What help us to know ourselves what things are not helping factors, and how we can analyse ourselves from the outgoing faculties and intellect is a practical subject. This is truly called spirituality.
Sant Kirpal Singh

What is mind?

A talk given by Sant Kirpal Singh, 28 November, 1972 at Anaheim, California
Short videoclip "Mind - the curtain or the
impediment lying between man and God


 Kirpal Singh, Sant Bani Ashram, USA 1972

Dear brothers and sisters,

knowledge is of two kinds: one, that is attained through the help of the outgoing faculties, mind and intellect; and the other, by your own conscious self, by knowing one's self, withdrawing from all outside – from the clutches of the mind, intellect and outgoing faculties – and knowing the overself, which is all-consciousness. So one is called the exoteric side, the other is called the esoteric side. Enmissina and Suffina, they say in Persian. Most of us take the exoteric side.

God resides within us: Masters say, "We have seen Him." And we ask the Master, "Why don't we see Him?" And they tell us, "Because the mind stands between you and Him." The mind controls the soul. The mind, in turn, is controlled by the outgoing faculties. And the outgoing faculties (senses) are, further, driven like anything by the outer enjoyments. This is the state of affairs: the outgoing faculties control the mind, the mind is controlling our intellect and our conscious self is being led away like anything to outside things. So it is the mind that stands in the way.

We should now understand: What is the mind? This is a general question. Guru Nanak says, "If you control the mind, yon can control all – the world over." The mind is a hindrance between the soul and God. So Masters tell us, "If you are ready to develop to know God, you must first put one step on your mind and control it and the other step that you will take will reach you to the house of your Father."

Soul is of the same essence as that of God and the mind is of the essence of Brahm, the negative power. The soul is of the essence of the positive power and the mind is of the essence of the negative power.

And here, the whole thing is topsy-turvy, as I tell you. It is we, as souls, who give life to enliven the body, mind and outgoing faculties and we are driven like anything by them. So, the mind is not an ordinary thing, you see: it is the negative power – is has control all over the three planes: physical, astral, causal and, to some extent, the supercausal, too.

So, the soul can only be liberated from the mind if the mind reaches its own goal. So, for that reason, Socrates said, "Man! Know thy self." Guru Nanak said, "Truly speaking, he is the pure man who has known him-self by liberation from the mind." As I have told you, the mind has control of the physical, astral and causal planes. Unless the soul divests its self from the physical, astral and causal planes – vestures – it is in the control of the mind. When it (soul) rises above these, only then – truly speaking – is it pure.

Kabir says, "When you meet a Master – what does he do? First, he demonstrates by taking you up above the outgoing faculties which are physical. Then he takes you to the other astral faculties, then from them to the causal faculties and then he gives you an ultimate dip into your own self there." So the Master's first work is to take you above the physical outgoing faculties. Masters say, "So long as you do not see things for your own self, don't believe the Masters."

So, there are three coverings on the man: physical, astral and causal – the physical mind (it is called Pindi mind), astral mind (it is called Andi mind) and the causal mind (it is called Brahmandi mind) – the third mind – higher above. Unless we divest our self from all these minds, we are not safe from being drawn to the outgoing attachments. For instance, there is one lamp with a covering around it – one, two, three layers of that covering – and it seems that lamp is not burning. If you take off one cover, you see some light. If you take off the second covering, you see more light. And if you take off all the covers, you see still more light.

The first step is to know your self. Knowing your self starts first from the physical body – rising above the physical body – but you are then still under the control of the astral mind and the causal mind. When you shake off the astral and then the causal minds, then truly you know your self: who you are, what you are.

Of course, you begin to have some consciousness of the God-power working overhead when you rise above the physical outgoing faculties. But true purity is attained only when you rise above all these three planes. So, self-knowledge precedes God-knowledge.

Do you know what self-knowledge is? It is rising above the physical body – above the physical outgoing faculties. The soul is then on the way to full self-knowledge, but has not yet got full self-knowledge. That full self-knowledge will come up only when you rise above the astral and causal minds also.

You have seen now how the mind stands in our way. How can you control the mind? As I told you, knowledge is of two kinds: one, the knowledge that is attained – achieved – through the outgoing faculties, mind or intellect. And the other knowledge is attained by knowing one's self, by rising above body-consciousness and coming in contact with the Godpower within you.

The mind is such a thing which is like a snake. When you cover it with a basket, it is all right. Whenever you will leave it free, it will bite you.

Similarly, these practices of the exoteric side of knowledge, all of which include reading, writing, singing, performing certain humnas, going to places of pilgrimage and so many things, all coming under the category of Apra Vidya. As these outer practices are under the control of the mind, the mind cannot be controlled by means of them.

So, there is another way within you. And what is that? You rise above these outer things. The Master gives you a demonstration of this way within by showing you how to rise above physical-body consciousness. You are then on the safe side by one, but two other steps are still wanted. So the Master gives you a contact with the God-into-expression-power (Word or Naam) within you by raising you above body-consciousness.

What should we do with the mind, then? Soami Ji says, "Befriend your mind." You see? "All right, Satan, wait!" And just be in tune with the God-into-expression-power, the demonstration of which is given by the Master: open the inner eye to see the light of God and the inner ear to hear the voice of God.

We have to analyse what the mind is after. The mind is after gratification: it wants some bliss in outside enjoyments. Unless the mind is given some higher bliss, as compared with the outside enjoyments, it won't leave the outer enjoyments.

This is the state of men at large, I would say, and all Masters have referred to this. Guru Nanak says that people read the scriptures, and the Vedas give in their notations that a demonstration is required of that God-into-expression-power and of how to rise above the physical-body consciousness. The people at large continue to perform such practices which concern the physical body, but even with their doing all that, the mind still has control over them.

I can give you an example. There is an owner of a house and he has got sheep. And he has ordered that some door be kept closed so that the sheep may not run away. If that door is left, even a little open, then he is afraid that any of the sheep may go away. If a sheep does go away, then the owner sends men to catch it and then bring it back. So the mind is such a thing (chuckle), you see. The mind never leaves its control over you; because when the Master is met, the Master has the way up (the "opened door"). Even if the soul is regular (in the inner practices), still the mind will put hurdles on the way in a hundred ways. You see?

All Masters say, "Even the men who live at the places of pilgrimage – or any places – still they have got the same gratifications of the mind there, too. And they want the gratifications of their minds there, too. And with all that, you won't go to Sat Lok or Sach Khand (the realm of pure truth)."

Even, the Masters say that in the old days there was a custom that pundits (scriptural scholars) used to ask those men (seekers) to give away everything and then let their heads be cut off – considering that they will thereby get salvation. But even if you do that, even then the mind won't leave you.

It is by means of the mind that all this dirt (impurity) of outer things comes within us. Guru Amar Das, after seventy long years – after practising all of these methods of outer knowledge, relating to the outgoing faculties, mind and intellect – came to the feet of Guru Angad, the second Guru of the Sikhs and got this way up. And Guru Amar Das explains that he whose mind is filthy, his whole being is filthy. If the mind has some lusty thoughts, the whole body – from head down to foot – becomes lusty.

The people at large are only after the outer cleanliness, not the inner one. So, the Masters always tell us what to do: the mind can be controlled, but not by the outside methods by which it can be controlled only for a while – just as when a fire is put under ashes and it appears that there is no fire; but when the wind blows, the ashes are blown away and the fire is there. But if you put water on the fire, then hundreds of winds may blow and there will be no fire. So, for the control of the mind, the only thing that can control the mind permanently is the bliss to be had by contact with the God-into-expression-power, which is light and sound.

You might have heard that Lord Krishna plunged into the river Jumna and thereunder he found one hydra-headed snake. He played to it on his flute and controlled it. This is an example of metaphorical speech: the mind is the hydra-headed snake within us, which can be controlled only by the Music of the Spheres within you. And there is no other way out.

Bulleh Shah says, "I have been to the mosques; I have been to the Kaaba; I have read through the scriptures; I have been performing all of the outward methods of prayers, namaz and worship. I have been to the places of pilgrimage, too. All of my efforts have been unfruitful for keeping my mind under control." He then asks, "How did it happen?" Then he says, "By God's grace, I met my Guru and all these things that I could not have from all these outward penances, I had with His grace, with the medicine that He gave me: the contact with the light and sound-principle within us."

Soami Ji says, "You may have recourse to hundreds of methods outside, but the mind will not be controlled." The yogis have been doing their samadhis, I would say, and even then their minds are not controlled.

I met with a yogi in Kanpur in India and kumbak is what he used to do. For instance, he was put underground – buried – and after seven days he would rise up alive. Or, he would have a plank of wood put over his breast, an elephant to stand on that plank, and in that condition he would then talk to the public. And with all this, he would also have ropes put around his neck, with fifteen men pulling on each side (as in a tug-of-war), but he did not die. So I asked him, "Well dear friend, what is the state of your mind?" He said, "So long as I am in the kumbak, there is nothing like mind. Whenever I come out of kumbak, the same mind is there."

So, various Masters have gone through these things; and Guru Amar Das, especially, had gone through all of these outer practices and he came to know, ultimately, that the mind cannot be controlled in all these other – outer – ways, but by one thing: contact with the light and sound-principle within you in the shadow of the Master.

Why? The Master's surat (attention) is controlled. And the mind takes its strength from the soul. The radiation of the Master helps. Those who sit in that field-of-action, their souls are still – not disturbed by the mind – for a while, they are still. This is a very scientific way, I would say.

So, all men have tried to control the mind for years and years. And Guru Amar Das put in seventy long years in this effort by having recourse to all these outer practices of the exoteric side – of prayers and various other methods. These are good actions; and, of course, we cannot deny it. They will give you good results, but the ego won't go. And so long as you are the doer, you will have to sow, and then reap what you have sown. Good actions will give you good results, and bad actions will give you bad results.

When you actually see that power is working, you become one with that. And you say, "That power is working; I am not the doer. Then all the sins sown in the past are all washed away.

For so long the people have done all of the methods outside, for instance by looking at one's own face in mirrors in an effort to find the way up and to still the mind; but, even then, the mind is not stilled later on. Or by "killing your mind": that way you may have some supernatural powers, but the mind is still controlling you. So, no amount of cleverness or intellectual attainments can help you to control the mind. You see that all are equally led away by the mind to the outer enjoyments, whether the outer enjoyments are intellectual, or the result of duty, or have some promise of peace.

The only fault is not to sit at the feet of the Master daily: not to sit daily in the field-of-action of the Master who is the "word-made-flesh." Who also gives some thing to you, when you go to Him: just like when you go to somebody who sells perfumes. He may not give you anything; but anyhow the atmosphere is charged with the aroma of the perfumes, and you get the experience of the perfume for nothing. But if he gives you a phial of scents, then?

So, Masters enjoin three things: one, sit at the feet of someone who is attuned with God, who is the mouthpiece of God who is eternal. And the further thing comes up: when you go to their feet, be after the truth – not for the worldly things. There is nothing in short supply: anything you want you can have, be they worldly things or things of the other world. But if you go to a king to ask him for pebbles, what is the use of such an effort? Such a Master is the king of truth: of the true merchandise. Have that thing from Him and live up to His commandments: what He says. This is the only way.

You have seen the histories of the great men, too: they also fell away somewhere. So, this is the only way in which we can control the mind. And Guru Amar Das, when he returned from all his seventy long years and came to the feet of Guru Angad Sahib, said, "The dear fellows, what should they do? They have been tossed about by the mind. Some were here, some there, some there, some there. The more you give to the mind, the more the mind wants."

So if you come to such a man, ask him who is in control of his mind. Ask him if he can see God and say praises directly to God? The Masters are always after one thing: first see God and then say praises to God. Guru Amar Das says, "Without seeing Him, if you say his prayers, it is just like a blind man. See and then say."

Then, what is the reason why the mind is not controlled? It is because the mind is dragged away by the outgoing faculties. And the outgoing faculties are driven away by the outward enjoyments. There are so many other failures, but the main failures are two in number: one, of lust and the other, of anger: If you will simply be quiet and listen to other people talking together, you will find these two things: these are talk about lust, or about such and such a man who creates some small thing, he eats it up and then there is jealousy; or other things about some worldly possessions, and on and on like that. Very rarely will you find people talking about God. So, with all this, you will find that men are drowning in lust, or in anger.

Lust assails us through the eyes, mind that! And anger assails us through the ears. Eighty percent of our outer impressions come through our eyes and fourteen percent of our outer impressions come through the ears. So, the Masters give us some thing for the eye to see and some thing for the ear to hear. What they give to the eye is the light within. What they give to the ear is the music of the spheres. When the mind gets bliss that way, it gets quiet. As we look at it, our outgoing faculties are present, of course, but their impressions are not so strong as the others within.

So, the Master says, when we go to him, "Look here, there is one God-into-expression-power reverberating in all creation. He is the creator of all the universe; He is permeating all the universe and He is also controlling you in the body. The manbody is the true temple of God. Contact with that God-into-expression-power has been given to you within you. So, the highest thing that we can utilize to save us from all these outer tragedies and coming-and-going is daily to come into contact with that God-power reverberating in all creation, which is in the forms of light and sound.

But how can we have this inner contact? Simply by sitting at the feet of a Master. It is given by the grace of the Master. And who is the Master? The Master is the "Word made flesh" – he is the mouthpiece of God. When God wants anybody to come to His feet, what does He do? He just brings the seeker in contact with somewhere where He (God) is manifest.

So, Guru Amar Das says, "Unless you come into contact with the God-into-expression-power (Word within), the two aspects of which are light and sound, the mind cannot be purified."

The mind has three stages, as I told you. One is the physical mind, the other is the astral mind and the third is the causal mind. And that contact with Word, which is given to you by raising you above the physical body – that power goes through the physical, astral, causal and beyond, and takes you to the source from which it emanated, the wordless God. So, truly a man is pure only when he rises above the control of the mind. And when we see Him (God), then only should we sing His praises.

Guru Amar Das, and all other Masters, have been very much particular in saying that the people at large are, spiritually speaking, "blind", because they praise God without seeing Him. They praise God without hearing Him with their own ears. Shamas Tabrez tells us, "We must be able with our own eyes to see God and hear His voice with our own ears." If the Masters had this experience, or the past Rishis had it, then what about you? If your father was a king, then what are you? Who are you? Are you a king? You have the good fortune that you have come from the lineage of all these Godmen; but unless you have that privilege of what they had – again, it may be said – you are not liberated.

How, then, does one come into contact with that God-into-expression-power? This is now the question. The only way is to sit at the feet of someone in whom God is manifested. With a little of the Word-power, he will enable you to rise above the physical body: there may be one man present, or ten men, or a hundred, or two hundred, four hundred, five hundred, even more. With a little thought (attention) of His, that will give you a boost: withdraw your attention from your outgoing faculties and raise you above your physical body – and give you a contact by opening the inner, "single" eye to see the light of God and hear the music of the spheres within you.

And what will happen? Where will this lead you? This will lead you to the place from where this (Word) emanates. The wordless God, absolute God, when He wanted: "I am one and wish to be many", then there was vibration, which resulted in two things: light and sound. So the Master, being "Word-made-flesh", can give you a contact with the light and the sound-principle within you, and when you ride on it, it will take you to the very source from which it emanated: that is the absolute God. This is the direct way back to God.

When Guru Amar Das had that thing (the light and the sound: the Word), he addressed his mind, "O mind, hitherto you wanted so many things that you could not have. You have wanted those outer enjoyments which you have noticed. But now have this for a little while: just have this enjoyment and you will succeed. You will find that any thought that strikes you, you will achieve that thing at once. For at that very thought, nature will be at your beck and call to comply with what you want.

"Hitherto, oh mind, you have been wishing to have this thing, that thing. All, the world over, are complaining like that: O God, such and such thing has not been given to me. But when you come into contact with the God-into-expression-power within you, then the very moment the thought occurs to you, nature will be at your beck and call to comply. Then you become the lord of nature."

Nature is made by God, and when you become one with God – imbued with God – naturally, nature also obeys your orders. Any thought – you won't like to think – but if, at all, any thought does come, that compliance will at once come into commission.

So, when Guru Amar Das had attained this position, he then addressed the other people, "Look here, dear friends, I was also like you for some time: like you, grovelling under the control of the mind and the outgoing faculties. For seventy long years, I have been under it. Now, I have risen above the mind. That shows that there is hope for each one of you. For others who are now grovelling at the level of the mind and the outgoing faculties, there is hope for them also."

So, the people with him asked him, "What has happened, and how?" Guru Amar Das replied, "When I took to the feet of God, that is how."

What are the "feet of God"? See here, this watch is controlled by my two fingers. Apparently, this watch appears to be controlled by the two fingers, but in the two fingers, who is working?" I. "Similarly, in the Saints, it is God who controls them. You see? Apparently, when we meet the Saints, that meeting of a Saint is just coming to God Himself, Maulana Rumi (c. 1200) says, "If you come near a Saint, or near to a Master, it is the same thing as to come near to God. When you are away from such persons, then you can consider that you are away from God."

Now the question arises. "What can we do? How can we meet with the Master?" So, Kabir says, "Your Master may be living on the other side of seven oceans and you may be living on this side, direct your attention to Him." You see? You will develop receptivity to Him. That is what Masters tell us.

So what did Guru Amar Das do? Through God's grace working through a Master, the second Guru – the Guru of Amar Das – Guru Amar Das said, "I was being drowned like stones, under the filthy waters of the mind. He (Guru Angad) dragged me up, out of it. The result was we were no more that way. Now, the mind does not attack us – we are out of that filth now."

What do Masters do? They simply say, "All right, sit in any pose – don't change. And with that, they give a little boost along with it to your attention. As you sit longer, you go up. When you divert your attention to such and such within, He helps you to divert your attention. The inner eye is opened and you begin to see the light of God.

So, Guru Amar Das says, "I was just like you some day." Every Saint has his past and every sinner a future.

In what he says, Guru Amar Das compares his past life with his present state – with what he has now achieved, and he says, "I was poisoned – like poison. " By "poisoned", he meant that he was being killed – that he died. "Now, my bad condition has been quite reversed, for I have now got the elixir, which gives everlasting life. The nectar of life, I have now become. And with whose grace? With the grace of God working through my Master. He raised my soul, which had already drunk the poison of the mind. Now my soul is above the mind and I am no more like that." Previously he was like that poison of the mind. But how did he change? From the time I sat at the feet of my Master."

You see, there is a personal aura in each man. You are not concentrated enough to see it. If you could have psychic insight, you would see that each human aura grows, and you would find external emanations. Everything that lives and vibrates, shines forth into the universe. We would see auras as tranquil as lakes and as active and exciting as rolling plains. We would see radiant emotions from the people who have got love, and deep, dark flashes from those who have got anger and hate. So these are the emanations from the personal aura of the man. Our Master (Sawan Singh Ji – 1858-1948) used to say, "Whenever a man comes to us, we see as through a glass jar whether it is a pickle or a candy there within him." If you have that mystic eye or "yogic eye", you notice that aura has two characteristics: light and also perfume, or bad odor. Every thought has these; so, the Masters tell us.

When you see the photographs (or paintings) of the Masters, there is a pale glow or a white glow (halo) around their heads to indicate their personal aura. That is meant to show their purity of life – spiritual life. So each thought has its own colour – and each thought has its own perfume, or bad odour.

I will give you an example. If you don't wash your hands and feet and hair for a week or so, you will begin to have a bad odour. Where from does this bad odour come? It is the thoughts within you that give this bad odour. If your thoughts are pure – spiritual – then your emanation will be white, or pale, or of a golden hue. Each kind of thought has its own colour. Those with the colour blue are having loving thoughts. So these are the emanations of the personal auras. Guru Amar Das said, "First we had bad odours coming out of our thoughts; now we have got perfume coming out."

So, every thought has its own colour and its own perfume, or bad odour. That depends on the thoughts of the man within. For lusty thoughts, the colour will be blackish red. If the thoughts are of anger, then the colour is like lurid red. And if the thoughts are pure – spiritual – then the colour will be whitish. If the thoughts are of a loving nature, then the colour will be bluish.

You can watch such emanations if you are in the sun with your back towards the sun. Watch your shadow around your shoulders. Watch carefully for a while and you will see that some smoke is coming out. The colour of that smoke will be that from your inner life. So our Master (Sawan Singh Ji) used to say, "Anybody who comes, we see him like that." By that experience, you cannot but help develop your faith, service.

Your true nature cannot be hidden, you see, as when Guru Nanak says, "When this physical body is left – taken off – you appear in your true colours: who you are, what you are." Now we can, by means of our toilet (bathing: soaps) make the body very clean, and by means of our toilet (grooming: fragrances, deodorants) make the body very perfumed. But when this physical body is taken off, you appear in your true colours. There (above the physical body) you see what you are. So all that Guru Amar Das says is, "I have been like you some day. I have risen above body-consciousness, and there is hope for you as well."