Unless we achieve complete mastery over the mind, we won’t achieve anything. To achieve this mastery, we need self-discipline. Human beings have been given the capacity to have good control over our minds and to do good, useful things with our minds—things that are beneficial to individuals, as well as to all of humanity. The goal of spiritual practice is God-realization, Self- realization, nirvana, liberation, salvation, or whatever words you wish to use. But, nothing can be attained without control or mastery over the mind.

This attainment is an experience. It is everywhere—within you and all around you. You don’t need to wait for it to come. And there is no need to request that Self-realization come to you. Some people may feel the need to pray, “God help me.” Somehow I feel a little uncomfortable saying that. It’s something like a child going to the mother and saying, “Mother, please feed me, have mercy on me. I’m hungry.” If you have to ask for that, then she is a hard-hearted mother. Just know she is thinking of you always and wants to take care of you and is trying her best to care for you. Asking for something and then getting something is not really a gift. A real gift is given at the proper time, when you need it, without your asking for it. It’s not that the help is not coming, but the main problem is how we can make ourselves fit to receive the help.

To put it in a scientific way I can give the following technical example. God, Mother Nature, or the Cosmic Consciousness is like a huge broadcasting station. It is broadcasting its grace, mercy, love and beauty, constantly. It goes all over the globe and is a very powerful transmitting station. It can reach anywhere and everywhere in less than seconds. It is not a long or medium wave, but an ultra-short wave. The only problem is we have to receive it.

Each of us is a receiving set. If you want love, tune into that. If you want mercy or strength, tune your set to that. It all depends on what station you tune to. We are all tuning ourselves but not necessarily to the right station. The language used in the sixties explains it very well: “Turn on and tune in,” is a phrase from the days of the hippies. “Turn on,” refers to getting high and tuning in. And “tune in” means to desire to achieve something noble—to enter into deep meditation. This language has a deep meaning if we want to see that. We just have to tune to the right channel. The Cosmic Consciousness is always giving, just as the wind is always blowing.

Once, there were some boatmen who sitting at the shoreline in their boats. They were complaining, What is this, why are we not moving?” So they cursed the wind and proclaimed, “How partial you are! You have no mercy on us and our boat!” As they were shouting at the wind, somebody walked by and asked, “Why are you shouting and blaming the wind? You didn’t untie your boat from the dock and you haven’t even opened your sail!” Many minds are just like that—all curled up and they just don’t want to open up. You may say, “I’ve opened up, but still I’m stuck.” That’s because of all the knots—the many things that are binding you. Not that somebody else bound you up. You did it to yourself and now you have to undo it. Those knots are all your attachments; all the mines. I want this, I have to have that and so on.

When you are never satisfied, it causes bondage. You are bound by your wants and desires. So, you have to undo these knots. That’s what you call vairagya, non-attachment. The more vairagya, the more freedom. It’s like the story of the monkey and the tender coconut. In India, people harvest coconuts, make a hole, and drink the water. The monkeys go after the discarded coconut for the sweet coconut meat. They put their hand into the coconut, take a scoop of the soft, sweet coconut jelly, and then try to pull out their hand. But the hand is in a big fist holding on to the jelly and so they can’t get their hand out of the coconut shell. No matter how hard they try—thrashing and banging—as long as the hand is holding onto the jelly, it’s too big to come out of the hole. Finally, they have to let go of the jelly. Then, the hand easily comes out. Did the coconut bind the monkey? No.

We are like that—grabbing every sweet jam or jelly and then when we want to let go, we find it difficult. But the minute you let go, you are free. So you are the cause for your bondage. It is your attachment to things that is binding you. Without that attachment you are free, liberated. Even just a little self-analysis will help us a lot. When you think, This is mine; it belongs to me, ask yourself since when it was yours. You never came into the world with anything and you’ve never seen anyone take anything with them when they leave. In between, things are given to us to use. But we forget that and we hold on as if we can keep it. That’s nothing but egoism.

I don’t say you should throw everything out. No, not at all. Just don’t call it “mine.” Don’t be attached to things, but instead utilize them for your benefit and the benefit of humanity. When the time comes, joyfully leave it for others to use. That is what you call detachment. You may ask, “How can I live without any attachment?” If you really want an attachment, there is one you can have. What is that? Be attached to your own peace, which is the God in you. Attach to peace or God so that you can detach from other things. That is the main practice to be doing in the name of Yoga, religion, or spirituality.

There are many techniques you can practice to help you live in the spirit of non-attachment: asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, and so on. Even if you don’t repeat any mantra, or practice any asana or pranayama, you will not be disqualified from being a yogi. The one and only, ultimate qualification is to live a dedicated, non-attached life—a life filled with total selflessness. That is all we need. You can do all the other things but without dedication and selflessness all the other things become another bondage. The ego takes over and becomes proud of the headstand and of the important talks you can give on the Yoga philosophy. There’s no need to crush the ego, just make it beautiful. Make it healthy, not sick. Then it becomes a useful ego that will help you to serve others, help you to live a dedicated, selfless life. The ego by itself is not bad. So, discipline the mind, and free the ego from any burdens. Then it becomes a sattvic or pure ego; one without any “mines” that can explode and blow up your peace and your happiness.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda