Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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The River and its Banks

Hari OM

Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!

We are now undertaking basic technical discourse on Vedanta. The text forming the basis of these posts is 'Kindle Life'.

The key points thus far;
There is aatman, the governer of all, within all, separate from all, pure and everlasting.
There are material conditionings in which the aatman becomes wrapped
These consist of three bodies (shtuula, suukshma and kaarana shariira-s)
Each of which relates to one or more of the pancha kosha-s, the five sheaths (annamaya, praanamaya, manomaya, vijnaanamaya and aanandamaya)
We took an overview of the first three of these.  Now let us pick up from the intellectual sheath विज्ञानमय कोष/vijnaanamaya kosha, in which we explore how this differs from 'mind'.

Referring to the diagram, it will have been noted that as we rise up the pyramid, each kosha is 'in charge' of the koshas below it. We all have a concept of intellectual pursuit being of a higher purpose and requiring 'braininess' - but we often forget that we are all built with the capability and what matters is how much exercise we give our intellectual 'muscle'. The Rsis worked hard at defining the different functions of the 'mind' and the 'intellect'. Here are the five basics;

Mind is the receptacle for stimuli presented by the indriyas. Stuff comes in, it gets sorted into its relevant categories and is passed on to the intellect for assessment and makes decisions as to responses. Gurudev likens the mind to the receipts and dispatches clerk in an organisation; it is not his job to take decisions on what is received, it is only his task to stamp, deliver and issue.  The boss makes the choices and the boss is the intellect. This often works at lightening speed. We can very often not be aware that we have given any thought to something because the response has been so rapid. When we are driving for example. The rabbit running out in front of us is seen (input), the mind forwards the input to the intellect, which knows from experience and learning that something in front of a forward moving vehicle is not a good thing, so needs to make a decision in order to avoid damage to the object in front; in doing this it may advise the mind to double check for other hazards (walls, bushes, oncoming vehicles…) before deciding on the ultimate response which may be any of swerving, braking or just keep going as there is no other optimum choice. [NB we are not looking here at whether right or wrong, but the process of each component, mind versus intellect.]

Secondly, remember that mind is a continuous flow of thoughts. Here, again, we are reminded of the river analogy. Each thought is like the drop of water in a river.  Many drops gather together, flowing on and on and soon build up a force to be reckoned with. When there is no barrier, no control on the flow, things turn to mud, to mayhem and varying degrees of inconvenience or disaster. The key barrier to a body of flowing water are the banks against which it must run. The intellect forms the banks of our mental river. Here we find the memory stores of experience and knowledge which can guide the flow of thinking.

Thirdly, the mind is the seat of our emotions and tends to sit in the small picture of our life, whilst the intellect can take a wider view and develop ideas, come up with solutions in order to ease the emotive quality, thus tempering the drain of excess feeling.

The fourth point is to understand the operational stance of each.  Mind can only operate within the realm of 'the known'.  Intellect, however, can work additionally in the realm of 'the unknown'; it can investigate and quantify, coming up with something other than what is physically present. It can contemplate concepts and work in the abstract. Mind simply does not have the capacity to move beyond the physical whilst intellect can travel to the far reaches of imagination.

Lastly, and related to the fourth, the quality of each differs. Due to the river of thoughts, mind is always in a state of flux. This toing and froing, instability, lends itself to doubt, fear and such. However, intellect is stable, it takes thoughts and gives them purpose. If we are in a state of indecision, we are allowing mind to govern; but the  minute we make the decision we become more secure. Decision is intellect. Getting to the decision is mind. Thus we can see that intellect can be disintegrated into mind again, if a stronger intellect is met and arguments put forward which question the decision. This is how we learn!

The last of the sheaths is the bliss sheath and we shall look at this plus more about the shariira-s next week.


  1. It is very difficult to comprehend it all
    greet :)

    1. Hari OM Mariusz!

      Thank you for taking time to read and comment. Of course to read this one page will be confusing to fresh eyes. Please, if it interests you to learn 'how we tick' then this blog can be read from the beginning as if you would a book and at any time you are encouraged to ask questions.


Hari OM
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