"Know the self as a rider in a chariot,
and the body, as simply the chariot.
Know the intellect as the charioteer,
and the mind, as simply the reins.
The senses, they say, are the horses,
and sense objects are the paths around them....
When a man lacks understanding,
and his mind is never controlled;
His senses do not obey him,
as bad horses, a charioteer."
Recently a teacher of mine gave a seminar entitled 'Psychology of the Soul'.
I found it to be particularly succint and inspiring, maybe it's just because I like philosophy...
Here it is for your consideration!
Please bear in mind though that these are only notes upon which an
extensive seminar was formed, and thus may not be complete in
[ ] brackets by me.
EXISTENCE: The Vedic View
Life is comprised of five elements:
All are inter-dependent absolutes. In other words, each is essential,
and without one the existence of the other has no real meaning.
The essential characteristic of existence is consciousness.
The essential characteristic of consciousness is emotion.
The essential characteristic of emotion is form.
The essential characteristic of form is activity.
Ultimately without activity, form, emotion and consciousness giving
expression to existence there can be no significant meaning to
What however, is the underlying impetus causing existence to express
itself through consciousness, emotion, form and activity? According to
the Vedic view the explanation lies in the fundamental truth that the
very nature of existence is that it is itself joyful. This concept is
expressed in the Vedic aphorism, anandamoya-bhyasat
that the absolute truth is by very nature joyful. This is the kernel of
truth lying at the very heart of every consequent explanation for
everything that consequently exists.
Because it is in the very nature of joy to delight in itself - and to
thus wish for an increase of its own joy! And it is in order to
facilitate that urge for increase that existence consequently expands
into ever fuller manifestations of itself, into consciousness, emotion,
form and activity, just as a seed grows into a tree with branches,
leaves, flowers and ultimately fruit.
Because the inherent nature of existence is joy, and because the
inherent nature of joy is to wish for fullness, the Supreme Absolute
Truth, in the never-ending pursuit of fullness, proceeds naturally to
expand itself - and to do so unlimitedly - into all the various aspects
of creation and into all the unlimited living entities and unlimited
phenomena that make up creation.
PSYCHOLOGY: The Relationship between Consciousness and Activity
Psychology examines behaviour, or rather the relationship between
consciousness and activity. According to some psychology can only be
euphemistically described as a science because the frames of reference
used in describing behaviour are ultimately aribtrary. Unlike solid
matter, consciousness is fundamentally amorphous and cannot be broken
down into constituent elements of an absolute nature, or at least not
into elements universally agreed upon as being absolute.
In simple terms consciousness is the basic expression of existence and
consequently the basic cause of activity. In Western tradition
Descartes also concluded that the basic proof of existence was
consciousness, or as he put it, thought: cogito ergo sum
As the basis of action, the study of thought is felt to be the key to
understanding why we do what we do. When what we do is percieved by
ourselves or others as wrong, or bad, or conducive to some undesirable
result, and thus a problem (for us and perhaps others) then the link
between consciousness (thought) and action needs to be examined.
A fundamental aspect of the science of yoga also is the study between existence, consciousness and activity.
The gross aspects of our physicality are considered to be made up of 5 "elements": earth, water, fire, air and ether.
The subtle aspects of our consciousness are said to be made up of 3 "elements": mind, intelligence and false
ego (as opposed to the true
ego of the soul proper).
These three subtle elements are essentially grouped as one in both the
Western and Eastern thought under the broad heading of consciousness.
Their specific essences are distinguished by seeming function.
Ego literally means sense of identity
means a sense of identity
that is different
from what yoga science considers the original eternal identity of the
self, or soul proper. False identity, or false ego, arises as a result
of the souls contact, association, and identification with matter, or
the stuff making up our present minds and bodies. The fundamental
falsity of our present identity is rooted in the never-ending
changeability that results from the fluctuating and temporary nature of
matter and material forms.
is that aspect of consciousness we use for discrimination
, to conclude things
, and therefore to make decisions
is comprised of the facility to think
MIND, the Seat of Consciousness
The behaviour of living beings, generally speaking, is dominated by
perception and feeling. In other words, how we see things and how we
feel about what we see. This is the domain of what yoga science calls
"mind". It can be analysed as follows:
the ability to concieve
an object or experience.
response, either positive, neutral or negative that follows on, resonates and flows from such thinking.
the consequence of our emotional reaction that causes us to desire, want or wish for (or not
desire, want or wish for), a certain object or experience. What follows on from willing
is some kind of activity or action carried out (generally) by the senses of the gross physical body.
These three facilities of thinking, feeling and willing are the constituent ingredients of what we call mind
. This mind
represents the pivotal point of consciousness
, which itself is the pivotal point between existence
Studying and understanding the mind therefore, the very seat (or heart)
of consciousness, is critical to understanding the activity and
behaviour that finally defines and constitutes the value of our
Interestingly, these three features of mind
constitute what we would commonly refer to as our "heart", the heart
that is so eulogised in popular culture and given such wonderful
expression through the creative "arts" of song, dance, drama, music,
painting and sculpture. So, at the risk of coining a few bad puns, we
can confidently conclude that the mind, situated as it is at the core
of consciousness, and being the very springboard of action, really is
the heart of the matter
- and thus, properly so, the real focus of our seminar.
Making Up Our Minds
Having analysed the faculties of the mind we will now look at what influences the nature and function of those faculties.
Above the mind, and what informs and should ultimately regulate it, is the Intelligence.
Below the mind, and what pulls and in most cases dictates to it, are the senses.
In Bhagavad-gita (as illustrated through the analogy of the chariot),
the mind is depicted as the reins connecting the driver to the horses.
Mind is an inherently mechanical instrument. The horses (senses) are
conscious and active, the driver (intelligence) is conscious and
active, but the mind (reins), although the critical, pivotal factor,
are inert and mechanical.
The Vedas describe that as part of the process of universal creation
the senses and their objects arise from each other. Thus there exists
an inherent affinity and attraction between one and the other.
Consequently, unless controlled otherwise, the senses will naturally
pursue their respective objects as much as wild horses generally go
where they will. In an uncontrolled situation the faculties of the mind
(the reins), will tend to be subverted by the urges of the senses (the
horses) and ultimately be made even to serve those urges.
On the other side of the mind however (at the other end of the reins)
stands the intelligence (the proverbial driver). The intelligence, ones
power of discrimination, should ideally have the mind firmly under its
control, thereby directing the workings of the senses, and thus all
actions of life. If the intelligence is strong and fixed on the path of
perfection then the course of one's life may be directed in a
disciplined and productive way to that end.
The key to control of the mind therefore, and thus of life itself, is intelligence.
How Intelligence Works
According to yoga philosophy intelligence is comprised of knowledge,
memory and discrimination. The quality of our discrimination must
necessarily be limited to the quality and quantity of our knowledge as
well as the strength of our ability to retain and recall such
knowledge. Knowledge without memory is as useless as memory without
knowledge, and unless both are present we have no basis upon which to
Discrimination simply means the ability to evaluate things. In other
words, to see things in terms of their proper value, both relative and
absolute. The conclusions we come to in consequence of our evaluations
forms the basis of our intellectual determination
(as opposed to our sensual or mental determination). Ideally we should
act according to the conclusions of our best intelligence, even if such
conclusions should clash (as they usually do) with the thoughts,
feelings and desires of the mind, or the urges of our senses.
The essential aim of yoga, at least initially, is to gain control over
the mind and senses. One logical way of doing this is to strengthen and
train the intelligence. This is done by education, instruction and
practice. Only if the education, instruction and practice are perfect
however can we achieve a perfect result. We are all born into ignorance
and therefore success necessarily begins, as Krishna advises Arjuna, by
seeking out a perfect teacher and accepting his shelter. Under his
direction and through his instruction we can develop good intelligence.
Developing Spiritual Strength
In spite of good intelligence we often find ourselves succumbing to the
temptation of sense objects and the whims of our mind. What to do?
Superior to intelligence is the soul proper. This soul can be percieved
by the faculty of perfect intelligence. Perfection as a concept
reflects the eternal nature of the soul itself. Perfect intelligence
really reflects only the natural desire and determination of the soul.
Therefore real intelligence is actually synonymous with the true
expression and aspiration of the actual self, the soul proper. The
perfection of intelligence necessarily involves therefore the
resurrection of our eternal spiritual nature. Thus we come to the yoga
process. Thus we come to the process of bhakti
. Thus we come to the process of sadhana bhakti
centered on sravanam
, visnoh smaranam
. [hearing, chanting & remembering the Absolute]
By practicing bhakti yoga the innate consciousness and faculties of the
soul are aroused and developed and one becomes firmly established in
ones original identity: jivera swarupa haya krishnera nitya dasa
. [our form of eternal servitorship to the eternal absolute] Being firmly situated in the consciousness of krishnera nitya dasa
a devotee's intelligence becomes informed thereby, steady, and strong.
The mind and senses are consequently brought under control, or rather,
in line with ones eternal spiritual nature. This is the perfection of
yoga, the perfection of existence, the perfection of consciousness, of
desire and activity, and therefore of action.