Antaḥkaraṇa / Chitta / Mānas

In the Sanātana texts, besides the physical body (sthūla śarīra), a human is composed of two other bodies. One of these is the subtle body called Sukshma Śarīra, composed of the subtle energies of the human, like cognition, memory, intellect, emotions, intelligence, perception and more. There are five Kosha (kosa) or layers that constitute a being (both physical and non-physical). These layers/sheaths cover the ātmā like the layers of an onion. Antaḥkaraṇa is one aspect of the sūkṣma śarīra (subtle body). It spans two of the Koshas; they are the Manomāyā Kosha or the emotional spectrum and Vignanamāyā Kosha, which is the intelligence, memory and wisdom spectrum.

Based on these, the antaḥkaraṇa is said to consist of four parts, which are:

  1. Aham (Ahaṃkāra) = self identity (the notion of ‘ME’, ‘MINE’ & ‘I’)
  2. Manaha (Mānas) = emotional spectrum of like & dislike (rāga-dveṣa)
  3. Buddhi = the intellect
  4. Chitta (citta) = the awareness of inward consciousness

The term antaḥkaraṇa is used based on the context of speech, and the Kosha in discussion, meaning if only Chitta is discussed then antaḥkaraṇa becomes only Chitta. The same applies to the remaining three categories, such is the Maryada (मर्यादा = a distinct law or definition during speech). (Jagad Guru Shankaracharya Swami Shree. 2020)

Let us dive a little into the subjective aspect. Those seeking the objective can skip the next few paragraphs and move to ahaṃkāra. In the Sāṃkhya school of philosophy (one of six āstika) there are twenty-four principles in Prakṛti (nature/creation/energy), and the twenty-fifth principle is called Puruṣa (the ultimate source of consciousness). The 24th principle is called Avyaktha Prakṛti; this is also called māyā (the illusions of form and name in creation). ‘Avyaktha’ means, that which is there but not yet available to our understanding. Among antaḥkaraṇa, Mahat (also called an aspect of buddhi) is the first part of Avayktha Prakṛti that becomes apparent to us. Mahat means the great or profound principle.

In Sanātana Ḍharma, Vedā is the basis (Pramāṇa) for Ḍharma/Yajñá. Does this mean everyone should be well versed in the Vedā? In Mahābhāratam, a Yakṣha asks Yudhiṣṭhira (Dharmaraj), if Ḍharma is always changing and the comprehension of Vedā being difficult for a common man, what is the simplest approach for a being to abide? To this, Yudhiṣṭhira replied with the following sloka:

“maha:jano ena gathas sapandha”

Meaning, one who is yet to comprehend the Vedā should, in the interim, abide by the teachings of enlightened beings, such as Gurus, Rishis (rśi), Avataras (of that era). Then, how does one determine these enlightened beings? One, with honesty to oneself and using self-conscience as Pramāṇa (antaḥkaraṇa Pramāṇa), leaving behind personal gain and desires, can determine one’s Guru. One through whom the entire surroundings and environment become prosperous is a Guru.

In an individual’s antaḥkaraṇa, if the mānas is dominant then decisions will be based on personal love and hate (rāga-dveṣa). If Aham is dominant then most decisions revolve around the preservation/protection of one’s identity and its glory. If Buddhi is dominant then most decisions are based on pure intellect. Though Buddhi might sound as the correct approach, the downside is, a person’s buddhi is limited to the experience and information that one can recollect. Finally, if Chitta is unearthed and becomes luminant then all actions are based on consciousness. Such a person will only perform actions that are needed for the society and the environment, not for personal desire.

Ahaṃkāra

‘Aham’ refers to the fundamental notion of  ‘self-identification’ (Garva) as an individual. This is the source of pride, arrogance, ego, self-importance and self-glorification. It is a powerful influence of māyā (Prakṛti) which creates the notion of discrimination among the Self and everything else. Creating such discrimination (differences no matter how subtle), causes one aspect to be of higher significance (especially oneself) than others. This self-significance, when deemed to be separate from the rest of creation, is to be a primordial aspect of māyā (which is the Avyaktha Prakṛti). When the notion of ‘I’ or ‘ME’ arises, automatically the division of ‘YOU’, ‘THEY’, ‘IT’ results in a chain reaction. This very notion of ‘I’ means, it is ‘ME’ versus the rest of creation; at this point both inclusion and exclusion begin. This inclusion is not a conscious inclusion with the self, but as an ownership – ‘MINE’ – and automatically results in the notion ‘YOURS’. A jīva’s entire existence can revolve around ‘ME’, ‘MINE’, ‘YOURS’, and what I can make ‘MINE’. This very identity becomes a shield worn by the jīva like a cocoon. Using this self-identity, to preserve itself the jīva challenges creation. The very concepts of Bhakti (devotion) and spirituality are the means to shed this identity and foster conscious inclusion rather than ownership.

Mānas (manaha)

Śrī Adi Śankaracharya defines mānas as ‘Sankalpa Vikalpa Sangatham’, wherein Sankalpa means resolution or decision, and Vikalpa means to be in a state of flux or fantasy and uncertainty, and finally, Sangatham means to struggle. Hence, mānas is that entity which struggles between resolutions and uncertainty. Mānas belongs to the Manomāyā Kosha and is the lowest ranking entity of antaḥkaraṇa; yet, it has the highest influence over the psychology of a human. Ahaṃkāra is like the spoiled arrogant child of the mānas; together, they use the Buddhi as a tool to overshadow the entire antaḥkaraṇa. Hence the sloka from Swarnamala Stuti composed by Adi Shankaracharya says:

“antaHkaraNa vishuddiM bhaktim cha tvayi satIM pradehi vibho”

Swarnamala Stuti

Meaning, Śrī Śankaracharya, on our behalf, is asking Shambhu (Shiva as the Puruṣa) and Sati (prior manifestation of Devi Pārvatī as Prakṛti) to cleanse our antaḥkaraṇa through bhakti (devotion) from the effects of Tamas & Rajas of Prakṛti which manifest in mānas and ahaṃkāra. This mānas can either be clouded by doubt arising from Vāsanā (as emotions), or it can be governed by intellect (Buddhi) (through Upāsanā via Sādhanā). There is a difference between mānas and mind. The mind is a generic term of human psychology involving feelings, emotions, volition, and thoughts managed by the brain, over accumulated information, whereas mānas uses this mind (technically the buddhi) and its memory to reason between like and dislike (rāga-dveṣa). Mānas has a huge imaginative power and so is emotionally dominant. A jīva forgets its true self and keeps becoming a victim to its inherent Vāsanā and constantly struggles with decision making. Mānas is a part of the Sukshma Śarīra (non-physical or subtle body) and is directly related to the physical breathing pattern. In reaction to various emotions, especially hate, fear or jealousy, arising out of Vāsanā and Guṇa, various chemical reactions take place in the physical body (Sthula Śarīra). This causes our heart and breathing pattern to lose balance. This breathing pattern is directly coupled to the life-force of a body called prāṇa (various vayu/air that resides within our body). So, when a balanced breathing pattern is disturbed, the mānas tries to react and reason with our mind’s information. Though buddhi presents information and statistics, the mānas obscures this information and directs actions based on its like and dislike. Hence, one has to carefully witness and examine the likes and dislikes of the mānas. Otherwise, these decisions and actions will leave an impression upon a jīva that will be carried over to the next life. In fact, it will determine the upādhi (form, like animal form or human form or other celestial forms) of a jīva in the next life. One should not fight or be in conflict with one’s mānas, one has to treat mānas like a child or a monkey and slowly train it with love and reasoning. So, the mānas doesn’t know anything other than Prakṛti. Mānas doesn’t understand Brahman, it’s just a word for it to talk about or brag about to portray itself as knowledgeable. It can say God, īśvara, Puruṣa, Paramātma, ātman, Supreme Consciousness and more – all these are just fancy words for it. So, the mānas doesn’t know anything other than Prakṛti, which is its mother. Because of mānas, a being strives for pleasure and self survival, like an infant clinging to its mother (more visible in the animal kingdom), if this clinginess is not there, survival becomes chaotic and accidental. So, mānas is a child that makes us survive by safely clinging to our mother (Prakṛti). At the same time, it can come out of its mother’s lap and start with baby steps towards the father (Puruṣa), initially only for few moments at a time, but eventually, this gap will increase. When this gap increases mānas dissolves and Prakṛti (including our own physical body) becomes a ladder/bridge to Puruṣa. So, mānas is not a bad entity, it’s just an ignorant toddler who breaks things and throws toys in the toilet. mānas is just silly and ignorant but essential for keeping one’s existence in safety by staying close to our mother (Prakṛti). This makes mānas a double-edged sword, meaning it can easily be fooled into doing some adharma or it can be charmed by the stories of the Puráńas to move it towards Puruṣa. At the same time, mānas can be extremely rigid and so strongly rooted in the self that no amount of debate can convince it otherwise. Hence, mānas is a doubled-edged contradiction that is in constant struggle (gharshana). This path to Puruṣa (Consciousness) can only happen through upāsanā via Sādhanā with śraddhā (practice with dedication). Various paths of Sādhanā have been put forth in Yoga, like the eight forms of Yoga called Ashtangayoga. ‘Ashta’ means eight, ‘anga’ means branches or limbs, ‘yoga’ means a path or a method to a union. One can channel mānas through these eight yogic aspects, which are, Yama, Niyama (discipline), Aasana (balanced posture), Pranayama (balanced breath), Pratyahara (sense perception), Dhyāna (contemplation), Dhāraṇā (meditation) and Samādhi (final union with Puruṣa). Various forms of Bhakti (Bhakti Yoga) are also prescribed like the Nava:vida Bhakti. Channeling mānas means to break free from its bond of likes and dislikes (rāga-dveṣa).

“Hetam manoharika durlabham vachaha”

(Suvarnamala Stuti. 2017)

Meaning, the words of well-being are often disliked by mānas, since it always seeks comfort and pleasure-of-senses, based on its strong bonding to likes and dislikes, conditioned over many lifetimes. Mānas has to accept Buddhi to be the one that projects and concludes, and then put into practice using its Indriya. (Garikapati. 2016. SMA)

If one fails to channel one’s mānas, then during the final breath of the jīva (before death), the mānas which lacks Sādhanā (practice) will continue to hold on to enmity, hate, jealousy, selfishness, discrimination and so will carry these aspects to its next life. Through practice (Sādhanā), one fosters a nature that is uncontaminated by desire or hate or selfishness. Seeking pure conscience (Satva Guṇa), that jīva will seek the Supreme Singular Conscience (Brahman). The nature of the mānas in its final breath will determine the upādhi (form) of the next life. This message can be found in Śrīmad Bhagavād Gitā, Chapter 8 of Akshara Brahma Yoga, Sloka 5 & 6, wherein Gitācārya (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) says:

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्।
यः प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशयः।।
यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम्।
तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः।।

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

Buddhi

The entity through which common sense (adhyavasāya) and decision making (Nishchai) happens is called Buddhi. Meaning, it is the intellect of a being, a processing unit that churns memory and experiences into various possibilities for decision making. It is not necessary that Buddhi will always result in the perfect outcome. The role of Buddhi is to project an outcome for a given input based on its memory. Buddhi and mānas are in constant struggle. Based on Buddhi’s outcome, mānas tries to make a Sankalpa (fixed decision) or reject it and exists in uncertainty, fantasy and an unreal state called Vikalpa. If mānas likes buddhi’s outcome, then the entire being (all its energies) fall in line and result in a pleasant experience, else it results in a struggle (Gharshana). There are times when the mānas is forced to accept buddhi’s outcome, either by threat or when there is no other realistic means, but the mānas continues to stay in a resentful state, dwelling in fantasy. This resentful state of the mānas will cause the buddhi to overwork itself, making the entire being reject the current reality. This generates friction among various energies in a being. Such a state, when intensified, causes various chemical reactions and moves towards a systemic crash or anxiety or depression and other psychological illnesses. (Jagad Guru Shankaracharya Swami Shree. 2020)

Viveka

Viveka is a subtler faculty of Buddhi which operates upon discrimination of any entity that takes one’s attention. The fundamental separation (logical not emotional) between objects based on form (shape) is done by Viveka. For example: while driving, you know the lines which divide the lanes, hence there is no emotion involved. This is a survival trick at this point, not an emotional one. The emotional aspect that places oneself on a pedestal (even if one is very selfless) is the ‘Aham’, which uses the Viveka as a tool to draw superficial lines (boundaries) distinguishing self vs everything else. The mānas uses Viveka to determine what to include and whom to exclude. For example, this is my child so I like him, that is someone else’s child so I will not include him into my affection. These entities that capture one’s attention are called Vishaya, which could be ‘like’ (rāga) or ‘dislike’ (dveṣa); both go side by side and are not really separate. Viveka (discrimination) is an analytical tool to examine one’s like (rāga) vs dislike (dveṣa). This faculty is an excellent means to overcome desire through analysis, rather than dogmatic and forceful subjugation. When preoccupied with material aspects of life, some desires can go dormant, but this doesn’t mean one has overcome such desires. Dormant and forcefully subjugated desires are like holding the head of a poisonous snake under the foot; the moment the foot is lifted the snake can strike, or the very fear and anxiety will eat a person from inside. Steady and constant examination of one’s Vishaya (rāga-dveṣa) will gradually lead to Vairagya; this approach is called Abhyasa. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., I.K.Taimni. 1975)

Chitta (Citta)

Chitta (Citta) is  ‘THE’ support of all other aspects of antaḥkaraṇa. It is that cognizant aspect of a being that is beyond any accumulated memory or senses. Hence, it doesn’t reside in the physical brain, nor is it a product of the mind. It is an entity that permeates the entire body, and also advances beyond the body after its dissolution. Chitta is a union of Chit (Cit or Chid = pure singular conscience owned by the aspect Puruṣa) and Śakti (Energy or Vibration = a concept resulting in Prakṛti). Hence, Śiva is addressed by the title “Chid:anandata rūpa Shivoham“, meaning He (Shivoham = Auspicious) is the manifestation of Pure Bliss of the Supreme Singular conscience/awareness which is me. Hence, one has to meditation on Viṣṇu (the aspect of all pervasiveness) to realize the Nārāyaṇa (the one cumulative cosmic form) such a realization will lead to a state called “Chid:anandata” (the pure blissful state) which is Shivoham. Maharśi Vaśiṣṭha in his Yoga explains to Śrī Ram as follows (the word mind in the following refers to the psychological framework):

“O Rama, we see that there are holy ones who have overcome this! External objects like space, etc., and psychological factors like ‘i’ etc., exist only in name. In reality neither the objective universe, nor the perceiving self , nor perception as such, nor void, nor inertness exists; only one is, cosmic consciousness (cit). In this it is the mind that conjures up the diversity, diverse actions and experience, the notion of bondage and the desire for liberation”

(Swami Venkatesananda 1993)

Śrī Śankaracharya says that chitta is what enables ‘Smarana’ (reminiscence of the Supreme) in a being. He also says chitta in Yogadarshan is the bhūta:swarūpa (the cumulative embodiment) of all the other three categories. Hence, chitta is defined as “Visaya:dyase yuktha cid:ātma tatva”. (Jagad Guru Shankaracharya Swami Shree. 2020)

The chitta’s reach and apprehension are not limited to the memory of the being nor the limitation of the senses; it can perceive beyond the physical nature projected by Prakṛti and so is not limited by a physical distance. Since the chitta shares a slice of Prakṛti, the Guṇas (satva, rajas and tamas of Prakṛti) also occur within the chitta. The Satva aspect of the chitta is the one that luminates the awareness of Puruṣa. Hence, the Patanjali Yoga Sutra states that chitta is both consciousness and matter, meaning a slice of both Prakṛti and Puruṣa, making the chitta function in this physical realm with a link to consciousness. However, many misinterpret chitta only as matter (Prakṛti), but one has to understand, for chitta to be a medium to consciousness, it has to attribute Puruṣa as well. The means to reach this union with Puruṣa is called Yoga. The other two Guṇas (Rajas and Tamas) allow it to operate within Prakṛti’s Shakti (śakti). The cleansing of blemishes over the chitta are defined with extraordinary detail in the profound composition of Patanjali Yoga Sutra, translated by I.K Taimni in the book, ‘The Science of Yoga’ as:

“Citta may be considered as a universal medium through which consciousness functions on all the planes of the manifested universe”
“It is like an intangible screen which enables the Light of consciousness to be projected in the manifested world”
“It is fundamentally of the nature of consciousness which is immaterial but affected by matter. In fact, it may be called a product of both, consciousness and matter, or Purusa and Prakrti, the presence of both being necessary for its functioning”

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The operational part of the chitta belongs to the physical body and so is limited to the existence of the physical body, this is called Karyachita (Karya:chita). On the other hand, the aspect of the chitta that permeates beyond the body (or a single life/jīva) is called Karanachitta (Karana:chitta). The chitta’s Satva Guṇa is the aspect closest to Puruṣa, so it requires one to unearth it from the dominance of Rajas and Tamo Guṇa. These coverings that blemish the chitta are called chittavṛttis (chitta:vṛttis). A vṛtti means some type of covering or a smokescreen that shields the chitta from its true radiance. These vṛtti’s are categorized into five, they are:

Pramāṇa (factual basis or certainty),
Viparyaya (second-hand source, like belief),
Vikalpa (conscious fantasy or controlled daydreaming),
Smrti (subconscious memory leading to imagination or fantasy and tastes), and finally
Nidra (temporary states of sleep and dream).

Both Pramāṇa and Viparyaya are outward and sensory bound, whereas the latter three (Vikalpa, Smrti and Nidra) are imagination bound, and hence are a result of mānas (from Manomāyā Kosha). So, if Chitta takes the highest stage in antaḥkaraṇa, mānas takes the bottom-most stage. These vṛtti’s grasp the attention or awareness of the conscience, diverting its focus from Chitta (pure awareness) to some blend of memory – resulting in imagination and fantasy. Therefore Chitta is that aspect of antaḥkaraṇa that is independent of any memory (even imagination or fantasy is some mix of memory, one’s imagination is an over-exaggeration of memory). The accumulation of memory as information or experience is to enlarge the boundary of our memory bank; the larger the bank the more the buddhi has to traverse through it. So, in a way, our comprehension of the world (world view) is bound by our memory. Anything new we see, will be interpreted through the memory we already hold, so our choices are at the mercy of what we can recollect. To see things in their true sense, is to view without prejudice and discrimination, but our reasoning relies on our intellect, which, in turn, relies on our memory. Even imagination and instincts are memory at some level. Can we imagine an alien being? What we do is create something similar to beings on this planet and diversify it with various combinations. Ashtanga:Yoga is a means to overcome these afflictions caused by the lowest state (mānas) and gradually rise above ahaṃkāra and finally Buddhi. The process of cleansing the blemishes over the chitta is called chittasuddhi (chitta:Shuddhi). The last limb of  Ashtanga Yoga called samādhi (Nirbija Samādhi) is where all the deflections of the chitta are shed (dropped) to move past the influence of Prakṛti, into the pure state of awareness of reality, which is Puruṣa. Alongside Yoga, Vairagya is the second means by which these chitta vṛttis can be overcome. Vairagya is to depart from one’s rāga (like) and dveṣa (dislike), the root word of Vairagya is rāga. (I.K.Taimni. 1975., Shivashankar Rao. 2019., Jinasu 2. 2017., Jinasu 1. 2017., Jayaram. 2009)

It is through yoga that one has to unearth and touch the chitta, which is covered by various other aspects of the antaḥkaraṇa. Hence, the sloka from Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Chapter 1 Samadhi-Pada, Sloka 2 states:

yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah
योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

(I.K.Taimni. 1975)

Meaning, it is through Yoga (Ashtanga Yogam) that the coverings and deflections upon the chitta (citta-vrtti) can be removed and avoided (nirodhah).

The root of chitta is Chit. Whereas Chit is pure awareness or absolute awareness (not aware of something specific), chitta is the awareness within an individual that is yet to be touched or uncovered. A good analogy is a clear sky (Akasha) without any clouds; this can be referred to as Chit or the singular conscience/awareness called Chidakasha (Chid:akasha). But when an individual’s life/jīva fabricates shapes or cross-sections in the sky (Akasha), focusing one’s awareness on this limited area of the sky is called chitta; this is called Chidakasha (Chid:akasha). Say, if one forgets that one has fabricated these shapes and boundaries in the sky and dwells in attachment towards these boundaries, disregarding the sky as a whole, then this illusion is called chitta:vartas. (Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

Alongside Hinduism, from the Buddhist viewpoint, the chitta is a mental framework or a cumulative mindset that manifests in thought, speech and actions. It is considered as an object that is reached through meditation and is susceptible to blemishes like attachments, delusions, uncertainty, hate, lust, greed and more. Hence, the chitta needs to be cleansed of such impurities, resulting in a vision free from afflictions. This state is known as the liberated state. (Citta Wikipedia. 2019)

In the literate compiled by Rishi Vaśiṣṭha, titled Yoga Vaśiṣṭha, he explains to Sri Rama the threefold spaces of Chit, chitta and the physical space of Material Prakṛti. He explains that the entire creation is a projection of the mind (within antaḥkaraṇa), which is also both the source of further bondage and the source of liberation. (Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev also profoundly explains that all that we see or hear or feel through these five senses is actually projected in the mind and so it is not necessary that our perception and the projected image is what the reality holds. He says the entire human experience is outward bound as the sense objects are outward bound. He further says:

“The fourth dimension of the mind is called Chitta which is pure intelligence. It is unsoiled by memory, it has no trace of any kind of memory, its just pure intelligence. If you touch this, then you have access to what you are referring to as the source of creation”

(SadhguruScience, 2019., Sadhguru. 2012)

REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citing)

Swami Venkatesananda. (1993). Vasistha’s Yoga. Albany, New York. State University of New York Press.

I.K.Taimni. (1975). The Science of Yoga. Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House.

Jayaram V (Orator). (Feb 22, 2009).  The Nature Of Citta According To The Yogasutras Of Patanjali. Retrieved from: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sXKUJBf8wY

Jinasu 2. (Aug 5, 2017). Bangalore, Karnataka The Three Facets of “Chitta” as per Saankhya. Retrieved from:  https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6C8l5mjoKk

Jinasu 1. (Aug 3, 2017). Bangalore, Karnataka. Chitta – Imagined Partition in the Sky Taken Seriously. Retrieved from: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=x80kalpkW4k

Citta Wikipedia. (February 28, 2019). Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citta

SadhguruScience. (Apr 1, 2019). Chitta | we have access to the source of creation | SadhguruScience. Retrieved from: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8dXY9UrQtQ

Shivashankar Rao. (July 7th, 2019). Bangalore, India. Chitta and Chittashuddhi. Retrieved from: https://wordpress.com/view/sanatanadhara.com

Sadhguru. (Oct 3, 2012). Dimension Beyond the Physical | Sadhguru. Retrieved from: https//youtu.be/WJWXf2A0Nb4

Sri Garikapati. (July 13,2016). Sampoorna Mukti and Antahkarana || Andhra Mahabharatam || Episode 1747. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFojLLArLOA

Suvarnamala Stuti. (2017). Shivam. Retrieved From: https://shaivam.org/scripture/English-Script/105/suvarnamala-stuti.

Jagad Guru Shankaracharya Swami Shree. (March 3, 2020). What is Chitta (Consciousness) & How to Purify it? Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/govardhanpeeth/videos/2227753190680788/?v=2227753190680788