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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What is mind? How do we know it exists?


Dear Friends, I am breaking the sequence of my blog-posts because I have an important personal idea to share with you. Since the entire purpose of these blogs is “to share”, and this one appears to be important I am breaking the flow. It is not original by any means, but a sudden realization of connections of ideas from reading several classics , my own experience as a physician and meditations. 

More important.  I request you to please share your thoughts and criticisms of this idea. Based on your comments I wish to share this with a wider audience.  Thank you. Balu

The way human mind works has fascinated me from the day I entered clinical medicine. I tried to understand the paths my physician-teachers took to arrive at a diagnosis based on incomplete data. I have been thinking about the way I think, and others think about common issues and about difficult diagnostic and management problems. Human mind is special, unique, intriguing and an enigma.

My other interest in meditation and in the realms our mind can take us into during deep-looking and silence has taken me to another level of fascination with the human mind.

I keep my focus on the human mind. Animals and plants have a mind of their own too. But I do not know about them, certainly not at a “first person” level.

After many years of reading and thinking about the mind, I had an insight recently which I wish to share. This came out of reflecting on several books I have been reading recently about Rg Veda, Satapata Brahmana and the Upanishads.

Vedic texts say that before “creating”, Prajapati “desired”. In the west also, according to Genesis, the God said: “Let there be light”, an expression of desire. Desire is born in the mind. But what is mind? What does it do? It wants, feels, thinks, wills and acts. To do its functions, it has to be awake and aware. Awakening comes before anything else. But what was there before awakening, before the first thought?

That is the enigma. That is why Yagnavalkya asked: “How can you know That (capital T) by which you know?”  That is what Vasishta meant when he advised: “Let go of that (small t) by which you are trying to let go.”

Everything exists in this world whether we humans are here or not. But nothing exists if there is no mind to apprehend it. This last statement was driven home by my observation of people with dementia and Alzheimer.

So, what is the idea I wish to share? Nothing in nature points to the existence of the mind, except the mind itself.

 Nature points to the existence of space, air, fire and light, water and elements of this planet and of the universe. But nothing in nature points to the existence of the mind, except the mind itself. The “mind-born” rishis recognized that the existence of the universe is “a secondary and derivative fact with respect to the existence of the mind” as pointed out by Roberto Calasso in his book with the title Ka.

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