Buddhic is a Sanskrit term which is derived from the root budh which is sometimes translated as “enlighten.” Other renderings are: “perceive,” “awaken.” In Sanskrit the Buddhic Body is sometimes called the Anandamaya-kosa, “the sheath of bliss.” It might be described as the innermost of the five sheaths enveloping the Self (Atma). In this version it can be said that Buddhi is the “vehicle” for Atma, while the Higher Manas or the Causal Body is the vehicle of Buddhi. A common division by theosophical writers of the subtle principles that make up the human individual is:
Atma Buddhi Higher Manas (Causal) Lower Manas (Mind) Astral Etheric Physical
Thus it will be seen that the Buddhic is close to the spiritual “Atma” and to the Higher Mind or CAUSAL. To discuss the Buddhic it will therefore be necessary to refer to both the Atmic and the Higher Manas. It is essential however to keep in mind the fact that all these aspects are co-existent and are not arranged in some sort of hierarchical formation similar to a “ladder.”
Perhaps the clearest and best definition of the associated vehicles sometimes called “Atma-Buddhi-Manas,” somewhat misleadingly translated as “Spirit-Spiritual Soul-Soul,” is that given in The Key to Theosophy, by Helena P. BLAVATSKY, (1946 ed., p. 175-6) where she states:
- The Higher Self is Atma, the inseparable ray of the Universal and ONE SELF. It is the God above, more than within us. Happy the man who succeeds in saturating his inner Ego with it!
- The Spiritual divine EGO is the Spiritual soul, or Buddhi, in close union with Manas, the mind-principle, without which there is no EGO at all, but only the Atmic Vehicle.
- THE INNER or HIGHER EGO is Manas, the “Fifth” Principle, so called, independently of Buddhi. The Mind-Principle is only the Spiritual Ego, when merged into one with Buddhi. . . . It is the permanent Individuality or “Reincarnating Ego.”
Atma may be considered the most abstract part of human nature. It is the one reality, that which manifests on all the Planes, the essence of which all human principles are nothing but “aspects.” The appearance of Atma on other levels may be further explained thus: “It is called the MONAD, whether it be the Monad of spirit-matter, Atma; or the Monad of form, Atma-Buddhi; or the human Monad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas. In each case it is a unit and acts as a unit, whether the unit be one-faced, two-faced, or three-faced” (The Ancient Wisdom, 1914 ed, p. 164, fn.).
To function on the next lower plane of existence Atma must use Buddhi as a vehicle and then Buddhi becomes also a channel of communication between the Atmic and human consciousness. Or as Blavatsky has it, “Buddhi is the faculty of cognizing the channel through which divine knowledge reaches the ‘Ego,’ the discernment of good and evil; ‘divine conscience,’ also; and ‘Spiritual Soul,’ which is the vehicle of Atma” (SD I:xix). Although it may not be an exact analogy, it might be useful to compare the relationship between say štman and Buddhi or bodhi and higher mind (causal body) with an electrical transformer. Electricity, to reduce transmission costs and losses, is distributed first at a very high tension, say 132,000 volts or even greater. Now the current at this voltage has the potential to do useful work but to construct an electric motor to operate at such an elevated voltage would be prohibitively costly and, above all, extremely dangerous to work with, so the voltage is reduced to manageable levels, say 240 volts, by means of a number of transformers. In the same way, the introduction of “energy” at the potential found at a high level (Atmic) to the human mind directly would be potentially destructive, so Buddhi is interposed to convert the input to a safe level and in a more meaningful form. Certain humans have been known to function as this sort of “transformer.” An example of this may be that of such a person as Richard Wagner who, it is said, fell into a trance for many hours and when he emerged into normal consciousness was able to write down, at a sitting, the thematic material for his opera Parsival.
The Buddhic Plane has been described as the realm of bliss or alternatively, the realm of intuition. The ability to function in consciousness at the Buddhic level is an attribute much sought after by aspirants on the Spiritual Path. So that this goal is always kept in mind, many Swamis give themselves (or are given) names terminating in the Sanskrit word ananda which means “bliss.” The Buddhic Plane has been described as the place where duality still prevails, but there is no separation. This concept is of paramount importance. At the physical level of functioning, all things seem separate from each other. One looks at a tree or another human as something “other.” Spiritually enlightened individuals sometimes claim to have passed beyond this way of seeing all that is on the basis of “me-that” and find existence is a “oneness.” They then can be said to be conscious on the Buddhic Plane, or perhaps more accurately, they have opened up direct communication between their mind and the Buddhic.
While considering communication between Buddhi and the levels of the human mind it is useful to take note of the importance and existence of Antahkarana. Antar is Sanskrit for “inner” and karana, is the present participle form of kr, “to do,” therefore Antahkarana means “internal instrument.” Blavatsky, in The Voice of the Silence (1964 ed., p. 243) writes, “Antaskarana is the lower Manas, the Path of communication or communion between the personality and the higher Manas or human Soul. At death it is destroyed as a Path or medium of communication, and its remains survive in a form as the Kamarupa — the ‘shell.’” Some concept of Antahkarana is found in a number of different Indian teachings. In Advaita Vedanta, it is said to be comprised of citta (consciousness), buddhi (insight, intellect), manas (mind), and ahamkara (ego; lit. “I-making”). In the Sankhya philosophy there is included only buddhi, manas, and ahamkara. It is said in Advaita that variations found in different individuals’ cognitions are due to differences in their antahkarana.
Antahkarana can be weakened or strengthened by the habit of mind (lifestyle) of the individual; regular meditation results in improved communication between Buddhi and the lower mind; persistent evil behavior can weaken or even destroy it.
From the human standpoint, the Buddhic is the realm of harmony and idealistic love; it is from that realm that all those higher motivations emerge that inspire humanity; the great works of art in paintings, music and architecture; benevolence; idealism and all those motivations that serve to raise humanity above its brutish origins.
Buddhi is also sometimes used in Indian texts to mean, more generally, just “insight.” For example, as Ravi Ravindra has pointed out (Yoga and the Teaching of Krishna), the first of the yogas as well as the last mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita is buddhi yoga (cf. 2.39 and 18.57). And in the second chapter of that book, Sri Krishna admonishes Arjuna that the reason the latter is unable to discern his moral obligation in fighting the great war is because he has lost buddhi (verses 62-67), in this case probably meaning “moral insight.” In some Indian philosophic texts, buddhi is even associated merely with correct sense perception.
Annie Besant summed up the extraordinary difficulty encountered when an effort is made to describe the realms and functions of Buddhi, “But no words of mine can avail to explain or describe that which is beyond explanation and beyond description. Words can but blunder along on such a theme, dwarfing and distorting it. Only by long and patient meditation can the student hope vaguely to sense something greater than himself, yet something which stirs at the innermost core of his being . . .” (The Seven Principles of Man, 1950, p. 77).
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