The Mysterious Mind
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Given at Satyanandashram, Barcelona August 1980
Yogis and philosophers say that the physical world does not exist apart from the mind, but we experience the world and it is there. How are we to understand?
This is a problem which has been discussed in India for the last fifteen to twenty thousand years. Whether there is creation or it is all an illusion. Is it a dream, or is there something real? In western philosophy, there is Hegel's idealism, Descarte's non-dual monistic philosophy. In India, Shankaracharya had his own monistic philosophy and his paramguru announced that there was no existence of time and space at all. The gist of the Yoga Vashishtha is that everything is a fantasy. Time and space are playing games with each other.
It is difficult for people to accept that the world is an illusion, but there is a very simple logic behind it. In a dream, you are riding on an elephant and the elephant throws you off. You get a fracture and are screaming with pain. Then you wake up and there is no elephant, no accident, no pain. Now, the question arises : whether the dream world is true, or this world is true. In either case, there should be a continuity of experience, because truth is never barred by time and space. Truth has to be eternal and infinite. When you say that your waking consciousness is true, why is it limited and barred by another form of experience?
This means that the waking consciousness is not absolute; it is relative, and the dream is also relative. Dream is one state of mind with its own time and space, waking is another. Dream is a psycho-emotional event and waking consciousness is a psycho-sensual event. The truth must be absolute and not relative. Absolute means the same all the time. Then how to believe that this external experience is absolute? If it is not absolute, then it is not truth. If it is not truth, it is not existing.
In modern physics, we also have something like this. In Einstein's Theory of Relativity, there are three forms of existence- absolute, relative, and what we call illusion. Dream is an illusion; this world is relative, and samadhi is absolute.
What is creation?
In physics they talk about the time/space continuum. Time and space create the universe. If you separate time from space, the universe is destroyed. Time and space are two forms of energy, plus and minus. If you take one wire out of a bulb, the bulb will not burn. Time and space are the positive and negative poles of the whole energy circuit and of creation. When they come together, time and space create matter. When time and space are separated, matter is disintegrated. This is one aspect of physics. Time and space are qualities of the mind. You can always increase and decrease the length of time and space through the mind.
In Vedanta, they say there is no creation without purusha and prakriti. When purusha and prakriti interact, then the creation evolves. At the end of evolution, through the practices of yoga, purusha and prakriti are separated from each other. Then enlightenment takes place and purusha leaves the circle of evolution and becomes a seer of creation, not a part of the creative process.
According to tantra these two opposite poles of energy are known as Shiva and Shakti. They can be found everywhere and in everything. Without them there is no creation, no awareness, no existence. During the period of pralaya, before the creation, these two poles of energy always remain separate. When creation is about to take place, they come close to each other. You know what happens when you put on the light switch. The wires meet at a certain point; there is a spark, and then there is light.
As Shiva and Shakti meet, an explosion takes place in the nucleus of matter. This is so subtle that one can only perceive it in nirvikalpa samadhi. When everything has been reduced to nothing, Shiva and Shakti meet in shoonya. At that time the explosion takes place and matter breaks into endless fragments. It disperses itself into space and the gases form into what you call nebulae. The whole creation is born out of shoonya, Shiva and Shakti coming together.
I am not talking philosophy. This is exactly what happens in every plant, creeper and tree, in man and woman, in earth, water, fire and air. Unless the two principles meet, there is no creation. The very basis of creation is Shiva and Shakti, purusha and prakriti, time and space, coming together. And this coming together is yoga.
In deep meditation this union takes place between the two opposite poles, ida and pingala. Normally, they both dwell separately in the frame of the spinal cord. But when they join in ajna, the explosion is terrible! You must be ready to face it. This is the moment of creation.
Not only in yoga, but in every field of life, this union between the two forces is always taking place. When this union takes place, the energy flows out, and this energy is always trying to express itself in the form of animals, vegetables, minerals. First 1 sense, then 2, 3, 4 and 5. Then 5 sensory organs, motor cortex, mind and emotions. This is how the creation has been going on.
What is the role of the individual in creation?
I believe that every being in life has a contribution to make. His contribution may riot be fantastic like that of a statesman, general, scientist, or artist, but nevertheless, each individual is a component part, at least a nail in this great cosmic structure of creativity. In the same manner, in a society of evolving human beings, it is not only a seer, a thinker, but also a merchant or a labourer who is part of the creativity. He may not create anything which will immortalise his name, but certainly everyone is creative.
Everybody has a certain degree of creativity within. They are able to create thoughts, a family, etc. but this creativity is so limited and self-motivated due to lack of higher awareness. They are not able to enlarge the scope of their creativity from its limited field. However, if a person is given the opportunity, and is placed in an environment which allows him to remove his personal barriers, repressions, and inhibitions, he can become more than just an ordinary creator. He can become an historical creator.
Most people are unfamiliar with the mind and do not understand its language or behaviour. Although the mind is an inseparable part of our being, our knowledge of it is very limited. We are continually happy or unhappy, desirous or frustrated, loving or hating, thinking, dreaming or sleeping. But all of these are beyond our control. If we stop thinking, it is because we can't think any more, and if we think too much it is because we cannot stop. We are happy, not because we choose to be, but because the emotion arises due to the fulfilment of some desire or condition.
The behaviour and reactions of the mind are not under our control. We have been living with the mind, yet we are totally unfamiliar with it. It is like two friends, who have no common basis of understanding, living together in the same room. One is deaf and the other is dumb. There is total lack of synchronisation, total absence of participation. One prepares lunch and dinner and whatever he cooks, the other has to eat. He may not like spaghetti or hot, spicy food, but he has to eat it, because that is what has been cooked for him.
Why is it like this?
People are ignorant of many things. Whatever we are taught in the schools is inadequate. When we learn something, it is not for practical purposes, but in order to get through an examination. So there are many fundamental things which we do not know. Similarly, we do not know about the mind.
Yoga is a science which teaches you about the mind through practical experience. It is unnecessary to tell you what the mind is; you have to experience it yourself. I can explain to you what sweetness is, but until you have tasted it, you can never really understand. Once you have had the experience of sweetness, you know it and I don't have to explain. Likewise, the mind has to be practically experienced.
The unseen mind
The great thinkers say that the mind of a man is like a subterranean volcano. A little can be seen, but the rest is below the surface. We know many of the mental manifestations such as anger, happiness, unhappiness, greed, passion, emotion, worry, fear, anxiety and so on. These are only the upper part of the volcano which we can see. If I get angry, I can experience it. If something happens to my wife or children, I have certain melancholy feelings. I feel and I know. This is the perceptible mind that can be seen, but it is beyond our control. When you are full of frustration, you do not know how to get rid of it because the root is in the unseen mind.
The psychologists call this unseen region the subconscious and unconscious mind. Yoga calls it the astral and causal mind. When you practise yoga, you are able to see this subterranean area of the mind. If someone goes crazy or blows up, that is the subterranean mind coming to the surface. Just as smoke comes from the fire, all the mental manifestations emerge from the subterranean base. Anger can be felt in the brain; fear can be felt in the heart, but both emanate from the same place. Dreams, visions, doubts, prejudices, all come from the same base. It is therefore necessary for every man to go deep into the base of the mind.
Developing the seer
How do you get to the base of the mind? One way is to follow a pattern of thought right back to the source. But this is very difficult, because while you are following the pattern of thought, you become part of it. Once you become a part of it, you are completely lost. If your mind is jumping about and you try to follow the thoughts, it is very difficult. After some time, what often happens is that you begin to fantasise the whole process.
In yoga, this path of following the thoughts is not considered to be easy, because for most people, the thinking and the thinker are inseparable. In order to practise this successfully, you must first be able to separate the thinking and the thinker, and then you should separate the thinking, the thinker and the thought. There are definitely three factors combined.
The thinking, the thinker and the thought are the three components of the mind. When these are assembled, the process of thinking and feeling takes place. When a thought is in your mind, there is a thinker, and a process of thinking. But in yoga we have a fourth component - the seer. So in yoga we have thinking, thinker, thought, and the seer of it all.
Yoga really begins when you are able to add this fourth component to the whole thinking process. Seer is a spectator. As you are the spectator of a grand race or a viewer of the TV, in the same way, you have to develop within you a spectator of the whole triple process. You do not have to create the seer. The faculty of witnessing what is happening in the mind is already there in a very subtle form.
That is the differentiating quality of human beings, otherwise we are merely animals. Animals walk on four legs; we walk on two. Animals react to different situations and we also do. Animals eat, sleep, and live in the body, and we also do. Animals have insecurity, and we also do. Animals love and perform the sexual act and we also do. The only thing that makes the homo sapiens different from the animals is that faculty of knowing.
I am talking to you; I know I am talking to you, and I know that I know I am talking to you. You are listening to me; you know you are listening to me, and you know that you know you are listening to me. This is called the faculty of the seer. This faculty of the seer in time and space is man's special heritage. As man evolves, he develops this faculty. When you lose this faculty, and many people do, you become as ignorant as the animals, living an animal life in an animal body.
This faculty of seer is developed through the process of meditation by which the whole mind is transformed. We no longer say thinking, thought and thinker; we say meditation, meditator, and object of meditation. I am the seer of this triple function that is taking place in meditation. With this faculty, I am able to connect past, present and future and maintain a time/space continuum.
The source of creation
Mind is much subtler than an atom, molecule or electron. Mind is definitely the subtlest of all the energies that man has discovered so far. You know about the subtler states of matter which are discussed in physics, but mind is subtler than any kind of matter that we have conceived of, measured or analysed in science.
According to yoga, this mind is connected to the time/space continuum. Time, space and object are qualities of the mind. The time/space/object continuum is the whole existence, and these three are manifestations of the mind. If you can disintegrate the mind, totally withdraw it, then time, space and object do not exist. This is taught in modern physics also.
Religions say that God is the creator, but what is this creation? Is it made out of mud or stone, flesh or bone? The leading scientists of our time have given a definite conclusion that the creation of time and space is a manifestation of mind. Once the mind is withdrawn, there is nothing.
Few people understand the power of the mind. You can create anything by the mind, good or bad. Everything exists on account of the mind. Mind is more powerful than the body. We don't understand it, because our science is based on matter. It seems that mind is a thinking machine, but this is not so. It is a force, an energy. By this mind we knowingly or unknowingly create disaster for ourselves. All our sufferings are due to the mind.
In physics, the scientists have clearly stated that both matter and energy are creations of the mind. Time and space are both spanned by the mind. The time/space/object continuum is created by the mind, just as we make a candle out of wax. The wax is the candle and when it melts, there is no candle. In the same way, the mind is extending itself.
Taming the mind
In physics, Vedanta, yoga and tantra, we read that time, space and object are qualities of the mind, just as this nose is one of my organs, the ears and eyes another. If I die, everything dies. So, these three: time, space and object, are the different manifestations of the mind. If you withdraw the mind, then everything is withdrawn.
You can live for a certain period beyond this creation. If you develop this art, you can transcend time, space and object. By transcending the mind, you can attain samadhi, the highest state in evolution, the acme of human life. But the problem is how to withdraw the mind. Modern science has accepted this, but it has not shown us how to manage the mind, nor has religion. The only science that has shown us the way is yoga and tantra. The purpose of yoga is to raise the mind, and for this, meditation is one of the greatest systems.
Meditation is dhyana yoga. It is not the yoga of unconsciousness, it is the yoga of complete consciousness of all that is happening within you. First you develop the awareness of seer and become a witness of the thoughts. When this awareness is developed and the mind is completely withdrawn, then it is time to focus the awareness on an object like a flame, star, point, sound, idea, experience or mantra. Then you need to develop the total awareness of that object. When this happens, you will spontaneously enter the state of meditation. Go on meditating and transform the gross mind into subtle mind. Then transform the subtle mind into causal mind, to such an extent that the cosmic mind is drawn to a point. This is bindu, the nucleus of creation.
If this process does not take place, take the help of other forms of yoga, because they all prepare you for developing this faculty. But don't expect it to be easy. The mind is the greatest force and in order to tame and harness this wild stallion, you must be ready to travel a lot.
First you must realise that the mind is a creative force. A thought is an expression of creation and you don't know it. You think a thought and something happens somewhere. Therefore, man's unhappiness, physical illness, intellectual limitations, emotional breakdowns and lack of many other faculties in his life, can all be attributed to incorrect handling of the mind. In order to handle the mind, we must first develop the faculty of seer. Unless we do this, we can never manage the mind.
Everyone should understand that meditation is a very important practice. There are various practices which you can learn according to your capacity. It is therefore important to encourage yoga and meditation seminars for beginners and old students alike. As we organise courses and you come to hear of them, please pass on the information so that many more people can take advantage of these opportunities. If you can put a few people in touch with yoga, you are doing them a great service, because man must know his own self. Without this he cannot extricate himself from the tragedies of life. Happiness is within, and that one has to know by practical experience.
Though man has tried everything, he has failed to secure happiness so far. Man has been following a mirage, a world of delusion. He should realise the world within, the happiness which is non-material does not depend on the object. There is a greater happiness which is homogeneous and absolute, and that is the self, beyond the mind.
Satsang on Time/Space and Creation
How does one realise the self?
In order to visualise the self, it is necessary to transcend the senses and the mind. That is very important, but at the same time, if self-purification is achieved and the inner vision is cultivated, you can comprehend the self in and beyond time and space.
What is the difference between mind and spirit?
In tantra we use the word mind to mean the totality of consciousness which is able to know time, space and object. Beyond time, space and object, there is another reality known by various names such as eternity and infinity. Spirit is the vehicle for this knowledge. As long as the mind is in charge, one has limitations. But when the awakening of kundalini takes place, the responsibility of knowledge is taken over by the spirit.
How does the awareness function?
In tantra and Vedanta, we have four tools of awareness- (i) manas, the thinking and counter thinking process, (ii) buddhi, decisions, discrimination, discernment, (iii) chitta, awareness, remembering, feeling, (iv) ahamkara, the ego or id. These four divisions belong to the area of the mind which is known. They also process material coming down from the subtler areas of the mind which are unknown.
The areas of the mind which are known, we call manomayakosha. The unknown areas consist of vigyanamayakosha, the psychic ranges of consciousness, and anandamayakosha, the dynamic consciousness where all manifestation exists in the potential state. This is the subterranean area of consciousness and man will never be able to know it. When you enter into deep meditation, sometimes you pass through anandamayakosha. There is homogeneity, but no consciousness, no awareness. Anandamayakosha can be followed through laya yoga. These three aspects of the mind are equivalent to the conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind in western psychology.
Is shoonya experienced within the regions of the mind or beyond?
When you are proceeding along the path of spiritual evolution, you come to different points. When you transcend the gross consciousness, there is one full stop. This is the first shoonya. Then you transcend the mental awareness and there is another full stop, another gap. That is the second experience of shoonya. Finally, when you transcend this unconscious mind, the anandamayakosha, then there is another gap of shoonya. Therefore, in yoga, the experience of shoonya can be had at three different points.
Shoonya is a momentary suspension of our relationship with time, space and objects. The difference between the three points is that in the first two, the relationship is completely suspended, but the samskara is still there. Just as our mind enters into a state of suspension at night, but there is the samskara, so when we wake up in the morning we remember that we are the same person whom we were yesterday. Therefore, in the three different stages of shoonya, there are three different substances of individuality. In the first experience of shoonya, the samskaras are still very powerful. In the second experience, the samskaras become weaker, and in the third, the samskaras are almost at the point of elimination. There is complete suspension. This is what is known as shoonya.
In order to grow spiritually, should we strive to know ourself or to forget ourself?
To forget yourself and to be aware of yourself are both very important expressions. If practised correctly, they are the key to spiritual development. To become aware of one point, to become aware of your awareness in the form of a mantra or a symbol, is one way of developing the awareness until it becomes effulgent within. When the eyes are closed and the mind is shut, there is total darkness within the arena of the mind. Then there is total awareness, and that awareness is nameless and formless.
You have to be aware of yourself, but at the same time, when the inner awareness becomes more and more effulgent and overpowers the totality of your personality and being, then there is no awareness of name and form, past, present and future. There is no awareness of yourself as a man or a woman, an Australian or an Indian. There is no awareness of your existence in time or space.
So, therefore, in order to grow spiritually, you have to become more and more aware of the inner being. At the same time, simultaneously, not serially, you have to become completely aware of the existence which is dependent on the relativity of time and space.
Once we have accepted that we are souls, we are atman, and we want to realise this, is it then only a matter of time and purification?
It is just a matter of time. You see, we are what we are, but we are unaware of it. Just as when you have a very valuable thing in your pocket, but thinking it lost, you search here and there for it and finally find it in your pocket. There is a very beautiful example of this in Indian mythology.
The musk deer produces musk in its navel, and when this musk is matured, it wafts fragrance all over a wide area. The deer like this smell so much that they try to find out where it is coming from. They sniff high and low trying to locate the scent. But in the process they run around so much that they become exhausted and die, never realising themselves to be the source of the scent.
The same thing is happening with all of us. Just as the fragrance is embedded in the flower and the reflection in the mirror, in the same way, reality is inherent in the self. You have to search for it within and not without. It's outside also; it's everywhere, but you will have to search for it within. If we look for it outside, then we will have the problems of the poor musk deer, searching throughout the forest for his own fragrance until some hunter comes along and shoots him down.
Is everything we see and feel only a projection of our own mind?
Everybody sees only himself in others. I see you as a very nice person, because I am a nice person. You are only a stimulating factor for the love and hatred that is within me. The whole attitude of a human being is an expression of his own personality. Therefore, it is said in the Upanishads :
"Not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear to you,
but for your own sake.
Not for the sake of the friend is the friend dear to you,
but for your own sake."
The Upanishads cite many similar examples which finally conclude that everything is centred in one's own self. In Buddhism, we also find the same theory. All experiences and perceptions originate within the individual; the knowledge gathered from outside takes place within the mind. This means the whole universe you are cognizing is not outside, but within you. If the whole universe, the entire time and space, could be within you, why not your love and your hatred, your pride and your prejudice?
So, it seems that the human being is experiencing a great hallucination. Just as a magician casts one spell and you see a beautiful garden or a radiant damsel, then another spell and there is nothing. What happened? You saw it; where did it come from and where did it go? The magician is just exposing yourself; the nature is expressing yourself; you are projecting yourself outside. In the ultimate analysis, this is the truth.