A clear understanding of our psycho-spiritual structure or in other words our inner instruments, is indispensable for yoga. This article presents a brief snap-shot of our inner being in the light of Indian yoga psychology, which will be discussed in greater detail in our subsequent articles.
Purusha and Prakriti: Soul and Nature
Soul and Nature are the two eternal poles of human and cosmic existence. Soul or Purusha is the self-aware and all-aware being and Nature or Prakriti is the creative force inherent in the soul, providing the subjective instruments for the experience and enjoyment of the Soul, Purusha. The soul is free, eternal, immutable and unconditioned Spirit. But in the status of ignorance, our soul is involved in Nature and Self-lost in her conditioned movements.
The Four Instruments
The outer instrument of the Soul is the body vitalized by the life-force, which is called in the terminology of ancient yogic psychology of India as Sthula Sarira, or the gross body. Behind the sthula sarira, pervading and supporting it, is the subtle body or sukshauma sarira which is the seat of the inner instrument, anthakarna of the soul. This anthakarna is classified in Indian Yogic Psychology into four categories. Chitta which is the basic mental consciousness that is largely sub-conscious; Manas is the more conscious mentality of the sensed mind, evolved from Chitta; Buddhi is the intelligent will; Ahankara which creates the ego-idea.
Chitta and Manas: Lower Mentality
Chitta is the basic sub-conscious stuff of mind which receives and stores every impact of life, whether it is perceived or not by the conscious mind. Sri Aurobindo says mind is the only sense and the five senses like seeing, hearing, touch, taste and smell, which constitute our sense-mind, Manas, are the five differentiated functions of our mind, acting through the respective physical instrument evolved from the chitta, for the purpose of conscious experience of the world.
The Buddhi is the highest faculty evolved by Nature in the present stage of her evolutionary endeavour in humanity. The Buddhi, with its functions of conscious discrimination, judgement, understanding, choice and control, give the soul of man an initial capacity to break-away from his slavery to the mechanical determinism of Nature and to become her conscious master.
The entire conscious mentality of our self is subject to the fundamental conditioning action of the principle of Ahankara, “I-maker”, the Ego, by which nature has created as a centralizing point for organizing the experiences of a self-conscious individuality. This principle has helped us in our initial stages of evolution to emerge from our incoherent sub-conscious unity of our nether foundations of our being, to the status of a self- conscious existence, which views itself as something distinct and separate from the rest of other egos and also from the world around us.
There is one more instrument Prana, the life-force. There are two forms of Prana: that which energises our body and the other, psychic Prana which animates our mental equipment. The breath we feel in our nostrils is only a physical expression of a subtler life-force, Prana.