Prekshadhyan - An Introduction: [06] Mental Health

Published: 15.04.2007
Updated: 29.11.2012

Mental Health

The body is gross and perceptible, the mind is subtle and imperceptible, and can be known only through its function. The body, the sense organs and the mind are three functionaries, which we experience. The mind directs the sense organs and compiles their objects. But for this compilation, each sense organ would have been left to act independently and no progress could have been possible.

Shelter for Both Health and Disease

The mind is both compiler and innovator. Imagining, remembering, thinking, arguing for and against are its normal functions. It is extremely useful, but something useful can also be a source of trouble. The mind is very useful and also very troublesome. Maharishi Charak has written:

The body and the mind are the two shelters for diseases. Both suffer from diseases. However, the mind is a shelter not only for diseases, but also for health. A healthy mind and a healthy body do a lot of good to us. On the other hand, a diseased mind becomes a source of trouble for us.

Mind Power and Suffering

Mental function is epistemic and at the same time worrying. Worriedly suffering may be considerably lessened if mind power is developed. According to an old proverb,’ This world is full of sufferings for the ignorant and full of the blessings for the knowledgeable.' The question was asked, 'Is the world full of light or darkness?' The answer was,’ For a man who is blind it is all darkness, for a man who can see well it is all light.' Similarly it can be seen that the proposition 'the world is full of sufferings for the ignorant' can be rephrased, ’the world is full of suffering for one lacking mind power, it is not so for one who has strong mind power.'

Lord Mahavira has said that there are four kinds of beings:

  1. Hri Sattva
  2. Hri Manah Sattva
  3. Chala Sattva
  4. Sthira Sattva

Hri Satva.

A hri sattva person is shy. His self-discipline is so deep rooted that he does not publicize his adversities and sufferings at all. A just and fair man - one who follows ethical laws - does not let anyone know his loss of wealth and mental anguish.

Such a hri sattva person has a strong mind power. In fact he is too shy and self disciplined to express his personal feelings to others. Nor does he allow them to be manifest through fear or physical effort. He remains unaffected by external events.

Hri Manah Sattva

This type of person is accomplished, but not fully. Thought he does not show signs of mental agony, his body does get affected by it. The body trembles and fear is writ large on the face.

Chala Sattva and Sthira Sativa

A chala sattva person has an extremely fickle and highly confused mind. On the other hand, a sthira sattva person’s mind does not become unsteady under any circumstances. It is never deflected from the right course.

The contrast between the two types is best illustrated by the following anecdote.

The house of a wealthy merchant was burgled. The burglars made off with a large amount of money. The merchant was a sthira sattva. When people came to express their sympathy, he dismissed the whole episode by saying that it was not worth bothering about. After all, he said, money comes and goes. He would make good the loss by fresh earnings. The merchant's wife was, however, a chala sattva. She wept and wailed inconsolably. The merchant had to beseech a saint to console and quieten her. The saint asked her:

'What happened?'
'Maharaj, lacs of rupees have been stolen.'
'Do you have a well in your house?'
'Yes'
'Does it have plenty of water?'
'Yes, Maharaj.'
'Has all your wealth been stolen?'
'No, there is plenty still left.'
'How do your relatives, servants and others behave with you?'
'Very nicely, as usual.'
'Then where is the cause for grief? The ancient sages have said.
There are only three most precious things (gems) on the earth - water, food, and agreeable speech. You have a well full of water right in your house, plentiful stores of food and members of the family all of whom are sweet-tongued. Why then are you sad? Only a foolish person regards stones as gems and laments their loss.'

The merchants wife became enlightened hearing the above words. Chala sattva changed into sthira sattva.

Example of Sthira Sattva.

An incident involving a severe ordeal occurred in revered Gurudev's life. For all practical purposes, it was a time when any chala sattva person would have buckled up. But sthira sattva Gurudev remained unscathed. Not to speak of outsiders, even monks and shravaks (those who hear religious scriptures or observe partial vows) told him, 'Maharaj, see what you are getting in return for the tremendous good work you have done for the people. Now it is time you gave up all activities related to anuvrat. All kinds of advice and counsel were given. However sthira sattva Gurudev said: 'Our task is not yet complete and that accounts for what has happened. We should now work with redoubled effort.'

It illustrates the difference between chala sattva and sthira sattva. A man with fickle mind i.e. a chala sattva acts on the spur of the moment on the basis of the immediate circumstances without any deliberation about the likely consequences. On the other hand, a sthira sattva decides on the basis of the intrinsic nature of things.

Circumstances versus Intrinsic Nature.

Once an ascetic was taking a rest. Close by spring water was flowing. The ascetic asked his disciple to go and fetch a pot full of water. The latter went to the spring. Just then a bullock-cart crossed the spring, muddying the water. The disciple returned empty handed and told the ascetic: 'Gurudev that water is dirty and not portable. Let us go further and find clean water.' The guru asked him to wait for a few minutes and then go again to fetch the water. The disciple obeyed the guru, went to the same spring and fetched fresh, clean water. The guru said, ’Young man, contrary to what you said the water is very clean.' The disciple replied, 'Maharaj at that time it became unclean because of a bullock-cart's movement.' Thereupon the ascetic remarked,’ A decision must be taken not on the basis of immediate circumstances, but on that of intrinsic nature. Basically, the spring water is not unclean. It is always clean. You decided on the basis of the prevailing circumstances. You understand only circumstances, not intrinsic nature.'

Nature is Permanent

A chala sattva person is mentally unhealthy and his secessions are based on the prevailing atmosphere and circumstances. Ecology plays a significant role these days in the fields of social psychology and sociology. As a result, the surroundings, circumstances and environment have become decisive factors in people's thinking. It has led to the unfortunate result that people have forgotten the real nature of man. Decisions are being taken entirely based on physical surroundings without taking nature into consideration. Consequently many mistakes are being made. Circumstances are temporary and are born of social factories. The permanent element is nature. Understanding nature will make for correct decisions.

The Criterion of Mental Health.

The Gita, Sankhya philosophy and charak have analysed the mind in terms of sattva (quality of purity and goodness), rajas (love of sensual enjoyment or pleasure), and tamas (the third disposition of the human mind - the quality of darkness, ignorance and irascibility). Will power and tolerance are important elements. We should know that the mind, its power and health do not have a close relation with the intellect. Intellect and mind have separate functions. Tolerance is a quality of the mind. Intellect does not play any part in it. A man with a healthy mind can tolerate any situation, but a diseased mind cannot do so. The criterion of mental health is tolerance.

As Sushruta puts it: The man having the sattva disposition (benevolence, purity, goodness) can tolerate anything. One having the rajas disposition (love of sensual enjoyment) lacks tolerance personally, but with proper advice and support he is able to develop tolerance. But one having the tamas disposition (ignorance, mental darkness implying inertness, indolence, anger, malice) is incapable of both understanding by himself and of being made to understand by others, besides lacking tolerance altogether.

Take the case of three different types of individuals, all being victims of some tragedy - huge business loss or the death of a near and dear one. The first type of sattva is able to bear with the tragedy. The second type rajas are amenable to being consoled. For example, many people come to Gurudev and listen to his enlightening discourse and as a result are able to overcome grief and anxiety. The third type tamas wail inconsolably and are immune to all instruction. (They cannot be influenced and made to understand even by Bramha, the creator). Only those having the sattva disposition are inherently tolerant.

Fortitude.

The second criterion of mental health is fortitude or steadiness. A steady person does not get deflected even in the face of adversity. He retains his equanimity despite bad news. Constancy and steadiness are symbolized by the Sumeru Mountain, which no storm, howsoever fierce can move or shake. Lord Rishabh has been eulogised in Bhaktamar Strot thus: It is no wonder even celestial damsels could not deflect you. Can a storm causing universal destruction shake the Sumeru Mountain?

Steadiness of mind is best defined thus: That man is steady whose mind suffers no distortion even when the cause of distortion is present.

This steadiness or fortitude is a sign of mental health. It enables man to overcome all adversities and sorrows.

Intelligence/Wisdom.

The third criterion of mental health is intelligence or wisdom. The function of intelligence is to discriminate and decide. In performing it will-power can be a great help. A mentally healthy person takes correct decisions and acts intelligently.

Memory.

A good memory is the fourth criterion of mental health. Whenever a sign of mental disease appears or depression sets in, memory also suffers. Absence of the loss of memory denotes mental health.

Take Care of the Mind.

People suffer more from mental than physical diseases. We come across a large number of mental cases as quite a lot of them come to attend the preksha dhyan training camps. Some of them give the impression that for them the world is all suffering. Even though possessed of all assets, a mentally ill person feels total deprivation. Therefore, care of the mind is of utmost importance. People take much more care of their bodies than of their minds. Intelligent people do otherwise. After all, it is the mind, which controls the body. If its controller is not healthy, how can the body be healthy?

An Unfailing Principle.

Let us discuss the relationship between preksha dhyan and mental health. For retaining mental strength it is necessary to keep the mind vacuous (free from thought, memory and imagination). If we make the mind function ceaselessly - endless remembering, thinking, and imagining - it will become ill. An unfailing principle of mental health is resting the mind, keeping it vacuous. Thinking is a good activity, but constant thinking is not good. The same is true of remembering and imagining. Excess of them is a sign of mental illness. By regulating memory, thought and imagination, the mind should be given rest. It will strengthen the mind and keep it healthy.
One of the methods to achieve the above purpose is the practice of shvasa preksha (perception of breathing). A man who has practised perception of slow and deep breathing can keep his mind vacuous (free from thought, memory and imagination). Practice of concentration is the best tonic of the mind. It nourishes the mind much more than anything does. Tonics are not used in all seasons but the practise of slow and deep breathing can be done all year round. If it is done twice or thrice, ten minutes each time, the mind will get tremendous rest.

Cessation of Mental Activity.

Even more advanced is the stage where the mind is closed altogether, as it were. Such a state is much more nourishing. If a person wants to preserve and develop the power of the mind, he should definitely practice this 'mind-closure' for at least ten to twenty minutes. In Jain terminology it is called manogupti (control or closure of the mind), wherein the mind is kept away from thought, memory, imagination, argument-counter argument and all such things. Such a state provides an elixir to the mind.

Perception of Psychic Colours.

Another practice consists of contemplating or meditating on the white or green colours. Green makes man introvertive and keeps unwanted things away. When we meditate on the green at the Centre of Intuition (the pituitary; middle of the eyebrows), the mind becomes absolutely tranquil and withdraws itself from all external matter. Similarly meditating on the white at the Centre of Enlightenment (the pineal; Centre of the forehead) also contributes greatly to mental health.

Mahapran Dhvani (Musical Sound Experienced in the State of Deep Meditation)

Next comes the practice of mahapran dhvani, musical sound experienced in a state of deep meditation. It strengthens the texture of knowledge within our minds. It is very useful for mental health. As in the case of the humming of the black beetle, mahapran dhvani is also pure sound, no words. During lots experience, both imagining and thinking vanish and the mind experiences vacuity. If it could be practised for ten minutes, the mind would get all the nourishment it needs.

Sarvendriya Sanyam Mudra (A sealing posture aimed at restraining all sense organs).

Another practice is called sarvendriya sanyam mudra. The mind becomes weak due to our sense organs. They direct our mind to objects of their respective pleasures and render it weak. By cutting ourselves off from the outer world and deactivating the sense organs, we automatically afford rest to our mind. This is what one should do. Insert the two thumbs in the ears. Close the eyes and put one finger each of the two hands on them. Put the next finger of each hand on the nose and the final two fingers of each hand on the lips. By closing the ears, eyes, nose and the mouth, the sarvendriya sanyam mudra can be practised. It will cut off our relation with the external world and give us a feeling of not-being. Five minutes given to the above posture will give rest equivalent to that of three hours. This practise leads from duality to unity and makes one feel alone in the crowd.

Experience of the Impassible State.

All the above-mentioned practices of preksha dhyan are extremely important for mental health. With their help we can create the mental disposition we want and develop the mind. We can even put up with our present circumstances, which are responsible for mental diseases. In fact these diseases have a direct relation with materialism. Even in India, which is a developing country, the number of mentally sick is constantly increasing. In this context it is essential to pay attention to mental health and know all about the informal methods calculated to improve the health of the mind. By so doing, we can develop the power of the mind and experience a state of transcending sorrows and suffering even while living amidst the woes of the world.

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Anuvrat
  3. Body
  4. Centre of Enlightenment
  5. Centre of Intuition
  6. Concentration
  7. Dhvani
  8. Dhyan
  9. Ecology
  10. Environment
  11. Equanimity
  12. Fear
  13. Gita
  14. Guru
  15. Gurudev
  16. Mahapran
  17. Mahapran Dhvani
  18. Mahavira
  19. Manah
  20. Manogupti
  21. Meditation
  22. Mudra
  23. Perception of Breathing
  24. Perception of Psychic Colours
  25. Preksha
  26. Preksha Dhyan
  27. Psychic Colours
  28. Rajas
  29. Rishabh
  30. Sankhya
  31. Sanyam
  32. Sattva
  33. Shravaks
  34. Shvasa Preksha
  35. Tamas
  36. Tolerance
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