A verse in the Kathopanishada underscores the importance of the sukshma buddhi, subtle intelligence. The earlier part of the verse has been already done in the previous blog. It tells us that the objects are greater than the organs and the mind is greater than the objects. Now let’s do the next part of the verse, which runs like this: Manasstu para buddhi: which means something to the effect that the intelligence is greater than the mind. Why?
One reason cited by Adi Shankaracharya in his comments upon the verse is that intelligence is subtler than the mind. How? To get the answer, we should be very clear about the kind of intelligence he is talking about. He is not talking about the kind of intelligence that is at work in science, maths, or literature. The intelligence is of two types: the Sthula buddhi, gross intelligence, and the sukshma buddhi, the subtle intelligence and it is the second type of intelligence he is talking about.
While the Sthula buddhi can look at the world only at the surface level, the sukshma buddhi can look at the same at a deeper, subtler level. While the Sthula buddhi is constrained by time and space limits, the sukshma buddhi does not know such boundaries. It can easily wander all over the world and see what is happening with a person or a thing in the remotest corner of the world. It can easily have peeped into the past, present, and future of an individual.
Here I would like to relate an incident from the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by my guru Paramhamsa Yogananda. Master had an American disciple called Mr. Dickinson, whom he once gifted a silver cup. On seeing the cup, Mr.Dickinson was taken by surprise. When Master asked him the reason, he told a strange tale- “When I was a child of five years, I was once playing with my brother near a pool.
My brother threw me into the pool in a lighter vein. As I did not know swimming, I was about to get drowned. I lost my courage. Then all of a sudden a shaft of light appeared there
and a monk was standing in it.
He gave me a reassuring smile, which restored my confidence. Then suddenly a friend of the brother bent down the branch of a tree in the pool and with its help, I got out of the pool. The monk disappeared. For years I kept wondering who the monk was. I got the answer in 1893 when I heard the historic speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda at the meet of world religions in Chicago. When I saw Swami Vivekananda, I realized that it was the same monk. After the speech, I met with Swami Vivekananda and on seeing me, he said, “Young man, I would like you to keep away from water”.
This further convinced me that it was the same person. The thought of having him as a guru crossed my mind. Swami Vivekananda immediately recognized the thought and told me, “No, I am not your guru. You will get your guru later on and he will give you a silver cup”. These words have come true after forty years. I have been really gifted a silver cup by my guru”.
It is significant to note that at the time of Swami Vivekananda’s helping the drowning child, the former was in India.
It means that at that time, it was the soul of Swami Vivekananda that traveled all the way from India to America to help the child, while the body remained in India. It is also significant to note that Mr.Dickinsons’s meeting with Swami Vivekananda occurred on the 23rd of September 1893 and my guru was born on the 5th of January of the same year. It means that my guru was just a child of nine months at the time.
Even then Swami Vivekananda knew that such a child was born nine months ago and that he was going to be a guru for Mr.Dickinson and that he was going to give a silver cup to the same after forty years. In this case, it was the sukshma buddhi of Swami Vivekananda that was at work. It was the sukshma buddhi of his that could see what was happening with a far-off child in America. It was the sukshma buddhi of his that could read the thought that had crossed the mind of Mr.Dickonson.
It was the sukshma buddhi of his that could see what had happened nine months ago. It was the sukshma buddhi of his that could foresee what was going to happen after forty years. This is the importance of the sukshma buddhi. How can the sukshma buddhi know so much? The reason is that it is closer to the soul than the sthula buddhi or the mind. The more spiritual sadhana one puts in, the more one gets closer to the soul and the more one gets closer to the soul, the subtler the intelligence gets.
The subtler the intelligence gets, the more it gets the light of the soul and in that light, it can see the world at a deeper, subtler level than the mind or the sthula buddhi can see, which makes it greater than the same.
Let’s make the intelligence subtler through spiritual sadhana and thereby see the world in a better light.