Shama – Mastery of the Mind

This sub-module is based on the teachings of Swami Viditatmananda.


Shama is the first sub-qualification of Discipline. Shama means tranquillity and mastery of the mind or bringing the mind back from sense objects.

In this sub-module we will discuss:

1. How sense objects distract our mind?

2. The six-fold inner enemies of the mind.

3. Why a Vedantic student needs to cultivate Shama?

4. How to cultivate Shama?

Sense Objects Distract The Mind

To study Vedanta we need a calm, peaceful and abiding mind. After hearing a lecture on Vedanta we might want to reflect on what we heard, but other things take hold of our mind. Various emotions such as desires, fear, anger etc pull our mind away from ourselves.

There is a natural tendency of the mind to dwell on sense objects for which it has an attraction. However, the mind also dwells on objects, situations and people to which it has an aversion. Thus the mind is constantly dragged away from its purpose into the objects of it likes (Raga) and dislikes (Dvesha).

There is attachment and aversion with reference to every sense object. May one not come under the spell of these two because they are one’s enemies.

Bhagavad Gita

Lord Krishna says here that every sense organ has both an attraction and an aversion to its corresponding objects. These likes and dislikes are part of our personality. We carry them from our past lives, and add many more over the course of our current life.

Even though we try to concentrate our mind, the strong forces of likes and dislikes pulls our mind away from the Self and into the sense objects. We have to understand the mechanisms of how the mind gets distracted.

The Six-Fold Inner Enemies Of The Mind

An untrained mind is under the control of six inner enemies: desire (Kama), anger (Krodha), greed (Lobha), delusion or lack of discrimination (Moha), pride (Mada) and jealousy (Matsarya).

Whenever there is a desire, there is potential for anger. When there is obstruction to the fulfillment of my desire, I get angry. If my desire gets fulfilled, it creates a different problem: my mind always wants more. This is greed. Thus desire gives rise to either anger or greed. Anger and greed, in turn, rob me of my sense of discrimination, causing me to make bad decisions.

When I am successful, I become proud and arrogant. A proud person seeks security in his or her own achievements. When I come across a more successful person, I immediately compare myself to him or her. When I find myself lacking is some aspect to the other person, I become jealous.

These six tendencies are the inner enemies of the mind. I want a mind free of these emotions and tendencies.

Shama Is Needed For Vedantic Study

A student of Vedanta needs a mind available for listening (or reading) to the scriptures (Shravana), reflecting upon what has been heard (Manana), and assimilating the teachings into daily life (Nidhidhyasana).

However the mind of the student strays repeatedly because of past impressions and tendencies (Vasanas). It requires a particular kind of effort to control or restrain the mind so that it is available to do what we want. This quietude, restraint and abidance of the mind is called Shama.

Listening, reflecting and assimilation of Vedantic study are the means of gaining Self-Knowledge, and we want a mind capable of focusing on this pursuit.

How To Gain Mastery Over The Mind?

The method suggested to restrain the mind and bring it back to its focus is called ‘Dosha Drishti’. Dosha Drishti means seeing the limitation or faults of the objects to which the mind has strayed, again and again.

If you analyze your attachment or aversion to any object, you will notice that attachment or aversion arises because you have a partial view of the object. The practice of cultivating a ‘total view’ with regards to every object is called Dosha Drishti.

If you have a positive view of the object, consider the negative view. And if you have a negative view of the object, consider the positive view also.

If you have an attachment to particular object, it means you’re focusing only on its positive attributes. To give rise to detachment, consider the negative attributes also.

For e.g.

a. If you like eating sweets, consider the risk of dental cavities or diabetes.

b. If you’re chasing a high social standing, consider the pain if you lose your social standing for some reason.

c. If you’re vain, remember that old age will soon consume your physical beauty.

d. If your sense of security depends upon your wealth, remember that every object in this world, even wealth, is impermanent and its wise not depend on it.

Every object in this world is riddled with fear. Dispassion (Vairagya) alone will give your freedom from all this fear. The world is a zero sum game. The same object which gives happiness at one moment, will give you pain at another moment.

Follow this similar process when you have an aversion to an object.. consider its positive attributes.

A mind free of attachments and aversions is an objective mind. We have to constantly practice Dosha Drishti to cultivate an objective mind.

A Mastered Mind Is Free Of Likes And Dislikes

Whatever is, is Brahman.

Chandogya Upanishad

Therefore, there should not be attachment or aversion to anything because everything is my very Self. In order to appreciate this truth, I need a mind relatively free of likes and dislikes.

I do this not by forcing or suppressing my mind, but by seeing the true nature of things.

Whenever the mind gets distracted, we should try to appreciate things for what they are; neither more nor less. When there is attachment, we see more than is there, and when there is aversion, we see less.

Only a mind that sees neither more nor less is objective, free of likes and dislikes, and in the state of Shama. Shama is the mastery of mind, which enables the student to focus on his or her goal.


1. Shama means mastery of the mind.
2. There is a natural tendency of the mind to dwell upon objects and situations to which it has attraction or aversion. The strong forces of likes and dislikes distract our mind and focuses it on to sense objects.
3. The six-fold inner enemies of the mind are: desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride and jealousy. All these six emotions and tendencies are inter-related and give rise to one another.
4. The study of Vedanta requires a quiet mind for which we have to cultivate Shama. The method to cultivate Shama is called “Dosha Drishti”. This method involves considering the opposite view of the currently held view. If you have a positive view of the object, consider the negative view. If you have a negative view, consider the positive view. Practising this method gives rise to an objective mind, one free of likes and dislikes.