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Chitta And Memory

by Swami Sivananda

What Is Chitta?

Chitta is termed as the mind-stuff or mental substance. It is the ground floor, as it were. From it proceed the three Vrittis, viz., Manas, Buddhi and Ahankara. This word belongs to the Rajayogic terminology of Maharshi Patanjali. Also in the Gita, Lord Krishna uses the term Chitta in various places.

Chitta is a separate faculty or category in Vedanta. Sometimes it is Antargata, comes under Mind. In Sankhya philosophy, it is included in Buddhi or Mahat-Tattva. The Chitta of Patanjali Rishi's philosophy of Raja Yoga (Yogas-chittavritti-nirodhah) corresponds to the Antahkarana of Vedanta.

Subconscious mind is termed 'Chitta' in Vedanta. Much of your subconsciousness consists of submerged experiences, memories thrown into the background but recoverable. The Chitta is like a calm lake and thoughts are like waves upon the surface of this lake and name and form are the normal ways in which these waves rise. No wave can rise without name and form.

The functions of the Chitta are Smriti or Smarana, Dharana, attention and Anusandhana (enquiry or investigation). When you repeat the Japa of a Mantra, it is the Chitta that does the Smarana. It does a lot of work. It turns out better work than the mind or Buddhi.

The Field Of Subconscious Mentation

The mental processes are not limited to the field of consciousness alone. The field of subconscious mentation is of a much greater extent than that of conscious mentation. The mind is not conscious of the greater portion of its own activities. As man can hold in consciousness but one fact at a time, only a fraction of our knowledge can be in the field of consciousness at any one moment. Only ten per cent of mental activities come into the field of consciousness. Ninety per cent of the mental activities takes place in the subconscious mind. Messages, when ready, come out like a flash from the subconscious mind to the surface of the conscious mind through the trapdoor in the subconscious mind.

We sit and try to solve a problem and fail. We walk around, try again and again fail. Suddenly an idea dawns on us that leads to the solution of the problem. The subconscious processes were at work.

You repeatedly fail at night to get the solution for a problem in arithmetic or geometry. In the morning, when you wake up, you get a clear answer. This answer comes like a flash from the subconscious mind. Even in sleep, it works incessantly without any rest. It arranges, classifies, compares, sorts all facts and works out a proper, satisfactory solution.

Sometimes, you go to sleep at 10 p.m. with the thought, "I must get up at 2 a.m. in the morning to catch a train." This message is taken up by the subconscious mind and it is this subconscious mind that wakes you up unfailingly at the exact hour. Subconscious mind is your constant, trustworthy companion and sincere friend.

With the help of the subconscious mind, you can change your vicious nature by cultivating healthy, virtuous qualities that remain dormant in every human heart. If you want to overcome fear, mentally deny that you have fear and concentrate your attention upon the opposite quality, the ideal of courage. When courage is developed, fear vanishes by itself. The positive always overpowers the negative. This is an infallible law of nature. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana of Raja Yogins. You can acquire a liking for distasteful tasks and duties by cultivating a desire and taste for them. You can establish new habits, new ideals, new ideas and new tastes and new character in the subconscious mind by changing the old ones.

Memory

Smriti or memory is a function of Chitta (subconscious mind). Memory is used in two senses. We say, "Mr. John has got a good memory." Here it means that Mr. John's capacity of the mind to store up its past experiences is very good. Sometimes we say, "I have no memory of that incident." Here, you cannot bring up to the surface of the conscious mind, in its original form, the incident that took place some years ago. It is an act of remembering. You do not get any new knowledge through memory. It is only a reproduction.

If the experience is fresh, you can have a complete recall of your past experience through memory. In ordinary recollection there is a temporal coefficient. In personal memory there is a specific coefficient. That which acts together with another thing is a coefficient. In Mathematics, the numerical or literal factor prefixed to an unknown quantity in an algebraic term is a coefficient.

How Does Memory Arise

Suppose you have received a nice fan as a present from your amiable friend. When you use the fan, it sometimes reminds you of your friend. You think of him for a Smriti-Hetu (cause of memory).

If your brother is a tall man, the sight of a similar tall man in another place will bring to your mind the memory of your brother. This is memory due to the similarity of objects (Sadrisyata).

Suppose you have seen a dwarf at Madras. When you see a very tall man or Patagonian, this will remind you of the dwarf whom you saw at Madras. The sight of a big palace will remind you of a peasant's hut or a Sannyasin's grass hut on the bank of Ganga. This memory is due to dissimilarity in objects (Viparitata).

When you walk along the road on a stormy day, if you happen to see a fallen tree, you conclude that the tree has fallen owing to the storm. In this case, the memory is due to the relation between cause and effect (Karya-karana-sambandha).

The new Samskaras wash away the old Samskaras. If the Samskaras are fresh and recent, it is easy to recall them back quickly. They come up again from the depths of the subconscious mind to the surface of the conscious mind. Revival of old Samskaras takes place. If you visit once the college wherefrom you received your education, ten years after you became an officer in the Government, all the previous Samskaras of your college days will be revived now. You will remember now your old professors, old friends, old books and various other things.

Characteristics Of A Good Memory

The following are the four good characteristics of a good memory: (1) If you read once a passage and if you can reproduce the same nicely, it is a sign to indicate that you have a very good memory. This is termed Sugamata. (2) If you can reproduce the same thing without increase or decrease, addition or substraction, it is called Avaikalya. (3) If you can preserve a fact or passage or anything for a very considerable period, it is called Dharana (retentive memory). (4) If you can reproduce a passage at once without any difficulty when it is needed, it is called Upaharana.

The Process Of Recollection

When you desire to remember a thing, you will have to make a psychic exertion. You will have to go up and down into the depths of the different levels of subconsciousness and then pick up the right thing from a curious mixture of multifarious irrelevant matter. Just as the railway sorter in the Railway Mail Service takes up the right letter by moving the hand up and down along the different pigeon-holes, so also the sorter subconscious mind goes up and down along the pigeon-holes in the subconscious mind and brings the right thing to the level of normal consciousness. The subconscious mind can pick up the right thing from a heap of various matters.

In a big surgical clinic, the assistant surgeon allows only one patient to enter the consultation room of the senior surgeon for examination. Even so, the mind allows one idea only to enter the mental factory at a time through the mind door (Manodvara). The subconscious mind brings to the threshold of the conscious mind, during an act of Smriti (memory), the right thing at the right moment, suppressing all others. It serves the part of a censor and allows only relevant memories to pass by. What a wonderful mechanism it is! Who is the driver for these dual minds? Who created these? What a magnanimous Being He must be! My hairs stand on their ends when I think of Him! My pen quivers when I write. Don't you like to dwell with Him? What a great privilege and joy it is to be in communion with Him!

When you try to remember something, sometimes you cannot remember. After some time, the forgotten something flashes out to the conscious mind. How do you explain this? It is a slip of memory. The Samskaras of the particular thing has sunk deep. The Chitta, which is the storehouse of Samskaras (and whose function is memory), has to exert a bit, to analyse and sort and bring it to the surface of the conscious mind through the trapdoor. After some exertion, revival of the old Samskaras takes place and the forgotten idea, or name of a person, which you wished to recollect sometime back, suddenly flashes to the conscious or objective mind. There ought to have been some congestion in the brain, which might have prevented the revival of a forgotten thing, idea or person. As soon as the congestion is relieved, the forgotten idea floats on the surface of the mind. When the mind is calm, memory becomes keen.

Power Of Memory

Those who overwork mentally, who do not observe the rules of Brahmacharya and who are tormented by many cares, worries and anxieties, lose their power of memory soon. When you show symptoms of losing your memory, as you grow old, the first symptom is that you find it difficult to remember the names of persons. The reason is not far to seek. All the names are arbitrary. They are like labels. There are no associations with the names. The mind generally remembers through associations, as the impressions become deep thereby.

Even in old age, you can remember old events, as there are associations with events. You can remember well in old age some passages that you read in schools and colleges. But, you find it difficult to remember in the evening a new passage you read in the morning. The reason is that the mind has lost its Dharana Sakti (power of grasping ideas). The brain cells have degenerated.

In early boyhood, the power of grasping in the mind is very marked. But, there is no power of understanding. In 16, 18, 20, the power of understanding becomes manifest. The power of retentive memory is also great in this age. The mind becomes settled only after 30. Below 30, there is much Chanchalatva (wandering nature). A man below 30-in the vast majority of cases-is not able to think and decide for himself. He has no power of judgment. After 45, power of grasping begins to decline. Memory also begins to decline. He has power of retention for what he has learnt before. He cannot learn new sciences. Brahmacharya helps a lot to develop the power of retention and various other psychic powers


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