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The Riddle Called Mind
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Psychology is the science of Psyche, the mind. The credit of modern day psychology goes to Freud and Jung who are called the fathers of psychology. This may be true for the western thinkers but it is painful to note that many learned Indians believe that India has little or no contribution to this subject. The Yogasutras of Patanjali, the origin of which dates back to 1200 B.C. or more, not only covers all aspects handled by the modern psychology but much more including the Parapsychology. The minute details of mind function handled by Yogauutras have not yet entered modern psychology even at conceptual stage. Owing to this reason Patanjali’s Yogasutras are often referred to as Bharatiya Manas Shastra, which many people don’t know.

In our personality, the mind-body complex as a whole, all the tangible, material and physical aspects of the mind-body complex get identified as the body and all the intangible aspects as the mind. When you look deeply at the activities of your mind, you find that all the non-tangible aspects, which comprise our mind, fall into four categories. Our scriptures call it the Antahkaran Chatushtaya ¼vUr%dj.k prq"V;½, the four parts being the Mana ¼eu½, Chitta ¼fpŸk½, Buddhi ¼cqf)½] and Ahankar ¼vgadkj½. There is a definite hierarchical relationship between the four parts of the mind from Mana to Ahankar in ascending order. Mana, being intangible hence superior than the body and sensory organs can control them but it can’t control or perceive Chitta as it is superior to Mana. Chitta can’t perceive Buddhi and Buddhi can’t perceive Ahankar. Ahankar being the subtlest of the four can perceive all these parts of the mind as well as the gross physical body. Asmita, the ‘Id’ is not included in the foursome called Antahkaran, as it is still above and subtler in the hierarchy.

Your mind perceives the world around you through the five senses, namely, sound, touch, sight, taste and smell, aided by the five respective sensory organs the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. When your mind desires to know an external object, it activates the sensory organ or organs necessary for the purpose, engulfs the object through that organ and collects the necessary information of the object. The part of mind performing the above task is called Mana and the above act is called Manan ¼euu½. The part of the mind thinking and visualizing the objects, events and experiences from the past or the future is called the Chitta and this act is called Chintan ¼fpUru½. It is necessary to take note of the fact that in the process of Chintan the outer object is absent. The part of mind that records the accumulated conclusive knowledge on brain neurons and help recalling the same as and when required is called Buddhi. The ever-present awareness of the above three actions, like `I, so and so, am knowing this particular object, I am internalizing the knowledge so acquired, I hold so much accumulated knowledge', is the fourth part of the mind, which is called Ahankar.

Before proceeding further it is necessary to clarify upon the common misinterpretation of the word Ahankar. The word Ahankar carries with it three different interpretations, which are included in the expression of the word Ahankar. The first, foremost and the subtlest of these three is Asmita ¼vfLerk½. In Sankrit Asmi means ‘I am’, which is the basic and pure awareness of self-existence and carries no other knowledge about self. To this basic awareness of being is attached further knowledge about the self like I am tall, I am educated, I am rich and so on. Such pure knowledge about self, devoid of any malice is the real interpretation of the word Ahankar. When this knowledge of self creates overtones of malice in comparison with others, like I am richer than he is, he can’t equal me in knowledge etc., it is called Malin Ahankar ¼efyu vgadkj½. This is the third and commonly used interpretation and is looked down upon because of the malice it carries. You can’t exist and function as a living being without Asmita and Ahankar. If you don’t know that you are, who would know he is hungry and who would eat? In the same manner if you don’t know that you are rich how would you go and buy that Mercedes car? There is nothing wrong with self-awareness of being rich, knowledgeable, handsome or beautiful but it is wrong to ridicule someone lacking in these qualities. This is when the pure Ahankar becomes dirty or Malin and is looked down upon. With this clarity in your mind you will be able to understand the following explanations with ease. Psychological definitions of ‘Id’, ‘Superego’ and ‘Ego’ to some extent, if not exactly, represent Asmita, Ahankar and Malin Ahankar respectively.

Ahankar, your self-awareness, which you express as ‘I’ is the driving force behind everything you do. This means that in order to control your mind you must control the Ahankar. I will explain it in a simpler way. Suppose you are served a mouth watering tasty snack but at that very moment you are engrossed in some other work. Even though your sensory organ is absorbing the smell, your belly is jumping for a mouthful of that snack; you will not eat it as long as you do not come out of that topic of your attention. When ‘you’ want to eat you eat, when ‘you’ want to listen you listen and when ‘you’ want to think you think. This means all the physical sensory organs including the three intangible functions of the Antahkaran, Mana, Chitta and Buddhi, work in order to appease ‘you’ the Ahankar. Ahankar is the master controller of your mind and body complex and the rest are its subordinates who work only to fulfill ‘your’ desires. They have no purpose of their own. Mana goes out into the world to know what ‘you’ want to know. Chitta creates its imagery to internalize the knowledge acquired by Mana so that ‘you’ can retrieve it when desired and Buddhi keeps all such acquired knowledge in a perpetual recall mode, only to the extent that ‘you’ want to recall. Every experience of your life is firmly written on your brain neurons but ‘you’ remember only the information ‘you’ are interested in. All the sensory organs including Mana, Chitta and Buddhi are mere horses that either run or drag as desired by the jockey that is ‘you’. Horses don’t win or loose races, the jockeys do.

The job of Mana is to get information from the outer world through the sensory organs. Though Mana is the lowest in seniority as compared to the other three components of mind, it is subtler than the gross body and the sensory organs. Therefore, on receiving an order to get any information from outside it coordinates the activity of body and the corresponding sensory organ in an appropriate position, collects the necessary information through the organ and sends it to his top boss, the Ahankar. The boss, in consultation with Buddhi makes his decision whether the object in question is pleasurable or not and whether to continue or discontinue the scrutiny. Mana accordingly continues with the job or shifts itself to another job as ordered. This makes clear that Mana functions only when asked to do so, within the limitations of place, time, object and organ ¼LFky] dky] oLrq] bUnzh; e;kZnk½. That means the object of perception and the observer must be at the same place at the same time. So next time when you say that your mind cannot concentrate on a given job be sure it is you who do not want to do it in the first place.

When an object or event is being perceived by Mana, the experience you get can be that of pleasure, displeasure or indifference. In case of indifference you order Mana to terminate the process of perception then and there. If the object of perception brings pleasure, you order the Chitta to take over from Mana. Chitta being senior to Mana it has more powers and fewer limitations. Though the physical perception has been completed and the place, object and body have moved away from each other, Chitta can still visualize the object and its properties in mental imagery. It continues to visualize how the object looked, felt to the skin, tasted, smelt or how did it sound. This means that Chitta is beyond the limitations of place, time, object and organ. This process of mental imagery is necessary to obtain a firm conclusive knowledge about such object. The reason is simple; when you receive pleasure you want to enjoy it again and again and therefore it is necessary to know and remember everything about it. Even if the object brings displeasure to you Chitta is deployed into its job because you want to remember this object in order to instantly avoid it in future. If the experience brings neither pleasure nor displeasure it is left alone without taking any action whatsoever. This explains the importance of interest in remembering past experiences. So next time when you say that your memory is bad or your mind roams in the past and future be sure it happens because you want it so.

After Chitta has performed its job the Ahankar orders Buddhi to retain the knowledge so concluded in a perpetual recall mode for future reference. Buddhi or wisdom is another name of memory because what you can’t recall is no knowledge. Thus Buddhi is the accumulated knowledge retained in recall mode. Your interest in the object or event of perception is the key factor in the accumulation of knowledge because in case of disinterest you do not motivate Chitta to perform Chintan. The tool for accumulating such knowledge is the brain neurons. Your brain contains millions and millions of neurons and they record everything experienced by you from your birth till the end. Average persons utilize hardly twenty percent of their brain capacity. Here again Buddhi has no purpose of its own and the knowledge retained therein is solely for the reference of the Ahankar that is you. Therefore, the blame or credit for the lack or surplus of wisdom fairly rests on your own desire to be this way or that.

Ahankar, being the causal factor behind the activities of different departments of the mind, is perpetually present in every activity. When Mana performs, Ahankar becomes Mana. As water spontaneously adopts the tint and profile of its container, Ahankar identifies itself with Mana, Chitta and Buddhi and readily adapts to that mould. Such self identification with non self is called Adhyas ¼v/;kl½ and that is the cause of all your happiness and unhappiness.

In earlier statements I have mentioned ‘you’ the Ahankar several times but such mentions are only notional for bringing clarity into the subject matter. In reality you are not even the Ahankar but just an observer of events, objects and experiences of life. Ahankar and everything downstream up to your physical body are but the tools provided to you for such observation. However, due to Adhyas you identify yourself with Ahankar and the entire downstream, thus becoming the total experience yourself.

When you say ‘I AM’ you express your awareness of being. Now both the terms ‘awareness’ and ‘being’ are so subtle that they can never be quantified. However, as you become aware of your being inside a physical body, you identify yourself with the physical body. That is why while saying I am, you pat on your chest to emphasize your being somewhere inside that body. This is Adhyas. Brahmasutras explain Adhyas as ‘An illusive appearance of one entity on another entity, which is totally different than the former in every respect’. For example if you spin a coin on its axis and look at the face of the coin, the head of the coin appears on the tail and vice versa. In reality the head is head and the tail is tail, but due the trick played by the speed of spin an illusion of head is created over the tail. According to Yogasutras ignorance or Avidya is the cause of such Adhyas.

When you say ‘My body is strong’, you inadvertently accept beyond all doubts that you are not the body, because a subject can’t be an object. A claimant and his body have to be two different entities to justify the claim. Except the first person reference whatever you refer to in terms of second or third person is NOT you. So, you are neither the body nor the limbs. You are not the sensory organs. You are not Mana, Chitta, Buddhi or Ahankar either, because at most occasions you refer to them in terms of third person. If you insult someone and realize it later, you accept your fault by saying that your Ahankar provoked you. If you are not all these then who are you, who is me and who are all these people?

As I have said earlier, Asmita is the basic and pure awareness of self-existence and carries no other knowledge about self. This is really what you are as far as your individual existence is concerned. Asmita being subtler than Ahankar it can control Ahankar. Because of the senior and junior relationship between them Asmita can identify itself with Ahankar but Ahankar can’t identify itself with Asmita, though it can identify with its own self or all the other downstream entities. You will understand it with a very simple example; in case of emergency a Managing Director can sweep the floor in absence of the sweeper but a sweeper can never perform the tasks of a managing director in his absence.

You can always remain aware of yourself and be in control of every situation if you maintain the subject and object relationship with your body, sensory organs and the mind inclusive of your immediate assistant, the Ahankar. Do not identify yourself with them but identify them apart from you as ‘my body’, ‘my sensory organs’ and ‘my Ahankar’. It is not easy but it is possible with the help of your will and some efforts. You do it many times without knowing the entire process. Remember when you were angry with your spouse or a close friend. In anger you said so many things, which you should not have said. That was only because you had lost your self-awareness and identified yourself with the Ahankar. After you cooled down, that is when you became aware of what you had done, you felt sorry for saying all those things because you were under control of that impetuous assistant of yours. However, the next time when a similar situation arose, you kept your calm and came out of the situation by staying aware, remembering the past experience. Remember the last time you overate on that sumptuously laid buffet. You overate because your awareness had lost itself and become your tongue. When in the middle of the night you suffered from acidity, you became aware of the fact that you overate because you lost control on your tongue. So, next time whenever you meet pleasure or displeasure, go though the entire experience with awareness keeping your Ahankar and sensory organs in their place. You will never repent.

When you are under pressure to meet some deadlines, you call your assistant to office on a holiday not withstanding that he will be missing his pleasure of a holiday. You are aware that this job has to be finished now. You take this decision because you do not identify with him but look at him objectively. Due to the urgency of work if you could loose a holiday, he too can. Similarly be a strict and responsible manager when you handle the affairs of your own life.