In the Yoga Sutras, we learn that the practice of Yoga is aimed at addressing the fluctuations or disturbances in the mind (chitta vritti) so we may experience our natural state of peace and joy. Some misunderstand this and think “Yoga chitta vritti” means Yoga is the control of the mind. If so, who does the controlling?

When the mind is disturbed and you want to regulate it, you use another part of the mind to do that job. It’s not the soul that is trying to regulate the mind. The soul is the inner witness. It simply is. Then who is doing all these things? The mind. The sum total of all the parts of the mind is what you call the “cosmic mind.” The cosmic mind does everything. One part of the cosmic mind does things to create problems. Another part of the mind corrects it.

An analogy is this: When you make a fire with many pieces of wood, some of the pieces fall out, to the side. So, to make sure all the sticks get burned, you use another stick to push in the ones that have fallen out of the fire. One stick pushes in all the others. When all the sticks have caught fire, you throw in that last stick. Similarly, when you want to cut wood, you use an ax that has a wooden handle. One kind of wood chops another kind of wood.

You may ask, “What throws the stick into the fire at the very end?” In the analogy, there is someone who picks up a stick and throws it into the fire at the end. But when we are discussing the mind, it is the balanced part of the mind itself that plays the role of controlling the other part of the mind and then when everything is controlled, it realizes that its job is over and it also throws itself in. The balanced part of the mind stood apart for a little while just to teach you lessons; to clean you. Now that the job is over, the whole mind is one—pure and clean. The clean mind functions with the unclean mind and then when the unclean mind  becomes clean, they join together as one. Of course in the analogy of the stick, somebody has to pick up a stick and throw it back into the fire. The person throwing the stick does not become the stick. Examples have their limitations. The main idea is that you use one stick to burn all the others and then it is itself burnt.

In the political field, it is called “ruling tactics.” That means that if you want to ruin a country so that you can rule it, you find someone in that country itself who would do things against their own country. To ruin a country, you need somebody from the country itself. If nobody is available to betray their own country, it can never be taken over by somebody else. It’s the same way with the mind. To control the mind, you use another part of the mind that is pure. Once the mind has been cleaned, the good part is also discarded. It has served its purpose.

The mind itself functions in different ways. There is nobody else doing anything. The mind can work without outside prompts. The peaceful mind feels uneasy with its disturbed thoughts and wants to correct and heal them. This is the movement of self-liberation—of the pure Self expressing itself, which happens when we don’t let more things fall into the mind to disturb it. The thoughts liberate themselves through the movement of the innate goodness of the mind, which is our true nature. It like the analogy of a calm and clear lake. If you drop something into the lake you get ripples. The practices of Yoga help us to restore the lake of the mind to its calm and peaceful natural state.

The entire spiritual practice is for that. We say spiritual practice. It’s not the spirit that does the practice. It has no need of practice. It never becomes contaminated. Even the term Self-realization is a puzzling term. Which self realizes itself? Is it the higher Self or the small, egoistic, self? The higher Self never needs to realize itself because it never forgets itself. It is always aware of itself. So Self-realization is not for the pure Self, but for the lower self. It is the lower self that becomes clean and realizes it is the higher Self.

When your shirt is dirty, what do you do to wash away the dirt? You apply soap—it is the soap that washes the dirt. But soap, itself, is just another kind of dirt. That’s why you also have to wash that away when the shirt is cleaned. You don’t leave the soap in the shirt. So, when you want to wash away some dirt, you apply another dirt, which is called soap, and it helps clean the dirt in the shirt. Then, when you remove the shirt from the water, the original dirt and the dirt in the name of soap leaves the cloth and remains in the water. A pure, clean and balanced mind doesn’t have “dirt.” What causes dirt? Anything that will disturb the mind—primarily selfish, ego-centered thoughts and actions. A clean heart and mind is compassionate; it doesn’t have animosity toward anything. A pure mind will never try to eliminate anything. It sees everything else as also pure and clean. If you see anything as dirty or negative it is only because your own eye has not been purified. With a pure eye, it is impossible to see anything as dirty. If you want to see everything as pure, your own eye must be pure. A baby has a pure mind. To that baby, a lump of clay, cake, or wood are all equal. It all goes in the mouth. That is because a baby has a balanced mind, a serene mind. And that is attained once again, or “realized,” through the Yoga practices. And that is the goal of Yoga.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda