Chaturtha Vibhaga – The Four Divisions of the Mind

 

1.     Manas (mind). The lower mind, which is understood as a relay station for the senses (indriya) and which is itself regarded as one of the senses

2.     Ahamkara (I-maker). The sense of individuation, or ego

3.     Chitta (consciousness, mind). The finite mind, psyche or consciousness, which is dependent on the play of attention as opposed to Cit (Pure Awareness).

4.     Buddhi (awareness, wisdom). The higher, intuitive mind or faculty of wisdom. This term is used to denote ‘thought’ or ‘cognition’.[1]

             

 

Manas (lower mind)

The workings of manas are those functions that control the body, organises information received by the senses and responds with such generalised expressions as desire, determination, doubt, faith, lack of faith, steadfastness, irresolution, shame, knowledge, and fear[2].

Manas alerts us to indirect, external information[3] that we gain through our senses mati and from teachers or books sruti it can introduce us to new experiences that are compared, analysed and contrasted to what is already stored in memory.

Yoga considers manas as a sense, as one of the indriyas. This idea is set out for us in the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 1.5.3 which gives us the example “if one is touched on his back, he discerns it with his mind”[4]; “presentation is not enough for perception. Mind must be attentive. We often say that we did not see it or hear it because we were absent-minded. It is through the mind that we see and hear.”[5]

 

Another text considers that “the mind is a sense-organ made of subtle matter manovargana and located to the right and above our heart… The mind is an instrument of perception that – like our senses – exists outside our consciousness. It is not consciousness itself. Since the West is not aware of the mechanisms of direct knowledge[6], we regard our mind as the carrier or expression of consciousness. Yet this concept restricts our consciousness to the limited range accessible to the mind. This arbitrary restriction hinders us from searching for insights beyond what the mind is able to perceive.”[7]

 

Anyone who has tried to meditate, or even to concentrate, knows how resistant the mind is to becoming focussed and controlled. That the ancient teachings of Yoga are fully compassionate and understand this difficulty shows that little has changed over the millennia. Many images are used in the texts to describe the magpie-mind such as; -

-        ‘[Manas] is a tree that should be cut not merely at the branches but also at the root’[8]

-        ‘[Manas] is like ‘a madman with a thousand hands, who constantly beats himself, inflicting pain on his body.’[9]

-         ‘The mind can be either pure or impure, depending on whether it is riddled with desires’; ‘when the mind is turned towards sensory objects it leads to bondage; when it is turned away from them it is the cause of liberation’[10]

-        ‘[Manas] is like mercury, which is quite unsteady’[11]

-        ‘[Manas] is called “lord” of the senses whereas life-force prana is said to be the “lord “ of the mind. The connection between the breath and the mind is one of the great discoveries of Yoga and much is made of it in Hatha Yoga.’[12]

-        ‘Let the wise man restrain his mind vigilantly as he would a chariot yoked with vicious horses’[13] again, breathing exercises Pranayama are recommended

 

Manas, the lower mind – is set in opposition to buddhi, the higher mind, which is considered to be more subtle and intuitive.

 

 

 

 

Ahamkara (I-maker)

Very soon after birth the body-mind discovers a crisp distinction between what is ‘I’ and what is ‘not-I’, this is known as the principle of individuation, of duality. All mystical traditions insist that during the spiritual journey this ego-sense must undergo a radical transformation; the body-mind needs to move from the obsessions of self-identity to transcendental Self-identity. Many of us have experienced brief moments of bliss when this transcendental ‘I-sense’ is located – these flashes goad us into beginning the spiritual journey, they stir us from the hypnagogic sleep of ignorance.

 

However normally the ‘I-sense’ is more absorbed with coping with the suffering caused by a core group of afflictions kleshas,

These can be defined[14] as being: -

-        Misunderstanding avidya – confusion as to who ‘I’ am

-        Ego asmita – I know best

-        Desire raga – I must have

-        Aversion / hate dvesa - I detest

-        Fear abhinivesah - I fear

“The order is also significant: because of ignorance of the Self, egoism comes. Because of egoism, there is attachment to things for the ego’s selfish pleasure. Because sometimes the things we are attached to do not come or are taken away, hatred for those who got in our way comes in. And finally because we are attached to things and afraid of death, there is clinging to life in the body.”[15]

It has already been said that Manas interprets the senses and puts meaning on perception, then, if you like, Ahamkara takes these impressions very personally and invests them with loaded emotive content. An ignorant, self-obsessed ahamkara will see the self as the centre of the Universe, will understand the world only in relation to the self and is the author of the two-year-old-tantrum-type behaviour that will inevitably emerge from such thought processes.

The development of mature detachment vairagya, begins to ease out the tangle of passions that the self is heir to, as the spiritual journey transforms the ‘I-maker’ ahamkara, from the self with a very small ‘s’, into the transcendent Self.

Ahamkara fills the screen of our being until its ubiquitous, inflated importance becomes tailored by increasing discernment viveka.

 

 

 

 

Chitta (consciousness, mind - past participle of the root cit, to be conscious)

Chitta is not at all to be confused with cit transcendental Pure Awareness.

Experiencing the constant change of being human, chitta is a fragment of Consciousness, which is condensed into the individual body-mind; deeply embedded within that identity, it contains unique subliminal activators samskaras, traits vasana and psychomental phenomena vrittis.

The texts describe five generalised vrittis: -

-        Correct sensory perception - pramana

-        Incorrect sensory perception - viparyaya

-        Fancy or imagination - vikalpa

-        Sleep - nidra

-        Memory - smriti.[16]

Dubbed the Unconscious in Western psychology, chitta is a mine of hidden agendas - our conditioning, our prejudice and our irrational behaviours that distort the lens through which Manas operates. “There is not one person who does not have some deep rooted complex, fear, phobia or conflict. Anyone who thinks he has no mental problems is only deluding himself and at the same time preventing his progress into higher awareness and happiness in life…. There is a very convincing test that will tell you whether you are as free of problems as you think you are. Ask yourself the following question ‘Am I happy twenty-four hours of the day, everyday?’ If you are not, the this indicates that you have mental problems, for if you are completely free of any mental disturbances, then you would continually emanate happiness and joy” [17]

 

Chitta is described in the ancient texts by the use of metaphors such as: -

-        ‘Consciousness [is like a] magnet that attracts objects’ and elsewhere like

-        ‘A crystal that reflects the colour of the object near it’[18]

-        Like ‘a mirror in which the “light” of the Self is reflected’[19]

-        Like ‘a bird tied up by means of a cord of the life-force’[20]

-        Chitta is ‘the quivering of the life-force’[21]

-        It is the mud at the bottom of the lake in which the lotus takes root.

 

Chitta is often used interchangeably with buddhi, but there are distinctions.

 

 

Buddhi (awareness, wisdom faculty)

This is the highest, deepest and most subtle aspect of being human, where we can experience the processes of internal, direct ‘knowing’, where thought is closest to gnosis, pure wisdom, intuition sat-guru. Consequently it is that part of being human to which ahamkara least likes to attend, far less to obey and deeply tries to ignore.

Functioning at a level of awareness and of noetic feeling, it is probable that thought is wordless within buddhi, akin to the mentation of pre-verbal babies.   It is believed by some that this is an underused aspect of mind about which many of us remain completely ignorant for the whole of our lives, however the Tattvartha-Sutra as translated and expounded by Herman Kuhn develops a very different concept, that of Total Perception Pramana, which leads to a specialised use of the word ‘knowledge’. “Knowledge not only consists of all the details a particular situation [that] moves into the centre of our awareness [, it] also encompasses the vast sum of past insights and experiences we previously integrated into our consciousness. In any situation we experience, these insights support our cognition invisibly from the background.

“When we steer our life, we constantly access this ‘invisible’, previously integrated knowledge [, and] even if we are not aware of many of the details, this does not diminish our skill to use them.

“Riding a bicycle illustrates this process. This state of wobbly balance becomes possible because we continuously refer to all of the skill we acquired on previous rides. Yet though this constant recollection runs subconsciously in the background, it does not take energy away from our foreground activities. It does not prevent us from focussing on finding the right way while steering the bike through unknown territory.”[22]

 

Buddhi is considered to interact with far more subtle, noetic and esoteric processes than riding a bike, which is perhaps, a facile example but one many of us would relate to – yet it serves to illustrate the potential of being inwardly guided as we steer our way through life.

 

 

Appendix

Many teachings refer to the Parable of the Chariot driven by super sensitive thoroughbreds “Know the self as the lord of the chariot, the body as the chariot itself, know the discriminating intellect as charioteer and the mind as the reins. The senses, say the wise, are the horses; selfish desires are the roads they travel. When the self is confused with the body, mind and senses, they point out, he seems to enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow.

“When one lacks discrimination and his mind is undisciplined, the senses run hither and thither like wild horses. But they obey the rein like trained horses when one has discrimination and has made the mind one-pointed. Those who lack discrimination, with little self control over their thoughts and are far from pure, reach not the pure state of immortality.” [23]

 It can be said also that Yoga, from the root yuj to yoke, to harness, to join fits in very nicely to the taming of the wild horses.

 

 

“The senses are all that which leads to heaven or hell, depending on whether the senses are restrained or active.”[24]

 

 

“From brooding on sense objects, attachment to them arises. Out of that attachment, personal desire is born. And from desire, anger appears. Anger confuses the thinking process, which in turn disturbs memory. When memory fails, reasoning is ruined. And when reason is gone, one is lost. But the yogi who has disciplined the mind and has control of the senses can move about amidst sense objects free of attraction and aversion, settling more deeply in tranquillity.”[25]

 

References: -

 

U

The Upanishads Eknath Eswaran

ISBN 9 780915 132393

KCU

The Key to the Centre of the Universe Herman Kuhn

ISBN 398062118 9

YT

The Yoga Tradition Georg Feuerstein

ISBN 0934252 831

SEY

The Shambhala Encyclopaedia of Yoga Georg Feuerstein

ISBN 1 57062 555 7

PU

The Principal Upanishads Sri Radhakrishnan

ISBN 81 7223 124 5

YK

Yoga and Kriya Sw. Satyananda Saraswati

Bihar School of Yoga

LG

The Living Gita Sri Sw. Satchidananda

ISBN0 932040 27 6

YPP

Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali Sw. Hariharananda Aranya

ISBN 0 87395 729 6

SYP

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Sri Sw. Satchidananda

ISBN 0 932040 38 1

 



[1] F Glossary

[2] PU p.175 & SEY p. 177 desire kama, determination samkalpa, doubt vicikitsa, faith shraddha, lack of faith ashraddha, steadfastness dhriti, irresolution adhriti, shame hri, knowledge dhi, and fear bhi.

[3] As opposed to direct information, which continuously exists internally within buddhi occluded, however, from our awareness by many factors described as veils.

[4] PU p. 175

[5] ibid.

[6]  These are listed as extrasensory perception avadhi, direct perception of the consciousness of others manah-paryaya, omniscience kevala jnana Tattvartha-Sutra 1.12 commentary KCU p.90

[7] KCU p.90

[8] SEY p. 177 Laghu-Yoga-Vasishtha 6.9.367

[9] YT p.403 Laghu-Yoga-Vasishtha

[10] ibid Maitrayaniya-Upanishad 4.6 & 11

[11] ibid Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4..26 & 29

[12] ibid

[13] PU p.721 Svtasvatara Upanishad 2.9

[14]YPP p 116  Patajali-Yoga-Sutras 2.3

[15] YSP p.84

[16] PYS 1.6

[17] YK p.206

[18] SEY p.74 Yoga-Bhashya 1.4 & 1.41

[19] ibid. Tattva-Vaisharadi 1.7

[20] ibid p.75 Yoga-Shikha-Upanishad 1.59

[21] ibid Laghu-Yoga-Vasishtha 5.9.73

[22] KCU p.88

[23] U p.88 Katha-Upanishad 1.3.3 - 7

[24] SEY p.129 Agni-Purana 373.20

[25] LG p.29ff Bhagavad Gita 2.62-66