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Niyama 7 - Mati, Cognition

Bodhinatha speaks about the niyama mati, cognition. He urges seekers to develop a spiritual will and intellect with their guru's guidance. Part of mati involves cultivating and awakening our intuition, which is the direct knowing of the soul, superceding knowledge derived from memory and reason. Intuition is also called sub-superconsciousness, and it transcends the intellect but does not contradict it.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning, everyone!

Continuing with the series on the talks on 'Yamas and NIyamas', Hinduism's Code of Conduct, the twenty principles, which govern spiritual life so nicely. The Yamas, of course, are the restraints, harnessing the instinctive mind and the Niyamas are the observances where we are expressing our soul qualities. So today, we are up to Niyama 7. As we mentioned the last Sun One, the last 5 niyamas, 6-10, as expounded by Gurudeva, all relate in someway to the Guru. We will see that as one of the themes this morning - how Cognition relates to the Guru.

Today's lesson on 'Good Conduct' is on the seventh Niyama of Mati, which is to develop a spiritual will and intellect with your satguru's guidance. Strive for knowledge of God, to awaken the light within. Discover the hidden lesson in each experience to develop a profound understanding of life and yourself. Through meditation, cultivate intuition by listening to the still, small voice within, by understanding the subtle sciences, inner worlds and mystical texts.

Let us look at some examples, illustrating the practice of this Niyama.

First example: In studying about karma and karmic cycles, a young woman intuitively saw how the same karmic cycle involving an accident had repeated itself three times in her life so far.

Second example: A man who had developed a strong intellectual pride from his university training began studying with a swami. After studying for about five years with the swami, the young man's nature had changed into a more humble one that recognized the limitations of his intellectual knowledge when compared to intuitive knowledge.

Third example: A young woman decided to attend the 5 AM Ganesha Puja at a nearby temple for each of the twenty-one days of Vinayaga Viratam and successfully did so without missing one day.

Fourth example: After attending a particularly powerful Ganesha puja, a young man had an intuitive insight that the best career for him to pursue to fulfill his swadharma in the highest way is that of a teacher.

All of the Niyamas focus on expressing the refined soul qualities within each of us. In the case of Mati, the divine quality we are expressing is becoming a more spiritual person through developing a spiritual intellect, utilizing our willpower to achieve inner, spiritual goals and tapping into our intuition to provide answers from our superconscious mind.

The Tirukural in its Chapter 36, 'Knowledge of Truth', in Verse 352 stresses the importance of intuition when it talks about the power of "undimmed perception." Also, it beautifully echos the thought in our description of Mati, to strive for knowledge of God to awaken the light within. The Kural verse reads:

"For those of undimmed perception, free from delusion, darkness departs and rapture rushes in."

The first aspect of practicing Mati is developing a spiritual intellect. The intellect is the thinking portion of our mind. It goes through a developmental process over a period of many lives. At first, the thinking mind is dominated by our instinctive nature. We are caught up in the lower emotions of fear, anger, jealousy and revenge. Also, the negative karmas caused by our adharmic deeds keep the intellect in a constant state of disturbance.

Over time, we gain greater and greater control over these emotions as well as, discipline ourselves to follow a dharmic life by observing the yamas. At that point, our mind is calm from the positive karmas caused by our dharmic deeds and the lower emotions no longer dominate our intellect. They are replaced by the faculties of memory and reason.

Memory and reason are useful but limited as they cannot provide the answers to the deeper questions in life. In fact, if they are over-stimulated, they can keep the thinking mind quite active and somewhat frustrated. Unfortunately, modern secular education teaches us to rely totally on memory and reason and encourages us to think that our intellectual abilities are who we are. Therefore, especially important to developing a spiritualized intellect is the Niyama of Siddhanta Sravana, study of the teachings and listening to the wise, as it fills the intellect with right, religious knowledge which eventually brings humility as well.

We spiritualize our intellect further by looking for knowledge in the superconscious realms beyond the realms of memory and reason. We can draw a comparison to worship. Our attitude in worship is to seek the blessings of God and Gods who are far more developed spiritually and far wiser than we. Our attitude in seeking knowledge from our intuition should be the same, that our faculty of intuition is far wiser than our faculties of memory and reason and that we seek knowledge from our superconscious intuition that cannot be attained through mere memory and reason. However, such knowledge can be used by memory and reason once it is received.

A second aspect of practicing Mati is developing a spiritual will. Willpower is the strength of will to carry out one's decisions, wishes or plans. People who regularly make plans and fail to carry them out lack willpower. For example, a student often plans to get up early to study for his tests but always when the time comes decides to continue sleeping instead. Willpower is channeling the rarefied energies of the body, of awareness itself, into attention and concentration upon everything that we do through the day. How can this be cultivated?

Gurudeva gives us the key in 'Merging with Siva'.

"Willpower can be cultivated by finishing and doing well every task that we undertake. In fact, done a little better than our expectations." First finish each task. Second do it well. "Nothing is done with half our mind thinking about something else. Nothing is dropped in the middle. Developing these two important habits produces an indomitable willpower."

Gurudeva has an insightful comment on willpower: "The more you use your personal, individual willpower, the more willpower you have."

Once we have an indomitable willpower, how then can we spiritualize it? We spiritualize it by living a spiritual life. This means controlling our instinctive impulses through following well, the yamas. It means striving to perfect the niyamas especially contentment, austerity, giving, faith and regular worship. It means holding the humble attitude that our intellectual knowledge produced through memory and reason is quite limited and pales before the knowledge that comes from our superconscious. It means engaging in regular worship and meditation in which we strive to personally experience the divine realms of the Gods and of our soul.

A third aspect of Mati is to cultivate intuition. So far, we have acquired a body of spiritual knowledge through reading and listening that is based on the experiences, insights and observations of others. The idea now is to add to this knowledge through our own insights, observations and experiences and thereby, further deepen our understanding.

Intuition is direct understanding or cognition which comes from our superconscious mind which bypasses the process of reason. Intuition is a far superior source of knowing than reason but it does not contradict reason.

Here is a story to illustrate intuition. A husband and wife normally don't argue. However, an exception is that they do regularly argue about money at the time the husband gets his monthly paycheck. The husband never gave the matter much thought until on one such occasion, he has an insight that his parents did the same thing. He then concludes that he has picked up this habit from them and decides to break the habit, which with the support of his intuitive insight he is successful at.

If prior to the insight we had asked this man why he argued regularly at the time he was paid, he would not have been able to answer the question through his faculties of memory and reason. It took the new knowledge added by his intuitive insight to provide the answer.

Part of the challenge in cultivating intuition is to distinguish a thought that comes from intuition from one that comes from memory and reason. A simple way of doing so is to know that insights are a flash of understanding that contain a complete concept and are short in duration. Thoughts from memory and reason are partial concepts and last a longer time.

Also effective in catalyzing the process of having intuitive insights is the worship of Lord Ganesha. His Darshan helps us move into the intuitive area of the mind.

For the full development of Mati, Gurudeva states that, "It requires the grace of the satguru as it is a transference of divine energies from the satguru to the sishya, building a purified intellect honed down by the guru for the sishya, and a spiritual will developed by the sishya by following the religious sadhanas the guru has laid down until the desired results are attained to the guru's satisfaction."

In conclusion, develop a spiritual will and intellect with your satguru's guidance. Strive for knowledge of God, to awaken the light within. Discover the hidden lesson in each experience to develop a profound understanding of life and yourself. Through meditation, cultivate intuition by listening to the still, small voice within, by understanding the subtle sciences, inner worlds and mystical texts.

Aum Namah Sivaya!