Comparison between Mind and Consciousness in Western Psychology and Advaita Vedanta – 108 House
108 House

Comparison between Mind and Consciousness in Western Psychology and Advaita Vedanta

The fundamental difference between Western and Eastern psychology is that the former does not, and the latter does differentiate Mind from Consciousness. On the contrary Western psychology interprets Mind in terms of Consciousness, that is Consciousness is the distinctive character of Mind. Where Mind and Consciousness are used as equivalents the one of the other, ordinary experience is of course meant and not pure Cit or supreme unconditioned Consciousness. The Western ‘Mind’ is something for which there is no adequate Sanskrit equivalent since the notions are different. When I speak of Mind in Vedanta I refer to what is explained later as the ‘Inner Instrument’ (Antahkarana) as distinguished from the ‘outer instruments’ (Bāhyakarana) or senses on the one hand, and on the other hand from Consciousness of which both mind and senses are instruments.

The term Mind bears a narrower as well as a wider meaning in the sāstras. Thus in the saying ‘from where speech together with mind (Manas) withdraws failing to reach’ (referring to Brahman) the word Manas (mind) is evidently used for the whole ‘Inner Instrument’. In strictly philosophical literature however, the term Manas is almost always used in a defined sense so that it cannot be translated into ‘Mind’ as understood by Western psychologists. It is only then one function of the inner instrument. Indian ‘Mind’ is distinguished from Western Mind in this that the former as such is not Consciousness but a material force enveloping Consciousness, the two in association producing the Consciousness-unconsciousness of Western Mind. Pure Consciousness (Cit) is not an attribute of Mind. It is beyond Mind being independent of it. It is immanent in Mind and is the source of its illumination and apparent Consciousness. …

According to the Vedanta … Cit is pure consciousness Itself. Mind is a real or apparent negation or limitation or determination of that. Mind in fact, in itself, that is considered as apart from Cit (from which in fact it is never separate) is an unconscious force which in varying degree obscures and limits consciousness, such limitation being the condition of all finite experience. Cit is thus Consciousness. Mind is Consciousness plus Unconsciousness, the intermingled Consciousness- unconsciousness which we see in all finite being.

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