Intuisjon i Buddhisme


Not surprisingly, we find, in eastern philosophy, intricate and comprehensive epistemologies. They facilitate our reading of their European counterpart, and are indeed, well worth mentioning when intuition is concerned. Here we will limit ourselves to a sketch of certain perspectives found in Buddhism, more specifically, its treatise of the seventh class of consciousness, which is the dual mind. Apparently, there are only minor changes in between the different Buddhist traditions on this issue.[1] Let us start then, with the early Tibetan Buddhism, and the works of Lama Anagarika Govinda, who is recognized as an authority on the subject. In his Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, he inquires into the eight-folded path, leaving us with many good suggestions on how to develop autonomy. Autonomy is, according to Elster, a pivotal component in rational judgment, thus we will return to it, in a separate chapter on intuition and rationality. Elster also suggests that autonomous desires “are those deliberately chosen, acquired or modified by an act of will or by a process of character planning, like we find it in Buddhism.”[2]

On this path to autonomy, the mind is a key. “The mind alone is the radiant jewel, the philosopher’s stone, from which all things borrow their temporal reality.”[3] In brief, the human individual and experience is in Buddhism defined as a collaboration of five aggregates or groups, called skandhas. These are descriptions of the individual’s active and reactive functions of consciousness. As with Plato and Bergson they are seen in a sequence of increasing density and materiality, or in increasing subtlety, dematerialization, mobility, spiritualization and re-vitalization.[4]

According then, to Govinda, the first and most dense group of material form and corporeality comprises the past elements of consciousness, represented by the body; the present elements, as the sensation or idea of matter; and the future or potential sensuous elements in all their forms of appearance. It is the epistemological object, and is traditionally described in terms of the four great elements. The second group of feelings includes all reactions derived from sense-impressions as well as from emotions arising from inner causes, e.g. feelings of bodily pleasure and pain, mental joy and sorrow, indifference and equanimity. The third group of perceptions of the discriminating awareness and representation includes the reflective as well as the intuitive faculty of discrimination. The fourth group of mental formations or form-crating forces and tendencies of the will represents the active principle of consciousness, the character of the individual; namely, the karmic consequences caused by conscious volition or choice.[5]

Although the skandhas represent different functions, they are anchored in a synthetic ontology: “Whatever there is of feeling, perception, and mental formations, it is mutually connected, not disconnected; and it is impossible to separate the one from the other and to show up their difference. Because what one feels, that one perceives, and what one perceives, that one is conscious of.”[6] This is in accordance with Bastick, who writes that: “The intuitive process is dependent upon the interaction of emotional states and cognitive processes. It is evident from the feeling of satisfaction and reductions in tensions that accompany an insight that emotional involvement plays a part in intuitive processes. A whole body unifying theory is needed to describe intuitive processes.”[7]

The fifth skandha is consciousness and it is of special relevance and concern to us. Before we embark upon the discussion of its nature, the bold statement of the Yogãcãra tradition is worth mentioning. Here it is claimed that there is really only one skandha, namely mind only, and the other four that we have mentioned above, are only manifestations of it.[8] It comprises, combines, and co-ordinates all the previous functions and represents the potentiality of consciousness, in its pure, unqualified form. Nine kinds of consciousness are discerned, the first five being our familiar senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. They represent a discriminating, or judgmental awareness to use Jung’s terminology. That is, the eye with respect to form, the ear with respect to sound, and so on. Some authors feel more comfortable in using the word perception, when describing these first five senses.[9] Consciousness is not easy to define. However, one can begin to define it in an ostensive way by contrasting situations where it is present and absent. That is, situations where one is conscious of something as opposed to not being conscious or aware of that thing.[10] The five senses will then facilitate consciousness, but they differ from mind itself, which belongs to the seventh class of consciousness.




The Sixth Class of Consciousness

The sixth class corresponds in many ways to the discriminating awareness of the discursive intellect, and it does not have a special elevated position above the other five senses. It sorts out, co-ordinates, integrates and judges the results of the five kinds of sense-consciousness, followed by attraction or repulsion, and the illusion of an objective world.[11] However, the Buddhist viewpoint, most interestingly, also recognizes thoughts themselves, as objects of perception. Just as objects flow through one’s visual field, so does objects fly through one’s cognitive field. “One could even say that, in a sense, one’s thoughts are even less a part of oneself than the objects of the other five senses, because it would seem that one has rather less control, generally speaking, over what one thinks than over what one sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels.” Sangarakshita thus argues that it seems unreasonable to identify oneself with a realm of experience over which one seems to have so little control.[12] This aspect of consciousness is therefore to some degree a mechanical or reactive process of perceiving mental objects, which may indeed be intricately constructed and constituted.

There is yet another aspect of the sixth class of consciousness, translated by Guenther as categorical perception. And here, a very interesting twist is introduced. It is argued that in addition to the mind’s awareness of the impressions presented to it by the five senses, there is awareness of ideas that arise independently of sense perception, out of the mind itself.[13] This latter aspect is of three kinds. “First of all, there are the ideas and impressions that arise in the course of meditation, as when one experiences light that doesn’t have its origin in any sense impression but comes from the mind itself. Then, secondly, there are functions such as imagination, comparison, and reflection.”[14]

Here Sangarakshita gives an example to illustrate his point. In some cases, we may experience that our immediate impression of a person is that he or she is untrustworthy. This may of course be a subtle sense impression, but the reason may also be that we have met in the past, someone who appeared similar to this person, and who turned out to be untrustworthy. In this latter case, one’s impression would come under the heading of categorical perception. “Thirdly, there are images perceived in dreams, which again come not from sense impressions but directly from the mind itself. Categorical perception, in short, covers any perception that does not come in through the physical senses. It is the perception of all kinds of mental operations, including recollections of experiences that originally came through the senses and also things that were never experienced through the senses at all.”[15] As intuition is often defined as ideas and images that arise out of the mind it-self, it is of interest to keep this Buddhist perspective in mind for a moment. Because, when we turn to the seventh and eight class of consciousness, we find distinctions and nuances that provide a sharp focus on intuition.




The Seventh Class of Consciousness

The seventh class is the mind itself and it is intrinsically dual. That is, the mind is either dualistic in its functioning or it is not. In the latter case, it is intuitive. Why this is so, becomes clearer as we inquire into the eight and ninth classes of consciousness. Thus, we will return to intuition later on. Here it suffices to say that the mind can be said to be an overlapping between the first six senses and the eight & ninth class of consciousness. This is illustrated in the model presented a little later on. Apparently, the crux of the matter is, as Plato, Spinoza, Descartes, Kant, Bergson, and Jung all pointed out as well, the orientation and state of mind. Is it towards matter, towards spirit, or does it strive towards a unified, that is, intuitive state. In the first case, it is primarily oriented towards the first six classes of consciousness, and in the latter, it is a synthesis of the first six, with the eight and ninth classes, which resembles the personal and collective unconscious of Jung. Buddhism indicates that in the former situation the mind usually operates in a dualistic mode, which is called afflicted, defiled and tainted. Whatever it experiences, it interprets in terms of a subject and an object – subject as self, and object as world or universe. Everything is seen in terms of pair of opposites: good and bad, true and false, right and wrong, existence and non-existence, and so on. The mind is here characterized by the sixth level of consciousness, and by the numerous talents of the discursive intellect, that we have discussed earlier on. Of course, this dualistic mode of discriminative awareness or consciousness characterizes the way in which we usually live our lives.

There is within this thesis little space and time for the issue of dualism, thus my comments on it will be only superficial.[16] The conventional Western view is, as we have seen, that thought remain part of oneself as a subject, set against a separate world of objects. However, this is perhaps a limited viewpoint. “It is akin to what William Blake calls the ratio of the senses, the split-off intellect, representing a process of induction from a narrow field of experience.”[17] Here you observe, conceptualize and generalize from the limited field of sense experience. When you look out, you construe a world of actually existing material objects, and when you look within, you construe an actually existent ego. The enlightened and intuitive mind, we are told, is completely free of such dualism. Between the experience of non-duality and our ordinary, everyday dualistic consciousness, there is obviously a great gulf; and to move from the one experience to the other will entail a complete and absolute reversal of all our usual attitudes.[18]

Such a reorientation or turning, in the deepest seat of consciousness, is to some degree reflected in the works of Bergson, and is further explained below. Before we do that, it may be relevant to mention the rather stunning discovery from quantum mechanics that “there is no distinction between a wave and a particle.” At high frequencies, the particle aspect is the more evident, and at low frequencies, the wave aspect is the more evident. “Why this is so, is impossible to explain in any classical way, it has in it the heart of quantum mechanics, and in reality it contains the only mystery.”[19] The almost universally accepted Copenhagen interpretation thus states in brief that “objective reality has evaporated, and quantum mechanics does not represent particles, but rather our knowledge, our observations, or our consciousness, of particles.”[20] The ontological and epistemological implications are profound, causing Popper to conclude that; “A large part of The Logic of Scientific Discovery was devoted to the problems of quantum theory.”[21]

Basically, cittamãtra doctrine denies the reality of matter as a separate category from mind. “The objects of our perception are not external objects as such. They are not objects as opposed to our-selves - the subject. We perceive mental impressions, that’s all.”[22] The significance of this insight is that if one removes the notion of an object, one also effectively removes the notion of a subject. In this way one breaks down the notion of an ego that is separate from the world, to be left with mind only. This mind only is not mind as opposed to matter, but a completely different conception of mind, according to Sangarashita. “Rather than being able to make a sharp distinction between subject and object, all one can really say is that there is a perceptual situation comprising two opposite poles.

One pole is the experience of what I call myself, together with everything I have under my immediate control; that is the subjective content of the perceptual situation. And then, at the opposite pole, there is everything and everyone that is independent of my direct control – the objective content of the perceptual situation.”[23] According to Sangarashita, this may not be as difficult as it sounds. “What it amounts to is that through meditation we come to know that our flow of perceptions and of experiences really lacks the fixed enduring subjects and objects, which we have constructed out of it.”[24] We may experience only the single, enduring flow of perceptions and experiences. That is, the flow of perceptions is empty of enduring entities. Individual life and death comes and goes. What remains, is the substratum, the implicate order of Bohm, which is empty of those enduring entities.[25] The flow of perceptions themselves nevertheless does exist.

According to Buddhism then, in the Enlightened being, the perceptual situation still occurs, but one no longer identifies oneself with its subjective content, which means that the whole perceptual situation is expanded, clarified, illuminated, enlightened.[26] The challenge then, is more one of performing qualitative differentiations and integrations, as Bergson pointed out. “The Yogãcãra interpretation is thus not so much that there is a thing called mind and a thing called matter, and that the thing called matter is discovered actually to be mind. It is not as if discovering that what one thought was a jug is in reality clay. It is more that mind is the term applied to that undifferentiated substratum which has been polarized into subject and object, mind and matter. Mind and matter are just symbols for the two poles of the one perceptual situation, and its sometimes very difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.”[27]

In this non-dualistic, intuitive state of mind, the element of resistance to the objective content of the perceptual situation ceases to exist. Your will is not separate from that of others. It is more like a thorough identification with others, and with your environment, in general. As your projections have disappeared, you do not experience other persons or situations as brick walls that you are coming up against. Such a state of mind then, we may compare to a kind of reflexive monism.[28] As the deeper and elusive nature of intuition is hidden to us, until we have discovered the workings of the eight and ninth class of consciousness, we postpone further discussion of it, for a minute.




The Eight & Ninth Class of Consciousness

Classes eight and nine then, are repositories or stores. The former is said to be relative and the latter absolute, and again this resonates with Bergson. The relative part consists of, or contains, the impressions left deep in the mind by all our previous experiences. This eight class is in many ways identical to the personal unconscious of Jung, which we will elaborate in the next chapter. “Whatever we have done or said or thought or experienced, a trace or residue of it remains there; nothing is absolutely lost.”[29] According to Sangharashita, the Yogãcãra School conceives of these impressions and consequences, as seeds. They are active impressions, left like seeds in the soil, and when conditions are favorable, they sprout and produce fruits. In other words, their incubation period may differ substantially.[30]

We thus start to see the origin of new ideas, images, and flashes of insight that arise out of the mind itself. Plato alluded to such a perspective, when warning us to be careful in whom we listen to, because what goes in, stays. All these seeds in our personal unconscious, sown by previous actions, thoughts, feelings and deeds, eventually fructifies and evolves into the six sense perceptions and the activity and state of mind. Right here we find that Buddhism indicates a causal relationship, between all our previous actions and how our mind works. Depending then, upon the quality of the seeds, our mind is primarily dualistic or more intuitively bent. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is precisely this dynamic that may move us in the direction of autonomy. In the normal case, our dualistic ego-consciousness, interprets the impressions it receives from the other six senses, as representing an objectively existing world, and at the same time interprets a reflection in itself of a separate ego.

The absolute aspect of the repository or store is claimed to be Reality itself, and is by certain traditions called the ninth consciousness. It is immaculate, pure awareness or consciousness, free from all traces of subjectivity and objectivity.[31] While the relative aspect corresponds to Jung’s notions of the personal unconscious, the absolute aspect resembles the collective unconscious. Intuitions may originate in both, thus we may discern several levels of intuition. This issue is further elaborated in the section on Jung. Here it suffices to say that the first and second level of intuition relates to the personal and collective unconscious, while the third level is the mature, integral intuition, further described below. The absolute aspect of the repository then, is continuous, or a duration, if we apply Bergson’s terminology. It is multi-dimensional, or even non-dimensional awareness in which there is nothing of which anyone is aware, nor anyone who is aware. It is indeed beyond idealism and realism, to use more familiar European phraseology. It is awareness without subject and without object, something scarcely possible for us to imagine.[32]

The attentive reader would perhaps here like to have somewhat more tangible guidelines to follow, securing a steady progress towards the intuitive state of mind, where we become one with reality. Govinda provides us with these directions; “In the moment in which the mind turns away from sense-consciousness and from the discursive intellect and directs its attention upon the primordial cause of it’s being, the illusion of the ego-concept becomes apparent.”[33] This revelation does not come about through intellectual analysis, or logical conclusions, but through meditation and the complete coming to rest and relinquishing of all thought-activities, whereby we create the necessary conditions under which intuition can arise, he argues. We recognize the same emphasis on the absolute and the inner psychological world here, as with Plato and Bergson.

Obviously, the reorientation from outer to inner reality is central. However, is this all? Is it possible to say something more about it that could facilitate our inquiry? Sangharakshita adds that this reorientation is brought about by the accumulation of pure impressions in the relative part of the repository. “Through spiritual practice, more and more pure seeds are gathered, and as these pure seeds accumulate, they put pressure on the impure seeds until in the end the impure seeds are pushed right out of the repository.”[34] When this occurs, the eight classes of discriminating consciousness are transformed into five modes of pure, that is non-discriminating awareness or wisdom, represented in the iconography of the five archetypal Buddhas. Here then, we are touching ground, on the result of the reorientation. The result is a non-discriminating awareness, or non-judgmental as Jung would say. Is it possible to be even more specific about what such non-discriminating awareness is about? “It does not mean an annihilation of sense-activities or suppression of sense-consciousness, but a new attitude towards them, consisting in the removal of arbitrary discriminations, attachments and prejudices.”[35] The ninth class then, contains e.g. the Ideas of Plato, the Forms of Kant, and the Archetypes of Jung. They are but different names of much the same realm.

Discrimination here means the biased judgment of things, from the relative standpoint of an ego, in contrast to an attitude, which is able to view those things in the larger context of the self. In Buddhism this is phrased as: “from the point of view of fundamental oneness or wholeness, which is at the bottom of all consciousness and its objects. For only through the experience or the knowledge that we are not only parts of a whole, but that each individual has the whole as its basis, being a conscious expression of the whole – only through this experience are we awakened into reality, into a state of utter freedom.”[36] This perspective aligns very well with the unique world argument of Plato, which we did discuss.

Such a state of mind then, is thus undisturbed by egoism, unruffled by distinction, desires and aversions.[37] In the more poetic words of Govinda it is compared to the ocean, “on the surface of which currents, waves and whirlpools are formed, while its depth remains motionless, unperturbed, pure and clear. This level of consciousness transcends all individuation and limits, is thoroughly pure in its essential nature, subsisting unchanged and free from faults of impermanence.” David Bohms` acclaimed theory about implicate & explicate order may give us a conceptual framework that, by analogy, is usable here.[38] Refer to the thesis itself for a rather simple model that perhaps illustrates important aspects of our mind and consciousness.[39]




The Seventh Class of Consciousness Continued

The model clearly illustrates the immediate and synthetic nature of mature, third level intuition. It represents the stabilizing and central point of balance, upholding the coherence of its contents, by being the center of reference. “But for the same reason it is also the cause for the conception of ego in the unenlightened individual, who mistakes this relative point of reference for the real and permanent center of his personality.” The mature intuitive state of mind is thus a mixture and a meeting point between the first six classes of consciousness on the one side, and class eight and nine on the other. It is their common ground and it anchors our ego in the self. “The intuitive mind has thus no body of its own, nor any marks, by which it can be differentiated. The consciousness of class eight and nine is its cause and support, but it evolves along with the notion of an ego, to which it clings, and upon which it reflects.”[40]

Because the intuitive mind participates and is integral to all levels of consciousness, it can be an active ingredient in our body and feelings as well. Depending then, upon the evolution and quality of all the classes of consciousness, the intuitive mind is able to create an enduring, harmonic, unified mosaic of patterns, pictures and relations. This may be exemplified by e.g. Mozart, who six years old composed his first symphony. If the quality is less good, the result is more likely to be a dualistic and fragmented mind. The intuitive mind is thus the agent through which the universal consciousness experiences itself and through which it descends into the multiplicity of things, into the differentiation of senses and sense-objects, out of which arises the experience of the material world.

To repeat and conclude, when the mind is directed solely towards the empirical, towards the data provided by the six senses, and applies the discursive intellect, it comprehends conceptual, differentiated, analytic, inferential, explicit knowledge and evidence. When directed towards the eight and ninth classes of consciousness, achieved by a turning away from the outside world of objects, to the inner world of enduring oneness and completeness, the energy that sustain their organic unity is discovered, resulting in liberation and autonomy. In Buddhism then, it is argued that the mind becomes a source of error if it is oriented and directed from the universal towards the individual self-consciousness, while in the experience of the opposite direction, from the individual towards the universal, it becomes a source of highest knowledge, or episteme to use Plato’s terminology. “It is that which either binds us to the world of the senses or which liberates us from it. It is the base metal of the alchemists, which through magic power is turned into gold, the coal that is turned into diamond, the poison that is transformed into the Elixir of Life.”[41] It is integral awareness and consciousness. We may thus say that Kant, in stopping short at the synthetic a priori of our ego-consciousness, is unable to transcend the limitations of the ego. In a thorough way, he is strengthening the illusory conception of it. Consciousness per se, is most likely synthetic a priori, and the challenge posed to our mind, body, feelings, and perception, is to rediscover and rebuild it. March may thus very well be right in suggesting that we treat the self as a hypothesis.[42] Again, we can summarize our main findings in a table.




The Intuitive State of Mind

The Dualistic State of Mind

Balanced Unbalanced
Unified Fragmented
Non-discriminating Discriminating
Coherent Incoherent
Pure Defiled
Multi-dimensional Three-dimensional
Integrates Separates


[1] Govinda, 1969, p. 73-80. See also Sangharakshita, 1998, p. 51-64. Although the Yogãcãra contradicts the standard Abhidharma teaching, the same meaning shines through.

[2] Elster, 1983, p. 21, 44. See also Elster, 1986, p. 233.

[3] Govinda, 1969, p. 59.

[4] Ibid. p. 70-72.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. “In the same way the different colors of a rainbow cannot be separated from it or from each other, and have no existence or reality in themselves, although they are perceived by the senses.”

[7] Bastick, 1982, p. 133.

[8] Sangharakshita, 1998, p. 19, 51-52. In some respect, this position is close to the one of Berkeley.

[9] Ibid. He refers to e.g. Guenther and Yeshe Guyaltsen. See also Williams, 1989, p. 90.

[10] For a proper exposition on consciousness, see e.g. Max Velmans, 2000.

[11] Sangharakshita, 1998. p. 54. See also Govinda, 1969, p. 73.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid. The word being translated into categorical perception is mano-vijnãna.

[14] Ibid. p. 55. My italics.

[15] Ibid.

[16] For a proper exposition see Velmans, 2000.

[17] Sangharakshita, 1998, p. 54.

[18] Ibid. p. 51, 54.

[19] Feynman, 1995, p. 36, 117. We thus say that the particle has a built in non-local feature.

[20] Popper, 1989, p. 35, 174-175. My italics. See also Popper, 1975.

[21] Popper, 1989, p. 97-98.

[22] Ibid. p. 52.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid. p. 82-85.

[25] Bohm, 1981.

[26] Sangharakshita, p. 54.

[27] Ibid. p. 52-53.

[28] Velmans, 2000, p. 168, 233, 235. The counter analysis of Bergson may lead in this direction.

[29] Sangharakshita, 1998, p. 56.

[30] This is a technical term used in psychology, which we will discuss in the succeeding chapter.

[31] Sangharashita, 1998, p. 56. E.g. the Paramãrtha tradition.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Govinda, 1969, p. 77. My italics.

[34] Sangharakshita, 1998, p. 56. On a side note, this leaves us with a question mark on the utility of the violent media-picture we are confronted with.

[35] Govinda, 1969, p. 80.

[36] Ibid. My italics.

[37] Ibid. p. 74. He refers to D. T. Suzuki and D. Goddard.

[38] Bohm, 1981, p. 144. See also, Bohm, 1994, and Bohm & Hiley, 1993.

[39] Govinda, 1969, p. 74.

[40] Ibid. No wonder that research on intuition is a slippery issue. The attentive reader recognizes that Bergson emphasizes intuition’s access to the absolute, while in Buddhism the focus is on its role as a relative and central point of balance. The work of Prigogine, 1977, 1984, 1997, may be relevant here.

[41] Ibid. p. 75. Intuition is also pivotal in Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. See Hanna, 1993, p. 183.

[42] March, 1994, p. 262.