Intellectual Barriers in Sadhana

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Intellect has always been a great barrier and a great boon for mankind, both at the same time. In discipleship, you have to be innocent like a child, you have to forget the intellect.

In everything we do there is a process of understanding, and this process is of two forms: one is critical, the other is accepting. Critical understanding is the process which is usually adopted by disciples who are highly intellectual. They open up the storeroom of their minds and compare everything with the 'Why?' attitude.

They compare what I am saying with what others have said, with what the books have said, with what their grandfathers have said. They start thinking, 'Why is Swamiji saying this, when in the scriptures it is written like that, or why is it written in the scriptures like that if Swamiji said like this? And why did Swamiji say this, because in the research they have found something else.' So, this critical mind, critical intellect, is also necessary for those with an intellectual temperament.

There are four different types of people in the world. The first type is defined as a dynamic temperament, the person who is active physically, mentally, emotionally and intellectually. The second type is defined as the emotional or devotional temperament. Such a person has faith, whatever he does, in God and guru. The third type is the intellectual temperament, which is always thinking, comparing and trying to understand why the difference. The fourth type is the mystical temperament. This type of person can meditate twenty-four hours of the day without any problem, totally lost in the contemplation of whatever he is doing.

So, for different forms of understanding, different types of methods are adopted by these four different temperaments. The first type, which is dynamic in temperament, will understand things very well, will listen to what you say, will do everything, and file it all away in the memory storehouse for future reference, if there is any need. If it is all insignificant jargon, then he will simply pass it out from the other ear and that is the end of it.

The second type is of mystical temperament. Whatever you say he will take it as a guidance, as a help, for his evolution. The third type is the emotional person. He uses the intellect as a means to develop, to further, to transcend his own emotions. The fourth type, the intellectual person, uses the intellect in a positive way, as a jnana yogi, and in a negative way, as a critical yogi; and they are both acceptable.

In the process of sadhana, temperament is important, depending on what type of sadhana you are doing and on who is guiding you, because really this question is of a personal nature. So, for each person there will be a different process. In general, when you are involved in a particular sadhana which is given by your guru, you have to try hard not to use the intellect. Sometimes the intellect does pop up in the middle; it can make you say, 'Oh, why am I doing this; I am not really getting anywhere', or 'It is all a waste', or 'What I have been doing is wrong according to different people'. It is something which has to be understood and clarified by you at a later stage.

When you become aware, when you have gone beyond the level of intellect, then you can say to yourself, 'The practices, the sadhana that I am doing needs to be done by developing childlike qualities, and not many qualities', because before our evolutionary process, we are all children no matter how intellectually evolved we are.

Einstein was highly evolved intellectually, but his final statement was 'I do not understand anything'. So in many ways, you have to become the Einstein. The same thing applies to Mirabai, Kabir and Tulsidas. They were very well versed in all forms of knowledge, but they chose one path, the path of simplicity, and overcame their intellect. Today my suggestion is that although you may find difficulties with your mind, with your intellect, try not to worry about it, but take it light heartedly.

—21 March 1983, Ganga Darshan, Munger, printed in YOGA Vol. 21, Issue 9 (September 1983)