Manas – the mind

Manas – the mind

Notes and quotes taken from Ardor, by Roberto Calasso

A history of the Vedic people

The vedic understanding of manas is “ mind thought”, the pure fact of being conscious.  Mind is the only element from which there is no way out.  Whatever happens or has happened, Mind was already there in both unmanifest, and manifest entities. 

“Manas is a word that appears 116 times in the Rg veda. There is nothing similar in the founding texts of ANY other ancient civilization.  It is as though the Vedic people had developed a peculiar lucidity and an obsession toward the phenomenon they called “mind”.  

They understood manas as:

“ Stable in the heart, yet moveable, infinitely fast”

“ Manas would act like a good charioteer.  It would become the one that powerfully guides his men like steeds, by the reins”

“ Mind is the air in which consciousness breathes”

“ The mind was present before the separation between manifest and unmanifest, therefore has ontological privilege.  (Yet) the absolutism of the mind certainly does not mean the omnipotence of the mind”.

Mind and speech

“By themselves they are powerless.  THe horse of the mind must allow itself to be harnessed to speech, otherwise it will be lost.  Relations between mind and speech were always difficult.  They clashed like two warriors, or two lovers.  Each wished to do better than the other.”

The most difficult point is the search for a balance between Mind and Speech.  Mind is “ far more unlimited”.  Speech is never complete, but always flawed or made up of other factors, comprised by its flimsiness, or its lack of weight.”

The Brahmin priests consulted Prajapati – the ultimate creator – to decide which is better. “ Mind is indeed better, for speech imitates what Mind has done and (speech) follows”.

The dispute between Mind and Speech over supremacy is reminiscent of what would happen in Greece between the spoken and written word;  in Greece, Speech, logos, takes the place held in India by the mind, Manas.  In ancient Greece, all that happens takes place within speech. In India, it originates in something that precedes speech: Mind.

“ Mind is indeed more than speech…for the Self, Atman, is mind, the world is mind, brahman is mind. Venerate the mind.”  Chandyoga Upanishad

“ The watershed between East and West, over which so much thought has been given, can be traced to this point.  All the rest follows from that radical divergence, which India would never abandon, following it from the Veda to the Vedanta.