As we examine across from the outer physical aspect to the inner aspects of our body-mind organism, each interior aspect becomes subtler than the one before. Subtlety here refers to a natural potency of an aspect to exercise regulatory control over the exterior aspects, in which case the intellect is essentially the subtler of mental faculties. The intellect is enlivened by right understanding, through which it can heal and restore the mental equilibrium when the mental surface is agitated with fluctuating thoughts and emotions.
Right understanding can only arise from right observation and right thinking. Right observation or perception is total observation of experiences both external and internal (mental) with sincere openness to understand a thing as it is, steady attention and a non-judgemental attitude. The judgements are particular rejection of realities and attachment to interpretation of the ego and personal biases. Right thinking is truly independent thinking where the intellect is able to discriminate and reason objectively, profoundly and sensitively without succumbing to influences of the lower mind, ego and other external factors.
Unfortunately we find that the general idea about right thinking for most people is far from what it really means. For many people right thinking is a matter of knowing what is “right” and what is “wrong” to do in life based on conforming to a standard; mostly ideas of morality and religious beliefs. For some it is about doing actions that are in conformance to laws, rules, regulations and directions set by society and authority. Many others would define right thinking so much as to only suit their own preferences, expectations and attachments. They will readily accept something if it seems to profit them and reject anything else as wrong. All these notions of right thinking are just one form or another of merely seeking conformity to a set of ideas and beliefs that one is conditioned to. Seeking conformity is not the process of right thinking.
The problem is, that right from our childhood we have been fed by our family and peers with various ideas, beliefs and notions about our identity, life, world and about how to relate with others and also about what is right and what is wrong without learning the art of validating them through independent observation, reasoning and experience. People are not taught the science to notice the influence of personal attachments and prejudices of all kinds in forming an understanding of anything or matter. As we grow up, we continue to collect these ideas from our society – our friends, teachers, media, superiors and authorities. We not only adopt various rules and regulations but also come to believe that everyone else should live life similarly. All these go into our memory and form our individual belief system and to which our thinking is patterned. The individual belief system conditions the mind to an arbitrary perception of every experience and dictates the nature of the choice of emotions and actions. As opposed to it, any conscious effort to notice and think independent of these mental conditionings with the sincerity to understand a context comprehensively and considerately is an effort towards right thinking. Further potential of the intellect can be harnessed and cultivated through training in right observation that is supported by a study of the proper means of knowledge (pramana).