What is the concept of the mind according to Hindu scriptures? As far as I understood, it is something very small in the head to which the brain reports to. And our visible universe is the reaction of the mind. Am I correct?
The following are excerpt from the Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings - Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. This may be helpful.
In answer to a question by a long resident attendant Sri Bhagavan said:
“Everybody complains of the restlessness of the mind. Let the mind be found and then they will know. True, when a man sits down to meditate thoughts rush up by dozens. The mind is only a bundle of thoughts. The attempt to push through the barrage of thoughts is unsuccessful. If one can by any means abide in the Self it is good.
For those who are unable to do so, chanting or meditation (Japa or dhyana) is prescribed. It is like giving a piece of chain to an elephant to hold in its trunk. The trunk of the elephant is usually restless. It puts it out in all directions when taken out in the streets of the town. If given a chain to carry the restlessness is checked. Similarly with the restless mind.
If made to engage in japa or dhyana, other thoughts are warded off: and the mind concentrates on a single thought. It thus becomes peaceful. It does not mean that peace is gained without a prolonged struggle. The other thoughts must be fought out.
Mind is known as Manas (Sanskrit word)in Vedic philosophy-now popularly known as Hinduism. Manas is the co-ordinator of 10 Indriyas (5 Gyana Indriyas + 5 Karma Indriyas) and serves as the conduit of external information to the Intelligence (Dharma Bhoota Gyana) of the conscious self-Jiva. Manas along with 10 Indriyas come out of Satvic Ahankar during the process of creation of the Universe. Manas has two more states called 'Chitham'(Analytical) and 'Buddhi'(Decision).
Well, mind is a vast topic to study and understand. There is a good book Mind According to Vedanta by Swami Satprakashanand on this topic. The paid version is available online.
Writing a little from memory about what I remember now:
- The book presents Vedantic concept of mind, that it is different from body and soul (and little more), and how it differs from Western concept. And also shows where Western concept has flaws.
- The mind is the seat of internal perception (antahakarana) just as the 5 sense organs are the seat of external perceptions.
- Involvement of mind is necessary for eyes to see (and notice), ears to listen (and understand) and other sense organs to perform properly.
Four functions of the mind are (suppose you see a chair, now how does your mind function):
- Manas (on seeing a chair, what is this ?)
- Chitta (mind searches its storage of impressions to find out such similar structured object)
- Buddhi (it decides that it knows it)
- Ahamkara (I-maker, i know that this is a chair)
Every time we see anything (and literally anything), the mind performs these four functions.
The mind stores all our impressions, even of past lives. Even a simple act such as walking leaves some impression on our mind. These impressions are source of our memory. It is through these impressions that we develop likes and dislikes.
Purity of mind is of utmost importance for concentration of the mind. Our (unless we are enlightened) subconscious mind has many undesirable (bad for spiritual progress) impressions. The fight to purify this subconscious mind is to be fought at conscious level. That is, we have to attempt not to feed our mind with bad thoughts.
I do not exactly remember what the book says about its position in the body. Anyways, the book surely answers your question in detail. It is a good read.
strong text Mind according to Veda, Upanishad, and Gita: The mind is the most complex of the 11 basic human senses (5 cognitive, 5 functional, and mind). Because, just as the 5 cognitive sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin) and the 5 functional organs (hands, feet, anus, genitals, and mouth (speech) etc. can be detected externally, their activities can also be seen. But the mind is like other senses, cannot be detected and cannot be seen. The sense organs and functional organs are fundamental and their functions are also fundamental. That is, they cannot do the work of one another. Just as the eye cannot do the work of the foot, so the work of the foot cannot do the eye. Similarly, the work of the anus cannot do the ears, just like the ear cannot do the work of anus. But the mind can do many things simultaneously. Like the mind can think about several things at the same time. The mind can feel happiness, sadness, pleasure, pain at the same time. The mind can see many things unseen by the mind eye through imagination. Again, the mind can perceive the soul in its innermost place. This is that egoism, self [I, My] all originate in the mind. Sin - virtue, doubt - faith, truth - falsehood, righteousness, unrighteousness, good - evil etc. are perceived in human mind. Human mind changes frequently. That is why the mind itself does not know what the human mind is thinking. So, philosophers say, human mind is very strange. This happens because the human mind is compound and complex. According to the Vedas, the human mind is considered to be composed of five basic elements. These elements are - Manas, Ahankara, Chitta, Buddhi and Atman. Kath Upanishad verse [1:3:3] says about the mind: Sanskrit verse: आत्मानँ रथितं विद्धि शरीरँ रथमेव तु । बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रग्रहमेव च ॥ ३ ॥ Kath Upanishad verse [1:3:3] English sloka” ātmānam̐ rathitaṃ viddhi śarīram̐ rathameva tu | buddhiṃ tu sārathiṃ viddhi manaḥ pragrahameva ca || 3 || Kath Upanishad verse [1:3:3] Meaning: "Know the soul as the master of the chariot; the body as the chariot; the intellect as the driver; and the mind as the bridle." Kath Upanishad verse [1:3:3] s Indeed, the mind is the bridle horse. Only when this bridle of the mind is controlled by the intellect, the mind becomes calm, serene, and fearless. And it is with this calm, serene, and fearless mind anybody can make impossible possible. Dhiren Chandra Das. Bangalore.
Mind is an instrument that acts as the link between the sense organs and the Self according to Advaita Vedanta.
In any external perception four distinct factors are involved: the object, the cognate sense-organ, the mind (antahkarana), and the knowing self. In the absence of any of these no perception is possible. Of these four the self alone is intrinsically luminous, being of the nature of consciousness; the rest are devoid of consciousness. It is the light of the self that manifests the object. So the self must be connected or related with the object. The mind conjoined with the sense-organ brings about the relation. The self is the perceiver, the knower per se. As such it is distinct from the mind, which is knowable. …………….
In Western thought a clear-cut distinction between the mind and the knowing self is hardly noticeable; generally, mind is viewed as characterized by consciousness. But it is the consensus of Hindu philosophers that the self (atman) and the mind (antahkarana) are altogether different. Mind is an internal instrument of the knowing self; there is no consciousness inherent in it. …………….
Each sense-organ is produced by that very subtle element whose distinctive property it has the power to reveal. For instance, the organ of hearing is composed of the sattva aspect of subtle akasa, whose specific property ‘sound’ is manifested by it. Similarly, the organ of touch is composed of the sattva aspect of subtle vayu, whose specific property ‘touch’ is manifested by it. ……
The subtle aspect of all the five subtle elements (akasa, vayu, tejas, ap and ksiti) being combined produces mind (antahkarana), which therefore is material and has constituent parts. While sattva is predominant, rajas and tamas are overpowered. Basically, constituted of the finest and purest essence of matter, mind (antahkarana) has the special capacity to expand and contract and take the form of any object of knowledge, howsoever large or small, gross or fine, it may be. It can move instantaneously, so to speak. Though seated in the heart it pervades the whole body in the waking state. In dream state it recedes more of less to the subtle body. In deep sleep it is withdrawn to the causal body.
But, according to Vedanta mind is finite, that is, of medium magnitude (madhyama parimana).So it can be connected with one or more organs at the same time…….
…but Vedanta distinguishes the individual mind from the cosmic mind, which belongs to Brahma, the World-soul, who presides over the cosmos. According to both Samkhya and Vedanta mind is a product and, therefore, not eternal.
Being composed of the subtlest and most transparent substance and closest to the self, mind (antahkarana) receives the light of consciousness that belongs to the self and is illuminated by it. With no light of its own it appears luminous…….
Mind is connected with the organs by means of the central nervous system, of which brain is a part. It is through the mind that the light of consciousness is transmitted to the sense-organs, which being made of sattva substance have the special power to receive the light. Thus they serve as the organs of perception. The light of consciousness radiating from the mind enables the motor-organs to function. All external perceptions, all actions, are due to the radiance of consciousness received by the organs from the luminous self (atman) through the mind. In dream state when the radiation recedes from the body none of the ten organs can function, but the mind continues to operate. In deep sleep when the radiance recedes, even from the mind, all mental operations including egoism comes to dead stop. Says Vidyaranya: ’Mind, the leader of the ten organs, is seated in the orb of the lotus of the heart. It is the inner instrument (antahkarana), since it cannot by itself deal with external objects without the organs (indriyas).’
Of the three aspects of mind (antahkarana), cognitive, affective, and conative, the cognitive is basic. It underlies the other two. Feeling and willing are invariably associated with some kind of cognition. Vedanta stresses the cognitive mind and takes into account its four states or functions (vrtti): deliberation (manas), determination (buddhi), egoism (ahankara), and recollection (citta). In every external perception these four are involved. On seeing a chair a person does not at once determine it as a chair. In the beginning he is vaguely aware of it as something. He is in an indecisive state. So he cogitates ‘what is it?’, ‘what is it?’ This function of deliberation is manas. Then he searches within and recalls some past impression akin to it. With this recollection he cognizes the object as ‘this is a chair’. This function of determination is buddhi. The function of recollection is citta. With the knowledge ‘This is a chair’ arises the knowledge ‘I know the chair’. This is the function of egoism. Because of the rapid succession of the four functions they seem to be instantaneous. The four functions represent four different states of the mind. Most Vedantins recognize two main states of the mind; deliberative (manas) and determinative (buddhi). Vedanta-sara includes ahamkara in manas and citta in buddhi. Like ‘antahkarana’ the term ‘manas’ is sometimes used for entire mind, and so is the term ‘citta’.
Methods of knowledge according to Advaita Vedanta by Swami Satprakashananda