Connecting our Human Existence with Memory
Welcome back! On our second adventure together, we will explore the intricate connection between mind, memory vis a vis human consciousness. If you’re curious what we covered on our last trek through the Mind’s terrain, you can explore more here .
As we discovered on our previous Quest, the human mind is a treasure trove of wonders, and memory is one such wonder that is central to our sense of self and identity. And interestingly, this very memory of ours can serve as a powerful tool in navigating our daily life better, as well as in making sense of our human existence.
In order to experience this for ourselves, let’s take a trek this time to a special location called the Mind Mirror. From our last stop at Vantage Point, the walk down to the mirror is a short one. As we walk over, allow me to share a short story…
Once upon a time, there was a king who was very proud of his memory. He could remember everything he had ever learned, and he could recite long passages of scripture from memory. One day, the king decided to test his memory against that of a sage.
The king invited the sage to his palace and challenged him to a memory contest. The sage agreed, and the two of them began to recite passages of scripture from memory. The king was amazed at the sage’s memory. The sage could recite passages that the king had never even heard of.
After a while, the king was exhausted. He could not remember any more passages, but the sage continued to recite. Finally, the king gave up. He admitted that the sage had a better memory than he did.
The sage smiled and said, “Memory is not the only thing that matters. What matters more is the mind. A good mind can learn and remember anything. A bad mind can forget even the simplest things.”
The king was humbled by the sage’s words. He realized that he had been too proud of his memory. He vowed to use his mind to learn and grow, rather than to simply boast about his abilities.
And here we are! At our trek location for today: the Mind Mirror…
Experiencing the Mind Mirror
Isn’t it intriguing? Here we are in the middle of the forest and lush wilderness, and we find ourselves looking into this large, oval mirror. With ornate crests and edges – it certainly is not an ordinary object. So let’s explore…what this Mind Mirror reveals to us.
Think back to the story we just heard on our way over herb. The king who was so proud of his memory. And the humble lesson he learned at the hands of the sage. What does this show us? One aspect is that the desire to know our mind and explore its abilities goes back thousands and thousands of years…from kings to sages and even householders, we have all perhaps been fascinated by those who possess a superior grasp of the Mind’s abilities. And yet, despite the fact that we have had millennia to explore and learn more about our mind and its skills, we still have so much left to explore.
In our country today, we have rare kinds of artists called Avadhanis – the practitioners of an ancient art form called Avadhanakala. Avadhanis are masters of memory who can remember thousands of words and objects without the aid of any recording device or even pen and paper. What makes this feat of memory more amazing is also that they are creative geniuses who compose thousands of verses in Sanskrit impromptu over the course of their literary performances. You may wonder – “what else can they do?”
Avadhanis are living proof of the Mind’s most vital assets, and their practices can help us explore the true potential of our Memory and Consciousness. One reason why is perhaps because we experience that memory is not just a passive mechanism for storing information, but an active process that shapes our perception of reality. In this regard, Western and Yogic perspectives offer different insights into the nature of memory and its relationship to consciousness and spirituality. The Yogic perspective on memory is multidimensional and is closely linked to consciousness and spirituality. To understand this better, we can take inspiration from the Upanishads. For instance, we see here in this shloka from the Katha Upanishad ——
स्मृतिः सर्वेषामेव भूतानां बीजम्।
Smṛtiḥ sarveṣāmeva bhūtānāṃ bījam।
Memory is the seed of all beings.
This shloka illustrates that in the context of understanding our human existence, memory is the foundation of all knowledge and experience. It is through memory that we are able to learn and grow, and it is through memory that we are able to connect with our past, present, and future.
The Upanishads offer valuable insights into the nature of memory and its relationship to consciousness and spirituality. The Upanishads teach us that memory is not simply a function of the brain. It is also a spiritual faculty. It is through memory that we are able to achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and death. These insights can help us to understand the importance of memory in our lives and to use our memory to achieve our spiritual goals.
Memory is an active process that shapes our perception of reality, and therefore, recognizing the interconnectedness of consciousness and memory can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Memory is not just a passive mechanism for storing information, but it is an active process that shapes our perception of reality. By recognizing this, we can unlock our Mind’s infinite wonders and explore the mysteries that lie within.
Signing off for now…
Your trek guide,
About this series: Set in a conversational tone, the author wishes to embark on a journey with the readers, gradually discovering different aspects of the Mind in context of the Avadhanakala and Consciousness Studies project at the Centre for Human Sciences.
About the author: Damini is a Research Associate at the Centre for Human Sciences. An avid reader, yoga asana and dhyana practitioner, Damini finds solace in Mother Nature. As part of the Rishihood family, she will be working to uncover unique aspects of the ancient Vedic art of Avadhānakalā or multiple concentrations.