Meditation - Mind-Field the Playground of Gods
by Swami Veda Bharati
Flagging off a new column on Indian psychology,we look at the nature and qualities of the mind as understood by the founding masters of meditation in India.
Mind, along with I and its variants, may be the most popular word in any language. I and my mind carry almost identical meaning. But both convey a mystery. What exactly is this I? Both the wise and the seeker are uncertain. Similarly, we are confused as to the meaning of the word mind. Some in history have used it as synonymous with soul-whatever that might be. Others think of the mind as the totality of the brain function. In the case of the former, no distinction is made between the spiritual and the mental. In the case of the latter, the mind and the body (of which the brain is the controlling station) are treated as identical.
Definition and Nature of Mind
Here we shall attempt to understand the schools of thought that have developed from the vision of the founding masters of meditation in India. Our purpose is not to write a textbook on psychology but to understand our own mind in such a way that we can use it to enhance our life's purpose, that is, happiness and fulfillment.
Among the thirty-one components of human personality (Bhagavad Gita 13.3-6), mind and its operations constitute the major part. These components are collectively known as the field, kshetra. Elsewhere, in the tantras, we are told that we are nothing but wheels of energies, shakti-chakra. Therefore, we can say that mind is an energy field. It is a particular type of energy or force. It is not counted among the material energies like electromagnetism or gravity. It is an energy field in a class of its own. No Indian school regards it as a spiritual force, as part of atman, the spiritual self. In order to reach atman-realisation one has to leave the mind behind. We will explore this later.
"Mind over matter" is not an Indian slogan. It comes from certain schools that do not differentiate between the soul force and the mind force. Mind is a bilingual interpreter between the spiritual self and the physical self. In its subtlest inward face, it is almost as luminous as the atman. In its outward face, mind is identified with the intent behind the functioning of the physical mechanisms. In any case, it remains an energy field, a product of prakriti.
The meditation masters of all yoga traditions agree that there is one universal mind of which the individuated minds are but waves (spanda, urmi). This is the principle of love and non-violence. All aversion and violence is against one's own (universal) mind. All that happens in an individuated mind is stored in the universal mind. All that is contained in the universal mind, as any form of knowledge, is accessible to the individuated mind if we know how to open the channels.
The mind operates at five different bhumis, grounds, as they are referred to in the Yoga-sutras. Its five grounds are:
o Kshiptam, disturbed. The present state of most minds, shifting from one object, feeling, thought, sensation, emotion, impulse, desire to another from moment to moment in our wakeful state.
o Mudham, stupefied. The states of stupor are of many kinds. The most pervading one is during our 'wakeful' state when we do not have any mindfulness of being, nor awareness of most of our faculties. Any absence of mindfulness, as well as any ignorance, comes in this category. Then there are the experiences of sleep, coma and so forth, the most commonly recognized forms of stupor.
o Vikshiptam, distracted. This is not the same as kshiptam, disturbed. Vikshiptam is a distraction from a point of concentration or flowing awareness in meditation. This is the level of meditation most beginners experience.
o Ekagram, concentrated, one-pointed. This is an undisturbed concentration in meditation.
o Niruddham, totally controlled. This is the state of samadhi.
Modern psychology primarily explains the experiences associated with kshiptam and mudham. Only now it has begun to examine the meditative states. Meditational psychology views the last two to be the most natural states and the former three are simply dilutions thereof.
Operations of the Mind
These are known as vrttis. The Yoga Sutras speak of five categories of vrttis.
o Pramana, rational states and operations of the mind, direct perception through the senses, logical inference, and acceptance of the words of the wise.
o Viparyaya, cognition of the opposite of reality, a-tasmin tad-buddhih, tasminn a-tad-buddhih. Cognizing 'that' in 'non-that' and 'non-that' in 'that'. The viparyayas are also referred to as kleshas, afflictions of five kinds, subdivided into 62 categories both in the individuated and the universal mind. The primary one of these is avidya, ignorance, in which we mistake the non-eternal, impure, sorrowful, non-self as eternal, pure, pleasant and the Self (atman) respectively. From this ignorance arise four others of which we speak later.
o Vikalpa, a fantasy that may be expressed in words but refers to nothing real. At a certain level all language is nothing but an expression of vikalpa as words deconstruct the proposed meaning.
o Nidra, sleep. This is not an absence of mind's operations but a particular operation in itself. It is simply a submergence of consciousness into the cognition of the principle of the negative.
o Smrti, memory, an experience not being lost from the mind.
These vrttis may be afflicted, klishta, or unafflicted, a-klishta. The ones tainted by kleshas lead to bondage, while the opposite, a-klishta or unafflicted, guide one to liberation.
Operations and Imprints
Here, a word about samskaras, the very subtle imprints that are left in the mind field. All our mental, vocal and physical acts and experiences leave an imprint. Not only what we perceive, but even what we think, leaves an imprint. Not one sensation in a single hair root escapes without forming a samskara. It is the conglomeration of samskaras that constitutes our unconscious personality. Samskaras determine how we interpret surroundings and experiences.
Samskaras do not simply lie dormant in us. They are constantly churning below the surface although we are not aware of this massive sub-oceanic activity going on within us. They have, like seeds sown, their own processes of maturation in the forms of interpretations of experiences we choose for ourselves and thereby react. Our interpretations are never neutral or objective but are coloured by the force of samskaras.
Thus the afflicted samskaras give rise to afflicted vrttis, which in turn are rendered into samskaras again. "This cycle of vrttis and samskaras keeps turning day and night," says Vyasa, the commentator par excellence on the Yoga Sutras. It is in this cycle of operations, vrttis, and imprints, samskaras, that all our pleasures and displeasures, fears, insecurities and complexes reside. It is here that they need to be understood, and converted into appropriate tools for our happiness, fulfillment and liberation. For this, the science of meditation prescribes particular methods.
In order to help us develop these tools for happiness, our next column will provide an overview of the meditational theory of emotions. Once we fully comprehend these principles, we can indeed proceed with making our mind-field the playground of devas.