You are a Projection of That Which You Call Mind and Its Modifications
By Swami Rama
[In the Yoga Sutras] Patanjali dived into the deeper realms of his being and discovered the various functions of the mind. Just as you have four external limbs—two lower extremities and two upper extremities—so your antah-karana (your inner being) also has four limbs. Antah means, “inside,” and karana means, “that which functions.” That which functions inside is the real person; that which functions outside is only a projection of the real person. You are a projection of that which you call mind. The whole of the body is in the mind, but the whole of the mind is not in the body. Therefore, the body will follow the mind; mind does not follow body. Mind is not a projection of body, but body is a projection of mind.
You have four separate functions or faculties of your mind that are modifications: ahamkara (ego), manas (sensory or lower mind), buddhi (intellect), and chitta (the unconscious reservoir or storehouse of all impressions). These faculties create obstacles for you and you are searching for enlightenment in the external world. That is not the way. If you do not understand these four distinct functions of mind, you cannot understand the more internal states.
Manas remains busy in sorting out and in understanding the things going on in the external world.
Buddhi is that which judges, discriminates, and decides what to do and what not to do.
Another function of mind, the ahamkara, remains busy in understanding and becoming aware of the self in a limited way.
The word chitta is used here as a function of the mind. In this smaller context, chitta, the storehouse of impressions, represents the “unconscious” of modern psychology.
Four Functions of Mind
Thought waves arise from chitta and surface in the sensory-motor mind, manas. All this is going on in the workshop called body. Mind is the manager of this busy workshop. Mind has many assistants and hardly recognizes the real boss. That is why mind completely takes over and uses the whole body.
Mind assumes many forms. Ahamkara, or ego, is one of these. Ego creates great mires of delusion. Ego makes you forget the Reality. Ego is that which separates you from the whole, which makes you small, and contracts your personality. That which makes you an individual and does not allow you to expand yourself to become the cosmic Self is your ego. The ego is a barrier that stands between you and the Reality. It never wants to allow you to know the Reality because it has cheated the Reality. It is also ego that makes you think you are so small and you are so bad. The ego misuses all the human resources. It is because of ego that you are not aware of the divine within and you have not attained another state of wisdom.
It is very important to understand the role manas plays in your life. Manas has employed ten agencies—the indriyas (ten senses)—because manas has a powerful job. Manas is responsible for importing and exporting information. When manas wants to work in the external world, it uses these ten agencies—the karmendriya (the five gross senses) and the jyanendriya (the five subtle senses). The manager is always busy giving work to these ten messengers.
The five gross senses are: the capacity to speak, to work with your hands, to move with your feet, and to procreate and to eliminate—the two front and rear gates. The subtle senses are five distinct channels for the mind to flow toward the objects of the external world—the capacities to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. These are more active and swifter than the gross senses. If I want to come to you, it will take some time. If I think of you, you are there immediately through the sense of sight. The creator of the arrangement of nature is wonderful.
When the senses contact matter, you experience one of three types of sensations. One is painful, another is pleasant, and the other is neither painful nor pleasant. When you go from your home to your office you see many trees. That sensation gives you neither pain nor pleasure. When you see a friend and you smile, that pleases you. If you see someone who annoys you every day, that gives you pain. The contact of the senses with the objects of the world brings sensations that are pleasurable, painful, or neither pleasurable nor painful.
The senses are the greatest source of distraction for your mind. The moment you wake up in the morning your conscious mind starts using your senses. It appears that the senses are contacting the objects of the world, but actually it is the mind that is doing the contacting. The ten senses are totally dependent on the mind. The moment your mind becomes active, the ten senses become active. With the help of the senses, manas receives sensations. When you see something, that sight affects you. When you hear something, that sound affects you. When you smell something, that odor affects you. When you taste something, that taste affects you. When you touch something, that sensation affects you. You receive sensations constantly.
These sensations are filtered by the conscious mind. If I look at you, the impression of you is taken by my optic nerve to my brain, then to the conscious mind, and finally to the unconscious mind, where it settles. The brain is not the mind; the brain is the seat of the mind. The mind is like electricity, the brain is like a bulb, and the nervous system is like the network of wires. Mind works through the nervous system. When you understand this relationship then you can learn how to deal with them in a coordinated way. Those impressions are transmitted by the various sensory organs to the brain, and then are stored in chitta, the unconscious.
All things going through the conscious mind finally settle down in the unconscious. The conscious mind gives importance or meaning to the sensations that you receive according to your interests. If you are looking at me but your mind is somewhere else, you will not understand what I am saying. You will not even know how I am moving, though your eyes and ears are wide open and you are sitting right next to me. You cannot understand me, yet you are still recording a sensation and the impressions will go to your unconscious mind. What if I stop looking at you and I look at something else? When I look at you again, why do I remember you? I remember that I have seen you before because your impression is already there in the unconscious. Immediately the unconscious comes forward to the conscious mind and says, I have seen this person before. That is how you know, and know that you know—with the help of the vast reservoir within you, the unconscious mind.
Manas uses the senses to go out to the objects of the world. Manas imports and exports through the ten senses, but it has no power to import and export whatever it wants. Manas is called the doubtful faculty of your mind. Before you do something, first manas says, Shall I do it or not? That is why mind is called samkalpa-vikalpatmakam mana. Manas has no power to decide. Sometimes you want to decide, but you wait. You want to see; you want to judge; you want to understand. Shall I read now? Oh, it is too late. I should go there. The decision time comes. But how am I going to write my paper? You can go through this argumentation for a long time. Opposing sensations or opposing thought patterns can torment you. A thought comes that you should study your book. Then another thought comes. Don’t study. It doesn’t matter what happens. If I don’t get ‘B’, I’ll get ‘C’, so what? Another opposing sensation comes. Life is so long. I have many years to live. I can do it tomorrow. You can learn to control those sensations that create obstacles in your daily life.
If you learn to control samkalpa and vikalpa, the opposing sensations will cease tormenting you. Samkalpa means “determination;” vikalpa means “lack of determination.” Sometimes you want to do something, yet you do not want to do it. You are continuously experiencing conflict. Shall I do it, or shall I not do it? Conflicts arise in your mind because you do not know how to decide things on time. The nature of manas is to argue and to pose questions, but it has no power to decide, to judge, or to discriminate. These are the functions of the faculty called buddhi. Manas, the doubtful part of your mind, puts both sides before buddhi, the decisive faculty, and immediately buddhi makes a decision. If you study, you will be able to write a good paper. But you are tired so you should not study.
Buddhi has the very important post of financial advisor. Buddhi checks manas. It is the accountant of the factory, the CPA, which says, You do not have that much capacity. Do not do that. Do not export too much. Do not import too much. We do not have that much money. You need to train your buddhi, which discriminates, judges, and decides, so that your mind can import and export according to your capacity. If you go beyond your capacity, the firm will fail. Is your buddhi prepared and sharpened enough to teach manas? Is manas listening to your buddhi? When your mind brings something before you to do, you first have to decide whether you should do it or not. Buddhi helps you to discriminate between what should be accepted and what should be rejected. This is going on all the time.
Some people can decide things accurately by recalling their past memories, by creative imagination. Immediately they come to a certain conclusion and they are correct. Others cannot decide for a long time. They are afraid to decide because they are afraid of failure. They think, If I do not achieve, what will happen? It is urgent that I decide this thing on time, but I never learned to do that. I was afraid to decide some things so I never heard the voice of my decisive faculty. I will not believe it. Many times this happens.
Some people train their minds only to argue and they can never come to conclusions. They do not allow the decisive faculty to help them. Many people can think but cannot make decisions. They are great thinkers and great worriers but they are not warriors. Those who have not trained all the functions of mind are completely controlled by their tendencies and they cannot decide things on time. When something important comes, you have to decide immediately. If you have not trained your buddhi, then you will think, Shall I jump or shall I go this way? Shall I jump or shall I go that way? By that time the bus will have departed. If you take two years’ time to decide what you need to decide today, you will miss the bus and you will repent your whole life. If you learn to decide things on time, you will never miss the bus in life.
Even if you know far more than others know, you may still be a failure if you do not decide things on time. Today’s intellectuals have a serious problem. They sharpen only one side of the intellect, and they do not know how to decide. They have not sharpened another aspect of the same buddhi that deals with decisiveness, discrimination, and judging. The secret lies in having a one-pointed mind. You must train your intellect to become one-pointed. When your intellect is sharpened it has decisive power and it does not allow you to create conflict. Conflict within and without is the cause of all miseries. Without the faculty of discrimination you will remain in a state of conflict. If you learn to decide things on time, there will be no conflict. Conflict means you could not make a decision in time. The lack of decision leads to more conflict, and then conflict becomes the source of pain. Learn to strengthen your decisive faculty within.
All human beings have an inborn tendency to experience for themselves. A child who is repeatedly warned not to go toward the fire will go to the fire anyway, even though he loves you and wants to listen to you. If you do not allow him to go to the fire, he will go when you are not there and experience it for himself. When you talk of self-experience, you are cheating yourself. All day you have many experiences, but there are few experiences in life that guide you. You have experiences the whole day, but still you do not have confidence in yourself. Why are you not fully confident that if you do a certain thing, it will help you? You do not have confidence because the experience has not come through the right source. You have millions of experiences in your lifetime, but how many of your experiences help you in daily life? Experience which does not guide you is not really right experience. Experience cannot be repeated confidently by you if you do not have dynamic will. You do not think, I will do this and I will reap this result, because your experience has not come through the right source. Have you ever seen anybody drinking the best wine in a paper cup? Have you ever seen milk flowing through a gutter? The purest and highest consciousness also needs the right channeling. Right experience is the right channel for the knowledge that you use in the external world. If you learn how to decide things on time, then you will have direct experience. Direct experience alone can guide you.
You have the capacity and the potential to train the buddhi. Once you start training the buddhi, you will not waste time in judging, deciding, or doing things as you should. You will have clarity of mind, clarity of intellect. Your intellect will immediately make decisions and you will receive the fruits according to your desires. That means doing things skillfully. When you learn to do your actions skillfully, the next step is to do them selflessly—to dedicate the fruits of your actions to others. The result is that you will become great yogis in the world. If you gain freedom from the misery that you have now, how can you be sure that in the future there will be no misery?
Patanjali says you can prevent and control future misery by understanding the power of the intellect, that part of mind that decides and judges. Buddhi is that particular faculty that helps you to know something. When you have sharpened it properly, when you have not allowed it to remain dull, it can judge and decide. Then your penetrative nature will help you to understand that which is real and that which is not real. Viveka, or knowledge, is the product of a sharpened buddhi.
The faculty of discrimination or intellect can help you to sort out the things of your conscious mind, but a time comes when your faculty of discrimination cannot help you. It has no power to go to your unconscious mind to help you. This is very important. You should allow your intellect to sort out the things that the unconscious mind brings forward to your conscious mind, or you will not be successful.
There are many levels of chitta, the reservoir of your unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is a storehouse for all the impressions you have been storing. As a river cannot flow without a bed, there also has to be a bed for the flow of thoughts. The unconscious mind is actually part of the conscious mind. You do not have conscious and unconscious dreams, or conscious and unconscious sleep. What you call the unconscious is really a part of—another level of—the conscious mind. But if it is a level of the conscious mind, then why are you not aware of it? You are not even aware of the conscious mind because you do not study and train it.
The mind can be compared to an iceberg. The largest part of that iceberg remains under water, while only a small part is visible above the water. You are trying to analyze only the conscious mind, that little part which is seen outside. The counterpart is the latent part—that which you are not aware of, which you do not know. That which is submerged, that which is there but not visible, is the unconscious. Even if you can control the conscious mind, at times you will find the hidden part of the iceberg rising to the surface, and then you think, I never knew that about myself. I never knew that I could think like that, that I could do things like that. Even if you work with yourself, sometimes the latent part suddenly comes and reveals itself.
You should understand that your subtler self makes your personality. Your outer personality does not make your subtler self. The way you are at present is exactly the same way that you are in your latent condition. Your face will not appear beautiful in the mirror if you are ugly in your astral body. When dirty ice melts, the water will also be dirty. Become aware that you have to work with yourself. Otherwise, unknowingly, unconsciously, you will experience constant depression. Without understanding your unconscious, life remains a mystery. It poses a big, serious question for which the books have no answer.
The functioning of the unconscious mind has not yet been properly studied. All sensations go to the unconscious mind. There are several levels in the unconscious mind where you store impressions. All thought forms arise from the unconscious mind, though in a very subtle form. You know them when they come to the conscious level.
If you know how to disconnect from sensory contact, you will not receive fresh sensations. But what about those sensations you have already stored in the unconscious mind? There is always turmoil in the unconscious mind. If you have a conviction about certain things, and another sensation is received that is stronger than the previous conviction, the impression of the conviction that is stored in your mind will be affected by the new conviction. In this way silent turmoil and underground currents are going on in the ocean of mind called unconscious all the time. You are not aware that sometimes the unconscious mind simultaneously functions when you are using the conscious mind. Your mind is helping you and protecting you from the sensations that create emotions, and your unconscious mind is receiving something against which you are fighting mentally.
Unconscious suggestions are much more powerful than conscious suggestions. Suppose I have a good friend and someone comes and speaks against my friend again and again. My conscious mind does not accept what he is saying because I know my friend. After he is gone, my unconscious mind, which has accepted what he said, tells me that maybe it is true. My conscious mind has not accepted anything at all, but unconsciously I have accepted it. That is why the questioning comes. It is possible that my friend must have done that. Why did he not tell me? I did not really know the nature of my friend. I am so sad.
Even though you disagree consciously, you may accept someone’s suggestions unconsciously. This is the case with the myth of ghosts. If someone says a ghost lives under that tree, I am not prepared to listen. My mind is very scientific, very argumentative, and very rational, and I am not prepared to accept this. By chance, one night while I am walking under that tree, I remember suddenly that someone said a ghost lives under that tree. This happens because un-consciously I have accepted the suggestion made by the other person. When you argue with someone, even though you stick to your own philosophy, the opponent affects your unconscious mind because the unconscious receives even that which is beyond agreement of your conscious mind.
After my parents died a woman looked after me during my childhood. She was not capable of controlling me. I was very naughty, running here and there, as children do. Trying to find a way to control me, she said, “Look, if you go over there, you will see a ghost and that ghost will pick you up.”
I never believed her because I knew that she was definitely trying to control me. Still, I was very anxious to see the ghost, just out of curiosity. I was not afraid because I did not believe her. All the people around me were very nice to me and no one’s name was “ghost.” Consciously I did not accept her suggestion, but I accepted it unconsciously. When I visit that place today I still remember the story of the ghost. I have not forgotten it.
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