Shankara on perverted intellects

Shankara on perverted intellects

When we encounter a person endowed with a sharp intellect, but is using this gift in an undesirable manner, we use the phrase “he is a person with a perverted intellect”.  Such a man, though gifted with good mental equipment, chooses to tread the wrong path.

In the realm of philosophy too, this phrase ‘perverted intellect’ is applicable to one who gets entangled in the grip of sense attractions with all their attendant evils.

Adi Shankaracharya, in his work ‘Vivekachudamani’ uses the word ‘kumatih’ to denote one of crooked intelligence, who does not make efforts to realise the divinity inherent in himself, but instead moves towards sinful tendencies.

He is caught in the jaws of the  monster crocodile of delusion, which pulls him down towards the lower attractions and vices of life, ultimately leading to his downfall.
Shankara explains this through a beautiful example. The rays of the sun fall on the waters of the earth, causing them to evaporate and form clouds, which finally obscure the sun itself.

In man, the inherent divinity, the spark of the divine that inheres in him is like the sun, from which arises the individual sense of ‘I’ or the ‘ego’.

This ego swells with pride, vanity and other negative emotions, smothering the underlying divinity. Thus, man fails to see the effulgent divinity within and struts about in pride, arrogance and ignorance. But this does not mean that the effulgence of the inner divinity is diminished by the swollen ego, just as the sun’s brightness  is in no way affected by the clouds.

The inner soul or ‘Atman’ as it is called is always there as a mute witness to all of man’s deeds, good or bad. This ego sense makes the mind to transform itself selectively in accordance with the external attractions, just like the image in a container of water gets broken up if the water is agitated. If the water is undisturbed, the image too remains still.

“Do not allow the mind to run after wrong, harmful things. If you do, like a man floundering in quicksand, rising and falling, like a man, who, ignoring warnings, goes out on a cold rainy day, gets caught and suffers, you will suffer great hardships” warns Shankara.