This paper pursues precise information on the use of the Sanskrit word buddhi, “the intellect,” in the context of epic adhyātma discourse. The term buddhi makes its debut in this genre of discourse in texts of the Mahābhārata’s Mokṣadharmaparvan before going on to become a central term of classical Sāṃkhya philosophy. This paper examines closely the presence and role of the “intellect” (usually “buddhi,” but other words are used as well) in the argument of the Manubṛhaspatisaṃvāda, a text that is unusually rich in its theorizing and description of the intellect. But this text is not primarily about the intellect, even if that organ plays a prominent role in the three main phases of the text’s teaching (its basic psychology, its arguments to persuade its audience of the reality of the super-sensuous soul, and its soteriological method). The Manu-Bṛhaspati is a major, deliberately constructed body of teaching on ethics, ontology, and psychology, and what it says regarding the buddhi is embedded in those teachings, usually, but not always, incidentally. This paper tries to grasp those teachings in their particular idiom and present Manu’s teachings on the buddhi in the natural progression and settings of the overall argument. A number of points comparing the buddhi in this text to the adhyātma text-pair of MBh 12.187/239–41 are made and a striking contrast between Manu’s buddhi and the ‘saving buddhis’ of the early Mokṣadharma is discussed briefly. The main points regarding the buddhi in Manu’s teachings turn out to be: First, and most importantly, the buddhi has the ability not only to see and “resolve” current sensory experience coming from the senses and the mind, but to store those sensations (memory) and re-arrange and re-interpret them outside of ‘real time’ (imagination). This ‘trans-temporal depth’ of the buddhi may be the reason for the second major fact about it, that the buddhi is the locus in a person from which that person’s residual energy from past deeds (karma) operates; the buddhi transmits that energy and its qualitative differentiations into the mind (manas) and the senses, entities that derive from it and operate “below” it. Third, the buddhi’s ability to select and arrange past perceptions and imagine not previously observed arrangements among them is the source of its fatefully erroneous substitution of the immediately present, phenomenal self of experience for the transcendent true Self. Fourth, the buddhi’s ability to imagine and re-interpret experience makes it the principal faculty for determining the truth of things that are not immediately apparent to the senses. Establishing the existence of the transcendent soul is the most important such truth, for that serves as the foundation for one’s eventually coming to see the true Self. Fifth, the buddhi works with the main perceptual organ, the mind (manas), to clarify and then neutralize the operation of the senses, allowing yoga meditation to go forward. In the course of yoga meditation, when the buddhi is emptied of karma energy, the buddhi becomes “tantamount to the manas” and the ultimate reality is “seen, as if it were a streak of gold on a touchstone,” undoing the buddhi’s fateful error. Sixth, a point stressed in several places in the text, is that the entire embodied soul, which is basically led by the buddhi, is tremendously energetic in its rush down to the (separately created) physical reality (in constituting a body and interacting with the sensed objects of the physical world). It is not clear whether some of this energy is part of the original emanation of the principle of the embodied soul (“jñāna”, “Consciousness,” in the Manu-Bṛhaspati) from the Absolute, but it is clear that some of it is the energy of karma stored in the “intellect.”
Journal of Indian Philosophy – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 17, 2017
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