Functioning of the Mind

We have seen in other articles Awareness is a mix of subject, object and intelligence. Self-Awareness, has the Self and the 3 parts of Awareness.

In the mind because of Ignorance these 4 components are sitting in different departments. The Intelligence is sitting in the Buddhi, the Objects part is sitting in the Manas, the Subject part is sitting in the Sakshi and the Self or ‘I-ness’ is sitting in the Ahamkara. These four parts are separated, but there is a natural tendency for these 4 parts to combine to create Self-Awareness. There is a mutual attraction to come together so that they can achieve it original status of being Self-Awareness. When the subject, object and intelligence are separated out, the self feels incomplete, it feels inadequate and it wants to feel full and complete. The only way self can feel the completeness when the subject, object and intelligence combine into one entity.

In the mind this can happen only when the subject (in sakshi), objects (in manas) and the intelligence (in buddhi) combine to create Awareness. Only when these 3 parts combine, Awareness is generated. The Ahamkara then links with this Awareness to complete the feeling of Self-Awareness, which is the original state of fullness and non-duality which we have discussed earlier. When this is achieved the feeling of completeness and fullness (Ananda) is there but the problem is that it does not last very long. It is momentary. It lasts as long as one thought last. When the second thought pops up, the full process has to be repeated. We know we have countless thoughts every day, the same cycle is repeated with every thought. We have a momentary bliss after every thought when there is unity between buddhi, manas, sakshi and ahamkara. This bliss or Ananda will break up when the second thought pops up. This is a never ending cycle.

The Mind is complex and understanding how an experience or thought occurs in the mind is not easy. One thing, however, is clear – that the Buddhi, Manas, Sakshi and Ahamkara must combine to create an experience or thought. We will now undertake a step by step analysis on a how a typical experience is created in the mind

  • Step 1: Activity in the Manas
  • Step 2: Buddhi Knows
  • Step 3: Ahamkara Interferes
  • Step 4: Sakshi Witnesses

Step 1: Activity in the Manas

Manas is the home of the Objects and it has the Power of Known (Objects). This power is a very powerful part of the Power of Awareness, which has the ability of becoming any object you want to experience. This power has unlimited capacity, but unfortunately it is limited by the human mind. The human mind is limited what it can experience by the 5 sense organs – eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin.

Even within these sense areas, the human mind has limitations. For example, the human ear can hear sounds up to only 20Khz of frequency. This is limited. We know other animals can manage a much wider spectrum. Our eyes can only see the ‘light part’ of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. There are species who handle other parts of the EM spectrum. In other words, there is a much bigger universe than what we can experience with our 5 senses.

If there are gross or physical sense organs, then there must also be subtle sense organs. These subtle sense organs are present in the Manas. The Manas representing the subtle body can be divided into the following abilities and powers:

  • Sense Organs – ‘Input’ organs connecting to the external Sense Objects
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Tongue
  • Skin
  • Organs of Action – ‘Output’ Organs
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Talking
  • Reproduction
  • Evacuation
  • Antahkarana – Internal Organs: These are organs which operate at the sub-conscious level. Organs like, heart, liver, stomach, muscles etc. There is no direct control over these organs but they function at the sub-conscious level.

The sense organs are our connection to the external world. The external world of vision, sound, smell, taste and touch makes its presence known in the manas and each sense object is being connected to its respective sense organs. If you want see a tree, the subtle version of the tree will be present in the subtle version of the eye (in the manas). If you want to listen to music, the subtle version of the music will be present in the subtle version of the ear (in the manas). Whatever we experience in the external world is first present in the manas in its subtle form.

There is no denying that there is a lot of activity taking place in the Manas. All the sense organs, and the internal organs are continuously sending information into the Manas. It is indeed crowded with the different types of information. This information is in some type of wave form. Every object in the sense organs has a wave form representation. All these signals can become physical objects with the Power of Known which is available in the Manas. The problem is that the Manas does not know or understand what these input wave forms represent. This is because these wave forms are covered by Ignorance, in fact a better way to put it is that the building blocks of these object wave forms is Ignorance. Every wave form entering the sense organs in the manas is built in Ignorance. It may sound strange, but it is true that Ignorance is source of the entire subtle universe.

If Manas had the knowledge what these input waveforms represented, it could then create the required objects. At this stage the Manas does not know or understand any of the input signals. Manas has the power to become the objects, but it does not have the power to remove the ignorance from these input signals which are present in the sense and internal organs.

The Manas needs help in the removal of Ignorance.

Step 2: Buddhi Knows

The Buddhi is the intelligent part of the mind and it has the Power of Knowing. The awesome power of knowing, which is part of Awareness. It has the ability to know anything and everything in this this universe and beyond. It has that decoding power. The Power of Knowing is within Buddhi. If any object wave form comes in the presence of the Buddhi, the Buddhi would know what that object wave form represented.

The Buddhi is like the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of the human being. The input signal comes to the CPU to be processed. In the same way, the input signal from the Manas comes to the Buddhi to be processed. We saw that the input wave forms coming from the Manas are covered by ignorance, the Buddhi peels out this ignorance and reveals its actual identity. The object wave form with ignorance transforms into an object wave form with knowledge. This wave form with knowledge is a mental wave form and in Vedanta it is called a Vritti.

We can say that Buddhi is the most powerful CPU with parallel processing capability. It can handle so many different input stimuli from the five sense organs and also from the internal organs simultaneously. It removes the ignorance for each and every waveform which is present in the Manas.

It awaits further action from Ahamkara (ego) on the some of the object vrittis (not all) which have come from the 5 sense organs. In many of the routine vrittis from sense organs and all the vrittis from the internal organs, the buddhi knows what action to take. Over time, it has learned what action is to be taken, so it can undertake these actions automatically. These actions can also be described as sub-conscious, the actions which you are not aware of but which continue to happen almost automatically.

Buddhi is a self-learning CPU, which learns and knows how to handle different actions. Like the CPU it is connected to output devices, the Buddhi is also connected to output devices like the five organs of action – hand, feet, talking etc. and also all the internal organs.

Since Buddhi has many different powers and capabilities, let us discuss some of the key powers:

Power of Cognition or Sensation: This is power of knowing what is available in the sense organs. This is the power which we have described earlier of changing the object wave form of ignorance to the object wave form of knowledge.

Power of Imagination: Day dreaming or creative/positive thinking are good examples. We are involved in this on a regular basis, where we can construct an imaginary vision for ourselves. This power is present in the buddhi.

Power of Logic: Power of comparing and contrasting, drawing interferences, discussion, etc. So we can say that the power of logic is within buddhi. If you see smoke on the hill, you conclude there is fire. A wide range of logic ‘circuitry’ is available in the buddhi, which we use on a daily basis.

Power of Will: This is the power to execute desires, wishes and ideals and is available within the Buddhi and the Ahamkara. It is originally within Ahamkara, but the Buddhi also learns this skill over time.

Power of Memory: This is where all the things learned and experienced are stored. This storage is also ‘Citta’. Next time a similar vritti is presented, Memory knows what the vritti represents.

 

Step 3: Ahamkara Interferes

After the Buddhi processes the object wave form of ignorance from the Manas to a known mental wave form (called Vritti), this object vritti is now presented to the Ahamkara.

Ahamkara means ‘I-Maker’, it is the sense of ‘I-ness’ within you. It is not the Self in Self-Awareness, but it is a vritti and thinks it is the ‘self’. It masquerades as the Self and Ahamkara is just a mental a wave form, ‘I’ or ’self’.  If Ahamkara was the Self, it would never feel incomplete, inadequate and get only momentary doses of bliss and happiness – it would always feel complete and have continuous Ananda.

The vrittis, from the 5 senses and also the citta, the memory bank of past events, is presented to the Ahamkara. You have object vrittis coming in from your senses. The Ahamkara now has to interact with these vrittis. We saw the Buddhi could handle parallel processing by handling multiple inputs at the same time. The interaction between Ahamkara and these wide range of object vrittis happens only one at a time. You can only have one experience at a time. The Ahamkara interacts only with one vritti at a time and it gives ‘my-ness’ to the vritti .

How does Ahamkara choose between the different vrittis which are available. There are two ways this can happen

  1. Ahamkara chooses a Vritti
  2. A Vritti chooses Ahamkara

Ahamkara Chooses a Vritti: This is a willful action, where ahamkara deliberately chooses one of the object vrittis for further action. It is a noisy street, but you stop to admire a beautiful flower. Your ahamkara did not focus on all the noise, but deliberately chose the flower vritti to admire. This is a complicated process and many factors can make Ahamkara choose one of the vrittis available.

There are many instances, where Ahamkara does not choose any of the available vrittis but instructs the Buddhi to locate another particular vritti which will meet its current requirements and desires. For example, you have a desire to eat ice-cream but there is no ice cream in the house. The buddhi then instructs the manas to go to the car and drive to an ice cream shop to satisfy this desire.

A Vritti Chooses Ahamkara: It must be understood that each of the vrittis are conscious and have a life of their own. We have seen that most of these object vrittis are provided by the sense organs. These sense organs have their own likes and dislikes. Eyes want to see beautiful things, the tongue to taste delicious food, and so on. We all have had experiences where our sense organs have ‘hijacked’ the Ahamkara and ‘as though’ forced it to take a particular action against its will. The doctor has told us that any more sweets can be harmful to our health. We are fully aware of this, but still when we see a delicious sweet our hands reach out against our will and we put it in our mouths. In such instances the vritti dominates and manipulates ahamkara to undertake an action.

Vritti Modification: It is very important to understand that whenever Ahamkara interacts with an Object Vritti, it will modify the object vritti according to its likes and dislikes. In Vedanta this is called Raga and Dvesha. We have seen earlier that Ahamkara is also a mental waveform and when it interacts or superimposes with the object vritti the resultant vritti is a vritti modified by Raga and Dvesha. If you like something you will modify the vritti differently than when you dislike something.

The bottom line is that the Ahamkara modifies the incoming vritti according to its own disposition. If Ahamkara is feeling angry, it will react to the vritti differently than it would if it is feeling happy and peaceful. Ahamkara or ego adds a personal touch to the interacting object vritti. In fact, it also adds the ‘I-ness’ to the vritti. Ahamkara can become attached or addicted to certain vrittis because they give it momentary happiness and it wants to repeat these moment of happiness.

Step 4: Sakshi Witnesses

This is the last step in the process. We have seen that for Self-Awareness you need the following 4 elements.

Self-Awareness = Object + Intelligence + Self + Subject

We have seen in this step by step process that the object waveform in the Manas combines with the Intelligence in the Buddhi and the modification of this object vritti by Ahamkara or ego. To have awareness, the only missing element is the power of knower (Subject). The Subject or Sakshi provides this power of knower.

When the modified object vritti from Ahamkara combines with the Subject or Sakshi, you have something ‘magical’ – you have awareness of the experience. You have awareness of the experience because all the elements of awareness are now present. Till we reached step 4, the object viewed was as a waveform or vritti. When the last missing element of the subject came in contact with the object vritti, the waveform collapses to create the experience of gross objects around you. The Sakshi or subject is the one which witnesses this experience.

 

This 4 step process is how the mind functions for all experiences. Let us discuss some examples to reinforce this concept.

Example 1 – Scientist at Work: A scientist is working hard to prove a hypothesis. His current level of knowledge is far from the ultimate goal. The object vrittis of the current level of knowledge pass through the manas and buddhi. The scientist’s ahamkara interacts with this object vrittis and modifies the vrittis according to what the scientist thinks are the best way to solve the problem. When the subject or sakshi collapses this updated wave form, the scientist will find that he has gained more knowledge but the goal is not yet in sight. The scientist keeps repeating this cycle, till one day, the ahamkara modifies the object vritti to match the vritti for proving the hypothesis. When this object vritti collapses, the scientist has gained the knowledge to prove his hypothesis.

 

Example 2 – Sub-conscious Driving: When we are driving, many times our mind is engrossed in some thought, but when the traffic light changes to red, we automatically stop the car. We (at least I do) sometime wonder how this happens. The red light vritti from the manas is presented to the buddhi. Over the years of driving, the buddhi has learned that one stops at the red light. So even without the involvement of the ahamkara, the buddhi on its own instructs the output device (the legs) to stop the car. The buddhi is always self-learning and has the ability to manage the day to day activity at a sub-conscious level while the ego is not involved.

Example 3Ahamkara Interpretation: The Ahamkara or ego is constantly modifying the incoming object vrittis and the resultant vritti is not the same as the original vritti. The original intention is lost. This modification is done by Raga and Dvesha. Desires of the Ahamkara is usually the driving force for Raga and Dvesha. When this updated vritti collapses in the presence of the Sakshi or Subject, the resultant experience has two components – the original representation of the object plus addition of the raga and dvesha. This addition by the ego is what we call emotions. Human being have a wide range of emotions and this is always the resultant of when desire interacts with thought.

 

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