Author Topic: Classification of the Mind Part 1  (Read 1229 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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Classification of the Mind Part 1
« on: February 17, 2010, 11:31:39 PM »
Classification of the Mind Part 1

'Mind' is a general term used to designate the thinking aspect involved. In computer terminology it can be thought of as software in contrast to the hardware, namely the brain. In Vedanta, mind is considered as 'flow of thoughts' (vRRitti dhAra) or more correctly the basis on which the thoughts flow, rather than the flow itself. Just as a flow of water is called ‘river’, a flow of thoughts is the ‘mind’. We can have stagnant water but we cannot have stagnant thought, since thought itself involves a movement, although we could have regurgitated thoughts or a whirlpool of thoughts, when we are intensely attached to a particular theme. Mind can only think one thought at a time, but it can jump from one thought to the next like a monkey jumping from one branch to the other, without coming down to the ground. These are interconnected thoughts.

Interestingly, the very sequence of thoughts defines the time and occurs in time. Thus, time becomes part of the embedded system in the definition of the mind, since a flow of thoughts involves the flow of time. Dr. Ananda Wood (an author of several books on advaita and a moderator of the internet Advaitin list) thinks that, since two thoughts are not perceived simultaneously in the mind, 'space' that is based on simultaneity is more an imagination by the mind than 'time'. However, according to Vedanta 'space' is the first 'subtle element' in the sequence of creation, although sequence itself implies a time-factor. The fact is that 'space and time' are inseparably interrelated, as movement in space defines time and movement in time defines space; and this is recognized by modern science as the ‘space-time continuum’. The point of our concern here is that both are intimately connected with the operation of the mind. Thus, subjectivity enters in the perception of 'time and space'. We will address this issue later when we discuss the perception of spatiotemporal objects and thus the world seen through the mind.

Mind has been classified depending on its function and field of operation. Understanding of this helps to identify its role in each operation. We will present some aspects of it to unravel the mysteries of the mind.

Freudian Classification:
Sigmund Freud (early 20th Century) provided a topographical view of the mind in terms of (a) the perceptual aspect of the mind, called conscious mind, (b) autonomous functional mind called 'subconscious mind' and (c) 'unconscious mind', a storehouse of suppressed or oppressed thoughts and memories from the conscious level that may still influence the conscious mind.

The conscious mind constitutes the 'ego' which plays the role of a deliberate agent in all our actions and enjoyments. The unconscious mind is involved in instinctive or impulsive desires and reactions. Conscious, subconscious and unconscious minds form a hierarchical architecture, wherein actively repressed thoughts from the conscious mind form the contents of the unconscious. These can be tapped by psychoanalysts or under hypnotic states or through what are known as 'Freudian slips'. The most important constituent of the mind is the 'ego', but according to Freudian analysis, it constitutes only a peripheral conscious state, in the waking state. The unconscious mind plays a more dominant role in the dream state. Freud recognized that prior thoughts, desires, suppressive and oppressive thoughts in the past can leave behind subtle impressions buried deep in the mind, which he calls ‘unconscious’ (meaning one is not keenly conscious) and they could find expressions in the conscious mind when one is not vigilant - which psychoanalysts call 'slips'. In comparison to the Vedantic analysis of the mind, as we shall see below, these classifications sound very elementary, nevertheless are given a prominence in western psychology, particularly in relation to mental disorders.

Four components of the mind:
Vedanta provides a different classification for the mind, which is the basis for the flow of thoughts. It is divided into four components based on their functions: a) mind (manas), b) intellect (buddhi), c) ego (ahankaara) and d) memory (chitta). All four components together are generally referred to as just 'the mind'.

Thus, there are
a) the four components of the mind;
b) five faculties of sense (that is the power of seeing, power of smelling, etc - that give rise to knowledge);
c) five faculties of action (motor driving faculties related to hands, legs, speech, two excretory organs - that produce results) and
d) five physiological functions called prANa-s (power of breathing, digestion, circulation, etc - that sustain life).
All together we have nineteen entities (4+5+5+5 =19) constituting what is called the 'subtle body' (sUkShma sharIra). This is in contrast to the gross physical or material body (sthUla sharIra) consisting of skin, flesh, bones, fat, blood, etc., along with all the physical organs of the body, including the brain. Thus, the subtle body is considered to have 19 gateways through which it interacts with the gross body and through the gross body with the external world. Thus mind is considered as locus for all faculties for physiological functions.
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