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II.3. The Need for a New Buddhi Shakti (Spiritual Force for the Intellect)


Part II.3

The Need for a New Buddhi Shakti(Spiritual Force for the Intellect)


The Means of Knowledge and Cultural Biases


������ What is the nature of the intellect? What is the operation of real intelligence? What is the proper role of reason? What should we look for in terms of authority for determining real knowledge, whether in the fields of science, history or spirituality? What are the principles and methodologies that can lead us to a direct perception of truth? Certainly all thinkers, East and West, must grapple with these ideas before coming to conclusions about anything.


Unless we first know our means of knowledge�unless we understand the instrumentality with which we seek to know�how can we be certain of anything that we claim to discover? Therefore, the inquiry into the means of knowledge must precede any inquiry into the objects to be known. However, today we have taken for granted that our present cultural means of knowledge as defined by science, technology and the media is accurate, unbiased, comprehensive and capable of yielding the truth�which to a deeper vision is certainly not the case.


Different civilizations possess different ideas about the nature of the intellect and the role of reason. What is rational according to one culture may be irrational or biased according to another. Even western civilization, though largely based on the scientific intellect, still has a place for faith and some scientists still argue in favor of Biblical miracles.


Indic civilization has a long tradition of deep philosophical thinking, in which the role of the intellect is an important topic. Books on Indian philosophies generally begin with an examination of the appropriate means of knowledge (pramanas), as well as whether the student is well enough equipped with it in order to find the truth (adhikaras). These different means of knowledge include not only sensory perception and inference, as in the West, but also higher states of consciousness (Samadhi), not part of western intellectual methods of knowledge. The student�s equipment to truly learn includes spiritual practices and ethical disciplines, not just intellectual training.


Nature of Intelligence or Buddhi


������ According to the Indic tradition, we are all endowed with a faculty of intelligence called buddhi or prajna (dhi in the Vedas). This faculty makes us different from animals, which have a sense consciousness, and the plants, which have a life-force. It allows us to determine right and wrong, truth and false, the real and the unreal, the good and the bad and enables us to act in a conscious way. Because of this discriminating intelligence we can achieve enlightenment and Self-realization.


������ Yet intelligence is a two-edged sword. It has a twofold orientation, outer and inner. Reason turned outwardly discriminates between the names and forms of the external world and learns to harness the forces of nature. This is the basis of modern science and technology. Reason turned inwardly discriminates the transient names and forms of external appearance from the eternal inner reality of consciousness and learns to harness of the powers of consciousness. This is the realm of Yoga and Vedanta.


������ From this orientation of the mind, the Vedic tradition has always recognized two different types or levels of science�the lower or apara vidya (Mundaka Upanishad I.3-4). Unlike western civilization during the Christian era, Indic civilization did not see a dichotomy between religion and science that caused religion to suppress science, though it did afford priority to the higher knowledge. It did not dismiss the lower knowledge as useless but only as secondary.


At the same time, India developed methods of turning the lower knowledge into the higher, as the division between the two was more one of attitude than of form. Indian thinkers realized that if one approached even mundane subjects with a spiritual intent, these could reveal a higher truth. By seeing the entire universe as sacred, it regarded even mundane knowledge as a kind of sacred knowledge. For this reason, mathematics and grammar as well as art, music and literature of all types could be turned into a Yoga or way of spiritual practice. A yogic methodology could render the lower knowledge into a form of the higher. The Indic tradition promotes both the outer and the inner, the lower and the higher aspects of the intellect. But it aims at directing the lower aspects of the mind to unfold the higher.


������ The Indic tradition, therefore, has the means of turning modern science into a means of spiritual knowledge, just as it has done with traditional arts and sciences. This requires not negating science but subordinating the outer science to an inner science of consciousness. In the case of physics, for example, it means not only recognizing consciousness as the basis of the material world but also adopting yogic methods to realize that consciousness in ones own mind.


In the Indic view, human intelligence is a manifestation of universal intelligence. It is not a product of mere social conditioning or physical evolution. The goal of Indic systems of knowledge is the reintegration of human and cosmic intelligence. For it, the cosmic mind is the repository of all true knowledge and power and the linking of the human mind with the cosmic mind is the way to achieve these. Even the discoveries of great scientists usually occur in inspirational moments in which the cosmic mind touches them. It is not enough for us to develop intellectual cunning, huge computers or large data banks. Unless we can give up our human ego and open to this higher cosmic intelligence our knowledge will remain biased, incomplete and potentially destructive. Yet if we make this shift of orientation, accepting both the lower and higher forms of knowledge and giving each its appropriate place, all the secrets of the universe and the mind will be opened to us.


The Need for a New Buddhi Shakti


������ From this Indic understanding came the idea of the spiritualized mind, the mind of truth, the dharmic intellect, or the Self-mind as the true goal of mental culture�not merely intellectual genius in the sense of the western school but a higher consciousness beyond the ordinary mind and ego. Such a yogic mind cannot be produced through mere academic education, training in reason or performing experiments in laboratories. Outwardly, it requires a certain life-style or discipline to render the mind sensitive and alert, with certain physical disciplines because the tradition recognized the interrelationship of the mind and body.


The foundation of mental discipline in India was the practice of ahimsa or non-violence and other mental virtues of patience, detachment, compassion and devotion. This was allied with a vegetarian diet and control of the senses to eliminate external factors that disturb and weigh down the mind. The mind was trained through exercises in concentration, mantra and meditation to develop an inner and unmediated perception. Pranayama was used to give more energy to the mind and aid in its introversion. Such an intelligence was trained to be non-egoistic in nature, transcending body consciousness. There was little emphasis on the personality or name of the teacher, the teaching and tradition was the main thing. The culture so created is inner based and does not look at the external world or to external goals of personal or social achievement as the true reality. It seeks liberation from the material world or enlightenment as its highest goal.


������ The West, on the other hand, has emphasized the outward training of the intellect through mathematical, technical and verbal skills. It puts little emphasis on any spiritual or ethical discipline for the mind. It has no organized system of yogic practices to systematically develop a higher awareness (though great thinkers may discover some of these). The type of mentality so developed is usually egoistic in nature and conditioned to a certain cultural and anthropocentric bias. This is why western culture glorifies the names and personalities of its scientists, designating even natural laws after them. Such an egoistic intellect easily gets caught in the outer world and its materialistic values. The culture such an outwardly direct mind creates easily becomes commercial and conquest oriented, viewing the external world as the true reality and wanting to possess it at all costs.


������ Each culture, therefore, has an intellectual power or power of intelligence (Buddhi Shakti) which it develops, that guides it and represents its characteristic nature. The Buddhi Shakti of the West, reflecting a materialist orientation, has embodied itself in matter and energy based technologies. The Buddhi Shakti of the East, reflecting a spiritual orientation, has embodied itself in consciousness and Yoga based technologies. Both these mental powers, though having a different orientation, can be integrated, but the higher power or Shakti of nature towards the evolution of consciousness must become the guiding force. It is the basis for any real civilization to link us up with the cosmos or take us to the eternal.


������ There needs to be a new Buddhi Shakti in order to energize a genuine Indic School of Thought. Such a power is generated not by mere words but by a power of consciousness and a connection to the cosmic mind. Only through the flow of this power of consciousness into the mind can the appropriate dharmic institutions be built. It requires not simply developing an intellectual culture but a new spiritual culture that includes and transcends the mind. May such a new Buddhi Shakti, which also represents the energy of the Goddess Durga, arise worldwide! May we once more seek the cosmic mind and not rest content with the merely human!


[1] This is idea is as old as the Aitareya Aranyaka II.3.2.


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