The Mind, How it Functions, & Why It's Important


Dealing with the mind IS spirituality. What we do and how we deal with the mind directly relates to our ability to experience the spirit, and realise our true Self. The mind is both the greatest enemy and the greatest friend, and by controlling the mind, we can experience the imperishable bliss inherent in realising our Self.

To do this, it is said that the mind should be like a steady flame in a windless place. As we calm our mind, rise above, and act in alignment with our higher nature, we also rise above duality, the conditions of the material world, and the mind itself. Rather than staying caught in the cycles of the material world and the endless chase of satisfying the senses, the mind is used as a tool to rise towards the Divine. And when we are established in the Divine, we are truly fulfilled.

Why is the mind such a prominent topic in spirituality? Why is calming the mind so important? 

Purpose of the Mind

To understand why the mind is important, we must first understand its purpose. The purpose of the mind is to interact with the material world. We live on Earth, have material bodies, a mind and our intellect. We use all these things to progress and to rise in love and realise the Divine.

The mind is flexible and subject to change. We perceive and experience things differently depending on where we direct our minds. In spirituality, we talk a lot about the importance of changing the state of our minds, but why does that matter? How does the mind function? How do we go about changing our minds?

Changing our mind matters because what we focus on becomes our reality. For example, we can be an incredibly successful and healthy person, surrounded by other successful and healthy people; yet we can still choose to focus on suffering. We still see our mundane desires and unfulfilled hopes and dreams. We might see that despite being successful, we want a different profession or abilities or life altogether. Alternatively, there are people who seem to have very little yet live with smiles on their faces day-to-day. Why is that? Because they choose to be happy. They focus their mind on things that are positive.

We can just choose to be happy? Yes, but this will take time to practice as it requires developing a different frame of mind. The mind will attune to and become shaped by what it is focused on. Our senses and perception can only operate and engage with the material world. To become fulfilled, we must fill our mind with things that we can not run out of. This means we must fill our minds with the infinite, to focus on love, the spirit, and the Divine. These are things that are infinite and eternal. The mind will then take the shape of Love, of the Divine. It will ultimately become Divine itself.

4 Parts of the Mind

The mind has four parts: the manas, citta, ahankara, and buddhi. Manas is the capability of the mind to perceive – it responds to stimuli, makes associations, relates to things or experiences, and draws conclusions. It also puts thought into action. The citta is like a lake of experience. All our thoughts, actions, and impressions we have ever experienced fills this lake. This lake is then used by the ahankara and buddhi towards differing ends. 

Sometimes the citta is used to remember things and put experiences together to formulate new thoughts, or imaginations. It can become disturbed and quickly jump from memory to memory or imagination to imagination. The citta itself can become habitual and create samskaras, deep impressions that condition the mind to operate in a certain way. Desires are created here. What we put into the citta strongly shapes how we react to stimuli.

For example, if we got bitten by a dog when we were young, it could scar us emotionally. For the rest of our life, we may be scared whenever we get near dogs due to that earlier experience. The mind would respond to the stimuli of seeing a dog and the citta would churn out the memory of getting hurt by a dog. This fear of dogs gets reinforced the more we think about the fear.

In order to reverse or change this fear of dogs, we must undergo experiences that show us that there are dogs that will not hurt us. This may be more difficult if we have conditioned ourselves to believe this is true even if all the evidence shows us that it is clearly not.

This shows us the power of the mind and the difficulty to remove deep impressions and habits of the mind. It reminds us of the importance of what we put into our minds. As we put more divine things in our citta, the more we remember the Divine and become divine. Each thought, emotion, action, and reaction will become more and more divine as we focus more and more on the Divine.

The ahankara is our false ego identity. It is the part of us that makes us selfishly oriented and self-preserving. However, the process of surrender requires that we surrender ourselves to God and to put ourselves at His feet. To humbly put Love and service ahead of self-interest kills this false identity. As we subdue this false ego identity, we can see more of our true and higher nature as a soul and Love.

Buddhi, on the other hand, is wisdom. It is the wisdom of the soul that trickles down to us in the form of true and raw feeling. It is like the telephone line from our heart to our soul. That line can sometimes be full of static and white noise. But if we attune ourselves to that deep intuition, we can be led towards our higher nature with more clarity. We can act in accordance with our higher nature instead of our ego. It is often said that this buddhi, this wisdom is actually our intuition. Our intuition is felt. It is the first feeling we get before the mind gets involved and evaluates and concludes. It takes poise, discrimination, sensitivity, and attentiveness to feel and become confident and have little doubt in what you feel and to act on that feeling. In a way, acting in accordance with buddhi is like climbing a ladder towards our true Self.

How to Change the Mind

It must be understood that the ahankara and the buddhi are like two separate lenses we see the world through. Acting in accordance with buddhi, which is the wisdom of love, of the soul, is selfless and is of service towards our relationship with God. Ahankara on the other hand, is entirely selfish. It acts purely for short term gratification of the senses.

Now, whichever lens we use, our ahankara or buddhi, reaches into the citta and uses whatever is there which supports it.

We have control over what we put inside our mind. We must surround ourselves with the Divine and positivity so that our memories, recollection, and state of mind becomes more and more positive and divine. The mind in this way becomes calmer and as we are calmer, we can feel our true intuition which is sourced in buddhi, in wisdom. This way, we can act with the lens of buddhi, rather than with the short lived fulfillment of our ego identity, the ahankara.

When we observe ourselves, we can see that the citta is naturally churning out things. For example, during meditation, people often just have things ‘pop-up’ in their head. Well, the ahankara stirs up the citta in order to find something to distract us away from our buddhi, and give the ahankara more strength. It digs into and draws on information stored there to support and ultimately prevent the death of the ahankara. 

The ahankara is selfishly motivated, self-preserving, and self-serving. However, we have the opportunity to control our mind, and surround ourselves with positivity. Our citta, like a hard drive, becomes more full of good memories and info instead of useless or unserving material. In moments where our ahankara is seeking its support, having a citta filled with more positive memories and habits can help to defeat the ahankara. By putting more and more positive information and experience into our citta, the ahankara’s defense mechanism, this churning distraction has a better chance to find only something positive rather than something negative.

In addition to this ‘hard drive’ like citta, our citta also has the nature of something like a computer’s RAM drive, storying the most accessible information. Our most recent experiences are held here, like, what movie we just watched last night, or what songs we were listening to today, what conversation we just had on the phone. The most fresh memories are the most prevalent in our minds. And the more those memories are positive and about the Divine, the much higher likelihood it is for our mind to remember the Divine and be more in love and positively inclined. It remains much harder for the ahankara to take over and leave the buddhi abandoned.

What we focus on and put into our mind shapes the way we think and act. That is how the mind functions and how we can alter and change our minds. That is how we turn away from negativity, falsity, and suffering and fill the mind with Divine Love instead.


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