Dhee: The lodestar of Dharma
by Achintyachintaka on 29 Dec 2012 26 Comments

In a previous article on Dhi, the writer pointed out that Dhi is the cognitive science of the Vedas which in its highest accomplishment enables one to comprehend the Ultimate in this Universe. The Ultimate is Brahman in Vedic science and Vedantic literature. Dhi is not only vested in an individual but has a collective existence. It nurtures the entire cognate creation.


The Mahad or Mahadhi of Sankhya Darshana refers to the Universal Intelligence. The basic eternal law (or laws) of nature is termed rtam in Sanskrit. It can be intuitively comprehended by the human mind through the agency of Dhi, or directly perceived through a sub-faculty of Dhi termed Prajnya. In a fully realized individual who has experienced and comprehended the nature of Brahman, prajnya is filled with a deep unconscious and sometimes conscious knowledge of all the laws of nature, ritambharaa tatra prajnya, an expression used by Patanjali in Yoga Sutras, which means: In that state the prajnya is filled with all the rtas or truths.


Buddha or a Sthitaprajnya (fully realized individual) would have reached that state of consciousness or evolved to attain that state of being. The second chapter of the Bhagvad-Gita describes this state of being of a fully evolved human being when Arjuna asks Krishna: Sthitaprajnyasya kaa bhaashaa, Samaadhisthasya Keshava, Sthitadhee kim prabhaasheta kimaaseeta vrajeta kim? (Keshava, what are the characteristics of the Sthitaprajnya who is also a Samaadhistha? How does Sthitadhee exhort, how does he express himself non-verbally; how does he conduct himself?) Here it is obvious that the terms Sthitaprajnya, Samaadhistha, and Sthitadhee are nearly equivalent synonyms.


These terms refer to individuals enjoying experiential and existential states of consciousness and/or states of being. The clinical signs and symptoms of this highest potential condition of human life are yet to be defined and criteria for diagnosing this condition are offered for the first time in this special Yogashaastra of Vedanta literature, Bhagavad-Gita, by Vyasa, its author, through the character of Sri Krishna.


Dhi is Universal Intelligence when recognized as Mahadhi. The latter operates at a subconscious or supra-conscious level while individual Dhi has more conscious recognition by those who begin to experience it. Sub-faculties of Dhi operating at unconscious and conscious levels are the Neurolinguistic faculty (vac), represented by Vageshwari, the artistic poetic inspiration and talent (pratibha) represented by Saraswati, the faculty that gives deeper understanding of the un-manifest world (vidya) represented by Prajnya (prajnya is an ability viewed as a composite of pratibha, vidya, inspiration, intuition or a superior talent that enables one to comprehend abstract concepts or the tatva’s including rtas), and finally it is Dhi that is the container (ayatawan, receptacle) of Gyana.


The highest level of Gyana is expected to have knowledge of Brahman when Dhi becomes the container to receive it and begins to perceive the process by which Brahman evolves into manifest world (knowledge of this process is called Brahmavidya). This highest knowledge is Brahmagyana. Mahadhi and Dhi are, in a manner of speaking, the highest and the subtlest information storage and cognitive systems in Prakriti (Nature). Since the tatvas described as Brahman, Prakriti, and Mahadhi are all-pervasive subtle entities (tatvas) present in the entire manifest and un-manifest universe, there is no locale for these entities.

On the other hand, the individual Dhi is dependent on the brain, the most evolved and complex organ. Dhi and Mahadhi are qualitatively the same, but the complexity and capacity of Mahadhi is beyond the grasp of ordinary individual Dhi. Mahadhi is magnificent in its magnitude. It is quite possible that the intuitive appreciation of such similarity could have led to statements like Nara and Narayana being conceived as similar in nature in their noblest forms.


The individual Dhi has the potential to experience the presence and nature of Mahadhi, Prakriti or Purusha (Brahman). It must be clarified that in Sankhya the entities identified as Purusha, Prakriti and Mahad have not been given any status of deities. Sankhya is an ancient natural science; therefore, Sankhya does not bother to deify these entities or tatvas. Sankhya is not a theology but only a cosmogony. Sankhya can be conceived as the philosophy of natural science or metaphysics elaborating upon the tatvas underlying the nature of physico-chemical universe and the biosphere.


The awe and sacredness attached to these concepts (Purusha, Prakriti and Mahad) would make them Paramatman, Shakti, Ganesha in a different context where the divine qualities are attributed to these simple but (sentient) “physical” concepts, principles or tatvas described in Sankhya. Basically the sentient and non-sentient universe is de-constructed in Sankhya without contaminating Sankhya as a “spiritual,” “religious” literature addressing gods or god-like concepts. Therefore, Sankhya philosophy could easily be misrepresented or misinterpreted as “atheistic”. Like science it is neither theistic not atheistic. Unlike science it attempts to reconcile and integrate cognate, sentient, and non-sentient aspects of the Universe in a single frame of reference.


At its sublime level, Sankhya views of the entire Universe, or all existing universes, if there are many, in any form, as entirely contained in the radiating sentient energy, Purusha. This frame of reference makes Sankhya look reductionist, yet the jury is not out to confirm or disprove its thesis. The question as to how mass appears in the Universe and how energy is converted into mass are questions physicists are still grappling with, although they have convincingly demonstrated how mass can be converted into energy. This said, one has to wait for scientific developments in Quantum physics or Elementary Particle physics to arrive at the appropriate appreciation of the basic concepts of Sankhya. In true Indian philosophical or Vedic tradition there is room for corrections or revisions of theory and the truth will prevail as there is no conflict between Vedic philosophy and science. Vedas are a pursuit of knowledge in the same scientific spirit and rests on ‘facts’ as they exist and not on imaginary non-existent entities (Sat and Asat). Asat is to be discarded.


What is missing in the usual expositions on the Vedic Philosophy is emphasis on Dhee / Dheehi. It is important to understand the etymology of the words that have Dhi or Dhee in them to comprehend what is implied by Dhee. Words ending in dhi are sometimes viewed as not related to Dhee. Many Sanskrit scholars may not agree with this writer’s breakdown of Sanskrit words to illustrate the pivotal presence of the concept of Dhee in Vedic and Buddhist spiritual literature, as some references drawing attention to this concept of “Dhee” do not have “dhee” in them in the strict grammatical sense except as a homonym. For example, the root Dha (Dhri or Dhru) stands for ‘holding’; therefore, Bud in Buddha (Bodhati- Bodhate) means ‘to understand, to know’ and ‘Buddhah’ (one who holds the knowledge) in the sense of ‘enlightened’ has no relation, it may be argued, to the word Dhee. Likewise, Buddhih is a term used for intellect as a faculty of mind. The fact that the Dhi in this word is a rhasva (i) and not a deergha (ee) dhee makes it a word not related to Dhee. Also, the word Vidhi has a rhasva (‘i’) dhi and as such only stands for ‘a method’ ‘a rite’ or ritual. Vidhee, with deergha (‘ee’) dhee, may stand for fate, ‘destiny or luck’, and neither is it related to Dhee as proposed by this writer.


Such legitimate scholastic arguments could lead to linguistic objections that it seems the Rhasva dhi is more (dhiyati) related to Dha meaning simply to hold or to possess. For example, ‘a receptacle’, dhi as in jaladhi (jala means water and jaladhi means a pond or lake, literally a water reservoir) has nothing to do with Dhee. Such derivations and variations of the meanings of rhasvadhi’ and deerghadhee’ have lead to probable disconnection of Dhee from dhi. Such considerations in the scholastic semantic interpretations of Dhi and Dhee tend to offer these two homonyms as two separate concepts.


This article strives to tie in the two concepts (Dhi and Dhee) with focus on the quote from Kamandaka’s Nitisara. The reader is asked to focus on the words grahanam (incorporation) and dhaaranam (holding; note the closeness and connection to the concept of Dharma derived from dhru) as the necessary qualities of Dhee in the following authoritative definition in Kamandaka’s Nitisara. (Shushrooshaa shravanam chaiva grahanam dhaaranam tathaa, uhaapohaartha-vidnyaanam tatvajnaana cha dheegunaah - The qualities or characteristics of Dhee are nurturance, auditory comprehension, and internalization and incorporation (grahanam), and retention (or holding in, dhaaranam), critical thinking (uhaapoha), and cognition or understanding of Tatvas (Tatva gyana).


This quote from Kamandaka’s Nitisara defining Dhee, if understood properly, will not only get one closer to understanding what Dhee stands for, but will illustrate the closeness of the concept of dhi (holding faculty) to the comprehending internalizing faculty (dhee) and how dhi as holding faculty is connected with the much larger concept of comprehensively viewed plenary faculties (tatvas), Dhee and Mahadhee. A cognitive framework as formulated here for understanding Dhee is considered absolutely essential to gain insight into the philosophical, metaphysical, and psychological underpinnings of Sankhya and Yoga.


Let’s take on the giants among Indian and Western translators of Vedic and Vedantic concepts first. They have been extensively preoccupied with Atman and Purusha as the perceiving and comprehending agencies of the mind and have been attributing an active role to them. The illustration below is to demystify the terms Self and Person used by these giants of English versions of Vedas and Vedanta and see these tatvas as merely nodes of consciousness. These individual (Purusha) nodes of consciousness are by definition passive until their nirguna nature becomes saguna. That is to say, the individual as well as the cosmic consciousness is devoid of any qualities that would be differentiating IT from anything else. It is only when IT begins to differentiate that the qualities or gunas become discernible.


The active faculty of the mind for the practice of Yoga is DHEE (not Atman or Purusha). Yoga as a discipline to achieve integration of the personality is focused on Dhee, a faculty uniquely evolved in human beings. Buddhi (vyavasaayaatmikaa buddhi or pragmatic intellect) refers to problem solving cognitive abilities with mechanical, mathematical, verbal, performance, social, musical, emotional and other synthetic creative functions of the intellect as well as visuo-spatial and visuo-motor perceptions and abilities (coordination) and the organizing and executive functions of the brain. Buddhi is, of course, essential for Dhee to evolve. Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to start with this very first step, vyavasaatmikaa buddhi eka-iva kuru Nandana (Bring together all the faculties of your pragmatic intelligence as if they are all one and concentrate). Dharma usually refers to refined moral development of the mind through incorporation of good samskaras and use of Viveka Buddhi.


Viveka is the discriminatory faculty of Buddhi or Dhee that enables one to be sensible, just, and appropriate in personal, family, social and global context, responsible for what may be considered “judgment.” Sara-asara Viveka Buddhi (the faculty that distinguishes relevant from irrelevant, essential from non-essential and recognizes the context and relationship of background to foreground) or sad-asad Viveka (distinguishing real from unreal) is a sub-faculty of Dhee. Viveka can thus intuitively distinguish Sadachara from Durachara (good conduct from bad conduct).” Viveka also differentiates between rational and irrational.


Manas in Yoga refers to the emotional mind and is considered lower in hierarchy, being assigned the status of an indriya (sense organ) of Dhee along with five other indriyas. It is only proper considering that manas is, since infancy, an elaboration of the interoceptors derived information and memories that form the substratum for emotions which discolor current and past perceptions, cognition, memories, actions, relationships and even the nature of reality as perceived by an individual. Manas has its language of the heart and often is not logical. It is not the intelligence by itself and it is Dhee that raises Manas derived input by processing it to render an emotional maturity to an individual. Yoga has special techniques to tame, modulate, and regulate manas and one of those techniques is Pranaayama.


Dhee regulates the buddhi (intellect), manas (emotional intelligence), and the moral compass (Viveka and Dharma) to navigate oneself in one’s life (in the microcosm). Every child has a deeply seated sense of fairness and justice, compassion and love, and sensibility in its rudimentary form which emanates from this faculty of Dhee which develops and matures into the Dharmic tendencies of Dhee. Intelligence alone does not make a mature human being. Refined Buddhi, Manas, and Viveka are the minimum three components of Dhee for a human being to be considered civilized and mature. These three components then sharpened by vac, pratibha, prajnya, etc., blossom into fully evolved Dhee that attains the potential for comprehending Brahman, Atman or Purusha.


There are no real equivalents for many Sanskrit words in the English language and translational flaws have persisted in English translations. Current English usage and verbiage have distorted the basic views on Vedic culture of many who do not understand Sanskrit and also those who understand Sanskrit.


There is so much (legitimate) emphasis on Brahman and Purusha in Indian philosophy that a reader loses track of which faculty of the mind is trying to describe these concepts and/or perceive them. The translation of the word Purusha as “person” or “self” has also caused confusion. The words “person” and “self” are used in voluminous Western scientific and psychological literature with entirely different connotations and meanings than those implied by Vedic scholars. The psychological phenomenon or theoretical construct described as “self” evolves when the infant interacts with its social and inanimate environment as well as his own body to begin to form an internal image as a continuing stable separate entity, separate from mother or primary love object.


The Vedic Self, on the other hand, stands for the hypothetical, theoretical or postulated “experiencer” in each individual and may best be equated with the English word “soul.” This “experiencer” is said to have an eternal existence separate from the body and brain. So the Self in Vedic context is a philosophical entity or tatva (aatma-tatva) which is beyond the asmita and ahankara necessary for western  "self".


Many Indian and Western authors expound Vedic Philosophy jumping between these entirely different disciplines (Indian Philosophy and Western Psychology), and using the same words as if they are interchangeable or attempting to separate them by capitalizing self as Self and person as Person to denote “aatman” or “purusha” respectively, (the aatman of Vedanta and purusha of Sankhya are considered here as equivalent synonyms) yet discuss the attributes of Aatman or Purusha as if it is a person or self as denoted in Western Psychology. In actuality there is no English equivalent for purusha as used in Sankhya and later in Yoga.


Similar translational flaws occur in translating “Aatman.” Once the words “person” and “self” are used, with or without capitalizing the first letter, they create problems with the words “Purushottama or Paramaatmaa.” What then can be the equivalents for these? “Super-person or Supreme Self” or “Super-self”? Once such translations occur, they generate spurious logical arguments and discussions, dragging readers into a conundrum of circular, convoluted logic which superficially sounds so profound that serious students spend years trying to disentangle knots therein. Is person inactive and inert? Or, how can person be inactive and inert when those who understand the word “person” will normally view it to be an active agent?


Then one would go looking for evidence to show that Purusha is active in some other Vedantic discipline that differs from Sankhya. Such treatises and discussions are mostly word plays and are mostly generated by the semantic confusion caused by translational flaws which have made Indian philosophy appear either too profound or an inconsistent gobble-de-gook in its English or Western “trans-presentation.” When such translations fall into the hands of insincere Western Indologists, or so called “scholars” of religious studies, or Islamic critics, they aggravate the confusion.


Another look at Dhee will help one understand why it is essential for scientific humanism. The concept that all human beings are the children of God has not mitigated the atrocious practices of the two major monotheistic religions that have inflicted untold miseries on those believed not to be the favored children of God. Yet there is another concept that could if assimilated by human civilization could end Man’s inhumanity to man.


In this respect the connectedness of all human beings attains paramount importance. Kalidas in Raghuvamsha defines Dhee as dhiyaah samagraah saa guneirudaaraadheeh: Collectively all ‘dhees’ form Dhee (Mahadhee) which by its very nature is generous or noble. This clearly indicates that Dhee has singular (individual) as well as plural (collective) connotations. Guneirudaaraa means: By nature it is noble or generous. The nobility of Dhee is in its highest potential to perceive and comprehend Brahman and/or Purusha. Dhee is by definition noble and high-minded and therefore broad-minded. Dhee illuminated or guided by Brahman (Tat Savitruh) will see no reason to condemn anyone to hell. Therein lays the secret strength of Eastern “religions” including Buddhism and Jainism that use “Namaste” as a greeting. These religions or cultures have fully comprehended the human mind as endowed with Dhee.


Dhee is the essence of Hinduness, and the word Namaste carries in it this very essence. It is a gesture with hands, with eyes, with mind and Dhee, with a smile, with acceptance and warmth and noble feelings and emotions towards other human beings as equal, radiating love (Agape) through body language and expression, accepting all human beings regardless of religious, racial, socioeconomic or national background, with no consideration for caste, creed, or color. Namaste communicates in a very simple manner a “connectedness” of two individuals as equal (samaana). The ability to recognize the Aatman in one individual as the same as or similar to the Aatman in another is also a function of Dhee. Dhee recognizes its collective existence when it invents and puts into practice a simple social gesture for greeting that expounds a profound philosophical truth. Namaste with joined hands illustrates the samaanata or equality of two individuals.


It would be corrupt to translate the Namaste or Vande as a mere greeting or salute. There is utmost respect and affinity expressed in this gesture. It is directed towards human beings, mothers, fathers and even strangers, the motherland and God. Some people object to the use of Vande when addressing the motherland without comprehending how much love there is in a patriot for the nurturing motherland. They must understand that it is not an insult to them or their God to say Vande or Namaste to their mothers or motherland.


Imagine Mahadhee as the equivalent of the Internet with each individual Dhee manifesting the potential to be a search engine, if we use IT analogy. But there is a vast difference between information storehouse and knowledge or wisdom. Purusha, Brahman, Atman are all-comprehending; their nature itself is Gyanam. Therefore, when Dhee acquires this Gyanam with its sub-faculty Prajnya leading Dhee to it, Dhee comes to a fulfillment of its designated function and becomes the Dhee of a Sthitadhee.


The individual who attains such a state of mind is also called Sthitadhee. Vedic and Yogic science is primarily devoted to refinement, evolution, and culmination of Dhee into a state of Samadhee (state of consciousness) where Dhee comes to rest in a state of balance and fulfillment of the individual Dhee as Sthitadhee, an adjective based upon the functional status of Dhee. Thus the samaadhistha by nature eventually becomes Sthitadhee. Likewise, the fulfillment or culmination of the sub-faculty of Dhee, Prajnyaa, in the most spiritually evolved individual leads to his/her becoming a Sthitaprajnya or Sthitaprajnyaa (for female).


This is also a similar adjective based upon the functional status of prajnya. The sanskaaras or impressions (memories) imprinted on the individual dhee in this state of samaadhee are so profound, strong and dominant that the other frames of reference in comprehending reality predicated upon previously ingrained sanskaras begin to weaken naturally (tanjanya sanskaraah anyasanskaara pratibandhee – per Patanjali’s Yogasutras.) Samadhee is a transcendental state, but repeated experience of samadhee is consequential in leading to the state of being which itself deserves to be termed samadhee. This is a slightly confusing aspect of Yogashastra.


The confusion can be relieved by understanding that the highest integrative process (sanyama) in the evolution of Dhee is termed Samadhee and the state of consciousness attained through this process is also termed Samadhee. An individual who is consistently and perpetually in a state of samadhee in the “usual wakeful” state is experiencing samadhee as a state of being. This is termed the Sahajavastha (Natural State). Samadhee is thus a process of transformation through evolving higher states of consciousness. The (transcendental) states of consciousness finally lead to transformation of the aspirant’s maturation into a persistent highest evolved state of being or sthitaprajnya. Buddhists call such an individual a Buddha, one who has attained enlightenment. Bodhisatva, a practicing aspirant, has a potential to become a Buddha. So also, an aspiring Yogi who becomes samadhistha experiences the transcendental state of samadhee and attains a potential to become a sthitadhee or  sthitaprajnya through his sadhana (practice of yoga). Science of yoga is considered central to all Hindu spectrum of religions or Sanatana Dharmic traditions. Focus on Dhee is central for the practice of yoga. Therefore, Dhee is the essence of Hinduness.


Dhee is usually highly evolved in all talented artists, musicians, mathematicians, philosophers, and individuals who have contemplative natures. But it is by tuning itself with Mahadhee that leads to its fulfillment. There is disproportionate importance given to the faculty of intelligence in Western culture at the expense of emotional maturity and Dharmic, superior moral or spiritual development. Eastern culture stresses all round development of Dhee, which leads to some de-emphasis of individualism. It leads to Sanskritization or the civilization of an individual. Dharma in Dhee is implicit, but there may not be Dharma in Intellect or Buddhi.


Science and mathematics and the highest technological advances of human civilizations applied in real life while not guided by Dhee can lead to disharmony and destruction, whereas the advances of civilization guided by Dhee lead to peace and harmony. This is the master mystery of the Vedas transmitted through the secret Gayatri Mantra which contemplates on the individual dhee to be guided and inspired by Dheemahee (more on this word later) or Mahadhee originating in the (tat savitru) Brahman the source of all wisdom and knowledge. This is the legacy of all Bharatiyas.


Finally, Dhriti Shamaa Damo Asteyam Shoucham Indriyanigraha Dheehi Vidyaa Satyam Akrodho Dashakam Dharmalakshanam (Manusmriti VI-92): Dhruti (fortitude); shamaa (patience); dama (self-restraint); asteyam (non-stealing, not taking anything that belongs to others by deceit or force, or through unfair trade); shaucham (cleanliness of mind, body and environment); indriyaanigraha (restraints of sense organs and greed); dhee (well defined in this article); vidya (knowledge); satyam (truth); akrodha (non-anger) are the ten characteristics of Dharma. This amply illustrates the pride of place Dhee occupies as one of the ten essentials for Dharma. Cultures devoid of Dhee destroy one another as they lack an important component of Dharma which holds human society together.


This knowledge about Dhee belongs to all Bharatiyas. We must own and protect our Vedic inheritance for the benefit of the entire human race.


The author acknowledges the valuable contributions of Dr. Seshachalam Dutta, and Dr. Srinivas Kalyanaraman

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