How the mistake of the intellect can affect you

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Featured blog post, Lifestyle

Mind-body health is what everyone is talking about now, but did you know that it’s so much more than being mindful, taking breaks or meditating?

Our thoughts and emotions are food and—just like with the food we eat,—they need to be processed too. What’s more is that according to ayurveda, how we use our mind can be a source of disease.

The mistake of the intellect

Prajna paradha is a Sanskrit term used to describe a concept called mistake of the intellect, crime against wisdom, or offenses against wisdom. According to this concept, a person thinks unwholesome thoughts or behaves in unwholesome ways that go against habits and principles that help keep your mind, body and spirit in balance.

Sometimes they do so because they don’t know any better and sometimes they do so despite knowing better. For example, you know that you shouldn’t over-indulge in food late at night but you still do it. It’s prajna paradha. But you may not know that fear and anger are intellectual errors, too. Fear may aggravate your vata dosha and anger may send your pitta through the roof. In the first scenario, high vata may cause you sleepless nights, racing thoughts or breakouts. And excess pitta may result in acid reflux, digestive issues, skin boils.

Mistake of the intellect according to Charak

Charak Samhita is an ancient ayurvedic text that summarizes how life works. Charak describes prajna paradha as follows:

“In Āyurveda, prajña is wisdom or intellect, and when transgression or fault associates with this it is known as prajñāparādha–’intellectual error’. On par with poor diet as a detriment to good health, this is considered as the original cause of disease in a human being. That is, impure thoughts and unwholesome actions such as–over-indulgence or suppression of natural urges, immoral and unrighteous conduct, lack of modesty and compassion, friendship with the wicked, jealousy, hatred angerfeargreed and lack of discipline and enthusiasm,–are deemed to be intellectual errors–prajñāparādha. They vitiate all three doṣās.

In other words, excessive, negative and perverted use of one’s body, speech and mind are considered as intellectual errors. These almost invariably lead to physical and mental disorders.”

While one-time intellectual errors may create imbalances, these imbalances do not necessarily develop into diseases. They can be corrected. Disease manifestation happens over a longer period of time.

So, what should we do?

First, learn as much as you can about healthy, wholesome practices and behaviors so you know what could cause prajna paradha. You can start with the list above from Charak Samhita. Second, observe where you’re most tempted to make intellectual errors. Third, commit to addressing them and develop strategies to avoid them whenever possible. Fourth, when you slip up (and slip up you will!), be kind to yourself. Afterall, lack of compassion is one of the mistakes of the intellect.

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This post aims to give you the ayurvedic perspective on health and is not meant as medical advice. Consult a qualified healthcare professional about your specific situation. 

Image by Liza Summer, Pexels


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