What is the meaning of intellect? || Acharya Prashant (2015)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.

Question: Is spirituality easier or more probable for a sharp intellect?

Speaker: We do hear this sometimes that one requires a certain level of intellect even to be spiritual. That one needs the power to think and analyse, logically discern, so as to go deep into the spiritual truths. But to what extent is this factual, that we will have to investigate.

Yes, intellect looks, discerns, analyses, tests, compares, measures, and in this way it is able to know something about an entire field, its own field. Intellect works over objects and as we just said, its method is of sizing up, comparing, testing, using memory, using projections. That is how the intellect works. This intellect is what we commonly measure in the so-called intelligence tests, the IQ tests; this is what we measure there.

Now what is it that the intellect works on? Yes, the intellect finds out the facts related to a particular domain, what is that domain? That domain is the area constructed by the intellect itself. So intellect brings out the facts, intellect helps you separate the imaginary from the actual. But where does this imaginary come from? The intellect itself. Where does the actual come from? The intellect itself. So, the intellect is operating upon a field of its own making.

What the intellect dissolves is its own creation. So the man of intellect surely needs the intellect. Yes, it is helpful. The question was whether intellect is needed on the path of Truth. Yes, intellect is surely needed. The intellectual needs his own mental powers to get rid of the images created by those mental powers themselves. Intellect does help you clear a few things. But what does it help clear? Please understand this.

Intellect helps clear only that which is a product and a residue of the intellect itself. So even when I say that a sharp mind is needed, what does that mean? And if it is said that a sharp mind is needed, does that mean that there is no possibility for those who do not have sharp minds, in the common sense?

In the sense in which we call mind as ‘sharp’ there can be no possibility for plants, animals, insects and birds, because their minds are not ‘sharp’ in the same sense as we use the word ‘sharp’. Man needs a sharp mind! Why? Because man already has a sharp mind, because his own sharp mind, in its misplaced smartness, has brought man to a position of complexity. SharpNow you need a sharper mind to dissolve that complexity. Please understand this very clearly.

You already have a sharp intellect. Call it your blessing or your burden. That sharp intellect has brought you to a point where you keep thinking, where you are full of concepts, where you keep projecting, where you cannot thoughtlessly just be, where there is language, where there are a thousand images. This is the point to which our ‘sharp’ mind, our capable intellect brings us. In fact, the more ‘capable’ the intellect, the more knots are there in the mind.

Our intellectuals are not thoughtless, in fact they think more than the ordinary man. That is the hallmark of being an intellectual. Not only does he think, in fact he thinks much more than the common man and he thinks about things that the common man does not bother to think about. That is why he is called ‘an intellectual’. This intellectual has already become very complex. He has already come a long distance away from the home. We all are that ‘intellectual’. He has left his simple warm home and using the vehicle of intellect he has travelled far-far away. Now he must come back. How to come back?

To come back obviously, he will need blessings from a source far beyond himself. Because left to himself, he will only keep going away. That is what he has done! Was he not already nicely placed in his home? He was. But then what to do with the restless intellect. It brought him away from his home. The same intellect, on its own, will not take a U-turn. So you need blessings from the beyond. We call that ‘grace. And with those blessings, this intellect that was so far your enemy that brought you away, will now become your friend, and will now start taking you back. That is why I say that proper use of intellect is needed.

I am not saying that the one who is thoughtless must start thinking. What I am saying is that those who are already full of thoughts, who are already obsessed with thinking, must think more clearly, more boldly. They must know what is right thinking. You must know what is right thinking because you anyway keep thinking all the time. I am not advising right thinking to non-thinkers. I am advising right thinking to compulsive thinkers, to those who are obsessed with thinking. So intellect is very important on the path of truth. In spirituality the intellect is very important. For whom? For the intellectual. Only for the intellectual.

Intellect is not at all important for the simple child. He does not need it. But because you are an intellectual, so better use your intellect. (Laughingly)Because you are an intellectual, so better use your intellect better. Had it been somehow miraculously possible for you to simply drop the intellect, I would have recommended that. But unfortunately that is not possible. Because you are so tied-up with your intellect, you are so identified with your intellect that you will not let go of it.

You think of thought as the only way of existence available to you. Don’t you say, “I think therefore I am?” Now how will you drop your intellect when your mind is full with such sayings? “I think therefore I am”, how will this man drop the intellect? It is impossible for him to drop the intellect. Now you can’t drop the intellect, somebody asks you, “Who are you?” and you will say, “I am the intellect.” So the only way for you is to use this very ‘intellect’ rightly. Getting it?

Also remember that this right usage will not happen as per some fantastic conclusion of the intellect itself. We have said that for the intellect to take a U-turn, two factors are required. One- an inspiration from the beyond, and second- a call from a point outside the intellect. Without that the intellect will remain mad. Without that, the intellect will keep wanting to go further and further away.

So the inspiration, the order, the temptation, the call, call it whatever, (laughingly) you can choose a name as per your intellect, that must come from somewhere outside. But when that comes then you will have to use these same legs that took you away. Somebody is calling, alright. Somebody is calling but how will you go back? Using the same legs that took you away.

– Excerpts from a Clarity Session held at Advait Bodhsthal. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: What is the meaning of intellect?

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  1. Like Rumi says sell all your cleverness and buy wonderment………….I pray for grace for
    intellect to stop being an ‘intellectual’


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