Author: Janne Kontala, PhD
Teacher of Yoga Teacher Training Course
Janne’s personal blog: https://www.jayananda.info/
The feelings and desires of manas, and the yearning to occupy the central stage connected to ahankara often cloud the buddhi. Therefore, even sincere engagement with philosophy entails the risk of ending up at odds with the Truth.
Why do the sacred texts often extol the simple devotion of a bhakti-yogi, even compared with the all-time greatest philosophers? The key to understanding this lies in the composition of the mind. The three functions of conscious mind are manas, buddhi and ahankara. Manas is the reactive part of the mind. It is manas that jumps to conclusions before one has time to reflect over the topic. It is also manas that tells us it is time to eat ice-cream, never mind our determination to focus on vitamins and fresh vegetables. Even the greatest philosophers are usually influenced by the desires, feelings and whims of manas. Therefore, one of the things that easily takes place is a desire for fame, that can manifest within the field of philosophy.
Desire for fame is related to another function of the mind, ahankara, which creates our sense of identity. We need identity, but from yoga point of view, identifying as better than others is a problem, to put it mildly. Desire for fame may drive the philosopher to establish his or her own position as opposed to others. The search for the Truth gets at least partially influenced by personal ambition.
The third part of the conscious mind is buddhi. It is buddhi talking when we are inspired to sincerely discover the Truth, however inconvenient or painful it may be to get there. It is the vrittis, changing states of buddhi, that Yoga-sutra dictates us to gradually bring to stillness, until pure understanding shines forth. The feelings and desires of manas, and the yearning to occupy the central stage connected to ahankara often cloud the buddhi. Therefore, even sincere engagement with philosophy entails the risk of ending up at odds with the Truth.
Bhakti-yoga texts encourage us to understand our position as a servant of the whole, not the whole and not the centre of it. The simple devotion of a bhakti-yogi, therefore, may overcome the obstacles of manas and ahankara, since one is oriented as a humble servant at the outset. This disposition is exemplified and glorified in Bhagavata Purana, where the little boy Prahlada is presenting beautiful prayers to the Supreme, all the while wondering how he can do what even the greatest philosophers often fail to accomplish. Such is the power of bhakti.