some thoughts on the mind

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Tue Apr 27 20:34:47 CDT 1999

namaste.  Some random thoughts on the mind.  Corrections and
comments are very much appreciated.

The question: What is mind made up of? What is the mind and
how does it function?

The sanskrit word for mind is manas. It is subtle in nature.
It can be argued that our primary objective and what the upanishads
teach is to reveal Brahman, the Atman. Thus, no purpose is served
to an intense mumukshu to study the functioning of the manas.
However, as long as we are embodied, and we think we are limited
by this embodiment, we are bound by the manas, and understanding
how it functions will help us to put it in its place.

Manas is characterized as something which goes out far. Thus,
it is not a physical sense-organ.

The body is made up of food. The mind is also made up of the food
intake. This is substantiated in BhagavadgItA, Br^hadAraNyaka and
ChAndogya upanishads. The intellect, the buddhi is also made up
of food. Thus, the body-mind-intellect complex, the jeeva, is made
up of the food intake.

By practice (sAdhanA), the mind is to be made subservient to the
intellect and the intellect has to be pure so that any unsavoury
thought that enters the body-mind-intellect complex is immediately
thrown out. After all, if the thought repeatedly visits this complex,
it takes root. The viveka has to be on vigil all the time so that
unsavoury thoughts do not get a foothold. I take the body as the
housing and the buddhi, the intellect as the gatekeeper. Mind is
simply the wanderer either in or out, and meditation is to keep this
wanderer still.

In the ChAndogya upanishad, UddAlaka teaches Svetaketu that when food
is eaten, the finest part of it becomes manas. Shri Shankara comments
on this in His bhAshhya. Since by eating food one increases one's mind,
such increase must be caused by the food that was eaten. When a human
does not eat, his/her powers of speech and mind are very much diminished.
When food is taken, there is a gradual increase in these activities.
All activity in the body is made possible because of the energy that
is made available by the consumption of food. Thus, it naturally follows
that manas is increased by the food intake. Thus, manas must be of the
nature of food.

The human is superior to animals because of his/her capacity to anticipate
the future and remember the past (Aitareya AraNyaka). Shri Shankara, in
His ChAndogya UpanishadbhAshhya raises a question: if the mind is made up
of food, then how is it some animals, although they consume food, do not
have the consequential mind? All things are tripartite, being made up of
water, fire and food, each being fit to conserve the three aspects of
existence, life, speech and mind. Therefore, each organism that consumes
food makes use of that food according to its need. Thus, mind is made up
of the finest particles of food.

Manas governs the sense-organs. The five karmendriyAs (senses of action)
and the five jnAnendriyAs (senses of knowledge) work under the control
of manas and depend on manas for their functioning. It is only when manas
is in conjunction with the sense organs that it is possible to have any
perceptual knowledge. ChAndogya upanishad says that manas is superior to
the sense organs. Br^hadAraNyaka upanishad also says the same thing: when
mind is elsewhere, I do not see, I do not hear although the sense organs
are directed at the object of perception. The lack of perception is due
to the diversion of the mind from that sense organ to other things. Hence
knowledge is entirely dependent upon the attention bestowed by the mind
on the object of perception. Thus, mind is the most important requisite
for knowledge.

sasheSham (to be continued)

Gummuluru Murthy

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