Originally posted in 2015, this is a message that I felt bears repeating.
According to Yoga philosophy, much like a car has different gears in which its motor operates, there are five different bhumis (modes or grounds) in which the human mind operates.
The lowest two levels are “scattered mind” (kṣhiptam in Sanskrit) – which is in constant motion, jumping from thought to thought, and “stupefied mind” (mudham) – which is heavy, sleepy, barely awake. Would it surprise you to learn that most minds generally operate in these two modes? Unfortunately, it’s true.
Don’t believe it? Take a few minutes, right now, and watch the activity of your own mind. Is it quickly moving from thought to thought? That’s kṣhiptam mind. If you feel sleepy and hardly able to even be aware, that’s mudham mind.
A third, higher, ground is attained when one concentrates the mind on a single object and maintains that concentration for a while, as happens when practicing meditation. The mind becomes still and then begins moving again. This ground of mind is called “distracted mind” (vikṣhiptam). In vikṣhiptam bhumi, the mind is awake, calm and still for brief periods of time before getting distracted and involuntarily jumping again.
The penultimate ground occurs when the mind becomes absorbed in an object of concentration, without effort, for an extended period of time. This mode is called “one-pointed” (ekāgram) mind. For such a mind, steadiness and calm are the norm. This is the state of the mind when it is in samādhi.
The highest mode of mind, called “mastered mind” (nirodha) occurs when the mind remains absolutely motionless and focused, as in ekāgram mind, but there is no object of concentration. This is the mode in which a mind in the highest level of samādhi operates. Great masters of Yoga, such as Swami Rama, could enter this mode of mind.
Most people figuratively drive through their entire lives in first (kṣhiptam) and second (mudham) gears. Some people, tired of the scattered and sleepy mind, begin practicing meditation and cultivate an ability to shift their mind into third (vikṣhiptam) gear, distracted mind. Of those who practice meditation, a very small number exert sufficient effort and do sufficient mental purification over time to enter fourth (ekāgram) gear. Fewer still reach the highest mode of nirodha.
Each step up in bhumi brings new peace, joy, and mastery. It’s worth the effort to learn how to change the mind’s gears.