Theme of the Week: Mental Asceticism

The only authentic mental standpoint to take is that of total responsibility for oneself, never descending to transfer blame to anything outside oneself."— The Aquarian Almanac"

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August 5, 2015 Theme for the Week: Mental Asceticism

“Taking nothing within his reach and retaining nothing in his grasp, he restrains his mind within himself, wherein all is contained.�?


So says the writer of the Mahabharata.

August 16, 2015 Theme for the Week: Mental Asceticism

�? He who, even before the release from the body, is here able to withstand the turbulence of desire and anger, he is a yogin, a blessed man .�?

— Shri Krishna

“Restrain the self, regulate the breath,

Sift the transient from the true.�?

— Shankaracharya

To restrain the mind (lower mind) do we first have to transcend it in the crucible of our imagination?

I think imagination is a very important part of the process of taking hold of the lower mind. I would simply say yes.
Gerry -To restrain the mind (lower mind) do we first have to transcend it in the crucible of our imagination?
Kristan -I think imagination is a very important part of the process of taking hold of the lower mind. I would simply say yes.
How so?  Imagination is one of the five modifications of the mind - right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy, sleep and memory.  It seems imagination creates more thoughts and images and at times interferes with the efforts of curbing the lower mind.  

Fancy and imagination are two very different things.  Fancy is involuntary and is connected to the desire nature.  Higher Imagination, if we can put it that way, is a voluntary act of the focused mind to picture (dwell) on the abstract.  This arouses Buddhi, intuition.   It is a metaphysical version of the AA admonition, "Fake it till you make it."  Imagine it until you become it.  "Realization comes from dwelling upon the thing to be realized." - Robert Crosbie

What Tamiko referred to (Robert Crosbie quotation) is what I had in mind when I said that imagination is very important.

Imagination, or as Crosbie calls Higher Imagination, is the link or bridge connecting theses many aspects and functions of the Mind proper.  Imagination appears to have a language of its own, which is often far beyond words and worldly concepts of the literal and analytical mind...More difficult is it to bring down our Imagination, translated through this particular language.  

When we study abstract and metaphysical texts one cannot expect to grasp these ideas by one aspect of the mind only.  It seems many try, as the lower mind is quite tenacious.  To understand the abstract, I find, one must think in abstract concepts- this requires Imagination.  

"It seems imagination creates more thoughts and images and at times interferes with the efforts of curbing the lower mind."

Rightly guided, I hope imagination would create more thoughts and images! These are important in understanding life outside of our very tiny and limited perspective, don't you agree?  Imagination is not totally unguided it seems; I feel as if something is working though it, meaning the Imagination is a vehicle for a higher aspect of Mind which requires a more and subtlelanguage or degree of matter than the language and matter of earth.  The mind is a psychic organ, nevertheless.

I think one book, I cannot recall which one, suggested that (Higher) Imagination was the first function of the development of the inner senses, which will help us along the Hall of Learning.  Unguided imagination is fancy- a mental hinderance, as you rightly said. 

It seems to me that if we are to manage or control anything we must first be able to observe it impersonally, impartially, objectively. Since we identify with our names and personalities we associate the activity of the desire mind with that same name and personality. Full control, full mastery could only occur if the individual can step outside the lower mind and observe it from a higher point of view. In contemplation we must be able to imagine ourself as being outside of the personality, independent of it. This is one of the powers of the mind, the power of imagination and it is a philosophical tool for the student. 

As pointed out that fancy and imagination are distinct and dissimilar, the former is involuntary while the latter intentional.  The “as if�? approach, brought up by Tamiko, practiced by many, is an effective method for dwelling on things to be realized.  The only meditation diagram in print from HPB, that of acquisitions and deprivations requires the use of imagination. There are many valuable functions of the creative imagination.

This faculty is solely possessed by the human and higher kingdoms and it has the power to heal as well as to kill, to enlighten as well as to deceive.   All self-help gurus are familiar with the power of imagination and teach their followers to employ this tool to achieve wealth, fame, and fulfill any desires.  Many use this image-making faculty for personal wants, further imprisoning the soul behind walls of images.    We know that every thought is coalesced with an elemental entity that we draw within our own sphere.   They are impressed in the astral light and survive for a period of time.  We are peopling space with our own offsprings that either pollute or cleanse the astral spheres.    

In the Yoga Sutra it speaks about the importance of inhibiting the modifications of the mind.  When the lower mind becomes steady by concentrating on a chosen object or subject, it moves from dharana to dhyana to samadhi.  As the mind becomes still, free of thoughts and images, then insights can flash across the mental space.

Yoga Sutra, Book I, 41  In the case of one whose Citta-Vrttis have been almost annihilated, fusion or entire absorption in one another of the cognizer, cognition and cognized is brought about as in the case of a transparent jewel (resting on a coloured surface).    

47.  The purity of the non-deliberative being reached, internal clarity follows. 

August 17, 2015 Theme of the Week: Mental Asceticism

“He does not contend,

And none contends with him.�?

— Lao Tzu

“Let not a man heed the faults of others, their sins of omission and commission, but let him attend to his own acts and what he has left undone.�?

— Buddha

What is the connection between contending and learning from the mistakes of others and mental asceticism?

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Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on August 22, 2015 at 9:55am

Self-righteousness might be defined as trying to force others to see things as we see them.  If we are on a philosophical quest for the truth getting others to agree with us is not part of the process, it takes one away from the primary goal.  Many people cut their journey to the quick by stopping along the road and trying to direct traffic along the road they have chosen.  To be one-pointed (mental asceticism) one must resist the desire to contend with others.  Instead it is healthier to think of others as teachers and to learn from them.  The Buddha recommends we seek to reform ourselves rather than running around trying to reform everyone else ( a cop out for working on ones own foibles).  So I see both of these quotes contributing to mental focus on the goal.  I am sure there are many other ways of looking at it and I appreciate the question.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 17, 2015 at 2:10pm

मनसो विजयात�? नान�?या गतिरस�?ति  भवार�?णवे । तावत�? निशीथवेताला वल�?गन�?ति हृदि वासनाः ॥ ३५ । �?कतत�?त�?व�?दृढाभ�?यासात�? यावत�? न विजितं मनः |

In the ocean of worldly existence, there is no refuge other than the conquest of the mind.  As long as the mind is not conquered by the firm practice of the One Truth, so long do the night-ghosts of imagination dance in the Heart.

- "The Story of Bhaargava"; Yogavaasishtha Maharamayana of Rsi Valmiki.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 19, 2015 at 9:57am

Boy does that underscore our themes of mental asceticism, mental hygiene and purity and pollution.  Thanks.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 17, 2015 at 2:18pm

B.P. Wadias articles on "Studies in The Voice of the Silence"

"Daily, nay hourly, from the sphere of memory the dust rises and settles on the mind, taking away its capacity to reflect the Divine Ideas of Akasha. Therefore daily and hourly the mirror of the mind has to be dusted and study of the Esoteric Philosophy does it. Sustained effort to reflect Divine Ideas polishes the mind, transforming the mirror and giving it the superior capacity to reproduce, more and more accurately, the Living Images of Devas and Dhyanis, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. These reproductions are the real points that draw the Chela-Soul to the Vajrasattva, the "Lord of all Mysteries."

It is during the process of brushing away the dust of illusions, of blending mind and soul, of soaring into the sphere of Sat, that the choice to tread the Path of Renunciation is confirmed, because we see the hidden meanings and the occult implications of that choice. The Great Choice comes at the end, when the knowledge concerning the two Ways is obtained:

Thou hast the knowledge now concerning the two Ways. Thy time will come for choice, O thou of eager Soul, when thou hast reached the end and passed the seven Portals. Thy mind is clear. No more art though entangled in delusive thoughts, for thou hast learned all. Unveiled stands Truth and looks thee sternly in the face. She says:

"Sweet are the fruits of Rest and Liberation for the sake of Self; but sweeter still the fruits of long and bitter duty. Aye, Renunciation for the sake of others, of suffering fellow men."

Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 21, 2015 at 6:43pm

In terms of brushing away the dust of illusions, the Zen monk expressed this in a poem - 

The body is the wisdom-tree,

The mind is a bright mirror in a stand;

Take care to wipe it all the time,

And allow no dust to cling.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 21, 2015 at 11:41pm

Your Zen Poem reminded me of this from the Voice:

For mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects.3 It needs the gentle breezes of Soul-wisdom to brush away the dust of our illusions. Seek, O Beginner, to blend thy Mind and Soul.

3. From Shin-Sien's Doctrine, who teaches that human mind is like a mirror which attracts and reflects every atom of dust, and has, to be, like that mirror, watched over and dusted every day. Shin-Sien was the sixth Patriarch of North China, who taught the Esoteric Doctrine of Bodhidharma.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 19, 2015 at 9:31am

August 18, 2015 Theme for the Week: Mental Asceticism


You abstain from the world,

You will not find the Kingdom.�?

— Jesus

“Make hard thy Soul against the snares of Self, deserve for it the name ‘Diamond-Soul’.�?

— The Voice of the Silence

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 19, 2015 at 9:58am

What does the image of the Diamond Soul suggest to other students?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 19, 2015 at 9:31am

August 19, 2015 Theme of the Week: Mental Asceticism

“Forebear to judge, for we are sinners all.

Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close;

And let us all to meditation.�?

— William Shakespeare

�? Know that to subdue the mind is to subdue the world.�?

— Guru Nanak

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on August 19, 2015 at 9:52am

Mental asceticism reminds one of the concept of tapas in the Hindu tradition.  When we focus the mind we have to ward off interruptions.   This is very hard, but with practice, we are told, it gets easier.  Perhaps this is part of what is meant by Mental Asceticism.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 19, 2015 at 4:44pm

Gerry, you have mentioned tapas, a very important practice regarding the pledge of mental asceticism.  It is found in many texts, as shown, that mental austerity seems to be the greatest of all forms of Tapas.  Tapas has a few different meanings, mostly it is known as religious austerity, however, as one might know, there is a sort of heat or fireassociated with this word and practice.  I believe that this fire caused by the mental friction- the oscillation, perhaps, between higher and lower mind, which brings out this latent fire, just as the churning of wood brings forth its latent fire.

Some describe this spiritual practice as akin to military discipline... I think of the unruly child burning up as it were, when they are made to suppress their own child like behavior and observe the discipline of silence.  Much like the mind, there is a storm of rebellion, an upheaval of all different types emotions and pleadings.  With patience and careful perseverance on our part, the child-the mind- is eventually exhausted, burnt by the fire of tapas.

The 4th book of Patañjali's Yogasutras deals with the isolation of the mind. There in a few sutras read;

18. The mind is not self-illuminative, because it is an instrument of the soul, is colored and modified by experiences and objects, and is cognized by the soul.

24.  In him who knows the difference between the nature of soul and mind, the false notion regarding the soul comes to an end.

25. Then the mind becomes deflected towards discrimination and bowed down before Isolation.

33. The reabsorption of qualities which have consummated the aim of the soul, or the abiding of the soul united with understanding in its own nature, is Isolation. 

Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 21, 2015 at 7:04pm

Thank you for expanding on the meaning of the word tapas. 

The term "isolation" in the Yoga Sutras quoted above did not seem to make much sense till I look up the explanation by the translator.   

"This is a general statement of the nature of Isolation, sometimes called Emancipation. The qualities before spoken of, found in all objects and which had hitherto affected and delayed the soul, have ceased to be mistaken by it for realities, and the consequence is that the soul abides in its own nature unaffected by the great “pairs of opposites�? — pleasure and pain, good and evil, cold and heat, and so forth. Yet it must not be deduced that the philosophy results in a negation, or in a coldness, such as our English word “Isolation�? would seem to imply.  The contrary is the case. Until this state is reached, the soul, continually affected and deflected by objects, senses, suffering, and pleasure, is unable to consciously partake universally of the great life of the universe. To do so, it must stand firmly “in its own nature�?; and then it proceeds further — as is admitted by the philosophy — to bring about the aim of all other souls still struggling on the road."

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Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 21, 2015 at 11:33pm

Isolation also suggests concentration to the extent that all outside influences are blocked.  Like a laser beam.

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 20, 2015 at 4:20am

Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest.

Merge into one sense thy senses, if thou would'st be secure against the foe. 'Tis by that sense alone which lies concealed within the hollow of thy brain, that the steep path which leadeth to thy Master may be disclosed before thy Soul's dim eyes.

Long and weary is the way before thee, O Disciple. One single thought about the past that thou hast left behind, will drag thee down and thou wilt have to start the climb anew.

Kill in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or thou art lost.

Pages 17-18, Voice of the Silence.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 22, 2015 at 7:35pm

"Merge into one sense thy senses, if thou would'st be secure against the foe. 'Tis by that sense alone which lies concealed within the hollow of thy brain, that the steep path which leadeth to thy Master may be disclosed before thy Soul's dim eyes."

This is one of the many beautiful and esoteric passages in VOS.  It points to a stage of development where one shifts from the sensory to the intuitive mind, where one sees with the inner eye and not the physical eye. 

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 20, 2015 at 2:59pm

August 20, 2015 Theme for the Week: Mental Aceticism

“He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful may be called intelligent indeed.�?

— Confucius

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 20, 2015 at 3:29pm

I shared this in the Sacred Texts Group and it is relevant here as well.

It seems to me that all forms of austerity are secondary to mental austerity.  If you refrain from eating but brood on it for hour upon hour eventually you will go back overeating.  Shifting the focus is what mental austerity seems to be about, the same goes for asceticism. Krishna calls those who are austere on the outside but brooding on the inside "False pietist of bewildered soul."

Permalink Reply by Shen Rampersaud on August 22, 2015 at 3:28pm

The quality of what we exhibit externally is a reflection of what transpires internally within the heart and mind. There is much meaning to your words.

One Zen story teaches the importance of the mind’s ventures versus one’s external actions. It talks of two monks who were traveling to their monastery and on their way was a stream to be crossed. As they approached this stream, a woman nearby stood stranded because she could not cross without ruining her newly made cloths. The elder monk of the two decided to carry her on his shoulder and dropped her off on the other side of the stream.

On the way to the monastery, the younger monk was silently agitated. Hours passed until he finally blurted out, “How could you carry that woman? That is against the rules!�?

The older monk replied, “I dropped her off hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?�?

This story is reminiscent of the brooding to which you were referring, Tamiko. Thank you for bringing up this point; it shows that how we spend our daily lives within our minds and hearts serves as a foundation to the quality and sustenance of our external endeavors. 


Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 22, 2015 at 3:35pm

Yes.  If we practice austerity of the mind, speech and deeds inevitably follow. 

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on August 21, 2015 at 11:23pm

August 21, 2015 Theme for the Week: Mental Asceticism

“O Great Spirit, make me sufficient to mine own occasions.

Give to me mind my own business at all times, and to lose no

good opportunity for holding my tongue.�?

— Oglala Dakota Chant

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on August 22, 2015 at 3:18pm
"He who controls his mind by perpetual patience and incessant vigilance is a man of impregnable character, unapproachable by calamity...

Men of mental vigilance are never trapped by the snare of error in this perilous world; they are not visited by the demon of despair in their waking or sleep states...

New reflections efface prior impressions from the tablet of the mind, asan earthen pot turning on the potters wheel no more thinks itself mere clay...

The mind, O Muni, is transmuted instantly into its pellucid form, as the light and airy fountain spray suddenly glistens with the Suns brightness."

Utpatti khanda, XCII; Yogavaisishtha Maharamayana of Rsi Valmiki