The mind is like a dog that barks but can’t bite – unless we let it

A dog that barks ferociously can terrify passers-by. Their fear disappears, however, if they come to know that the dog barks loudly, but can’t bite.

Our mind is that kind of dog. It susurrates, sweet-talks and screams, diverting us from important things and goading us to do things that have caught its fancy. If we yield to it, we end up doing unimportant, useless or even unconscionable things. To protect ourselves from this dog-like mind, the vital insight is: no matter how fiercely it barks, it can’t bite – unless we let it bite.

How do we let it bite? By identifying with it and doing its bidding, thereby letting it harm us. If we can just avoid mistaking its voice to be our voice, we can take away its power to bite us, even if it keeps barking.

The Bhagavad-gita (06.05) urges us to elevate ourselves with the mind, and not degrade ourselves. This exhortation implies that we have the capacity to choose how the mind affects us. How can we access that capacity? By applying the Gita’s recommendation to practice bhakti-yoga.

By cultivating bhakti, we learn to focus our consciousness on Krishna. The more we busy ourselves in remembering and serving him, the more we enhance our capacity to neglect the mind. Thus, we can avoid its bites, even if its barks continue.

Over time, as we relish the sweetness of absorption in Krishna, the mind realizes that Krishna offers far greater happiness than all the things it has been fancying for so long. Thereafter, it stops barking, and we attain lasting peace (06.07).

Even if we can’t stop the mind’s barks right now, we can still avoid its bites by remembering that we are not our mind and staying fixed in Krishna’s service.

To know more about this verse, please click on the image

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  1. Great piece of writing, Chaitanya Charan. Your writing just keeps getting better and better. Keep them coming.

    I once saw two devotees in NYC do a play where one devotee played the other devotee’s mind, goading him to do frivolous things. The dialogue was hilarious and you really got the realization that the mind is like another person inside the body, until comes under our control. Srila Prabhupada once said we should treat our mind like a treacherous friend.

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    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, the drama is popular in ISKCON and it serves as a memorable visual depiction of a subtle philosophical reality.

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