What is There Within the Mind?

What is there within the mind? A one-word answer is—thoughts. Thoughts and more thoughts. The mind is a bundle of thoughts. It is made up of thoughts. If there are no thoughts, there will be no mind. During the waking state and during the dream state, we have a continuous and unlimited number of thoughts. Only during deep sleep or dreamless sleep are there no thoughts. The mind is continuously operational except during deep sleep. 

We can see that a lot happens in the mind. Is there a structure within the mind by which it can function in an organized manner? Are there different types or levels of thoughts? With a proper understanding of the mind, this question can be answered easily. Let us start the discussion by exploring the following three statements, which we use on a regular basis:  

  1. I am perceiving a tree.
  2. I am learning math.
  3. I am feeling happy.

“I am” is common to all three statements. This “I am” is the ego within each of us. This ego interacts with the thought of perceiving a tree, of learning math, and of feeling happy. Study these three statements and answer a question—which of the three statements seems closest to the ego and which feels the furthest away from the ego? Which statement seems closest to you? Does perceiving seem closer or learning or feeling? Take a moment to think and ponder on this question.

I am sure you will conclude that feeling happy seems closest to you. It is like the ego itself which is feeling happy or feeling any other possible emotion. So, the sense of feeling happy or any other emotion is something very close to the ego. At the other end of the scale, perceiving the tree does feel farthest to the ego. Perceiving the tree or any other object with the five senses seems less connected to the ego. It seems distant. It seems that the external objects are “out there,” and the ego is “in here” within us. They are quite apart from each other. In that respect, learning math is somewhere in the middle of this scale. Learning, thinking, or understanding is a thought, but this thought is not as close as feeling an emotion. But it is closer than perceiving external objects.

From the above discussion, it does seem that there are three layers in the Mind. Perceiving seems like the outermost layer, while feeling is the innermost layer, and thinking, etc. is the middle layer. So, the conclusion is that the Mind is made up of three layers. Is there any way to corroborate this conclusion? The teaching of Vedanta will corroborate this fact. Vedanta teaches us that there are three koshas which operate within the Mind. Kosha is a Sanskrit word which means “sheath” or “layer.” The following are the three koshas functioning in the Mind:

  1. Vijnanamaya Kosha: sheath made of intelligence/knowledge.
  2. Anandamaya Kosha: sheath made of emotions.
  3. Manomaya Kosha: sheath made of mind stuff (for objects).

 The word “maya” in each kosha means “made of.” The “made of” used above is not some abstract term. It literally means that the kosha is made of the things stated above. For example:

  • Vijnanamaya Kosha is made of intelligence. Intelligence is the substratum of this kosha. Just like any material is made up of atoms and molecules, in the same way this kosha is made up of intelligence. Anything which comes in contact with this kosha becomes intelligent. Thinking, learning, and understanding are possible because of this kosha, which is present in the Mind. This intelligence is the amazing power of the Vijnanamaya Kosha.
  • In the same way, the Anandamaya Kosha is the source of all the possible emotions in the Mind. The Mind has a wide range of emotions—anger, sadness, happiness, jealousy, envy, generosity—all these emotions are created by the Anandamaya Kosha. For any emotion you have in your mind, you can thank Anandamaya Kosha.
  • Lastly, Manomaya Kosha is the source of all the possible objects. It has the power to become any object.  

Wow! What powers are inherent in these three koshas. These three powerful koshas are present in each and every mind. We are indeed lucky to have such power within our minds. Two questions come up—what is the source of these koshas and how did these koshas become part of the mind?  

Note: Vedanta teaches us that there are two more koshas—Annamaya Kosha and Pranamaya Kosha. Annamaya Kosha is the physical body and Pranamaya Kosha is the kosha which powers the body. Since these two koshas are external to the mind, we shall not discuss them in this essay.

 SatChitAnanda—The Source of the Koshas

SatChitAnanda is the source of all the powers of the Koshas. SatChitAnanda is our innermost core and is present in each living being. It is important to understand the terms “Sat,” “Chit,” and “Ananda.”

Sat: Sat means Real. In any dictionary, the word “real” will have many meanings, which do help in understanding Sat. In Vedanta, “Sat” or “Real” means existence in all three tenses—existing in the past, present, and future. Nothing in the universe meets this requirement. Everything in the universe is changing and has an end date. Our inner core is the only Sat. It is our REAL SELF. Our REAL SELF was there in the past, it is there right now, and it will always be present in the future. It is always present, and it is unchanging.  

Chit: Chit is the nature of Sat. Chit is Awareness. As we have discussed in many essays, Awareness is made of Subject, Object, and Intelligence, and it has three different powers—Knower, Known, and Knowing. Subject has Power of the Knower, Object has Power of the Known, and Intelligence has Power of Knowing.

Awareness = Subject + Object + Intelligence

Power of Awareness = Power of Knower + Power of Known + Power of Knowing

  • Power of the Knower manipulates Awareness to become a Subject—a Subject is a reader, listener, seer, talker, eater, etc.
  • Power of the Known manipulates Awareness so that Awareness takes the shape of the object coming from the five senses—just like Play-Doh can be manipulated to become an object.
  • Power of Knowing is the Intelligence part of Awareness. All possible knowledge and intelligence are available within Awareness. Power of Knowing extracts this knowledge from Awareness.

The three powers of Awareness have been discussed in many different places in my book,  Science Meets Vedanta.

Ananda: Ananda or Bliss is the nature of Sat. The other terms used for Ananda are Love and Happiness. Sat’s nature is bliss because it is full and complete with no shortcomings. It has no needs or requirements. When you are in that state of fullness, Bliss, Love, and Happiness is your nature. You radiate this Bliss to everything around. This power of Ananda is the nature of Sat.  

Sat is our innermost core and the nature of this Sat is Awareness and Ananda. This Sat radiates both Awareness and Ananda. You can say SatChitAnanda is like a bulb shining both Awareness and Love. It is shining the three powers of Awareness and the power of Happiness. SatChitAnanda does not do anything other than radiate its nature—Awareness and Love.

Ignorance and Koshas

We just seen that our innermost core is SatChitAnanda. This REAL SELF is shining Awareness and Happiness. Do we realize or know this fact? The answer is most likely “No.” When we forget this fact, we have forgotten we are SatChitAnanda. When we forget that we are SatChitAnanda, a veil of Ignorance covers up this bulb of Awareness + Happiness.

The bulb shining Awareness + Ananda interacts with this veil of ignorance. The three powers of Awareness and the power of Happiness are absorbed by Ignorance to become the different koshas in the Mind. This is how the koshas are created. They are created by the powers of SatChitAnanda when interacting with the veil of Ignorance. The following koshas are created by these powers:

  • Manomaya Kosha has the Power of Known.
  • Vijnanamaya Kosha has the Power of Knowing.
  • Anandamaya Kosha has the Power of Happiness.

The quality of the koshas would depend upon the absorption level of Ignorance of the soul. The greater the Ignorance, the less the absorption of the powers. The purer the soul, the more the absorption of the powers. This means that each mind has a different absorption level of these powers. Each mind would have a different quality of koshas.

These powers are extremely powerful, and they function within the koshas.

To summarize—due to Ignorance, the powers within SatChitAnanda become the powerful koshas within the Mind. These powers drive the koshas in the Mind.

Roles of the Different Koshas

Each kosha plays a different and distinct role. Let us try to understand this.

Perceiving: The perceiving of objects takes place in the Manomaya Kosha. The Manomaya Kosha is connected to the five organs of the senses. The input signal comes from the five senses—it could be vision, sound, touch, smell, and taste, or even internal memories; the perception of these objects takes place in the Manomaya Kosha. For example, when the input signal is for a tree, the Manomaya Kosha with Power of Known creates the required material code which makes up the tree. To understand this, let us imagine an image of a tree on our laptop. This tree image on the laptop screen must have a jpeg file or equivalent which has all the required code for the tree. This code will allow the image to become a tree on the laptop. In the same fashion, Power of Known will manipulate Awareness to add the material code, so that the input signal can become a tree. If the input is music, it creates the material code which makes up the sound of the music. In this way, it handles all the input signals coming from the outside world. The complexity of this material code, that too for the infinite objects we perceive in the universe, is beyond our comprehension. Every object must have the material code which is provided by the Power of Known.

Perception does take place in the Manomaya Kosha, but the kosha has no clue what these objects are. It creates the source material, but it is clueless what it is. The Manomaya Kosha needs help; it therefore passes on the input signals to the Vijnanamaya Kosha for decoding.

Learning/Thinking: Vijnanamaya Kosha has intelligence, it is made up of intelligence. At the time of birth, the Vijnanamaya Kosha is a blank slate. With the power of intelligence, it learns continuously and acquires a great deal of knowledge. With this learning, it decodes the input signal. In the process of decoding, it adds intelligence to the object waveform. It is like the CPU of a computer. The input signal comes from the Manomaya Kosha, and the output is an object waveform which is made of knowledge. Knowledge is the substratum of the waveform. The object waveform has the knowledge of what the waveform represents. All the learning, thinking, remembering, and understanding takes place in this kosha. Adding intelligence to the waveform is an amazing power of the Vijnanamaya Kosha.    

Feeling: The feeling of emotions is created by the Anandamaya Kosha. The name “Anandamaya” does not convey this idea accurately. Anandamaya means maker of happiness, but this kosha has both positive and negative emotions.

How are these emotions created within the Anandamaya Kosha? While discussing SatChitAnanda, we saw that the nature of Sat is Ananda. This Ananda means Bliss, Happiness, Love, and Peace. Sat is a bulb shining Bliss, Happiness, Love, and Peace. This light is completely pure—100% pure happiness, love, peace, and bliss. There is not even an iota of impurity. Impurity is just impossible. Since we have forgotten our true nature, the veil of Ignorance covers up this bulb. This pure light interacts with the veil of Ignorance. Since we have forgotten that we are happiness, this ignorance creates the emotion of unhappiness within the Anandamaya Kosha. Since we have forgotten we are Love, ignorance creates a range of emotions of hatred in the kosha. Since we have forgotten we are Calmness, the emotion of anger is created in the kosha. Forgetting that our nature is Peace, ignorance creates conflict and irritation. So, we can see that a full spectrum of emotions is created and is available within the Anandamaya Kosha. Our ignorance is the source of all the emotions.

The ego is looking for permanent peace and happiness in the world. We saw that the Vijnanamaya Kosha decodes objects (waveforms) coming in from the five sense organs in the Manomaya Kosha. These objects are presented to the Ahamkara or Ego. What does the Ahamkara do with these object waveforms? The ego has a clear goal—it is looking for continuous happiness. It evaluates the object waveform against this key criterion. If the ego thinks an object can provide that happiness, it will like that object. If the ego thinks that it will not provide that happiness, it will dislike that object. In Vedanta, this is called raga (like)/dvesha (dislike). The ego will run toward the object it likes and run away from objects which it dislikes. The ego undertakes this task for all the thoughts and objects which it encounters.

This is how the ego interacts with the object waveform presented by the Vijnanamaya Kosha, and it adds the sense of feeling to the object waveform with its likes/dislikes. The Anandamaya Kosha starts to feel a range of emotions covering the entire spectrum. It feels happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, attraction, repulsion, and so on. This sense of feeling takes place in the Anandamaya Kosha.

The Mind is a very powerful tool with some amazing powers. The source of these powers is SatChitAnanda—our REAL SELF. We need to be grateful for all the powers at our disposal.

8 thoughts on “What is There Within the Mind?”

  1. Namaste.Anand maya kosha is after Vijnan maya kosha.We experience Anand maya kosha in deep sleep.Thoughts and emotions experienced in Mano maya.Vijnamaya has Viveka and Vairagya.Please respond to this.

    1. Yes, Anandamaya is our inner most core. In deep sleep we have no experiences. Only after we wake up we say we had a blissful sleep. During deep sleep, we have no experiences, no thoughts and no emotions, therefore the Anandamaya Kosha is 100% Bliss. Anandamaya is a clean slate in deep sleep.

      When you wake up, you do not feel the 100% bliss, because of all the daily emotions cover up this bliss. Our ego reacts to every thought with Raga (like) and Devesha (dislike). This Raga/Devesha is the source of the emotions. Yes, many teachers teach emotions are experienced in manomaya kosha. I disagree with that. Only perception takes place in manomaya kosha. The reaction to this perception (raga and devesha) takes place in Anandamaya kosha.

      Viveka and Vairagya are the functions of Vijnanamaya kosha. This koshas is source of all the intelligence.

  2. Interesting concepts but all koshas in the body esp anandmaya emotions work thru hypothalamus we r victims ofchemicals in our bodies
    We need to work out the relationship between koshas and hormonal linkages
    Do vedas talk about this connection
    Our minds can sway thoughts thru concentration and hormonal stimulation to happy sad etc Need yr vedic clarification
    Rgds mona

    1. It must be understood everything happens in the mind first, and afterwards the brain and the body. So emotions happen in the mind first, and this emotions is the source for creating the chemicals you have mentioned. All this may seem strange, but this is the only truth. There is a fully functioning subtle universe made up of waveforms. These waveforms are the source for the gross universe. If you have my book – Science Meets Vedanta, there is an essay “life is a Living Wave’. This idea has been discussed in detail.

  3. Hello Jayant, Good article. But how can we control our mind to prevent unnecessary thoughts? Ashok Dhingra

    1. That is not easy. Mind keeps moving from thought to thought so often. The only thing we can do, when we realize the mind is moving around, is to bring it back to the focus of meditation – which could be a mantra, your breath, an image or the feeling “I”. The real sadhana (without feeling frustrated) is to keep bringing back the mind to the focus of meditation. This practice can yield results in the long run.

      In my book – Science Meets Vedanta, there is an essay on “Understanding the Mind’, I have given the seven steps on how to control the mind, as taught by Adi Shankara.

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