Role of Buddhi in Mind and Consciousness
Buddhi is our key mental function that helps us perceive what is true and false, dharmic and adharmic. If we turn the buddhi outward it helps us discern the names and forms of the external world. If we turn it inward, it helps us discern the eternal reality, Atman/Brahman beyond the transient names and forms of the external world.
Buddhi is often translated as ‘intellect’. However, the fully developed or sattvic buddhi is a cognitive function of the mind beyond what the western world honors as intellect. That is why mere intellectuals get caught in the limitations and duality of their own opinions, and cannot connect to the inner Self. They get trapped in the arrogance of the outer mind and their personal identities. Those who turn the mind within can access the higher truth that is cosmic in nature, connecting us to our true Self (Atman) beyond the mind.
The outer intellect is necessary in dealing with the practical affairs of life, which it organizes in terms of name, form, number and various systems of measurement and classification. It is the basis of technology which arises from its actions. Without it we would be very limited in our knowledge of the world and our functionality within it.
However, the outer mind cannot perceive the inner reality, our true Self of Pure Consciousness (Atman) beyond name and form, birth and death. Nor can it perceive that same reality behind the world of nature, which is a manifestation of the Infinite and Eternal (Brahman). Its outer orientation blinds it to the inner reality, unless we complement it with an inner vision.
The main mistake or error in the Buddhi (Buddhi dosha) that we make is that we identify the Self with body and mind, which forms the basis of the ego or ahamkara and its conditioned karmic reactions. Giving up the identification of the Self with the body and mind, we can discover our true nature beyond any embodied form.
To transcend the mind, we must first bring the mind into a sattvic state, removing the distortions of rajas and tamas within us, the forces of turbulence and ignorance. Developing a sattvic body, prana and the right use of the senses is part of this process from a vegetarian diet to pranayama, mantra and meditation. Without that development of sattva within us, rajas and tamas will distort our perception and get us caught in the dualities, divisions and conflicts of the outer world, and all the attractions and repulsions, likes and dislikes, fears and desires involved.
Yet the sattvic mind and buddhi is not an end-in-itself, it is the basis for a deeper Self-inquiry which is not possible if the mind is dominated by rajas and tamas. Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi called this the pakva chitta or ripe mind which is the necessary foundation for Self-inquiry. Yoga and Vedanta texts contain many teachings guiding us to develop sattva and purify the mind, called chitta-shuddhi or chitta-prasadana. This also requires turning the prana and the senses within and giving up an external view of reality. Unfortunately, some people think that one can discover the Atman before removing rajas and tamas from the mind. They claim they are the Self but yet follow mentality and way of life in which rajas and tamas prevail.
Unfortunately, no schools today, including institutes of higher education, teach us how to properly develop the sattvic Buddh and use it to connect to the Atman within. They remain focused on developing the outer mind, its names and numbers, opinions and desires. Because of this lack of the inner intelligence, we do not have the discernment and detachment necessary to use our new technology from a place of inner awareness and integrity. The outer mind, which is largely mechanical in its responses, is prone to emulate artificial intelligence, which our true inner intelligence inherently transcends. The result is that our technology is ruling over us rather than working for us.
Cultivating a Deeper Discernment
We need to cultivate a deeper discernment today to guide our technological civilization from a place of transcendence. Our science and medicine needs to recognize the place of developing sattva for the unfolding our deeper intelligence and connecting to our inner consciousness with the Universal Consciousness beyond body and mind, which is the place of immutable truth beyond thought.
In your sadhana, studies or education, please make sure to use your discernment inwardly to discover your true nature. Do not simply pursue the outer mind and ego. Do not think it is enough to be an intellectual. Use your inner intelligence to open to the universal truth and let go of bodily identity as who you are. Turn your awareness within and discover your immortal Self that is one with all.
Dr. David Frawley