Chitta, Perception of the Self, Sudarśana

Question: My question is regarding the concept of citta, which you present as the “unconscious mind”. On many occasions, I have heard/read that what we may call the “subtle body” is divided into three departments: ahaṅkāra, buddhi and manas; but on other occasions I´ve also heard/read that citta is included as a fourth one. At the same time, citta is sometimes translated as “consciousness”, which I wouldn´t consider part of subtle body, being a product of the jīva itself. And now, reading that citta is considered the unconscious mind, makes much more sense to me that the previous descriptions. So basically I would like to confirm all of this, and also know the following:  if citta is the unconscious mind, then manas would refer to the conscious mind? And in statements such as ceto-darpaṅa-mārjanam this would refer mainly to citta rather than manas (this sounds to me as more logical), or to both of them?

Answer: Citta is part of the subtle body. It is difficult to translate it into English. I translate it as “unconscious mind” for two reasons: 1. What Carl Jung and Freud refer to as the unconscious mind, is the citta to me. 2. What is lying in the citta is not known to us; we are not conscious of it.

But truly speaking, the word citta itself does mean “consciousness” because it is the citta into which the consciousness of ātma first reflects and from there it spreads to other parts.

I usually translate buddhi as the “conscious mind”, because it is buddhi that gives us awareness of what is in our mind, and manas as “semi-conscious” mind.


Perception of the Self through the Mind

Question: The yogic and Vedāntic position is that the pure mind can somehow ‘know’ the self. Extending this notion, it is sometimes described as a pure mirror which cannot ‘grasp’ the self but can somehow reflect it back to consciousness (Gīta states it can be known by the buddhi, which I correlate with Patañjali’s asmita samādhi).  I don’t understand this. Tattva can only perceive things grosser than themselves. The senses can perceive sense objects but not vice versa, the mind can perceive the senses, but not vice versa, etc.  So I don’t see how even the purest state of sattva can reflect something more subtle than itself.  

Answer: My personal understanding is that although the mind has no ability to perceive the self even in its most pure state, when it is imbued with svarūpa-śakti, which is superior to the self, then the self can be perceived through the mind, as Kṛṣṇa says in the Gīta. Therefore, if you notice, in the Gīta always some part of bhakti is included into the description of the processes of karma, yoga, and jñāna. In Srīmad Bhāgavata it is made clearer. When Arjuna asks how to transcend guṇas, Kṛṣṇa clearly recommends bhakti (14.26). He did not say that it can happen merely by citta-vṛtti-nirodha. This principle is strongly propagated by our ācāryas. Therefore, the yogīs, jñānis, and karma yogīs all have to perform some sort of bhakti to achieve success in their goal. This theme runs throughout the Bhāgavata. Stories like that of Saubhari Muni, Durvāsā/Ambarīṣa, and Nṛga are to make this point. It is for this reason that in the Vedānta-sūtra, saṅkhya, yoga, etc. are all refuted.


Sudarśana and Durvāsā Muni

By c. 1825 -, Public Domain,
Sudarśana Cakra

Question: As I understand from the story of Ambarīṣa Mahāraja, since he was a devotee, Sudarśana Cakra was activated regardless of the fact that he himself did not consider the behavior of a brāhmaṇa to be offensive. Then Viṣṇu explained to the brāhmaṇa that even He is without any power to stop the Sudarśana Cakra from killing him. 

Does it mean that the brāhmaṇa was subject to the law of karma, and Viṣṇu’s advice to take shelter of Ambarīṣa Mahāraja was a way to escape his bad destiny caused by his offense? It seems that Sudarśana Cakra, being round (like samsāra), is in support of this explanation. 

Answer: Just because Sudarśana Cakra round does not mean it is like samsāra. The meaning of the story is that an offense to a devotee cannot be mitigated by anyone else, including Viṣṇu. One needs to pacify the very devotee one has offended in order to get rid of the offense. Sudarśana Cakra does not represent the law of karma. It brings an end to one’s karma.

Question: If I understand correctly, Sudarśana Cakra was not sent by Viṣṇu Himself and was out of His direct control. Is Sudarśana Cakra a personal servant of Viṣṇu or is it something else?

Answer: Sudarśana Cakra is a devotee of Viṣṇu and His personal associate. Viṣṇu had deployed the Cakra for protecting Ambarīṣa.

2 thoughts on “Chitta, Perception of the Self, Sudarśana”

  1. Pranams to Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji. Thank you for sharing wonderful articles, dear devotees. I’m currently reading Srila Jiva Goswami’s “Sri Tattva Sandarbha”. It’s a superb book.This knowledge is very much needed for all the Vaishnavas. I wish that Babaji will continue to translate many more works.

    I feel “Patanjali Yoga Sutras” with commentaries of bonafide Vaishnavas can also be very beneficial in the present age- where everyone including the aspiring Vaishnavas are so susceptible to misidentify with their past samskaras, thoughts, mind-body complex. Unfortunately, most translations of Patanjali Yoga Sutras available in the market are from the Mayavadis or academic scholars. Hopefully someday, Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji can translate “Patanjali Yoga Sutra” too. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you for your comment. We already have a Vaishnava translation. Prof. Edwin Bryant (Advaita Prabhu Das) translated the Yoga Sutras with the traditional commentaries, which he further elaborates upon. Babaji also uses his work for his seminars.

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