The animal heart sees clearly what the intellect cannot because it follows the innate knowing of the earth itself. The animal heart lives behind logic, below reason, underneath the armour of objectivity. She has lived longer than any of us can remember because it was from her belly that we were born.
— Toko-pa Turner, “Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home”
When you hear the word “Buddha,” what comes to mind?
Monks in red robes?
An enlightened chubby dude sitting cross-legged?
You probably think of “The Buddha”, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha, who left his life of royalty searching for greater meaning and reached enlightenment after meditating under a tree for 49 days.
However, he wasn’t the only “Buddha.” Even after Gautama Buddha’s death, hundreds, maybe thousands of “Buddhas” have existed throughout history, and there still are.
The word “Buddha” is Sanskrit and simply means: “enlightened one.” But the meaning of the word goes deeper, and if we break it down, we find wisdom.
Indian mystic, Sadhguru, who might as well be a modern-day Buddha himself, provides a profound insight into the concept of a “Buddha.” He often explains that if we cut apart the word “Buddha,” we get “Bu” which means “Buddhi” and “Dha” which means “dada.“
Putting the two together, we get:
“Buddhi” + “dha” = one who is above the intellect.
So a “Buddha” is about being above your own intellect.
This raises several questions. Firstly, what does it mean to be above your intellect, and why would someone want to do that? And for the majority of us who are not “Buddhas,” where do we fall in terms of our intellect?
This is where the word “Buddha” reveals its wisdom.
Sadhguru explains this idea quite simply:
“Once you are above the intellectual process, suffering is finished in your life…”
“If you are in the intellect: non-stop suffering.”
When you are caught inside the intellect, you filter everything through your logical mind and its ongoing narrative of self that places you as the hero and victim of everything that happens in life. Essentially, you are attached to your mind and slave to the drama of your ego.
You’re stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting that you stayed up all night preparing for, and you start convincing yourself you are cursed.
You have a dispute with someone at work and then obsess all day about proving them wrong.
You’re waiting in line at the grocery store, and you grow increasingly frustrated and aggravated by how much of your “precious time is getting wasted.”
This is the nature of the intellect and the logical mind: to rationalize, analyze, and in the process, manufacture suffering.
And we are capable of suffering over just about anything.
When you are below the intellect, you don’t suffer nearly as much.
Animals are below the intellect. They don’t experience the type of suffering we humans do. If an animal has its basic needs met, they are satisfied. Think of your pets. They are low maintenance compared to us humans. Take care of them, give them food and water, and they are happy and grateful. Even when in adverse conditions, most animals can make it through with minimal suffering. I know a few neighborhood street cats that are tougher than most people.
I’m sure you know what I am talking about. Have you ever looked at your pet or an animal at a farm or zoo with envy? Envious of how simple and graceful their existence seems? Every night when I am preparing my dog Jackson’s dinner, I am amazed by how overjoyed he is to eat the same food day after day. I wish I became that alive every night to eat the same old broccoli and cauliflower mixture.
For us humans, we can only wish to be as carefree and flexible as our animal friends. We have the single most sophisticated and powerful technology sitting in our skulls, yet it is the source of all our suffering. Quite the paradox, isn’t it?
“Dealing with our minds” will always remain our biggest conundrum. And the best answer we have come up with so far is to try to escape our minds as much as possible. Essentially, we try to avoid suffering by intentionally trying to go below our intellect.
We do this in many ways: excessive drinking and eating, legal and illegal drugs, and distracting ourselves by aimlessly scrolling through social media or binging Netflix. This list of behaviors we engage in to keep ourselves out of our mind’s crosshairs of suffering is endless.
Over-indulgence is nothing more than an attempt to avoid the intellect for a while.
You arrive at a social gathering feeling out of place and anxious, so you get drunk, and for the rest of the night, you’re a smooth operator. All your fears and anxieties take a back seat for a few hours, and you are free to let loose and “just be.”
Then tomorrow morning comes, and what do you know, you’re right back inside your mind.
So how do we break out of this cycle of bouncing between being caught in the intellect and purposely dipping below it?
We must evolve beyond it.
And unless you are a “Buddha,” this requires consistent effort and practice; to keep taming the chattering monkeys causing a ruckus in our minds and seeing beyond the petty stories of self we cling to that create suffering.
This is the promise of an enduring, deepening meditation practice: to go beyond the trap of the intellect, refill our cup, and see ourselves and all of life more clearly with new eyes.
According to Sadhguru, if we can do this, a larger intelligence takes hold, allowing us to “recognize that every aspect of life is a manifestation of a far greater mind than our minuscule intellect.”
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