Ideology and Manas

By Choi, Sujin; Black, Marc | Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Ideology and Manas


Choi, Sujin, Black, Marc, Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge


The concepts of freedom, empowerment and self can have meanings in one context while having very different meanings in another context. Showing these differences involves showing the different contexts and the different meanings within the contexts. Toward this goal, one context is submersion in ideology and manas. (1) The other context is exposure or awareness of ideology and manas.

Some writings of Marx and Thich Nhat Hanh (2) can be very helpful with defining, illuminating and exploring submersion in ideology and manas as one context; exposure or awareness of ideology and manas as another context; and concepts and contexts of freedom, empowerment and self within these two contexts. Ideology, as part of critical theory is defined first and then manas, as a part of Buddhism, is defined.

As an operational definition for this paper, ideology is how sense is made. Sense is made by ideology. Sense is made ideologically. In that way, ideology is what determines, defines and explains the reality a person experiences. Ideology does not directly determine the physical reality, but it does determine how we understand and experience and engage the physical reality. Ideology is not our ideas, but it shapes and arranges those ideas. It is not our self, but it constructs and explains our senses of self, the world and our relationships with the world and its parts. In these ways, we think through ideology, but it is very difficult to think about ideology because ideology is our thinking. It is through unconsciousness or unawareness of ideology that we receive our consciousness, our sense of reality. In this way, our reality requires our being unconscious. We are manifestations of ideologies. They make us. We are them. However, by exposing ideology, we do not have to be ideologues. We can be free from ideologies. We can be without them if we become aware of them.

In some ways, this issue of exposure of ideology may be similar to aspects of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, everything that we have experienced or perceived includes the feelings, desires, ideas and all other content of our consciousness. These experiences and perceptions are stored and preserved as a form of "seeds" (3) in our store consciousness. (4) Those seeds manifest within the conditions of their manifestation. For example, when someone says something bad to us (one of the conditions of anger), the person 'waters' the seed of anger and we can get angry (manifestation).

When those "seeds" manifest, manas, which also arises from the store consciousness, erroneously clings to the arising (e.g., anger) which is the manifestation of "seeds" in our store consciousness caused by various conditions, and believes the arising as 'mine, I, self (e.g., 'my' anger, 'I' am angry, 'you' made 'me' angry). Therefore, manas is what makes our sense of separate self possible when, in reality, we are manifestation of non-me (5) elements. Because the notion of "self" itself is a delusion of manas, what we do with the sense of "self" is easily distorted by this delusion and most of our suffering results from this sense of separate self. According to Buddhism, we can get out of this trap through "deep looking into the impermanent and interdependent nature of reality." In this way, looking deeply at our conditionings can illuminate the delusions of self and the ideological sense of self.

This delusional and ideological sense of self both connects and conflicts with writings of Marx and Althusser. These connections and conflicts can be introduced through Althusser and then elaborated through Marx.

The connection with Althusser occurs when Althusser says,

   ... Marx said that it is in ideology
   (as the locus of political struggle)
   that men become conscious of their
   place in the world and in history, it
   is within this ideological unconsciousness
   that men succeed in altering
   the "lived" relation between
   them and the world and acquiring
   that new form of specific unconsciousness
   called "consciousness. … 

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