Doing and Thinking, Being and Knowing

In yoga philosophy, consciousness or citta is considered to have three components. Ego or ahamkara is our sense of individual existence. The mind or manas is the thinking function, associated with the brain. The intelligence or buddhi is the intuitive spiritual wisdom thought to dwell in the heart.

I have been reflecting on the difference between manas and buddhi, and why it is important that we understand that difference.

Manas is the everyday mind. It is the part of us that collects data and reacts to it. It includes likes and dislikes, simple daily decision making, planning and organizing, putting things into categories. Manas is the thinking brain and the reacting emotions. From a yogic perspective, this is the surface of consciousness, not the depths.

Buddhi is responsive rather than reactive, and intuitive rather than analytical. This intelligence of the heart leads to deep and profound feeling, rather than knee-jerk emotional reactivity. Operating from this spiritual intelligence means that we develop qualities of discernment and discrimination, and learn how to make fine-tuned value judgements.

You might notice that the word buddhi looks a lot like the word BuddhaBuddha means awakened one, a being who sees the true nature of reality. Exploring buddhi means that we become awake to a deeper aspect of our being, which is not about thinking, doing, or preferences. Rather, it is about being, knowing and listening to our inner guidance.

The yoga teachings posit that one reason that we suffer is that we are always relating to the surface part of our consciousness, manas, instead of penetrating to the core of our being. Our thinking brain is part of who we are, but it is not the fullness of who we are. While buddhi is not the soul, it is necessary to experience that intuitive wisdom on our inward journey toward the core.

B.K.S. Iyengar has taught that the mind can be a “treacherous ally”. If we can never let go of thoughts, we are always stuck on the surface of who we are, caught in the trap of an inner monologue that never ceases. Yoga teaches us how to take the steps on a path toward the cessation of those incessant thoughts, so that the mind becomes a tool for us to use when we need it, instead of a dictator of our experience. Mr. Iyengar asks us to consider whether the mind is our servant or our master.

In our yoga practice, the experience of deep relaxation through Savasana and other restorative poses has more to offer than the release of physical tensions. These poses provide an opportunity to allow the mind to settle into silence. We can practice letting thoughts dissolve on the smooth flow of the exhalation, and get a glimpse of what a non-verbal, non-conceptual state might be like.

Every yoga class at Green Tara Yoga includes the practice of Savasana and deep relaxation. Check out the Green Tara Yoga Online Schedule and let us support your inward journey.

Exploring the more subtle aspects of our being takes practice. Gradually we may gain the skill to recognize the difference between the thinking mind and the knowing heart.

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