The physicality of “mind” and the analysis of its activities is an old Indian concept. The earliest cosmology propounds that the universe is an outcome of the “mind” which has more hidden matters than what are revealed. Each object gets embedded in the enigmatic infinite psychic realm and gets endowed with attributes of “mind” that it can use for its existence and operation. A corollary of such empiricism is that the “mind” though unseen, is as much of a human limb as any other organ; it can also be said that “mind” rules over other organs. Early discussion of the topic is shrouded in remote literature and has not been retrieved to learn and analyze. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad talks about “mana” and the Sāṅkhya philosophy uses “manas” to develop theories. We have discussed these in other articles in this series.


“mind” has two aspects. In one aspect it lets us think, imagine, reflect, construct, analyze, organize and design. We live in an “object world,” objects compete to gain our attention. “mind” takes in the objects and tries to make sense. The process of making sense can become intense and an object can occupy our total mental space, and beyond, as we think further. Each understanding brings new questions, and one goes on probing more and more if one is keen to “understand.” In the process of understanding, the original object loses importance, evolves in a web of connected objects, which again can morph into a series of object attributes that can occupy our mental space.


Thus in an effort to “understand” an object, we reach the web of a large design that likely makes the object. It unfolds as an open book. As we probe more by stretching our “mind,” more connections arise. The local object becomes the product of a timeless, limitless domain. Through this process we realize that the “mind” that we have is indeed much larger than to be contained in our head or brain. It is indeed a function, than a physical entity. It operates at its own will and expands to ever larger domains. We should be happy to possess this interesting tool which distinguishes man as a different species than animals or plants.


“mind” has a second aspect. In this other aspect, “mind” is narrow, biased and defensive. Instead of expanding, it gets bounded by individual interests, tastes, attitudes, and personality. It gets engaged in lying, cover up, falsification, pretension and fear. This “mind” competes with the other “mind”s for existence, food and survival, and evolves a local attribute that we call buddhi “intelligence”. While “mind” by its functionality is infinite as we saw before, this quantity buddhi becomes an individual memory function to apply the acquired knowledge, than to expand to gain new knowledge from the infinite realm. Acquired knowledge can build up in time and we declare happiness when others appear smaller to us.


Instead of helping us to “understand” objects, the second aspect of “mind” adds arbitrary quality to the object: we determine if we like or dislike, if the object is helpful or hurtful, if the object should be nurtured or destroyed. In place of our objective analysis, we get into subjective evaluation making a mini-world keeping our own “self” at its center. In the process, we develop different amounts of “egotism.” We get imprisoned to our “ego” making statements like “I don’t like yellow flowers” without analyzing what “yellow” is or what a “flower” is. People make bold statements like “I love public work” with high emphasis on “I” without understanding that all work has a purpose that “I” never examined.


The yoga philosophy declares that human beings are designed to be objective, intellect driven, curious and ever alert than the low, narrow, local and transient objects they reduce themselves to be. It distinguishes between our sensory intake and our intuitive insight. Neurologically it accepts the fact that we take a finite time to process information and we must allow that time for our sensory input to be processed in order to become useful knowledge. When we do not allow that time for whatever reason, we get strayed into the world of senses and the “mind” allows itself to be a slave of the senses, thus totally distorting our personality and our physical well-being.


As Patanjali enunciates in his book Yogasūtram, our senses operate in the physical state which is vitarka, “argumentation,” “my symbol is better than yours”, “my family is smarter than yours”, “my style is superior to yours.” Once we get beyond these thoughts, we can enter the vicāra, “discrimination” state which is just above the vitarka. Between these two states we have the two aspects of the “mind” we spoke about earlier. In the “vitarka” state we are limited, affected by shape, color, size, sound, taste, feel or touch. In the vicāra stage we are beyond the senses and using our mind as a tool to connect, understand, appreciate and learn. Our physical well being is a function of how much vicāra we do versus how much vitarka we do. All vitarka is local and they die. All vicāra is wisdom and they transcend.


Once we stay in vicāra for a length of time, we begin to “connect” with the object; we realize that the object and we have more similarity than difference. Further vicāra can suggest that the object and we belong in the same set and our difference is only incidental. This process happens in our mental state as we discussed through the first aspect of our “mind” above. Such realization of object identity with us brings in us ānanda, “joy” and this is the beginning of “yoga.” Further we go in our mental discrimination, we do see the largeness as we discussed earlier and our “joy” intensifies. The yoga philosophy makes science out of this empirical observation.


This ānanda is physical but not sensual. How is this ānanda experienced? We can say that ānanda is in our psyche, but the philosophy goes a step further in constructing an internal “agent” which oversees our “psychic consciousness.” Following the theory of Sāṅkhya, this agent can be called puruṣa, a quantity which stays separate from the sensual experiences. It provides the will-power, and witnesses each action. Yoga claims that such a puruṣa is real that It can “reveal” itself if we try hard. This has been the path of samādhi as we described in an earlier article.


Yoga hypothesizes that our local mind (the second aspect) acts as a barrier for us to realize the glory of our inner “agent” that discriminates our every action and sits silently inside of us. Once we can “silence” our local mind, the “agent” becomes our guide and our actions are “pure” unconditioned by our local “ego” but conform to the larger design of the universe reducing any stress on us. Such reduction of stress brings further ānanda and the process can perpetuate. In such conditions, we “see through” the future, we “know our steps” beforehand, we “do not consume energy” for survival; we become a part of the larger design that we were to begin with. This has been called the yogī stage; in the older days words like ṛṣi or muni have been used for similar attainments.


Yoga prescribes the path that we can “observe” our “true self” that we call “agent” above. The path assumes the result and starts up the practice such that we progress towards the result. Because the ultimate realization would be that we are all connected and that every object feels the pain of another object, we begin the practice that we do not cause any suffering to anyone. This has been called ahiṁsā, “nonviolence”. Knowingly or unknowingly, we must not injure anyone in any manner. We must not have ill-feelings; we must not harbor any bad thoughts. We must not feel jealous, nobody is our competition. We are each divine, each is free; each is independent. We eat, sleep, move, study and work in a self-contained way where we are not consumers, but we maintain balance. We leave the earth more full than we were given.


The message of yoga philosophy is that our mind can be engaged to be creative and think about the universe than be a self-serving tool to manipulate our local environment. “Mind” has power and when that power can get focused, we can heal ourselves and heal others; we can be peaceful and bring peace to others, we can have plenty without denying anybody their rights or dominating anyone for any purpose. The power of our mind is achieved when we release it from the clutches of our senses. Let our “mind” govern our senses than be governed by them as happens in the fight for our apparent fear of life. Yoga declares all fear is man-made and artificial, life is permanent and transcendental.


Legends have been made on people when individuals with intense focus can absorb the pain of others; an individual can show up in multiple places or can succumb to injury or death to protect others. While we do not witness these directly we can surmise that yoga is a tool of omniscience and can enable a person to operate purely in the psychic world. If we analyze this further, we can conclude that our bodily pains or physical activities of life are only our local perceptions. They only “exist” when our mind allows us to notice them. From such a perspective, yoga would declare that the universe is a psychic entity, made up by our “mind”, our “mind” molds it and shapes it every moment. This has been the “revelation” attributed to Gautama Buddha.


We will briefly discuss the practice of yoga in the next article before we move on.

Let Sai bless all.

Bijoy Misra

August 2, 2013