Radio Interview on the Vedic View of the Mind

Aneesha Holaday
Aneesha Holaday

The following is a Radio Interview with Babaji by Aneesha Holaday for Voice America

Aneesha Holaday (Host): The chitta, or subconscious mind is our deep-seated memory and is where all our life’s impressions are stored. Chitta is the unconscious mind and can be compared to the hard-disk of a computer. We are unaware of it, constantly taking in and storing our life experiences, deep seated memories, emotions, habits, attachments and impressions which are all stored in the unconscious mind. In some cases they can be reached by hypnosis and drugs, like LSD, and reach the chitta. So people often believe that they are having a spiritual experience but they are only going to the level of the mind. Chitta is the bridge between the mind and the soul, and it is through the subconscious mind that we connect to cosmic consciousness and our inner self. The other aspect of the mind is the buddhi, or the discriminating aspect of our mind, this is our intelligence and can be compared to the processor of a computer. It is the rational part of the mind which allows us to judge, doubt and process information before it is stored in the memory. It allows us to understand and discriminate between truth and falsehood, good and bad, and it gives us values and principles and allows us to be objective in our judgement. The discriminating mind acts as a filter of information coming in to the mind and is the basis of conscience. If the discriminating mind is not developed, as in the case of in babies and young children, the subconscious mind is not protected, leaving it wide open to impressions or scars, which is why the early days especially are so important to bringing up a child. Everything is recorded in the subconsciousness even before birth, which is why pregnant women, babies and young children have to be protected from trauma. Ancient civilisations realised this, and thus in tribal communities the main role of the men is to protect the women and children. Chitta is very important to sanity and functions properly in the sattvic state of mind, but in rajas and tamas states, its functions are disturbed. Dr Satyanarayana, I wonder if you would give us a Vedic explanation of the mind.

Babaji: The basic view of the Vedas concerning the mind is that it is like a material machine. Mind is not spirit as some people think, although it is conscious, but that consciousness is not its inherent characteristic. The Vedas very clearly describe that as human beings, we have three components. We have the physical body – hands, legs, eyes, which we can perceive. Beyond that, there is a psychic body, which includes the mind with the intellect, ego and the chitta, which can be translated as the unconscious mind. Beyond, there is the atma, the true source of consciousness. The psychic body and the gross physical body are made up of matter, which is inert and devoid of consciousness – it has no inherent awareness. Atma is conscious by nature and spreads its consciousness into both, the psychic and the gross body. Just as you have a car, and that car has many parts within it, but these parts only function when there is an electric current flowing through them.

Aneesha: So it’s like a battery then, in some sense…

Babaji: It’s like a battery, but a battery that is inexhaustible. A battery which never comes to an end. So atma is the source of consciousness and this consciousness is its intrinsic property – being intrinsic property, it can never be removed from it. This consciousness then spreads into the psychic body, including the mind, and as a result the mind becomes conscious, the intelligence becomes conscious, ego becomes conscious and they start to function and do their respective work. Just as the engine of the car starts functioning when you turn it on by virtue of the key.

Aneesha: So is this consciousness what you would call eternal?

Babaji: This consciousness is eternal and therefore we have the theory of reincarnation – the process by which the atma gives up this body at death and takes another body through the conception of a mother and father, and during which the new body then develops around the atma, in the womb. In this process, when the atma goes from one body to another, it is only the gross body which is left behind, the psychic body goes along with the atma. This is how karma continues from one life to another. The psychic body has the imprints from the previous life. These impressions, which are called samskaras, are stored within the unconscious mind, which is also part of the psychic body. But we are normally not aware of them, just as you have a computer and there are many programs on the hard-disk, but you are not aware of them unless they are displayed on the screen. So the chitta is like the hard-disk.

Aneesha: So it has a lot of things in it that we are not aware of?

Babaji: It’s quite a big hard-disk with an almost unlimited capacity. Your memories from hundreds and hundreds of previous lifetimes are stored within. Therefore it is feasible for one to actually go back hundreds of lifetimes. In India there have been yogis who have remembered many of their past lives. Lord Buddha is believed to have remembered his last one hundred lives. They are collected in a very popular book book called Jataka stories. He even speaks of previous lives, which were not human. He was also an animal. In one lifestyle he tells that he was an elephant and at one point there was a forest fire, during which a rabbit came and took shelter under him. As a consequence, he didn’t want to move. That is how he died, to protect the rabbit.

The point I am making with this story is that in the unconscious mind, a lot of our memories are stored from past lives and also from this life, and that is how we are able to remember. So all the remembrance flows from the unconscious mind, and when those impressions can be moved on to the mind, then we remember. We are only conscious of those things that flash into our mind, which is like the screen of a computer. The chitta, or unconscious mind, is like the hard-disk. So whatever comes into the mind, that is all you know at that point, and what doesn’t come into the mind is what you say you have forgotten. At a particular point in time you can only be aware of one thing, but the mind works very fast, it can keep on pulling things from your chitta and it’s very busy, a lot of thoughts keep coming, one after another, into the mind.

Aneesha: And it’s also processing what’s coming in through the senses …

Babaji: Yes, it is a two way path. There are things coming into the mind from inside channels and from outside channels also. So whatever comes into the mind from outside gets filtered and stored in the unconscious mind. It’s not stored haphazardly but grouped in different files. We have sound files, taste files, tactile files, and visual files of colors and forms. We have five senses; taste, touch, smell, seeing, and hearing – so there are files relating to each one of them. All the sensations which come to us go through the mind and get stored in their respective area. So whenever we see anything, we actually recognize it on the basis of past experience. When I see a book lying on the table, I recognise it as a book because I have already seen a book in the past, and that experience was stored. When a sensation comes from outside, that sensation is just a pure message, it doesn’t say anything about what it is. So when I first see it, I only have the sensation that there is something. This is indeterminate knowledge. And then our intellect takes this indeterminate knowledge and goes and searches for matching content in the unconscious mind, like a computer does when you do a word search. In the same way, the intellect takes the stimulus of indeterminate knowledge, searches, and then comes back and tells the mind that this is a book. So you see it as a book, but sometimes you may also mistake it for a resembling object. A rope can be mistaken for a snake when there is not sufficient light in the evening. The sensation comes to the intellect, it searches, and mistakenly matches it with a snake. Then you think there is a snake, when actually it’s just a rope.

Aneesha: Is that the same as seeing a mirage? It looks like water but you are not really sure …

Babaji: Yes, it’s not real water, but because the heat rays are reflected, it gives an impression to the mind just like that of water. Therefore our senses can sometimes be mistaken.

Aneesha: Could you talk a little bit about the discriminating mind, or the buddhi?

Babaji: Buddhi, discriminatory intelligence, does the function of making decisions, which means it needs to discriminate between what is beneficial and what is not. Whenever a stimulus comes to the mind, the mind cannot make a decision, the decision is made by the buddhi. So buddhi is that which tells me what is actually beneficial for me and what is not. If we do not use our buddhi and simply follow our mind, then the mind will always fall for pleasure. If anything is painful or unpleasant, then the mind does not want it. So if I like sweets, I will want to eat them, but if I happen to be a diabetic patient, then only my buddhi will tell me not to eat sweets because they are not good for me. The mind will just say, “eat!” So the mind cannot discriminate, it only follows the principle of like and dislike, pleasure and pain. That is its criteria. Buddhi sees the effect. You may have to take some herb with a bitter taste, so the mind will say, “Don’t eat it, eat chocolate instead.” The intelligence will say, “Don’t eat the chocolate because you have diabetes and it’s not good for you, you should take this herb which is good for you.’

Aneesha: Is that the same case in terms of caution, say if you are approaching a dark street and you have the feeling that it might be dangerous. Is that the buddhi working?

Babaji: Yes, the buddhi warns you.

Host: So it’s a very important part of the mind to keep healthy and to keep working properly.

Babaji: Yes, if the buddhi is not working, then you will have bad health.

Aneesha: How do we keep it working properly? It is related to sleep isn’t it?

Babaji: It is related with sleep, it is related with doubts, and it is related with certain decisions. To keep it working, you have to keep up your awareness. If you are not aware, which is the tendency usually – not to be aware of our actions, our thoughts, or our emotions, and just follow whatever is happening – that means that the buddhi is sleeping. So most of the time people don’t use their buddhi and they make mistakes. This is called prajna aparadha in Ayurveda, which means misuse of intelligence, or offending the intelligence.

Aneesha: I remember that you said the buddhi is not truly developed in very young children, so they don’t have that protection/filter of information going into the subconscious.

Babaji: Yes, when a child is born, it doesn’t have a developed faculty of discrimination, which also means that any experiences are stored, indiscriminately. If the buddhi is working, then we can store impressions or experiences in a certain manner, avoiding certain emotions along with it, so that it will not influence us.

Buddhi is like a door keeper, it can say, “Ok, this thing I don’t want to keep.” So if you have a bad experience, you can choose to store it, and then that bad experience will keep on troubling you later on. The other option is not to store the emotion along with the experience. So then it won’t bother you. Sometimes our life is guided by traumatic experiences which we have had in our childhood, and unless we actually digest them properly, using our buddhi, then they keep on troubling us. So the buddhi is also acting like a digestive fire. If food is not digested properly, it becomes a toxin in your body, usually moving into the joins, and then your joints start to cause you pain. You get arthritis, which comes from of undigested food getting stuck in the joints.

So similarly, the experiences we are getting from the outside are also like a food. In Sanskrit, the word for food is ahara, which literally means anything that comes inside me, whether it comes through the mouth or the nose, eyes, ears, or skin – it is all food, so it all must be digested. The food that goes into the stomach must be digested by the digestive fire, and the food that goes into the mind through the senses is digested by the intelligence. If the buddhi or intellect is not very strong or not developed, then these things don’t get digested. This means you are unable to comprehend them properly and you store them as they come. As a result, these experiences keep on troubling you, becoming like toxins or scars. This is how you develop phobias. You may become claustrophobic because you had some experience in your childhood, perhaps your parents punished you and put you inside a closet and you got scared by that and felt suffocated. So when you grow up, you still carry these emotions. When you are in a closed space, then these experiences are triggered because your intelligence did not digest them properly the first time. So the same emotion becomes manifest and you become like a child. You may be grown up, but your behaviour is just like a two year or four year old child.

Aneesha: Do you get those kinds of experiences from previous lives also?

Babaji: It is possible from a previous life if it was a very strong experience, otherwise usually they are from the childhood. So that is why it is important to have a very nice, protected childhood. If you don’t receive love in childhood, then everything is perceived as a phobia, and you don’t develop a proper sense of identity. You have an identity crisis. And this is where the ego comes into the picture. The ego is very important because it gives me a sense of identity, a sense of my being as a person, what I am. So if I have not got love, and I have not had a good relationship with my parents in my childhood, then I don’t have a strong identity.

Aneesha: Is that the same as self-esteem?

Babaji: Self-esteem is related to that, yes. So when I don’t have that strong sense of identity, then I am lost in my life, then I imitate others. Therefore there is a big tendency to be a fan of somebody. Celebrities, film actors, and sports players – people follow them because they don’t have their own identity, so they identify with those people.


2 thoughts on “Radio Interview on the Vedic View of the Mind”

  1. Respected Babaji

    Thank you for your illuminating responses, they helped me understand why some spiritual traditions focus exclusively on “mindfulness” or “awareness”. It also shed light on the “celebrity culture” of the modern world, individuals are infatuated with chasing after personalities and all that is connected to their childhood. Due to having parents that were too busy pursuing economic success, children are growing up emotionally stunted and thus feel the need to obsess with celebrities to have some sense of identity.

    I have 2 questions:

    – What can an individual do to strengthen his intelligence?
    – Rupa Goswami gave the two fundamental principles of bhakti as “never forget Krsna and always remember Him”. So I understand that spiritual life begins with intelligence. So how does the intelligence having recognized that everything has its source in the para brahman appropriately digest an experience for the mind?

    Thank you.

  2. To answer your first question, an individual should practice being mindfulness of his/her actions. This is important. Secondly, one should not neglect one’s conscience. If one has a feeling that something is wrong, then one should not act on that. Satsanga is a very important means to develop intelligence. By satsanga I mean hearing from learned and wise people.

    The answer to the second question is that once you understand that everything is rooted in para brahman, you give up your attachments. Then you can take things as they come. You become situated in an equanimous state, samataa. This way you can digest any experience. This what Shri Krishna advises in BG 2.38 and 2.48

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