Sage Ved Vyasa is credited with authoring the 18 Puranas that contain many allegorical stories and fables. One of them is a story about Yama and Chitragupta, narrated in the Garuda Purana. It is mentioned in the Garuda Purana that Chitragupta who is present in Yama loka, records all the good and evil acts of sentient beings. After death, when the soul enters Yama loka, based on its past actions, it is transported to heaven or hell. But is the fabled Chitragupta, a real being who constantly toils to prepare records of all sentient creatures in various levels of existence?
This very world of ours is inhabited by more than seven billion people and if animals, insects, trees and other sentient beings are also taken into consideration, the number would be staggering. And so the impracticability of maintenance of such a stupendous record puts a question mark on the very existence of Chitragupta. Underlying this allegory is an interesting philosophical concept.
Human consciousness is endowed with external and internal organs for receiving and processing information from the external world.
The five sense and five motor organs constitute the external instruments. It is with these 10 implements that we interact with the world external to us. The antahkarana or the internal organ, which enables us to process the information received from sense organs and turn sensation into perception, is functionally classified into four aspects: mana, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara.
Mana is the mind that coordinates the senses and performs lower order processing. The aspect of the mind that has the ability to discern is called buddhi. Chitta is the storehouse where the karmic impressions created out of emotional involvement while performing an action are stored. It is the subconscious region which lies more or less shrouded from the conscious mind and is activated during dreaming and deep relaxation.
The expression ‘chitta’ is the distorted and vernacular form of the Sanskrit term chitra, which means wonder-evoking. Another interesting meaning of the term ‘chitra’ is imagery.
Since this storehouse of karmic impressions made up of mental imagery is wonderful, it is called chitra and since it is hidden from the active conscious mind, it is called gupta. Thus, the reckoner of our past deeds, ‘Chitragupta’ is indeed none other than our subconscious which has been witness to our past actions, storing subtle impressions relentlessly. Amnesia or the nature of the mind to forget is personified as Yama, since death is nothing but a forgetting of our identities and past associations.
We are what we identify ourselves and associate with. If these connections are severed, we call it our death. Indra, the king of gods is the personification of mind, the lower order processing mechanism. He commands the deities – indriyas or senses. He is guided by buddhi or his preceptor Brihaspati, the higher order discerning power.
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