What Is Mind - According to Yoga

Dr. Purushothaman
January 15, 2014


The word "Telepathy" has been derived from the words "Tele" meaning "Distance" and the moment we sit down to try to meditate, we often find that the mind and body will find a hundred reasons to stop us from doing it! The bad news is that it signifies that our Mind is controlling us. The good news is that it is very common and if we realize it, it is a positive sign! So this article is about trying to understand what this mind is and why we get so many thoughts, and most importantly to understand that we should witness them and not get carried away by them.
Yogah chitta vrtti nirodhah (PYS, 1.2)
Yoga is the control of the modifications of the mind field.
So what is it that we call the mind? Whatever it is, according to Yoga, the mind has four functions and discriminating between the four functions by observing them as they function is the key to practice meditation. It is also very important to accept and understand the functions of the mind and train the four functions.
These four functions are:
Manas (the lower mind)
Chitta (the storehouse of impressions)
Ahankara (the I maker)
Buddhi (discriminative faculty)
Manas- the lower mind:
This is the faculty through which the mind interacts with the external world. The inputs into this faculty are given by the senses and the output is given through the body in the form of elimination, reproduction, movement, grasp and speech. Swami Rama compares the whole mind field with a factory in which Manas is the supervisor of the senses (import) and the actions (export). The nature of this supervisor is to always question and have doubts. The supervisor seeks good instructions from the higher faculties, but our problems start when the supervisor starts listening to the loudest speakers of the factory, which are often our desires, attractions, wants and aversions. By observing our senses and the actions that we take, we will begin to understand how our actions are controlled by our desires/aversions.
Chitta- the memory bank:
This is the place where we store all the impressions that we collect. In Sadhgurus words, it is the garbage can of the society. Whoever passes by, throws something into it and it is very difficult to control what gets thrown. The thoughts are but the smells coming from the garbage. So in other words, the thoughts are coming from the memory bank that we have. All this is not to say that Chitta is bad. It is the storehouse of merits and demerits through which we receive our knowledge. If we were not to have those, we would not have been able to function normally in the external world. Having experiences and remembering them is good. But our problems start when we start living in the so called garbage can,than living in the house that it helps keep clean. So why do we think that we live in it? It is all thanks to Ahankara..
Ahankara: The I maker:
This is the manager of the factory of mind. Its duty is to say that this experience is good for me, and ‘that experience was bad for me. It forms an alliance with the chitta and colors the experiences of chitta with ‘good for me, not good for me;I like this , I don't like this etc. This creates our individual personality, which is very good if we are to live in the external world. But then again, our problems start if the manager forgets his place in the factory and starts behaving like he owns the factory and drives the supervisor Manas. In other words, all our suffering is because we have forgotten who we really are, and start thinking that we are everything that gets thrown our way- the false identification between the I- ness and the data stored in the chitta.
Buddhi- the discriminative faculty:
This is the higher faculty of the mind factory, the key decision maker. Its duty is to listen to the doubts of the supervisor Manas, analyze and discriminate the experiences shown and colored by the alliance of chitta and ahankara, and make the right decision/ judgement. We want this Buddhi to be making the choices for the factory, otherwise the corrupted Ahankara and chitta make them.
A major part of Spiritual practices is aimed at making this Buddhi (inner voice) stronger, and the desires and aversions weaker, so that the supervisor can get good instructions for the smooth running of the factory of life. And only when we learn to establish a smooth co-ordination between these faculties, our mind can become tranquil. All Yoga processes, irrespective of the school, help achieve this goal. But the key is to Practice! Practice! and Practice! with the attitude of a witness.

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