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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Buddhi

A Sanskrit word derived from the verbal root budh, to awaken, to perceive. In theosophy it is the spiritual soul, the vehicle of the spirit or ATMA. It is the light of buddhi, when it does penetrate the mind, that awakens the human being to this spiritual state. Helena P. BLAVATSKY writes: “The sixth Principle in Man (Buddhi, the Divine Soul) though a mere breath, in our conceptions, is still something material when compared with divine ‘Spirit’ (Atma) of which it is the carrier, or vehicle” (SD I:178; cf. I:243 & 212).

The word is again and again mistranslated as “reason,” even “intellect,” for want of an adequate expression, or for want of a true understanding of it, but such rendering gives it a totally wrong assessment; for reason, or the rational faculty and the intellect are aspects of the mind and therefore mental; the spiritual soul by which is meant divine perception and understanding and that intuition which goes straight to the hidden meaning, is beyond rationality.

In the human being, buddhi is the faculty which manifests as spiritual intuition, insight, understanding, all of which is far deeper and higher and subtler than our reasoning faculty. It also manifests as the voice of conscience, the unerring sense of right and wrong, the sense of harmony, beauty, truth. When it is reflected through the intellect, it appears as wisdom, when reflected through the higher aspect of the emotional vehicle, it has the quality of spiritual love which itself embraces wisdom. Our ideals of the good, the true, the beautiful are expressions of that harmonious state of wholeness which is the gift of buddhi.

Buddhi, radiating through MANAS, grants a synthesizing, unifying vision, as against the analytical, divisive faculty of the rational principle. So long as buddhi is dormant, rationality is considered the crowning glory of the human being. Buddhi in close conjunction with manas becomes the divine Ego of Theosophical teachings; apart from manas, it is the vehicle of atma, inactive on our plane.

The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett has a very important statement in this respect:

“The supreme energy resides in the Buddhi; latent — when wedded to štma alone, active and irresistible when galvanized by the ‘essence’ of ‘Manas’ and when none of the dross of the latter commingles with that pure essence to weigh it down by its finite nature” (p. 341).

In a note to fragment I of the Voice of the Silence, Blavatsky writes:

“The ‘Power’ and the ‘World-Mother’ are names given to KuïalinŸ, one of the mystic ‘Yogi powers.’ It is Buddhi considered as an active instead of a passive principle (which it is generally, when regarded only as the vehicle, or casket of the Supreme Spirit, Atma). It is an electro-spiritual force, a creative power which, when aroused into action, can as easily kill as it can create.” This could also be compared with Blavatsky’s statement in the Key to Theosophy that buddhi “conceals a mystery” (p. 118) and is the “centrifugal energy” (p. 187).

Sri Krishna Prem clarifies certain other points:

“Manas and buddhi are the two powers of that Light (the light of the atma), the former the power of seeing things as separate . . . and the latter of seeing as a unity, all being related to all. . . .”

“Hence buddhi is the intuition which grasps all connections and grants us the vision of wholeness.”

Again:

“The buddhi, then, is the vision which sees the pattern of the whole, and which, therefore, being able to take account of the whole, is pre-eminently the charioteer of the psyche. When the chariot is driven according to the dictates of buddhi, no harm can ever come to it, for it will be driven in the spirit of Cosmic Harmony in which there are and can be no mishap” (Yoga of the Katha Upanisad, p. 119, 121).

J.Mr.

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