Updated: Nov 29, 2021
“As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.” – Albert Einstein
Chitta, in Samskrit, the ancient language of Yoga, can be understood either as the entire range of consciousness, or the sub-conscious total memory storage area of the mind, depending upon the context in which the word is used. When Chitta is seen as the sub-conscious total memory storage area of the mind, the mind itself is seen as being composed of the following four parts:
1. Manas or the Mind
The Samskrit word Manas comes from the root Manana- ‘to think’. The root word Manu, i.e., ‘ thinking-hand’ was faithfully copied into Latin and English as Man. So, the Samskrit and Latin definitions of Man would be the ‘Thinking creature with opposable thumbs’. In fact, it is these two facts that makes us different from all other creatures on Earth-the fact that we have intellectual power, allowing us to reason and think, and that we have opposable thumbs, allowing us all the hand movements needed to create. The Manas is the Cognitive mind that exists primarily, as each one of us, in one of three dominant planes-the instinctive, the intellectual and the intuitive.
The Down-Turned Instinctive Mind: When the mental process in the individual is directed more to the sensory and emotional sides, and away from the rational, reasoning side, the character of such an individual gets over-ridden by the most powerful of emotional associations, sans reason. This is our instinctive side, developed as a powerful combination between our Ego-state and the animal instincts inherited through our genetic memory structure. As per Yogic symbolism, we see such a Manas, turned back or regressed to its genetic memory associations, as a Tamo ‘down-turned’ Manas. This is the psychological explanation of the oft-seen ‘down ward facing lotus- within- the- body’ Yogic imagery that we observe in different illustrated texts explaining the science of Kundalini. A down-turned manas is reflexive in nature, being largely dependent on the instinctive or sub-conscious memory complex, and less on the active present life memory complex, both memory complexes being parts of the Chitta. Our most powerful sub-conscious emotional memory associations, are of course, with life and death, survival, mating and physical security, or in other words associations from our animal past. Such Egos, existing as the down-turned minds/ manas, are immature, being dangerous to themselves and others, when in the hold of their animal passions. They are most dangerous when such irrational passions are conjoined with an intellectually sharp mind, creating dominating personalities, able to lead others and entire societies into paths of great danger.
The Flat Ego Mind: When the Manas is ‘turned neither up nor down’, but rather at it’s perceived self, its own well thought out Ego complex, it reflects the Buddhi or Intellectual process. The Buddhi is a complex part of the mind, dealing with categorization of experience through inference, deduction and induction carried out by comparing what is perceived with the active memories in the present life memory complex. The setback that comes to those that have moved on from the downturned-instinctive side to the flat-intellectual plane, is the lack of association with instinct and therefore the lack of passion, real passion. Such intellectually minded people may seem dry and without real emotions to themselves and to others. This can lead to a lack of empathy, and if not corrected, the conjoining of a lack of empathy with a great sense of self-belief, born through pride in intellectual power, makes such people also the potential agents of great harm to society. This dominative, intensely active aspect of the Flat-Ego mind is the reason it is termed the Rajo / Fiery Mind in Yogic terminology. The Flat-Ego based intellect is not creative as such, but is very capable of operating well and even creating, within reference frames and structures.
The Up-turned Mind/ Manas-The Intuitive mind When the mind is disconnected from its instinctive reference frame, as well as disassociated from its aggregated Ego-self, it immediately attains a position of rest, reflecting or cognizing intuitive processes. These intuitive mental processes are of a higher order of consciousness vis-a-vis the reason based intellectual one. Yogic techniques generating the state of intuition act as familiarization techniques, to get cognitively accustomed to a mental plane outside the box. Once the familiarization process is complete, then the individuals mind is ready to rest more and more within the plane of intuition, by the mind’s own nature, effortlessly. The realm of intuition is a plane where ideas and knowledge, as yet unknown, flow incessantly within the cognitive awareness of the individual, and sensory perceptions are experienced of an integrated, undivided sense. All great artists, discoverers and visionaries have had access to their intuitive intelligence at times, by means direct and indirect. Ultimately it is the intention that drives the mind to the level to which it belongs.
2. Buddhi/ The analytical mind:
The logical, systematic, reasoning part of the mind is termed Buddhi. As we read above, the Flat-Mind or the Ego-Mind is completely dependent on the Buddhi, as it reasons not only the existence of the world, but more importantly, Buddhi reasons the idea of our own self, who we are, our character. Parts of our character not accepted as ‘reasonable’ by Buddhi tend to be repressed, only to find vent in certain other types of behavior patterns. Buddhi tends to be a limiter to the more irrational impulses of the instinctive down-turned Manas. Buddhi also acts as the executive agent, the planner and doer of the many desires of the Ahamkara. Buddhi relies, on constructed frameworks and relational intelligence while trying to sort things out, make ‘sense’ of what it is experiencing and decide how best to react to the environment to preserve self-interest.
Where it all comes together. Where the most important association of ‘I am thinking’ I am doing’, this is my thought, this is my action, comes into being. Without the association with ‘I’, all thought or actions remains disassociated from Ego. All such disassociated thoughts and actions are free of the limitations produced through personal self-interest. Such non-ego actions and thoughts would be of a very high nature and large scale efficacy as it is not bound by the limitations of the characteristics of the Ego-mind, that we tend to call character. Most of us though, do not exist in this High Mindedness, and instead are stuck in the trap of I-ness and fixed character, fixed aspirations and fixed motivations, fixed inner desires and fixed inner fears. Basically, we stopped growing at a certain age, when our idea of our own selves became fixed. Since that time, life would be going on in a loop, stuck in a cycle. Ahamkara uses the Buddhi for its reasoning capacity, and uses Chitta based memory to validate its own experiential conclusions. What is important for us to note is that Ahamkara does not have direct domination over Manas or the Mind. Instead, the state of Manas, (the dominant one out of three possible states)as described in the section above produces the conception of Ahamkara, for Ahamkara is a pure projection. Unlike Buddhi, reasoning power based on observational enquiry and Chitta, the memory complex, Ahamkara, the idea of the self is a pure conception with no basis at all except that it, the idea of a self or character exists as a pure collection of characteristics. And we are free to choose any of the infinite characteristics available to us as free thinking, free living humans. Ahamkara is both the limiter and the agent of constant ignorance. It is a limiter because it forces us to limit our character and the types of characteristics within it, in order to have a ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ sense of character. Ahamkara is the constant agent of ignorance because of the subjectivity it lends to every experience. We are always thinking, my body, my thought, my action, etc., and not a body, a thought, an action and so on. Attaching self-hood to our thoughts limits the range of thoughts to the range of the imagined self. Everything is then experienced through the disfiguring lens of the self and not as the thing in itself.
Chitta is the storehouse of the entire range of memories. Chitta exists in different cognitive levels or depths. The function of chitta is two-fold, the primary one being the separation of memories according to time, giving us our idea of sequential time. This is the Depth Factor of Chitta. The second is the storing of memories in a structured form leading to instinctive associations of the mind. This instinctive and archetypal memory helps us survive unforeseen, unpredictable and novel experiences by relying on our instinctive or signs based intelligence that arises from this hardwired memory structure. This hardwired intelligence, what might be called the instinctive characteristics of a person is known in Samksrit as Samskara. This intelligence arises from the deepest levels of the individuals collective sub-conscious memory. It is crucial to note here that the individual collective sub-conscious memory is not the collective conscious mentioned by C.G. Jung in his seminal Man and his Symbols. Instead in Yoga, we observe that each individual has a sea of individual memories that form his sub-conscious, from this life and all previous lives, in different levels of depth. Depending upon the type of hard-wiring or instinctive associations formed between the instinctive self and the countless memories, some of these memories appear closer to the surface than their chronological antiquity [depth of memory] would have us believe. So, for example, it might be possible for a memory with a strong association from a life 3000 years ago, to come close to the surface, compared to a memory with a weak association from a life 150 years ago. Just like the different layers of a moving body of water, these memories keep rising up from the depths by their activating factors, in our present lives and go down from the top, to deep sections of the sub-conscious by active suppression in the present lives. Please note that suppression, as mentioned here is very different from the emotional repression mentioned earlier. So what we call our character, according to Yoga, is the activation of certain instinctive memory associations due to the present type of environment we find ourselves in. The complex of activated memory associations is termed, in Yoga, Vasana. So, our character complex , our Vasanas, are for most people created by the effects of their environment upon their memory associations coming from this and previous lifetimes. The collection of all these memory associations, in essence a collection of all the past character complexes of the individual is called Samskara. And all of this character or Vasana formation, out of the collective Samskaras, is instinctive in nature, and outside the direct, intellectual or Buddhi based control of most individuals. And so our memories decide our future, unless we use our reason and then our intuition to break out of the memory cycle. Only in this way can we regain control over our own minds, know our selves and be masters of our own destiny, the birthright of every human.
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