What is Intuition?

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I think there come certain moments in the life of a businessman, when an idea or a sequence of thoughts will flash through his mind. It is often that idea which becomes the basis for his later success and leadership within society as well as in his business. The idea which flashes across the mind could be termed intuition. If you are a businessman and I am a sannyasin, it is not just the hard work within our respective fields that we put in which ultimately gives a bumper success, but it would be an intuitive idea that flashed across our mind before the success. Based upon the idea you started your business and I started my mission.

I knew Vedanta very well. I have a thorough knowledge of the systems of monism, which go back to the intuitive areas of mind. I understand Sanskrit today much better than English. I have studied the vedantic texts of Shankaracharya, Ramanuja by Madwacharya. Volumes and volumes I have swallowed. Yoga had not captured my attention. Yoga texts I did not even read except for a few. Suddenly an idea flashed across my mind, a very spontaneous, yet emphatic and sure idea, like an inspiration. That flash was yoga and I based all my activities on that.

In the process of self introspection, things become very clear and definite within the mind, and there is no conflict at all. This is the same for a businessman or a swami. When those moments occur with self introspection, he makes his decision one way. In another case, he decides under different circumstances, ‘Oh, I’ll go to the club. I’ll drink and go with the girls.’ Then he might think, ‘Oh, that’s all wrong, but it doesn’t matter.’ The force majeur becomes greater than he, and he becomes heavily laden by those burdens of temptation.

In other moments of self introspection, light flashes through the mind — the light of idea and revelation. Man makes decisions and knows how he will work, and he acts rationally on the basis of intuition. The life in an ashram helps a man so far as his ambitions in life are concerned.

However, it is only an achievement. I can say what I wanted to do was worthwhile doing even though it has taken me almost all my life to achieve. I have not yet achieved it, but achieving it will prove the worthiness of my ambitions. If I do not achieve it, people will consider that it was just an empty dream; they will say we knew from the beginning it was not possible.

You might say that failure makes even your most worthwhile dream seem empty. No, no. If this thought and dream has been an intuition, if it came to you during certain moments of your life like a lighting idea, then it is bound to come to fructification, no power can stop it, because this flash of light comes when destiny has made all the arrangements. I changed my whole profession, you have no idea. Do you see the point? I changed the whole area of my business. I am using the word business. I am not at all a yoga teacher. I did not know anything about yoga. I practised hatha yoga in 1956 and 1957, but I became a swami in 1943. Twelve years later I knew about yoga in 1956 and 1957 when I was living in Munger.

I had to completely change the area of my studies. I had to change the language. I even had to change the spiritual goal to be able to propagate it to people. Instead of talking about what I talked on, I had to start talking something else. It was so difficult for me because the idea came with such a gusto, with such a flash of light. It became almost a mania. For a few months the people who knew me said, ‘What has happened? What are you talking about? You are speaking of yoga. Are you talking about men or about witchcraft?’ At that time people had peculiar ideas about yoga.

Destiny had made all arrangements. I am using the word ‘destiny’ — you may see it as the cosmic law which has been formed and the minds of the people which changed as they are changing. Nowadays one can say people will be interested in yoga — that arrangement was made by a cosmic law. In the same manner an idea will flash through your mind when destiny has made all kinds of arrangements. It can happen to anyone — to a businessman, professor, research scholar. Swami Kuvalyananda was a lawyer and he had to change his profession completely. Then he studied M.D., started yoga and then research on yoga in Lonavala. He had to change his profession like many people. This gentleman Albert Schweitzer had to change his profession. He was a musician in an orchestra and he went to the medical science and started working. The whole lifestyle had to change.

Likewise, you have to change in the world when an idea comes and the death of the mind occurs. It is so overwhelming, impressive, enlightening. That is the way of the mind. Other than that you have to use rational systems of thought. Intuition and rational matters are not contradictory to each other. Intuition is the basis. A rational mind is the work that is done on the basis.

Intuition is a lightening flash and creates instantaneously a potential. You see in your mind’s eye that this is what can happen and this is what you should do. Then comes the second part — building a solid foundation in a rationalization of your ideal. That is what happens, the achievement of your ideal. In the process, you find that you do not have the skills. All right — you have the intuition, you have your ideals, you think how it can be done, but then comes the problem of finding a way towards it. This is where your successes delay because you do not possess the right skills; you have not tackled the problem properly. This is where one has to find a source which can help you to overcome your own deficiencies and create conditions which give the skills necessary for success. This is where you come up against a stone wall. In situations like this what is the remedy? What is the way out? How can yoga, in this particular instance, help?

You have already come to yoga. You are practising it and you will see how it is able to create a potential, a procedure, a means. They are all correlated factors. It is like something is standing just on the ground and there is a horizon maybe one hundred feet away. You must find people who have the same inclination, intention and aptitude. That is important, not just to be a dry businessman. A businessman has to practise yoga or something very definite. He has to be able to study the minds of his opponents. He must understand how they work, which naturally happens.

October 1980