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Saturday, December 17, 2022

Consciousness (chitta) and Mind (manas) (corrected version)

 In Sanskrit literature, the words Chittha and Manas are used interchangeably. Even the word pragna is used in the same sense as these two words. In addition, the definition of these words varies between different systems of philosophy. For example, the word Chittha may stands to mean (translated into English) consciousness, mind, thought, intellect, ego, and awareness.

Mind is considered to be one of the sense organs (in addition to the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) in the Indian and Buddhist systems of philosophy. This sensory mind is different from the parts of the mind involved with thinking, intellect, ego, and action.

Given that our current knowledge of brain, mind and their functions have advanced immensely, it is better to peg the word chittha to consciousness and the word manas to the mind.

When we do that, we can talk about Chitta (consciousness) with its level, content, usual states, altered states and functions.  Similarly, manas defined as mind, has its component functions. Both the mind and consciousness require a life for their emergence.  If there is no life, there is no mind, there is no consciousness. Therefore, it appears that the primary function of the mind and the consciousness is to take care of the needs of the body with which they are connected.

To take care of the “individualized” life with which consciousness and mind are connected, both must relate to the world outside and to the inner person. They must relate to the outside world and interpret them through sensory inputs and proper interpretation in a way conducive to the welfare of the body and the mind of the individual. They should also be aware of the internal responses of the individual to external events and make sure they align with the perceptions generated from outside and from within the body.

The basic construction of the brain and therefore of the mind is primarily oriented towards selfishness – self-preservation. Given the higher faculties we humans are endowed with, including the ability to use language to express concrete and abstract ideas, it is our duty to train the mind not to be purely selfish and learn to look inward, relate to the rest of the world with love and compassion and reflect on the commonality of life and consciousness. In other words, develop spirituality.

Spirituality is using consciousness (chitta) to train the mind (manas) so it can

1.       Relate to other lives and the cosmos

2.       Recognize that our perception is not compete since we cannot know what it is like to be the other (true nature of things as they truly are) and therefore

3.       Develop compassion

4.       Recognize that my perception includes me as the subject of that perception and cannot be separated and therefore selfish by nature

5.       Try to see the outside world for what it is, as is, and not as I think it to be

6.       Recognize that everything I see and feel are separate with a form and a name, are impermanent and inter-dependent

7.       But, at the core, are part of the same whole

8.       Realize that happiness and suffering are part of life

9.       Therefore, not to create an imaginary world of permanent happiness, a land of honey and milk, a land somewhere else to escape to

10.   To acknowledge and accept that life and consciousness are mysteries to surrender to, admire and become humble

11.   To look for conditions for happiness here and now

12.   To acknowledge the fact that lives come and go and even Buddha, Shankara, Ramana, Jesus and Ramakrishna had to leave this earth

13.   To develop our own purpose and direction for a meaningful life

14.   Of humility, loving-kindness, compassion, sharing and caring AND

Live a life of Peace within oneself and Harmony with the rest of the world and the cosmos.

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