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Cognitive States of Mind
as revealed in the Gayathri Mantra!
by Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam
Cognitive sciences often rediscover philosophical analyses taxingly. A better policy would be first to learn what philosophy can teach us and then move on to experimentation and model-building within the scope of positive science. In this article an attempt is made to combine the ideas of mind existing and revealed in ancient Indian wisdom contained in the Gayatri Mantra, Upanishads, Advaita philosophy and Sabdabrahma siddhata. Also the possible application of such a combination in the fields of cognitive sciences artificial intelligence and physiological psychology is hinted.
Chanting and meditation on the Gayatri Mantra is part of spiritual ritual of many traditionalists. This is an important phase of Sandhya Vandanam. The profound meaning of Gayatri Mantra and the meditative insight contained in the performance of Sandhya Vandanam is very interesting, revealing and beneficiary.
Aum bhoor bhuvah ssuvah
Aum tat savitur vareanyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
May the Divine Luminescence which causes the conscious states/phases of mind - bhooh (jagrat/ wakeful/ awakened), bhuvah (swapna/dream) and suvah (sushupti/deep sleep) - illuminate and inspire our intellect.
We also have:
i. Aum bhooh Aum bhuvah Aum suvah Aum mahah Aum janah Aum tapah Ogum satyam
ii. Aum tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
iii. Aum aapo jothi rasomrutam brahma bhoorbhuvassuvah Aum
i. Pranavam is Aumkaaram. Pranavam is contained in every thing as pranava sakti. Everything is manifestation of pranavam. Sapta lokas (lokyate iti lokah - what is seen is loka) - Laukika Jnanadayakaroopa Bhooloka (jagrat / awakened / wakeful conscious / mental state) and Bhuvarloka (swapna/dream conscious/mental state), the swararoopa suvarloka (sushupti/deep sleep conscious/mental unawareness state), buddhiroopa maharloka (phase of intellectual operations), pranayuta ahamkaararoopa janoloka (origin, form, structure, cessation and re-creation of egoistic mind state), tapoloka (one-pointed meditative mental state) and Sat-Chit-Ananda roopa eternal awareness-providing Satyaloka (egoless/ego-transcending conscious state, which exists in all the conscious/mental states and at all times-physical or psychological) - are manifestations of and contain in and by Brahman/Atman.
ii. May such Brahman/Atman, responsible (upanadana karana) for our mind and associated functions illuminate our intellect to acquire real knowledge (jnana). We pray that Divine Luminescence and meditate on it.
iii. Ap (rajo guna), jothi (sattva guna) and the rasaswaroopam (tamo guna), amritam (essence of meaningful experience or experienced meaning - beyond or transcending jeeva sthiti), and the conscious / mental states bhoor-bhuvah-suvah lokas are all manifestations of the same pranavam - the Brahmaswaroopam. This is also called savita - the cause and creator of all these.
Chanting these mantras and meditation on their meaning is the chief phase in the performance of Sandhya Vandanam. Sandhya means antarmukha dristi samayam / awareness of within mental phase. Sandhya Vandnam means atmaanusandhana prayatnavidhi. Divam means bahirmukha dristi samayam / aatmaanubhava vismarana samayam / awareness of without mental phase. Rathri or Nisa means visranta dristi samayam / aatmanbhava samayam, the state of peace, silence and bliss - the state of cessation of all mental cognitions (maanasika kaaryakalaapaanaaam viraama samayam / raama samayam).
These purports can further be interpreted making use of Upanishadic wisdom, Advaita philosophy and Sabdabrahma Siddhata as follows.
Ancient Indian wisdom as revealed in the Upanishads has a lot to say about human consciousness 1-11. Ramabrahmam provided a scientific awareness of mind, its form, structure, function, thoughts, understanding and other mental processes and their cessation from psychology point of view contemplating on Upanishadic wisdom as manastattva sastra 2-11. Upanishads are source-books of Atmajnana, the Knowledge of the Self. Upanishads construe the state of Atman as the real ‘I’ state. They understood the Self i.e., human consciousness, to be unoccupied (mental) awareness and the natural, original and ground state of human mind. Atman is the result of breathing process 14,15. Srestaprana, (most possibly O2) is given as the body (tanu) of Atman. Atman is in motion always (yasya gamanam satatam tat atma – which moves incessantly is Atman) and in modern scientific terms can be termed as a bio-oscillator issuing out pulses of psychic (chit) energy of time period 10-1 second, the time required to pronounce a short syllable like ‘a’(laghu akshara).
Atman provides us with the mental energy whose presence and transformations of its virtual form (maya also known as chidabhasa or pranavam), give us mental time-space and states of consciousness respectively (Concept Diagram I), to be aware of the body, within of the body, without of the body and also a state that transcends both body and mind consciousnesses2-11.
Maya is the virtual mental energy flowing throughout the body providing sensing abilities to us. Maya, the virtual psychic energy and its transformations provide the current of awareness and hence consciousness to us. Conscious states are the phases of mind in the awareness of Atman. Conscious state of cessation of mental activities, similar to zero in number system and vacuum in physical sciences, is the unique proposition of Upanishadic wisdom which has profound role in the human cognition processes.
Advaita Philosophy and Sabdabrahma Siddhanta
Advaita Philosophy is an off shoot of the Upanishadic awareness. Advaita Philosophy is more popular as Vedanta. And it is known to Sanskrit grammarians that Advaita philosophy is best suited to understand language learning and communication skills. Patanjali, Bhartruhari, etal., proposed and nurtured Sabdabrahma Siddhanta while attempting to understand language learning, comprehension and communication processes and formulating the grammar rules for Sanskrit language making use of Brahmajnana or Atmajnana and Advaita philosophy and applied them beneficially.
As stated above the presence of Atman and transformations of maya give rise to four conscious states in us. The wakeful-sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) and deep sleep (Sushupti) conscious states are the advaita (No Two - only Aham – Aham series - here Aham / relates to unoccupied awareness or pure consciousness without any mental cognitions taking place) conscious states. Wakeful (Jagrat) and dream (Swapna) conscious states are dvaita (Two - aham-idam series - here idam relates to mental cognitions and functions in the awareness aham / atman) conscious states7. These conscious states alternately and simultaneously rise and set in us helping us to cognize / know / learn, perceive, reason, think, do intellectual operations, experience / understand, speak / teach, read and write and thus be aware of various disciplines and skills, master and use them through the medium of language or otherwise by the simultaneous use of antahkaranas (inner mental tools - manas, buddhi, chittam and ahamkaram), sense organs and action organ.
According to Upanishads knowledge is of two kinds - (i) that acquired through the combined operation of sense organs, action organs and inner mental tools in the awareness of Atman (Maitra Jnana) and (ii) that is inherent / genetic (Varuna Jnana) 5-7,14. All our acquisitions of knowledge come under Maitra Jnana and the in-built urges, volitions, body and mental abilities, capabilities, nature etc., come under Varuna Jnana. Simply putting, according to Upanishads, our mental functions are the forward and backward transformations of chidabhasa or maya – transformed by energies sensed through sense organs or the stored information as potential energies retrieved (as vasanas first and then prapancham as feelings / thoughts / perceptions) and transformed in the reverse direction to give us knowledge, experiences etc.
The transformation of maya, reverse transformation of maya and cessation of transformation of maya - the dvaita and advaita conscious states respectively- taking place simultaneously, consecutively and alternately is the structure, form, function, state and essence of human consciousness, mental functions and cognitive processes.
The above discussion and propositions about mind and its functions in terms of Atman and maya can be extended and used to understand language learning and communication processes. It is mentioned above that maya is also known as pranavam, the primordial sound. Bhakti (defined as swa swaroopa anusandhanam bhaktirityabhidhiyate - tuning the mind to natural state of mind i.e., the state of Self- or cheto vrittirupetya tisthati sadaa saa bhaitirityuchyate - the state when cheto vritti- antahkarana parinama - ceases to take place) is another name for the state of Atman or Brahman - the advaita state. In this state the pranavam or virtual chit –energy (termed as maya by Vedantins)– does not transform into antahkaranas - no vivartanam (two-way transformation of maya and antahkaranas), meaning no antahkarana parinama or vritti (transformation of inner mental tools causing cognitions) takes place.
Transformation of pranavam (maya) as antahkaranas and pancha pranas (prana, apaana, vyana, udana and samana) and thence activating sense and action organs respectively and simultaneously (wakeful and dream phases of mind) is the vibhakti or dvaita state or the state of ego - jivatma –the state of I -, my- feelings, thoughts and perceptions. All kinds of knowing / learning / expression / teaching take place in this vibhakti state making use of all mental tools in the awareness of Atman.
Sabdabrahma Siddhatanta, as well takes this advaita/dvaita concept and a theory of language learning/teaching, speaking / understanding in the four modes of mind (para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari) is developed using sphota vada, a consequence of Sabdabrahma Siddhanta. According to this theory human language communication process is a combination and quick successive reversible transformations of four modes i.e.,
I - Speaker/ Teacher:
(a) Purport / Awareness (Meaningful Experience or Experienced Meaning - para)
(b) Understanding / Experience / Sense / Mood / Volition / Intuition (pasyanti)
(c) Perception / Thinking / Feeling (madhyama)
(d) Utterance / Expression (vaikhari)
II - Knower / Listener / Learner:
(a) Knowing (through sense organs) - vaikhari
(b) Perception / Thinking - madhyama
(c) Understanding/ Experience - pasyanti
(d) Purport (Meaningful Experience / Experienced Meaning) /Awareness - para.
When the physical structure of mind and its function as revealed in the Gayatri Mantra as sapta lokas is compared and combined with the knowledge of conscious states/phases of mind and mental functions provided by Upanishadic wisdom and language learning, comprehending and communication modes as worked out by Sanskrit grammarians together with Advaita Philosophy and Sabdabrahma Siddhanta a working model of human mind can be built. The insights of Upanishadic wisdom on human cognitive processes and the physical structure of mind as revealed in the Gayatri Mantra as lokas can be used to propose a human cognitive process model; the ultimate aim being the development of a soft-ware which would perform the tasks of the mind.
These understandings in modern scientific terms about mind, its phases in the form of conscious states/lokas can be further used to develop the software to model human mental processes and language learning / communication processes going on within us and compare and club them with the mind-machine model-building attempts and working of the bio-chemicals and the energy transitions and transformations associated with them.
APPENDIX I Manas. Buddhi, Chittam and Ahamkaram (egoistic mind) are antahkaranas. They are manifestations (vibhutis) of jnanasakti. They activate sense organs. Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana are panchapranas. They are manifestations (vibhutis) of pranasakti. They activate action organs. Mind is a combined operation of Atman, Maya, Antahkaranas, sense and action organs. Mind and its activities are cognitive elements to consciousness and mind becomes Atman in Jagrat Sushupti consciousness state when all mental cognitions cease to be.
APPENDIX II Physical structure and phases of mind as revealed in Gayatri Mantra. Sapta Lokas : (Seven Conscious states of mind)
1. Seer Atman/Brahman Advaita State Being Satya loka : Aham - Aham Jagrat Sushupti Wake ful Sleep Peace Silence Bliss Egoless / ego-transcending conscious state. Visranta Dristi Awareness + Chidakasa Maya not transformed Srasta Rasa Awareness + Icha-jnana-kriya sakti pravaham / Nirvishaya/nirvishayaanubhava pravaham Atmanubhava Samayam Bhakti, Para Tatparya, Sat-Chit-Ananda Sat/Chit
2. Seer: Antahkaranas – manas, buddhi, chittam and ahamkaram Dvaita States Becoming (a) Tapo loka : Aham+Chidabhasa Chittakasa Swapna Maya transformed Samvit Meditative state if Mind Single object in awareness Antakmukha Dristi (b) Jano loka : Aham+Vasana Rajomayakasa Jagrat and / or Swapna Wakeful / Awakened and / or Dream Antarmukha Dristi State of egoistic mind. First transformation of maya Awareness + Mood Pasyanti Artha Experience Intuition Sense Understanding Urge. Maharloka : Aham+ Divya, Swara Saktis Jagrat and / or Swapna Mental state of Intellectual operations Antarmukha Dristi Awareness + Akasa and Vayu Bifurcation of maya into jnasakti and prana sakti (d) Survarloka : Aham+ Nirvishaya / Nirvishayaaanubhavam Sushupti Deep Sleep Awareness+ Tamas Maya not bifurcated and not transformed suddhavasana pravaham (e) Bhuvarloka : Aham+Idam Bhutakasa Swapna Dream State of awareness of within Awareness + Second transformation of maya Srusti Vibhakti Madh yama Antahkarana parimana takes place Only action organs are active Sense organs are dormant (f) Bhooloka : Aham+Idam Jagrat Wakeful / awakened State of mental cognition knowing / Expressing Bahirmukha Dristi Awareness + Bhutakasa Second Transformation of maya / Transformation of maya into sound, gesture, expression etc., Vibhakti Vaikhari Both sense and action organs are active
Measurement of Time based on Surya Siddhanta.
1 Day= 60 Nadigas;
1 Nadiga=60 Vinadigas;
1 Vinadiga=6 Pranas;
1 Prana=10 Deergha Aksharas (Long Syllable);
1 Deergha Akshara=4 Laghu Aksharas (Short Syllable).
1 PRANA= Time taken to pronounce 40 Laghu Aksharas (Short Syllables).
Length of the Day is divided into 864,000 paarts.
This corresponds to 1/10th of western second.
The length of the day is equal to the time taken to pronounce 864,000 Laghu Aksharas (Short Syllables).
1. Ramabrahmam, V., The physical structure and function of mind: A modern scientific translation of Advaita philosophy with implications and application to cognitive sciences and natural language comprehension, Paper presented at national seminar on Sanskrit in the Modern Context conducted by Department of Sanskrit Studies and the School of humanities, University of Hyderabad between11-13, 4
2 Ramabrahmam, V., Presentation at the Third Vedic Science Conference on Chemical Sciences and Technology in Ancient India held at Bangalore on 23rd, 24th & 25th, January, 2009 by National Institute of Vedic Sciences, Bangalore. Title: The Physicochemical Nature of Thoughts and Ideas: An Ancient Indian Insight.
3. Ramabrahmam, V Proceedings of Presentations at International Conference on Photonics, Nano-technology and Computer Applications (ICOPNAC- 2009), 25-28 February 2009 held at Center for Research and Development, Prist University, West Campus, Trichy Main Road, Vallam, Tanjavur- 613 403, Tamilnadu, India. Title: The Infrasonics and Electronics of Bionics, Volume II, pp: 20-39.
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Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam