chañchalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛiṣhṇa pramāthi balavad dṛiḍham tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye vāyor iva su-duṣhkaram
śhrī bhagavān uvācha asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyateThe mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.
Lord Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.
Arjun speaks for us all when he describes the troublesome mind. It is restless because it keeps flitting in different directions, from subject to subject. It is turbulent because it creates upheavals in one’s consciousness, in the form of hatred, anger, lust, greed, envy, anxiety, fear, attachment, etc. It is strong because it overpowers the intellect with its vigorous currents and destroys the faculty of discrimination. The mind is also obstinate because when it catches a harmful thought, it refuses to let go, and continues to ruminate over it again and again, even to the dismay of the intellect. Thus enumerating its unwholesome characteristics, Arjun declares that the mind is even more difficult to control than the wind. It is a powerful analogy for no one can ever think of controlling the mighty wind in the sky.
In this verse, Arjun has addressed the Lord as Krishna. The word “Krishna” means: karṣhati yogināṁ paramahansānāṁ chetānsi iti kṛiṣhṇaḥ [v25] “Krishna is he who forcefully attracts the minds of even the most powerfully-minded yogis and paramahansas.” Arjun is thus indicating that Krishna should also attract his restless, turbulent, strong, and obstinate mind.
Shree Krishna responds to Arjun’s comment by calling him Mahābāho, which means “Mighty armed one.” He implies, “O Arjun, you defeated the bravest warriors in battle. Can you not defeat the mind?”
Shree Krishna does not deny the problem, by saying, “Arjun, what nonsense are you speaking? The mind can be controlled very easily.” Rather, he agrees with Arjun’s statement that the mind is indeed difficult to control. However, so many things are difficult to achieve in the world and yet we remain undaunted and move forward. For example, sailors know that the sea is dangerous and the possibility of terrible storms exists. Yet, they have never found those dangers as sufficient reasons for remaining ashore. Hence, Shree Krishna assures Arjun that the mind can be controlled by vairāgya and abhyās.
Vairāgya means detachment. We observe that the mind runs toward the objects of its attachment, toward the direction it has been habituated to running in the past. The elimination of attachment eradicates the unnecessary wanderings of the mind.
Abhyās means practice, or a concerted and persistent effort to change an old habit or develop a new one. Practice is a very important word for sādhaks. In all fields of human endeavor, practice is the key that opens the door to mastery and excellence. Take, for example, a mundane activity such as typing. The first time people begin typing, they are able to type one word in a minute. But after a year’s typing, their fingers fly on the keyboard at the speed of eighty words a minute. This proficiency comes solely through practice. Similarly, the obstinate and turbulent mind has to be made to rest on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord through abhyās. Take the mind away from the world—this is vairāgya—and bring the mind to rest on God—this is abhyās. Sage Patanjali gives the same instruction:
abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ (Yog Darśhan 1.12)[v26]
“The perturbations of the mind can be controlled by constant practice and detachment.”