What is Buddhi?

Hinduism Concepts

by Jayaram V

Buddhi is a word with complex meaning, with no equivalent in English, and rather difficult to explain to those who are not familiar with the eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally speaking buddhi is a kind of intelligence that exists in all of us and helps to be smart and intelligent in taking decisions. Buddhi is discriminating intelligence. It is one of the tattvas identified in Samkhya and Hindu philosophical systems.

According to the tantric scriptures, Buddhi is the place where the radiance of Atman is reflected. Buddhi gives us the power to discriminate and decide what is good for us and what is not. It is the force behind our wisdom and our reactions to the outside world. It is however not just power of discretion and judgment. It is also perception, comprehension, understanding, intelligence, rationality, wisdom, discrimination, mindfulness, presence of mind, all working together to keep us attuned to the world around us and deal with it wisely, appropriately and effectively to the best of our expectations, beliefs, intentions and attention.

Buddhi influences the way we understand and interpret our experiences, take actions and decisions, develop beliefs and prejudices, regulate our lives, behavior, relationships, learning, speech, expression and so on. Buddhi-hina means absence of or deficiency of buddhi, which is often used to refer to people who are considered to be stupid or foolish. According to Hindu scriptures, most of our problems in life can be traced to the deficiencies in our buddhis.

Buddhi has a tendency to become clouded by the activity of the senses and our desire for sense objects. A man of lesser buddhi is constantly driven by the senses and the desire for sense objects. He loses his control over his mind and thoughts and indulges in actions that would bind his soul to the cycle of births and deaths. He suffers constantly as he fails to practice equanimity during the union and disunion of the senses and the mind with the sense objects.

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