I remember when I was in school and my mother when helping me with my studies, especially during the exam preparation days, would often say:
– बुद्धि का इस्तेमाल करना सीखो, बिना सोचे समझे जवाब मत दो, पहले कई बार ठंडे दिमाग़ से सोचो, बुद्धि से काम लो , और फ़िर जवाब दो।
– Learn how to use your intellect, don’t answer without thinking properly, first think deeply with a cool mind, think many times, use your sense of discerning intellect and then answer.
Sound advice, very sound I would say. Mothers know best! Don’t they?
But we don’t always follow our mother’s wise advice, do we?
How often we tend to forget this sound advice in our rush to answer something that is asked of us? In our rush to express our view, our opinion. I am guilty of doing that more times than I would like to admit. I am guilty of rushing to form an opinion without thinking through the various sides of the issue, without digging into the details, without remembering that an opinion is just that — an opinion, not the truth, perhaps not even a truth. This happens both in our personal interactions in our narrow domains as well as in the wider context when we are engaging with larger issues related to our communities, societies, nations and the world.
Perhaps this tendency to form an opinion without thinking is exaggerated today thanks to the 24×7 information-overload we all experience through mass media and social media. But perhaps there is a bigger reason for why we don’t really think properly, why we believe we are thinking when we really are only experiencing thought-sensations.
It seems to me that most of us aren’t even aware that we are not really thinking when we believe we are. It is perhaps because we don’t know how our mind works. We don’t know what it takes to truly think without allowing any interference from other parts of ourselves. For the most part we don’t even know what those other parts are, parts which have a tendency to interfere and influence our thinking process.
The mass of humanity has not risen beyond the bodily needs, the vital desires, the emotions and the current of thought sensations created by these lower strata. This current of thought sensations is called in Hindu philosophy the manas or mind, it is the highest to which all but a few of the animals can rise, and it is the highest function that the mass of mankind has thoroughly perfected.
Beyond the manas is the buddhi, or thought proper, which, when perfected, is independent of the desires, the claims of the body and the interference of the emotions. But only a minority of men have developed this organ, much less perfected it.
Only great thinkers in their hours of thought are able to use this organ independently of the lower strata, and even they are besieged by the latter in their ordinary life and their best thought suffers continually from these lower intrusions. Only developed Yogins have a viśuddha-buddhi, a thought-organ cleared of the interference of the lower strata by cittaśuddhi or puriﬁcation of the citta, the mind-stuff, from the prāṇa full of animal, vital and emotional disturbances. With most men the buddhi is full of manas and the manas of the lower strata.
The majority of mankind do not think, they have only thought-sensations; a large minority think confusedly, mixing up desires, predilections, passions, prejudgments, old associations and prejudices with pure and disinterested thought. Only a few, the rare aristocrats of the earth, can really and truly think. That is now the true aristocracy, not the aristocracy of the body and birth, not the aristocracy of vital superiority, wealth, pride and luxury, not the aristocracy of higher emotions, courage, energy, successful political instinct and the habit of mastery and rule,— though these latter cannot be neglected,— but the aristocracy of knowledge, undisturbed insight and intellectual ability. It emerges, though it has not yet emerged, and in any future arrangement of human society this natural inequality will play an important part.