Conquest of the Mind’s Six-Fold Enemies

The mind exists in the present but always oscillates between the past or an imagined future.
Keywords: Mind, Harmony, Mechanism, Conflict, Meditation, Growth, Happiness, Life  
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A Mind is a powerful tool, nevertheless, it is also a double-edged sword. It is a wondrous instrument of the human mechanism, that can enshrine beautiful thoughts yet can turn cunning and vicious. The Mind gives clarity and creates conflict. It appreciates but compares and contrasts too. It wishes to be calm but does not like meditation. It can rationalise, yet can be reflective. It exists in the present but always oscillates between the past or an imagined future. It loves changes but can never be satisfied.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna describes how the mind can be one’s best friend or one’s worst enemy. 

उद्धरेदात्मनाऽऽत्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत्।

आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः।।6.5।।

“Uplift yourself through the power of the mind, do not look down upon yourself. Indeed, the mind alone is the friend and mind alone is one’s enemy”

It’s not easy to control one’s own mind as it is like a drunken monkey, jumping hither & thither from one thought to another. A commitment to one’s own inner growth and maturity,  for a harmonious frame of mind, makes the mind a benefactor.

So what are the enemies of the mind to be conquered for a life of happiness & harmony?

  1. काम Kama: Desire 

All pursuits in life are based on desire. It is centered on either satisfying likes or  avoiding dislikes. Desires are infinite and prompt action. Without desire there seems no motive  in life. There is a prayer in the Mahanarayana Upanishad that says :

कामोऽकार्षीत् कामः करोति नाहं करोमि कामः कर्ता नाहं कर्ता कामः कारयिता नाहं कारयिता एष ते काम कामाय स्वाहा ।। 

‘Desire did it, desire does it, I am not the doer, desire is the doer. Desire propels the action, I am not the force behind the action. Oh delightful desire, I offer this oblation to you!”

This verse proclaims the power of desire, it does not absolve a person of his/her responsibilities for actions.

However, if desires are non-binding, legitimate, favourable to one’s progress and purposeful to the family/society, they can be fulfilled. For example, the desire to steal, kill, to lust, cause harm, etc. is objectionable, but the desire to work hard for success, to be of service, alleviate others’ suffering, to be helpful and spiritual etc.,  is appreciable.

  1. क्रोध – Krodha : Anger 

ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंस: सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते |

सङ्गात्सञ्जायते काम: कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते || The Bhagavad Gita 2.62|| 

In the person who dwells upon objects, an attachment is born with reference to them. From attachment is born desire and from desire – anger.

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोह: सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रम: |

स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || The Bhagavad Gita 2.63||

From anger comes delusion and from delusion – confusion of mind, loss of memory. The mind gets incapacitated, and the person is destroyed 

Unfulfilled desires or obstructions to desire, cause anger. Hasty decisions, lack of discrimination and destruction are the consequences of anger. Anger is a reaction to expectations not met, and not a deliberate action.

धन्याः ते पुरुषश्रेष्ठाः ये बुद्ध्या उत्थितं कोपम् । निरून्धन्ति महात्मानः दीप्तम् अग्निमिवाम्भसा ।।

They are indeed noble and blessed people, who can dissipate anger through analysis as it arises in the mind, just as one douses glowing fire by water.

  1. लोभ Lobha – Greed 

A covetous and discontented mind, despite desires being fulfilled, is a greedy mind. 

The inordinate desires are never satisfied and this is considered a sickness.

Generosity and an understanding that happiness is based on a certain measure of contentment, and not how much one has accumulated can help in counteracting greed.  

त्रिविधं नरकस्येदं द्वारं नाशनमात्मन: |

काम: क्रोधस्तथा लोभस्तस्मादेतत्त्रयं त्यजेत् || (The Bhagavad Gita 16.21)

The doorway to misery is three-fold – desire, anger & greed. Therefore, one must abandon all three. 

  1. मोह Moha – Delusion/Confusion that prevents the knowledge of truth from being known. 

The notion of “ I, me, mine” is Moha.

Moha incites an obsession for ownership that invites insecurity and yet causes a person to feel small and insignificant. 

Human beings are fortunate beneficiaries of the resources that are made freely available, like the light emanating from the Sun, the Air that gives oxygen, the trees and plants that give shade and fruits. How can one claim ownership over them?

Actually, none can claim total authorship over anything. Man did not create the heart or brain, a house owner did not create the brick, cement, stones, or rock nor can an individual’s body be fully claimed by one person as he/she related to many diverse roles in life. 

Understanding that one is born into an interdependent world to manage the resources, assets and facilities given by the Almighty with an expression of gratitude, frees one from the false notion of Moha.

  1. मद, – Mada – arrogance

The audacious attitude in the form of  “I am a great person, I am rich, who is equal to me” is explained as Mada by learned ones. 

Humility in contributing, sharing and acknowledging many factors that have led to a person’s achievements and success, removes the very basis of arrogance. 

  1. मत्सर्य Matsarya – resentment towards  others’ accomplishments

Making unhealthy comparisons, anxiety or fear of losing, sense of inadequacy are some of the factors that feed jealousy. Complimenting other persons’ gains as a result of their own effort and work, and realising that unknown factors are at play in the results, are some of the ways to get rid of the green-eyed monster. 

These six enemies called the षड्रिपु – Shad Ripu exists in every mind, to various degrees. They are not independent of each other. They cause immense sorrow and agony to oneself and others. By examining their presence and appreciating the illegitimacy of these enemies, one can definitely conquer them. 

 कामः क्रोधश्च लोभश्च देहे तिष्ठन्ति तस्कराः।

ज्ञानरत्नापहाराय तस्मात् जाग्रत जाग्रत॥( Vairagya Dindima 1.3)

  • Sri Adi Sankaracharya 

Kama Krodascha Lobhascha Dehe Thishtanthi Taskarah।

Jnana Ratno-paharaya Tasmat Jagrata Jagrata.।।

“The six enemies Desire, Anger, Greed, Delusion, Arrogance, Jealousy are the thieves lurking in the frame of mind, to rob it of the precious wealth of spiritual wisdom. Therefore O People, 

Beware! Beware! Beware!

Reference : 

  1. The Bhagavad Gita by Swami Dayananda Sarawati 

2. The Purna Vidya Vedic Heritage Text 


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Pavithra Srinivasan

Pavithra Srinivasan is a Visiting Fellow of India Foundation. She is an acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer, and founder of Arsha Kala Bharathi.

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