[Advaita-l] Analysis of the Mind-3

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 21 05:08:35 CST 2007

               3. Classification of the Mind

‘Mind’ is a general term used to designate the
thinking aspect involved. In the computer terminology
it can be thought of as software in contrast to the
hardware, the brain.  In Vedanta, mind is considered
as ‘flow of thoughts’ (vRitti dhaara) or more
correctly the basis on which the thoughts flow, rather
than the flow itself. Like flow of water is called
river, flow of thoughts is the mind.  We can have
stagnant water but we cannot have stagnant thought,
since thought it self involves a movement, although we
could have regurgitated thoughts or a whirlpool of
thoughts, when we are intensely attached to a
particular theme. Mind can only think one thought at a
time, but it can jump from one thought to the next
like a monkey jumping from one branch to the other,
without coming down to the basis or ground. These are
interconnected thoughts. Interestingly the very
sequence of thoughts defines the time and occurs in
time. Thus time becomes part of the embedded system in
the definition of the mind, since flow of thoughts
involves flow of time. Dr. Ananda Wood (an author of
an advaita text and a moderator of the internet
Advaitin list) thinks that since simultaneously two
thoughts are not perceived in the mind, ‘space’ that
is based on simultaneity is more an imagination by the
mind than ‘time’.  However, according to Vedanta
‘space’ is the first ‘subtle element’ in the sequence
of creation, although sequence itself implies a
time-factor. The fact is ‘space and time’ are
inseparably interrelated, as movement in space defines
time and movement in time defines space; and this is
recognized by modern science as space-time continuum.
The point of our concern here is both are intimately
connected with the operation of the mind. Thus
subjectivity through the mind enters in the perception
of ‘time and space’. We will address this issue more
later when we discuss the perception of spatiotemporal
objects and thus the world through the mind.  

Mind has been classified depending on its function and
field of operation.  Understanding of this helps to
identify its role in each operation.  We will present
some aspects of it to unravel the mysteries of the

Freudian Classification:  Sigmund Freud (early 20th
Century) provided a topographical view of the mind in
terms of (a) the perceptual aspect of the mind, called
conscious mind, (b) autonomous functional mind called
‘subconscious mind’ and (c) ‘unconscious mind’, a
storehouse of suppressed or oppressed thoughts and
memories from the conscious level that may still
influence the conscious mind. Conscious mind
constitutes the ‘ego’ which plays the role of a
deliberate agent in all our actions and enjoyments.
The unconscious mind is involved in instinctive or
impulsive desires and reactions. Conscious,
subconscious and unconscious minds form hierarchical
architecture, wherein actively repressed thoughts from
the conscious mind form the contents of the
unconscious. These can be tapped by psychoanalysts or
under hypnotic states or through what are known as
‘Freudian slips’.   The most important constituent of
the mind is the ‘ego’, but according to the Freudian
analysis, it constitutes only a peripheral conscious
state, in the waking state.  The unconscious mind
plays a more dominant role in the dream state. Freud
recognized that prior thoughts, desires, suppressive
and oppressive thoughts in the past can leave behind
subtle impressions buried deep in the mind, which he
calls as unconscious (meaning one is not keenly
conscious) and they could find expressions in
conscious mind when one is not vigilantly aware –
which a psychoanalysts call as ‘slips’.  In comparison
to the Vedantic analysis of the mind, as we shall see
below, these classifications sound very elementary,
nevertheless are given a prominence in the western
psychology, particularly in relation to mental

Four components of the mind:  Vedanta provides a
different classification for the mind, which is the
basis for the flow of thoughts. It is divided into
four components based on their functions: a) mind
(manas), b) intellect (buddhi), c) ego (ahankaara) and
d) memory (chitta). All four components together
generally referred to as just ‘the mind’. The four
components of the mind along with five faculties of
senses (that is the power of seeing, power of
smelling, etc – that give rise to knowledge), five
faculties of action (motor driving faculties related
to hands, legs, speech, two excretory organs – that
produce results) and five physiological functions
called 5-praaNas (power of breathing, digestion,
circulation, etc – that sustain life), all together we
have nineteen entities (4+5+5+5 =19) constituting what
is called ‘subtle body’ (suukshma shariira). This is
in contrast to gross physical or material body
(sthuula shariira) consisting of skin, flesh, bones,
fat, blood, etc., along with all the physical organs
of the body, including the brain. Thus subtle body is
considered to have 19 gateways through which it
interacts with the gross body and through the gross
body with the external world. Thus mind is considered
as locus for all faculties for physiological

Death is defined as the separation of this subtle body
from the gross body. The process of death involves
mind collecting all its 19 physiological functional
group and existing the body. In the common language,
we say ‘He is dead and gone’ – implying that someone
residing in the body has left the body. Thus gross
body, which is product of food, sustained by food and
it will eventually go back into food (for insects), is
left behind when the subtle body leaves stopping all
associated physiological functions. Doctors cannot
define what life is, but can only know if a person is
alive or dead by expressions of life through the
physiological functions.  According to Vedanta, death
occurs when this subtle body finds the gross body no
more conducive for its residence. Hence, in simple
terms, death is described as changing worn out clothes
by the subtle body or shifting its residence, since we
say ‘he is dead and gone’.  Worn out does not
necessarily mean that the body is dilapidated and
hence not useful. It could be any body that is no more
conducive for the subtle body to express itself for
one reason or the other.  Extending this argument,
then, the birth is the subtle body entering with its
package at the conception.  Parents give birth only to
the physical body and not to subtle body; the subtle
body enters taking its new residence. As the new body
matures, the faculties get expressed more and more
vividly to yoke out experiences with the external
world. Biologically, one can only account for the
physical body in terms of chromosomes and genetic
codes, but expression of life through the mind,
physiological functions, and individuality comes with
its own inherent traits that differ from one child to
other, even born of the same parents. Even if one
clones and creates an offspring duplicating the
mother, the individuality of the child is different
from that of the mother and they even can compete with
each other for their survival.  Hence genetically they
may be the same, but subtle bodies are different.     

Subtle body is considered made up of subtle matter,
which is not perceptible to the sense organs.  Even
the existence of mind cannot be established by direct
perceptual or empirical means.  It has to be inferred
since it is subtle.  But we all accept that we have a
mind of our own and we can theorize its nature based
on its functions and working; but none of the theories
can be validated by any objective scientific means. 
The tools of validation that we normally use in the
field of objective sciences are inadequate to handle
the subtle matter. Validity or invalidity, therefore,
cannot be established by objective means.  Hence one
can only infer based on the individual behavior to the
external stimulus, just as a physician uses external
stimulus to infer the working of the physiological
functions.   In fact, according to some idealists,
existence of the objects and the world ‘out there’
also cannot be established independent of the mind.
‘Can the world be established independent of the
mind?’ and conversely ‘Can the mind be established
independent of the world?’ are questions that
concerned many philosophers. Here, we only recognize
that there is interdependency of the world and the
mind and it appears that one cannot be establish
independent of the other. 

Of the four components that were defined, mind,
intellect, ego and memory, each has its field of
operation.  The mind in the above is locus of
emotional thoughts –classified as nine moods or
feelings of expression (nava rasas) consisting of
love, passion, anger, jealousy, etc. In addition, the
mind is also a clearing house for input from the
senses and output through organs of action, thus can
be thought of as receiving and dispatching clerk.
Furthermore, it is also a ‘doubting Thomas’,
entertaining all the doubts and the associated
worries, and indecisions.  Some people cannot make up
their minds easily, because they are dominated by this
part of the mind, which is indecisive.  This emotional
component of the mind is where intense attachments and
emotions play a major role, many times overpowering
logic and reason. Some constantly doubt themselves
about their capabilities, doubting and worrying at
every step - whether something will materialize or
not, whether the house is locked or not, whether stove
is off or not, whether he is going to be successful or
not, etc. with constant worries, nostalgia and nervous
break down occurring at this level. At the same time
it is also a center of beautiful expressions of love,
admiration, compassion, etc. In general, nature
appears to maximize this component more in women,
perhaps for the protection of the offspring.  I am
reminded of the song by the professor in ‘My Fair
Lady’ – ‘Why cannot the women be like men or like me?’

The second level of the mind is the ‘intellect’
(buddhi) which is the locus of discriminative
thoughts, right from wrong, thoughts of decisive
character, field for logic, reason, judgment, etc. In
contrast to the lower mind, the intellect can be
considered as officer in charge, analytical and
synthetic, objective and can hop from the known to the
unknown to gain knowledge. Those that are
predominately intellectual (where this component of
the mind is well developed) are less emotional, more
analytical, decisive, logical, reasonable and
determined with ‘will’ to proceed and a goal to reach,
with attachments governing less in their actions.  

The third component is the ego.  In Sanskrit it is
called ahankaara.  It is may be defined as – ‘aham,
aham, aham, iti karoti, ahankaara’ – the one who
claims as ‘I am – I am – I am’ in all our transactions
involving, of course, our mind. In our discussions of
‘who am I?’ it is this ‘ahankaara’ that responds with
the answer. In the western psychology, it is this
‘ego’ that is considered as the conscious mind.
However, according to Vedanta, ego is just a pattern
of thoughts of ‘I-ness’ that arise in the mind, that
tries to identify with a set of thoughts as ‘I am
this’ and with another set of thoughts as ‘this is
mine’ (mamakaara) as ownership of thoughts. Thus ego
involves two aspects – ‘I am this’ (ahankaara) and
‘that is mine’ (mamakaara) or simply ‘I and mine’.  In
the identification of ‘I am this’, there is an
inclusiveness of ‘this’ as part of I. In this very
inclusion, there is also exclusion involved as ‘this’
is separate from ‘that’ as ‘I am not that’, thus
differentiating ‘this’ from ‘that’, and similarly
‘mine’ from ‘not mine’.  By inclusiveness and by its
mirror part, exclusiveness, ego tries to define or
crystallize itself differentiating I vs. you, he, she,
it, or they, etc., and mine vs. yours, his, etc. 
According to Vedanta, this ego is a fake or false ‘I’,
since, as we discussed before, it involves
identification of ‘I am’, the subject, with an object
‘this’, with ‘this’ keep changing from body, mind to
intellect.   Thus the meaning of ‘I’ that I associate
with keeps shifting when I say ‘I am six feet tall or
I am black or white or brown’ – where identification
is at the gross body level - or ‘I love her’, ‘I am
envious of him’ or ‘I hate this’, - where
identification is at emotional component of the mind -
or ‘I am an engineer’, a doctor, scientist, etc.,
where the identification is at the intellect level. 
The locus where ‘I’ is placed shifts form gross body
level to emotional mind level to intellect level.  The
essence of ego is identification of ‘I’ with ‘this’; I
being an invariable, while ‘this’ being a variable, I
being a conscious entity while ‘this’ being an inert

In the statement of Descartes that ‘I think, therefore
I am’, my existence is ascertained by thinking process
which was criticized later by Immanuel Kant (18th
Century), whose arguments were no better either.
According to Kant, self-consciousness or subject
consciousness, ‘I am’ is established by the
consciousness of objects – ‘this is’.  Thus, ‘this is’
is required to establish ‘I am’ since mind can operate
only in the subject- object duality.  The problem here
is not the duality par sec but what is considered as
an independent variable and what is the dependent
variable.  That is, is consciousness of ‘this is’ is
required to establish ‘I am’ or is it the other way
around?.  At the ego level, we do operate without
being keenly aware of it, when we say ‘I am this’. 
Without ‘this’ to identify with, I do not seem to have
any other existence. No body stops their introductions
saying ‘I am’ without any object ‘this’ attached to

Hence Kant’s conclusion that self-consciousness
appears to arise only with the object consciousness
seems to be justified.  However, we just now noted
that locus of ‘I am’ keeps shifting from body level to
mind level to intellect level, with adjectives that
are added keep changing with the changing bio-data. 
That there is a changing part and a changeless part in
this duality of ‘I am’ and ‘this is’ in the equation
of ‘I am this’. It is obvious from this analysis that
‘I am’ seems to be more substantial than ‘this is’
since ‘this is’ keep changing without the changing ‘I
am’. In the dependent and independent variables, the
one that is changeless is independent and the one that
is changing is dependent.  Hence Kant’s conclusion is
wrong.  In fact, Descartes statement ‘I think,
therefore I am’, ‘I’ is there before the action verb
‘think’. Hence by implication the subject ‘I’ should
be there independent of what ‘I think’ since what I
think keeps changing or dependent variable while
thinker I appears to be be constant and thus
independent.  Additional implication of Descartes
statement is the requirement that I need to keep
thinking to ascertain myself that ‘I am’. Thus there
are two aspects involved based on the above
discussion- ‘I am this’ and ‘I think, therefore I am’.
Vedanta rejects both these assertions on the basis
that ‘I am’ is independent of ‘this’ and ‘I am’ is
present before I can think (thinking is locussed on
‘I’, than ‘I am’ locussed on thinking). Vedanta
arrives at ‘who that I am’ is by rejecting any
assertion with ‘I am not this’ ‘neti, neti, not this,
not this’.  Thus according to Vedanta, ego is a false
‘I’ where subject is confused with an object ‘this’,
in the ‘I am this’ identification. Vedanta does not
say you are ‘some thing’ else than ‘this’, since any
‘something’ is another object ‘this’.  Only way to
arrive at my real nature of ‘I’ is by intuition by
rejecting any thing that can be objectified as not I
am – as ‘I am not this’. I can reject anything and
everything as not ‘I’ but I cannot reject ‘I- itself
since I have to be there to reject.  This process of
sublation or negation is called meditation where I
drop the false I, to ascertain my real nature. That is
true conscious entity, ‘I am’- without any this or
that attached to it – as in the biblical statement ‘I
am that I am’.   This is concerning the first
statement ‘I am this’. 

Relating to the second statement, ‘I think, therefore
I am’ Vedanta ascertains that ‘I’ exists in deep sleep
state without any thinking, since ‘I am’ there in the
deep sleep enjoying the sleep, where there is the
absence of any ‘this’ and ‘that’ that I can identify
with. Hence I get up from sleep, saying that ‘I slept
very well’, implying that I was there very much in
deep sleep, sleeping very well.  Vedanta points out
that if ‘I’ really ceases to exist in deep-sleep, then
no body would like to go to sleep. However, everybody
longs for a good night sleep, after tiring oneself
like a rat, racing for ‘this’ and ‘that’. People are
ready to take pills to get sleep.  Hence deep sleep
experience points out, according to Vedanta, that one
can exist as pure ‘I’ without any identification with
an object I.  Only problem in the deep sleep is I am
also not conscious of myself in that state.  Since all
problems cease in deep sleep state, where everybody is
happy and no body complains (they may complain is they
do not get sleep), whether it is a king or a pauper on
the street.  All subject-object ( I and this) duality
ceases in the deep sleep state, with I alone remaining
without any inclusions or exclusions, since there is
no ‘this’ and ‘that’ that I can perceive. Vedanta says
cessation of identification of ‘I’ with any ‘this’ is
the key to happiness. This can be done by removing all
‘this’ as in deep sleep state.  However that is only a
temporary since once I am awake, all ‘this’ and ‘that’
will also arise.  I am back to the miserable state of
false identification as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’,
suffering the limitations of ‘this’ and ‘that’.  The
point is the deep sleep experience points out that
there is a possibility of existing as pure I, as
consciousness and existence, without any
identification with this or that. Vedanta says this
cessation of identification with this and that can be
accomplished in the waking state itself, in spite of
existence ‘this’ and ‘that’.  ‘I am’ is self-conscious
and self-existent entity, independent of any ‘this’
and ‘that’ or independent of the external world. 
Hence Kantian statement that self-consciousness
depends on the object consciousness is to ascribe
reality to the false I, the ego. Vedanta says, the
fact is the other way; the object consciousness
depends on ‘I am’.  Thus the ‘ego’ or ahankaara, is a
component of the mind with a false notion that ‘I am
this’. This ‘ego’ component, ahankaara, is called
notional mind, since identification ‘I am this’ is
only a notion in the mind.  When I realize my true
nature, these false identifications or notions drop,
or more correctly the reality that I assign to the
notions is withdrawn. Then, I will be ‘as though’
operating as pure self, without any false
identification, treating the mind as just a subtle
body that I can use to transact with the world,
through the 19 gates discussed earlier.  We will
address this aspect again when we discuss our true
nature and the nature of the world that we transact

Going back to our classification, the last component
of the mind to be discussed is memory, chitta. All
objective knowledge that is gained is stored in the
memory, which forms the basis for all re-cognitions. 
We can build up our memory bank by gaining the
knowledge, storing the information and retrieving it
whenever it is needed for communication and
transactions.  New knowledge is build based on the
past knowledge stored in the memory.  There are two
aspects involved, capacity to store and the capacity
to retrieve that knowledge.  Retrieval and restorage
keep the knowledge fresh in the memory and those that
are retrieved less and less will get buried in the
memory and retrieval also becomes increasingly
difficult.  With age, the capacity of hardware
degrades and therefore memory fails, retaining mostly
the long time memory, while loosing the short time
memory.  As we get old, we remember all our childhood
experiences and declaring to every listener how things
were great in those days, while forgetting where we
put our keys or check book an hour back. Thus we have
four components of the mind that are involved whenever
we transact with the world, ‘out there’ – mind,
intellect, ego and memory. 

The working of the mind can be classified in various
other ways, and these will be discussed next. 

Hari Om!

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