Mind vs Manas

What’s in a name, you say?

Quite a lot, as it turns out…what English literature refers to simply as the “mind” is a much more nuanced concept as per yogic teachings. Directly translated, “mind” correlates with a Sanskrit term ‘manas’ (मनस्, pronounced: Muh-nas) but if truly understood – it encompasses three MORE terms as well!

Join me on this journey of wits and terms as I dissect the concept of “mind” for yogic nuance; but before we begin, settle down in a comfortable reading posture and grab a glass of water to keep you good company…

Per yogic philosophy, the English term “mind” is broken down into 4 categories – ‘Manas’, ‘Buddhi’, ‘Chitta’ and ‘Ahankar’. Let us examine these categories in pairs below:

While ‘Ahankar’ correlates with a sense of “I”-ness (or the Jungian concept of ego), our ‘Chitta’ is the more expansive, non-individual consciousness within us. It is simply the bridge that connects us to our pure existence, it is neither the traveller (thought) nor the destination (mental impression).

Those of us familiar with Sage Patanjali’s yoga sutra: “Yogashcha chitta-vritti-nirodha” (योगश्चित्त वृत्ति निरोध:) would recall a deeper meaning of the same concept ;; even today, both ‘Ahankar’ and ‘Chitta’ remain relevant terms in varied discussions – from modern psychology (‘Ahankar’ vs theories on id/ego/superego) to classical languages and theology (‘Chitta’ in Upanishads vs ‘citta’ in Buddhist liturgy).

Similarly – in modern society, what you and I perceive as “intelligent” (or rational) behaviour is what yogis believed to be the ‘Buddhi’ in action i.e. ‘Buddhi’ is said to be our ability to mentally assess, discriminate and distinguish thoughts and things. For example, deciding if our action is beneficial or harmful to those around us employs our discriminatory faculty (our ‘Buddhi’).

In contrast, our ‘Manas’ is a combination of memory and intellect. It is our ability to remember not just facts (in the mind), but also emotions and sensations (in the body). In this sense, the yogic definition of ‘Manas’ stretches beyond just the mind’s ability to remember or store factual memories ;; it also encourages us to tap into the unspoken but equally powerful memories stored within the body and our “living intelligence”.

A practical way to embrace this broader understanding of ‘Manas’ is to integrate it with your yogasana or postural practice as follows:

  1. observe the ‘mental chatter’ through active breathing (ask yourself:”what memories or thoughts are coming up now?” and resist the urge to label the thoughts immediately)
  2. notice the sensations across the body while holding the pose (tune into the sensations across your limbs, chest and even subtler body parts like fingertips and toes)
  3. journal or record your findings later to unlock the connection with your ‘Manas’

As you continue your yoga journey, I hope this idea serves as a useful bridge to bring both ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ in harmony. If you’re curious about further readings or references, please leave your comments below 🙂 

with love and gratitude,

Damini Yogini

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