What is the actual difference between mind and intelligence?
From Krishnanama P
I would like to know the difference between mind and intelligence. During chanting many thoughts comes and series of background planning activities starts, do not know if this is fantasy or imagination or illusion, but whenever awareness comes back, i realize that thoughts are going on in back ground and chanting is not effective. Whenever, such situation arises, i get doubt what is real difference between mind and intelligence? is mind controlling the intelligence or other way? or intelligence under illusion? etc. How to separate these 2 (mind & intelligence) and how do we effectively apply these for chanting?
Transcribed by: Shalini Ahluwalia
Question: Hare Krishna! Question from Krishnanaam Prabhu. What is the exact difference between the mind and the intelligence? When I am chanting I realise that many thoughts come in the mind and planning goes on in the background and when I come back to awareness I start wondering what was happening. Is the intelligence meant to control the mind or is it the mind controlling the intelligence? And how do we exactly differentiate between the two? And how do we apply this knowledge for our chanting?
Answer: The chain of command or control can go both ways. It can go from the intelligence down to the mind or senses or it can go up from the mind and senses to the intelligence. If we consider the chariot-body metaphor, ideally the charioteer is meant to control the horses through the reins. But if the charioteer is weak or inattentive or incompetent then the horses may run wild and the charioteer will be dragged along and in that case the horses will be controlling, dragging the charioteer along also. Krishna talks about both these possibilities for example in 2.67 in the Bhagavad Gita;
indriyanam hi caratam yan mano ‘nuvidhiyate tad asya harati prajnam vayur navam ivambhasi
So indriyanam hi caratam – senses are wandering, the horses are going wild and then yan mano ‘nuvidhiyate- the senses are wandering and the mind focuses, that means the reins go loose and then tad asya harati prajnam – the word prajna is very close to intelligence, its like buddhi, so the intelligence gets carried away. That happens. Now that is how things can happen. But then Krishna also says that what should we do? He talks about the hierarchy in 3.42 when he says;
indriyani parany ahur indriyebhyah param manah manasas tu para buddhir yo buddheh paratas tu sah
indriyani parany ahur – above dead matter, insentient matter is the senses, above senses is the mind, indriyebhyah param manah, manasas tu para buddhir – then there is the intelligence and then yo buddheh paratas tu sah – then there is the soul. So clearly intelligence is above the mind. And the Krishna expects us to use the intelligence to control that which is lower. That he says in the next 3.43;
evam buddheh param buddhva
with intelligence know that you are beyond all these and therefore by situating yourself in spiritual knowledge with spiritual strength;
evam buddheh param buddhva
So the mind – atmanam atmana – atmanam refers to the mind and the other to the soul. Fix the mind on the soul that means don’t let the mind go downwards and dwell on sense objects and get attracted there. Let the mind turn upwards and fix it on the spiritual reality and thereby conquer lust.
jahi satrum maha-baho kama-rupam durasadam
In this way conquer lust Krishna says. So essentially the point which Krishna is making here is that the chain of command is meant to go upwards. The intelligence should control the mind and senses. The senses are pulling it down but the mind should be turned upwards with knowledge of our transcendental identity and that way we situate ourselves on the spiritual platform. So that is the answer to the first question – Who is to control whom. Yes the intelligence is supposed to control the mind but sometimes the mind may control the intelligence if it gets carried away by sensory image or perceptions. Now we can strengthen the intelligence by scriptural study, by philosophical conviction and that means when the charioteer is strong and its not just a matter of strengthening but its also a matter of training. Now just because a person is a body-builder doesn’t mean the person will be able to be a good charioteer. Person has to be competent. So we not just need to have scriptural knowledge but we also need to know how to get the training to apply that scriptural knowledge for controlling the senses. For the charioteer to use the reins and control the horses. So like that we have to get the training. And that training comes by scriptural study, by enquiring from devotees, by observing our own consciousness. So now there is another Gita Daily article – Look at the mind before you look with the mind. That means whenever the mind wants to look somewhere, instead of just looking over there we first look at the mind. Is this what makes sense? And then we decide whether to look in that direction or not. So that way we can reposition the mind not as the subject of knowledge but as its object. Now how do we apply all this while chanting? Is there a difference between the mind and intelligence? Definitely. From the functional point of view there is a big difference. The mind is driven by short-term emotions, instant pleasures and the mind often runs on predictable patterns based on whatever has given pleasure in the past and it runs also on the predictable patterns of wanting to avoid whatever has caused some inconvenience or misery in the past. So what do we do? We use our intelligence. So intelligence essentially means the faculty to make conscious, rational, scripture-based decisions. And the mind refers to the faculty for emotions which generally is short-term often instantaneous. So now how do we differentiate between the two? One simple criterion is that if there is inner voice which is telling us to do something which is contrary to scripture we can understand that is the voice of the mind. And if there is an inner counsel, inner voice urging us to do that which is right, which is according to scriptures then we understand that it is the voice if the intelligence. Further as we become more and more purified we will be able to differentiate between these voices more and more clearly. Till then it may be a little difficult and that’s why till that time it is good to have our life relatively structured. It means that if we decide that every day I wake up and do my chanting. If that’s what I have decided then even if the mind says – c’mon read the newspaper, watch the TV, c’mon do this, do that – I am not going to do this. You don’t leave much room for the mind to drag us, to mislead us. And there Prabhupada also writes in the kaamesh esha, krodh esha purport 3.37 that one can rise from ignorance and passion to goodness by the method of regulated living and acting. And Prabhupada says in the NOI introduction also that once we come to mode of goodness then how to make further advancement will be revealed subsequently. That means that once the inner landscape becomes less hazy and more clear for us then we will understand ok this is the voice which is impure so this is the voice of the mind. I won’t listen to it. But till then if it is difficult for us to differentiate we try to focus on just doing what the scriptures tell us to do and arrange our lives so that it becomes easier for us to do what the scripture tells us to do. So during chanting when the mind starts wandering too much it can be helpful to try to strengthen our intelligence so that we will have the alertness and the determination and strength to check the mind whenever it starts going here and there. So before chanting we can recite some very inspiring verse about the glory of the holy name, or we can meditate on a scriptural passage we have heard in some class or read somewhere which gives us impetus to fight against the mind, which gives the impetus to strengthen ourselves. And then with that we can feel more confident, more determined to tackle the mind. And also if we find the mind wandering too much in chanting then it may be helpful to take a break. Not a long break where we just walk away and so something else entirely but just a short break maybe to take a few deep breaths or just recite some sweet verses or maybe even sing the Hare Krishna mahamantra in a tune. So basically to get us out of the mind-induced haze because if we are too much in the mind-induced haze then one of the strategies that the mind uses is that it allows us to continue the activity externally while disconnecting our consciousness from it internally. And that sort of chanting is not very fruitful. So taking a break, slight pause, which helps us to re-orient ourselves in our consciousness that can help us to again reconnect with the holy name and chant better. So chanting essentially is a war and we cannot go with a rigid pre-determined strategy in a war. It depends on how the enemy attacks. And we have to find the right weapon for the kind of strategy with which the enemy is attacking to counter that strategy. So some devotees may just sit down at one place and chant sixteen rounds attentively without getting up or doing anything else. Yes that is good if we can do that. But if we are sitting just for the sake of sitting and the mind is wandering all over the universe then maybe just getting up, standing or walking and chanting might be better. Putting some water on the face – that might be better. So I am not recommending breaks in chanting by saying this rather there are already breaks in chanting because of the mind and what we are trying to create by taking physical breaks is create a break in the mind’s spell so that we can actually resume our chanting. So every day we need to observe and learn – how can I concentrate, how can I connect with the holy name and thereby we can become more and more effective in our chanting. In general, that faculty within us which helps us to act according to scripture is the intelligence and that faculty which wants us to act contrary to scripture is the mind.
Thank you. Hare Krishna!