what is mind?

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Talks with Ramana:

Talk 25

Q: What is this mind?

R: Mind is one form of manifestation of life. A block of wood or a subtle machine is not called mind. The vital force manifests as life-activity and also as the conscious phenomena known as the mind.

Q: What is the relation between mind and object? Is the mind contacting something different from it, viz., the world?

R: The world is ‘sensed’ in the waking and the dream states or is the object of perception and thought, both being mental activities. If there were no such activities as waking and dreaming thought, there would be no ‘perception’ or inference of a ‘world’. In sleep there is no such activity and ‘objects and world’ do not exist for us in sleep.

Hence ‘reality of the world’ may be created by the ego by its act of emergence from sleep; and that reality may be swallowed up or disappear by the soul resuming its nature in sleep. The emergence and disappearance of the world are like the spider producing a gossamer web and then withdrawing it.

The spider here underlies all the three states – waking, dreaming, and sleep; such a spider in the person is called Atman (Self), whereas the same with reference to the world (which is considered to issue from the sun) is called Brahman (Supreme Spirit). He that is in man is the same as He that is in the sun.

(Sa yaschayam purushe yaschasavaditye sa ekah).

While Self or Spirit is unmanifest and inactive, there are no relative doubles; e.g., subject and object – drik and drisya. If the enquiry into the ultimate cause of manifestation of mind itself is pushed on, mind will be found to be only the manifestation of the Real which is otherwise called Atman or Brahman. The mind is termed sukshma sarira or ‘subtle-body’; and jiva is the individual soul. The jiva is the essence of the growth of individuality; personality is referred to as jiva. Thought or mind is said to be its phase, or one of the ways in which the jiva manifests itself – the earlier stage or phase of such manifestation being vegetative life. This mind is always seen as being related to, or acting on, some non-mind or matter, and never by itself. Therefore mind and matter co-exist.

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‘Sa yaschayam Purushe yascha savaditye, Sa ekah.’

Sa yaschayam Purushe. Yascha asau aditye. Sa ekaha. 

Taittiriya Upanishad

What is shining there as a lustrous sun in the distant skies,

and what is within us twinkling as the Atman, they are identical.

He that is in man is the same as He that is in the sun.

[Purusha: the cosmic man or Self.
Aditya: in the singular, is taken to refer to the Sun God, Surya.
Ekaha: the Supreme Spirit]

source: Talks with Ramana, Talk # 25

Talk 26

Q: How shall we discover the nature of the mind i.e., its ultimate cause, or the noumenon of which it is a manifestation?

R: Arranging thoughts in the order of value, the ‘I’ thought is the all-important thought. Personality-idea or thought is also the root or the stem of all other thoughts, since each idea or thought arises only as someone’s thought and is not known to exist independently of the ego. The ego therefore exhibits thought-activity. The second and the third persons do not appear except to the first person. Therefore they arise only after the first person appears, so all the three persons seem to rise and sink together.

Trace, then, the ultimate cause of ‘I’ or personality. The ‘I’ idea arises to an embodied ego and should be related to a body or organism. Has it a location in the body or a special relation to any particular spot, as speech which has its centre in the brain or attentiveness in the brain? Similarly, has ‘I’ got any centre in the brain, blood, or viscera?

Thought-life is seen to centre round the brain and the spinal-cord which in turn are fed by the blood circulating in them, carrying food and air duly mixed up which are transformed into nerve matter. Thus, vegetative life – including circulation, respiration, alimentation, etc. – or vital force, is said to be (or reside in) the core or essence of the organism. Thus the mind may be regarded as the manifestation of vital force which again may be conceived as residing the Heart.

source: Talks with Ramana, Talk # 26

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