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  • srikarbuddhiraju

ādhyātmika: The mind, intellect, and conscience.

The conscience that resides within at all times is somewhat familiar to almost anyone who can think and expound upon a thought. However, the situations and the constituents of the said notion and response therein may vary and require additional approval (sort of) to be feasible in action. This conscience always gravitates towards a particular aspect of one's life, though with a clause(s) and a persistent will to alter the fundamental nature of the intellect, the substratum is the same in most cases. This substratum can be called ādhyātmika, which most translate as spirituality. However, this term is non-translatable as the meanings in Sanskrit and English are fundamentally different. With numerous variables playing their game, the conscience here also varies for every individual, thus, perception and cognition are unique. In this article, let us elucidate upon the fundamentals of this subject matter and what it entails.

Just as many parallel worlds exist (do they?), there also is a perpetual manifestation of thoughts among every person. Because the origins are a multitude, these thoughts vary; some perform implications, while others persuade, and then some deduce. Amidst all these, there is something constant, the intellect, which inherently discriminates: What is and is not? This intellect is the basis of the conscience, while experiences and knowledge determine the bias; this is the foundation of ādhyātmika. However, experiences and knowledge constitute a buffer (or rather a filter) through which human cognition perceives anything and everything. This buffer (filter) is always biased and will try to (and succeed most of the time) influence the intellect and, thus, the thought faculty. This buffer is manas or simply the mind. In essence, the fundamental purpose of a Yoga disciple is to leash the manas and let the intellect be the decision maker. In reality, it takes years and sometimes, lifetimes of sadhana to achieve this absolute state of the union; this is where ādhyātmika comes into play.

Etymologically, ādhyātmika has more than 20 definitions, all from a parallel perspective and various sources like the Kosha (encyclopaedic lexicons), mīmāṃsā (school of philosophy), Purana & Ithihasa, and according to Indic languages. However, the starting point for all these explanations and relevancies about the word begins at "relating to the self" & "proceeding from bodily and mental causes within oneself. The "self" here has a different context compared to what we usually identify the word with. One has to acknowledge it from the perspective of Vedanta, as inherently, the approach towards understanding the word is different and can never be the same. ādhyātmika often is identified with "spirituality", which is an appropriation for the intended Western audience and not a proper translation. Words often have their origins deep in the contexts of people, times, culture, and scenarios. It is important not to mix two inherently different things and appropriate them as the same. Hence, ādhyātmika has to be understood contextually and with a rich comprehension of what it entails, especially when it seems simple yet intricate enough for a lifetime of misunderstanding.

Just as we exist in multiple modes depending upon the situations, moods and all the external factors, ādhyātmika is a state of existence prompted by a persistent practice of yogic principles. However, it all depends on how the conscience blossoms within and, as dictated, the mind influences even the intellect, leading to misconceptions which seem like the actualities. However, the term conscience means a sense of moral right or wrong, which is just a compass for us to correct the paths we traverse and in no way encapsulates the entirety of the subject we are trying to delve into. Maintaining this level of existence in an ideal state is like being aware and sleeping simultaneously, which seems like a paradox. Intertwining the same aspect to regular life, its duties, and prescribed actions (samsāra), for navigating it is like looking in opposite directions at a time. While this paradox can become a reality just by being unphased in an ideal-absolute scenario, the difficulty in achieving such a state is unsurmountable. 

To be concise, let's expound upon "The Chariot Allegory" as explained in the Katha Upanishad. It goes as follows:

आत्मानँ रथितं विद्धि शरीरँ रथमेव तु । बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रग्रहमेव च ॥१.३.३ ॥ ātmānam̐ rathitaṃ viddhi śarīram̐ rathameva tu | buddhiṃ tu sārathiṃ viddhi manaḥ pragrahameva ca || 1.3.3 || Know the Self as the rider in the chariot, body (शरीरम्) as the chariot (रथम्), know also intelligence (बुद्धि) as the driver (सारथि); know the minds as the reins (प्रग्रहम्).
इन्द्रियाणि हयानाहुर्विषयाँ स्तेषु गोचरान् । आत्मेन्द्रियमनोयुक्तं भोक्तेत्याहुर्मनीषिणः ॥ १.३.४ ॥ indriyāṇi hayānāhurviṣayām̐ steṣu gocarān ।ātmendriyamanoyuktaṃ bhoktetyāhurmanīṣiṇaḥ ॥ 1.3.4 ॥ The wise (मनीषिण:) say – The senses (इन्द्रियाणि) , they say, are the horses (हया:); the objects (विषया:) which they perceive, the way (गोचरा:) the Self (the Atma) is association with body, mind and senses is the experiencer (of pleasure and pain).
यस्त्वविज्ञानवान्भवत्ययुक्तेन मनसा सदा । तस्येन्द्रियाण्यवश्यानि दुष्टाश्वा इव सारथेः ॥१.३.५ ॥ yastvavijñānavānbhavatyayuktena manasā sadā | tasyendriyāṇyavaśyāni duṣṭāśvā iva sāratheḥ || 1.3.5 || Of him who is not possessed of discrimination (अविज्ञानवान्), and whose mind is always uncontrolled (अयुक्त​: मन​:), the senses are not in control like the vicious horses of the charioteer.
यस्तु विज्ञानवान्भवति युक्तेन मनसा सदा । तस्येन्द्रियाणि वश्यानि सदश्वा इव सारथेः ॥ १.३.६ ॥ yastu vijñānavānbhavati yuktena manasā sadā | tasyendriyāṇi vaśyāni sadaśvā iva sāratheḥ ||1.3 6 || But of him who is possessed of discrimination (विज्ञानवान्) and has his mind always controlled (युक्त​: मन​:), the senses are always controllable as the docile horses of the driver.

The chariot allegory provides a construct to appropriate the senses, body, mind, and intellect to a physical mechanism of riding a chariot, making it relatable. Precisely, this is how the ability to discriminate develops, which leads to a greater awareness and consciousness. To emphasise the ability to discriminate, it means that the mind following the intellect can distinguish between what is? or is not? in actuality. Essentially, the self is the rider, while the driver is the intellect - buddhi steering the five horses, which are the five senses using reins called manas, guiding the chariot known as the body. The practical enablement of this state of existence is only possible with intense dedication and devotion, as there is no tenure; patience needed is monumental. To summarise, this process entails yoga, not mere poses and meditation, and this state of existence is ādhyātmika.


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