Q: The mind is said to be the cause of bondage as well as the source of liberation. I find this paradox confusing. Will you please explain it?

A: Nothing is more mysterious than the mind. This mystery subsumes all other mysteries. A happy mind creates heaven here and now, while an unhappy mind creates hell wherever it goes. When the mind is friendly, the whole world becomes a friend, but a mind filled with animosity creates enemies everywhere.

The mind is intrinsically pure, like a flawless crystal.

According to yoga the mind is intrinsically pure, like a flawless crystal. It is endowed with limitless potential. The mind mirrors the beauty and grandeur of the highest divinity. The divine within us is ever enlightened. Illumination is its intrinsic nature. When the mind is still and clear, the inner divinity automatically enlightens our whole being. This is called freedom from the bondage of ignorance. When the mind is unsteady and unclear, darkness casts its spell on us. This is called being engulfed by the darkness of ignorance.

The mind is our most powerful faculty. Mastery over the mind enables us to master the material world. No other creature has a mind with such powers of linear thinking. Our retentive power has no match. The indomitable will intrinsic to our mind knows no limit. The mind’s power of imagination opens the door to limitless inventions. And yet, this same mind is also the cause of bondage. How is this possible?

The reason is simple: the mind stands at the junction of the inner and outer worlds. Consciousness uses the mind as an instrument to explore the vast field of matter and energy and the world consisting of them. If the mind is clear and stable, our understanding of reality will be correct. If it is confused and disturbed, our understanding will be distorted and confused.

The mind’s ability to create bondage and grant liberation arises from its unique quality of identifying itself with the object it perceives. The mind assumes the exact shape and form of the object being perceived—it becomes whatever it perceives. The mind is perceptive when it is clear. Its perception is stable when it is steady. When it is not contaminated by its own inner impurities its perception is correct.

The mind is the tool the soul uses to see itself and to see the world, and to experience itself and to experience the world. The divine being within us can rest in its natural abode only when the mind is no longer in turmoil. Philosophically, it is true that our core being—our soul—is pure and divine, and that peace and bliss are its intrinsic nature. But as a practical matter, when the soul is accompanied by a disturbed mind, it loses its self-awareness. Once embodied, it must use the mind as a tool to experience its own inherent attributes. If this tool is contaminated, then the soul has no chance to experience its own nature; instead, it helplessly experiences only what the mind presents to it. That is why this pure, divine, ever-perfect soul finds itself in bondage and craves liberation.

When the mind is still and clear, the inner divinity enlightens our whole being.

We must cultivate a clear, calm and concentrated mind for it is only this kind of mind that will enable us to understand what is right and what is wrong, what is healthy and what is unhealthy, what is good and what is bad, and ultimately, what is to be desired and what is to be avoided. As soon as the mind becomes clear, calm, and well focused, it recovers its discerning power and becomes perceptive. It regains trust in itself and gathers its courage to move inward. Making a commitment to free itself from its self-created disturbances and distractions leads it even further inward. The mind becomes one-pointed. This one-pointed focus enables it to see the contents hidden deep within, and because the mind is able to see these contents clearly, they begin to lose their binding powers.

Spiritual practices are designed to make our mind still and crystal clear. Thereafter, the light of our core being passes through this crystal-clear mind unobstructed. Our perception of the world becomes clear and free from distortion. We come to realize that material objects are neither good nor bad, neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but neutral. We realize that it is our attitude toward them that makes them appear either good or bad. Once this realization dawns, the mind finds no reason to be agitated. We are now free to be active in the world while remaining fully established within.

A clear, calm, one-pointed, friendly mind puts all the treasures of the world at our disposal, while a dense, agitated, scattered, confused, and unfriendly mind robs us of our most fundamental privilege—our intrinsic joy and luminosity. That is why unveiling the mystery of the mind and attaining mastery over it is the most auspicious and fulfilling activity we can undertake.

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