Chapter 96 — Different Names for Mind

Vasishta said:—

The mind is mere thought, and thought is the mind in motion. Its actions are directed by the nature of the thoughts, and the result of the acts is felt by everybody in his mind.

Rama said, “Sage, please explain in more detail the immaterial mind as opposed to the material body, and its inseparable property of will or volition.”

Vasishta replied:—

The nature of the mind is known to be composed of the property of will, which is an attribute of the infinite and almighty power of the Supreme Soul. The mind is known to be of the form of that self-moving principle which determines men’s doubt between the affirmative and negative sides (as whether it is so or not). The mind is known to be of the form of ego, which is ignorant of the self-manifesting soul of God and believes itself to be the subject of its thoughts and actions. The mind is of the nature of imagination (kalpana) which is always busy in its operations. Therefore the inactivity of the mind is as impossible in this world as it is for an intelligent man not to think.

As there is no difference in the essence of fire and heat, so there is no difference whatever between mind and its activity, and so between the mind and soul.

The mind is known by many names according to its various faculties and functions, its various thoughts and desires, and their manifold operations and consequences. The Divine Mind is said to be distributed into all souls by mistake and without any reason, because the All is without any substance or substratum and is indivisible in its nature. It is a mere fabrication of our desires and fancies to diversify it in different persons. 10 Whoever has set his desire in anything as if it were a reality, finds the same to be attended with the like fruit as he had expected of it. 11 It is the movement of the mind that is said and perceived by us to be the source of our actions, and the actions of the mind are as various as the branches, leaves and fruits of trees.

12 Whatever is determined by the mind is readily brought into performance by the external organs of action. Therefore, because the mind is the cause of action, it is identified with the effect.

13 Mind, understanding, egoism, intellect, consciousness, action and imagination, together with memory, desire, ignorance, and effort are all synonyms of the mind. 14 Sensation, nature, delusion and actions are also words applied to the mind to bewilder one’s understanding. 15 The simultaneous collision of many sensations diverts the mind from its clear sight of the object of its thought, and causes it to turn about in many ways.

16 Rama asked, “How is it sage, that so many words with different meanings were invented to express the transcendent cause of our consciousness (the mind), and heap them on the same thing solely for our confusion?”

17 Vasishta replied:—

As man began to lose sight of his consciousness and labored under suppositions about his self, he found the mind to be the waking principle within him. 18 When man, after considering himself and other things, comes to understand them in their true light, he is then said to have his understanding (buddhi). 19 When man by false conception of himself assumes a personality by his pride, he is called an egoist, with the principle of ego or egoism causing his bondage on earth. Absolute egoism is doubting everything other than individual self-existence.

20 Thought passes from one object to another in quick succession and, like the whims of children, shifts from one thing to another without forming a right judgment of any. 21 The mind is identified with acts done by the exercise of a power immanent in itself as the agent. The result of the actions, whether physical or moral, good or bad, returns to the mind in their effects.

22 The mind is said to be fanciful because it holds onto fleeting fantasies and ignores its solid and certain truths. It is also called imagination because it presents various images of the objects of its desire (ihita kalpana). It is called kakataliya sanyoga or accidental assemblage of fancied objects. It is defined as the agglutinative and associative power that accumulates materials for imagination. 23 Memory or retention is the power of the mind to retain an image, whether known or unknown before, as if it were a certainty already known. When attended with the effort of recalling it to the mind, it is called recollection. 24 Cravings to possess objects of past enjoyment, and the mind’s efforts to attain other things, are called its desires.

25 When the mind’s clear sight of the light of the soul or self is hidden by the shadow of other gross things which appear to be real instead of the true spiritual, it is called ignorance. It is another name for deluded understanding. 26 The next is doubt, which entraps the dubious mind in the snare of skepticism and tends to destroy the soul by causing it to disbelieve and forget the Supreme Spirit.

27 The mind is called sensation because all its actions of hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling, thinking and enjoying serve to delight the senses which convey the impressions back to the mind. 28 The mind that views all phenomena of nature in the Supreme Spirit and takes outward nature as a copy of the eternal mind of God, is called nature itself.

29 The mind is called maya or magic because it converts the real into unreal, and the unreal into real. Showing realities as unrealities and the vice-versa by turns, the mind is called error or mistake of our judgment, giving assent to what is untrue and its contrary. The causes of error are said to be ignorance (avidya) and passions (tamas). 30 The actions of the physical organs of senses are seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling, but the mind is the cause of both actions and their acts.

31 The intellect (chit), bewildered in its view of the intellectual world (chetyas), manifests itself in the form of the mind and becomes the subject of the various functions that are attributed to it. 32 Being changed into the category of the mind, consciousness loses its original state of purity and becomes subject to a hundred desires of its own making. 33 Its abstract knowledge of general truths becomes shadowed by its preconceptions of concrete and discrete gross bodies, so it comes to the knowledge of numbers and parts and is overwhelmed by the multiplicity of its thoughts and its objects of desire.

34 Consciousness is variously named the living principle and the mind by most people on earth, but it is known as exercise of intellect and understanding (chitta and buddhi) by the wise.

35 The learned give the intellect, spoiled by falling away from the sole Supreme Soul, various names according to its successive phases and functions. The wise give intellect such different names because it spoiled by its various desires and the variety of their objects.

36 Rama said, “O sir, you are acquainted with all truths. Please tell me whether the mind is a material or immaterial thing. So far I have been unable to determine this.”

37 Vasishta replied:—

The mind, O Rama, is not completely a gross substance or completely an intelligent principle. Originally it is as intelligent as consciousness, but being sullied by the evils of the world and the passions and desires of the body, it takes the name of the mind. 38 Consciousness (chit), which is the cause of the world, is called heart (chitta) when it is situated in the bosom of sentient bodies with all its affections and feelings (avilam). Then it has a nature between goodness and badness.

39 When the heart lacks a uniform certainty to its purpose and a steadiness in itself, it feels inside and reflects all the changes and vicissitudes of the outer world. 40 Consciousness hanging between its own intelligence and a belief in gross objects takes the name of the mind. It is spoiled by contact with outward objects. 41 When the action of consciousness or the faculty of the intellect’s reasoning is weakened by sensations and becomes dull by its inward impurity, then it is called the mind which is neither a gross material thing nor an intelligent spiritual principle.

42 The intellectual principle is called by many names, such as mind, understanding, ego, and the individual soul or principle of animation. 43 The mind bears its different names according to the variety of its functions, just like an actor in a theatre appears under different names and costumes depending on his dramatic parts on the stage. 44 As a man passes under many titles according to his various occupations and professions, so the mind takes different names according to the various operations of its nature.

45 Besides the names that I have already mentioned for the mind, the disputants in mental philosophy have invented many others agreeably to their diverse theories. 46 They have attributed many names to the mind according to the views in which they want to exhibit its nature, such as calling it intellect, understanding or sensation and so forth. 47 One takes it as dull matter and another as the living principle. Someone calls it ego, while others apply the term understanding.

48 Rama, I have told you that individual ego, mind, the light of understanding, and the will to create are only different properties of the one and same internal principle. 49 Nyaya philosophy has taken the mind in different lights according to its own view of them. The Sankhya system explains perception and senses in a way peculiar to itself. 50 In this manner, all these terms are taken in very different meanings by the different systems of Mimamsa, Vaiseshika, Arhata and Buddhist philosophy. The Pancharatra and some other systems have given them particular meanings inconsistent with one another. 51 All these various doctrines, arising at different times and in distant countries, lead at last to the same Supreme Being, like the very many different ways leading their passengers to the same imperial city. 52 Ignorance of this supreme truth and misunderstanding among conflicting doctrines cause the adherents of different systems and sects to carry on endless and bitterly acrimonious disputes among themselves. 53 The disputants maintain their particular positions by their respective dogmatism, just like passengers persist in their accustomed paths as the best suited to them.

54 It is wrong to say that everything is the fruit of our acts, and therefore mankind should only be concerned about the performance of their actions. According to men’s various perspectives, they have come up with their explanations in their own ways.

55 The mind receives its various names from its different functions, just like a man is called an early bather (snataka) from his acts of sacred ablutions and a donor from his religious gifts. 56 As the actor gets many titles according to the different characters he performs, so the mind takes the name of a living being (jiva) from its animation of the body and its desires. 57 The mind is also said to be the heart that is perceived by everybody as residing within himself. A man without heart has no feeling or sensation. 58 It is the heart that feels the inner pleasure or pain derived from sight or touch, hearing or smelling, and eating and drinking of pleasurable or painful things. 59 As light shows the colors of things to sight, so the mind is the organ that reflects and shows the sensations of all sensible objects in the head.

60 Whoever thinks the mind is a dull material substance, or whose gross understanding cannot understand the nature of consciousness, is the dullest of beings. 61 The mind is neither intelligence (chetana) nor inert matter (jada). It is individual ego that has sprung amidst the various joys and grief in this world. 62 The mind that is one with Divine Consciousness perceives the world as absorbed into itself. But the mind polluted with matter falls into the error of taking the world for real.

63 Know Rama, that neither the pure immaterial intellect nor matter as gross as inert stone can be the cause of the material world. 64 Know then, O Raghava, that neither intelligence nor inertia is the cause of the world. The mind is the cause of visible objects, just as the mind is the light which unfolds them to view. 65 Where there is no mind, there is no perception of the outer world. Dull matter does not know of the existence of anything. Everything is extinct with the extinction of the mind.

66 The mind has many synonyms depending on its many activities, just like the one continuous duration of time undergoes a hundred different names depending on the variations of its times and seasons.

67 If ego is not recognized as a mental action, and if sensations are reckoned as actions of the body, then the name “living principle” still applies to all acts of the body and mind. 68 Whatever names or qualities of the mind are mentioned in the reasoning of different systems of philosophy, and sometimes by the advocates of an opinion, and at other times by their adversaries, 69 they are neither intelligible nor distinguishable from one another. They are all powers of the same mind which, like the flowing sea, pours its waters into innumerable outlets.

70 As soon as men begin to attribute materialistic powers and force to the nature of pure consciousness, they fall into the error of these varieties of their own making. 71 As a spider lets out its thread from itself, in the same manner the inert has sprung from consciousness and matter has come into existence from the ever active spirit of Brahma. 72 Ignorance has introduced various opinions concerning the essence of the mind. From this arose the various different expressions among opponents, all of which have the same meaning, Consciousness.

73 The same pure Consciousness is labeled the mind, understanding, living principle and egoism. The same is expressed by the words intelligence, heart, animation and many other synonyms which, being taken as meaning the same thing, should put an end to all dispute.