Mind is an internal instrument of actions. It is the basis of all normal conscious physical and psychological functions of a being.
In Yoga mind is traditionally called as “internal instrument.” It has primarily four interconnected functions:
- Manas – Including the five physical motor senses
- Buddhi– computing or intellectual power of mind
- Ahamkara-Personalization of experience
- Chitta – storehouse of experience
Manas, via the five sensory motors: hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting; upon contact with external world brings the sensory impressions. It does not evaluate the incoming information and continues to collect anything upon contact. It does work under the influence of conditioning of habits, impulses, and the instincts. Strong conditioning bypasses evaluation, so judgment and discrimination are beyond the capacity of manas. It can be compared as a receptionist of Mind. Without help of stronger faculties like Buddhi, this receptionist manas is susceptible to conditioning and being lives a doubtful, impulse-driven, and indecisive life. If manas is unable to supply sensory data to mind, the other faculty which is far more complicated, Chitta becomes active to supply data from with in the mind store house.
Chitta, is foundational mind-stuff of other three functions of mind. It is storehouse of all impressions collected so far. The self-consciousness, computing power, sensory inputs and so on arise out of Chitta, as mind-stuff. It has several layers upon layers from surface to deep-seated memories. It is always in dynamic mode. It actively responds to external sensory stimuli and when body is calm it keeps passively stirring up the memories from past. When you sit in quiet room with closed eyes, function of Chitta becomes very clear. Initially, thought trains will be fast and of immediate concerns but with continuous non-cooperation, thoughts will become like clouds of old/unknown images. This is moving from conscious to unconscious mind-stuff. Chitta can be compared as warehouse of the mind.
Each experience introduces being with a sensation and each sensation reinforces mind with sense of self. Due to this self-hood mind stamps being with separate identity. Thus, mind provides ability to say, “this is mine.” This assertion of self is called as Ahamkara or “I.” The formation of self is a total game changer, as ideas and objects are now tied with ownership. This Ahamkara provides solidity to mental image, signature and strength to personas of people. It gives a name and form to mind. Now, Manas-The receptionist, has a central reference point to check and solicit the incoming sensory messages. The strength of Ahamkara changes by experience and maturity; it provides quality, quantity, stability, and consistency to experience in terms of its definition and form.
The Ahamkara does not function independently but works through its cabinet ministry called Buddhi. Its main function is computing, deciding, planning, organizing, reasoning, advising. While doing so, it gets influenced by Chitta– the warehouse supplying past conditioning—impulses, drives, habits etc.
These three functions together—Manas, Ahamkara, and Buddhi interact in waking state of consciousness; and are responsible for normal conscious activities. The fourth one, Chitta, is a very deep store of memories and impressions. Its awareness is largely superficial during normal activities.
All four of these functions operate in the field of consciousness, can be called as “Self” or “Atman” or “Purusha.”
In Yogic tradition these functions are not only applicable to Human Beings but to nature of existence as well. However, the instruments are evolved differently in various levels of existence. Can you think of this models application in stones, trees, animals, humans and highly evolved beings?
Following table summarizes the functions of these four mental instruments:
|Mental instruments||Key Functions|
|· Sensory inputs
· Adaptive by conditioning
|· Storehouse of impressions
· Provides stream of impressions-actively or passively
|· Sense of separation
· Integration of behavior
· Coordination and directing
· Perception owning
· Defense mechanism
· Provides quantity, quality and consistency to the definition and form of experience
|· Computing/logic and rationality
· Advisory/change course of adaptive reactions