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Your Questions Answered
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 48: The Relationship between Brain and Mind

Spanish Visitor: Swamiji, what is the mind, and how do thoughts originate? How do these thoughts originate in our mind?

Swamiji: When your personality starts, when you come into being, the mind also comes into being, because you are the mind itself. The one who is speaking to me just now is the mind speaking, and it originates the moment the Mr. so-and-so that you are originates. When did you originate? How did you come into being?

Mind is the consciousness of individuality, and the moment individuality arises, the consciousness of individuality also operates, simultaneously. In early babyhood, it is in a very minute incipient form. When the individuality becomes more and more mature, the consciousness of individuality, which is called the mind, also becomes more and more clear. When you were a little baby, your consciousness of your individuality was very vague. Now it is very clear, as in broad daylight.

So, briefly, the answer to your question is that the mind is the consciousness of individuality, and it is present in every created thing. Even an atom has a kind of mind. It will not allow its individuality to be disrupted by any kind of external interference; it maintains a self-identity. The nucleus of the atom, around which electrons revolve, constitutes the atom's individuality, and that distinguishes one atom from another atom, as one person is different from another person, as one thing is different from another thing.

Everything in the world, right from inanimate matter up to the human level, maintains a self-identity, and it will not become another thing. You are what you are, and you cannot be something else. That self-identity consciousness, which maintains itself and cannot become other than what it is, that is the mind, and it operates universally everywhere in the cosmos. It is not only inside you. When it operates as an individualised affirmation in one particular centre, it becomes an "I" in the case of some person; and when it operates in another person, it is the "I" in another. When it is in an insect, it is the "I" in the insect. When it is in a tree, it maintains an individuality of its own, also; it has its own mind also, in a biological state. It is not so very conscious, but it is biologically alive, in protoplasm and other things.

Essentially, the whole mind is cosmic. It is operating everywhere. There is only one mind, finally. It is called the Cosmic Mind, like an ocean, a sea. And it appears like drops, or waves, or ripples operating individually in different persons, things, individualities, etc.

Whenever there is a consciousness of individuality, of any person or any thing, the mind at once starts operating, because mind and consciousness of individuality mean one and the same thing. If anyone is conscious that one exists as an individual, that consciousness is called the mind. So, the origin of individuality is the same as the origin of the mind.

How the individuality arose is a cosmic question. It is a question of cosmology and creation, and there we go beyond psychology. Your question is partly a psychological question, but when you go deep, it becomes a cosmological question of creation itself; it is very deep, farther than how the mind works. Then, you have to know how the individuality has started at all. There, we go beyond ordinary human concepts of experience. This is my answer to your question.

Spanish Visitor: Thank you, Swamiji.

Swamiji: They say the mind is inside the brain. From where did the brain come? Their idea also is that the mind is different from the brain.

Spanish Visitor: Yes. They say so.

Swamiji: Is the mind touching the brain, or is it separate from the brain? What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? What is the brain made of? What is the mind made of? You see, you have already accepted that they are two things.

Spanish Visitor: Yes.

Swamiji: So, you may say that the brain is made of material stuff. Is the mind also made of material stuff? Or, is it made of something else? Let the scientists answer this question. If it is made of a different stuff, what is that substance out of which it is made? If it is made of the same stuff as the brain, it becomes as material as the brain; then, it cannot be conscious, because matter is not conscious of itself. So, how is it that you are conscious, if the mind also is made up of matter only? Is matter aware of itself? Matter requires another thing for it to be known. Matter cannot know matter; the non-matter only knows the existence of matter, so we must say that the mind is made of non-matter. If it is non-matter, what is that non-matter? What is it made of?

They are making a muddle. Their idea is not correct. They are not two different things. If the mind and brain were two different things, you would be feeling that you are two persons, like a split personality. But do you feel that you are two persons? You are one whole, integrated, solid being. How did this consciousness arise, if there are two things operating in your personality? Are you two fractions put together? Do you feel that you are a dual individual? Or, do you feel that you are a total whole? What do you say?

Spanish Visitor: I feel like a total.

Swamiji: Then, how did these two things come there? You cannot be made of two things, and then feel that you are one. It is impossible, so there is a mistake in the concept of the mind being inside the brain. It is not so. It is a different thing altogether. The mind is not inside the brain.

Actually, the brain is a solidified form of the mind itself; as water looks like ice, the mind looks like the brain, and the body. That is why you are feeling that you are one integrated whole; otherwise, you would have been feeling that you are a split personality – some matter, and some non-matter. You would never be happy for one second, if you are a split personality. The identity consciousness, and the total consciousness that you feel in you, is possible only if there is no distinction vitally between mind and matter. It is one thing appearing as two things. You are from Spain. There was a great philosopher in your country called Spinoza. Have you heard of Spinoza?

Spanish Visitor: Yes.

Swamiji: Do you know what he writes? You have not read him. You are a philosopher?

Spanish Visitor: I am not a philosopher, actually.

Swamiji: You are teaching philosophy? Spinoza says that mind and matter are like two wings of a bird. The bird is the most important thing; if the bird is not there, the wings will not be there. So, I told you that the mind is vitally inseparable from the brain or matter; but actually, as Spinoza, Plato or Aristotle, or Indian thinkers, mystics, etc., would say, it is one Universal Substance that appears as thought and matter. This is what Spinoza will tell you. And, you are actually Universal Substance, and not either this or that. Due to some peculiar phenomenon that has arisen in the act of creation itself, you have separated yourself from the Cosmic Substance, and are looking like an individual, isolated from the Cosmic Substance.

The Ultimate Reality is Substance, according to Spinoza. You may call It God, if you like. He calls It the Universal Substance, and It is conscious of Itself. That Self-consciousness of Universal Substance is called God, and you are inseparable from It, ultimately. But in the act of creation, due to the interference of space and time, this separation consciousness has arisen, unfortunately, and each part of the Universal Substance began to assert itself as something totally different from It.

A part of that mind gets separated from the total whole; It asserts itself as I am so-and-so, even down to the insects and the atoms. And, then that consciousness of isolatedness from the Cosmic Substance solidifies itself into sense organs, and instruments of action – called the body, the brain, the heart, the lungs, and so many things. So, actually, I am slowly, unconsciously, jumping into a cosmological subject, which I wanted to avoid.

You are then a cosmic being, basically, and if you know this, you shall be free. You shall have no problems. This is another way of saying that your consciousness is a part of God-consciousness.

Spanish Visitor: And to be aware of that is through meditation?

Swamiji: It is through meditation, and great self-restraint – control of the sense organs, and meditation correctly practiced under the guidance of a competent person.

Spanish Visitor: There is a lot of confusion about meditation.

Swamiji: Yes, I know. It has to be carefully conducted, and it is not an easy thing. In the beginning, it looks easy; afterwards, it becomes a little difficult. It requires a competent teacher in the case of every person.