Understanding the Mind

A mind is the complex of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement — a characteristic of human beings, but which also may apply to other life forms. (Wikipedia)

(in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc.: the processes of the human mind. 2. Psychology. the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities. 3. intellect or understanding, as distinguished from the faculties of feeling and willing; intelligence. (Dictionary.com)

It is generally agreed that mind is that which enables a being to have subjective awareness and intentionality towards their environment, to perceive and respond to stimuli with some kind of agency, and to have a consciousness, including thinking and feeling. (Wikipedia)


Advaita vedanta is frequently criticized by Western advaitins for its intellectual approach. Many things can be said about this but I would like to clarify here what Advaita Vedanta means by mind.

In the West quite a number of functions are subsumed under this one term ‘mind’. From the point of view of vedanta the above definitions are a bit of a mumbo jumbo. Two flaws in particular need to be pointed out. The first is to do with the use of the word ’consciousness’. Whereas Wikipedia says mind enables consciousness, vedanta states the opposite: consciousness enables mind. The other flaw is that there is no differentiation between all the various functions listed: ‘thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement ‘.

I would like to take up this latter point here. Continue reading


Most spiritual seekers, Western as well as Eastern, meditate. Therefore countless forms of meditation have developed: still and in motion, silent, with chanting, with prayer, concentrating on something or seeking the opposite of concentration. In Advaita Vedanta meditation plays an important role, too. There are two forms: Meditation on an object and meditation without an object. Continue reading

Prayer for Advaitins?

In most Western Advaita circles prayer is an absolute anathema because it seems necessarily to imply duality. So with most seekers I have waited years until I introduced the topic. (As up to now I have only worked with people on a one on one basis, no-one has been exposed to something that he was not yet ready to digest.)

When finally I do introduce prayer people respond in a very similar way to it: with a mixture of scepticism („This certainly is something we are beyond, aren’t we?“), bad conscience (“Is not this a regressive step?”) and longing to allow themselves to pray.


The biggest obstacle to prayer is the Western notion of God. The God they know of is an entity different from them, meaning this God definitely is part of duality. No Western Advaitin wants to turn to that. Moreover – even though there is much talk about His benevolence – many people have developed a healthy kind of a mistrust concerning His expression of love and care. They associate God with shame, guilt and punishment and much rather live without Him. Continue reading


Spiritual seekers should be able to distinguish the essential from inessential in order not to waste time and energy with inessentials on their journey. Hence, the ability to discriminate is basic.

What exactly is it that helps us discriminate? Our senses inform us about the fact that a zebra is something other than a fish. The fact that the feeling of joy is something other than the thought that triggers that joy, is already a more subtle difference. However, both differentiations, indeed any differentiation, is made by using the function in our mind responsible for it, the buddhi. Continue reading


Today we bundle everything that is considered spiritual under the term New Age. There are even people, who consider psychotherapy as spiritual and again others who would call their traditional religious practices spiritual. Thus „spirituality“ is a broad field. Advaita Vedanta provides a very specific definition for spirituality that sets limits to this broad field. In Advaita Vedanta someone is considered spiritual only, if he/she wants to realize truth – the key to truth being realizing my true nature, who or what I am – as distinct from body and mind. Everything else may lead to spirituality, but will not provide the realization, that I long for.

Spiritual search 

All humans are seekers, all humans want to grow beyond themselves. Some want to multiply their possessions because they assume that thereby their limits extend. Others want to increase their quality of life because it helps them over the inevitable limits of human existence. Again others believe that such outer changes won’t be effective as long as one does not have a psyche that is able to enjoy possession as well as quality of life. These start to work at the psychological level to thereby grow beyond themselves. Others aim to extend their limits by exploring subtle phenomena and experimenting with them. Continue reading

Death and Deathlessness

Advaita Vedanta looks at death from 3 angles: as death of the gross body, death of the subtle body and no-death. All of us agree that the gross body dies, meaning that with death its present form is gone for good. It goes back to its basic components, in vedantic terms “to the elements”, which then take the shape of different forms: ash, earth, plants, worms etc.

In Christianity there is the belief of „resurrection in flesh“ which is supposed to happen for the virtuous ones after the last judgment day – although hardly anybody seems to take this seriously anymore, at least in Europe. In increasing numbers, people have taken to a sober viewpoint, basing their existence entirely on matter and considering themselves as merely flesh. For them there is only gross body, even what Vedanta calls subtle body functions – i.e. sense perceptions or thoughts or feelings – are believed to be operations of the gross body, nerves and brain in action. Continue reading

Sitara: introducing myself

Hi, first I`d like to introduce myself, so you know where I am coming from and what you might expect from my blogs.

My name is Sitara, I am German, living in Cologne, Germany. I was born 1954 and, as all of us writing here, have been on a spiritual quest all my life. This started in my childhood when I, born and raised loosely protestant, decided to convert to Catholicism when I was 13. After having gone through the confirmation classes of our protestant church and many inspiring discussions with the minister, I to his dismay, denied to become confirmed. I had been the only one interested in the topics while all the others – who actually became confirmed – had more or less slept through the classes. Continue reading