Q : When the six layers of our existence become transparent, then we are able to perceive the seventh layer, the self. Could you please talk about how to make the intellect transparent?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Let us understand what the intellect is.
Consciousness functions largely in four different modes, similar to the different modes or functions in a cell phone. The four different modes in the consciousness are:
1. The Mind – The Mode of Perception: Now you are looking at me, I am looking at you. It is the mind through which the eyes perceive, and the mind through which the ears hear. It is the mind through which the nose smells, if there is a good fragrance around; but if your mind is elsewhere, you would not even notice the fragrance. So, this faculty through which we smell, taste, hear, see, touch, is the mind.
2. The Intellect – The Mode of Analysis: Once you perceive, then the mind goes on judging, whether this is good, not good. The understanding of the fragrance; the understanding of the site; the understanding of the sound falling on your ears. This is the intellect. The intellect categorizes, analyses things; saying this is right or wrong, or I like this and I don’t like that. In order to analyze things, the intellect needs a third layer, called the memory.
3. The Memory – The Mode of Storage: The intellect is in between the memory and the mind. The mind and the memory together make the intellect function. If there is no memory, the intellect cannot function. The basis of the intellect is memory and perception. The memory captures some deep impressions, that is the limitation of the memory. It captures the pleasant memories, and the unpleasant memories (the unwanted, deep impressions called trauma); all of these are stored in the memory.
4. The Ego – The Sense of Identification: Beyond the memory, the consciousness identifies with something, that is ego.
Then is the Self – it is beyond the four different functions. It is the reference point of all changes. If you say that everything is changing, you do notice that everything is changing, right? Your body is changing, your thoughts are changing; thoughts form part of the mind. Your concepts are changing, that is the intellect. The memory is changing, there are certain things you remember, and certain things you don’t remember. All this is changing. If you say that all this is changing, there must be something that doesn’t change; this is the logic. How do you know something is changing? This is because there is something that is not changing. Now you don’t know what this something is! But there is something, some vague thing that is there, and you can feel the changes because of its presence. What is this something?
Lord Buddha wanted to know this. He meditated and meditated, and he found that there is nothing! It is empty.
He said, ‘I searched and searched and searched for the Self, but I could not find it. There is nothing.’ He said, ‘Shunya (zero); everything is empty. There is only emptiness; I could not find anything’.
Adi Shankaracharya, from the Vedic tradition, came after Lord Buddha.
When Adi Shankaracharya met Lord Buddha, he said, ‘Yes, I understand, this is all temporary, everything is changing’. He asked Lord Buddha, ‘You said you could not find the Self, but who could not find the Self? There must be someone who was searching. Who was searching? Who could not find? That is the Self!’
With this one logic, Adi Shankaracharya turned around and brought the Vedic culture back into India. The Vedic principle is that everything is full; this is all consciousness. What we perceive as empty, is all bliss. Adi Shankaracharya said that the one who could not find (the Self), the one who is searching for it, that one is Sat Chit Anand. It has three characteristics: Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.