Uparama – Focusing of the Mind and Sense Organs

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


Uparama is the third sub-qualification of Discipline. Uparama is also sometimes used interchangeably with the Sanskrit word Uparati.

In this sub-module we will discuss:

1. What is Uparama?

2. How to develop Uparama?

3. An alternate definition of Uparama as given in Tattvabodha.

What Is Uparama?

Shama is the mastery of the mind and bringing it back from its distractions. Dama is the restraint of the sense organs and bringing them back from their distractions and focusing them.

Uparama is the faculty by which the mind is focused where it wants to focus – from our perspective, on Vedantic study – and that by which the sense organs are also disciplined so that they aid, rather than distract from
the focus.

Uparama is the faculty that enables the mind and sense organs that are thus restrained by Shama and Dama to stay focused. As a result of the practice of Shama and Dama, we find that the mind and the sense organs slowly become abiding.

This abidance of the mind and sense organs is called Uparama.

How To Develop Uparama?

Effort is involved in inculcating Shama and Dama, whereas, there is no effort in Uparama.

Our own experience shows that initially we like many things; I may enjoy watching movies or football games and, therefore, the mind immediately thinks of them whenever I have time. However, as I develop better or superior interests the appeal of movies or games slowly wears off.

The secret of controlling the mind and sense organs is not so much a mechanical practice, as it is the cultivating of a subtler or superior interest.

The Bhagavad Gita says:

When the mind experiences or sees something superior, its fascination for the inferior automatically drops off.

Thus, if we want to free our minds from the fascination of worldly objects, it is necessary for the mind to see something better.

As we discover subtler things, our fascination for grosser things drops off. Initially, we keep disciplining our minds and sense organs; later, it is necessary to expose our minds to something beautiful, superior, and subtler; something that lies within.

The idea is that beauty and happiness are both present within the Self.

Why should the mind run after sense objects? It is only when a child is not happy eating at home that he or she goes to eat out.

When the mind discovers the inner joy or composure, its distractions will automatically stop. Thus, we have to tackle this problem on two fronts: first, by restraining or bringing back the mind and the sense organs when they are distracted and, secondly, by cultivating an interest in something subtler.

As we understand the beauty that the scriptures reveal to us as being inherently present everywhere, the need of the mind for grosser beauty drops off slowly and the mind becomes abiding.

A time will come when the mind and sense organs will become abiding effortlessly; they will then have discovered an inner poise, silence, or joy. This state is called Uparama.

Uparama As Observance Of One’s Own Duties

The text Tattvabodha has a slightly different definition of Uparama, and it is worth exploring this definition also. Tattvabodha defines Uparama as:

The very observance of one’s own (Dharma) duties.

Whatever is your Dharma (duty), to be done at a given place, in a given situation, that you do, whether you like it.

This is how you gain certain mastery over your likes and dislikes. Otherwise they dictate your behaviour all the time, and that is a meaningless life.

As long as your likes and dislikes conform to Dharma (the moral order), they are fine. If what is to be done conforms to Dharma, it is good for you, and you like it, you do it; in fact, you will be spontaneous.

It’s like a doctor telling you to eat an apple everyday, and you happen to like apples. When you love apples, and somebody advises you to eat an apple daily, you can enjoy that; there is no conflict.

But if you are told to take bittergourd juice everyday, then you have to take it, even though you do not like it. Yet, you take it because it has to be taken.

So, what you like is not going to be what is to be done every time, and what you do not like is not what is not to be done every time.

What do you do?

If you go by what you like and do not like, you will become a derelict.

However, when, what is to be done you do, and what is not to be done, you avoid. This becomes Uparama.

It avoids conflicts, gives you a sense of satisfaction, and also a sense of success about yourself as a person, because you have the mental strength to deny yourself something you want. That is amazing. It makes you feel good.

Why does it feel good?

Because you were able to avoid certain things which you wanted to do, but were not to be done. And you could do things that were to be done, even though you did not want to.

Avoiding something that you have to, even though you feel like doing it, really makes you feel good. That capacity makes you feel good; you feel you are the master. You have reorganized your inner life and have a sense of “I am in charge”, which is very good.

Uparama is being in charge of your life. Then there is so much you can do. When you are in charge, you can help others too. Otherwise, others have to take care of you. And you are in charge when you are able to do what is to be done.


1. Uparama is the faculty that enables the mind and sense organs that are restrained by Shama and Dama to stay focused.
2. The method for discipling the mind and sense organs, and thereby cultivating Uparama, is to refine our interests and pursuits. When we begin to find inner joy and happiness within ourselves, the mind will stop running after sense objects.
3. Another definition of Uparama as given in Tattvabodha is “observance of one’s own duties.” When you do what is to be done, at any given time and place, whether you like it or not, is Uparama. This helps you gain mastery over your likes and dislikes.