It cannot be said that we have no will to control the mind. The very fact that all of us have our own inner struggles indicates that we have the will. But in most cases this will to control the mind is not very strong. Out will to control the mind can never be strong until and unless we have deliberately and irrevocably renounced pleasure as one of the main pursuits of our life. The canker which eats away the vitality of our will to control the mind is the pursuit of pleasure. It is like this: if you have a servant who is aware that you depend on him to procure you illicit drugs and if you both enjoy the drugs together, you cannot then control that servant. The same is the case with the mind. The mind which is use for seeking pleasure and enjoying pleasure, we can never control until we give up seeking pleasure. Even after giving up the pursuits of pleasure it will not be easy to control it for the mind will always have past incidents to cite to embarrass us. The strength of our will to control the mind will be in proportion to the strength and intensity of our renunciation of the pursuit of pleasure. Unless the pleasure-motive is overcome, no matter what else we do, we can never perfectly control the mind. The derivative of this truth is that those who are reluctant to renounce the pleasure-motive are not sincere enough in wanting to control their minds, whatever their professions.
By renunciation of the pursuit of pleasure is not meant renunciation of the pursuit of joy or bliss. By pleasure is meant the enjoyment of sense-pleasure or the gratification arising from what Shri Ramakrishna calls the “unripe ego”, both of which obstruct the attainment of joy or bliss. It is by going beyond pleasure and pain that one attains joy our bliss, which is the very goal of life. There is no question of giving up the desire for joy or bliss, for it is integral to us, our real nature being Existence-Know-ledge-Bliss. About the methods of overcoming the pleasure-motive something will be said in the next section.
Opposites sometimes look alike. Two types of persons do not have inner struggle; those who have become unquestioning slaves of their lower nature, and those who have completely mastered their lower nature. All others have inner struggles, which are the result of inadequate or unsuccessful attempts at controlling the mind. Inadequate attempts are indications of weak will and of lack of knowledge as to how to control the mind.
The most important thing is to strengthen the will to such a degree that even in the face of repeated failures we are not deheartened; rather, that with every new failure to control the mind we are roused to fresh endeavours with new enthusiasm. Now how do we strengthen this will to control the mind? We have to remove the causes of weakness of will. And we have to inject strength into it by ensuring the presence of suitable causes.
Not doubt some of us have struggled with our minds but have faced repeated failures. So we have come to believe that controlling the mind is not for us. Another reason for the weakness of our will is not the most of us have perhaps not clearly thought what exactly is at stake in the control of the mind. If we had, the sheer instinct for survival would have driven us to strengthen our will to control the mind, we need not be unduly exercised. It has never been an easy task even for the noblest of men, the nature of the mind being restless. Shri krishna says in the gita:
The turbulent sense, O Arjuna, do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man, striving after perfection.
For the mind which follows in the wake of the wandering sense, carries away his discrimination, as a wind carries off its course a boat on the waters.
The Buddha teaches:
If one man conquers in battle a thousand men a thousand times, and if another conquers himself, he (the latter) is the greater conqueror.
From this we can understand that controlling the mind is the most difficult task in the world. It is indeed a hero’s task. Hence occasional or repeated failure to control the mind should not be taken too seriously. Failures should be taken as spurs to more determined, sustained, and intelligent efforts, for we are assured by the great teachers that perfect control of the mind is possible. All thoughts to the contrary must be eschewed like poison.