Beyond the Intellect

A Japanese Zen master once received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is long and complex, and the scientist became increasingly impatient as the master went calmly through the 54 steps of the ceremony. When the tea was ready, he began to fill his visitor’s cup. When the cup was full, he continued to pour.

The tea began to overflow, and the professor could restrain himself no longer. “It is already full. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” the master said, “You are full of your own opinions and ideas. How can I teach you if you have not first emptied your cup?”

The human intellect is an incredible thing. It has birthed myriad discoveries, conveniences and inventions that continue to innovate the world we live in. The current advances in technology are fascinating, and are creating a way of life that a few decades ago seemed like science fiction. Yet the mind, for all its marvelous complexity, works within the constraints of duality. Good bad, right wrong, light dark, up down; these are the tenets that the intellect is ruled by.

It is impossible for the intellect to see beyond its own constraints; impossible, for example, for the intellect to understand love. It can make an attempt maybe, at describing the feeling, maybe explain chemical reactions that create a feeling of love, but love itself cannot be fully conceived by the intellect.

If we wish to experience consciousness, we must go beyond the realm of the intellect. We must let go of the known, and move into the unbounded void. The walls we have built hold us in the safety of our limitations, but these walls also keep us imprisoned in dissatisfaction. Our natural curiosity will always pull naggingly from the subconscious, encouraging us to move beyond what we have become accustomed to and to seek something more.

The intellect is prized almost above all else in western society, yet it is so very limited in so many ways. This is lucky, for if we were to understand everything, we would lose the mystery that makes life an adventure. It is the uncertainty that brings intrigue and excitement into life. How very boring things would soon become if we knew all the answers.

Isha Judd is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and author; her latest book and movie, Why Walk When You Can Fly? explain her system for self-love and the expansion of consciousness. Learn more at


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

a             y m.
g d c.4 years ago


a             y m.
g d c.4 years ago


Angel Campbell
Angel Campbell4 years ago


Abbe A.
Azaima A.4 years ago


KS Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Liz F.
Elizabeth F.6 years ago

Uhh.... this article was interesting, it presented me with some new ideas, so thanks for sharing!

Jeanne B.
Jeanne Ball7 years ago

Thank you for your inspiration. I find going beyond the intellect is easy if you are transcending during meditation. The field of Being is the source of the ego, intellect and the mind. Experiencing pure silent Being helps allign the intellect to its source and makes it able to comprehend non-changing silence and the changing phases of life at the same time.
Read more about transcending at my blog

Ax R.
Vicky L.7 years ago

Ram, I don't think this article uses the theosophical definition of intellect.

Ram B.
Past Member 7 years ago

I beg to disagree. Intellect is beyond the realm of mind which is engrossed in dualities of right-wrong etc. Pl. see