(Last Updated on : 21/07/2010)
The twenty-first yoga sutra sums up the terrible disadvantages of plurality of consciousness and its effects. It would give rise to lack of cognition, between one mind and another, creating perplexity and mayhem. The consciousness, in the beginning remains unpolluted and heavenly, but the moment it comes into contact with other aspects of the head and reason, it turns tarnished. This happens due to the consciousness branching out into several directions from the original, spiritual consciousness. This produces thought-waves and moods. These moods should never be taken as pluralities of mind. The mind remains unchangeable, but moods create delusions of numerous minds. Through rigorous yogic practice, a sadhaka is able to bring the head under control, and culture it, by thinking rationally.
being knowable by another
cognition of cognitions
impertinence, rudeness, abundance, too many,
If consciousness were manifold in one's being, each cognising the other, the intelligence too would be manifold, so the projections of mind would be many, each having its own memory.
Plurality of consciousness would result in lack of understanding between one mind and another, leading to utter confusion and madness. Patanjali thus concludes that consciousness is one and cannot be many.
As a tree has numerous branches, all connected to the trunk, similarly, the various wavelengths of thoughts are connected to a single consciousness. This consciousness remains unadulterated and divine at its source in the spiritual heart. When it branches from the source towards the head, it is called created consciousness - nirmita citta, which, being fresh, is inexpert and uncultured. The moment it comes into contact with objects, it becomes tainted, creating moods in the thought-waves. These moods are the five fluctuations (vntis) and five afflictions (klesas) (1.6 and 11.3).
The early reviewers of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras borrowed terms for the various modes of consciousness from Buddhist philosophy. They comprise - discerning knowledge (vijnana), perceptive knowledge of joys and sorrows (vedana), resolution (samjna), likeness and semblance (rupa) and impression (samskara). All these are keenly observed by nirmita citta.
These moods should not be mistaken for a plurality of minds. The mind stays the same, but moods generate an illusion of several minds. If the minds were really many, then each would have its own memory and intelligence. This becomes outrageous. Just as a room fitted with mirrors baffles the onlooker, similarly, the idea of many minds causes confusion and irrationality.
The practice of yoga disciplines and cultures the consciousness of the head, by which it perfects the art of analysis (savitarka), judges precisely (savicara), experiences unalloyed bliss (ananda), becomes auspicious (sasmi-ta) and moves towards mature intelligence (consciousness of the heart) and unalloyed wisdom (rtambhara prajna).
The two facets of consciousness have been brilliantly and poetically explained in the Mundakopanisad (section 3, canto 1 and 2). Two birds sit together on a fig tree. One hops restlessly from branch to branch, pecking at different fruits which are variously sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. Not finding the taste it wants, it becomes more and more agitated, flying to ever more far-flung branches. The other remains impassive, steady, silent and blissful. Gradually the taster of fruits draws nearer to his quiet companion and, wearying of his frantic search, also becomes calm, unconsciously losing the desire for fruit, and experiencing non-attachment, silence, rest and bliss. A yogi can learn from this. The tree represents the body, the two birds are the seer and consciousness, fruits are sprouted or secondary consciousness, and the different tastes of fruits are the five senses of perception which form the fluctuations and afflictions in the wavelengths of the mind.
The steady bird is the eternal, pure, divine, omniscient seer. The other is the sprouted or secondary consciousness absorbed in desire and fulfilment, and exhibiting different moods and modes of thought. After experiencing a variety of pain and pleasure, the secondary consciousness changes its mood and modes, identifies its true nature, reconsiders and returns to rest on its source mind. This return of the consciousness from the seat of the head towards the seat of the spiritual heart is purity of consciousness - divya citta. This is Yoga.