What is the difference between mind and consciousness?
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1. Consciousness being energy of the soul is spiritual, whereas mind is material, being one of the constituents of the subtle material body.
2. The mind is like the screen of the TV whereas the soul is the person watching the TV and consciousness is like the vision of the person that is focused on the TV.
Transcription (edited) by- Keshavgopal Das
Question- What is the difference between mind and consciousness?
- Mind is material since it is one of the elements of the subtle body.
- Consciousness is spiritual being an integral energy of the soul.
- We can avoid mind influencing our consciousness by careful introspection.
Answer (long)- Consciousness is the energy of the soul whereas mind is part of the material body. Mind is one of the elements of the subtle body. Just as our eyes have the ability to see and when we direct our eyes on a particular object our eyes see that object. Just as the power of seeing is the characteristic of the eye, the power of consciousness is the characteristic of the soul. Consciousness in that sense is spiritual in nature whereas mind is one of the objects on which the consciousness gets focused. Therefore, the difference is that the consciousness is spiritual whereas mind is material being part of subtle body.
From a practical perspective, we sometime say – our mind is disturbed, my consciousness is gone down, etc. We may use the words ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ interchangeably, but from philosophical point of view these words are technically different.
To understand our situation in the material world from a philosophical perspective, Bhagavad Gita 13.22 says the following:
purushah prakriti-stho hi
bhunkte prakriti jan gunan
karanam guna sago sya
The living entity in the material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.
For the purpose of enjoying (bhunkte), the soul (purusha) gets situated in material nature (prakriti stho hi). Just like a person who wants to enjoy a cricket match, although he can see in all directions in the room, but his eyes and vision gets focused only on the TV screen. Through the TV screen his vision enters into the cricket ground, he starts identifying, observing, experiencing what is happening on the cricket ground, and starts feeling emotions accordingly. Events that are happening on the cricket ground are like events happening in the material world and the screen on which the events are displayed is like the mind.
What happens on the cricket ground the video camera captures it, the sound recorder records the commentary etc. All these inputs are integrated and brought forward to the television. The television screen offers them for enjoyment or suffering to the soul (sad asad yoni janmasu). Similarly, what our eyes, ears, nose and other senses perceive, all those inputs are integrated by the mind and offered for perception by the soul.
The mind offers objects for perception and when the soul focuses its consciousness on the object then the soul’s desire change. For example, if the mind offers an agitating picture to the soul and the soul decides to focus on that picture, the consciousness also gets agitated, and the soul starts feeling disturbed or angry. If the picture is essentially alluring, then the soul by focusing on that becomes allured. In this way the mind proposes various objects and situations for material engagement and enjoyment for the soul. To the extent the soul focuses its consciousness on the mind, to that extent the soul gets affected by the mind. That is why we say that the best way to deal with the mind is to neglect it.
Just like if a TV show is going on in the house but if we do not look at it, it will just go on and we can continue doing our work. Similarly, the mind may offer us some inputs but as soul we may decide not to invest our consciousness in it then the mind will not affect us. This way by thoughtful internal observation and introspection we can delink our consciousness from our mind. Thus, we will not get influenced by the mind’s feelings and moods and our consciousness will stay good even if our mind is in an irritated mood.
To summarize, the mind is subtle material whereas the consciousness is spiritual being an integral energy of the soul. By careful introspection we can avoid mind influencing our consciousness.