The Direction of Focus of the Intelligent Will

Sri Aurobindo points out that the Buddhi, the intelligent will, is situated at such a point in the manifestation of Nature that it can turns its attention either downward and outward toward the play of Prakriti and the 3 gunas, and get enmeshed in the things of the outer world, or else, it can turn its attention upward and inward towards the pure conscious awareness of “the conscious silent soul no loner subject to the distractions of nature.”

“In the former alternative the subjective being is at the mercy of the objects of sense, it lives in the outward contact of things. That life is the life of desire. For the senses excited by their objects create a restless or often violent disturbance, a strong or even headlong outward movement towards the seizure of these objects and their enjoyment, and they carry away the sense-mind, ‘as the winds carry away a ship upon the sea’; the mind subjected to the emotions, passions, longings, impulsions awakened by this outward movement of the senses carries away similarly the intelligent will, which loses therefore the power of calm discrimination and mastery. Subjection of the soul to the confused play of the three gunas of Prakriti in their eternal entangled twining and wrestling, ignorance, a false, sensuous, objective life of the soul, enslavement to grief and wrath and attachment and passion, are the results of the downward trend of the Buddhi,–the troubled life of the ordinary, unenlightened, undisciplined man.”

This downward and outward focus is contrasted with the upward and inward turn of the discriminating intelligence, which separates itself from attachment caused by desire of the outer objects, and turns towards the silent, infinite awareness of Oneness. “The inner subjective self-delight independent of objects is our true aim and the high and wide poise of our peace and liberation.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 10, The Yoga of the Intelligent Will, pp. 91-92,

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