A Difficult but Not Impossible Journey
Understanding the mind is a complex process and controlling it a mammoth task. However, there are many who attempt this, may be not to attain enlightenment but simply to gain control over their basic nature, handle their lives better or to understand the purpose of life - Life Positive.
It may not be totally incorrect if the present age is described as an age of mental stress and strain. In an earlier article I dealt with this subject with reference to stress management by resorting to a spiritual technique based on Adi Sankara’s poem ‘Bhaja Govindam’. The present essay is a discussion about the dwelling place of our unwelcome VIP guest “Mr. Stress”. The sanctuary of Mr. Stress is nothing other than the luxurious high-value residential apartment within us called our “MIND”. Hence, an urgent need to find out ways to make that abode a better place for a peaceful and pleasant living for its owners.
Mind and its Ramifications
World Health Organization defines mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’. Another definition says ‘physical, mental and social well-being is health’. It will be observed from these descriptions that human mind is an important factor for a healthy life.
Mind or the capacity to think, feel and express, is what makes a human being unique. As is a man’s mind, so is a man. The possession of the mind and its diverse expressions differentiates man from other sub-human species. The mind makes us aware of the world around us and is also the source of our self-awareness. It is the mind that controls and guides our interactions with others and the world in general. A Sanskrit saying states: mano matramjagat, mano kalpitam jagat—‘the world is as the mind sees and feels it; the world is as the mind thinks of it.’
Stressful living of the present day and the resultant unhappiness are born out of a lack of understanding of how the human mind works or reacts. If we want to avoid becoming a victim of stress and enjoy internal and external peace and joy, we must know how our mind works.
It is very difficult to understand the nature of the mind because it has no physical existence. It is very subtle as well as hidden. But the existence of the mind can't be denied, as many of our problems, physical, mental, psychological and social are the outcome of our mental condition and reaction.
Mind exists in the body but it is distinct from the body and organs. Mind is also distinct from the spiritual self, 'the Knower' who just observes the mind and its functions. The Knower perceives the external objects through sense organs but with the help of the mind. Perception of any event is not possible without the presence of mind. So in every event of perception there is an external object, an organ of perception (ears, eyes, nose tongue or skin) and there is mind and the 'Knower' or 'self'. All these are inseparable, very closely connected and yet distinct from each other.
Functions of the Mind
The mind in its functional mode or state is called the internal instrument (antah karana) which has four faculties, such as Chitta, Manas, Buddhi, andAhankara.
1. Chitta is that mode of mind which remembers the thoughts churned out of the memory and emotion. Chitta is also the store-house of samskaras or innate tendencies of holding on to ideas or habits borne out of memories of the past experiences (or vasanas). Sometimes the term chitta itself is used to mean the whole of mind.
2. Manas is that mode of the mind which considers the pros and cons of an object or a subject encountered in daily life. It then refers them to buddhi.
3. Buddhi is the intrinsic capacity of the mind. It is the faculty of intelligence, thinking and decision-making.
4. Ahankara is the ‘I’-consciousness or the ego mode of the mind. It helps a person to be self-conscious about one’s own position, possession, identity, capability and self-esteem.
These four functions follow one another so rapidly that they seem instantaneous and a single unit.
Nature of the Mind
There are three basic tendencies of the mind. They are objectification, multiplicity and multifarious-ness.
1. The mind-stuff is centrifugal. It always goes out. Its tendency is extroverted, Bahirmukhatva. Some times it is compared to an intoxicated monkey. Mind runs after the objects it likes but runs away from the objects that it dislikes
2. Another nature of the mind-stuff is to get hold of name and form, of some objects. It cannot be by itself. It is not a stand-alone feature. It has always to assume the name and form of some object. This ingrained nature of the mind is called objectification. They call it in Sanskrit as Vishayakara Vritti. It always takes the form or Akara of Vishaya or something. It has always to think of something.
3. The third tendency of the mind is that it does not stay content to assume the form of one thing and keep on to it. It does not stay-put on a particular item. It has the hardened tendency of constantly wanting to move from one thing to another. It cannot stick to one object, and therefore its Nanatva, multifariousness, the tendency of constantly jumping from one object to another.
Manifestation of the Mind
The mind manifests in the following five modes or conditions in our daily working life:
1. Scattered: when the mind is scattered and completely out of focus and restless.
2. Dark (or stupefied): when the mind is in a state of fix and restless.
3. Gathered (or collected): when the mind is gathered into itself. In this state we try to hold on an issue and seek its solution.
4. Focused: when the mind is free from restlessness to a great extent.
5. Concentrated: when the mind is fully concentrated.