Vedanta Trinity I - Mana

We have talked about sat-chit-Ananda earlier.  In their manifested form they take the concept of VishNu, BrahmA, and Siva—and the triad have been connected to the Biblical concept of Trinity.  However there is a stronger association of the cosmological principles of Vedanta and the concept of Trinity.  This Trinity comprises of entities mana, vAk and prANa. In English they are translated as mind, sound and breath(vitality) to some approximation.  We will discuss these topics through the present set of articles.

Brahman itself has no attributes and the creation of the universe is the only desire that Brahman might invoke.  There is no theory where such desire comes or how it gets created.  It just “is.”  But it is a safe assumption in the eastern thinking that all events are cosmic and hence the creation itself must be cosmic.  Just like we can't fully explain all events, similarly it's futile to explore the process of creation itself.  We can then claim that creation is a desire (so to speak) of Brahman.  In such thinking, further processes are only transformations of one object into another with new processes spawning all the time causing new transformations and modifications..

Conceptually Brahman is expansive and hence it continues to contain all objects as they form (or “transform”).  Since Brahman cannot be conceptualized, I might comment that philosophically we can't think of an anti-Brahman!   Its expansiveness is essentially only a term created by us to create our comprehension of the indefinable quantity.

We invoke further understanding from our earthly experience that any desire is usually associated with seeking pleasures.   Even when people renounce society and practice austerities, they may actually be seeking the pleasure of peacefulness and solitude.  That pleasure is available and is achievable, is a fundamental “experience” in human life, and does contain selfishness and some selfish “desire” as its basis.   As you can see the word, Ananda is a state we enter when we feel the internal pleasure of immersion in cosmic “desire.”  Without having known what the cosmic desire is, we assume that not injuring any one and helping to sustain the universe are the most likely desired of us and we may feel quite "pleased" when we can live our life under these assumptions.  In various faiths various "commands" are given in Scriptures and some get pleased with themselves when they can follow or obey those “commands.”   In Vedanta, no such "command" exists.

So how do we become different in spite of our "noble" desire of doing good to the universe?  This is where the first "creation" of Brahman comes in and we call it mana, the mind.  Though created, mana has no physical attributes and it can remain as nebulous as its creator Brahman itself.  Mind has the power of imagination, creativity, and organization, and like Brahman mind has no gender. Mind is expansive and is indefinable.  Mind when manifested can create its own imaginary universe and all objects in the universe are most likely endowed with a "mind" to sustain themselves and compete for resources.   Brahman is unconcerned with the mechanics of the individual mind's thinking and only maintains a joyful watch that such thinking continues.  It remains as the sAkshI “witness.”

In Vedanta thinking, the competition to survive is a limitation of the human construct and manifests itself as "fear."  Once fearful, the objects use their "minds" to find ways to overcome "fear."  This process operating in various ways makes each of us different and each of us tries to "discover" a path rationalized by our reason.  These paths may and often do collide.  When something is fear-based, no Ananda is achieved and we remain in the domain of dichotomy and conflicts.

Mana is the passport to Ananda and is also a hindrance in the journey!  By its creation it is as pure as Brahman, but its manifestation could be tainted by other desires, driven by fear.  Vedanta cosmology evolves to propose that the mind does not cease to exist with the cessation of the body.  The tainted mind remains afflicted and remains as an entity transforming to cleanse itself out of the taint.  This taint is our individual personality, driven by whatever earthly attributes we pick up through our own desires and actions.  Shankara calls it ignorance in the lack of understanding of our own built-in divinity.   In Vedantic view, the true knowledge is that all is Brahman, and individuality is an illusory perception.  In this theory, we get "liberation" when we get rid of our local desires and create the ability to merge all desires in the cosmic desire.  Then again, the cosmic desire is not known to us, so we meditate (contemplate) and try to think through our local mind to discover the illumination of the cosmic mind. As we saw in our discussion, the latter is chit, sometimes translated as the universal consciousness.  It is the “discovery” of chit that gives us Ananda, so the phrase chidAnanda!

Since the discovery of the cosmic desire can elude us or make us non-functional in the process of its discovery, Sri Krishna in Bhagavadgita prescribes a path of dharma “righteous sustenance” achievable through lokasangraha, “acceptable to a majority.” This is an earthly compromise to the cosmic principle of losing one’s individuality to be indistinguishable in the large expanse of Brahman.  Confining the mind to the individual is the “ego” and destruction of the ego is to free the mind from the individual.  Thus is Ananda.

I will discuss vAk and prANa in the next two articles to complete the Trinity.

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