The moment we sit down to try to meditate, we notice the chaos of thoughts in our mind. This is of course the opposite of the stillness that we wish to achieve through yoga and shows that the we are not in control of the mind. In fact, the mind is controlling us. The good news is that this very realization is a positive sign and the first step towards a successful meditation practice.
Through the practice of meditation we learn to witness and then control the mind. For this process to happen effectively, it is important to understand the nature of the mind as it is described in the science of Yoga. We have little hope of achieving inner peace and freedom without understanding the workings of the mind and of human consciousness in general.
The workings of the mind and the consciousness are the central theme of yoga philosophy and practice.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras state:
“Atha Yoganushasanam” – Now I am going to present the disciplined code of ethical conduct, which is yoga.”
“Yoga Citta Vriti Niroudhaha” – Yoga is the process of stilling the movements and fluctuations of the mind that disturb our consciousness.”
All yoga processes are concerned with achieving this seemingly unachievable goal.
So what is it that we call the mind? Whatever it is, according to Yoga, the mind has four functions and discriminating between the four functions by observing them as they function is the key to practice meditation. It is also very important to accept and understand the functions of the mind and train the four functions. These four functions are:
Swami Rama has used the image of a work place, in this case a factory, to explain the functioning of the mind. He refers to Manas as the factory supervisor, Citta as the loud and demanding workers, Ahankara as the manager who often deludes himself into thinking he is in control and Buddhi as the owner and true controller of the factory.
Manas- the lower mind:
Manas. This is the part that interacts with the external world. BKS Iyengar describes it as, “..gatherer and storer of information and experience, and explorer of the world…” The inputs into this faculty are given by the sense organs and the output is given through the organs of action in the form of elimination, reproduction, movement, grasp and speech.
Swami Rama compares Manas to the supervisor of a factory. Manas controls the senses (import) and the actions (export). The nature of this supervisor is to always question and have doubts. The supervisor seeks good instructions from his superior, in this case the higher faculties (buddhi), but our problems start when the supervisor starts listening to those working for him in the factory (citta), which are only focused on personal desires, attractions, wants and aversions.
Chitt- the memory bank:
This is the place where we store all the impressions that we collect. In Sadhguru’s words, it is the “garbage can of the society”. Whoever passes by, throws something into it and it is very difficult to control what gets thrown. The thoughts are but the smells (good and bad) coming from the garbage.
So in other words, the thoughts are coming from the memory bank that we have. These thoughts and memories can be good or bad and are not essentially a negative part of the functioning of the mind.
However the problem arises when the supervisor of the factory begins to listen and act upon the demands of the workers or in other words, manas begins to respond to the desires, demands and needs to chitt. The reason that it is so hard to not be controlled by the chitt is because of the other aspect of the mind, ahankara.
Ahankara: The I maker:
This is our individual awareness and identification with the self. The part of us that allows us to feel separate from all others, to feel unique. Naturally a part of this is our individual likes and dislikes, what we are drawn towards and what we are averse to.
Ahankar can be compared to the manager of the factory of mind. Its duty is to say that ‘this experience is good for me’, and ‘that experience was bad for me’. It forms an alliance with the chitt and colors the experiences of chitt with ‘good for me’, ‘not good for me;, ‘I like this’, ‘I don’t like this’ etc. This creates our individual personality, which is very good if we are to live in the external world. But then again, our problems start if the manager forgets his place in the factory and starts behaving like he owns the factory and drives the supervisor Manas. In other words, all our suffering is because we have forgotten who we really are, and start thinking that we are everything that gets thrown our way- the false identification between the I- ness and the data stored in the chitt.
Buddhi- the discriminative faculty:
This is the higher faculty of the mind factory, the key decision maker and in our allegory the owner of the factory. Its duty is to listen to the doubts of the supervisor Manas, analyze and discriminate the experiences shown and colored by the alliance of citta and ahankara, and make the right decision/judgement. We want this Buddhi to be making the choices for the factory, otherwise the corrupted Ahankara and Citta make them.
By observing our senses and the actions that we take, we will begin to understand how our actions are controlled by our desires/ aversions. We begin to see the habitual patterns which occur and by becoming aware of them we can then control them. A major part of Spiritual practices is aimed at making Buddhi (inner voice) stronger, and the desires and aversions weaker, so that the supervisor can get good instructions for the smooth running of the factory of life. And only when we learn to establish a smooth co-ordination between these faculties, our mind can become tranquil.
All Yoga processes, irrespective of the school, help achieve this goal.
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