Experts in the Ayurvedic medical system tell us that the source of all disease and suffering is "the mistake of the intellect" ("pragyaparadh" in Sanskrit). What is "the mistake of the intellect" and how does it relate to health, vision and intraocular pressure?
Dr. Ram Kant Mishra, an Ayurvedic physician, says the mistake of the intellect "occurs when individuals -- or even single cells -- 'forget' their connection with the wholeness of life and believe themselves to be isolated entities."
Other Ayurvedic physicians interpret the ancient Sanskrit texts in slightly different ways, but Dr. Mishra's quote is the best and most correct definition of "the mistake of the intellect" I have seen. And this precise definition is the key to gaining some very powerful insights that make the concept of "the mistake of the intellect" practical. A vague concept that there is something called pragyaparadh that is responisble in some strange way for all the diseases we encounter in life is of no practical value. In that same way, the more common translations such as, "identifying with the part and losing the whole, that is the mistake of the intellect" have little value because trying to create some mystical or imaginary feeling of "being connected to the whole" is usually a nebulous exercise that quickly becomes impractical in daily life for busy people.
However, if we realize that there are certain definite patterns of thinking (and their accompanying emotions) that lead to disease, then we can go to work on changing those thinking patterns. That makes the concept of "the mistake of the intellect" practical. That is my purpose in writing this article.
Let's start by recognizing that we already know what it is that makes us forget our connection to the wholeness of life and believe that we are isolated entities. It is the ego. If you have been reading Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" or any other similar material, you know that the ego is our sense of individual, separate self. Our ego is what conceptually defines us as individual humans.
Let me quote from Patanjali, the founder of Yoga. Patanjali says, "Egoism, the limiting sense of "I", results from the individual intellect's attributing the power of consciousness to itself." Patanjali is saying that the ego arises from the mistake of the intellect. And Ayurveda is saying that the mistake of the intellect is fundamentally responsible for all disease. Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" provides some practical insights into how we can unravel this whole disease-creating process. In my own work on this I have found strong connections between my egoic thinking and my intraocular pressure.
The Mistake Of The Intellect Is the Ego
I would like to quote Eckhart Tolle again:
The word "I" embodies the greatest error and the deepest truth, depending on how it is used. In conventional usage, it is not only one of the most frequently used words in the language (together with the related words: "me," "my," "mine," and "myself") but also one of the most misleading. In normal everyday usage, "I" embodies the primordial error, a misperception of who you are, an illusory sense of identity. This is the ego.
In my prior blog post, I quoted Dr. Eric Robins saying, "Some day the medical profession will wake up and realize that unresolved emotional issues are the main cause of 85% of all illnesses." Unresolved emotional issues arise from the ego.
Again, I will quote Tolle. This is from the section THE BIRTH OF EMOTION in Chapter Five:
In addition to the movement of thought, although not entirely separate from it, there is another dimension to the ego: emotion.
One way out of the trap of the ego and the health problems that go along with it are the mindfulness practices described by Tolle and many others. Practicing being here now is very powerful. I won't give a course in how to do that in this article, but I will write more on it in future articles. The point I want to leave you with is this:
- The mistake of the intellect is at the root of all disease.
- The ego is the most tangible result of the mistake of the intellect.
- There are proven, effective psychological tools that allow us to unravel the ego's total control of our lives and to begin enjoying emotional freedom and serene thinking.
I want to end this article by making it even more concrete for those of us who are engineering-types and those of us who may tend toward left brain thinking. Biochemically, increased intraocular pressure can, in many situations, be attributed to certain hormones such as glucocorticoids (e.g., cortisol) and the catecholamines (epinephrine/adrenaline). We may be tempted to end our investigation at this level, saying simply that increased intraocular pressure is due to increased cortisol, for example. And that can be true (at least in certain populations). However, when we get into a discussion of the ego, we are really looking at this one level deeper than the biochemical level. We are looking for the cause of the increased cortisol or epinephrine or other stress hormones and neurotransmitters. We are taking into account that, in the modern world, most of our stress is the result of our thinking (and our coloring of situations through our thoughts) rather than the situations themselves. A great example is being stuck in traffic. If one frets about the possible future consequences of being late to an important meeting, one will flood the body with stress hormones. By simply changing our thinking, we can respond to the same situation without stress hormones. These various changes in thinking we can employ all ultimately become practical tools when we frame them as I have in this article. First, we need to understand the root issue (the mistake of the intellect). Then we can learn about the structure and function of the ego, which is the most tangible consequence of the mistake of the intellect. And from that foundation, we can unravel the ego using tools such as mindfulness and concepts such as Tolle's "pain body."