O Rama, this mind is like a monkey.

— Valmiki (ca. 400 BC)

Work Title
O Rama, this mind is like a monkey.
Metaphor in Context
O Rama, this mind is like a tree which is firmly rooted in the vicious field known as the body. Worries and anxieties are its blossoms; it is laden with the fruits of old age and disease; it is adorned with the flowers of desires and sense-enjoyments; hopes and longings are its branches; and perversities are its leaves. Cut down this deadly poisonous tree, which looks as unshakable as the mountain, with the sharp axe known as enquiry.
O Rama, this mind is like an elephant which roams the forest known as the body. Its vision is clouded by delusion; it has entered into the one (conditioned and ignorant) side; it is incapable of resting in its own self-bliss; it is violent; though it wishes to perceive the truth which it hears from wise men, it is caught up in the perception of diversity and it is conditioned by its own concepts of pleasure and pain; it is endowed with the fierce tusks of lust, etc. O Rama, you are a lion among princes! Tear this elephant to pieces by your sharp intelligence.
O Rama, this mind is like a crow which dwells in the nest of this body. It revels in filth; it waxes strong by consuming flesh; it pierces the hearts of others; it knows only its own point of view which it considers as the truth; it is dark on account of its ever-growing stupidity; it is full of evil tendencies; and it indulges in violent expressions. It is a burden on earth, O Rama: drive it far, far away from yourself.
O Rama, this mind is like a ghost. It is served by the female goblin known as craving; it rests in the forest of ignorance; it roams in countless bodies out of delusion. How can one attain self-knowledge if one does not lay this ghost with the help of wisdom and dispassion, the grace of the guru, self-effort, chanting of mantras, etc.?
O Rama, this mind is like a venomous serpent which has killed countless beings; destroy this with the help of the eagle of our appropriate contemplative formula or instruction.
O Rama, this mind is like a monkey. It roams from one place to another, seeking fruits (rewards, pleasures, etc.); bound to this world-cycle it dances and entertains people. Restrain it from all sides if you wish to attain perfection.
O Rama, this mind is like a cloud of ignorance: dispel it by the repeated renunciation of all concepts and precepts.
contributed by Suzanne Morgen
Vasistha’s Yoga. Swami Venkatesananda, trans. New York: SUNY Press, 1993.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.