Buddhi (intellect) is the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions.(SAT-A.159) It includes perception, comprehension, understanding, and knowledge. Intellect is the ability of the mind to reach a correct conclusion about true and false and solve problems.Dhee (intellect), dhriti (restraint), and smriti (memory) are three faculties responsible for intelligence.
All the universe is a teacher for a person with sharp intelligence. Self can learn everything by the power of intellect. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 8/14] One can acquire knowledge, even beyond the limit of senses, with the help of intelligence. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 11/7] This article describes the concept of buddhi (intellect) in Ayurveda, its application in medical practices, and its relevance in healthcare management.
|Section/Chapter/topic||Sharira / Buddhi|
|Authors||Deole Y.S., Anagha S.|
|Reviewer and Editor||Basisht G.|
|Affiliations||Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.& R.A., Jamnagar, India|
|Publisher||Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India|
|Date of first publication:||July 04, 2021|
Importance of intellect in preservation of health
The lifestyle of an individual depends upon his choices of daily living and habits. The intellect plays a key role in the decision-making of an individual. It differentiates between good and bad, beneficial and harmful perceived information. Then acquires the good and beneficial things for the preservation of health. In an abnormal state of intellect (prajnaparadha), the person indulges in bad and harmful objects. This disorganization of selection, discrimination and decision process leads to diseases. Prajnaparadha is one of the fundamental causes of disease. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 11/43]
One who is endowed with excellent intellectual faculty, submissive mind, clear understanding and knowledge that results in positive speech and actions is not affected by diseases. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 2/47] Therefore, the preservation of buddhi is crucial for the preservation of health and prevention of diseases.
Etymology and derivation
The Sanskrit word ‘buddhi’ is derived from root “budh” meaning “to know”.
The synonyms of buddhi are maneesha, dhishana, dhee, prajna, shemushi, mati, preksha, upalabdhi, chit, samvit, pratipat, jnapti, chetana, samjna, aaman, pradhana and prajnana.
Buddhi is the primary component of cognition in the process of knowledge (jnanotpatti) [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/22-23]. It is one of the tools or instruments of knowledge called “karana”. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/56]
It is a quality (guna) attributed to the soul (atma) [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana1/49, 8/13]. It is a characteristic feature showing the presence of soul (atma) in a physical body. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/72]
In Indian philosophy, the theories of the origin of the universe (srishtyutpatti) consider the supreme intellect (buddhi/ mahat tatwa) as one of the sixteen derivatives (shodasha vikara).[Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/63]
This knowledge is critical to prevent exogenous diseases. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 7/53-54] Acquiring pure knowledge is the treatment of mental disorders. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/58 ] Knowledge of truth makes the person free from all worldly bondages. It is an important mean to attain salvation(moksha).[ Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 5/16-19]
Intelligence (buddhi) can be of two kinds.
a)Inherent (sahaja buddhi)
b)Acquired through the process of learning (shastraja buddhi)[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana9/24, chakrapani]
Contemporary science documents that 50% of a person’s knowledge is inherited. The inherited genome sequence differences are identified recently by many genome-wide association studies. Apart from genetic factors, environmental factors like place of residence, family status, parents' education and occupation, and physical exercise can influence a child's intelligence.
Three categories of learners:
There are three categories of learners or students (shishya) based on their ability to learn, grasp, understand and retain knowledge (buddhi).
a) Low intelligence (avara buddhi)
b) Average intelligence (madhyama buddhi)
c) High intelligence (pravara buddhi) [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 8/3]
Intelligence quotient (IQ)
A set of standardized tests is used to assess the intellectual ability of an individual. The total score obtained is known as ‘intelligence quotient (IQ)’.  This quotient is useful to diagnose intellectual disabilities and developmental milestones, especially in children. IQ classification based on Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children is shown in the below table.
|IQ Range ("deviation IQ")||IQ Classification|
|130 and above||Extremely High|
|69 and below||Extremely Low|
The maximum capacity of human intellect is innumerable due to the versatility of the objects (vishaya) of perception. [Chakrapani, Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/32-33] The knowledge is limitless.
Anatomical aspects of buddhi
Site of buddhi
The heart (hridaya) is the site of the intellectual faculty (buddhi). [Cha. Sa. Siddhi Sthana 9/5] The "sadhaka" variety of pitta dosha located in heart conducts physiological functions of intellect. It works for fulfilling the common objectives of one’s life. [A. Hr. Sutra Sthana 12/13] Acharya Bhela adds a sub-type of alochaka pitta dosha and names it as “buddhirvaisheshika” (specific to intelligence). It is located in head. [Bhela Samhita]
Anatomical considerations of intelligence
The size of the brain, cortex, prefrontal cortex, and degree of encephalization are relevant for deciding intellectual capacity. The number of cortical neurons and conduction velocity are considered as the basis of information-processing capacity.
The indriya are associated with specific areas in the cerebral cortex for proper perception and knowledge. Six types of perceptions (indriya buddhi) are described based on the sensory faculties and mind. [Chakrapani, Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/32-33]
Table : Association of indriya and areas of cerebral cortex
|Perception||Area in Cortex|
|Auditory perception (shrotrendriya buddhi)||Auditory area (area no. 21, 22)|
|Tactile perception (sparshanendriya buddhi)||Somesthetic & Somesthetic association area (area no. 1,2,3,5&7)|
|Visual perception (chakshurindriya buddhi)||Primary visual & visual association area (area no. 17,18,19)|
|Gustatory perception (rasanendriya buddhi)||Gustatory area (area no. 43)|
|Olfactory perception (ghranendriya buddhi)||Olfactory area (area no. 28)|
Physiological aspects of buddhi
The dosha are responsible for various intellectual functions. The process of receiving-transmitting the sensory inputs and initiating motor functions is done by vata dosha. [A. Hr. Sutra Sthana 11/3] Sharpness of intelligence (medha/dhi) is attributed to pitta dosha. [A. Hr. Sutra Sthana 11/3] Maintenance of proper intellectual function is attributed to kapha dosha. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 12/12]
As per physical constitution (prakriti), individuals with kapha predominant constitution are endowed with the excellence of intelligence [A.Hr. Sharira Sthana 3/96]. The persons with pitta predominant constitution exhibit sharpness of intellectual functions. [A.Hr. Sharira Sthana 3/92]
A study was conducted to analyze the relation between physical constitution (deha prakriti) and mental constitution (manasa prakṛiti) and intelligence in 150 healthy individuals. It was found that intelligence quotient (IQ) was more in kapha prakriti individuals. Moderate IQ was observed in pitta prakriti. It was comparatively less in vata prakriti individuals.
Physiology of cognition in Ayurveda
The process of cognition is known as “jnanotpatti”. The five sensory faculties (jnanendriya) give inputs to the internal processing unit, including mind, ego, and intellect. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/24] The sensory signals are subjected to analysis, thought process, and generation of assumptions at the level of mind. The intellect performs the process of discrimination (adhyavasaya) and decision (nishchaya). It sends signals to the motor faculty for initiation of needful action. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/20-23].
In the current view, cognitive functions include perception, attention, memory, learning, decision making, language abilities etc. The process is carried out in the brain and nervous system. In perception, physical and chemical stimulation of the sensory system and transmission of signals through the nervous system to the brain occurs. Perception is influenced by the person’s learning, memory, expectation, and attention. The perception, learning, and memory formation are explained based on the concept of synapses of neurons. The pre and post-synaptic neurons and their inter-cellular and intracellular signaling pathways are responsible for these functions. Recent studies state that the star-shaped cells called astrocytes occupy half of the brain volume. Earlier it was thought to have only structural and metabolic functions. They have a specific role in cognitive functions like learning, perception, conscious processing, and memory formation.
Studies on the relation of indriya (sense and motor organs), its connection with mind and soul, its influence on functions of the brain and nervous system can provide more inputs in understanding the process of cognition.
Importance in diagnosis of diseases
Importance of buddhi in etio-pathogenesis
- Intellectual error (prajnaparadha) is one of the major causative factors of all diseases. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 11/43]
- Perversion of intellect (buddhi vibhramsha) leads to wrong interpretation, decision, and knowledge. This results in the perception of something harmful as a useful one, and vice versa. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/99]
- Distortion of the intellectual functions (buddhi vaikruta) indicates a decrease in lifespan. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 30/25]
- Altered intellectual functions are a sign of an advanced stage of poisoning. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 21/48]
- Sudden diminution of intellectual abilities is a poor prognostic sign. [Cha. Sa. Indriya Sthana 11/7]
- Psychosis disorders (unmada) and seizure disorders (apasmara) are two major disorders with direct pathological involvement of intellectual faculty (buddhi). Psychosis (unmada) is characterized by cognitive distortion related to mind, intellect, consciousness, knowledge, memory, desire, attitude, activities and behavior. [Cha.Sa.Nidana Sthana7/5]
- Seizure disorders (apasmara) develop due to perversion of memory, intellect and other mental faculties. It is characterized by transient loss of consciousness associated with aberrant activities. [Cha.Sa.Nidana Sthana 8/5]
- The condition characterized by severe distortion of intellectual functions is called as “atattwabhinivesha”. It is a dreadful disease (mahagada). [Cha. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 10/60]
- Poor functioning of intellect (abuddhitwam) is one of the diagnostic criteria (bahu dosha lakshana) for purification therapy (shodhana).[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 16/15]
Importance in management of disease
Normal intellectual functions are crucial for following a wholesome regimen, avoiding harmful factors and preservation of health. Purification therapy (shodhana chikitsa) is administered to attain a pleasant state of intellect (buddhi prasadana). [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 16/18] In the treatment of mental disorders, uplifting intellectual functions is one of the treatment modalities. [ A.Hr. Sutra Sthana 1/ 26]
Restraint of mind highly depends on intellectual abilities. The principle of Ayurveda psychotherapy (sattvavajaya chikitsa) is restoring the psychological equilibrium by giving assurance of emotional support.
Importance in healthcare management and teaching
Role of intelligence (buddhi) of physician
Intellect (buddhi) of physician plays a significant role in understanding the verbal testimony (history of the disease), direct observations (examinations), and forming the inference as well as logical reasoning at the higher level.
Personified diagnosis, interpretation of pathological findings, pathogenesis (samprapti), prognosis, and treatment depends upon the physician's intelligence. Inherent and acquired intelligence are important in healthcare management.[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 10/22], [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 7/47]
Through experience and acquired intellectual skills, an ideal physician can connect with the patient's soul and experience his suffering state. Then he can try to cure the disease at its root level. [Cha.Sa. Vimana Sthana 4/12]
An intelligent physician is free to make necessary changes in medical prescription to make it suitable for the patient as per the stage of disease after a thorough assessment of the condition. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 4/20],[Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 4/28]
Personified dose of medicines for different treatment purposes depends on the intelligence of the physician. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 5/36][Su. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 37/106].
Importance of diet and nutrition in promoting intelligence
The diet deficient in iron, zinc, protein, iodine, B vitamins, omega three fatty acids, magnesium, and other nutrients either in mother during antenatal period or in child during developmental age, can result in lower intelligence.
Herbs for promotion of intelligence:
Different combinations of herbs and nano particles of gold (swarna) are recommended for newborns and young children to promote intellectual functions. They include the following:
Rasayana promoting intellectual functions (medhya rasayana):
Following herbs are known to promote intellectual functions and used in the management of disorders of intellect.
- The juice of Centella asiatica (mandukaparni)
- The powder of Glycyrrhiza glabra (yashtimadhu) with milk
- The juice of Tinospora cordifolia (guduchi)
Activities promoting intelligence
The academic and professional performance of a person depends upon his intelligence. Discussion with the experts (tadvidvya sambhasha) is the best method to improve intelligence and knowledge. [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 25/40]
The friendly and competitive debates on a particular topic of academic or professional interest help enhance intellectual skills.[Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 8/67]
Continuous learning, engaging in friendly debates, referring, learning new things from other sciences, and devotion to the preceptors of sciences enhance intellectual abilities. [Su.Sa.Chikitsa Sthana 28/2]
- A pilot study to examine the correlation among intelligence quotient (IQ), social quotient(SQ), performance quotient (PQ), maladaptive behavior and their relationship with primary (anubandhya) and secondary (anubandha) dosha was carried out. The 120 children with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities were included in the study. It revealed a positive correlation between IQ and SQ. The correlation of secondary dosha was found to be high with IQ and SQ.
- A study on 150 healthy individuals showed that the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is more in kapha prakriti, moderate in pitta prakriti and least in vata prakriti individuals. In manas prakriti, IQ is more in sattvika prakriti, moderate in rajasika prakriti and least in tamasika prakriti. The other factors which influence IQ levels in the individuals are socio-economic status (IQ is less in lower classes when compared to others), education (higher the education, higher the IQ), diet (vegetarian diet influences IQ positively) and temperament (normal individuals have more IQ in comparison to calm and aggressive individuals).
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