So far we found that everything we talked about was governed by the Mano-maya kosha, the mental field
This third sheath, in some ways works through the nervous system and expresses itself as waves of thought or awareness. We are entering slightly subtler energy fields here, we are no longer able to see and touch what is happening in this field, but we know it has a physical, real existence in us; we are aware that we think, if and when our mind is working. However it's a bit simple to say it like that.
In the center of our brain is the limbic system, in that is the Thalamus. Its job is to put out high-frequency energy which interacts with the sensory input from the skin and the senses and directs that to the cerebrum/cerebal cortex. We can imagine it a bit like a ping-pong ball hitting a bat and bouncing back. The Vibration of the Thalamus is sort of redirecting incoming sensory input for interpretation - or not!
It does that, through permanent vibrations. The way I understand it, is that the vibration then is redirected to those areas we are familiar with as interpreting data, by comparing to what is known already about the seen, heard etc. i.e it is reflected to those areas where information is processed.
The first part of this process goes on whether we sleep, dream or are awake. It's these waves caused by the Thalamus, which are measured when we measure brain waves. Whether and how they are interpreted, depends on the Neo-cortex.
If the interaction between the waves from the Thalamus and the cortex, i.e. for interpretation, is blocked/cut… we call it sleep.
These waves that get permanently sent out - are received/connected in two relevant ways with the help of the Reticular Formation (RF) which is part of the brain-stem (top of the spine), whose job is to stimulate the cortex with its various activities into action - and secondly the Hippocampus where personal memories are en- and de-coded. These three are the physical lynchpins of the subtler awareness we normally call: consciousness.
Waking state or Awareness is the fully active co-operation of these three. And they cooperate of course via millions of synapses in the brain, which unfold as our nervous system.
How does it work again?
Here is my cartoon version: there is the Thalamus, throbbing away; imagine it like a telegraph pole sending out waves….regular waves. Now there comes the sense input, the memories and all that stuff from outside and "interferes" with those waves/pulses. They get redirected to the various parts of the brain where they get processed.
The data gets used…for whatever purpose.
So normally, in the waking state, these connections and their "relocation and interpretations" are constantly on the go. Their processing and working is in permanent mode of processing in all directions, as the waves and input from the senses hits them.
When there is too much info coming in, from all sides - the "bouncing off", the deflection is also going off in all directions.
This we experience as "lack of concentration". With that, your breath gets erratic. The energy doesn't know where it is most needed next, so it goes here and there…and everywhere; i.e. it is dispersed.
Again, this is of course a cartoon, but I hope the message in it is clear.
By contrast, when the flow is channeled, smoothly into one direction, there is a feeling of peace and balance. As the breath deepens and expands, this stream becomes wide and open. This can be achieved - either by controlling the processing of the mind, having the calming effect on the breath- ----or it can happen through controlling the breath, having a calming effect on the mind.
Either way, but anyone who tries it, will agree that it's easier to control the breath, then it is to control the mind.
So we start with the breath, observe it as a single flow of energy, as you know from the practice of meditation. Through observation and the following adjustment of the breath - the mind is calmed.
Ultimately the goal is to work on this mental field. That field which determines the activity of the lower two; hence working on the mind will change the breath and the physical body!
In modern psychology the mental field has mainly been studied by observing
outer behavior, leading to behavioral psychology.
Psychologists and Yogis agree that input comes through the senses, gets processed and stored in memory and from there action is initiated through the organs of action: hands, feet, mouth, sexual and excretory energy. So the result is behavior.
Behavior is the result of the inner process.
Psychologists observe the behavior which leads to the inner processes; yogis study the inner processes which leads to understanding and influences the behavior.
However, in several ancient teachings, but especially in Yoga the mental-field has been studied by itself, as it is - and that really is what the process of meditation is about.
For the Yogi, the mind is the bridge to/from the next layer, consciousness…just as breath is the layer between physical body and mind.
Because the Yogi is not satisfied in saying "my mind or my ego told me to do this or that - I can't help it, its just me" as we hear people so often say ….the Yogi goes further and ask who or what is the mind, or operates the mind. For the Yogi mind is not the ultimate source. Unfortunately in western thinking this source has not been of much interest, but then we know: if in doubt…in our day and age we have a tendency to opt for the appearance, the outer, the superficial!
The Yogi however always asks deeper, and in this case goes beyond the construct of the conditioned ego. Thousands of years of observation of this mental field, have lead to the detailed concepts that the Yogis have evolved. - You know about the most referred to: Mind has four aspects:
Manas - that part of the mind that relies on sensual input and processes it. It uses reasoning (on whatever level) for the thinking processes built on the data that has accumulated, and is available at a particular time within the person.
Ahamkara - that part of the mind which refers to the individual selection and personal storage and interpretation that builds the sense of "I". It is almost what the west calls ego, but more fluid.
Buddhi - that part of mind which provides the basic intelligence, and power of discrimination to work with; and it includes the "higher buddhi", leading to the highest intelligence.
Lastly all of this together plus more, is called Chitta - mainly it is the memory,
the data bank that serves the entire lot, storing anything on the base of Chit (consciousness)
Today, such brain scientists as Minsky and Torey suggest that there might be a two -tier system of mind in humans. One that interacts with the world via sense input and a second level that observes the first "mind". Well they are getting closer to the Yogis! Swami Veda jokes benevolently about the apparent "split mind" one observing the other.
Several Scientists agree that to some extent Manas and to an even lesser extent Ahamkara is shared by all mammals; there are four needs they share and to which they react within the given frame. Need for food, shelter, procreation and sleep; from these, the individual species and being weaves a pattern according to which he behaves. And these patterns are largely governed by habits and learned responses, that are semi-automatic. We, the human animal, also react according to these learned patterns rather than act…according to a momentary experience; but this can be changed. We have the capacity to initiate, to act! This when changed is making us truly human, in the sense that we become aware of these processes going on.
It's something like this, just to recall a previously used example.
I see an ice-cream and because I have tasted it before, I want it again, I crave for it, so I go to the shop and buy one (of course again simplified.).Once aware and observing our reaction, we can then go and choose whether to follow that attraction pattern or not.
The simple reactionary behavior we share with the famous Pavlow's dog! But with the development of the manomaya kosha, the mental field allows us a higher level, a more independent level, a less instinct driven level, that can be developed. If we become aware and then learn to control these lower reactions, the buddhi can be developed to teach us, that we have choice.
We have always a choice in any given situation, we just need to exercise it, this is true emancipation! That ability to choose coming together with will power is the vehicle that becomes higher intelligence, the wisdom that takes us even beyond the conditioned mind-field.
Choice, freedom and control imply a new level of awareness ; which comes from the mental field. In practice it means:
There is sense input, it is related to and recognized within the "I", but now I have the capacity to make a decision about it. I apply discrimination followed by judgement and finally by a decision. This power is the power of Buddhi, which reaches beyond the first layers of mind, (Manas + Asmita/Ahamkara) just like the manomaya kosha reaches beyond the first 2 koshas (annamaya-kosha , pranamaya -kosha)
Using this we can free ourselves from the tyranny of our basic needs.
It is the Buddhi that represents our potential as human beings asking to grow beyond the animalistic life forms.
Or we could say: it is the buddhi that is the manifestation of the next higher level (from the gross to the subtle) which leads us to be able to work with the next higher koshas.
This Buddhi is a special kind of intelligence or wisdom, Yoga says: in essence it comes from the cosmic wisdom or cosmic intelligence but is specialized or limited within our Atman, our Self, the Jiva or the individual Purusha , to use Yogic terms.
Contemporary science says: it stems from a complex biological process, that we can't quite explain yet! We can choose which understanding we want to accept….
Patanjali author of the Yoga Sutras mentions "a clear pure mind" (Chit/consciousness) on which waves and waves of mental activity play, thus creating Chitta (a constant pool of memories and associations, traces of past experiences).
From this memory-bank disturbances arise; it's these that constantly deflect and disturb that even pulse emanating from the thalamus.
By and large we are not aware of what is in this storehouse, Chitta includes, what modern psychology calls the "unconscious". All of what we normally call the mind, arises and interacts with this storehouse.
But it has yet another most interesting function.
Besides the passive capacity of holding vast data, when triggered, when stimulated by some thing from the outside, it throws up instinctual reactions or urges; it is these that are the source of our emotions.
Furthermore, and this is of interest to those who practice silence. It means when no big noisy input comes, when we deprive our senses of input - then this pool of memories bubbles up with its own energy and throws up "stuff" hidden in its depth. Which gives us a chance to look at it and discard it.
In other words, practicing pratyahara (suspension of input) allows the suppressed and hidden unknown or unconscious to be cleaned out; so that constantly rising "life energy," can be used by Buddhi to discover higher wisdom; allowing wider cosmic wisdom to arise from the wisdom-field…or cosmic consciousness, or "nous " (to use just some of its many names). With this we touch on the pre-verbal experience, the potential, the yet unformed.
Artists use this intentionally. They withdraw into "private space", so that the creative urge can unfold and bring forth hitherto unknown ideas.
So the mental sheet has a great range, it covers lower mental activity, and the potential for the highest. Similarly Chitta the memory store has many levels, the lowest and the highest,
i.e. instincts, the lowest reservoir of manas and potential higher consciousness.
There is a principal in the universe called Symmetry in science, others work with fractals… it means that every pattern in the universe appears ordered and again and again.
A simple example: A chain of mountains (a picture of the Himalayas or the Alps…) looks the same as the serrated edge of a knife, of a rose leaf!
Using 'symmetry' - Chitta can be compared with the physical body.
The physical body has many gross parts (organs, bones, skin…. and the brain) and with that it includes the processing plant for mental activity.
Analog we can say Mind/ Chitta contains many gross parts; it contains the stored memories from being a dinosaur or a past life and the most primitive urges of man -- just as the subtlest, highest aspirations.
We have the capability of developing our buddhi to make use of discrimination and the highest potential.
It's comparable with what we said many times about the elements, there are fields each one including aspects of the others. The koshas too cover a range; life is not in boxes, we live in a universe of fluid forms, not limited objects.
Because we have choice Aurobindo can say: "Few if any of us, can use this highest reason with any purity, but the attempt to do it is the topmost capacity of the inner instrument."
This capacity is within us, as we saw early when we talked about it as the reflection, as the Atman or self…we need not develop it, but discover it! It is in us already, as our potential.
Hence relaxation is such an important step, relax the breath, breathe smooth and even without effort….no tension, no blocks to hinder that energy!
Aurobindu describes three phases or stages of this unfolding:
First there is the crude, perceptive discrimination, which simply reacts to impressions coming onto the screen of manas; a primitive kind of judgement, deciding whether something gives pleasure or is distasteful/bad. It is very much influenced by instinct and causing strong emotions. Here reason is subservient to urges and impulses.
The second phase with a bit more mature buddhi, is associated with using reasoning and intelligence to arrive at a plausible concept of reality. It's pragmatic and uses the intellect to organize and rationalize the use of activity. Providing sound common sense; arriving at conclusions that are compatible and acceptable with the society and environment we live; selecting ethical and moral standards; deciding aesthetical values looking at what is purposeful.
The third level of Buddhi
which concerns itself disinterestedly with the pursuit of pure truth;
its decisions are uncompromising for the good of All and the highest
truth. It cuts through all illusions it reflects on the ultimate transcendent,
eternal laws of the universe without self-interest.
Patanjali also alludes to such levels. He describes four types of minds existing in students of Yoga. ("students"…referring to those who already have some interest in growth, i.e. in developing the mind). Type a) the mind which can easily be concentrated;
b) that mind which is concentrated with difficulty
c) that mind which has little ability to achieve concentration
d) that which is completely imbalanced and not yet fit for yogic discipline.
He, like many sages in the past, feels that the theory and method of Yoga
is worth expounding only to those students who are properly prepared. A strong sense of purpose must be in the student before the student is ready to undertake the training itself.
He explains that Yoga is basically the voluntarily control and regulation
of the thought process, hence those who have neither the will/commitment nor the ability are unfit for this undertaking.
He maintains throughout that basically, and in essence we are different from our thoughts and the random, undirected mind, hence we have to observe this mind, which then is the foundation for working with it.
So we are back at the point of the Thalamus, it works…. The question is how we deal with the interference patterns.
Or we can say: we are back at the Self, covered by the mental sheath, which encourages us to purify, to work with - the mannomaya kosha.
How to do that is the path
of Raja yoga, or the path of the "eight-limbs", Ashtanga Yoga,
however the goal of this work is to enter the higher scales of mind.
The yogic understanding of intellect or buddhi is unfoldment, is growing
beyond the apparent limitations of a personality.
We come closer to that, when our own interest is not in conflict with other people's interest, in other words when we recognize that we are One. That all are an expression of the One; the same life-force flows through all. From that insight, Consciousness is then approached as a unity. Actions and decisions are made from the point of awareness that,
what is good for the individual, for ourselves, is also what is good for all.
So the Taittiriya Upanishad
says in 2.3.
Other than the sheath that consists of vital breath and interior to it is the sheath that consists of the mind. The one is filled with the other. The first has the likeness of a man and because it has the likeness of a man, the second follows it and itself take s on the likeness of a man.And it continues, to describe that higher aspect which acts for the good of all, in verse 2.4 which will be discussed in the next article.