Old ideas of mind

Ananda Wood

This paper is concerned with the philosophical basis of traditional Indian psychology. There are four sections:

1. Knowing an object: This describes the basic function of mind as focusing upon an object, by rising up from an underlying ground of consciousness, through five levels corresponding to the five koshas or layers of personality.

2. Five elements: The traditional five elements are described as levels of experience, which are perceived through the five koshas of personality and which have their restricted counterparts in five levels of modern physics.

3. Energy and life: The contrast between modern physics and traditional conceptions is described through the concept of "prana" or "living energy", which enables a scientific examination of life and mind in macrocosm and microcosm.

4. Asking for truth: The uncompromising spirit of traditional investigation is described through Yajnyavalkya's reply to Gargi (in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad), about the reality of consciousness that underlies the continuity of changing experience.

The approach is essentially non-technical, trying to explain basic concepts in simple terms. The intention here is to look for clarity in the common foundations on which technical specializations and ordinary life are built. The relevance here for traditional Indian psychology is to try placing it in context with other disciplines in the modern world.

Email the author: "Mr. Ananda Wood" <awood@vsnl.com>

This paper was presented at the
National Conference on
Yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002