Cleansing the Mirror of the Mind
By Swami Tripurari, from Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya.
Cetah is a Sanskrit word that eludes English translation. It is often rendered as heart, mind, or consciousness. It derives from the verbal root cit, which means to know or to become aware. Thus it refers to that internal faculty by which one becomes conscious of oneself. Here Gaura Raya compares this faculty to a mirror, the mirror of awareness. A mirror has no image of its own but reflects whatever image comes before it. If the mirror of our awareness is affected by material desire, it will project a material image or sense of identity. Sriman Mahaprabhu has compared such desire and the subsequent image it projects to dust covering the mirror of our awareness.
The jiva soul exists, it can be aware of its existence, and it exists for a purpose. The purpose of the jiva is to serve and thus love. When its existence is identified with matter (misra-sattva), its lack of awareness of its true self gives rise to a material identity (ahankara), and consequently its purpose remains unfulfilled by serving desires born of material identification (kama). This dust of material motivation can be wiped away, leaving the mirror of our awareness clean.
Cleansing the mirror of our consciousness is the goal of niskama-karma-yoga, the yoga of selfless action. By realizing this goal, the jiva is no longer identified with matter (suddha-sattva), it attains knowledge of the self as consciousness (brahma-jnana), and its purpose is partially fulfilled yet suspended in the joy of identifying with Brahman (brahmananda). However, cleansing the heart is only the initial effect of nama-sankirtana, not the end result. Furthermore, nama-sankirtana cleanses the mirror of our awareness in a way that involves using our head (su-medhasa) to soften our heart. It does so by placing the mirror of our awareness before Krishna nama, the perfect object of love. This results not only in cleansing the mirror of our awareness from the dust of material desire and identification but further in positioning us to experience a pure state of existence (visuddha-sattva), to become aware of our spiritual identity (samvit), and to fulfill our purpose in love (hladini).
As we shall see in the discussion of the second stanza of Siksastakam, association with Krishna nama entails coming under the influence of Krishna’s svarupa-sakti, for Krishna nama is filled with his sakti. It is only in this condition that the jiva can realize its full potential. The first step in this direction is sraddha, followed by sadhu sanga. After taking shelter of one’s guru in the context of sadhu-sanga, one receives directives from the guru (bhajana-kriya) that set this cleansing process (anartha-nivrtti) in motion. The stages of bhajana–kriya and anartha-nivrtti correspond with the initial effect of nama-sankirtana and are discussed further in verse two. Therein the stage of sadhu-sanga, which was implied in verse one, is also further indicated.