The Inner Psychic Functions
Four constant companions that are necessary to investigate and guide our path of development will now be introduced: the ANTAHKARANAS. They are also known as the “inner senses” - ANTARA INDRIYAS. They enable and guide our psychic and mental processes, and through them we can feel, think, understand and differentiate.
The Antahkaranas consist of:
- MANAS - Mind
- BUDDHI - Intellect
- CHITTA - Consciousness
- AHAMKĀRA - Ego
MANAS, mind, is the realm of desires, feelings and thoughts. It is the connecting link between subconscious and conscious. It files away the impressions and perceptions from the external world in the “storehouse of memories” and brings them out again for the appropriate reason.
The mind does not judge or make a choice. It indiscriminately records all impressions just like a video camera or a tape recorder. BUDDHI (intellect) carries out the assessment and filtering of what reaches consciousness and what goes back down into the subconscious. On the basis of the impulse received from the intellect, the appropriate action is carried out by the mind.
The mind is constantly active in the waking state, and also when dreaming. We cannot stop the mind, but we are capable of guiding it. As we purify the mind by consciously thinking positively and repeating Mantra, therefore ridding it of baser tendencies, the divine Self can then radiate through it.
BUDDHI, the intellect , processes, co-ordinates and filters the sensory impressions. It decides which of them we accept and pursue further. Buddhi has two aspects, one egoistic and one selfless. The egoistic part is controlled by the ego and our weaknesses, whereas the selfless and non-personal principle judges and decides on the basis of ethical maxims – this is known as VIVEKA. Viveka is like the “butter” which is extracted from the “cream” of Buddhi. Through Viveka we are able to differentiate between truth and untruth, right and wrong, good and bad. Viveka leads us to the knowledge that the material reality is relative, and guides our endeavours towards the Absolute, the Eternal.
Our intellect develops in two different ways. Firstly, through everything we have learnt from childhood up to the present time. This logical knowledge helps us to cope with the tasks of daily life. And, secondly, it is formed through analysis, reflection, concentration (DHĀRANĀ) and meditation (DHYĀNA). Wisdom and discrimination (VIVEKA) ultimately develop from these.
In relation to this, an interesting question is often asked: “Who or what causes our mental condition?” Is it produced by the intellect or, conversely, is our way of thinking influenced by our inner state?
The first is correct. The intellect creates our mental condition. But occasionally a situation arises that it is unable to master. Then we lose control of our thoughts and emotions, as for example in a fit of rage. How often have we said or done something when we were unable to control our emotions which we greatly regretted later on! That is why the cultivation of Viveka is so tremendously important, not only for our worldly existence but also for our spiritual life.
CHITTA, consciousness, forms the basis of our perceptions and knowledge. Like Buddhi it is shaped by the experiences of life; previous experiences, upbringing, culture and education mould the way in which we perceive, judge and value. Chitta determines the basic tendencies and colouring of our psyche.
AHAMKĀRA, the ego, literally means “I am the doer”. All our feelings, perceptions, ideas and desires are inextricably linked to Ahamkāra. The ego is that psychic authority that creates the illusion that we are autonomous to all the other independently existing individuals. From that we naturally derive the idea that the external world that confronts us is also an independent, separate reality. However, Vedānta philosophy, which is also the philosophy of Yoga, teaches us to see the unity – God – behind the variety of appearances.
Only when we accept this reality, not just rationally but realise it within our consciousness, are we able to overcome the barrier of the ego and find unity in the Ātmā. The following Mantra, in which we place all our actions into God’s hands, helps us to attain this way of thinking:
NĀHAM KARTĀ PRABHU DĪP KARTĀ
MAHĀPRABHU DĪP KARTĀ HI KEVALAM
I am not the doer. It is God who does through me. God alone is the doer.