Our Mind – Friend or Enemy?

The mind is the source of our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts and emotions translate into words and actions. As long as we are awake, endless thoughts drift across our minds, continuously. If our thoughts are good it is likely that our actions would also be good. However, an uncontrolled, agitated mind could cause much harm not only to the person but also to others. We have all experienced situations when due to an outburst of anger or due to an un-restrained mind we have committed offences or spoken harsh words, for which we regret later. Undesirable actions and words are the results of an uncontrolled mind.

Mind control has often been emphasized in various religions and also in modern-day yoga. In the scriptures, we see that sages spend their lives practising various methods to steady the mind. The kathopanishad describes a chariot driven by horses carrying a passenger as an analogy to the human being. The horses (senses) draw the chariot (body), the reins (mind) are controlled by the driver (intelligence) and the passenger (soul) experiences the material world. So ideally, our thoughts and mind must always be guided and checked by our intelligence. In an uncontrolled mind when the mind is not guided by intelligence, the senses decide the direction of the chariot. It is then that we fail, we commit sinful actions and offences.

kathopanishad describes a chariot driven by horses carrying a passenger as an analogy to the human being

HH Radhanath Maharaj one of the very senior spiritual leaders of ISKCON, compares the mind with a monkey who is constantly jumping from one branch to another. In one of his lectures, he also compares the mind with the demon Trinavarta, who tried taking away Krishna from the Vrajavasis. Similarly, it is Maya shakti, that takes away our spiritual intelligence and we become slaves to our senses. In the scriptures, there are many examples where offenses have been committed due to an uncontrolled mind.

The Srimad Bhagavatam describes the story of Ajamila, who was a brahmana with good character, well versed in Vedic scriptures. But one day when he was in the forest, he saw a man and a prostitute embracing each other and his lusty desires were awakened. In the illusion and bewilderment which followed, he ultimately left his wife and married the prostitute. So here we see that although Ajamila had good conduct, he still was overcome by lust and lost all his good sense due to an uncontrolled mind. The Bhagavad Gita states that;


indriyāṇi mano buddhir
asyādhiṣṭhānam ucyate
etair vimohayaty eṣa
jñānam āvṛtya dehinam

The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them, lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 3.40]


In our daily lives, we continuously experience various sensory stimuli to which we often fall prey and develop lusty desires. If these are forbidden activities, we commit sinful actions. ‘Kama’ or lust is described as one of our six enemies.

Our scriptures also describe the story of Hiranyakasipu a powerful demoniac king in the Satya Yuga, who following the death of his brother Hiranyaksha, was overcome with envy for Lord Vishnu. He could not restrain his senses and overcome by arrogance, pride, and greed he did rigorous Tapasya to achieve powers so that he could defeat Lord Vishnu. He then committed great atrocities and troubled people. Eventually, he was killed by Lord Narasimha, a half-man, a half-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu. So again we see that when the mind is swayed by the senses, due to bewilderment, the intelligence fails and we commit sins.

On the other hand, when the mind is re-strained, there could be wonders. Haridas Thakura an exalted Vaishnava saint could transform the heart of a fallen woman, simply by his exemplary behavior. Despite extreme temptations, he restrained his senses with a controlled mind, transformed her heart and she became a devotee. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita,


bandhur ātmātmanas tasya
yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanas tu śatrutve
vartetātmaiva śatru-vat

For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 6.6]



How do we control the mind? 


We all know how difficult it is to steady and subdue the mind. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna says:

cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa
pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye
vāyor iva su-duṣkaram

The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Kṛṣṇa, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 6.34]


To this, the Lord replies:

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
asaṁśayaṁ mahā-bāho
mano durnigrahaṁ calam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya
vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate

Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa said: O mighty-armed son of Kuntī, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 6.35]


The mind is restless and constantly flickering. It is not easy to detach the mind from sense enjoyment. The detachment can only happen when the mind finds something better, something more interesting and more fulfilling.


viṣayā vinivartante
nirāhārasya dehinaḥ
rasa-varjaṁ raso ’py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate

Though the embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita ]


So the only way to not let the mind get distracted and swayed by these sensory stimuli would be to keep it engaged and busy elsewhere. In the Bhagavad Gita it is stated that when we can keep our mind focused by engaging it in activities related to Krishna, we can easily detach from material sensory pleasures. The Srimad Bhagavatam describes nine processes of devotional service by which we can keep our mind engaged:


śrī-prahrāda uvāca
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
sakhyam ātma-nivedanam

iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau
bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā
kriyeta bhagavaty addhā
tan manye ’dhītam uttamam

Though the embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita ]


When we engage our senses in hearing, chanting, and worshipping the Lord; the mind will naturally forget the sensory pleasures and other frivolous attractions. It is often said – ‘An idle mind is a devil’s workshop.’ So unless the mind is kept engaged and busy, it will wander and get easily conquered by all-powerful Maya.

One very simple method of controlling the mind, suggested by Lord Chaitanya is to chant the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. When all our senses are engaged in worshipping Krishna, it is only then, that the senses will not get distracted and will not agitate the mind. Devotional service to the Lord means utilizing all our senses to worship Him for His pleasure. Our scriptures say hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate. [Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 19.170]

Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad Gita:


man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
ātmānaṁ mat-parāyaṇaḥ

Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.

[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 9.34]


So by captivating the mind in devotional service, our urge for sense gratification will gradually diminish and we would be able to control our material senses.





• A person with an un-restrained mind could harm himself and also harm others.

• Ideally, the horse’s reins should be controlled by the driver. Similarly, the sensory inputs to the mind must be guided by our intelligence.

• If the mind is not checked by intelligence, we could commit offenses and sinful actions.

• We should engage ourselves in activities directed to Lord Krishna so that we dis-engage from sense of gratification

• By keeping our mind fixed on Krishna, the mind can be subdued.








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5 thoughts on “Our Mind – Friend or Enemy?

  1. Hare Krishna
    Dandavat Pranam

    Mind is really a common concern for everyone. And everyone is trying to understand and win over the mind in their own ways. Thankyou for sharing the from Vedic Scriptures the concept of mind and practical tips on how can we control our mind


  2. Yes, the mind is the cause of all our misery. By controlling our minds, we can experience expanded or altered states of consciousness.
    We’ll written!

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