Tag Archives: intelligence

Development of Intelligence and the Meaning of Humility

Question: I would like to know how intelligence evolves. Can you give an example of how this takes place? 

Answer: Intelligence is the faculty that makes decisions and comprehends situations. It is by intelligence that we determine whether things are good or bad, wrong or right, moral or immoral. Primarily, intelligence develops when we face a crisis or a difficult situation for which we have to find a solution or when we want to achieve a certain goal and there are obstacles. For instance, there is a child in the house who sees that on top of the fridge, there is chocolate candy. The parents have kept the chocolate there so that the child doesn’t reach it, but he likes to eat chocolate. So when he sees that the parents are not around, he will think how to get the chocolate. He will exercise his intelligence to find a solution. He may get the idea that he can move the chair next to the fridge, climb up on the chair, and reach the chocolate. This is how one’s intelligence develops.

On the other hand, suppose you led a very comfortable life. You went to school and your father supported you. You did not have to face any major problems in your life because your parents were very caring and supportive. After completing your education, you found a nice job and never had to worry about financial needs. Then suppose one day, the economy crashed and you lost your job. You would be in a big dilemma. Since you had lived a very comfortable life, you may feel stressed and depressed, because you had never faced such problems in your life. At this point, there are two possibilities—one is to go into depression and the other is to exercise your intelligence.

You might think, “What can I do now? Maybe I should grow food in my garden. Maybe I should start a business.” So you would begin to exercise your intelligence which until then had been practically unused because you were living a routine life, which did not require much intelligence. This is how your intelligence develops.

Question: So would you say that problems result in the development of intelligence?

Answer: No, not always. Problems might result in depression for some people. Some people take problems as a challenge and learn from them. They solve the problem and become stronger. Others see the same problem, start lamenting, and lose their intelligence. Even their limited intelligence may stop working. So every situation can help you to rise up or it can restrict you. It depends on how you take it. When you are living a comfortable life and have no financial problems, then you can use your time to learn something. You can be with people who are more intelligent and by their association, you may improve your own intelligence. But generally what happens is that unless human beings are forced, they don’t take action. As they say, people follow the path of least resistance. That is why when a problem comes, one may feel depressed because depression is the path of least resistance.

Similarly every situation can be used for improving our intelligence. I mentioned problems because they make you more alert and aware. They are an impetus for improvement. But some people are cowardly. They see a problem and just give up.




Question: One of your Bhakti Bytes writings had the following words:

True Humility comes in two ways:

  1. Knowing the welfare done by guru/Kṛṣṇa for us.
  2. Feeling the lack of bhakti in one’s heart.

I also heard in one of your lectures that Garuḍa’s mother’s name is Vinatā (“humility”) and that without vinayā, there is no possibility of understanding the Vedas. In that lecture you also said that true humility is not material. Could you explain what exactly humility is? How can one know if one truly has any humility and how can one acquire it?

Answer: Humility means not to have a sense of pride about one’s qualities, good or bad. People become proud not only of their good qualities but also of their bad ones. An expert terrorist, robber, thief, or gang leader can be proud of his criminal activities. Not to speak of being proud of qualities that one does not possess! People are sometimes proud even without having any such qualities. They only think they possess such qualities. That is why you see that in the material world, humility is a very rare quality. As it is said, even a pauper is proud of his penny.

Humility, however, does not mean that one should not have good qualities or that one should be scared to have them. One can be a scholar, rich, powerful, beautiful, and not be proud of these qualities, knowing well that they are temporary. They are all external to one’s true self. Whatever one has, one can lose at any time. And even if one has such qualities but loses one’s memory, then all these qualities lose meaning. If one could remember this fact, then one would remain humble. Since a devotee is always mindful of Kṛṣṇa, he remains humble. If we remember the welfare that the guru is doing for us, and if we remember how gracious Kṛṣṇa is, then we will remain humble. So, the humility of a devotee is not a material quality but an outcome of bhakti.




Interactions between the Ātmā and the Mind

Question: Who feels pain and pleasure in the conditioned stage? Is it the soul or the mind?

Answer: The mind feels it.

Question: From where does viveka or the faculty to choose between wrong and right come? Does it come from the buddhi or ātmā?

Answer: It comes from buddhi.

Question: Does the soul have intrinsic mind, intelligence and ego?

Answer: No it doesn’t. 

Question: Does the soul act only as a source of consciousness (e.g. battery power for a car), while always needing the external mind, intelligence and ego? Is this true even in the spiritual world?

Answer: Yes. 

Question: Why can the soul not enjoy and experience pleasure as it is itself conscious?

Answer: It has no senses to enjoy.

Question: By doing sādhana, it is said that the citta gets purified. Then how are the bhajana memories transferred to the spiritual world with the soul as the citta is material?

Answer: They do not get transferred. Only the bhāva goes along with the ātmā. 

Question: Do the current material mind and ego get spiritualized and transferred into the spiritual world?

Answer: No. 

Question: As the soul does not have intrinsic mind, intelligence and false ego, why is it said that we have to watch all unwanted desires like lust, as a witness only and not entertain them? It is also said that we should think that we are totally different from the mind. Then how can a soul without intrinsic mind feel/realize that it is a soul, that it is spiritual and totally different from the material mind?

Answer: Everything is experienced only through the internal senses. There is no experience without them. In Gītā 6.12, Kṛṣṇa says that the happiness that is beyond the reach of the external senses can be comprehended only through the intellect, buddhi-grāhyam.

In Gītā 6.20, Kṛṣṇa says that when the mind, controlled by the practice of meditation, becomes still, one sees the ātmā through the ātmā (the internal sense):

yatroparamate cittaṁ niruddhaṁ yoga-sevayā
yatra caivātmanātmānaṁ paśyann ātmani tuṣyati

“When the mind, controlled by the practice of meditation becomes still, one rejoices only in the self and sees the self by the purified mind.”

Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī makes it clear that the word “ātmanā” here means internal sense, antaḥkaraṇa.

Question: Then how is the soul responsible for controlling the mind, choosing the right desire of the mind and acting accordingly, since buddhi, the decision making faculty, is also material and different from the soul?

Answer: Because ātmā is identifying with it. The problem is the identification. Mind, intellect and ahaṅkāra function because they are empowered by the ātmā. Ātmā does nothing by itself.

Question: Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna in Gītā 18.65: “Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” So for whom is this advice given and who listens? For the soul, the mind or the intelligence?

Answer: For all three of them, because the soul identifies with the mind and intelligence. You are posing these questions with the understanding that the ātmā and the mind or intelligence are functioning independently as two separate units. The fact, however, is that in the conditioned state, the ātmā is never free of the conditioned material mind.

Question: If the advice is given to the mind, intelligence and false ego, then how is the soul responsible to accept the instruction and to act accordingly since it is different from buddhi, mind and false ego? Please explain how the soul takes this instruction.

Answer: The soul is not taking any instruction. At present, it is identifying with the mind and the instruction is for the complete unit.

Question: If buddhi controls the mind, then how is the soul responsible to get karma-phala for its next birth?

Answer: Because of the soul’s identification with the mind. 

Question: SB 11.11.29 (also quoted in CC, Madhya 22.78-80) says:

kṛpālur akṛta-drohas titikṣuḥ sarva-dehinām
satya-sāro ‘navadyātmā samaḥ sarvopakārakaḥ 

“A saintly person is merciful and never injures others. He is tolerant and forgiving, truthful, free from all envy and jealousy, and magnanimous by doing welfare to others.”

If all these transcendental qualities are the characteristics of pure Vaiṣṇavas, do they belong to the ātmā or to the mind? If they belong to the mind, then do they come under the mode of goodness?

Answer: For a devotee, the qualities manifest from bhakti

Question: When we listen to siddhānta or pastimes, how do they affect the ātmā? Or do they only affect our material mind, intelligence and ego?

Answer: There is no effect on the ātmā 

Question: Then how and when does the ātmā experience the bhajana-sukha?

Answer: All experience happens in the mind. 

Question: How do the soul and intelligence interact with each other?

Answer: There is no real interaction except that the soul makes the intelligence conscious. 

Question: If an accident happens to a jīvan-mukta, does he feel pain and pleasure? How does this feeling of pain and pleasure differ from that of a person in conditioned stage?

Answer: He feels it but is not influenced by it like a conditioned being.  

Question: In the verse: mayā-mātram idaṁ jñātvā, jñānaṁ ca mayi sannyaset, (“Understanding this to be māyā, one should surrender unto Me both that knowledge and the means by which he achieved it,” SB 11.19.1)—which knowledge has to be surrendered?

Answer: Knowledge of oneness with Brahman. 


Are We Biased to Believe?

Many years ago, while studying Nyāya and Vedānta, my Nyāya teacher said:  

tattva-pakṣa-pāto hi dhiyāṁ svabhāvaḥ

“The nature of the intellect is definitely biased towards truth.”

At the time, I did not understand the deep implications of this statement. Recently, while teaching Sāṅkhya-kārikā (64), I came across the same statement in Vācaspati Miśrā’s commentary. I then understood more fully the dynamic of accepting the words of others as truth. The intellect is biased toward believing rather than doubting. We tend to believe first and doubt only when necessary. 


Why? If we doubt our every experience, it will be impossible to function. For example, when I am thirsty, I buy a bottle of water. If I doubt that water is really water, then my thirst will never be quenched. Or, if I doubt that I am truly thirsty, then I will make no attempt to even obtain water. We believe and accept our sensory experiences so readily because not doing so would make even the simplest functions of life—like eating and drinking—almost impossible to complete.

Thus, we tend to believe what we see and hear, and doubt only if and when necessary. This is called svataḥ-pramāṇya-vāda (“self-authorizing judgement”).

There is yet another, deeper reason why we are biased to believe. When one of our cognitive senses, such as the eyes, comes in contact with a visible object, such as a pen, the image of the pen is sent from the eyes to the mind. The mind then sends the image to the intellect, which searches for a similar image (saṁskāra) stored in its memory (citta). On finding a matching image, the intellect realizes that the image is that of a pen, and the mind comprehends the experience.

If we doubt that our intellect has correctly matched the incoming image, we can “rethink” the perception. This significantly delays the time it takes to comprehend an experience. Imagine if we constantly doubted every judgment made by our intellect—it would take minutes to process experiences that last only nanoseconds, and we would be unable to keep up with the flow of time. It would be impossible to make judgments or decisions in real time.  

Incidentally, this also explains why “first impressions” are so important. The first time our intellect deciphers aspecificexperience, it stores the information in the memory, and that stored impression becomes the template to which all subsequent experiences of similar things are compared. Later experiences are interpreted through the lens of the first impression. This also explains why childhood experiences are so impactful on the rest of our lives.

However, there is an adverse side effect to this mental tendency: It makes us liable to be cheated. If a conman tells us something, we tend to believe him. We do not disbelieve until we are given a reason to do so, by which time it is often too late. By then, we have already been cheated. Throughout history, even the smartest people have been deceived due to their tendency to believe or trust. It is no wonder that a person like Bernie Madoff deceived astute and highly successful corporations for millions of dollars, just with his words and charismatic demeanor.

Cheating and betrayal happens especially within romantic relationships; we don’t believe that our partner would cheat us. Even though we see red flags, we tend to overlook them because of our natural bias to believe. This is why deceptive individuals and organizations initially “love bomb” their victims—generating first impressions that will take a long time to disbelieve.

We naturally assume that the people we are dealing with are honest. Only when we are forced, do we stop believing thisand sometimes, not even then! Leaders, relatives, and friends often continue to cheat, and we continue to believe, even in the face of blatant lies and solid proof of deception. Instead, we find some way to rationalize and justify the deviant behavior of a leader, lover, or friend. Moreover, human beings are averse to change. Fear of the unknown compels us to further delay entertaining serious doubts about what we believe and accept. 

The bias towards believing is helpful and essential, but we must protect ourselves from its negative side effects by being more alert and perceptive of “red flags” when further experiences do not line up with our “first impressions.”


Mahamantra and Diksha Mantras

Question: As practicing Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, we chant the Hare Krishna mahāmantra. Did Śrī Caitanya and His associates chant the Hare Krishna mantra? In Caitanya-caritāmṛta or other biographies of Śrī Caitanya, the mahāmantra is not mentioned as the mantra that was chanted. The mahāmantra is itself a legitimate mantra as per Kali-saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣad, so I have no question about its validity. But how are the Gauḍīya sampradayas linked to the mahāmantra?

Answer: The simple proof that I can give are the following references from the works of our ācāryas where it is mentioned that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra: 

1. hare-kṛṣṇetyucchaiḥ sphurita-rasno nāma-gaṇanā-kṛta

(Caitanyāṣṭakam 5 by Rūpa Gosvāmī)

2. hare-kṛṣṇetyevaṁ gaṇana-vidhinā kīrtayataḥ bho

(Śrī-śacīsūnvaṣṭakam 5 by Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī)

3. srī-caitannya-mukhodgirṇā hare-krsnetivarṇakāḥ
majjayanto jagat-premaṇṇi viajyantāṁ tadāhvahayāḥ

(Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛtam 1.4)

4. aṇū-brahmāṇḍayor madhye caitnyen samāhṛtām
hare-kṛṣṇa-rāma-nāma-mālāṁ bhakti-pradāyinīm

(Śrī Caintanya-śatakam 79)

5. hare-kṛṣṇa-rāma-nāma-gāna-dāna-kāriṇiṁ

(Śrī Caintanya-śatakam 23)

There are many other stotras and aṣṭakas which refer to Śrī Caitanya’s chanting but they do not use the exact words “Hare Kṛṣṇa.” They mention harināma, kṛṣṇa-nāma or just nāma. Besides this, we know from tradition. In all the parivāras of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, one thing that is commonly accepted is japa and kīrtan of the mahāmantra. The only exception that I know is that of  the followers of Rāmadāsa Bābājī. They do not perform kīrtan of the mahāmantra, although they also do mahāmantra japa.


Mantras in which Ear?

Question: A friend of mine had a question about this verse/BBT purport in Bhāgavata Purāṇa 4.25.51. Could you please help me understand?

devahūr nāma puryā dvā
uttareṇa purañjanaḥ
rāṣṭram uttara-pañcālaṁ
yāti śrutadharānvitaḥ

“On the northern side was the gate named Devahū. Through that gate, King Purañjana used to go with his friend Śrutadhara to the place known as Uttara-pañcāla.”

It seems Śrīdhāra Swamī says in his Bhasya that karma-kāṇḍa  is traditionally heard using the right ear (results in heaven) and jñāna-kāṇḍa is heard using left ear (results in mokṣa). It looks like the mantras received through the right ear are meant for heavenly planets and those from left ear are meant for mokṣa/Vaikuṇṭha.

If this is true, why are dīkṣā mantras given in the right ear in Vaiṣṇava lineages?

Answer: Yes, Śrīdhara Swamī says that karma-kāṇḍa is to be heard through the right ear and jñāna-kāṇḍa through the left ear. However, he is not talking about mantras but about śāstra. So his commentary refers to the study of śāstra related to karma-kāṇḍa and jñāna-kāṇḍa. Mantras related to any kāṇḍa are received through the right ear.

This whole story from the 25th Chapter is allegorical and not to be taken literally. This verse signifies that karma-kāṇḍa is heard first and then jñāna-kāṇḍa. Therefore, they are also called pūrva (“earlier”)-mīmāṁsā and uttara (“later”)-mīmāṁsā, respectively. Traditionally one first studies pūrva-mīmāṁsā and then one studies uttara-mīmāṁsā, or Vedānta. That is how the word atha in athāto brahma jijñāsa (Vedānta Sūtra 1.1.1) is explained by most commentators.