A discussion on ‘mind’ – Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam

  The Structure and Function of Mind-An ancient Indian insight

Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam         17th March 2009

Human consciousness creates a conscious relationship between body functions and mental functions and also can dissolve such a relationship. When such a relationship is dissolved the right identification of “I” happens. The real identification of ‘I” provides the natural or normal or ground state of mind.

     The natural or normal state of human mind is peace; bliss; silence. Mental functions form a veil over this natural state and superimpose themselves on this pure consciousness as awareness, and pure consciousness transforms into simultaneous existence of consciousness and awareness. The awareness also creates self-consciousness in the individual and then the individual relates oneself to the body, gender, social status, nationality, mental traits etc., and “falsely” identifies with all of them because of the self-focus of its mind.

     Human consciousness is the source, guide and energy-provider for the human mind and its activities. The human mind possesses three kinds of awareness simultaneously. They are: (i) unoccupied awareness or pure consciousness (ii) awareness of within the body and (iii) awareness of without the body (the last two together are known as occupied awareness).

    The human mind tunes itself to without the body through the sense organs and acts, reacts or interacts through action organs for cognitions and perceptions created by external stimuli from the physical world outside the body. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, stimulated by light, sound, chemical, mechanical and thermal forms of energy respectively, are sense organs. Movements related to hands, legs, vocal chords, reproductive organ and bowels are action organs. Information from the external physical world is stored as an inner mental world consisting of cognitions, perceptions and cognition-created or -related experiences. The entire external physical world is a projection of individual’s mind, with associated limitations.  Individuals deal with these mental projections sometimes in a partisan way depending on that individual’s ability to know, perceive, reason, feel, intuit, understand and experience the reality.

    The human mind tunes itself to within the body – the senses aches, pains and inner mental world. It also carries out activities of the intellect. The inner mental world is made up of information known, sensed by the sense organs and perceptions and experiences created by such cognitions and knowledge in the form of external stimuli. These are retrieved by the mind to create moods, intuitions in the form of verb, meaning, sense, understanding, insight, experience and urges.  These in turn become thoughts, perceptions and feelings in the form of sentences. The information about an individual (self-consciousness with an egoistic mind); the languages learnt together with the meanings, senses of sounds (words) and utterances; the forms of each letter and the objects of the external physical world as words, sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches and the perceptions and insight; and understanding gained by the contemplation of perceptions – all of these form the inner mental world. All this knowledge acquired through the sense organs working in tandem with mind can be called biophysical.

    Instincts, urges and similar impulses created and guided by hormones and gland secretions-which also constitute the knowledge possessed by the individual organism and can be termed biochemical – also inspire and stimulate the mind to act, react and interact. The human mind is also capable of being in a state where and when all mental functions and cognitions cease to be or the mind transcends ongoing mental functions and the effects of stimuli from the external physical world and will be a mere witness to them as an uninvolved and unaffected spectator or seer. This state is the original state of the human mind similar to zero in the number system and vacuum in the physical sciences. At that point the state of mind is pure consciousness or unoccupied awareness and exists as peace, bliss and silence. Thus the human mind is sourced from human consciousness both materially, energy-wise and functionally. Human consciousness is always present. The human mind rises and sets depending on the phase or conscious state. 

 Conscious states or phases of the mind in terms of virtual mental energy-reflection series and its transformation:

     Wakeful/Awakened, Dream (Swapna), Deep Sleep (Sushupti) and Wakeful Sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) – are different conscious states of mind creating different phases of mind. They are structure and phases of mental Time-Space and time created by the presence of mental energy source and transformations associated with virtual mental energy reflection. The mind functions or ceases to function in these states.

  • (i) Jagrat Sushupti (wakeful sleep):

 A series of ‘I -I’ pulses’ issue   out and virtual energy creation and transformation, when necessary, takes place. The mind is active if willed. The sense and action organs are alert and ready to function. Through meditation one reaches this state: the state of unoccupied awareness, purport silence, bliss, peace, pure consciousness divine consciousness and the real ‘I’ state. This is the  ormal, original, natural or ground state of mind. State of being of mind

  • (ii) Sushupti (deep sleep):

A series of ‘I-I’ pulses’ issue out and mind is in a state of absorprtion. No transformation of virtual metal energy reflection takes place. Sense and action organs are not in a functional state.  There is no awareness of within or without the bodycognitions or remembrances-cognitions related or created experiences or understanding or insight or intuition or urge. State of cessation of mental activities- State of Being of mind

  • (iii) Jagrat (wakeful):

The mind is active. Sense and action organs are active and working. All knowing and expressing takes place in this state. Meditation starts in this state (awareness of without the body). Becoming of mind   Excited state of mind.

  • (iv) Swapna (dream):

The mind is active. Sense organs are in a dormant state.  The action organs will be functioning if necessary. Meditation becomes one-pointed in this state (awareness of within of the body).Becoming of mind Excited state of mind

      Manas, Buddhi, Chittam and Ahamkaram are inner mental tools.  Experiences created by perceived or retrieved object-energy forms are remembrances and cognitions.  The stored and retrieved collection of perceived object-energy forms is the inner mental world.   Jagrat Sushupti (Wakeful Sleep) is unoccupied awareness.  Knowing/learning expressions/teaching, thought, perception, experience, understanding, volition, urges etc., are  occupied awarenesses, which happen in Jagrat (wakeful) and swapna (dream) conscious states.  Sushupti – State of cessation of mental activities.

    Humans know/learn and express/teach in these conscious states of mind. These conscious states or phases of mind are the result of a transformation of the psychic or mental energies in the unchanging and ever-present consciousness/awareness present during all these conscious states as energy-presence.  Upanishadic awareness calls such awareness Atman or Brahman or PrajnaanamAtman is normally referred to as Self. As explained above, Atman is present in us and is the result of the breathing process and is the source of mental-energy. In modern scientific terms it is also is termed as an infrasonic bio-mechanical oscillator which issues out psychic or mental energy pulses at a frequency of 10Hz. Thus Atman is the oscillating (with infrasonic frequency of 10 Hz) psychic energy-presence denoting and providing mental consciousness/awareness and time-space.

                As Prajnanam, or continuous conscious awareness, Atman witnesses all our mental activities, related body activities and happenings within and without the body and the body’s reactions as thoughts and organ-movements to these happenings. Present as a consciousness/awareness, Atman provides the energy required for guiding the mind to know/cognise/learn through the sense organs; to perceive, think, experience, understand, etc.; and to store and retrieve such information in the four conscious states described above.  It makes us conscious of within and without of ourselves and ourselves. Such continuous and simultaneous or alternate rising and setting of the conscious states or phases of mind is an aspect of psychological time and its flow.

                The Upanishads see awareness of self as a psychological time-space.  Awareness of the Self is the mental phase without cognitions or cognition-related experiences taking place or retrieved (the Wakeful Sleep Conscious State).  The three other conscious states – the Wakeful/Awakened, the Dream and Deep Sleep-Conscious states – are alternate super-impositions over this continuously present conscious state.  This state of mind transcends both physical and psychological times and time-flows.  This is the normal or original state of mind; all mental activities are excited states of mind.

                Inner mental tools perform various mental activities to transform psychic energy (virtual mental energy-reflection) and to cognise and create or retrieve thoughts/perceptions/experiences/understandings/meanings etc., in us. Thought-flow within us, which is the psychic-energy change during conscious states, also constitutes psychological time and time-flow.  Thought process and thought-flow is the becoming of psychic energy which makes us conscious of time and time-flow. This insight is further explained in the following sections.

The mechanics of mind:

            The following is an interpretation and explanation of being and becoming of mind: formation, structure and function of human consciousness; formation and retrieval of the inner mental world and cognition-created experiences/senses/moods which participate in the cognitive processes; an explanation of  the mechanism of sensing/knowing/learning/expressing/teaching/thought process/perception/experience/understanding; and an experience of meaningful experience and experienced meaning as expressed  in the Upanishads.

    Human mind has four conscious states or phases, seven cognitive states and five kinds of functional states. They are:

Conscious states or Phases of mind:

Wakeful Sleep, deep sleep, wakeful or awakened and dream. These are discussed in detail above. Human consciousness is always on as conscious awareness and it is only the mind that rises or sets during these conscious states of mind causing cognition and cognition-related experiences, storing and retrieving them in respective phases. Human consciousness is the form, the structure and the consequence of the breathing process and generates psychic energy which then performss all human cognitions and cognition-related functions. Cognition and cognition-related functions are the result of the reversible becoming of this psychic energy.  Human consciousness bifurcates as consciousness, that is aware of the cognitions and related activities and the occurrence of the activities themselves. When these activities are taking place, a dual role is played by the human consciousness. There is also a phase when no cognitions or cognition-related activity is taking place and it is the original or normal or natural state of human mind, the non-dual or peaceful, blissful or silent phase of mind.

Cognitive States of mind:

Seven states of cognition are identified in relation to the ego-transcending or egoistic or self-conscious state of mind. These cognition states function around the, ‘I’-consciousness, ‘I’-sense, the ‘I’-thought or feeling and ‘I’-expression or utterance or in the absence of such identification. Then no individual- specific information will be in the mental awareness and the mind transcends to a state or phase when the mental awareness becomes one with the consciousness and non-duality in the form of peace, bliss, or silence is experienced. Cognitions cease to take place but will take place if willed or necessary.  The seven cognitive states of mind are: 

Pure consciousness:

Normal or original state of mind:

  • (I) “I” Consciousness – No “I” Awareness of and about individual
  • (II) Meditative state of mind. One pointed awareness.

Egoistic State of mind

  • (III) “I” Awareness/Sense/mood- Ego Sense – State of verb/meaning/understanding/experience/intuition/urge – Infinite form or present continuous form of verb without subject or object attached.
  • (IV) ‘I” Thought/Feeling (awareness of within the body) – state of sentence with subject-verb-object-perception
  • (V) ‘I” Thought/Feeling (awareness of without the body) in relation to outside physical world. The mind is tuned to the outside world through the sense organs
  • (VI) “I” Utterance/Expression and also the reception of stimuli from the outside world and expression through the action organs.
  • (VII) No “I” Awareness of or about individual- No Self consciousness or perpetuations of mental functions. State of cessation of all types of mental functions.


Kinds of functional states of mind:

(a). Getting tuned to and sensing stimuli from external physical world through sense organs and reception.

(b). Actions, reactions or interactions with external physical world activated by hormones or stored information.

(c). Perception/thinking/reasoning/feeling in accordance with the stimuli from external world or information retrieved from inner mental world.

(d). Conversion of above information into intelligible information as understanding or insight or experience

(e). Awareness of understanding/intuition/urge/mood/experience/meaning/experience.

All this happening in the consciousness of Self or Atman or Brahman – the infrasonic mechanical oscillator forming and functioning as human consciousness.

     While the mind is functioning, there will be a differentiated perception of knower-knowing-known or subject-verb-object, which will be missing and absent when non-dual (advaita) awareness or pure consciousness becomes unoccupied awareness. Experiencing or understanding a verb is a state of experience and at that time the knower-known or subject-object are not attached to the verb. The verb will be in a present continuous form or infinite form depending on its absorption of information or understanding cognition or experiencing cognition or urge or intuition or sense or meanings of utterances received or to be expressed.

     We knowingly or unknowingly alternate between non-dual (advaita) and dual (dvaita) awareness while functioning mentally.  Wakeful and dream conscious states of mind represent and account for the phase of mind when functioning and then we also are aware of and sense or perceive self-consciousness. Once the mind ceases to function, we experience peace, bliss and silence within. If these are experienced with our being aware them, then the phase of mind at that time is known as wakeful sleep. If we are unaware, but are conscious of these, the phase of mind then is known as deep sleep. The phase of the cessation of mental functions (also self-consciousness) is similar to zero in the number system and vacuum in the physical and biological sciences. Vacuum is inherent in matter and holds matter and is manifested when matter is missing or absent. Consciousness is awareness of mind when no mental functions are taking place.

            In the Advaita (non-dual) state, the human mind possesses consciousness only. As Prajnanam, Atman gives consciousness and awareness to observe, to be aware of and to be conscious of understanding, meanings and senses of cognitions and cognition created experiences.  During advaita phase, there is no transformation of the virtual mental energy reflection – no creation, transformation and functioning of inner mental tools but the current of awareness is connected to the sense organs and action organs which are ready to function but not in a functioning state.  In the dvaita (two or dual) state of mind, the human mind exists as consciousness and awareness. The Upanishads call consciousness Aham and term the awareness of experiences/meanings, perceptions and cognitions as inner mental world – idam. The awareness, the manifestation of the human mental functions, is transitory and exists or ceases to be depending on the phase of mind. Awareness is present in Jagrat (Wakeful) and Swapna (dream) conscious states or phases of mind. In Jagrat Sushupti (Wakeful Sleep) or Sushupti (Deep Sleep) consciousness states or phases of mind, the awareness of mind able to comprehend mental operations and perform  mental functions will be absorbed in pure consciousness. In the Wakeful Sleep conscious state there will be continuous awareness and the mind functions if willed.

We humans learn, know, communicate, teach, perceive, think, experience, understand etc., when an interplay of wakeful , dream conscious states happen simultaneously making use of dual (dvaita) and non-dual (advaita) conscious states during which time virtual mental energy reflection, maya, the reflected chit energy transforms reversibly to enable us to perform mental tasks. This two-way-forward and reverse transformation of virtual mental reflection– is technically known as vivartanam (reversible becoming) in advaita thought. In dual (dvaita) state of mind, sense organs and action organs are active and function forming mental operations and thus enable us to perform all mental functions with the help of inner mental tools (antahkaranas–manas, buddhi, chittam and ahamkaram) which are two-way transformations of virtual mental energy reflection – maya. The alternating and simultaneous rise and  aset of dual mental state and the ever present non-dual consciousness give us cognising, communicative and other mental abilities.

                Human mental process is generally a combination and quick successive transformations of four modes i.e.,

 I Speaker/Teacher: (a) Purport/Awareness  (Meaningful Experience or Experienced Meaning (b) Understanding/Experience (c) Perception/Thinking (d) Utterance /Expression 

II Knower/Listener/Learner: (a) Knowing (through sense organs) (b) Perception/Thinking (c) Understanding/Experience (d) Purport (Meaningful Experience/Experienced Meaning)/Awareness.

Sources for this article:

 1. Ramabrahmam, V., The physical structure and function of mind: A modern scientific translation of Advaita philosophy with implications and application to cognitive sciences and natural language comprehension, Paper presented at national seminar on Sanskrit in the Modern Context conducted by Department of Sanskrit Studies and the School of humanities, University of Hyderabad between11-13, February (2008).

2. Ramabrahmam, V., Concept of mind in yoga sutras and vedanta panchadasi: A comparison, Paper presented at Patanjaluiyam, tetradic national seminar on Bharatiya Scientific Heritage Patanjaliyam-Kautilyiyam-Parasshariyam-Bharadvajiyam  (Exploration into the interface of Spiritual, Social, Agricultural and Engineering Sciences) held at SDM College, Ujjire-Dharmasthala, Mangalore, 13th-16th May, (2008).

 3. Ramabrahmam, V., The infrasonics of human cognition and communication, Paper presented at Bharadvajiyam tetradic national seminar on Bharatiya Scientific Heritage Patanjaliyam-Kautilyiyam-Parasshariyam-Bharadvajiyam  (Exploration into the interface of Spiritual, Social, Agricultural and Engineering Sciences) held at SDM College, Ujjire-Dharmasthala, Mangalore, 13th-16th May, (2008).


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