Taming the Monkey Mind

By Keith Sherwood

Masters of Yoga are fond of saying that the human mind is like a monkey who got drunk, fell out of a tree and, after hitting its head on a stone, was bitten by a snake. The Buddhists are no less sanguine when they state that it’s easier to conquer seven cities than to conquer the human mind. Though the mind may be difficult to control, Yoga and Buddhism agree that it must be tamed in order to achieve self-realization. Pantanjali acknowledged this when he wrote, “Yoga (which in Sanskrit means union) is stilling the waves of the mind.”

Yoga teaches that three steps must be mastered in order to control the mind. The first step is dharana, concentration or single-mindedness. In dharana, the aspirant learns to focus or fix their mind (citta) on one point or one particular quality and-or object. The second step is dhyana, meditation. In dhyana, the aspirant learns to detach themselves from the individual mind and ego (lower manas) so that they can experience the essential quality and-or qualities of the object or attribute on which their mind has been focused. In dhyana, the mind flows in an unbroken current to the object and-or quality. The third step is samadhi. In samadhi, the aspirant abandons attachment to the individual mind and ego completely and comes into union with the object and-or quality on which their mind has been focused.

For someone living in a modern, technological society with all its distractions, mastering dharana can seem like a fanciful goal. And going beyond dharana to discern the subtle variations of energy that differentiate one quality from another, which is essential in dhyana and samadhi, can seem like a hopeless quest.

Don’t Abandon the Ship

In spite of the difficulties involved in mastering dharana and dhyana, don’t give up – at least not yet. The ancient masters of Yoga were well aware of how difficult it could be to master the “monkey mind.” And in what might be considered a Yogic ‘coup d’état,’ they developed a system of techniques to subdue the mind by simply going around it. One of the most useful and accessible tools they developed is known as the “Shri Yantra Meditation.”

The word yantra comes from the Sanskrit root ‘yam,’ which means to sustain or to support. And from the suffix ‘tra,’ which means instrument. Its original meaning quickly expanded to mean any sort of machine or instrument used in architecture, astronomy, alchemy, chemistry, warfare or recreation.

The use of Shri Yantra (see figure 2) as a spiritual tool goes back to the 10th century and continues today in South India. Its origins lie in the advaitic, non-dualistic tradition of Kashmir Shaivism and is closely associated with Shankara, the famous advaitic master. We are told that Shankara had Shri Yantra established in temples throughout India so that no one “... should face the dearth of vibrations harmonizing both material and spiritual wealth.” According to the “Tantraraja Tantra,” there are 960 yantras. The Shri Yantra is considered the most highly esteemed.

Structure of Shri Yantra

The Shri Yantra is constructed of nine intersecting triangles. Four triangles are pointing upward and five downward. The four pointing upward are associated with Shiva, who represents Universal Consciousness; the five pointing downward are associated with Shakti, who represents energy with universal qualities. The interplay of these triangles creates an imbalance which makes this particular icon the most dynamic of all yantras and therefore the most powerful.

Its power supports the organs of perception and the central nervous system as well as the free radiation of consciousness and subtle energy through the subtle field. That in turn allows the authentic mind to emerge so that the aspirant can experience the truth of ‘something’ by coming into union with its qualities.

An important aspect of the Shri Yantra is that the absolute (the oneness at the center of the multiverse) is not depicted symbolically... nor can it be, since it has no individual qualities – nor is it an object of knowledge. It is represented by the Bindu, the receding point at the center of the yantra, which leads the aspirant inward to the unique experience of the absolute.

The Symbol of Eternal Life

Like the Shiva-Shakti images in Tantric iconography, the Shri Yantra symbolizes the dual aspects of life; both universal and individual synergistically uniting with one another to produce unity. The five female triangles expanding from above and the four male emerging from below signify the continuous process of creation. Like an uninterrupted series of lightning flashes, they delve into each other and mirror the eternal procreative moment – a dynamism nevertheless exhibited in a static pattern of geometrical repose. This is the archetypal Hieros Gamos, or ‘Mystical Marriage’, represented in an abstract diagram – a key to the secret of the phenomenal mirage of the world.” (“Consciousness”, by C.O. Evans & J. Fudjack p.72)

Tradition suggests that Shri Yantra can be approached in two ways. In the ‘Outward’ approach, the aspirant begins at the center of the yantra by focusing on the bindu. Once the mind is fixed on the bindu and the meditation begins, the aspirant expands their awareness to take in the smallest triangle which surrounds it. The aspirant continues by taking in the next two triangles, and so on, slowly expanding their awareness outwards through the sequence of triangles to the outer shapes which surround the bindu.

 “This outward contemplation is associated with an evolutionary view of the of the universe where, starting with primordial matter represented by the bindu, the aspirant focuses on increasingly complex organisms, as indicated by increasingly complex shapes, until reaching the very boundaries of the universe from where escape is possible only through one of the four doors into chaos.

The inward approach to meditation, which starts from a circle and then moves inwards, is known in Tantric literature as the process of destruction.” (ibid. p. 72)

In this approach, more complex shapes give way to simpler shapes, and the more complex qualities associated with the manifest universe give way to the ultimate simplicity of the Singularity at the root of the phenomenal universe represented by the bindu at the center.

Meditating with Shri Yantra

In the following text, you will overcome the monkey mind by taking either the inward or outward approach. After you’ve made your choice, find a comfortable position with your back straight. Then place the Shri Yantra in front of you so that you can see it clearly. Close your eyes next and breathe deeply through your nose for two to three minutes. Continue by counting slowly backward from five to one repeating and visualizing each number three times to yourself. Once you’re relaxed, you can activate your heart chakra gate by mentally affirming in words not thoughts, “It’s my intent to activate my heart chakra gate.” Your heart chakra gate is located on the right side of the human heart and extends from your spinal column to the front of your breast bone. When the chakra gate has become active, you will feel a subtle shift in your consciousness and a vibration at the back of the chakra gate that moves forward.

After you’ve activated the chakra gate, you will center yourself in your heart chakra field – a vast field of prana connected to the chakra gate – by mentally affirming, “It’s my intent to center myself in my heart chakra field.” As soon as you’re centered, more prana will radiate through your subtle energy system and you will feel more stable. Take five minutes to enjoy the effects. Then continue by performing the Shri Yantra meditation.

The Inward Approach

To use the inward approach, focus your eyes on the outer edge of the Shri Yantra. Once your eyes are focused, move your awareness inwards, letting the intersecting triangles lead you ever closer to the bindu, the point at the center of the yantra. Once you’ve reach the bindu, let your mind go even deeper until it reaches Universal Consciousness at the center of your being.

The Outward Approach

To use the inward approach, focus your eyes on the bindu at the center of the yantra. Once your eyes are focused, move your awareness outward from the bindu letting the intersecting triangles lead you ever further from it. Once you’ve reached the outer triangles, melt into the complexity that is the essence of Shri Yantra and the diversity created by the evolutionary process. Resist the temptation to busy your mind with thoughts and images. Just let yourself experience the Shri Yantra directly while you detach yourself from the movie of your mind.

You can begin by practicing the Shri Yantra meditation for about twenty minutes a day. When you feel comfortable, you can expand the length of time you put aside for this remarkable meditation. In either case, Shri Yantra will become a trusted and valuable tool enabling you to go to deeper and healthier levels of consciousness and to free yourself from the domination of the monkey mind.

The End