Buddhi (Sanskrit: “intellect; the faculty of discrimination”) from the root budh (to be awake; to understand; to know) — the determinative faculty of the mind that makes decisions; sometimes translated as “intellect.” Another translation is the higher mind, or wisdom. At a more gross level Buddhi is the aspect of mind that knows, decides, judges, and discriminates. It can determine the wiser of two courses of action, if it functions clearly and if manas will accept its guidance. Buddhi is one of the four parts of the antahkarana (“inner conscience” or “the manifest mind”) and the other three parts are manas (the mind), chitta (the memory) and ahankara (the ego).
Buddhi is the higher aspect of mind, the door-way to inner wisdom. Buddhi is cultivated as the decision maker in the factory of life. Buddhi has the capacity to decide, judge, and make cognitive discriminations and differentiations. It can determine the wiser of two courses of action, if it functions clearly and if manas will accept its guidance.
In the factory of life, we want Buddhi to be making the choices for the factory. Otherwise, manas gets its instructions from the habit patterns stored in chitta, that are colored by ahankara, the Ego. Often, buddhi is clouded over by all of the coloring and impressions in the Chitta. Thus, a major task of Sadhana (spiritual practices), is to un-cloud the clouded buddhi. Then, with clear choice one can ever improve the choices that lead to the fruits of spiritual practices.
On the more gross or surface levels of living and meditation, Buddhi is used as a tool for discrimination, as just described. However, when we get deep enough in meditation, we discover that it was the subtlest aspect of Buddhi that first started to see division in ourselves and the universe. In other words, although Buddhi is used as a tool for deepening experience in meditation, it was Buddhi who carved up the universe in the first place, seeing division where there is unity. To discriminate between Buddhi and pure consciousness is one of the final stages in the meditative journey.
The principle of Buddhi is one of the most important principles and tools of Yoga, as presented in the Yoga Sutras. The term Buddhi itself is only used a couple times in the Yoga Sutra, although Buddhi has to do with discrimination, or viveka, and that term is used several times. By reviewing those few sutras, it will become clear how the entire process is founded on discrimination and Buddhi.
Characteristics of Buddhi
Buddhi should be the decision maker: In the factory of life, we want Buddhi to be making the choices for the factory. Otherwise, Manas gets its instructions from the habit patterns stored in Chitta, that are colored by Ahamkara, the Ego. Often, Buddhi is clouded over by all of the coloring and impressions in the Chitta. Thus, a major task of sadhana, spiritual practices, is to un-cloud the clouded Buddhi. Then, with clear choice one can ever improve the choices that lead to the fruits of spiritual practices.
References:[x]. Vedic Knowledge Wiki, accessed April 2020. [x]. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras by Swami Jnaneshvara – Commentary and Translation. [x]. The Path of Consciousness. Chakras, meditation and Kundalini-Yoga by Vishwaguru Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda.