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Tuning the mind

Relevance of ancient Indian scriptures: Tuning the mind

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I would like to tell you a beautiful little story. You know the great and illumined Buddha had a favourite disciple named Ananda. You must have heard about him. One day, the Buddha was watching Ananda walking up and down the rough-shod pathway because he was trying to solve a very serious philosophical question that had come into his mind; and do what he may, he could not find an answer to the question.

So, he walked up and down, up and down, up and down, so obsessed with the problem, not even aware that he was cutting up his feet. He was barefoot, his feet started to bleed. And the Buddha, who was watching him, called him over and said, “Come Ananda, bring me that veena—the stringed instrument which you play usually.” Buddha was aware that Ananda could play the veena beautifully. Ananda went and brought the veena and was about to start playing when the Buddha said, “Give it to me, I’ll tune it for you.”

The Buddha went on tightening the strings and tightening the strings until Ananda shouted out startled, “Please, O holy one, don’t tighten the strings any more. They will break, they will snap.”

“Ah”, said the Buddha, “I am sorry, I did not know that.” He then started to loosen the strings until the strings became so loose that Ananda said, “But O holy one, one cannot play on these strings because they are so slackened now, they won’t give out any music.”

So, Buddha put away the veena and smiled his beauteous smile, looked at Ananda and said, “Therefore, Ananda you cannot solve your problem, you cannot find an answer to this vexing question that you have, as long as your strings are too tight, or your strings are too loose.”

When the Gods say, “We have conquered something,” it means they’ve gotten the strength from the supreme reality—the storehouse of all energy.


The mind has to be relaxed and in the right state of tuning to be able to find an answer to any question. Too much of obsession, too much of tightening will snap the mind and give you the wrong answer. And, too little tightening or laziness or slackness will also not help to find the answer. So, the mind has to be in between. So, therefore, said the Buddha, “Follow the middle path; don’t go to extremes.”

Now, this is a very important statement, an important fact and a practical way of trying to solve your problem. Whether it is a physical problem or a mental problem, a psychological problem or a spiritual problem, the most important thing is that the body has to be fit; the mind has to be calm, quiet and relaxed, not asleep, of course. It has to relax to be able to think clearly and, sometimes even to go beyond thought and begin to understand that which lies beyond the ordinary state of consciousness.

After this kind of absolute abstraction, just like the story of Buddha, Ananda and his veena, a beautiful story about the Supreme Brahman or the Supreme Being appears at the end of the Keno Upanishad. That’s a great thing about the Upanishads, talk abstract, truly abstract subjects and then shift towards a beautiful story that attracts the mind, puts it at ease and also illustrates what they were discussing.

Once, the Supreme Brahman decided that he should come and show the powers of nature to the Gods—to show who it is that is really behind all the energy they have. The Gods get their powers to perform their actions from the Supreme Being. When the Gods say, “We have conquered something,” it means they’ve gotten the strength from the supreme reality—the storehouse of all energy. But forgetting this, they say, “Ah, I have done this, I have done that.” So, when the Gods had achieved their victory, they thought they had achieved it and forgotten where the source of their energy was.

We, human beings, are in the same boat, like the Gods. For, without that Supreme Brahman, there is no power and no energy. All vitality comes from that centre. But the Gods congratulated themselves, like we do among ourselves and said, “We have achieved all this, this victory is ours.” But whom would they have blamed if they had lost? The Supreme Being of course, right?

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