God, World and Soul by Swami Krishnananda

Baba Times Digest© | 4 March 2014 13:53 EST | New York Edition

God, World and Soul

Divine Life Society Publication: In The Light of Wisdomby Swami Krishnananda

“The control of the vrittis of the mind is yoga.” - Patanjali

The Twofold Process of Perception

There is a twofold process involved in perception—the mental and the spiritual. The mind and consciousness (which should not be confused with each other), function simultaneously in the process of perception. Quick and rapid as the photographic film is, in receiving the impressions from outside, quicker and more rapid still is the mind in its functions. Faster than light and faster than electricity can the mind travel. We cannot catch up with the speed of the mind, and so we do not know that there is motion at all. It is similar to a motion picture in which the individual pictures move so rapidly that the human eye sees the scene as being in motion. This rapid movement of the mind towards the object is for a purpose. The mind pervades the form of the object by a movement.

How the mind travels is a very interesting subject, and there has been a lot of controversy as to the constitution and function of the mind. Many think that the mind is within the body and cannot go outside. If everything is within us, and nothing is outside us, how are we to come in contact with things outside? This led people to the conclusion that the mind can function within the body and yet extend its operations outside the body. Just as a lamp may be located in a particular spot but it can shed its light around a larger area, the mind does not actually give up its location in the body but it can stretch its arms outside to a certain extent.

What enables the mind to perceive an object is not merely the physical proximity of the object, but also the interest that the mind has in the object. We may be sitting in a railway car with many people, and yet although they are so near, we may not even be fully aware of them, because we are not interested in them. Physical proximity may be necessary, but more important is mental interest, because attention follows interest. Where there is no interest, there is also no attention. This also explains memory; we cannot remember a thing in which we are not interested. Interest, physical proximity, the phenomenon of physical light, and a healthy constitution of the sense organs—all these factors must come together in the process of the perception of an object.

The Vrittis

But there is a more essential element than even these, namely, consciousness. The two features of perception are—knowledge and knowledge of a form. A mountain in front of us, for example, is a specific type of knowledge that we have. It is called determinate perception, specifically related to a particular object or a group of objects. This limitation of perception to a particular object is the work of the mind, but the illumination behind it is the work of consciousness. So, there is a twofold feature of perception—the form and the consciousness of form.

Specification of an object, called a vritti and the awareness of the specification is the twofold feature of a perception of any kind. The mind has a vritti of a mountain, a vritti of a person and a vritti of this or that. A vritti is nothing but a mould into which the mind casts itself with reference to an object in which it has interest and which it cognizes.

Mind can go on cognizing many things, because there are many forms in the world. Therefore there can be many vrittis, and these many vrittis get piled up in the lower layers of the mind. Just as honeybees have two stomachs, one for actual digestion and the other merely to store, the mind seems to have at least three ‘stomachs’. One is for receiving, one for storing and another for digesting, one may say. This is what the psychologists call the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels. The mind rarely digests anything—it only stores.

The situation is comparable to a retail shop and a wholesale shop. The subconscious is the retail shop, and the unconscious is the wholesale shop. Many things are there deep in this unconscious, but a little of it is stored for daily purposes in the subconscious, and the things immediately needed are kept just in front. That is the conscious level. The shopkeeper also has many things inside, but one cannot see them. These are the stored-up vrittis of the mind. Our personality is made up of nothing but vrittis.

These vrittis are illumined by the consciousness inside. Life is given to the vrittis by consciousness, just as seeds germinate in the earth when there is rainfall, proper temperature, manure, etc. Vrittis activate themselves when consciousness enlivens them; otherwise they lie buried like dead seeds. In the act of perception, a vritti, or a form of the mind, functions in respect of an object and the consciousness underlying it. This consciousness in relation to the perception of an object may be said to be the adhidaiva of that object, while the object is the adhibhuta. This consciousness immanent in the vritti, which is necessary for the perception of the object, may be said to be the adhidaiva of that object. It is the presiding deity in oneself, without which one cannot know the object. The location of this consciousness in the perceiving subject is the adhyatma.

The adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva are interrelated, like the three angles of a triangle connected by three sides. One is not independent from the other.

When this psychological fact is extended to the universe as a whole it becomes God, world and soul. Adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva are nothing but the seeds of the development of thought in the concept of soul, world and God—individual, universe and Creator. There is a consciousness underlying both the seer and the seen, on account of which there is perception of an object. We have to be aware of ourselves, and we have to be aware of the object. The link between these two is consciousness, which should transcend the subject and the object. It has to be simultaneously present in the seer, the seen object and the seeing process as well; otherwise there would be no knowledge of objects at all. If we are bereft of consciousness, there is no perception. If there is no connection of consciousness with the object, there is no perception, and unless there is a movement of consciousness through a vritti towards an object, there is no perception.

We may also ask whether there is really a movement of consciousness towards the object. Movement is another name for a process. Does consciousness also undergo a process or is it a part of the process? It cannot be, because a process can only be known by a processless being. If consciousness is a process, there should be another processless consciousness behind it. The process is not of consciousness—it is rather of the vritti. Vritti is a process, but not consciousness itself. The consciousness that is behind the seer, the seen and the process of seeing is ‘being’ rather than a process. It is existence as such. Adhidaiva, by which we may understand the presiding consciousness above the tripod of seer, seeing and seen, is not subject to change as the phenomenon of the object or the process of perception are. This presiding deity of the subject-object relationship is called adhidaiva.

Excerpts from:

God, World and Soul - In The Light of Wisdomby Swami Krishnananda

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