Brain and Intelligence || Acharya Prashant (2012)

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Acharya Prashant: We can live in two kinds of worlds. How? Even as I am speaking to you, some of you are listening, and the others might be thinking and wandering and lost in imagination, Right? Do you see that? You have to be together in this. Is that alright?

So that means that it’s possible for man, and each of us is a human being right? So whatever is applicable to us is applicable to mankind in general. We can easily generalize whatever is applicable to us. So, it is possible for man to be simultaneously living two kinds of lives. One is that you are sitting here. The other is that you are thinking about something else. Correct? The very fact that which really is known as reality. Whereas that which is imagined, which is thought of, is called ‘the mind.’ Can you see this that even though you would be sitting here, it is possible for the mind to be at a totally different place? You could be in Disneyland or at your home or at any other place. Now is that for real? Where is a reality? Reality is that which is. Everything else is imagination. This imaginary aspect of us is what is the ‘mind’. Now, what is this thing called the mind? Write down. The mind is ‘brain + intelligence’.

Brain — Matter, Product of Evolution, Just like a computer hard disk, Just like a computer hard disk, Automatic, Prone to Conditioning, Like the Fan.

Brain is like the fan in the sense that it’s totally material. It is a slave to the commands of somebody else. You switch on the fan, you switch off the fan. Does the fan have any intelligence or any will of its own?

Remember it’s very efficient. It keeps working all the time. But does it work according to its own understanding? Does the fan know what is going on in its head? Does the fan understand what electricity is, what electromagnetism is, Faraday’s law, Ampere’s law, anything? Does it understand? Yet it keeps working. It keeps working according to the design provided to it by external forces.

Who has provided the design to it? Man – an external force. Not the fan itself. The Fan is a mechanical device which is a slave of others, albeit very efficient, efficient but dumb. With the result that everybody else can exploit it, can make use of it. It’s mechanical, dumb. You can write all these things for a brain. Everything that applies to the fan also applies to the brain. Alright? Except for one thing that the fan does not have a memory chip, the brain has a memory chip as well. The fan cannot really recall the events of yesterday. And that too can be done. You can have a fan with a memory chip. That’s not difficult at all. That’s not at all difficult.

You can have a fan that can keep registering what is happening day in and day out, and after one year when you will take that chip it will have all the data accumulated on it. That on which particular day how many hours of rotation was there, at what time, at what speed, all that can be done, right? That’s not at all difficult. You can do that as a project. Then it’ll become exactly like the brain. Then it’ll become exactly like the brain. Are you getting it?

Now, what do we mean by conditioning? If we’ve come close to the brain then we must also understand conditioning, which is something very very simple, not at all complicated.

You see, I take a blade of this fan and it’s steel, it’s matter, and I bend it, and I leave it, will it go back to its shape? Original shape? No. It’ll remain bent. So, a particular event in time, a particular experience has left a permanent mark on this machine, this is called conditioning. Are you getting it?

You pass through an experience, and that experience leaves a permanent scar on the mind. In fact, you could say that you couldn’t completely pass through the experience, the residue of the experience is left. And that residue is called conditioning. Are we together on this? On the other hand, had this been, let’s says made of rubber or sponge, and then had we stretched it, it would have got back, and that is what you call as elasticity.  Whereas this property of that brain that it keeps registering everything and every experience that it undergoes leaves a permanent mark on it is called plasticity of the brain. And that plasticity itself is the source of conditioning.

In the sense that whatever happens to you day in and day out leaves a scar, a mark, a stain on the mind. This is conditioning. So you pass through an experience, and what does that experience give knowledge. So, now that you’re understanding the brain, you must also understand knowledge.

Knowledge is the mark of any experience or memory.

You go through an experience, and the memory of that experience is called knowledge. And all knowledge is necessarily from the past.

Listener: Acharya Ji, Knowledge is the mark of an experience, if we will pass through experience then the conditioning would not there or not?

AP: Knowledge would still be there but the conditioning would not be there.

Knowledge is the recollection of the past. So, it is a very good question that is asked that can there be knowledge without conditioning? Yes, There can be Knowledge without conditioning. Because the knowledge is the memory of an experience, whereas conditioning is permanent deformation that is caused in the brain due to an experience.

Are we together on this?

What is Knowledge?

For example, today when you were coming to the college, you would have seen few events on the road. Did you? Now, the memory of those events is what is called knowledge. But in case you see an accident, and in that accident you see, let’s say, that couple of people are sobbing on the road and nobody is coming to help them, and that experience leaves this mark that people are cruel and nobody helps somebody in need, that world is an insecure place. Then this is called conditioning.

Mere memory is the recollection of the sequence of events, that is called knowledge. Whereas if that knowledge is not just data, not just information, and is leaving the permanent mark on the thinking process itself, then that is called conditioning.

Are we clear on this?

L: What is intelligence?

AP: All that the brain does is very much mechanical like an instrument. It keeps recording everything. Doesn’t that happen? It keeps recording so much. And there’s also an automatic deletion process. Of course, you don’t remember everything, do you? You see so much, you hear so much, but do you recall everything? Can you recall everything that has happened even this morning? You can’t. So there is a process here that registers and also keeps deleting.

All that is part of the apparatus called the brain, which is pretty much automatic. But as human beings, are we totally automatic? No. The very fact that we are discussing the brain, the very fact that we are understanding the brain means that we are something beyond the brain. Proof? Can the fan understand itself? Will the fan ever come to ask – What am I doing? Why am I rotating? What are these things that are happening? Can the fan understand itself?

But here we are trying to understand the brain. That means that we are something beyond the brain. Right? And that beyondness is called intelligence. The capacity of the mind to understand is called intelligence. That capacity no machine possesses. So the fan or the computer hard drive does not have that capacity. The capacity of the mind to understand itself, or understand anything is intelligence. Clear?

So, whenever we are functioning in an automatic way, that is called conditioned behavior. And whenever we can understand that conditioned behavior, that is the function of intelligence. Isn’t that simple? Very very simple. So whenever we are functioning like this fan, something happens and we’re switched on, something happens and we are switched off, and we don’t even know why it’s happening to us. Have you seen that happen to you? You ask yourself “I wonder why my mood is so bad today?” Does this happen to you? Then that only means that the automatic part, the mechanical part that has taken over.

All the cells and everything, which is the product of evolution, in which we have had no role, right?

Whereas when we understand what is going on, that is called intelligence.

So, intelligence is in understanding.

Now, when the intelligent mind understands what is going on, then it sees that the brain is totally mechanical.

For example, the process that we are doing right now. What are we doing? We are understanding how the brain is so very automatic and so susceptible to conditioning. That is what we’re doing right now. Are you understanding this? That is what we’re doing right now. Are we? This understanding can only happen in ‘attention.’

Intelligence operates only in attention.

You could put it this way, the fruit of intelligence is understanding, and the environment in which intelligence can function is called attention. Are we together till this point? Are we completely clear?

Now, can you understand, we may have said that we are simultaneously two things? Man is simultaneously two things. What are those two things? On one hand, we are intelligent, on another hand, we are totally mechanical. So mind is the sum of two things which are totally different. The mind is two aspects that are totally different. What are those two aspects? Mechanical behavior, and intelligence.

If you allow the mechanical part to dominate, then that is called bondage and conditioning. Whereas when intelligence takes over, that results in understanding.

Now, when can intelligence operate? Only in ‘attention.’ Intelligence doesn’t come from anywhere. The moment an environment of attention is created, intelligence automatically begins to function. Or you could say, intelligence is always there. The moment you give it an environment of attention, it’s functioning becomes available to you.

Are you getting it?

Am I distributing intelligence right now? Am I distributing it? Are these like toffees to be distributed? Can someone come and distribute intelligence? All that I can do right now, is create an environment. And in this environment, now you become available to intelligence. Is that alright? So you can say that intelligence is like a seed, which already has everything but till the time you do not give it the environment, it does not sprout.

Getting it?

In fact, seed takes time to sprout. Intelligence doesn’t even take time. The moment the right environment is provided, you find that you are understanding things. You find that you are understanding.

Many of you would still not be understanding anything. Because the mechanical portion is so heavy on us, so deeply conditioned, so it becomes very very difficult to get rid of it. Very difficult.

Now, the brain, where does it get all its content from? Past experience. So, everything that the brain has is the result of the past. Everything that is contained in the brain is coming from the past. And the past is time. Correct?

Now, what does the brain do? The brain operates in duality. Now, what is this thing called duality? Write down.

Characteristics of duality are:

  • It has two sides.
  • These two sides appear as opposite of each other.
  • These two sides always coexist. And that one side can disappear only with the disappearance of the other side.

A simple example is a coin. It has two sides. The two sides look like opposite of each other. And it is not possible to have a coin with one side only. Similarly, past and future are two sides of the duality. Now, brain has accumulated the past. Now, is the past anymore there? Is there past really there? Then what does the brain have then?

L1: Present.

L2: Memories.

AP: Memories, which you can also call as an image of the past. An image by definition is not real. Is the past really there? No. Similarly, the brain creates an image of time to come. And that it calls as the future. Alright? So, the brain is full of the past and is always wandering in the future.

Are you getting it?

‘Past’ and ‘future’, these are the only two places where the brain keeps wandering.

Are you getting it?

You could also put it like this, that the brain is the product of time, and it keeps wandering in time. The brain is time itself. All the time and everything that has happened to it is stored in it, and it keeps wandering in time. And that is why all of us are so full of memories of the past and hopes of the future.

L: Is conditioning also the ‘product of time’?

AP: Yes, conditioning is also in time. Very good. Alright. That is the reason we are always wandering in ‘memories of the past’ or ‘hopes of the future.’ Hopes of the future cannot come without memories of the past. Or you could say that all ‘hopes of the future’ are dependent upon knowledge. 

How many of you, for example, hope to have a career in Catechises? Anybody? No. It’s simple. Because you don’t have any knowledge of Catechises in the past, you do not hope of Catechises in the future. Is that not simple? Now, if I were to educate you about Catechises right now, some of you may actually begin to hope about it or project it in the future.

When we say that past and future are two sides of the duality, is that clear now? They are always together. We keep on thinking of future as something new. Don’t you always think that way? That I want a new future for myself. But the future is never new. Why?  We keep dreaming of the future, but the future that we dream of is always stale and never new. Why? Because all our hopes of future are based on memories of the past. And hence, the future we dream of is totally stale. We keep fooling ourselves that we want a new future. All our hopes and imagination of future are necessarily stale.

Now, where does intelligence operate then?

L: Attention.

AP: Yes. And at what point in time?

L: In the present moment.

AP: Present moment. Now the present is actually not even in time. Time really is only past and future. The present is such a small moment that you cannot even call it a moment. It’s not even a point in time. Present is just pure attention. Intelligence operates in present, and the brain keeps running around in time.

Whereas intelligence operates in timelessness. Intelligence is in right now. The function of the brain is to keep imagining, keep dreaming. Whereas the function of intelligence is to understand.

Now, do you see there is a clear difference between imagining and understanding? Which part of us imagines?

L: Brain.

AP: Where do all our imaginations come from?

L: Past.

AP: And where does all our imagination take us?

L: Future.

AP: And what does intelligence do?

L: Understand.

AP: When intelligence understands, the foolishness of brain, it laughs and says “not this, not this.” And this is what is “Neti Neti”. The brain thinks that the reality lies in past or in the future, and it keeps roaming here and there in imagination. But the moment you are attentive, you see the stupidity of all this. And then you say “Boss, you’re dealing in patterns. You’re living in the past. You’re a dead life.” And then you say Neti-Neti. Neti-Neti means not this. This is not true. Past is not true. Because it is lost, finished. The future is also not true because it’s a projection of past. What is the only thing that is true?

L: Present.

AP: Now, you know what is Neti-Neti? Yes? So intelligence goes to the brain and says “Boss, wake up”. But the brain will never wake up because the fellow is just like the fan. It has no power to wake up. It will keep on doing what it has to do. It’s conditioned ways. Are you getting this? Clear?

So, there is the brain which is totally conditioned. Which knows what it has to do. For example, have you decided what should be your pulse rate? Have you decided to what height should you grow? Have you decided the color of your eyes? All your daily functions? Your digestion? Do you decide how things must be digested? Do you know the entire process of digestion? We don’t The brain is conditioned to take care of that. It is preprogrammed. The brain knows what to do. Is it or is it not?

All that is happening through the brain. Who is controlling your blood pressure, for example? The brain. And the brain is conditioned to do that. The moment you go out in the Sun, you start sweating. Who’ i doing all that? Don’t you see that there’s an efficient machine functioning? The moment the temperature rises, a cooling process starts to give some water and salt to the body that will have a cooling effect. Who does all that? All that is functioning of the brain.

And till the time it is limited to that, it is alright. But what happens is that the carryover effect of the brain is not only limited to maintaining an effective body, it starts interfering in our daily life. It starts interfering in the way we look at our relationships, in the way we walk, we talk, in the way we look at the world. And then there is the problem. Then there is the problem. Because you know, what kind of digestion you must have, that can come from the past. Because the process of digestion need not change in a hundred years, in two hundred years, in three hundred years. It is alright if you digest your food in the same way as King Akbar did.

But it is not alright if you carry the same attitudes as the man who five hundred years back lived. Is it alright? You are here today. And today you must look at the world totally afresh, totally new. And that is the function of the intelligence. And that can operate only in attention. That can operate only in attention. Are you getting it? So the conditioning of the brain is helpful to an extent. To what extent is it helpful?

L: For normal day to day functioning.

AP: Day to day functioning. Yes, a kid learns to walk. That walking is not taught to him by society. We are conditioned. The body is conditioned to work that way.

Are you getting it?

Without conditioning, without basic minimum conditioning, Life would become impossible. Physical life would become impossible. So, conditioning is helpful only to that extent. But conditioning becomes very very dangerous when it starts interfering in the way one looks around. Your conception of the world. Your vision of the future. Everything.


Is the clear?

Watch Full Discourse: Acharya Prashant, with students: Brain and Intelligence The transcription has been edited for clarity.\

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