The mind is the ultimate core of yoga and meditation practice. The mind is functioning in us because it is connected to the body, however, which provides stimuli from the outside for the mind to form and develop through someone’s lifetime. The mind and body are interconnected in a very important way. The senses help us integrate our experiences, create our memories, manifest our hopes and dreams and manages our day-to-day activities. How many of us really think deeply about what the mind is though? How can we definitively define a “mind”? Yoga and meditation is a way for us to map our mind, and learn more about ourselves. It can open up new paths in how we relate to the world around us and ourselves, and has the power to tilt our perspective.
The 4 Distinctions
The mind’s functions look like they’re seamless: we don’t have
to think so much about working along with browsing social media and day dreaming. These are somewhat distinct functions, but we can switch and continue without any effort at all. Yogis however, have identified 4 separate realms of activity: the manas, the buddhi, the ahamkara, and the chitta. The manas is defined as the everyday conscious mind. Buddhi is the subtle and quiet witness of experience. The ahamkara is the sense of individuality, or self-identity. The chitta is the unconscious mind, which serves as the reservoir for storing habits and latent impressions (known as the samskaras). Before one can tackle the ahamkara and chitta aspects of the mind, they must first gain control and understanding of the manas and the buddhi. It might take a while, but a person can only move to the next part of his enlightenment process after he masters these areas.
Manas, the everyday mind, is also known as the “lower” or the “mundane” mind. It serves as a screen
of consciousness and blends the sense impressions of the outer world with experiences already stored in the mind. If we see a creature with 4 legs, fur, and a tail, we understand that we are seeing a dog because of the manas. However, yogis also believe that the manas is a poor decision maker. Even if it has the ability to collect and display information from the world, it cannot decide what to do with it. It does not know how to come to a conclusion. This is where the buddhi has to be employed, because it knows the value of our actions. Another important thing to remember about the manas is that it not only registers the sensory impressions, but also colors them. Memories of our past and images out our future tend to shape our present perception: desire and memories constantly shape our thoughts.
Even thought it seems like the manas is the main operator of the mind, considering how many
activities fall under it, but it acts more like a mask. Through the constant frantic bombardment of sensory stimulation, the mind conceals a deeper dimension of life. The manas is point of sensory influence, fulfillment of instinctual urges, and the pursuit of everyday pleasure. Meditators are able to look beyond this hectic mask of activity in the manas, where there is natural tranquility of mind that is more compelling. When you give your mind some focus, you are able to calm the activities of the manas, and begin to wake up to an awareness of yourself. You begin to realize that you are a silent witness as a center of consciousness from which other mental activities can be quietly observed. You become aware of your own awareness. There is a quiet shift in consciousness in meditation which calms the distracted manas and awakens a calmer and steadier mind. “Budh” means to wake up, and this is what happens when we use our buddhi.
Buddhi is also the decision maker. It is able to examine the impressions that come from our senses, both in
the form of thoughts and feelings, and later looks at the habits and behaviors of everyday life. A decision has significance, and buddhi can make a distinction between a decision that is assessed on real needs, and one that is based on attachment. The decisions that are based on real needs are wise, whereas the ones that depend on attachment are more foolish. As the mind continues to awaken, it is able to make better and wiser decisions. The buddhi helps to restore awareness of one’s deeper self. Once the buddhi is strengthened, the next step of the journey can begin.