Understanding The Human Mind

The Human Mind is one topic which is forever accorded with great fervor in philosophy, religion, and science alike. Since the old times, there are specific words in different languages, which are used to denote the human mind. Like, Manas (intellect, consciousness) in Sanskrit, μένος (ménos – mind) in Greek, mēns or méntis (reason, intellect, judgment) in Latin and gemynd (memory; thought) in old English. In Modern Science, the human mind is described as a collection of mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning.

 

Definition of Mind

You cannot get the full view of your house unless you step out and watch it from a distance. You cannot get the full view of the earth unless you step into space and watch it from a distance. Likewise, you cannot fully comprehend the dimension called “mind” as long as you, yourself are a part of that dimension. Today, I am going to go over three of the most noteworthy definitions of mind which are, in fact, the summaries of the works of noted philosophers, academics, and the metaphysicists over the centuries.
#1 A faculty of the human brain, which is responsible for perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning.

One of the most common definitions of the human mind revolves around the higher intellectual functions of the human brain. It defines the human mind as, “a faculty of the human brain, which is responsible for perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning.” And these faculties are not just abstract and intangible parts of the brain but they are also interrelated to a great extent. Multiple studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between memories and judgment. In psychology, there is a concept called Heuristic, which is a mental shortcut that a human develops to make quick and not necessarily effective judgment based on the information at hand. The deeper and clearer the memory of an individual, the better the judgments made by them. So a lack of information can very well lead you to a phenomenon called Cognitive bias which is nothing but the deviation from the standard or expected judgment. There is another viewpoint which considers the emotions like love, hate, fear, and joy, as elements of the human mind, because they are mostly based on memories, and past experiences too.

 

#2 The combination of conscious, subconscious and unconscious mental activities.

Many psychologists define mind as, “the combination of conscious, subconscious and unconscious mental activities”. The conscious mind communicates with the outside world through the five senses. The subconscious mind, on the other hand, is the caretaker of our recent memories which are ready to be used as and when required by the conscious mind. The unconscious mind is the custodian of the long-lasting memories, desires, and experiences. But these three layers of mind do not work in isolation, because there is a continuous line of communication between the three. On one hand, the conscious mind creates impressions on the subconscious mind which passes it on to the unconscious mind. On the other hand, the unconscious mind controls the next course of your action by using the emotions and sensations to influence the conscious mind via the subconscious mind.

 

#3 The feeling or sense of “I”, “Me”, “Mine”.

Another more philosophical definition of mind is the feeling or sense of “I”, “Me”, “Mine”. Such a feeling is referred to as Ahamkara in the Sanskrit language. It is basically the ego or the sense of self within a human being. This sense of self actually gives you the authority to go beyond your thoughts and reasons and make a choice.

This sense of self actually gives you the authority to go beyond your thoughts and reasons and make a choice.

For instance, sometimes when you are in a difficulty, there is a certain instinct inside you which says “enough is enough”. At this point, your mind inevitably takes an authoritarian role to stop you from further deliberations and enables you to make a choice. Whether your goal is clear, whether your intentions are pure, all these questions lose significance the very moment your self, your mind makes a choice. Whatever you do in life, is because of the choices that your mind makes. This is perhaps why I consider this definition of the human mind more relevant than any other definition.

The Mind-Body Connection

There are many concepts regarding the mind and body connection. And one of the most practical mind concepts is that of Materialism.

#1 Materialism: Since any conscious activity involves some level of thought behind it, it implies that the mind is related to the neurological activities in the brain.

This concept holds that the mind and the brain are interconnected. The central nervous system which is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord, allows the brain to communicate with most parts of the body like the skin, muscles, and bones via the spinal cord. And then there are other nerves which connect the brain directly with the eyes, nose and other parts of your head. So your nervous system gives you the perception of senses and allows conscious and automatic functioning of your body parts. And since any conscious activity involves some level of thought behind it, it implies that the mind is related to the neurological activities in the brain.

#2 Dualism: If the mind is related to the brain, how come there are so many cases of children remembering incidents from their past lives?

Another appealing concept regarding mind-body connection is that of no connection at all. Yes. Many philosophers believe that mind exists independently of the brain. This concept is mostly referred to as Dualism and it holds that mind is entirely independent of the brain. This concept has got its back covered by the science of Thanatology which is the study of death and the experience of dying. And the ground for this concept is somewhat related to the concepts of OBE (out-of-body experience) and near-death experience. The people who had out-of-body experiences mostly reported that they had an impression of being in a different physical location even though their body was immobile. Another solid ground for the concept of the mind being separate from the body, are the many cases of children (mostly between 3 to 7 years of age) remembering incidents from their past lives. One such case was that of a boy named Nazih Al-Danaf from Lebanon. He started talking about his past life from a very early age. He, in fact, led his parents to the home of his past life where a man named Fuad Assad Khaddage once lived. And astonishingly, he answered many questions posed by Khaddage’s widow about the latter’s life.

#3 Psychic Energy: Citta or mind is a psychic energy which is the subtlest form of matter that a living being is endowed with, at the time of birth.

The mention of Mind and body relationship can also be seen in the ancient Hindu scriptures, where Citta or mind is nowhere regarded as intangible but as a psychic energy which is the subtlest form of matter. It is the manifestation of the cosmic energy called Prana which the living beings are endowed with, at the time of birth. It is this energy which gives them the experience of life. And with yogic meditation, a person could elevate this energy from conscious and the subconscious states to the superconscious state thereby taking himself to the state of Samadhi. Samadhi is the divine and universal state of mind where a person has the supreme knowledge about everything in the universe.