Kama-Manas, or how your mind and feelings don’t work well together.
This is an aspect of the “constitution of man” – the way we exist in different ways on a number of different levels. While each of us is a whole person (oh well, potentially whole), and functioning on all the possible levels simultaneously (again, potentially so), it is also possible to concentrate on just one level at a time.
Manas is our mental body – our thoughts and discourses occur at this level.
Kama is the desires, emotions, feelings - the level of the “astral body” - and this is also in part the version of ourselves that takes part in our dreams. Kama is in effect a separate body (please note that this is kama, as in the kama sutra, and not karma, which is the work we do, and what we need to learn and do, and also what we need to stop doing – I may write about karma elsewhere)
Kama and manas together can form a complex unity, which, as I'll try to explain, if often a problem.
“Beneath” kama-manas are the familiar physical and etheric bodies - the solid stuff of our body, plus our vitality and energies. "Above" kama-manas are the buddhic plane (soul level) , the atmic and monadic (spiritual planes).
Ideally (and potentially) all of these levels will form a seamless unity, implementing our destiny and creating the life we choose, expressing our full potential, etc. However, this is seldom the case – we trip ourselves up in any number of ways, and one of the main problems is what I have highlighted in the title of this article – the relationship of kama and manas.
On its own, kama is fine – we feel uplifted by a piece of music, we feel affection for a puppy, we see and feel the beauty in a flower. Most of this feeling will naturally pass quite quickly, but some will remain, and then, after a while, something else will engage our attention and feelings
And likewise, on its own, there is nothing wrong with manas – we may understand the harmonic pattern in a piece of music, consider the stages of growth and development of the puppy, and reflect on the different types of flower and the way they are pollinated. We may or may not add this new thought to our store of knowledge and understanding, but again, the thought will probably be quite transient, though we may go back to it again later.
The problem comes when we have kama and manas together simultaneously, or kama-manas:-
We compare two versions of the same music, and criticise one
The puppy makes a mess and we get angry
The flower creates a feeling of transienceand discomfort, or we feel guilt for picking it.
And then we begin to develop and elaborate these into a soap opera – how we don’t like the look of one of the musicians, how the dog should have been trained better, how we should get nicer flowers in our garden. We can develop these stories indefinitely, and our dramas with dogs and gardens can last the whole of our lives !
So, where did we go wrong ? – wasn’t it just a piece of music, a puppy and a flower !
Well, what happened is that we let the mind and feelings get together to form kama-manas, that’s what I think. Kama-manas forms a single unit, which specialises in dramatizing our lives for us, and taking our simple thoughts and feelings and providing a commentary, a plot, and a drama.
In general. I think it’s better if we try and simplify the thought-feeling mixture. Although in some ways it is the basis of our selves, our personality, it is also a great distraction and a nuisance, and it generates some very bad habits
Some of the worst things it does are these:-
- It draws us into all sorts of dramas - especially of the he said-she said type – some are grand operas, some are soap operas, but they are all types of drama. They may entertain us, but they are a distraction,
- Particularly, it is the villain in terms of belief – when you think about it, a belief is a thought that we like and that is valuable to us. However, it seems that “believers” get a thought, and then start investing their feelings and energy into the thought, and pumping more energy and thought into it. Eventually there is such a reservoir of energy involved that they are blinded to everything else, and they have invested so much into it, that they daren’t let it go. At the extreme, some people seem possessed by their beliefs.
- Such terms as positive thinking are also examples. After all, thinking is thinking, and in the world of thought, there is only better, more complete, more elegant or more accurate thought. The idea of positive thinking is clearly a sort of “invasion” from the feelings – it is nice to be positive and have goodwill towards everyone, but, perhaps it is better to separate them into two exercises, one to think clearly, and another to radiate positive and uplifting energy to others !?
I'm sure there are more examples !
This may be one of Theosophy’s main contributions, and certainly one of the most useful, though it is relatively little known.