Understanding Mind or Chitta that Underlies Whole Yogic Process

It is through the mind that we achieve and experience everything in life. It is mind and its different modes and fields of awareness that we ultimately transcend to reach what we call as Sefl. In this blog, we will understand the concept and structure of mind according to Yoga.

Yoga has always been defined with reference to the mind. All ancient texts have defined yoga as an art or skill to control or pacify the mind. Bhagavadgita highlights the modes of mind as ego, intellect, and emotions with their likes and dislikes as the source of inner and outer conflicts as well as agreement in our life. This point to the importance that mind holds in secular and spiritual dimension of human life. Without the application and refinement of mental process, no yoga is possible. So what is this mind? Let us begin by what science has to say about the mind.

According to Science

According to science mind is the functioning of brain. Mind is the subtle part of brain. It is not non-physical but subtle functioning part of brain itself. Mind is not a separate entity from that of brain. As compared to science, yoga has a deeper understanding of mind. According to yoga mind is a non-physical (subtle matter) entity separate from that of brain. Brain is an instrument for mind to express the thoughts in it. Mind is an essential entity for perception, experience and consciousness.

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In yoga the term used for the totality of mental functions is chitta. It is derived from the root chit which means to perceive, to know, to be conscious of, to be aware. This chitta as a whole is the seat of feeling, thinking and willing. The chitta (mind-stuff) is made up of manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), chitta (memory) and ahamkara (ego). Manas is the recording faculty which receives outside impressions gathered by the senses from the outside world. Buddhi is the discriminative faculty which classifies these impressions and reacts to them. Chitta recalls past similar impressions and ahamkara is the ego-sense which claims these impressions for its own.

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When we look at mind or chitta from the perspective of its various modes, components and functions, chitta is the seat of consciousness and has the feature of awareness. Thus, chitta represents the total individual consciousness, which includes conscious, subconscious and unconscious state of mind and seems to be intelligent and conscious. But yoga says that it is not. It has only borrowed intelligence. Chitta belongs to the realm of matter (subtle) and hence is inert. The Atman or Self is intelligence itself and is pure consciousness. The chitta merely reflects that consciousness and appears to be conscious when it is in working mode.

With the help of yoga a practitioner calms his chitta and slowly detaches himself from the chitta and its various states of consciousness. He transcends these states of mind to reach pure consciousness known as Turiya or Atman. This is the goal of yoga.

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