Freeing the Mind

This article was transcribed from the September 2001 issue of “The Theosophical Movement,” a publication of Theosophy Company (India).

Often we are unable to understand what the mind is. And, when we speak of controlling it, we do not understand who or what controls it, or what control means. We need to make these points clear to ourselves.

We get tied up in words. What are words? Simply sounds and letters, or characters which convey ideas, either abstract or concrete? These ideas we may understand or we may not understand. The word "cup," for instance, brings to us the memory of a concrete object that we know and use; "aspiration" brings to us a feeling of upliftment; words such as "Absolute" and "Consciousness" we find difficult to understand, for we have not experienced them.

How can we "experience" consciousness or mind or other abstract, spiritual concepts?

Let us think. When we see a person, are we not using the power of consciousness to perceive him through the medium of our eyes? Are we not "aware" of him? This awareness can be purely material; it can affect the emotions; or it can affect the will. Therefore our awareness or consciousness is of a threefold quality. H.P.B. says that "Mind is a name given to the sum of the states of Consciousness grouped under Thought, Will and Feeling."

So we are "experiencing" consciousness all our waking life. But so is an animal. It sees, it has feelings and will power; then how does our mind differ from the mind of an animal?

Do all people react in the same way to perceptions? Do all dogs react in the same way to perceptions? We can easily see that there is a far greater divergence of individual reaction in the human kingdom than in the animal. The animal reacts differently within the limits of instinct. Man reacts according to his materiality or intellectuality or spirituality. What makes the difference?

Man is a spiritual being and his mind is but a ray of his own spiritual individuality. It is this ray of mind with which each one is concerned in his daily life, for it gives him the feeling of personal identity or "I-ness." It uses the senses and sense-organs to perceive the world in which he lives; it makes him aware of his emotional nature and of his ideas. Without it he would not be able to look forward to emotions that are pleasant, or backward to those that were pleasant. The same with unpleasant emotions. It is strange, is it not, that we seem to get as much "pleasure" in recalling unpleasant things and events as pleasant ones! Otherwise, why should we wallow in the memory of unpleasant things or happenings?

Here we have an example of Kama as an octopus grasping and controlling the mind and sullying the otherwise pure faculty of awareness. For, what is mind? It is colourless in itself, being merely "awareness," and is coloured by the modifications it constantly undergoes by reason of the limiting thoughts or feelings or ideas on which it is dwelling. Some of this colouring is brought over from past lives, but some is acquired in the present life. Hence we are told first to free the mind from Kama. The Voice of the Silence tells us not to let the senses make a "playground" of the mind.

What frees the mind, what prevents the senses from making of it a playground?

We need to consider carefully what it means to free the mind from Kama, to take the mind away from Kama. It is in the grip of Kama. How can it get free but by coming out of that grip? Therefore the mind has to free itself. It has to cease to be aware of Kama (evil emotions, desires, volition, etc.), which it will do when it realizes that it can free itself from the limitations imposed by Kama. It has to become aware of itself and ask the question, "Who am I ?"

Let us look at Manas. Manas is the "conscious principle of the Monad," we are told; and the Monad is a unified triad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas. Therefore it has three aspects: the will aspect (Atma), the feelings or compassion aspect (Buddhi), and the thought aspect (Manas). Atma and Buddhi are reflected in Manas, however dimly. Manas Taijasi is Manas illuminated and activated by Buddhi. Manas flooded by Atma is Will, Spiritual Will in action.

Lower Manas is a ray or Higher Manas and is therefore also threefold. When clothed in the three lower principles it reflects these lower three—prana, feeling, and sense impressions. Manas gets deluded by the information the senses bring to it. When the senses make a playground of it, it is bewitched; when it gets so enmeshed that it knows of nothing but the lower principles, it manifests as the lower will in action, as obstinacy, brute force and selfishness. What is meant by the senses making a playground of the mind is that they "play," amuse themselves and strengthen their wishes by thinking about their reactions.

Hence the first stage of freeing the mind is to find out what mind is and what binds it. Once it realizes that is bound, it can begin to free itself. A difficult task this, for passion will not let go of the mind, selfishness will not give up its plotting and planning to gain its desires. Lower Manas is that which gives the sense of "I-ness," of an entity, a being, to the personality. It is limited by its skandhas, but the skandhas are not it; it is modified by its thoughts and ideas, but it is not them; it is deluded by senses and sense-organs, but it is not these either. It is a ray of Atma-Buddhi-Manas. When it unites itself with its higher aspect, the Higher Manas, the two become one. This union is prevented because of the colouring given to it by the lower vehicles. If we can tear ourselves from these until we become onlookers of them and then use them—that is to say, if that in us which is Atma-Buddhi-Manas can see itself as separate from them, then can it free itself.

While we think that Kama must let go of Manas we shall never succeed. But when we know that it is Manas that must refuse to obey Kama, we have a starting point. Then comes the next stage. The will aspect of Manas comes into play when we realize why we have to free the mind. i.e., for the good of all. Then compassion and love take the place of feelings, and even the lower Manasic ray becomes Taijasi—shining.

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