Understanding the Human Mind through the Manas,Buddhi, Ahankara and Chitta as defined by the Yoga Sutras
The English word Mind is very gross. The entire complex human mind is simplified to one unit. That is because the western understanding of the human mind is yet very fundamental and therefore the limitations of understanding the mind using a western language. The human mind has much more complex mechanisms and in eastern scriptures the understanding of the levels of human thought is far more complex and extremely well understood. The fundamental units that need to be understood and balanced in eastern philosophy are........
It is the lowest form of mind. Manas is thoughtless and has zero ability to “think” or process cognitive information. The manas controls the five human senses and functions like a binary code. It can only understand one thing from the five senses. It understands Pain and/or Pleasure if any of the five senses feeds it pain or displeasure. It avoids the source of the displeasure, and if any of the five senses feeds it pleasure, it seeks to do more of it.
It cannot discern if something is right or wrong, or over time harmful to existence or beneficial to the human.
Its limitation is a simple ‘yes I want more of this’ or ‘no, I dont like this”
If you look at most human behavior, mankind lives 80% (roughly) of his life on this level on an average, and, therein lies all suffering of mankind. 95% of all mankind spend 80% of their life doing things they like and avoiding things they don't like, it’s that simple. In this material world, we spend most of our time at the level of manas. Or spend our life in the unending pure pursuit of gratifying our senses.
Be it, the big House, big bank balance, big car or more sophisticated forms of ego massage; I need the big job with the big title to flash around, power to show off over other humans, to show how successful, superior and accomplished you are. Even if this involves life long suffering, its worth it if it brings temporary financial, power or ego benefits over other humans around you.
Now things start to become complicated. Buddhi theoretically speaking has cognitive discriminative thought and the ability to ‘reflect’ on what manas is telling it. It is the seat where acquired knowledge is collected and using this knowledge is able to process information to tell you what is right or is wrong. Therefore in theory it should have the ability to govern and override manas, by telling it, .......ok you enjoy this, but it’s not good for you. Or say, ok you don't enjoy this but it’s the right thing to do and it has to be done for the greater good, even if it means you have to suffer in the process.
In most humans, there is this eternal conflict between Buddhi and Manas. And, for most people usually manas win over buddhi. In this eternal conflict when in most cases manas wins over buddhi, the person over time becomes a slave to pleasures and loses his ability to think and have governing discriminative thought. Don’t you see this all around you all the time? In fact isn’t this how we live our lives most of the time?. Interestingly Hindu yogis interpret the adam and eve story to be the fight between Buddhi (logic/adam) and manas (emotion/eve) the tree being a representation of the nervous system since there was no real garden somewhere in Israel. This is a fable to illustrate the daily tussel in our mind between logic and emotion, and how succumbing to manas (emotion) brings us into suffering daily.
So now you would say...................hey, if I keep listening to my buddhi, I will always do the right thing, and everything will be fine.
This is where it becomes even more complicated, Yes the complications of the mind are never ending, The mind is the most complicated instrument in an otherwise simple universe, and that is why, entire humanity suffers despite nature and the universe making things abundant for us to live a good life.
You are aware of the stereotype of the typical ‘learned pundit’, who is hated by all, even his own family, as he believes so strongly in his principles which are so lofty and perfect. ......And, he lives hard by them even at severe personal discomfort and sacrifice, and then manages to piss everyone off including his own family?
What went wrong? Why was he so disliked for living with lofty ideals?
The knowledge that buddhi acquires over a life time is YOUR personal data base. This personal database is what, your individual buddhi uses to process information fed by your individual manas. This database is built using, information gathered by YOU, over YOUR lifetime of personal experiences, books YOU read, experiences YOU see others going through in YOUR culture, YOUR society, what was fed to YOU by YOUR parents, and past life memories buried deeply within YOUR sub consciousness.
In short YOUR buddhi uses YOUR personal data base to evaluate the world from YOUR perspective.
If you really understand the nature of this definition..............your buddhi becomes limited in nature.....as it is biased by the nature of your limited personal exposure, your limited physical brain, and the limited abilities of the five senses that feel the environment around you. There is only that much information that our brain can store for future processing. This limitation of the input we have is what, governs and limits the ability of the brain to do its “discriminatory” thinking. By definition, buddhi is limiting, therefore limited, in its ability to always take the right decision. If you pull this person out of his environment and put him in a new one and he seems out of depth to deal with things in a new environment, or a new situation.
Therefore the Buddha of a man is limited, and his decisions are colored by his experiences and exposure, his society and his culture. It’s like the eye patches over a horses eyes. Granted, by acquiring more knowledge, this field of vision can be opened by a few degrees, but as just defined it’s still limited. It boils down to degrees of freedom of vision.
We frequently hear, the ability of all humans over animals is the ability to govern life through discriminative thinking. Unfortunately, most humans, aren’t able to live like humans to be governed by buddhi all the time, talk about evolution? The vast majority of human beings don’t live life as complete humans; forget higher states of evolutionary thinking.
Now unfortunately this becomes even more complex. Preventing the Buddhi from seeing things properly and taking the right decision is Ahankara. Or our human ego.
Right from birth, we slowly build this concept called “I” which is nothing but ahankara. The I ‘says................I am this, and I am that.........I like this and I don't like that..........I want others to listen to me because what my buddhi says is right and what others buddhi says is wrong, my way is the right way, others are wrong.................Even if the ‘I’ recognizes its limitations to take the right decisions, it makes complex excuses to justify its shortcomings, and invents complex excuses to say its right..........this is ego.
The most dangerous beast of all is the human mind. Its the most dangerous, as the Buddhi still has the ability to correct itself with the right information. It is the ahankara that prevents the buddhi from growing. It is the one that frequently tells the buddhi, I am so great/wise/important/well read, I don’t need to learn more.
It will accept information that reinforces its definition of ‘self’ and reject all information that weakens its self perception.................irrespective of whether this information is right or wrong. Just or unjust.
The ahankara, strides on the buddhi, much like a rider on a bull. This beast continuously stifles the buddhi, and makes it operate in a way satisfying to the ego. It will bribe the buddhi to make the wrong decisions. It colors the lenses of the buddhi and distorts the buddhi. The buddhi which by itself is limited by its limited field of experience is now further distorted by ego, reducing its limited effectiveness.
This beast called the ‘I’ or the ego, is hard to kill, even when you try to suppress it, by building humility, the humility by itself rears a new head by ego saying things like, ‘look how great I am, yet how humble. Wow what an amazing man I am! ’
It will put up the greatest fights.............to prevent you from destroying that concept and definition of yourself, that you call “I”.
The learned man was hated even though he did all things right because of his ahankara.
It has different definitions in different contexts in the Hindu scriptures. But in the context of what is explained above, it means your pure untainted consciousness, It is the divine silent observer in you. Its your divine self that is untainted and untaintable. Its eternal. It is the real imortal you. The real you. Realized masters identify with this imortal consciousness not the ego entrenched, ahankara or buddhi, which are artifical constructs that lead to all human suffering of self, and the suffering the ego creats in society.
Chitta is the bed of all living emotions or sensations. Just living and being aware is because of your Chitta..........It is supported by Prana, the subtle body life force, Prana goes where Chitta goes, not the other way around. Prana is the substance that anchors the Chitta to the physical body, by bringing life to inanimate matter. Citta then sits there and brings consciousness to a human body. When someone dies, Prana goes first, then Chitta or awareness shuts down in the physical body only. But continues to live in the universe to take rebirth .
Where does evolution and self relization come in?
So what is evolution of the mind? And how is it possible when so much is against you doing the right thing in life, and everything you do getting handicapped by your manas buddhi and ahamkara.
The first thing you do is silence your mind.............silence the monkey brain that can’t sit still...................the ego can’t operate, when the mind is silent. The ego starts to die when the mind is silent.In that silence, the Buddhi also dies. Don't think, don't judge, don't evaluate, don't dwell on the past, don't ponder about the future, Let go of all past impressions, opinions, worries, stresses, emotions...........just let go of all thought..........
When you do that the activity of the mind and its limitations die.
In this new silence and emptiness comes in PURUSHA, or simply put cosmic awareness, with it comes the pure knowledge of the universe that is unbounded..........limitless.......... and complete. This deep wisdom and knowledge over-rides the limitations of time and space. It’s also called the deep meditative state, where the mind starts to clear its debris of contaminated junk emotions, false knowledge and false notions. The purification of the mind and its garbage starts in that silence.
In a sense the more you kill the “I” and the more the brain acquires the deeper purer knowledge that the universe shares. The more you empty the garbage in your mind the more the place for pure divine knowledge to exist.
This is the only way to conqueror your petty Manas, your limited Buddhi and your huge Ego.
That is also why they say..............rational thinking and books don't get you to god, it never can!
You just have reduce your ego centered brain brain for the greater knowledge to flood you.
The author is Sanjay Rao. In search of the ultimate truth beyond concepts and notions, in that silence, after 20 years in soulless corporate board rooms.