The Nature of the Mind

From Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Volume II

In order to discuss this subject fully, I would have to read you the whole of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is better if you study the commentary I have written on it – Four Chapters on Freedom.

The mind is an evolving matter and according to yoga, it has five stages. The unevolved mind is the first stage, the dissipating mind is the second, the oscillating mind is the third, the one-pointed mind is the fourth and the controlled mind is the fifth. Just as childhood, youth, middle age, and old age indicate the growth of the body, similarly, these five stages indicate the growth of the mind.

When the mind is under the sway of tamas, it is very dull and inert. When it is under rajas, it is oscillating, and when it is under both tamas and rajas, it is dissipated. On the other hand, when the mind is influenced by sattwa, it is completely controlled and when it is under the sway of rajas and sattwa, it is one-pointed. In other words, the concentrated mind is an effect of rajas and sattwa, the controlled mind is an effect of sattwa, the oscillating mind is an effect of sattwa and rajas, the dissipating mind is an effect of tamas and rajas, and the dull mind is an effect of tamas.

The three gunas – tamas, rajas and sattwa, belong to what we call moola prakriti, the primal nature. We are not talking about nature in manifestation, but nature in its primordial state. The mind is controlled by the natural processes; it is not independent of nature. Therefore, the three gunas, which are stages of prakriti, control the influxes of the mind. From time to time the mind is subject to the interplay of the three gunas. When the nature is preponderant with rajas, there is creation and evolution. When there is tamas in nature, everything is static; there is no creation because creativity is an unmanifest condition.

The whole creation, the universe, is eternal, but at the same time thousands of creations, thousands of universes are being created and destroyed, and at the same time, there are millions of universes yet to be born. They are in the tamasic state. So, it is said, “There was no light, there was nothing; everything was static.” That is called the tamasic state of the universe or of nature. From tamas, rajas evolves and when there is rajas there is creation and activity and there is permutation and combination. You can see it in every sphere; it is in the sphere of nature and the sphere of mind. Then it evolves to sattwa, the harmonious state of balance between tamas and rajas.

Now, the individual mind is subject to this law and this again can be related to kundalini. When kundalini is in mooladhara chakra, it is enwrapped in tamas, because it is not manifesting. When it begins to manifest, it will be in rajo guna, and when it reaches sahasrara chakra, the highest level of evolution, that is sattwa.

Throughout the original books on tantra and kundalini, one thing has been said, “The divinity is enwrapped in tamo guna; the light is enveloped by darkness.” It is said in so many different ways – kundalini is sleeping, it is enwrapped by darkness, it is having the garment of tamo guna. What this means is that the higher intelligence or the great shakti in man is in unmanifest state; it is at the level of tamo guna. Tamo guna is not a bad thing. ‘Tama’ is a Sanskrit word which means darkness. What exactly does darkness mean? Darkness is where the objects cannot be distinguished. In absolute darkness there may be a table and a chair, a man and a woman and so many other things, but nothing can be distinguished. So tamo guna is a state where distinction cannot be made because there is no light and there is no manifestation.

Now, kundalini is in an unmanifest state. And what is kundalini? It is the point of evolution where the animal evolution has stopped. From where the animal evolution stops the evolution of kundalini takes place. There are chakras below mooladhara chakra and above sahasrara chakra. The chakras below mooladhara chakra belong to the animal incarnations. Let us not use the word animal, because when we hear that word, we think of four feet. We will call the chakras below mooladhara the non-mental chakras. Those chakras which are above sahasrara are the transcendental chakras.

When kundalini becomes free from the influence of tamas, it becomes involved with rajas. This engagement with rajas is called ascension, as at this stage, the kundalini makes its headway through sushumna to ajna chakra and finally to sahasrara. Mental evolution ends and begins at mooladhara chakra. You see, mental evolution is the last chapter of animal existence. When there is absolute evolution of the human mind, you have completed your animal cycle, then the human cycle begins with the awakening of a new mind whose seat is in mooladhara chakra.

Now, kundalini can be called the super mind, or you can say it is the human mind. The mind we have at present is actually not the human mind; perhaps it is the culminating point of the animal mind. The human mind is associated with spiritual consciousness. Let me illustrate this simply. If you want to travel by cart, you can yoke a horse, a bull, a donkey or a husky dog to the cart. Or you can connect a steam engine, a Diesel engine or a nuclear power engine to the cart. Just as the cart can be driven by different forms of energy, in the same way, man can travel through life with the animal mind, the super mind or with no mind.

When you drive this body with no mind, you are a junior god, an avatar or a son of God. When you drive this body with a super mind, you are a saint, an evolved human being or a jivanmukta. Such people are actually using the human mind. And when you drive this body with the lower mind, then you are a happy man, an unhappy man, a lucky man, an unlucky man, and sometimes a hopeless man. Because the mind which is driving this body has limited power, it has to depend on the five senses, and they are not absolute reliable. Sometimes they cooperate and sometimes they don’t.

So, now I hope you have a very clear understanding of the three stages of mind – the lower mind, the higher mind and the state of mindlessness.

September 1980, Chamarande, France