own true Self; the lake is the Chitta (mind) and the waves the Vrittis (states of mind).

(Also read What is the goal of Yoga)

Again, the mind is in three states, one of which is darkness, called Tamas, found in brutes and idiots; it only acts to injure. No other idea comes into that state of mind.

Then there is the active state of mind, Rajas, whose chief motives are power and enjoyment. “I will be powerful and rule others.”

Then there is the state called Sattva, serenity, calmness, in which the waves cease, and the water of the mind – lake becomes clear. It is not inactive, but rather intensely active. It is the greatest manifestation of power to be calm. It is easy to be active. Let the reins go, and the horses will run away with you. Anyone can do that, but he who can stop the plunging horses is the strong man.

Which requires the greater strength, letting go or restraining?

The calm man is not the man who is dull. You must not mistake Sattva for dullness or laziness. The calm man is the one who has control over the mind waves. Activity is the manifestation of inferior strength, calmness, of the superior. The Chitta is always trying to get back to its natural pure state, but the organs draw it out. To restrain it, to check this outward tendency, and to start it on the return journey to the essence of intelligence is the first step in Yoga, because only in this way can the Chitta get into its proper course. Although the Chitta is in every animal, from the lowest to the highest, it is only in the human form that we find it as the intellect.

The Chitta manifests itself in the following forms — scattering, darkening, gathering, one – pointed, and concentrated. The scattering form is activity. Its tendency is to manifest in the form of pleasure or of pain. The darkening form is dullness which tends to injury. The commentator says, the third form is natural to the Devas, the angels, and the first and second to the demons. The gathering form is when it struggles to centre itself. The one-pointed form is when it tries to concentrate, and the concentrated form is what brings us to Samadhi.

Swami Vivekananda again points it out when he is interpreting and translating the 9th Sutra of Patanjali. The ninth sutra talks about Vikalpa as a Vritti (state of mind).

Verbal delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.” There is another class of Vrittis called Vikalpa. A word is uttered, and we do not wait to consider its meaning; we jump to a conclusion immediately. It is a sign of weakness of the Chitta (mind). Now you can understand the theory of restraint. The weaker the man, the less he has of restraint. Examine yourselves always by that test. When you are going to be angry or miserable, reason it out how it is that some news that has come to you is throwing your mind into Vrittis.

This is again mentioned in 15th Sutra of Patanjali. It reads, “Drisht (visible)– anusravika (heard about) – Vishaya (Sense objects) – Vitrashnasya (from one who is freed from craving) – Vashikara (Subdue or exert control) – Sangya (Consciousness) – Vairagyam (Renunciation)“. It means dispassion is the controlled consciousness of one who is without craving for sense objects, whether these are actually perceived or described. Swami Vivekananda explains it as follows.

The two motive powers of our actions are (1) what we see ourselves, (2) the experience of others. These two forces throw the mind, the lake, into various waves. Renunciation is the power of battling against these forces and holding the mind in check. Their renunciation is what we want. I am passing through a street, and a man comes and takes away my watch. That is my own experience. I see it myself, and it immediately throws my Chitta into a wave, taking the form of anger. Allow not that to come. If you cannot prevent that, you are nothing; if you can, you have Vairagya.

Again, the experience of the worldly-minded teaches us that sense – enjoyments are the highest ideal. These are tremendous temptations. To deny them, and not allow the mind to come to a wave form with regard to them, is renunciation; to control the twofold motive powers arising from my own experience and from the experience of others, and thus prevent the Chitta from being governed by them, is Vairagya. These should be controlled by me, and not I by them. This sort of mental strength is called renunciation. Vairagya is the only way to freedom.

What happens when you restraint?

One might ask that is there any utility in restraining? This is again beautifully explained in the 16th Sutra of Patanjali. It talks about the highest form of Vairagya (renunciation). It says that higher than renunciation is the indifference towards the gunas (i.e. Sattva, Rajas, Tamas). Swami Vivekananda explains it as follows and also shares the benefits of it. He also mentions as explained in the 16th Yoga Sutra of Patanjali that mind itself is comprised of these 3 gunas (Satta, Rajas, Tamas) and is a part of nature.

According to Yoga philosophy, the whole of nature consists of three qualities or forces; one is called Tamas, another Rajas, and the third Sattva. These three qualities manifest themselves in the physical world as darkness or inactivity, attraction or repulsion, and equilibrium of the two. Everything that is in nature, all manifestations, are combinations and recombinations of these three forces.

Nature has been divided into various categories by the Sankhyas; the Self of man is beyond all these, beyond nature. It is effulgent, pure, and perfect. Whatever of intelligence we see in nature is but the reflection of this Self upon nature. Nature itself is insentient (incapable of understanding things).

You must remember that the word nature also includes the mind; mind is in nature; thought is in nature; from thought, down to the grossest form of matter, everything is in nature, the manifestation of nature.

This nature has covered the Self of man, and when nature takes away the covering, the self appears in Its own glory.

Swami Vivekananda

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