Mind, Consciousness, and the Goal

by Jai Maha Dev

What is the Mind?

Basically, the mind is the conglomeration of thoughts.  Focused mind and focused thought mean the same thing. Where there is no thought, there is no mind.  ‘Having no thought’ doesn’t mean just being aware.  Being mentally aware is not the same thing as being conscious. 

We can be conscious without the element of the mind; in other words, we can be aware (conscious) without being mentally aware; and vice versa: that is, we can be mentally aware without being really aware. When we are mentally aware, our awareness (consciousness) is filtered through the mind.  In other words, when we are mentally aware, we are identified with the ‘thought of being aware’.

The ‘thought of being aware’ appears in various forms. In the science of YOGA, the thought forms are called the modifications of the mind (CHITTAVRITTI).  The modifications of the mind are mental waves, and when all these mental waves are eliminated, the mind becomes still. Then, one is conscious without the mind.  This occurs during deep dreamless sleep and during SAMADHI.

Where Does the Mind Reside?

Where does the mind reside, that is, where do all these thoughts take place?  They take place in the subtle space, which is called AKASHA.  This AKASHA is not same thing as physical space.  This AKASHA is one of the five TANMATRAS, or subtle states of matter that are manifested (along with AHAMKARA, or Self-consciousness) before the physical Creation comes into existence.[1] This subtle substance (AKASHA) holds the impressions (SAMSKARAS) from innumerable previous births of the soul. 

When we talk about the ‘waves of the mind’, we are talking about the movement of  AKASHA, the movement of superfine (seemingly non-material) particles of subtle space. In other words, thought waves are movements of consciousness[2] through space.[3]

Mental Space

The space of the mind is the space (AKASHA) associated with the living soul (Jivatman).  This is the space that you see when you close your eyes. Thoughts take place in this inner space.  The outer space is enveloped by the inner subtle space.  Everything in the universe exists in the mind, but when we are preoccupied with our mind we only perceive a small piece of it.   In other words, when we are self-involved we do not see the whole picture, instead, we only perceive what we are used to thinking about. This is called ‘self-involvement, and self-involvement is the act of involving the mind with itself. 

The Effects of Self-Involvement

Self-involvement results in many negative effects, but the worst effect of all is the lack of power of discernment.  It is the lack of power of discernment that leads one to make choices that result in pain and suffering.  The remedy or cure for this ailment is the acquisition and application of Wisdom. 

Attainment of Divine Wisdom

Before wisdom can be applied it must be acquired.  We acquire wisdom through the study of the teachings of the Wise.  When the mind is inundated with Wisdom, it is purged of misunderstandings and false knowledge.  We say that the mind is ‘blown away’.  It means that the mind becomes awe-stricken by the vastness of that knowledge and decides to shut up (or rather, open up).  The mind begins to become quiet, and then begins the exploration of Consciousness, the ‘final frontier.’ 

The realm of the mind is limited to time and space, but the realm of Consciousness is Eternity and Infinity.   There is no end to the expansion of Consciousness.  The Universe expands and contracts, with each inhalation and exhalation of Consciousness, but Consciousness just goes on expanding and has no limits.  That is why it is called ASEEM, or Boundless. 

The Universe has its outer limits.  The Universe is bound by Consciousness.  Only the ignorant think that Consciousness is bound by the Universe.  The seam, or boundary between the Universe and Consciousness is the Unmanifest (PRAKRITI).  That Unmanifest is experienced in the fourth state of consciousness (Samadhi), but beyond the fourth is another.  THAT cannot be described. THAT is the Supreme Consciousness, and THAT is our Goal.

[1] The first element of the physical Creation is the physical space, which itself is the manifestation of the subtle space.  Both are referred to in the Shastras as AKASHA, which is sometimes translated as ‘the Ether’.

[2] That is, the ‘expression of consciousness by means of the movement (vibration) of  superfine particles of subtle space.’ Consciousness itself is unmovable because it is all-pervading.

[3] This is the subtle space (one of the Tanmatras) from which physical space later devolves.

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