Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mapping the Mind

When discussing Indian philosophy with a westerner, a common situation faced is - how to express the terms like soul, mind, atman in a materialistic way. The point is that those belong to a realm beyond physicality or at least beyond what our best science can comprehend, thus belie a materialistic expression. The further confusing fact is that, I am not enlightened. What I try to express through my half-lit prism gets further complex to comprehend. Nevertheless, I come across some strikingly simple revelations from time to time. And those revelations occur because I try to express that in the first place. Hence, this feeble attempt again.

Among the explanations of body-mind phenomenon, the most lucid one I found was in the context of Gita, the most prominent spiritual/religious book in India. It is very common to observe the following picture of Gita, where Arjun is listening to Krishna, his friend and charioteer in the war of Kurukshetra.

The chariot is pulled by horses, which represent our senses. From external excitations, the chariot tends to move the way of senses. Yes, the chariot is body. With the help of the ropes, the intellect (or Vivek in Sanskrit) can control the horses. In this case, Arjun is guided by his able charioteer to control the unruly horses. Krishna represents the purest form of Vivek. Arjun is the human soul traveling in the body. Krishna is the universal soul, to whom the human soul in this case surrendered in order to cross the battlefield of life. There is often the confusion between Vivek, Krishna the God and Krishna the universal soul. My understanding is that it is the same. God is expressed in several tenets of Hindu Philosophy as omnipresent soul. One can connect to the God with pure mind and pure mind is attained by pure Conscience.

Leaving spiritual connotations aside, it can be easily comprehended that the senses bring home some knowledge of the external world. That is expressed by Swami Vivekananda with the help of a lake, where a pebble creates a ripple(link here). That external pebble excites the mind and the mind, with the help of intellect, brings body into action. What we see as the action of body is first determined by intellect. Mind is the medium, where the action and reactions take place. Thus, body-mind can be thought together. Mind represents a finer state of bodily existence. Then what we see as the action, can be controlled by senses or controlled by our intellect. Now, why so much discussion about the senses and its control ? Because, without proper training of the senses, the body and the intellect is a slave of the external world. This is not possibly what a person with right frame of mind will like to be in. On the other hand, your slavery is important for a lot of people to run their machinery. Thus, the fruits are hanged around to tinge the senses. Unknowingly, we commit to them. Senses dwell more dominantly over the mind than the conscience.

For training the intellect, it is first important to be aware of the phases of mind. Unless we know where the weak spots are, it is of no point to cure that over. Therefore, a first step in mental journey often asks for meditation and while meditating, it is asked to study the mind like an independent observer. Now, meditating with closed eyes brings the mind to a state of calmness only to be lost amidst the mayhem of daily routine again. At least, so for the beginners.
One can rather take a moment of life, anytime, anywhere to start introspecting the mind. This gets quite infectious when you also start fathoming the depth of minds around.

Here goes an interesting experience, to share with you.

I asked 3 persons to make a small mind travel and gave them the first que. Apple. The first went like following. Apple - Sweet - Milk Cakes - Marriage Ceremonies. The second one was , Apple – Steve Jobs – Hard life – Innovation – Technology. And the third one. Apple – First Sin – Fall from Innocence – Jesus.

You can try this yourself. May be what you will see will surprise you. May be not. And then you can decide on a clear note what you want your mind to think. Then will start the process of tuning it. That is what education does to us, unknowingly. A conscious education would be to start with understanding our mind, our conscience, which are the prime apparatus. And then, to learn how the cloud forms in the sky or what is photosynthesis.

The concept of this externally influenced learning is put into use by scientists in building such an artificial brain. But, it stops short of a key thing. What to train the mind with? The machines still need the decision from a human. It is good if we think of making the decisions for us, too.


  1. An excellent thought too among the busy life...... I liked the "prime apparatus" part most appealing, in the rush of life, we have made those things so secondary that at the end of the day we ask questions to mirror ourselves (even worse, some goes for counselling at a drop of trouble) ... The connecting remedy is meditation,but yet the time and rush of life has left us with no option...
    Once again, Excellent piece.

  2. Very good post!

    Swami Vivekananda told "Education is the manifestation of the perfection already present in man" and I realize it once more after reading this post.

  3. go-through this i felt contemplation,
    accomplish that `"MIND" the driver,journey of our life..........

  4. Very thoughtful and well written! I wouldn't say the westerners are unaware of the concept of soul though. People here are driven to enjoy life, impose their own individuality and achieve. The enlightment of the mind is through hard work, enjoying the fruits of labour and contributing to the society meaningfully. I am amazed how many successful people here have surmised their wisdom in words that can only be explained as "Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana".East finds purpose in life through spirituality and the West through objectivity.

  5. very well written but don't try to impress westerners with your writings..they would hardly understand thoughtsof gita...otherwise they would have some respect for our religion(except some people)..thakur bolechena..jaar jokhon samay hobe se tokhon bujhbe..its like demographic transition theory, where western countries are regarded as the develpoed and we r developing..suppose if there are any religious transition models,then those western countries would fall in the last stage of transition & we r in the first..it'll take time for them..

  6. Nice post! Already bolechhi. Here are some doubts/questions:
    "That external pebble excites the mind and the mind, with the help of intellect, brings body into action." Do you mean mind listens to intellect/brain always before making the final decision? I guess not, then the question of training the mind wouldn't have occurred as mentioned here.."And then you can decide on a clear note what you want your mind to think". [Now here is a relevant question, who is 'you' here? I guess the 'perfect mind' or the 'GOD inside'?]. Then it would have sufficed to train the brain only.

    Is it ok to use Vivek and Intellect synonymously? There are occasions when my brain tells me to do something to obtain some materialistic gain, but 'vivek' prevents me from doing that as its against some inherent ethical values; what we very often refer to as 'vivek-donshon", which I think is the conflict between conscience(vivek) and brain. It all depends on how you define the model though :-) But if you make the same, then we cant explain this conflict.

  7. I think the ethnicity of this topic just notion on Mind, that´s why the writer given the name "Mapping the Mind"... the "4th" para "training the intellect" is indicating this clearly.More over i think the writer has given the example of Gita for interpreting the "MIND".
    Also i think without control of our mind (as a Human Bing) we can´t do anything, as: when we are in anxiety then not possible to work anything in peaceful mind, & without any tension or any problem or anything... every-time Shall we all make decision precisely?
    So, here is no question about "Impressing Of Westerners".
    In mind "Mapping The Mind"....:)

  8. @Rajdeep,

    I will use your real name as I did not like the moniker. I think you are right about the first one. Mind does not always listen. It "just" reacts to the external senses without taxing the brain/intellect.
    You are also true that conscience and intellect are mixed in the blog. conscience is what we aspire our mind to think. and intellect is what we end up deciding. i mixed this because i prefer to categorize it as impurity. pure intellect is same as pure conscience and that connects to our innermost self or god or a power. in your definition, intellect is impure conscience. it is always preferable to me to term this as impurity because, i believe, we are essentially pure and divine.

  9. Thats the name I used to use for playing a video game that invloves a lot of killing! Doesnt reflect a pure intellect at all! But it worked a charm to hide my identity when I used to make comments on another Anupam's blogs :-)

    Anyway, what makes intellect impure? If our innermost self is pure as God, then what contaminates the intellect, who gains by that?

  10. @Rajdeep,

    Very relevant and important questions. Let me write another blog to put my thoughts on the questions you asked. Alternatively, come to Aachen :-)

  11. Thats lucrative! Germany gele sure aachen jabo.
    Looking fwd to your answers/new-blog.

  12. why has the question of "impressing" the westeners has come up ??? and by the way, when will people start understanding,there's a difference in westernisation and modernisation(development) ?

  13. @Moutrisha

    "impress" is not completely out of context in this blog. Bidisha knows that I do try to impress westerners with my thoughts. You have to take impress in the sense that I try to make them aware and not to gain something. This impression is in fact very much needed as that gives us a strong sense of self-respect. We have to think why we pray to Cows, had caste system and defend/question that.

    In that process, I often find me getting corrected. That's how I started writing this blog post (first few lines).

  14. @Moutrisha

    differentiating between modernisation and westernisation is actually important. unfortunately, for that we need an example modern state or system, which is not western. that exists in japan and china. but, we have limited cultural exchange with them due to language barrier, i think.

  15. So, what is the actual aspiration of this blog????
    as per your ans..
    we can say "Impressing westerner"................ Right?

  16. @Subrata and Anupam

    well i think,the blog was about mapping our minds (specially acc. to the last few paras)...but its more of now "awaring westeners" ...
    Do post me your next blog.