Someone wrote to me recently saying that he thinks the use of the word ‘destruction’ in ‘destruction of mind’ (manōnāśa) is just ‘Indian hyperbole’ and should not be taken literally, because of it is obvious that Bhagavan and other jñānis think, since without thinking they could not walk or talk. I hope there are not many other people who have misunderstood Bhagavan’s teachings about manōnāśa in such a way, but since manōnāśa is the goal that he has taught us that we should aim to attain, I believe that the following adaptation of my reply to this person may be helpful to other devotees.
In order to understand what Bhagavan means by manōnāśa (the destruction, annihilation, elimination, ruin, disappearance or death of the mind), we should first consider what he means by ‘mind’ or manas. In verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār (the original Tamil version of Upadēśa Sāram) he says:
Mind is only thoughts. Of all thoughts, the thought called ‘I’ is the root. [Therefore] what is called ‘mind’ is [in essence just this root thought] ‘I’.In verse 2 of Āṉma Viddai he indicates that what he means here by ‘the thought called I’ is the thought ‘I am this body’ (the illusion that the physical body is ‘I’):
Since the thought ‘this body composed of flesh is I’ alone is the one thread on which [all] the various thoughts are strung, if [one] goes within [investigating] ‘Who am I? What is [its] place [the source from which this ‘I’ has risen, and the ground on which it stands]?’ thoughts will cease, and in the cave [of one’s heart] ātma-jñāna [self-knowledge] will shine spontaneously as ‘I [am only] I’. This is silence, the one [empty] space [of consciousness], the abode of bliss.