Concentrate! Focus! Be in the present! But How?
Excerpt from Vedanta Treatise by Swami Parthasarathy
Concentrate. Focus. Be in the present. Focus on the Self. Be aware. Be peaceful. Don’t be selfish. Don’t drink too much. Don’t eat too much. Don’t be lazy. Control yourself. Stop smoking. Be quiet. Etc. etc. etc.
Advice is everywhere these days.
Unfortunately, how to do it is not as easy to come by.
An example: You break a fin on your surfboard. You go down to Becker and buy a new fin and take it home. Your friend comes over and you ask him to change the fin for you. Sure, he says. No problem. He takes the new fin and walks out. Things sound a little too quiet so you go check on him. He’s standing there looking at the board with the broken fin still in place, holding the new fin in his hand.
“Oh, sorry, here you go.” You hand him your fin key.
Does anything more need to be said? Not really. He understands. Broken fin, new fin, fin key. He immediately uses the key to take the broken fin out and replace it with the new one and the two of you head down to the water and paddle out.
Self-development and spirituality are just like this. There is no doubt a job to do. There is control to be developed, focus that needs to be strengthened, concentration that needs to be achieved, objectivity to be attained. Thereafter there is being present, cultivating awareness, achieving stillness. But how? What is the key to be used to do these things?
The key is called ‘buddhi’ in Sanskrit. (Yes, from the same etymological root as the more familiar ‘Buddha’. So it is correct to say that one with a perfect buddhi is a Buddha.)
Buddhi translated to English is ‘intellect’. Intellect is that which reasons, discerns, judges, analyzes, thinks. It is other than the ‘mind’ which feels, likes and dislikes, worries and gets anxious, etc. It is that in you which witnesses the activities of the body, the emotions of the mind and even the thoughts of itself. And it is the intellect which, when strong enough, can guide the mind on to the present task and hold it there. It is the key to gain mastery over your personality.
The first step in developing the human intellect is to become aware of its existence. Animals do not have much of an intellect. They cannot think and reflect. A lion cannot think and choose to become a vegetarian. Intellect is the uniquely human capacity to think and act apart from one’s mind and its impulses, likes and dislikes, etc.
Having become aware of the intellect, it must be developed, strengthened. The way to develop, strengthen the intellect is:
1. Not to accept anything for granted.
2. Question everything.
3. Never follow anything until your reason and judgement accepts it.
That process ideally starts in childhood. If it hasn’t been done, one has to catch up by exposing the intellect to higher values. That is the role of Vedanta. Vedanta is an ancient collection of higher values, observations about life and living, weights for the intellect to lift. It is what Emerson and Thoreau and Huxley and many used:
“In the early morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita (Vedanta)”, said Thoreau while at Walden Pond.
To get a hold of our personalities, the intellect has to be taken off the shelf of neglect and bathed every day with the edifying thoughts of Vedanta philosophy.
Swami Parthasarathy is a Self-Realized soul and the world’s foremost authority on Vedanta. His books The Fall of the Human Intellect, Governing Business and Relationships and Vedanta Treatise: The Eternities are designed to be read and studied (in that order) to resurrect the fallen intellect and give you the reins back over your personality.
The intellect is the key. The intellect is the How.
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