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How Does the Mind Work?

By Shyam Mehta

Yoga science is first and foremost a psychological subject. Yoga deals with controlling the mind and therefore considers all the diseases of the mind and the ways in which these can be cured. It examines all the "impediments" of body and mind which hinder or stop a person from taking up and progressing yoga practice. It sets out how these impediments can be overcome. It also looks at the functioning of the mind: how it reacts to experience and how these reactions in turn influence the mind. These are the six constituents of psychology.

Firstly, we need to know what the mind is?

All that exists is God. He has a Soul and a body. His body is the universe, made up of Souls and matter.

Souls include all the Gods and Goddesses which mankind worships, and also your own Soul. The Soul has the power of seeing. The self within experiences, but does not see, being of the form of matter not Soul.

Matter in respect of living beings includes the self and the inner organ (antahkarana) (brain functioning) which has chitta (consciousness), buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (ego) and manas (mind).

Chitta is individual and cosmic consciousness. Individual consciousness, whereby the Self (atman) knows that it exists because it is aware of itself, and cosmic consciousness, of objects held in the mind. Chitta has five states: experienced knowledge, misconception, imagination, deep or dreamless sleep and memory (pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smrtayah).

Buddhi, the intelligence of the Self, has the power of knowledge and has will power. It discriminates between right and wrong, and decides what to do.

Manas, the sense-mind, perceives objects and reacts. Mind is a servant, not a master of the self. If the self through its buddhi determines that it would like a woman to think of a man, then this is what the woman's mind will do. The contents of the mind are thoughts, feelings, peace and bliss. In this age everyone is stressed. What the mind most needs in the short run is relaxation (even more than happiness). In the absence of this it gets stuck in a rut, the next best thing. The mind also has inclinations, which are determined largely by the history of its experiences in this life.

Matter, being made up of the three gunas of satwa, rajas and tamas, is always in motion. Hence, so long as the mind is not under control, chitta experiences fluctuations.

Diseases of the Mind. Klesa

There are five afflictions: worldly or erroneous knowledge (avidya), sense of 'I' ness (asmita), desire and attachment (raga), dislike (dvesa) and attachment to life and fear of death (abhinivesah).
Pain and sorrow (duhkha) result from the affliction (klesha) of dislike (dvesha)

Causes of the Afflictions or Diseases of the Mind

Afflictions are the end result (vipaka) of bad actions (bad karma). Karma gives rise to subtle tendencies and desires (known as asaya). The interaction of these tendencies (samskara) and desires with your life experiences gives rise to afflictions, if actions are not in accord with yama.
If asayah exists one is reborn with a specific type of birth (jati), span of life (ayuh) and set of prospective experiences of sensual joys (bhogah).

Free Choice

We all have free choice, to do good or bad actions, karma.
The balance of good and bad choices of actions that you have made in this and in your previous life is also called karma. Good or bad is defined in terms of whether they are consistent or not with the five ethical principles of Yama. Your karma determines whether your life experiences will be pleasurable or not, according to the law of karma. Karma is only overruled by God's mercy.

Impediments to Yoga Practice, Antarayah

Yoga practice is that which helps to still the fluctuations of the consciousness.
The impediments to yoga practice, that is which create fluctuations of the chitta or consciousness are: disease (vyadhi), sluggishness (styana), doubt (samsaya), carelessness (pramada), idleness (alasya), sense gratification (avirati), living in illusion (bhrantidarsana), lack of perseverance (alabdhabhumikatva) and inability to maintain one's achieved progress (anavasthitatvani).

Overcoming the Impediments to Yoga Practice and the Diseases of the Mind

The first chapter of the Yoga Sutra sets out the mental disciplines required to overcome the various impediments to having a yogic mind.
The second chapter sets out the physical disciplines required to cure the diseases of the mind, consisting of the Yoga of Action, Karma Yoga, namely Tapas, Svadhyaya and Ishvara Pranidhana. 

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