Vedānta Series 30

Mind is explained as “saṁkalpa-vikalpātmākaṁ manaḥ संकल्प-विकल्पात्माकं मनः” Saṃkalpa means decision and vikalpa means indecision. Tattvabodha says that decision and decision are the nature of the mind, explaining its vacillation. Mind vacillates because it gathers information from the material world through organs of perception. Mind is the connecting factor between anthaḥkaraṇa and bāhyakaraṇa (external sensory organs) and hence, is considered as the single important factor in spirituality. Existence of a person is possible only because of the great triad – mind, body and soul. Perfect balance between these three is essential for realising the Self within.

Mind is one of the amazing instruments of human life. It develops likes and dislikes from the three guṇas. More than the mind, its subtler aspect, the subconscious mind is more powerful. Unfulfilled desires cause impressions in the mind. The magnitude of these impressions varies according to the intensity of thoughts. Powerful impressions not only remain in the mind, but also percolate into the subconscious mind. Subconscious mind also transmigrates along with the soul. When the mind is devoid of impressions, it is said to be pure and serene. Only the pure mind is capable of realizing the Brahman within. Moon is the presiding deity of the mind, possibly indicating the fluctuating nature of the mind like the waxing and waning moon.

Next to mind is the intellect also known as buddhi. Tattvabodha describes the intellect as “niścayātmikā buddhiḥ निश्चयात्मिका बुद्धिः” Niścayātmikā refers to the inherent nature of the intellect viz. its form of certainty. The indecisive nature of the mind now looks up to intellect for guidance. If the mind is the disciple, then the intellect is the guru. In times of confusion, like the disciple seeking guidance from his spiritual preceptor, mind also takes recourse to the intellect in order to overcome its state of indecisiveness. Intellect is an evolute of the guṇa-s, though it has more of sattva quality. This can be understood from the fact that intellect is the guru of the mind. Intellect not only guides the mind by giving decisions, but also helps the mind in association with one’s conscience to establish the divine commune. Though intellect is a refined product of the mind, it does not mean that it is supreme to the mind. Intellection is relative in value only till the Brahman is realized. The presiding deity of intellect is the god of creation Brahmā.  

Tattvabodha then discusses about ego. It explains ego as, “ahaṁkartā ahaṁkāraḥ अहंकर्ता अहंकारः” This means the thought of doership is ego. Ego is a vital component of one’s very existence. One has to understand the ego in order to transcend it. Though one can transcend it, one cannot live without it. When ego is transcended, Reality is revealed. Ego is more or less like the mind and it is difficult to keep it under check. Ego does not merely mean pride. The stumbling block for the mind to realise the Brahman is ego. Ego is also bound by three guṇas. Many times, ego causes a deceptive conviction that one is a Self realised person. The presiding deity for ego is Rudra.

While talking about consciousness, Tattvabodha says, “cintanakartṛ cittam चिन्तनकर्तृ चित्तम्”, which refers to the capacity to perceive. Consciousness always depends upon the impressions in the subconscious mind. If the subconscious mind is crowded with bad experiences, the outcome of one’s actions will be bad. On the other hand, if one leads a religious and pious life, the impressions in his subconscious mind will be good. When the consciousness turns to the subconscious mind, it will find only positive and pious experiences stored there and consciousness will come to a decision to produce a positive effect. Though consciousness and mind are not the same, yet they are interdependent. Any creation of the Brahman is dependent on another creation. Nobody is self dependent and no one has an infinite power. The Lord has made the creation based on the factor of interdependency in order to uphold the natural and judicial balance of the universe. Consciousness is not just restricted to the mind, but throughout the body. It is the foundational aspect of the physical body.  

At the end of one’s spiritual journey one will truthfully affirm that he is not the body, but he is the consciousness, as the purest form of consciousness is the Brahman. The difference between a yogi and materialist is the way they look at. A man becomes a scientist or an engineer by connecting his consciousness with the external objects. On the other hand, a yogi looks within, disconnecting the external world from his consciousness. The purification of individual consciousness begins in those persons who have higher spiritual intellect and higher standards of moral living. Vāsudeva (Viṣṇu) is the presiding deity of consciousness.

Further Readings:

Vedanta - Evolution

Vedanta - Inner Psychic Organs

Vedanta - Knowing the Self

Types of Vedanta Philosophy