The Mental and Gnostic Self

The exact nature of  the  manomaya kosha  and  vignanamaya kosha in Taithria Upanishad, mental and gnostic self  is a matter of controversy  among  commentators.  Most of the modern commentators equate manomaya  kosha with  the Chitta-Manas the lower mentality and Vignanamaya Kosha with  the  Buddhi, the intelligence.   But the imagery of these two sheaths in Taithria Upanishad suggest a very different picture.

Let  us  examine the original conception of these two sheaths as  it  was formulated  in the Taithria Upanishad.  The manomaya kosha is described in the following words.

“Now  there is yet a second and inner self which is other than this  that is  Prana, and it is made of Mind—.  Yajur is the head of him and the Rig-veda is his right side,  Sama-veda  is  his  left side; Adesha is his spirit which is  the  self  of  him; Atharvan  is  his  lower  member,  whereon  he  rests  abidingly”.

And the description of Vignanamaya kosha, the gnostic self runs like this “Now  there is yet a second inner self which is other than this which  is of  Mind and it is made of Vignana—-.  Faith, Sraddha is the head of him; Right, Rta is his right side; Truth, Satyam is his left side; Yoga  is his  spirit  which is the self of him; Manas is his lower  member  whereon  he rests abidingly”.

To  understand the meaning of the above verses we have to get behind  the symbolic  and  imaged  language of the ancient seers.  The meaning of the imagery  of Vignanamaya Purusha will be clear and revealing to all those who are  familiar with the terminology of vedic mysticism.  Here we find some of the terms  used by  vedic  sages  for the highest supramental worlds of  Surya:  Sathyam,  Rtm, Brhat,  Truth, Right, the Vast.  The Vedic word Brhat is replaced by the  word Mahas.  We will discuss this imagery of Vignanamaya Kosha in greater detail in our next article.  The Upanishad says further that this Vignanamaya is the inner Self and other than that of the Mind.  It says Yoga is his spirit which is the Self  of him.  All these imagery very clearly shows Vignanamaya is not the intellectual mind but a supramental faculty beyond the belt of mental consciousness.

So, a first preliminary analysis of the imaged description of the Manomaya and Vignanamaya Koshas in Taithria Upanishad gives the impression that these are respectively the centers of lower and higher knowledge apara and para vidya, as they are called in Mundaka Upanishad.  Manomaya is the centre of apara vidya, or lower knowledge, that is knowledge acquired through the  intellect,  the scientific,  intellectual and analytic knowledge.  It includes all  the  sixty four  arts  and  sciences  listed  in  the  Indian  tradition  and  also   the intellectual and verbal knowledge of the Vedas.  Vignanamaya is the centre of para vidya, intuitive knowledge by identity by which the supreme Reality or  Self  beyond mind is known, not intellectually through the abstract idea,  but becoming one with it through inner communion, experience and realisation.

Now let us again examine little more deeply and closely the imagery of Taithria Upanishad and see whether it confirms to the conclusions of our first preliminary investigations.

While describing Manomaya  Purusha Upanishad says, Yajur  is  the  head, Rigveda is his right side, Samaveda is his left side, the Adesha is his spirit and  self  and Atharvan Angirasa is his lower member.  And  the  corresponding imagery  for Vignanamaya Purusha runs like this.  Faith, Sraddha is the head of  him; Right, Rta  is his right side, Truth, Sathyam is his left side, Yoga is his spirit and  self and Mahas is his lower member.  To the discerning eye the contrasting  imagery is striking and revealing.  The imagery of Manomaya represents the outer  form and that of Vignanamaya, the inner spirit and core of Vedic knowledge.

The names of the four Vedas described as the limbs of Manomaya represent the  outer  name and form of the vedic knowledge, that is as  we  have  already said, the analytic, intellectual and verbal knowledge of the Vedas or in other words  apara  vidyas.  We must remember here that in the Vedic  tradition  the Veda represents the source of all knowledge spiritual as well as secular,  para and  apara vidya.  But an intellectual and analytic knowledge of the scriptures  is  not considered  as  para vidya but only as a part of  apara  vidya.  As  Mundaka Upanishad states:

“There  are two types of knowledge to be known as declared by those  who  know Brahman,  the  higher and lower knowledge.  Of these apara Vidya  is  that  of Rigveda, the Yajurvedas, Samaveda, Atharva vedas and of phonetics,  virtuals, grammar,  etymology, prosody and astrology.  And the higher para vidya is that  by  which the Imperishable is known”.

And  in the Chandogya Upanishad, when Narada approaches  Sanathkumara  to learn  Brahma  Vidya, the later asks Narada to tell him first what  he  knows.  Narada first mentions the four vedas and then gives a long list of the various arts and sciences he has learned.  But Sanathkumara is the least impressed and dismisses all the immense learning of Narada as mere verbiage.  “What you know Narada”  says  Sanathkumara  is  nothing but Names”  which  means  apara  vidya acquired  through the intellect and which is made mostly of  verbal  knowledge made of word and abstract ideas.  In the same Upanishads Narada admits frankly that he was only a mantra-vid, the knower of words and not atma-vid knower  of the  Self.  Now we can see why Taithria Upanishad mentions  the names  of  the four  vedas as the limbs of the Manomaya Purusha.  They represent as we  have said already, apara vidya or in other words, the knowledge of the outer  word-form  mantra-vid and not the knowledge of the spirit and soul Atma-vid.


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