Going off-course is not the problem; staying off-course is

Suppose a plane flies from Los Angeles to New York. During 90% of its flight time, it is off-course. Why? Because of its own momentum and the atmospheric conditions.

How, then, does the plane get to its destination? By the pilot’s repeated reorientation.
During our life-journey, we are like the pilot and our mind is like our plane – it keeps going off-course. We may resolve to do something, but the mind proposes a hundred other things. And it proposes so subtly and swiftly that even before we realize what is happening, we start acting according to its proposition. When we find ourselves repeatedly going off-course, we may become disheartened and feel like quitting.

Encouragingly, Gita wisdom stresses that going off-course is not a problem; getting distracted is just the expected behavior of the mind, for it is fickle and restless (Bhagavad-gita 06.26). We need to expect the mind’s wandering and prepare for it. How? By resolving to patiently and persistently get it back on course.

However, we sabotage ourselves if become disheartened and stay off-course. We may think that we have a particularly devilish mind and are therefore doomed. To counter such negativity, we can remind ourselves that the mind’s wandering is nothing personal against us; it is just its own nature. Consequently, repeated reorientation is just a functional requirement of our mental mechanism – as it is an airplane’s requirement too.

Such refocusing becomes easier when we have something attractive to focus on. The Gita’s bhakti wisdom offers us the most attractive object: the all-attractive supreme person, Krishna. When we practice bhakti-yoga, we focus not so much on controlling the mind as on connecting with Krishna, and therein relish higher satisfaction. Thereby, our endeavor for self-mastery stops being so exhausting and starts becoming enriching, and we energetically march towards self-mastery.

 

Think it over:

  • How does the mind take us off-course?
  • How does the Gita change our vision of our mind’s repeated wandering?
  • How does bhakti-yoga energize us in our attempts for self-mastery?

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