A Conversation with Swami Venkatesananda
Q: Swamiji in what state does the activity of the mind cease?
Does it have to cease at all? (pause) They call it sattva. That is, in the case of an enlightened person when s/he is not actively engaged in something either physically or mentally, his or her mind is at rest, complete rest.
Q: This is not a sattvic state this is a tamasic state.
No sir, wait a moment. The tamasic state being sleep -- when the self is covered by ignorance it is a tamasic state. But when the tamas (ignorance) is removed, when this inertia is removed then the mind comes to its own natural state which is bubbling, bubbling rajasic state -- dynamic, active, disturbed, restless.The yogi by investigating the truth concerning the mind understands the mind to be restlessness. The wind is restless, the mind is also restless, the mind is restlessness. And suddenly s/he realised that restlessness is restless only in relation to something else.But what is the content of this restlessness, what is the content of mind? The content of mind being.
Q: (interrupts) yes but looking at it this way you have already polarised the mind.
Correct. So when there is cloud movement the sky is overcast. You look through that cloud and become aware of what is the background of this cloud, where does it hang? You will appreciate it even more clearly if we get back to our famous shadow on the wall. The shadow is tamas and I want to see it clearly (not what it represents) but to know directly what is the substance of the shadow. Then when I illumine that shadow the shadow becomes enlightened. With the shadow enlightened the substance -- or whatever it is on which the shadow was seen-- is revealed.In the same way first there is tamas there is dullness there is ignorance. Ignorance of the content of the mind; ignorance of the reality which appears to be the thought. Thought is an appearance, yes? Thought has got a form a shape you’re thinking about something. Right. Now, what is the reality of that thought? When you thus throw some light on the shadow that appears in you as a thought, then you realise its shifting character. It comes and goes it comes and goes it comes and goes, yes? Uhuh. Though it comes and goes : now this, now that, now this, now that, now this now that. Ahhh! This is the mind! Mind means restlessness. Unsteady. Keeps going, keeps going, keeps going, what keeps going where? Now when there is intense observation the light of that observation reveals a very simple truth, what is it? That’s all. That is called, sattva. At that point whether the mind is still thinking or not you have stilled it. In a certain way. In a very beautiful way. This has to be experienced. That is, you look very closely at the ocean, it seems to be restless full of waves and as long as you’re isolating the waves and looking at them there seems to be a terrific lot of motion and commotion: you’re not looking at the waves, you’re not looking at the extremes of the currents, you’re looking at water, the water is water, it’s just water. That’s it! That state is called sattva.
Extract Discussion: 24.5.80
Footnote:Prakrti (cosmic matter or substance) possesses, so to speak three “modes of being” (gunas) which permit it to manifest itself in three different ways: (1) sattva (modality of luminosity and intelligence); (2) rajas (modality of motor energy and mental activity); (3) tamas (modality of static inertia and psychic obscurity). However these gunas must not be regarded as different from prakrti, for they are never given separately; in every physical, biological or psychomental phenomenon all three gunas exist simultaneously though in unequal proportions.From: YOGA Immortality and Freedom, Mircea Eliade