Chetana is derived from the root ‘chit’ to be conscious of
(Chetati). Although Chetana is used in the masculine form, cetana, the feminine
form is more commonly used in philosophy in Hinduism in the sense of
The word Chetana however, is not found in Vedic literature.
Sri Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita that he is the chetana in the living
being (Gita 10 – 22). Commenting on Chetana, Adi Shankaracharya says that
Chetana means the intellectual activity which manifests when the body and
The Samkhya School postulates that Chetana (in buddhi or the
intellect) is a consequence of the presence of purusha in achetana (the
Vedanta equates cetana with Brahman occasionally and holds
the theory that chetana (Brahman) is the cause of the world
(cetanakaranavadinah) (Adi Shankara on Brahmasutra 1-6-12).
In classical Sanskrit literature, cetana means sentient
beings. For example, Kalidasa uses the term cetanacetanesu in his Meghadutam in
the sense, among sentient and insentient beings.