Mind and intellect according to Vedanta philosophy


The word Vedanta is composed of Veda – knowledge, as well as the name for holy scriptures of Hinduism, and anta – the end. It means ‘the end of Veda’ and might be said to represent essence of Vedic knowledge, supreme religious philosophy and wisdom. Philosophy of Vedanta is based on later Vedic texts, hymns and writings of which Bhagavad Gita is the most well known.

In Chapter 6, Verse 6 of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna makes the following statement about the mind:

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.”

Uncontrolled mind has potential to mess up a person’s life due to following characteristics of the mind:

1. it is full of likes and dislikes
2. it has a tendency to slip into the past or the future
3. it generates endless desires
4. it develops attachment to objects and beings.

The mind comprises impulses, feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. If we are not in control of the mind, we will be controlled by the mind, having life full of endless stress.

Many people are living their lives in the past or in the future and are often faraway from present time. They are either worried about the past or anxious about the future. While preoccupying themselves with their past mistakes and loses or pondering about what will tomorrow bring and how will they survive in the future, they are missing to enjoy life in present time.

Whole our life style is a hoax, created to prepare us for something but that something never comes. We spend our lives running after something but we don’t know what that something is. We go to kindergarten which prepares us school, then we go to school which prepares us for high school, high school prepares us for university, university prepares us for work.

When we start working we are looking for promotion, one day when promotion comes or doesn’t come we dream about pension when we will finally have enough money and free time for those things we always wanted to do. And when we are finally in pension we are too sick and too old to enjoy life and we fill frustrated with our lives.

We are trying to make money and seeking higher social position. We suffer from desires and we are trying to satisfy them. Satisfying desires is impossible. Attempting to satisfy desires is like trying to put out the fire by feeding it more wood – it will just burn stronger. While satisfying desires is impossible, not satisfying them makes us angry, desperate, frustrated and stressed.

We come exhausted from work, we sit down and watch TV and brainwash our self with advertisement which are telling us that we are not good, that our clothes are not good enough, telling us we need newer and smarter smart phone, better car.   

We meet someone we think we love but we know so little about love. We get married we grow attachment for our spouse, we get children and we grow attachment for them, we buy a house and we are attached to that house. Out of attachment we start having fear of losing our dear objects and beings.

Love is not attachment. Love is understanding and sharing, it is feeling peace and harmony in the presence of our spouse. Love has nothing to do with falling in love although this falling in love is being sold to us through movies and literature as something we should strive for.

Learn to love your children like nurse in the kindergarten loves them – she is taking care of them, she is teaching them things, feeding them, making sure they are safe. But when the time comes that they move on, she lets them go. She loves them without attachment.

In short, living life while being under dictate of the mind, with all its faults, is slavery. While waiting and hoping for some better future to come, while constantly ‘preparing’ ourselves for something, we miss enjoying life. Life passes by us like water in the river is passing by the trees on its banks. We need to learn how to live.

Mind is being granted too much importance and attention. Countless therapies from psychoanalysis to all kinds of self-help practices are developed promising to improve our mind, rise our IQ, teach us how to achieve our goals and satisfy our desires, while the best thing you can do about your mind is to learn how to ignore it.

We are making great efforts to ‘improve our minds’ while totally ignoring our higher echelon of reason – intellect. One of the smartest people I knew was alcoholic. He had brilliant mind, extremely high IQ, very creative professional respected by his peers. Of course he knew drinking alcohol in excess is not doing him any good, but he was drinking himself to death. Great mind, poor intellect.

While the mind is set of impulses, feelings and emotions, intellect is thinking, reasoning, judging. When intellect guides the mind, the person is considered as wise. Intellect is not intelligence as you can see from countless examples of intelligent people doing stupid things.

Nourish and cultivate your intellect and learn how to use it. Develop your intellect by observing the world and the people around. Never accept anything for granted. Learn to observe things and make your own conclusion. Don’t blindly believe everything you are being told in school or in your church, temple or a mosque. In Vedanta Sutra it is written:

“In cases of Scripture conflicting with Perception, Scripture is not stronger. The True cannot be known through the Untrue.” 

While Veda represents holy text, revealed by supreme authority, Vedanta teaches us that even the Scripture shouldn’t be accepted we find it to be contrary to our perception, to our common sense.

Collecting data and acquiring knowledge will not develop intellect. Nothing wrong with being knowledgeable and well informed, intelligence and knowledge provides you the means to make a living, but it will not develop your intellect. To develop intellect you need to observe, question, think, reason and make judgments and conclusions for yourself. Never accept things for granted. Accept only the things that are logical and reasonable.

In living your life try to be objective, try looking things from outside and above, as impartial observer. Examine the motives of your actions. Are you acting based on your likes and dislikes? Desires? Learn to recognize chaotic impulses of the mind and stay above it, refuse to obey it. Ignore the noise which is telling you that you should be like everybody else. Do you really need the newest smart phone, is it a real need or is it created by advertisement which are everywhere around you?

Instead of setting up for yourself only material goals, try setting up for yourself an ideal of what you can be and try achieving it. Learn how to enjoy in life instead of running through it too fast to notice beauty around you.

These were few thoughts I wanted to share with you. If you liked any of it, decided it make some sense to you, I would recommend getting a book by Swami Parthasarathy or reading Swami Vivekananda’s works online. Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi is also a reading I would highly recommend.

I wish you all the best in developing your intellect with the help of Vedanta philosophy and learn how to live stress free and fulfilling life.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti


3 comments on “Mind and intellect according to Vedanta philosophy

  1. What would intellect be without developing a heart of unbounded and unconditional love, compassion, joy and equanimity? Is intellect outside the mind?

    • The source of compassion and love for the life around us is the human soul, atman, that what we are, not the mind. One doesn’t need to be very educated or intelligent to be compassionate.

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