Attention and Mental Illness

By: Shreepal Singh

   We have to pay attention to be conscious of the presence of a thing, to understand it and to appropriately react to it. Paying attention is a full time job. We have one mind, the instrument with which we pay attention. Paying attention is an application work. It is the application of mental consciousness. And, by the very nature of the evolutionary stage of humans, the majority of humanity play their life around mind. There are a very few people among us who live their life not around mind and we can find them in people exclusively devoted to music and art, and in those who live an underdeveloped life near Nature.

Those who remain absorbed in music and art, and those who live near Nature do not suffer as much an illness of mind as do those who pay attention by the application of their mind. It gives a clue to the cure of this modern life’s menace called mental illness. But can the humanity turn away from their active mental life towards an undisturbed life devoted to music and art. No, humanity cann’t afford this direction diversion of its evolutionary trajectory. It would be resisting of the evolutionary momentum, which humanity has achieved by moving ahead on its evolutionary path.

We are the product – the product called humans – of this path, the evolutionary path, and we ourselves have created this evolutionary momentum by working on our mental plane for millions of years. It is like an angular momentum, which has a slant – a slanted direction. Our drag against the direction – against the working – of this evolutionary  momentum would destroy us as humans, and destroy whatever we have so far achieved. It is no way out; it is not a solution. Then, what is the solution?

The solution is, “Chitta Vritti Nirodh” (Chitta= mind, Vritti= propensity, Nirodh= control or obstruction).  CVN is an imposing of the discipline on the propensity of our mind. It is a conscious effort; it is a devised program for disciplining the tendencies of human mind. It is not simple. It is a science and it can not be trivilized by tinkering it with the western concepts, which are unaware of its foundational principles. The first principle that goes to lay the foundation of this science – the science of CVN – is that in this universe nothing is permanent; that things here are in constant flux of change; and that there is a play of cyclic transformation of everything here. Humans are no exception to this rule. The second rule of this discipline is that – in view of this truth – the most important thing for humans is to know (to know as against to understand) this truth. What is the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’? One example of this difference is, “We know we do exist; we do not need to understand that we exist.” Then, how can one know this said truth? Humans, as they are normally made by Nature, cannot – can never – know this truth, unless and until they improve upon their tool of knowledge – their only tool of knowledge – known as mind. This second principle is of the desirability, of the preference for one in one’s life. If you accept and follow this second principle, then there is left nothing in life to do except to devote your entire life to make you a fit instrument to know that truth. It is not a job to play with. It is serious venture – the most, the ultimate, venture. If you feel it is necessary, it is needed for you, then you are ready to embark on CVN. Else, it is safe to stay away.

One who feels the need to know this truth, only needs to know this truth. This truth is mystery to normal human mind. But to one who feels the need to know this truth – the ultimate mystery of universe – this world and all its things become of secondary importance. Even his life – life as one is habituated to know his life – is put on stake. CVN is meant for him. And, once one dedicates oneself to undertake such a vocation for the life, all the mystery of this universe opens up to him; he comes to know it. For people with a normal mind – untrained in CVN – such an accomplished person becomes a mysterious superman, capable to perform supernormal feats; he can die at will and come to life again at will; he can foretell events that are to take place in future; he can avert an incoming death of somebody, and can bring the death to him (though an accomplished person never does it). World has seen many such accomplished persons and for ages. India still abounds with such mysterious persons. This is the power of CVN.

In an ancient Sanskrit book – Yoģa Sutra – a great Rishi Patanjili has used CVN as the definition of Yoga. It is moving forward on the trajectory that mind has put itself on. It is adding to the momentum of mind fuelling its evolutionary journey. It is the cure of mental illness, with which humanity is aflicted today. CVN is a full fledged discipline of knowledge; it is a science, which is more profound in its foundational assumptions and processes than any of science’s branches. It is not the trivilized western version of “meditation”, which is sought to be transformed by mischieviously translating it as “mindfulness”.

Let the humanity open to the knowledge, which ancient Indian Rishis and Yogis had discovered in the gone by ages and India has preserved for us till today. Let us face the reality of danger of mental illness rampant among large section of humanity. Let us eradicate the real danger with the real cure. In this approach there is no nationalism – for, humanity is one and our world is a family. It was wisely said long ago, “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (Our earth is one family).

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