I was listening to Yogi Bhajan’s talk on “Mind” he gave in summer of 1987. He touched upon an interesting yet very deep true human behavior. I have recently started listening to Yogi Bhajan’s talks but I really love his thoughts as he makes you think, think out of the box and think different from what you were told all your life. In this particular talk he mentions how we are always in race to control other person’s mind and we seldom stop and make conscious efforts to control our mind. Let’s explore what he was referring to. He said that most of our actions and behaviors, thinking is all about how to please other person. For instance our clothing, way we dress up. I asked myself following questions:
- Why do I like to dress up nicely?
- Why is it important to look good and presentable?
- Do I get happy just by wearing what I wear or Do I get happy when I know I am wearing something that’s acceptable to the people around me?
- Would I wear for instance dhoti (traditional men’s garment) or shorts or my pajamas to a party? – Probably not, why because I am too worried and fearful that people won’t accept it and I may end up as the talk of the party.
As I look deeper to find answers to these questions I know most of what I do whether in terms of dressing or actions, my aim is to be acceptable to the people around me and I don’t want to look different. And that’s what is funny because in fact, I am different, you are different and everyone is different. No single person on this earth is exactly same as other. It’s even true for any other living thing in world, no two people, animal, birds, vegetables, flowers, etc. are exactly same. The creator created it so perfectly well that everyone is different and unique; We are part of ONE soul but we are different. In fact it’s irony that when Guru Gobind Singh Ji formed Khalsa, He gave us an identity that was different and was easy to distinguish and today I find myself more often trying not to look different.
I am amazed how we have evolved with all the rules for our society, what’s acceptable and what’s not. And then we seek freedom out of these rules.
Let’s see how deeply all this “pleasing others” or shall I call “trying control other’s mind” has infected our minds. Let me take an example. Let’s say I am going on date with someone I really like or someone I am attractive to, how would you think my thought process for the date would be? In a right mind or shall I say socio-acceptable mind, I would dress up nice, act gentle, show my best out and not miss a chance to impress the date. Now play close attention all I am doing is so that I am acceptable to the person, in simple words I want her mind to think I am good for her. Right ? And if she finds me good then we may have the future? So, basically my actions may lead her to behave in way I want and way it is benefits me. This all sounds all normal, isn’t it? But what am I actually doing? I am trying to control her mind with my actions. In simple English, I am trying to IMPRESS her and most likely she is doing the same too. But when we try to impress and show something that we may be are not or not in whole we bring ourselves and others the pain. Why? Look closely the word “IMPRESS” as “I aM PRESSing” implying I am pressing something onto you, your mind so you can accept me. Isn’t it almost like a disease to not be yourself and show something that you are not in whole, just so someone can think you are good and accept you.
I thought about it some more and sadly more I looked more I found how addicted we are in mind controlling business. It’s taught to us as a child, our society feeds it more and thanks to all the so called evolved modern media, the definition of beauty is totally changed. And it has changed from the stone-age. What one considered beautiful back then is called “old-fashioned” or “outdated” in today’s reality. The early man who came up with the clothing concept to cover the body now has a whole and must I say gigantic industry for the clothing. And then we have whole other industries like Gym, Body building, Make up, Cosmetic surgeries, etc. List goes on and on. As someone born into a Sikh family I have gone through the phase of trying being acceptable. It wasn’t as bad as it is in the nations where community is not as diverse. I was told by a friend of mine how her brother (a Sikh) was picked up by fellow classmates because he looked different, kept hair wore Turban. And yes, kids can be cruel and they are. How good of self-esteem do you think a child like him would have? Do you think he would be focused on his studies or his thoughts would be around how to avoid all the exploitation? This is not limited to guys. My friend (Sikh) girl, who was not allowed to shave legs, cut hair for the religious reasons; how do you think kids were with her? Did they accept her for who she was or being different became a curse for her? Just because you didn’t shave your legs all of sudden you are not cool, sexy and happening? But where did this thinking came to kids? I am sure there was a time when no one shaved and back then to shave was considered different and not acceptable. Irony is that if we go back in history, then most of the things that were not acceptable back then have not only become acceptable but also these are the things if you do, you are COOL and if you don’t you are old and boring. This is not limited to just clothing though, it holds true for clothing, marriages, relationships, work, raising children; everything has new rules that either makes it cool or outdated. Do you ever wonder where kids learn to pick on kids who are different or how they learn to accept what is not different. And yes of course this behavior doesn’t stop with kids (at least not for most of the kids). You grow up into a society where not only you have to look certain way: clean-shave, have good hair style but should have good body and all the six=packs, slim-trim, nice figure, etc, etc, etc. all the so called COOL things. Imagine what kind of self-esteem of an average person in this kind of society be? Do you think he/she is forced to have a thinking where being different has now become a curse? We are so taken away by focusing on our OUTER-SELF so that we can be acceptable and control someone’s INNER-SELF, that it’s almost a pain. We may not be aware of it that’s a different issue but in fact we are infected with this mind-control syndrome.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji guides us in Raag Aasa with following words :
He may wear ear-rings and fine clothes,
and have a comfortable bed, and his mind may be so proud.
He may have elephants to ride, and golden umbrellas over his head;
but without devotional worship to the Lord, he is buried beneath the dirt.
I am not arguing that exercising is wrong or wearing nice clothes is wrong. It all has its values and importance but doing any of it just so you can fit in the society and be acceptable to someone else other than you is the concern. There is a constant mind control game and truth is we are so unaware of it. According to Yogi Bhajan only few people today really work on controlling their own mind and soul, and that is the cause of all the unhappiness, frustration and pain. It’s also probably one of the big reason for more failing relationships, more divorces and more dysfunctional families. If you look 50-100 years back, you probably would see more successful marriages than now and less divorces, ever wonder why? May be because divorce wasn’t something acceptable back then but now it is. In fact quitting has become a way of our life, we seldom commit and finish what we started be it an assignment or a relationship. When going gets tough, we quit and find an easy way out. Of course I am not saying people get into a relationship with this thinking. But yea since it’s acceptable and it may be easier than the commitment to work the marriage, it’s more happening now than before. Another reason of failing relationships is the Mind control game. We don’t want a partner who has his/her own mind for the most part. We want someone who does the things way we do, rather way we want them to do. He has to have certain education, family, social, etc, etc background. Now as much as these things are important in my thinking they are no where closely important to the character of the person. And then of course before marriage we are playing that mind game, we show each other our best. Reality kicks in just few months/years of marriage and we end up complaining about how he/she has changed or is showing the true colors. When in fact what we saw before wedding was what we wanted to see. A True test of any man/woman is the tough times, anyone can be good and nice during good times but you find your own true self during hardships and that’s why one should be thankful for tough times. Going back to the mind control game, I am just amazed and yet taken away by the fact that how deeply we are addicted to this game.
Last weekend I attended an engagement party of a family friend. It was a normal scene, food, drinks, people dressed up nicely or shall I say “Dressed to Impress”. As I was standing, I saw a young guy probably in early 30s walk into the party but with an all together different outfit. He was wearing a long chola (a lose fitting tunic), with a kamar band (a cloth wrapped around the mid torso region to maintain mild pressure on the solar plexus and internal organs) and kirpan. It was probably very unusual and very different for someone to wear such simple clothing to walk into a party where everyone is dressed up in suits and best dresses. This kind of dressing is called “bana”. The “bana” or form, the personal appearance of a Khalsa, is one of the foremost ways that a Khalsa maintains his or her consciousness as the Guru Gobind Singh ji intended. But one must admit it’s different. I could see reaction of people seeing this young man. I told myself “Wow, that’s courageous”. As I observed, I realized the man wasn’t worried a bit of what people may be thinking, he was confident, peaceful and enjoying who he is. I knew that moment that he is gone beyond mind control game and is living a healthy spiritual life. I went up to him and spent some time getting to know him and his views. He mentioned there was a time in his life when he was just like most people out there, busy working and spending the free time with friends, drinking, parties and all that. But after years of it, he felt tired of it. He wanted a break away from his drinking and partying habits so he said instead of going to clubs/bars, he started going to the Gurudwara (Sikh Temple). This was his way of getting rid of clubs and all. And then one thing lead to another and 4 years later he is totally changed man. He moved to Espanola (New Mexico) and spends his life with the spiritual and like minded people. Before he was a good Indian clothing designer in New York but now he is a great spiritual clothing businessman. As we were talking, he mentioned “all this is good”. And I asked “What do you mean?”. He responded “This life, partying, drinking, etc and The spiritual life in Espanola, all is good”. And I was confused because somewhere in my head I thought or assumed that he now probably thinks this party scene is a waste. But he went on to say that “The reason anything or everything exists because God wants it to be this way. And if He wants it this way then it’s all good. You can’t say this is wrong or that is right. The minute you judge anyone, you have already lost the essence of God”. And I must say, deep inside I knew he was telling truth and I told myself “wow”. I know this can only happen in a state of mind when you are self-awakened and aligned to the Source, the Creator.
Of course it’s a challenge and work to be awakened and to be yourself, do the things that pleases our soul and makes us happy but truth is only once we are happy it’s easier to make people around us happy. Happiness breeds upon happiness, and it’s not outside it’s inside. You can’t give someone that you don’t have and you have to have it within you. Since we now know it’s a disease to live in mindset of trying impress and have people to like you and not be yourself, we need to find answers to following questions to get rid of this disease:
How do we control ourselves and our mind?
How do we break away from the habit of pleasing people and unnecessarily worrying about them?
What if people don’t accept me and laugh at me?
First we need to be aware of our behavior. We need to watch our actions and see why we do what we do. Then we need to ask if what we doing is making us happy or it’s just an attempt to please someone else. And then if we encounter something that’s just for sake of pleasing we have to give it up. It’s a challenge but it’s easier if we take a leap of faith in God and accept that we are actually the way He intended us to be and how can He make a mistake?
As I was thinking of controlling our own mind I was reminded by following lines of Raag Maaroo Guru Amar Das:
ਹਰਿ ਸੇਤੀ ਸਦਾ ਮਿਲਿ ਰਹੇ ਜਿਨੀ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥
Har Saethee Sadhaa Mil Rehae Jinee Aap Pashhaanaa ||
Those who realize their own selves, remain forever united with the Lord.
ਗਿਆਨੀਆ ਕਾ ਇਹੁ ਮਹਤੁ ਹੈ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥
Giaaneeaa Kaa Eihu Mehath Hai Man Maahi Samaanaa ||
This is the glory of the spiritual teachers, that they remain absorbed in their mind.
ਹਰਿ ਜੀਉ ਕਾ ਮਹਲੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਸਚੁ ਲਾਇ ਧਿਆਨਾ ॥
Har Jeeo Kaa Mehal Paaeiaa Sach Laae Dhhiaanaa ||
They attain the Mansion of the Lord’s Presence, and focus their meditation on the True Lord.
ਜਿਨ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤਿਆ ਜਗੁ ਤਿਨਹਿ ਜਿਤਾਨਾ ॥੮॥
Jin Gur Parasaadhee Man Jeethiaa Jag Thinehi Jithaanaa ||8||
Those who conquer their own minds, by Guru’s Grace, conquer the world. ||8||
Let’s be aware of our thoughts, mind our own mind and spiritually be aware that God didn’t want us to control others. He wants us to control ourselves, accept ourselves and give the best of ourselves. That is the gift He desires from us.