What Is Manas?

Photo of author
Written by


manas (the thinking mind)

Manas Definition

In yoga and Indian philosophy, manas refers to the aspect of the mind that is responsible for thought processes and sensory perceptions.

Manas is one of the four components of the inner instrument (antahkarana) in the human psyche, alongside chitta (the mind-stuff or field of consciousness), buddhi (the intellect or discerning faculty), and ahamkara (the ego or sense of self).

a woman thinking and playing with her hair

Manas Deep Dive

The Function of Thought and Perception

The Thinking Mind

Manas is often described as the ‘thinking mind’ or the ‘mind-stuff responsible for thoughts.’ It’s the mental faculty that generates, processes, and manages thoughts. Manas is the part of the mind that enables you to reason, plan, imagine, and engage in cognitive activities.

Sensory Perceptions

Manas is also closely associated with sensory perceptions. When you see, hear, touch, taste, or smell something, it is manas that processes these sensory inputs and helps you form perceptions and judgments about the world around you.

The Dynamic and Restless Nature of Mind

Continuous Activity

Manas is considered the most dynamic and restless aspect of the inner instrument (antahkarana). It’s constantly active, generating a stream of thoughts, images, and sensory impressions.

This mental activity is often referred to as the ‘monkey mind‘, comparing it to a monkey that jumps from one branch to another, signifying its restless nature.

Vrittis of Manas

The mental fluctuations within manas are referred to as vrittis. These vrittis are the ever-changing patterns of thought and perception that arise in the mind. Manas vrittis can range from ordinary everyday thoughts to more profound contemplations.

a boy thinking surrounded by question marks and a lightbulb

Manas, Chitta, and Buddhi

Manas and Chitta

Manas operates within the broader concept of chitta (the mind-stuff or field of consciousness). Chitta provides the stage upon which manas’s thoughts and perceptions unfold.

While manas is primarily concerned with thought and perception, chitta encompasses a broader spectrum of mental experiences.

Manas and Buddhi

Buddhi, another component of the inner instrument, is the intellect or discerning faculty. Manas and buddhi often work in tandem. Manas generates thoughts and perceptions, while buddhi helps analyze and make decisions about them.

Buddhi brings a sense of discrimination and judgment to the thoughts and perceptions generated by manas.

Detachment from Manas

Yogic practices also encourage detachment from the constant stream of thoughts and sensory perceptions generated by manas.

By observing these mental activities without attachment or judgment, practitioners can distance themselves from the fluctuations of the thinking mind and access deeper states of awareness.

In summary, manas in yoga and Indian philosophy represents the aspect of the mind responsible for thought processes and sensory perceptions. It is characterized by its dynamic and restless nature, constantly generating thoughts and perceptions.

Understanding and mastering manas is an essential aspect of yoga practice, as it plays a significant role in achieving mental clarity, inner peace, and higher states of consciousness.

a brain over a womans face in black and white

Manas In Ancient Yoga Texts

The concept of manas is referenced in many ancient yogic texts, providing an insight into its role in yoga philosophy and practice. Below are some examples of references to manas in yogic texts:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a foundational text in yoga philosophy, discuss manas as part of the inner instrument (antahkarana). Patanjali emphasizes the importance of calming the fluctuations of manas (chitta vrittis) as a key step in achieving higher states of consciousness and spiritual realization.

Example: “Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah,” which means “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” This sutra underscores the significance of controlling and calming the manas to attain the goals of yoga.

The Bhagavad Gita

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna explains the nature of the mind, including the role of manas, and offers guidance on how to control and discipline it. The Gita emphasizes the importance of mastering the mind in the pursuit of self-realization.

Example: “For one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.6) Here, Lord Krishna speaks to the significance of gaining mastery over manas for inner harmony.

The Upanishads

Various Upanishads, ancient Indian texts that explore the nature of reality and the self, mention manas in the context of self-awareness and realization. The Upanishads delve into the relationship between the thinking mind and the deeper, transcendent aspects of consciousness.

Example: “The mind is swifter than the senses; the senses are swifter than the body; but the Self is swifter than the mind; swifter than the Self is the Atman.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.6) This verse underscores the subtlety of manas in comparison to the higher aspects of self.

computer generated images of minds

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a classical text on Hatha Yoga, touches upon the role of manas in meditation and the importance of focusing the mind during yogic practices.

Example: “One should make the mind one-pointed, as if it were a deer standing motionless before a lion.” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 3.1) This verse illustrates the need for concentration of manas as a foundational element of yoga practice.

These examples highlight that manas is a central concept in yoga philosophy, emphasizing its significance in achieving mental control and spiritual realization.

These ancient yogic texts offer guidance on how to understand and work with the concept of manas to attain higher states of consciousness and self-awareness.

Manas In Your Life

Integrating the concept of manas into one’s life can be highly beneficial for mental and emotional well-being. Below you will find 12 practical suggestions to do so:

1. Mindfulness Meditation

Engage in mindfulness meditation regularly. This practice involves observing the thoughts and mental fluctuations of the manas without judgment. It helps increase awareness of thought patterns and promotes a sense of detachment from them.

2. Thought Observation

Set aside time daily to observe your thoughts. This can be done through journaling or simply sitting quietly and watching the stream of thoughts as they arise and pass. This self-awareness can help you understand your mental patterns better.

a blue brain with thoughts coming out of it

3. Cultivate Positive Thinking

Make a conscious effort to cultivate positive and constructive thoughts. When negative or self-critical thoughts arise, replace them with affirmations or thoughts that promote self-esteem and optimism.

4. Limit Information Overload

In the digital age, we are bombarded with information. Limit exposure to excessive news or social media consumption, which can overwhelm the mind with unnecessary thoughts. Choose your sources of information mindfully.

5. Practice Deep Breathing

Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or pranayama, can help calm the thinking mind. Focusing on your breath can bring your attention away from incessant thoughts and create a sense of relaxation.

6. Mindful Eating

Practice mindful eating by paying full attention to the sensory experience of each bite. Engage your manas in the process of tasting, smelling, and savoring your food, which can lead to a more present and enjoyable meal.

7. Limit Multitasking

Reduce multitasking, as it can lead to scattered thinking. Focus on completing one task at a time with full attention and intention.

a computer generated image of manas, the mind

8. Prioritize Mental Rest

Just as your body needs rest, your mind does too. Schedule periods of mental rest in your day where you consciously let go of thinking and give your manas a break. This could be as simple as sitting quietly or taking short breaks to clear your mind.

9. Engage in Creative Activities

Creative endeavors such as art, music, or writing can engage the manas in a positive and productive way. They encourage the flow of creative thoughts and can serve as outlets for self-expression.

10. Mindful Communication

Practice mindful communication by actively listening when others speak and choosing your words thoughtfully. This not only fosters better connections but also helps you engage your manas with intention.

11. Set Clear Goals

Define clear goals and intentions for various aspects of your life. This helps guide the thinking mind toward constructive thoughts and actions that align with your objectives.

12. Seek Mental Health Support

If you find that the thinking mind is causing you distress, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide strategies to manage and cope with challenging thought patterns.

Integrating the concept of manas into your life involves developing a greater awareness of your thinking processes and learning to manage them in ways that promote mental well-being and clarity.

It is an ongoing practice that can lead to a deeper understanding of your mind and a more balanced and peaceful life.

yogajala linebreak

To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

yogajala linebreak

More On Yoga Theory:

Photo of author
Amy is a yoga teacher and practitioner based in Brighton.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.