How does mind work? - Enlightenment

 Today, a little bit about UM. For me personally, UM is a very interesting thing of humanity and I always learn something new when I read something about it. 

"The mind is our best friend if we master it, but otherwise it remains our greatest enemy." Bhagavad-gita (6.6)

The Atma uses the mind to process the information it receives through the senses. For example, the eyes see a red flower. Electrical shocks are transmitted from the optic nerve to the brain and enable us to see the image. The mind reacts to the flower and recognises it. It sees that it is red and that it is a flower and may react emotionally. The brain is the physical organ that connects the physical body to the intangible mind.

Throughout history, thinkers have grappled with the question of whether the mind determines who we are by our response to sensory stimuli. Five hundred years ago, the Western philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes said that it is because of the workings of the mind that we know we exist.

The Bhagavad-gita turns this idea on its head, saying, "I am, therefore I think." The mind cannot think without the presence of atma.

In the Gita we learn that the mind is part of the subtle body, just as the brain is part of the physical body. But both the physical and the subtle bodies are material. The mind is responsible for thinking, feeling and intention. It usually gets its information from sensory stimuli.

The mind stores facts and memories like a computer hard disk. It does not necessarily understand the meaning of the data it processes, but it divides feelings into two main types, pleasure and pain, and responds accordingly. It classifies feelings mainly on the basis of past experience of similar feelings.

"Just as the waves of the sea depend on the weather, so the mind, influenced by our past sensory experiences, responds to new sensory stimuli with desire or aversion, excitement or despondency, courage or fear, joy or reproach."

Every sensory experience we have with our eyes, ears, nose, tongue or skin leaves an impression on the mind. We are constantly updating the mind's software with our daily experiences.

Let me give you an example: suppose a car is coming towards us. The mind will instinctively react to its speed and our past experiences with other cars travelling at the same speed. If we associate cars with accidents and death, we will feel fear. If we associate them with prestige and luxury - and if it is the right car brand - we may feel greed. Phobias are very pronounced reactions to past sensory stimuli that have left strong, unpleasant impressions on the mind.

Is the mind ever indifferent? Not for long. It changes all the time according to our changing experiences. As children we may have been afraid of looking over a precipice, but as we grow older and more experienced, we may find the same view exhilarating.

Every morning I sit down to meditate with the divine sound of my mantra. Anyone who meditates knows what comes next: our mind wanders through the worries of the previous day, or the troubles of our loved ones, or reflects on an old quarrel, or gets lost in memories. If someone is baking cookies in the next room, our mantra meditation immediately shifts to them. After a while, we realise that our mind is wandering and ask ourselves, "What happened to the mantra?"

This reveals something important: that we are something other than our thoughts. If we were not, we would not be able to redirect them.

The mind is an amazing tool. From an unbiased point of view, it is a truly brilliant creation. But from a biased point of view, it can make our lives unbearable. As John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, "The mind is a world of its own, and can create in itself a heaven out of hell, or hell out of paradise."

Radhanath Swami, Excerpt from The Journey Within

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