The other day I speculated that the universe might have one mind to rule them all instead of us dealing with each our own mind individually. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the bottom of this by reading relevant passages from the scriptures so I might just as well speculate a bit further with what I already have.
From our empiric point of view when we hear that Kṛṣṇa has created twenty something material elements we don’t take it to mean that He literally created twenty elements and that’s it. We understand it just like we understand ordinary air or water – it’s all the same around the Earth but water I splash on my face is different from water used for cooking on the other side of the world. Same with mind and senses – there are eyes and everybody has got them but still each has got his own.
Same with elements described by Kṛṣṇa – He created mind and senses but we all have got our own sets. My mind, therefore, is different from the mind of the person sitting next to me, and so are my eyes, ears, skin etc. It’s hard to imagine it being any other way.
The objective reality, however, might be totally different. Our views are dictated by the illusion even when we talk about the same objective things like material elements. Kṛṣṇa sees them and we see them, but we still see them differently from those who are free from illusion. This is where it gets tricky.
My differentiation between my mind and the mind of my neighbor is caused by the false ego but liberated observers do not have it, they do not see the world as divided into mine and his and theirs and so they have no grounds to see our minds as separate. Then the question becomes how could they still see our minds as differing from each other. Is there even a possibility for this?
There could be because we are still individual souls and there’s spiritual difference between us and between our relationships with the Absolute. If we have our unique relationships then we must have our unique tools and unique, individual minds and senses.
This, however, could be true only of the spiritual reality but in the material world we are forced to accept whatever is given. We do not form individual relationships with Kṛṣṇa in the conditioned state, we form individual relationships with His inferior material energy, and even then “we form” is on overstatement, we accept what is forced on us by karma. Even then acceptance means some expression of our will but in the conditioned state we just helplessly observe, no one asks whether we accept it or not.
If we compare this world to a movie theater then we are not in charge of the program and we do not control the plot, we just sit and watch and imagine that we are the thinkers and the doers and the enjoyers and the sufferers.
This understanding supports the argument that there is no such thing as an individual mind and individual senses, it’s just a show and we lay claim to various characters. What we see as ours is part of one bigger plot, it has no separate existence and it’s intricately connected with everything else.
I would say that it’s one universal mind which at this point in time has these properties in this part of the universe and other properties in another part. Or we could bring it closer together and talk about distribution of properties in a country, city, neighborhood, or a single house. When something happens in the middle of the house, someone says something, for example, then the mind in this corner agrees with it, the mind in the another corner disagrees, the mind in the third corner wants to reconcile opposing reactions, the mind in the fourth corner wants to see a fight. Yet another mind takes a macho approach and starts boasting, a different mind takes a feminine approach, the macho mind softens up, the feminine mind feels a victory, and a young mind on a potty tries to absorb it all and make sense of what is happening.
If you aren’t completely overwhelmed by your own thoughts you can observe it all and understand everybody present there, understand why they react in their particular ways and predict their actions. You might not feel their emotions personally but you can empathize.
The other day I heard someone say “I don’t want to understand you because if I do then I might forgive you.” That’s a profound observation if you think about it. We all make mistakes but we all also can justify our actions, we can even justify malicious intent. We do it for ourselves and we can do it for others, too, we just need to understand their situation, be in their shoes and we’ll get it. Once you see the situation through somebody else’s eyes forgiveness is inevitable.
We always forgive ourselves, or nearly always. Even if we think we were wrong and deserve punishment we still accept it as part of the forgiveness ritual. We just can’t see ourselves as being totally doomed but it’s very easy to lay absolute, immutable blame on others. Just listen to the rhetoric and accusations thrown around in politics, they leave absolutely no room for forgiveness. They don’t allow any space for the other party to be right, it needs to immediately cease and desist. It’s all just stupid, selfish, and short-sighted. Wise people must understand and therefore forgive others, that’s why they have no enemies.
So, if we try to see the world through somebody else’s eyes we ought to share the same likes and dislikes and it will be like sharing the mind, which was my point all along. Once you see the whole gamut of possible reactions you forget which ones were your own and which ones were born of empathy and compassion. Or you could share righteous indignation, too.
Moreover, the more you observe how people’s minds work the more you know that they are not in control but simply follow the nature. How can you say that it’s “their” mind when you can see it being shaped by news, media, public opinion, education, peer pressure, previous experiences and the like. There’s nothing individual about it, no more than individual temperature readings around the room. When it gets hotter in one place then the heat gradually spreads until the air-conditioning kicks in. Same with people’s emotions – it’s complicated but a totally mechanical process.
At the end of this post I think I have proven to myself that I don’t deal with “my mind” but with this one universal substance that affects and interacts with a patch of it that I claim as my own. The goal here is to strengthen the intelligence enough not to fall under the influence of this mind but rather bring it under control, which is another tricky question – how exactly do you bring under control something that is not yours and is ruled by far superior forces? Kṛṣṇa has answered this question but I think it applies only to a certain context and I’m not going to start that conversation now – keeping Kṛṣṇa’s words restricted by the context is not how we usually read Bhagavad Gītā so I won’t even start.