Intellect and Intuition

From Rikhiapeeth Satsangs 1, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

How do we find and maintain inspiration? Inspiration can be direct and inspiration can also be had through the intellect. After all, you want inspiration, and you are thinking through the intellect. Just like blood flows through the arteries, but can also flow through collateral veins, we can have inspiration directly without any involvement of the intellect and also through the intellect. The intellect does understand.

Practically speaking, there is not a big difference between the intellect and intuition, reasoning and experience. When I read the Bhagavad Gita, I place myself in the situation of Arjuna and place my higher self in the place of Krishna, and change the scene of the battlefield. It becomes the scene of my life: my family, office, shop, industry, wife, children, court case, politics. For me, the enemies that have to be subdued are not outside of me. So I am using and involving the intellect to find inspiration. The army I want to subdue does not consist of human beings; it consists of my instincts. I am the warrior. I am the commander-in-chief, Arjuna, and my higher self is Krishna. Now the question comes: is this way of thinking which is intellectual, sufficient to progress in spiritual life?

Transcending intellect

We do not need to transform the intellect, as some people believe, but there comes a time when we need to transcend it. It is somewhat like this. You go from Rikhia to Delhi by train; your vehicle is the train. But you cannot use a train to go from Delhi to Greece. You have to leave the train behind and now go by air. So there is a time in life when the intellect is a helper and there is a time when you have to transcend the intellect because it cannot go beyond a certain point. Intellect can go a very great distance. It can probe into anything without having had a direct experience. It can probe into God, into mysterious experiences, into the past, going back millions of years. However, there is a limit to intellect, and there comes a point when you have to transcend it. So, to expect that you will get inspiration intuitionally right now is not proper, because there is no airport at Rikhia! You have to take the train. You cannot handle intuition because you do not have intuition right now. Go through the intellect and after some time, when it is the right time, you will transcend it naturally. You will not have to think about it.

The meeting point

The West is primarily intellectual. There everything is tested through the intellect. But then what happens? The intellect probes into subjects, an objective perception is taken, and finally it comes round to the same point where intuition arrives.

It was with the help of the intellect that Darwin formed his theory of evolution. It was also said that earth will come to an end in 5000 years, but now nobody believes that. Now, another theory has been postulated, that life on earth came from some other planet during a meteoric explosion. Through genetic research it was found that the gene is older than the age of the earth. The earth is four and a half billion years old, but life is five billion years old. So it must have come from outside. All this was discovered through the intellect. The West proceeds through intellectual probing into a subject, going further and further, and arrives at the same point where you can arrive through intuition. There is a point where intellectual and intuitional achievements meet.

You must have faith in the intellect. People think that intellect is inferior; I have heard this particularly from Westerners, who think that the intellect is materialistic. No, the intellect is an instrument that can help you probe into things, and which you have at your beck and call. Intuition is not at the beck and call of the ordinary person. Everybody cannot handle intuition because they cannot have it. Only a few people such as Christ, Buddha or Shankaracharya had access to intuition. Everyone, however, possesses intellect. It is an instrument that you have at hand to probe with.

You must also remember that jnana yoga is the yoga of intellect. Even Shankaracharya said that through the intellect you can go very far, even transcend the material perception. If the intellect becomes purified through spiritual processes, you can stay with intuition, there is no difference between intellect and intuition. Purified intellect is intuition. It is the same energy.

Be responsible for yourself

Every individual is responsible for himself, and we should all realize this. No one can change another person. This is a conclusion that I have come to. Every person is responsible for changing his own good or bad traits. I am the one who can correct myself; you cannot do it and the police cannot do it. All the sages have said that whatever is within you, whether joy, sorrow, alcoholism or any other bad habit, it is not possible for someone else to remove it from your life.

You should accept the good qualities through your own convictions and eliminate the undesirable qualities through your own convictions also. If you are convinced that you are right, then do it. And if you are convinced that you are wrong, give it up. I used to teach all over the world and when people would ask me if they should give up alcohol, I would reply, “If you want to drink, drink. I do not hold judgement on this.” However, if you want to get rid of a negative trait, do not become obsessed with it; be indifferent to it. The more obsessive you are, the more strongly it will hold you in its clutches.

Hatha yoga is a solution to get rid of all impurities. It includes asana, pranayama, mudra and bandha. Do three or four asanas and one or two pranayamas every day. There are only three kinds of pranayama - inhalation, exhalation and retention. These three are modified in different ways in different practices. There are many mudras, pick two or three that you prefer. Bandha means to bind, to bind mooladhara, vishuddhi or manipura. So, practise asana, pranayama, mudra and bandha for half an hour or forty-five minutes, no more. Do not practise for two or three hours. And do not think that you are practising to get rid of your alcoholism. To give up alcohol is not the aim of your life. The aim of life is not to struggle to give up vices, because there is nothing called ‘vice’. A vice is a shadow, just as a tree has a shadow. To remove the shadow, you will have to cut down the tree. There is not one negative quality that exists within you, there are many. They are all shadows, maya, unreal.

—2000, Rikhiapeeth