In mundane life, the intellect is regarded as a great boon. People who are intelligent score high marks and achieve great success in life. They are rewarded and honoured for their achievements. They command respect from everyone. But is this faculty of intellect which is so useful in mundane affairs useful in spirituality?
Real spirituality is realizing the God or self. Vedanta says that in order to realize the self or God we have to go beyond the mind and intellect. The Upanishads emphatically declare that any knowledge through the mind – intellect (antakarana) is limited. The reason for this is that mind or intellect is itself limited and inert matter. It has to work within the frame of time and space as well as law of cause and effect. The mind is nourished by food. In Chandogya Upanishad, Uddalaka proves this fact by making his son Svetaketu fast. After some days of fasting, Svetaketu could not even remember his name as his mind did not function.
The intellect is only an instrument of the self. How can the self know itself through its instrument? The Upanishad itself asks this question.
“Through what should one know That, owing to which all this is known- through what, O Maitreyi, should one know the knower?”
The self is constant awareness. It is due to the awareness of the self that we come to know of the existence of the intellect. Then how can we know the self, the witness of the intellect through the intellect? It is impossible to know in that way.
Then how to know the reality? The scriptures say that there are two ways of knowing the reality. The first is stopping the modes of the mind and the second is the sadhana of silence.
The first method is recommended by the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. The second sutra says:
“Yoga is restraining the mind from thinking (taking various forms)”
The result of this practice is given by the third sutra:
Then, the seer rests in his own nature.
By stopping the mind the sadhaka goes beyond all limitations of the mind. All bondage and the ego are transcended. One experiences absolute peace and bliss; a direct experience where all the instruments disappear. There is no experiencer but only the experience. But the disadvantage of this method is that on awakening from Samadhi (trance) all the instruments including the ego reappear. Another disadvantage of this method is that it very difficult to suppress the thoughts. It takes ages of practice to succeed in it.
The second method is eloquently advocated by the Bhagavad Gita. Not only the Gita but great sages who have realized the truth have emphatically recommended this sadhana from time immemorial. The truth is natural (spontaneous, effortless) silence. In fact, all the noise of the functioning of the mind- intellect and of the world is on this substratum of absolute silence. To be aware of this silence is to become internally silent. In this sadhana of silence, non- cooperation with (ignoring) the mind is the key to success. Ignore the thoughts that happen in the mind. Neither stop them nor promote (encourage) them. Remain as spontaneous silence. This sadhana gives you access to Sahaja Avastha (Sahaja Samadhi). Remaining in silence even for minutes provides you with enormous strength to resist temptation of worldly pleasures. The Gita says on this sadhana:
“Fixing the mind on God, do not think of anything whatsoever”.
Commenting on this verse Sri Sankara says that this is the highest instruction on Yoga. Swami Ramsukhdasji highly recommends this sadhana.
To conclude, it is thus crystal clear that stopping the functions of the mind ( intellect) or disassociating with the intellect is the way to realize the self or God ( absolute reality).