The Mind and its Death

(K3.31 – K.32) Everything that we perceive, we perceive through the senses; everything that we ‘know’, we know through the mind. Consciousness functions through the mind – the concept known as chidAbhAsa, explained in Appendix 3. When the mind is inactive – for example, in deep sleep or under anesthetic – we are conscious of nothing. It is the mind that effectively imposes duality on the non-dual. We see the forms and, by naming them, it is as if we create separate things where there is really only brahman. Once this apparent duality is imposed, all of the negative emotions of desire, fear, attachment, anger and the rest follow. It is the mistaking of the really non-dual as dual that brings into existence all of our problems, which Advaita summarizes as saMsAra.

Having recognized that it is the mind that is the effective source of our problems, it is only natural to conclude that, by somehow ‘getting rid of’ the mind, we will solve those problems. This is the concept called manonAsha, which found favor with Ramana Maharshi in particular, who is claimed to have stated that this should be the aim of the seeker. (manas refers to mind in general; nAsha means loss, destruction, annihilation, death.) Once we have ‘destroyed the mind’, it is said, there will be no more duality.

Gaudapada does not use the word manonAsha but amanIbhAva. This means ‘the state of not having perception or intellect’ and comes from the Maitri or maitrAyanIya Upanishad (VI.34). It is worth quoting some of what is said there (Ref. 80):

Having made the mind perfectly motionless, free from sleep and agitation–when he passes into that state where the mind itself vanishes, then is that the highest place… The mind alone is to mortals the cause of bondage and liberation; cleaving to objects of sense, it is only for bondage; when it is void of all objects it is called liberation.

The way that Gaudapada puts it is that, when the mind ceases to function, duality is no longer perceived – and this we know from our own experience in deep sleep. But clearly this is not quite the same. There is never any duality – this is the truth. But, in our ignorance we believe that the perceived duality is real; just as we believe the mirage water is real. Once we gain the knowledge, we realize that our belief was mistaken, even though we still see the duality or mirage.

When the knowledge dawns that the world, including the mind, is only mithyA, this is the figurative death of the mind. As Swami Paramarthananda puts it, “A wise mind, which does not see real duality, is as good as no mind”. Anything that we previously thought to be a problem is so no more, because we know that it is not real. We do not have to destroy the dream world; we just need to wake up. manonAsha should not be thought of as ‘death of the mind’, which is not at all the case. It should be understood as the intellectual recognition that the mind is unreal, from the vantage point of absolute reality.

See also the post ‘manonAsha – not the literal death of the mind

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