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Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)

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The mind (manas) and intellect (buddhi) are both two and one. Only the yogi truly understands this.

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The illumined-wisdom level of the human being is the refined buddhi or intellect. Its wisdom is intuitive, but it is capable of conveying it in intellectual terms. The energies of which it is composed are so subtle, so rarefied, that they are almost indistinguishable from spirit. For this reason many developing yogis cannot at first discriminate between the buddhi and the Self. But as they continue in their sadhana all becomes clear.

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The mind (manas) is higher than the body and the intellect (buddhi) is higher than the mind. The Gita says it simply and completely: “The senses are superior [to the body], the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect (buddhi) is superior to the mind. And much superior to the intellect is the supreme intelligence (param buddhi)” (Bhagavad Gita 3:42-43).

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Between the mind (manas) and the Self (Atman) is the buddhi, the intellect. But the buddhi has two aspects or faces, one looking downward and one looking upward. The downward-turned aspect of buddhi is the intelligent, thinking mind. The upward-turned buddhi is literally looking at God, and is so subtle that it is virtually indistinguishable from spirit. It is perfectly conscious, but not consciousness itself. It does not think, it perceives and it knows.

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If we continually subordinate the manas to the buddhi, ignoring its responses and listening only to our illumined intelligence, we will in time become adept in yoga sadhana, and through that we will fully enter into our Self and attain that mastery we call moksha (liberation), and thus be free forever from the cycle of birth and death.

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Right thought is an element of the Eightfold Aryan Path expounded by Buddha. Right thought eventually evolves into right intuition, which is the highest intelligence human beings can achieve, for it leads to liberation.

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Chitta is the subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and yet is consciousness itself. When that is made one with the buddhi, Self-knowledge must result.

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The lower, sensory mind (manas) cannot perceive the Self, but the higher mind, the buddhi, can. This is because the buddhi in its higher reaches merges into the Self at the point where akasha becomes one and indistinguishable from chaitanya, the consciousness that is spirit. This is possible because the entire range of relative existence is really an expansion of Brahman and therefore essentially consciousness/spirit.

If our judgment is based on our physical perceptions and experiences it will go astray and prove erroneous. But if it is processed in the intellect, the buddhi, then wisdom and right response (action) will result.

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The buddhi must not be merged in the manas, but the manas must be elevated and merged with the buddhi, with the principle of spiritual intelligence within each of us. This is the real “elevation of humanity,” an intensely personal endeavor in which each one must engage if humanity is to have any better future. It is not to be found outwardly but inwardly.

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The mind must be “polished” continually to keep it bright and unmarred. The foremost way is through meditation, but we must also use our intelligence and continually be expanding our intellectual faculties (buddhi). We must make sure that our minds do not accumulate a layer of dust and dirt that will dull and deaden the mind. It is a constant process to keep our minds in the condition favorable to spiritual growth and ultimate realization.

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Intelligence and intuition united is a trait of the successful yogi. Those who establish buddhi, the intellect, as the master of the manas, the sensory mind, are real yogis.

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When the buddhi has been purified and refined sufficiently, the eternal verities become perceptible to the yogi. And as he proceeds onward and upward he intuits that in time he will see and unite with the Eternal Itself.

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Enlightenment encompasses and transmutes the buddhi, it does not eliminate or transcend it. Therefore intelligence, awareness and intuition can lead us to liberation through (and within) the buddhi.

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Intelligence, awareness and intuition are essential ingredients in our attainment of liberation. These three things are faculties of the buddhi and by their nature tend to higher consciousness. Nevertheless we must put forth our will to use them as tools of transformation. But since this is their very purpose, we will not find them hard to use for our benefit.

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Pleasure and pain originate in the mind and overwhelm us, but when the yogi by practice learns to center his experience in the buddhi, then they become objective to us, and we will no longer be overcome by them, nor will they agitate us in any way. We can choose to perceive them or not.

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The mind, being the root of action, determines the character of our whole life. That is why Solomon said: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). (The Hebrew word leb means mind and intelligence: buddhi.) The mind is the source of life itself–it is life. Yet it can be transcended–transmuted.

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All good or evil comes to us from ourselves, from our mind. God has nothing to do with it whatsoever. Therefore the Gita says: “Do not say: ‘God gave us this delusion.’ You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams. The Lord is everywhere and always perfect: what does He care for man’s sin or the righteousness of man? The Atman is the light: the light is covered by darkness: this darkness is delusion: that is why we dream. When the light of the Atman drives out our darkness that light shines forth from us, a sun in splendor, the revealed Brahman. The devoted dwell with Him, they know Him always there in the heart, where action is not. He is all their aim. Made free by His Knowledge from past uncleanness of deed or of thought, they find the place of freedom, the place of no return” (Bhagavad Gita 5:14-17, Prabhavananda translation).

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We have to conceive or think good or evil before we can do good or evil. That is why purification and mastery of the mind is the yogi’s primary concern all along the pathway. The mind is neutral. It is our will that determines its character. We can turn it to either side. If we let it drift, it will inevitably turn to folly and evil. That is the problematic condition of birth on this planet in a human body. It has a long past, reaching far back into many incarnations. But since it is under the power of the will, we have the ability to turn it around and make it an instrument of good.

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It is not the nature of window glass to be black or opaque, but clear, with nothing obstructing the passage of light. So it is with the Self. Yet the mind obstructs the manifestation of the Self as soot inhibits the light from shining through the glass of the lamp chimney. Of course we might wonder whether the mind becomes sooted and needs cleansing, or that the mind itself is soot that needs to be purified and assumed into the clarity that is the Self. Both views will be helpful to us if we pursue them by means of intense sadhana.

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The Gita says with great force that the mind must be made an instrument of the Self, otherwise it becomes an opponent of the Self and an obstacle to the Self and its realization.

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Karma is also an aspect of the mind, and yoga alone purifies and elevates the mind-substance (chitta) itself. Since karma is conditioning of the mind, yoga is needed to decondition the mind and bring it into alignment with the ever-free Self.

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Sri Ramana Maharshi taught that when a person attains Self-realization, his mind which heretofore has been troubling and deluding him will turn into the Self, will be transmuted into atmic consciousness. The mind is the Atman, but it is the Atman that is dominant: the mind belongs to the jiva (individual Self), the jiva does not belong to the mind. In time the mind is assumed into the jiva-Self so that the jiva is no longer being “consumed” by the mind. Now when this happens a greater marvel takes place: the jiva realizes it is Shiva, the Supreme, that it exists in the Paramatman just as the mind existed in it. However, the jiva, being eternally part of Brahman, will not become “lost” in Brahman in the way the mind becomes assimilated into the Atman.

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It is the defects of the mind that keep returning us again and again to this world.

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Only when we can shed our petty little measure-bound minds can we comprehend the Divine Nature which is our nature.

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No matter how real or solid material objects and material existence seem to be, it is really all in our head. It is purely our idea of things. If we think about that, then we can realize what powerful beings we really are. Our minds are reflections of the mind of the Creator of All. Our wills have the power to shape our lives in every birth. We truly are gods.

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Attraction is never in the object, only in the mind, and if our mind is free of illusions, nothing in the cosmic dream will be of any special value to us, and nothing can entangle or enslave us. At the moment of death we will fly away into the freedom of the Self, with not a backward glance or thought.

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Along with striving for a one-pointed mind, the struggle to control the mind is a source of misery and exhaustion for the unskilled yogi. This is because the gross intellect is completely untamable. The solution is twofold: through inwardness of awareness we should be in touch with the subtle side of the mind that is amenable to the process of meditation and which can be purified accordingly.

But most important is the need to refine the entire mind so it will be completely subtle in nature. When the mental energies of even the external senses have been made pure and refined through diet, moral conduct and (especially) japa and meditation, then troubles with the mind mostly cease. I say mostly, because there is always the chance of the deep inner mind tossing up some samskaras that rock the boat a bit, but not for long if we keep steadily to our practice.

Of course there is no hope of refining the mind if a pure diet is not maintained, since the mental energies are derived from the energies of the food we eat. Moreover, the mind cannot be refined without the steady observance of yama and niyama.

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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