The Buddhi Principle

In the article titled Atman – The Higher Self, we discovered what the Esoteric Science of Theosophy has to say about the highermost part of our being, our true Self, pure eternal Spirit . . . referred to in Theosophy as Atman, the Seventh Principle of the human constitution.

We briefly made mention there of the fact that the Sixth Principle, known by the Sanskrit name of Buddhi, serves as the vehicle for the direct radiation of the light of the Atman and that together, in conjunction with each other, they are the Monad, meaning the “primary unit,” “the ultimate unit” of our being.

The Buddhi Principle is often called the Spiritual Soul in Theosophical teachings. In the general exoteric definition of the term “Buddhi” – which definition belongs to the philosophies of Hinduism – it is the principle or quality of discrimination (as in wise discriminative intelligence), intuition, and highest intellection. But what is it really?

As we make a proper study of it, we discover that, in the esoteric usage of terms found in Theosophy, Buddhi is technically not the faculty of discrimination, intellect, wise judgment, or intuition at all, although it is indeed very closely associated with these. We also come to realise that just as Atman is an entirely universal and undifferentiated Divine Principle and not personal or individual in any way whatsoever, much the same is true of Buddhi, at least at our present stage of development. Our individuality begins with the Fifth Principle – Manas – which is the Mind Principle, the Thinker, the higher and immortal part of Manas being the Human Soul, the Reincarnating Ego, the true “I” of our being.

As the Sixth Principle, in between the Seventh and the Fifth, Buddhi is the connecting link between Atma and Manas, Manas and Atma. In other words, it is the link between the Self and the Ego.

The Master K.H. says in one of his Letters that Manas, the fifth principle, can become “centred in Buddhi, the sixth principle.” Indeed, it not only can become centred in Buddhi but its very aim and eternal purpose is to do so. The Master goes on to make the profound statement that “The supreme energy resides in the Buddhi” but that it is “latent” as long as Buddhi is “wedded to Atman alone.” That supreme but latent divine energy becomes “active and irresistible” when the Manas unites with it or begins to merge into it.

H. P. Blavatsky’s highly gifted Indian colleague T. Subba Row elaborated on this when he explained that the true esoteric definition of Yoga – which literally means “Union” in Sanskrit – is “the ‘union’ of our fifth principle – wherein resides our individual consciousness – and the sixth with the seventh principle, which at present only overshadows us. Occultism therefore not only teaches us that the lower four principles should be controlled, but it adds that the most important achievement is to so control the lower portions of the fifth – wherein are generated the impulses which attract us earthwards – that all these four principles together with the lower half of the fifth, become merely like a cloak (which can be put on and off at will) covering the higher portions of the fifth – merged in the sixth and the seventh. When this union between our higher fifth principle – which gives us the consciousness ‘I am I’ – with the Spiritual Monad (the sixth and seventh principles) is completely effected, the individual then attains Nirvana or becomes a Mukta – free from the chains of Maya, in which we are all more or less bound.” (Note to “Yoga Vidya,” “T. Subba Row Collected Writings” Vol. 2, p. 276)

“Fathom the nature and essence of the sixth principle of the universe and man,” says the Master K.H., “and you will have fathomed the greatest mystery in this our world – and why not – are you not surrounded by it?”

When an individual succeeds in uniting Manas with Buddhi – which we are told is a very rare occurrence, the fruit and result of many dedicated lifetimes of serious spiritual study, spiritual practice, and spiritual service – the result is referred to as either Manas-Taijasi or Buddhi-Taijasi, which are synonymous terms according to HPB’s Glossary that is included at the end of some editions of “The Key to Theosophy” and which differs in a number of respects from “The Theosophical Glossary” which she prepared later.

She says in that Glossary at the end of “The Key to Theosophy”: “For “Taijasi” means the radiant, and Manas, becoming radiant in consequence of its union with Buddhi, and being, so to speak, merged into it, is identified with the latter; the trinity has become one; and, as the element of Buddhi is the highest, it becomes Buddhi-Taijasi. In short, it is the human soul illuminated by the radiance of the divine soul, the human reason lit by the light of the Spirit or Divine SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.”

This Union is also what is meant by the Pavamana, the “Fire by Friction,” one of the Three Fires which play an important role in both Eastern Esotericism as well as the popular exoteric Hindu scriptures. Although some later versions of “Theosophy” have taught that Fire by Friction is the lowest and most material of the Three Fires and that Electric Fire (Pavaka) is the highest and most spiritual, this is not the case and is an exact reversal of what H. P. Blavatsky so carefully stated and explained in “The Secret Doctrine.”

For “the “Fire of friction” means the Union between Buddhi, the sixth, and Manas, the fifth, principles, which thus are united or cemented together; the fifth merging partially into and becoming part of the monad.” (Vol. 2, p. 247) Pavaka is the lowest and most material of the Three Fires and Pavamana is seemingly the highest, the “Spiritual Fire which alone makes of man a divine and perfect entity.” (Vol. 2, p. 105)

Here on the physical plane of existence, Buddhi – being so universal, pure, spiritual, subjective, and very nearly entirely undifferentiated and unconditioned – is entirely unconscious and inactive, until eventually it “is made conscious by its union with the higher faculties of Manas.”

Or as the Master M., the Master K.H., and the one they called their “Direct Agent” HPB put it in “The Secret Doctrine” – “Buddhi per se, being so near the Absolute, is only latent consciousness” (Vol. 2, p. 275) and does nothing of its own accord but is “a passive and latent principle, the spiritual vehicle of Atman, inseparable from the manifested Universal Soul.” (Vol. 2, p. 231)

In “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge” HPB again emphasises this point, saying that “The Buddhi in man is the vehicle of Atman, which vehicle is of the essence of the highest plane of Akasha and therefore does not differentiate.” (p. 28) And in “The Key to Theosophy”: “Buddhi, receiving its light of Wisdom from Atma, gets its rational qualities from Manas. Per se, as something homogeneous, it is devoid of attributes.” (p. 102)

One of the most important and enlightening sources of information about the Spiritual Triad of Atma-Buddhi-Manas and a multitude of other things besides is the book “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues.”

Presumed lost or destroyed for over a century, these verbatim transcripts from 21 of HPB’s private teaching sessions and discussions with the Blavatsky Lodge in London eventually resurfaced and were published in book form (722 pages) in 2014 by Theosophy Company on behalf of the United Lodge of Theosophists.

It is no exaggeration to say that every serious student of Theosophy needs this book.

The following passages, in the very words spoken by HPB to her students, are quoted from those Dialogues and serve to shed further light on the nature and purpose of Buddhi.

* “Take the human septenary. Atma alone is nothing; it is not only a breath, but it is simply an idea, nothing, because it is absoluteness; it is the essence of Ain-Soph or Parabrahm; Buddhi is its vehicle, and yet Buddhi, even in conjunction with Atma, is still nothing on this plane.” (p. 438-439)

* “The mission of Buddhi is simply to shadow divine light [i.e. the Atmic Light] on Manas, otherwise Manas will be always falling into the Kamic principle [i.e. the Fourth Principle, the “Animal Soul”]; into the principle of matter; it will become the lower Manas, and act as the lower Manas or mind.” (p. 614)

* “Atma is said to have Buddhi for a vehicle, because Buddhi is already the first differentiation after the evolution of the universe. It is the first differentiation, and it is the Upadhi, so to say, of Atma. Then Buddhi is nothing, per se, but simply the first differentiation. And it is the consciousness in the universal consciousness, but it is non-consciousness in this world. On this plane of finite consciousness it is nothing, for it is infinite consciousness.” (p. 592-593)

So is Buddhi actually the faculty of Intuition or not?

* “Intuition is in Manas for the more or less light shed on it by Buddhi, whether it is assimilated much or little with Buddhi.” (p. 621)

* “Buddhi by itself can neither have intuition, nor non-intuition, nor anything; it is simply the cementing link, so to say, between the higher spirit [i.e. Atman] and Manas.” (p. 621)

* “Intuition belongs to Manas.” (p. 621)

* “Atma and Buddhi cannot be predicated as having anything to do with a man, except that man is immersed in them. So long as he lives he is overshadowed by these two; but it is no more the property of that than of anything else.” (p. 625)

* “You must never say: “my Atma”; you have no Atma. This idea is the curse of the world. It has produced this tremendous selfishness, this egotism . . . we say “we are,” “my Atma,” “my Buddhi.” Who are you? You are nobodies; you are something today, and tomorrow you are not. Even that disappears at the end of the Manvantara in the ONE.” (p. 627)

When asked by a respected Theosophist the question “Is the apprehension of highest abstract ideas the function of Manas, or of Buddhi?” HPB answered emphatically –

* “Buddhi can have the apprehension of nothing.” (p. 633)

But lest we sit back and feel satisfied that we have now solved the mystery of Buddhi and “fathomed the nature and essence of the sixth principle of the universe and man” we find in “The Key to Theosophy” that the Buddhic Principle also “conceals a mystery, which is never given to any one, with the exception of irrevocably pledged chelas, or those, at any rate, who can be safely trusted. Of course, there would be less confusion, could it only be told; but as this is directly concerned with the power of projecting one’s double consciously and at will, and as this gift, like the “ring of Gyges,” would prove very fatal to man at large and to the possessor of that faculty in particular, it is carefully guarded.” (p. 119-120)

There is of course more that can be learnt and discovered about Buddhi through study and meditative reflection on the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and her Adept Teachers of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood. More references can be found in Understanding Our Seven Principles. But it is hoped that everything that has been presented here in this article can serve as a valuable starting point leading to a truer and deeper comprehension of what the Mahatma K.H. intriguingly called “the greatest mystery in this world.” You may also like to read Buddhi Yoga – The Yoga of Wisdom.


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H.P. Blavatsky

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