LIFE IS FOR LIVING by Surendra Narayan

Chapter 2: Mind Your Own Business

When a person begins to say or do things which amount to interference with another’s affairs he has sometimes to be politely told to mind his own business.

We are reminded of the good piece of advice given in At the Feet of the Master against the tendency to intrude into other men’s lives, beliefs, views and actions. Many of our troubles in life arise from this habit of interfering in things that do not concern us. Of course, non-interference does not mean that we adopt a callous attitude or become indifferent to what is happening around us. It primarily means checking the desire to pry into or meddle with other people’s affairs which arises either from curiosity or a conceited notion that somehow we carry on our shoulders the burden of reforming other people.

The advice to mind one’s own business is usually taken in the context of oneself and other persons in one’s relationships in the outer world. But, as is readily seen, it relates basically to the relationships within each one of us—between the Self and the non-Self, between me and my vehicles, and, since the body, feelings, and actions are largely controlled by the mind, between my mind and myself. This is so because the the outer is controlled by the inner.

In all these problems concerning inner relationships it is the mind that plays a crucial role since it is a sensitive and powerful instrument usually able to create the illusion that what it wants is what I want. That is why it has been called the rajah of the senses, the thought produced which awakens the illusion of separateness and division and thus limits our perception. That, however, is its business up to a certain stage in our journey towards perfection.

The consciousness in us is a fragment of the divine consciousness. But even that fragment is so powerful and so bright that at the earlier stages of human evolution it has to be brought down in strength and radiance as it descends from level to level. For our understanding, analogies may be taken from the physical world—of electricity stepped down from higher to lower voltage through transformers, or of blinding light successively softened through colour filters. And so the divine consciousness at the lowest level manifests itself as if through a veil, creating the illusion that I am separate from others and that my happiness lies in appropriating for myself all that looks attractive in the world outside. In essence, it gives rise to a craving for individual life. This is, however, meant to develop capacities in us, for every concerted effort to acquire wealth, power, fame and the things that attract us at the earlier stages of our development leads to the growth of the faculties of one-pointedness, perserverance, will and self-confidence. Later, a stage comes when the acquisition of pleasure-giving things of every kind ceases to have meaning and relevance for an evolving soul, since experience has shown him that there is no end to desire and that the things of the outer world acquired with so much effort do not really bring abiding joy. And then, as one begins to perceive one’s identity with all life, the capacities developed earlier begin to be put to better use for the larger good of mankind. At this point the mind has to play the part of a liberator.

The mind thus plays a dual role, one leading to bondage and the other to liberation.
Sankaracharya explains this in the following two verses in Vivekachudamani:

 

“Cloud collects by the wind and is again dispersed by the wind; bondage is created by the manas, and emancipation is also produced by it.

Having provided attachment to the body and all other objects, it thus binds the individual as an animal is bound by a rope; afterwards, having produced aversion to these as if to poison, that manas itself frees him from bondage.”

At the stage of becoming a liberator, the mind, no longer pretending to be master, should begin to be a reflector of the Real—of the divine consciousness—in everyday life and a pure instrument in the hands of the inner Self. It must become ‘free from the structures which thought has built psychologically.’ It does not see anything new but sees the same things and events differently. The apparent conflict between the sacred and the secular ceases, for there is nothing intrinsically evil in the latter; it is the mind that makes it so.

It is avidya or ignorance of our true nature which creates illusions. Avidya, it is said, clings tenaciously to the mind like wet clothes to the body. But as the clothes cease to stick to the body when the sun dries them, so does avidya evaporate from the mind as Self-awareness dawns. It is no more a question of destroying the mind or making it ineffective, but of transcending it in consciousness. It then automatically becomes disciplined and turns its attention to its own business. As Ashtavakra Samhita puts it:

 

Where is control of mind for the deluded one who strives for it? It is
indeed always natural with the wise one who delights in the Self.