The mind is a fascinating entity. Human society strives to define what is the mind, to understand it, to make sense of what is this thing.
The subject matter of “mind” is very deep and complex, no doubt, but there is one thing we need to understand…
The mind is not the brain.
Modern science has gone in the direction of equating the mind with the physical, chemical, and electrical features of what is observed in the brain. And there has been some apparent success too, stimulating a certain part of the brain causes certain emotions, cutting off a certain part of the brain causes certain memories or abilities to disappear, observing the electrical signals in the brain gives a sense that “this part of the brain is responsible for that type of thought or activity”.
So one may be forgive for thinking that the mind is the brain.
However, looking deep into the Vedic texts, one finds that the mind is described as a subtle material entity…
भूमिरापोऽनलो वायुः खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च ।
अहंकार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा ॥ ७.४ ॥
bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.
Analyzing the body itself, including the brain, all the material elements of the brain fall into the “earth, water, fire, air, which all take ether (space) categories. The mind is distinct from these, and what is interesting, is that the mind is also distinct from intelligence and the sense of identity (ego).
So how do we understand the role of the brain in the manifestation of the mind?
We can turn to modern computer science. In a typical computer, we see the hardware, the wired up silicon wafers. By themselves, they are pretty much worthless, no more useful than beach sand.
There’s also something called the “software” which is also pretty useless until it actually runs on those silicon circuits. Software is written by conscious entities, and represents their thought process. It comes “alive” when it runs on the hardware.
Going one level deeper, there is something called the “firmware”, which is the first layer of basic software which allows the silicon circuits to be able to run the software. All these of course are useless unless there is an expert programmer who can combine the right hardware, firmware, and software together to create something useful.
In the context of the body, you, the spirit soul, atma, are the driver of both your body and your mind, that is, if you don’t let the machines randomly drive you here-and-there chasing after mirages.
To those in the know about the essence of spirituality, life comes form the spirit spark that inhabits the body, the ego represents the sense of identity of that spirit spark, intelligence represents the discrimination that comes from that sense of identity, and the mind represents the actualization of the intelligence into thinking, feeling, and willing.
This makes the brain merely the subtle hardware, where the mind manifests its own workings, which then manifests in the gross hardware, as words and deeds.
But this does not make the mind simply the brain just as an electrical wire delivering power to a lightbulb is not the power generation station.
This deserves some reflection… you are not this body, and you are certainly not your mind, and contrary to what is commonly understood today, your brain is not your mind. You carry your mind with you life after life after life, until of course, you are free of the material mind, being completely pure in your spiritual identity and consciousness.
Be pure. Be free.