As I had mentioned in my last blog: we should thank God for the GPS in our lives. Our mental GPS, the voice from inside called our buddhi—unless our habits overwhelm it so that it can’t be heard—will never let us down. It will guide us always to our ultimate goal, union with the Divine Source of our Life.
But the buddhi is only one part of our mind. It is important to know about the rest of our mind—those parts of our mind that develop habits that drown our buddhi or at least create a lot of static. They can make it difficult to remain on our spiritual journey. Two of those parts are the manas (the searching and desiring mind) and the chitta (our unconscious mind).
The manas is that part of our mind that is always interacting with the outside world. It either takes in information from the external world through our cognitive senses (in yoga, called the jnanendriyas) or it expresses itself on the external world with our active senses (called the karmendriyas) . The manas is always longing to find out new facts by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. It uses these senses to gather information so that the mind can act with confidence and pride in the external world. The manas wants to be in charge of this external world by expressing its prowess over it through reproducing, eliminating, grasping, walking, and speaking.
All of these sensations and actions make impressions on the chitta, the unconscious part of our mind. The chitta, defined as the unconscious mind in yoga, is concerned about storing up all the experiences that we have and all the actions that we do in our life. The chitta is the storehouse of our mind. It pushes the manas to activate the jnanendriyas and the karmendriyas. Everything that we have ever experienced through the manas is present in our unconscious, just waiting to be remembered and used again.
These two parts of our mind, along with the final part (our ego), are able to derail our GPS. Together, they are able to pull our focus outside of ourselves so much that we are completely out of touch with our internal guide, the buddhi. We begin to ignore its promptings, “you need to change your way;” “you need to recalculate your direction in life.” Eventually, things get so out of order that a major retreat is needed.
Like a friend of mine recently told me, “I have to go to the mental hospital so that I can get past all this depression in my life.” His manas needed to get away from the triggers of anger, fear, frustrations and uncertainties in his life. His manas needed to see other people rather than the ones at whom he had been looking. His manas needed to hear different words from the people around him. His manas needed to taste different foods, smell different fragrances, and touch different people and things. He needed to begin to store these new sensations in his chitta, so that the chitta could then push him to act in different ways, ways that were more in tune with his buddhi—the source of joy and happiness.
If he hadn’t responded to the deep pain and demanding screams of the buddhi, he would have been put in a mental institution for his depression. The Buddhi, even though it gets shut out, never quits, even when we hit the bottom. This is what happened for my brother when he almost died from the overuse of alcohol and its poisonous effects. We had to hospitalize him and get him back onto his true journey.
Meditation, mini-retreats or peaceful vacations are ways for the manas and the chitta to move away from the information that triggers our fear, anger, frustrations and self-hatred. These practices rescue us from hitting the bottom, so that we can again hear the loving, compassionate voice of our buddhi, the voice of God within us.