Saturday, April 2, 2011

Role of the mind in context of thought and consciousness

In a previous post "Thought = Matter x (Consciousness). Part 2: The role of the mind”, I described the mind and our interaction with it. Let’s further explore the role of the mind in the context of thoughts, experiences and consciousness.

When we look at the world outside, we interact with the outer world through the medium of the five senses. There is an inner world as well. We interact with the inner world through the medium of the mind. The mind also is a meeting point for thoughts, impressions and memories from the inner realm and the impressions derived from our interaction with the world outside. The various components of our inner architecture that help create impressions that we see in the mind include thought, stored experiences from the outer world, dreams and memories.

In our ordinary day to day existence, these different components are all mixed up together like a bowl of stew. When you taste stew, there are certain dominant flavors that we can taste, but only the chef has the opportunity to experience the individual taste of everything that goes into making a pot of stew. You may be able to tell some of the ingredients of the stew by tasting it, but you will not be able list all of them by name and quantity. Similarly, you can sample and “taste” your inner self by studying your thoughts, state of mind, mental impressions, type and quality of your dreams and memories. Just like it is hard to name all the ingredients of the stew by tasting it, it is difficult to understand your inner self through what is projected in your mind in the form of thoughts, experiences, impulses and dreams.

Everything that is projected in your mind is associated with your consciousness. Thoughts can make you happy, sad, angry or they may appear in your mind with seemingly no effect on how you feel. This is due to your identification with your thoughts through the medium of your consciousness. A hammer can be used for both making and breaking down furniture. It is the same with the consciousness. You can chose to use your individual consciousness to elevate yourself in your inner universe above thought, mind, memories and dreams or you may chose to keep your consciousness on the plane of the individual components such as the mind, thoughts, stored experiences, dreams and memories. Consciousness can also be directed externally and can be focused on matter to experience the outer world.

What is consciousness? In general terms, consciousness is awareness. As an individual you are aware of yourself, your surroundings, your life etc. This is individual consciousness. Although everyone has this power of individual consciousness, the quality of this awareness or consciousness differs from person to person. Simply being conscious and aware does not make you a well known and respected individual. There has to be something behind this and that is your intellect.

Your intellect interacts with the inner and outer worlds through the lens of consciousness. Using your intelligence, you can turn the lens of your consciousness any direction you want. The lens or consciousness does not change. A lens can be placed in a microscope to look at miniature organisms hidden from the naked eye, or can be used in a satellite to take pictures of the earth from outer space. A trained eye behind the lens will derive a lot more useful information compared to an untrained eye. Let’s say you are looking through a microscope. You may be seeing a moving shape that looks very appealing in color or form. However, if you are a pathologist looking at it, you may exclaim that it is a dangerous bacteria that could potentially kill you. If you apply this example to your inner realm, the “trained eye” is your knowledge and intelligence, the lens of the microscope is your consciousness. This lens needs to be kept clean all the time. If the lens of a camera has dirt on it, whatever picture you take with the camera you will see that dirt on the lens as part of the picture. Cleaning the lens gives you a clearer picture. Your consciousness or the lens through which you look at the world outside needs to be kept clean as well.

You have to be constantly vigilant to make sure that the lens of your consciousness is always clear and free from impurities such as anger, greed, pride, envy, attachment, desire and jealousy. These seven impurities are like the dirt on a camera lens that shows up in every picture. Since you have to use the lens of your consciousness to interact with and be aware of the outer and inner (thoughts, mind) world, if you harbor any of the impurities mentioned above, these will appear as part of your picture of the world where ever you look, just as dirt on a camera lens cannot escape showing up in any picture you capture with the camera. For example, let’s consider attachment. You may have a strong attachment to some object like a car. When you are in physical proximity to you car, you may take great pains to make sure not even a single scratch shows up on the car. Your consciousness is closely associated with your car. When you are away from your car if your consciousness is not focused on your car, you make temporarily not think of it. But, if someone tells you that a car similar to yours was accidentally damaged by another car, without confirming whether it is your car or not, you may start thinking about your car, running through all the possible worst case scenarios related to your car. Your consciousness returns to your car on a mental plane.The lens of your consciousness is clouded by attachment (to your car in this case) and hearing about a car similar to yours being damaged brings your consciousness on a mental plane to your car. Therefore, if the lens of your consciousness is clouded with the seven impurities of anger, greed, pride, envy, attachment, desire and jealousy everything you look at in the world, every thought that comes across your mind will have an imprint of these negative qualities.

Now let’s put together the various components that make up your inner world. It is also important to study how the different parts relate to each other. Think of a movie theatre. As you enter the room where the movie is played, the first thing you notice is darkness before you get accustomed to the dimly lit environment. Entering this room of darkness is like closing your eyes. As you sit in a movie theatre, you see the screen come to life with different images. Similarly, when you close your eyes, like the movies theatre screen, your mind comes to life as you see different images in the form of thoughts, ideas, experiences. Some people have a difficult time closing their eyes even for a few minutes. They find it easier to keep their eyes open than closed. With eyes open, you have some control over where to direct your gaze. With eyes closed, thoughts are strung together like a movie playing on the screen of your mind. This mind movie is often difficult to watch. This difficulty is because we are not able to control what is playing. At times, this mind movie follows you in your sleep in the form of dreams. There are some dreams that are wonderful, others not so wonderful.

In a movie theatre, in order for the movie to play on the screen, you need a few other things. You need a projector with the movie reel and light that beams images from this projector onto the screen. The images shown on the screen are not manufactured in the dark room that you sit in to watch the movie. The images are shot elsewhere, stored in the movie reel. In order to change the movie shown, you don’t change the whole set up. You just change the movie reel in the projector.

In similar fashion, in order for you to see the movie of thoughts, ideas or impressions on the screen of your mind, you need a few other things. The projector is your consciousness. Movie reel is composed of your thoughts, ideas, experiences, memories etc. It is shown to you on the screen of your mind. What you see or feel in your mind is derived from stored impressions. To improve the quality of your thoughts and what you see in your mind, the lens of your consciousness has to be kept clean from the seven impurities of anger, greed, pride, envy, attachment, desire and jealousy. Then no matter where you are, your thoughts, people and the world will always look as wonderful as the sight of a setting sun on the most beautiful beach on the world.