Organs of the Spirit
Our Spiritual Instruments
Just as our body has physical organs, our mind has several vital subtle organs that enable us to fully function in our human manifestation. Here is an overview of our spiritual instruments as named in Vedic philosophy, provided with a modern interpretation by Selfknowledge.today.
This can provide us with much clarity about our perception of the world, about how we experience things. Once we understand this instrumentarium well and recognize its (unfortunately) often impure operation in unconsciousness, we will be more able to stay sustainably in self-remembrance with full attention, allowing all insincerity in us (i.e., our ego) to be dissolved by peacefully ‘leaving it behind’.
First and foremost, we have five indispensable spiritual instruments that are fully determinant for our humanity but are rarely mentioned or described in our Western world. These five spiritual instruments enable the optimal functioning of our five senses. Our five senses are well-known to everyone. Each of these senses also has a subtle and much less known component. These are called the subtle senses, but in our society, they are rarely acknowledged or lumped together as the ‘sixth sense’. As a result, they are also scarcely used. Together this gives us fifteen ‘organs’ of the mind that we can use daily and whose pure operation we can develop. They are described below.
How well, purely, or deeply these spiritual instruments work in us is dependent on one hand on the degree to which we are awake, and on the other hand on our innate individualized essence. This means that the operation of these instruments also depends on the capacities we are born with. These are not the same for every person. In our individualized essence, it is determined what our possibilities and limitations are in our life. So all our talents and handicaps, but also the quotients that we can identify in us, including: IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), SQ (social quotient), and AQ (awareness/attention quotient). Not every person will use the spiritual instrumentarium in the same way, or as purely and effectively. But anyone who observes their instruments well (using the Observer) will be amazed at all it can bring us, of which internal obstacles it can free us from, and the peace it brings us.
Conscious neutral awareness and self-reflective realization of existence: the Observer, with from here the ‘I am-‘ or ‘I exist-experience (Aham)
Ability to store and recall experiences and knowledge, including physical information. (Connection with) the source of our individualized essence
Connection, attachment, and identification instrument with from here the ‘I am something’-experience. Creates natural and unnatural attachments (ego)
(Aham + kara: I am something)
Discrimination ability: in the highest instance distinguishes between True and false
(Gateway to inner Wisdom)
Active working mind: the thinking, the ‘mind’, associates, classifies, and combines the known and our experiences
Listening and hearing
Subtle: sense of intuition | inner hearing, clairaudience
Feeling and touching, experiencing feelings/emotions
Subtle: sense of empathy and sociability | sensing, conscience, clairsentience
Seeing and looking
Subtle: sense of understanding | contemplation, imagination, clairvoyance, remote viewing
Tasting and taste-testing
Subtle: sense of aesthetics and health | probing, detection of beauty and healing power
Subtle: sense of logic | ‘having a nose for’, subtle smelling (danger), detection of consistency
In total, our mental toolkit consists of fifteen faculties of the mind. The five senses have both a physical and a subtle component, which are therefore counted separately.
N.B. Regarding Citta, it should be mentioned that it is presented here as an instrument, but it can also be seen as an interaction field or channel through which our mind and body connect with the Akasha Field. The storage and retrieval of information, impressions, and experiences (during day and night), or our memory function and the ability to regenerate, can be called mental actions for which we use an instrument. From this observation, Selfknowledge.today has defined Citta as the fifteenth instrument here.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the original descriptions of Citta are different from how Citta is described from the perspective of Selfknowledge.today. Therefore, its description on this page will differ from other descriptions. The same applies to the description of Ahamkara.
Every human has an individual soul – Atman or Jivatman – as a reflection of the Universal Soul (Paramatman). Our consciousness, or our awareness and feeling of existence, our Observation, is reflective. Every living being has a sense of existence. To what extent the awareness of existence can be experienced in reflection depends on the mental capabilities a living being possesses (through the Centers, the extent of which is causally fixed for each being).
In humans, the Observer has an immediate effect that we increasingly experience reflectively from childhood onwards: the experience, in feeling and knowledge, of ‘I am’. This is called Aham in Vedic philosophy. Aham is the experience of ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ because we can perceive this through consciousness reflectively. Complete conscious observation can only occur when we are awake. We experience it as a kind of witness to everything happening in and around us. A non-identified and neutral helicopter view of our thinking, feeling, and acting. Without an awake Observer, we are in (waking) sleep, which limits the (pure) functioning of all other instruments with all the consequences that entail. Observing in silence and openness ensures all our mental instruments function purely; we notice much more, and our senses work optimally. It is important to realize that this Observer never ‘judges’. It is, in its essence, a completely neutral witness. We essentially are That which observes.
The functioning of all other ‘organs’ of our mind (and of the Centers) are individually determined and, in turn, determine – through their improper or proper functioning – the extent to which the Observer can be experienced self-reflectively in us, and thus also to what degree of consciousness we are capable.
One could see Citta as our permanent connection, as a channel or instrument, to our causal ‘private domain’ in the Field of Akasha (also called the zero-point energy field or quantum vacuum). Akasha is the non-dual ‘blueprint’ that precedes every manifestation that arises in creation (including the space-time in which all this takes place) and thus also for us as a human individual.
In this Akasha Field, everything about us (and all beings and objects) is stored causally. Everything about our physical body and everything about our subtle body (mind) is determined and maintained from here. Everything that makes us an individual remains intact thanks to Citta: all our individual properties can be preserved, such as physical: shape, gender, body features, etc.; and subtle: all our talents, abilities or limitations, our impressions and memories, and our knowledge and cultural achievements. Citta is primarily the link to ‘how we are meant to be’ as a human individual in this life, recognizable by the preservation of our individualized essence, which is entirely individual. Citta ‘maintains us’ throughout our lives in which so much changes on a subtle and physical level, including our age.
An innumerable number of properties are anchored in Akasha as a causal blueprint of ‘me as an individual’, and Citta, as a channel or instrument, makes every preservation and every regeneration and update of ‘me as an individual’ possible. Necessary, because we exist as a manifestation in time. An example: the preservation and correction of DNA, physical wounds heal correctly, short and long-term memories are available, we are also the same ‘person’ in the broadest sense of the word tomorrow. But also the information of the process of our physical and mental decline, thus getting older, we receive through Citta, from the all-pervading Akasha Field.
It is often thought that Citta only realizes our ability to remember, but this is much too limited, although it is already much better than the nonsensical scientific assumption that our brain would contain the memory. Our individual memory is present everywhere in our system, not only in our mind (in the subtle world), but also in our cells (in the physical world) because Akasha permeates everything. Without Citta, there would be no emergence, growth, evolution, form preservation, and decay of living beings possible. All of this is documented in the Akasha Field concerning our development.
Ahamkara is our tool for attachment and identification. It connects ‘I am’ (Aham) with something ‘outside of ourselves’ (kara). In this way, it provides connections and a certain identity through natural attachment.
This is an important instrument because it enables us as humans to be a person and individual in the world in which we live and relate to others. It’s the reflective recognition of ‘this is me as ….’ (fill in the blank). In general, we could say: “I am someone” or “I am something”. It is our connection instrument, the instrument of pure attachment that makes us experience love.
It’s very natural to identify ourselves with things. It allows us to be interactively present in every environment and in every action. It enables, in its optimal form, that we can become one with what we experience as not-self. It makes us feel connections and connection. It’s the instrument by which a connection is felt with others; for instance, how a mother connects with her child and vice versa: a natural attachment. Without Ahamkara, the world would be cold and impersonal. We wouldn’t be able to experience any connection with anything, and therefore no love. It makes us ‘care for’. Ahamkara makes us an individual (which literally means undivided). An individual that deep down knows (mostly unconsciously) that there’s no duality in our being and thus no ‘other’.
When Ahamkara works impurely, i.e., in unconsciousness, automatic identifications arise that can turn against the world and to some extent also against ourselves. This way, a so-called monkey-trap arises on every level.
Automatic and unconscious identifications that arise during our lives with: name, function and profession, gender, family, class, cultural background, race, religion, status and power, property and money, sports (achievements), and with mental, emotional, and physical conditions. These attachments are not always healthy. We need to gain insight into them, as they can greatly limit us. They easily make something else our opponent, at least in our experience, because they clash with identifications of others, resulting in conflict and peace being the loser. It’s about identification and illusion from the perspective of I, me, and mine. Like “I am this-or-that”, and “this-or-that is about me”, and “this-or-that is mine“.
Ahamkara ensures that we can experience everything in connection. The instrument works perfectly and connectively when we are conscious, but in a less awake state its operation becomes limiting and then causes the opposite: separation and judgments, towards others but also within ourselves, because unconscious identifications obscure our Buddhi, our highest discernment.
Our human reflective consciousness, the Observer within us, ensures that we can perceive and resolve unwanted mechanical identification because it can no longer exist in unconsciousness (automatically). Because unconscious (read: unwanted) identification creates our ego. Our ego is different from our personality. We can get rid of the ego, but not our personality. Our ego is formed in unconsciousness and consists of many pointless identifications and attachments that create many ‘little I’s’ that alternate without us realizing it. Our personality is formed by what we have learned and acquired in our life. Mechanical identifications and attachments are the only cause of the existence of our self-image, our ego. It often causes conflict because we start to judge others based on identifications, or on a different view. Ahamkara causes this when it operates in unconsciousness without the oversight of the Observer and the activated, purely functioning Buddhi.
Through our connection to the Akasha Field, where all our properties and memories are recorded, our human discernment allows us to distinguish everything before us. Since we exist as a manifested individual in duality, everything that ‘exists outside’ us in our experience is different from each other, dual, not the same, and all these things we can distinguish from each other using our Buddhi instrument.
But what is called our Buddhi can do much more than, for example, distinguish nails from screws. At the highest level, on a spiritual plane (both mental and emotional) and thus in the field of inner development, Buddhi essentially distinguishes True from false and real from unreal. Buddhi distinguishes the Eternal within all that is variable and temporary and the Unity within all diversity. Therefore, Buddhi is also called the Gateway to wisdom and liberation.
Buddhi has, we could say, an intellectual and an emotional component. These are causally related to the subtle senses of Hearing, Seeing, and Feeling. It is the foundation from which our intuition, insight, and conscience work.
The intellectual component purifies Reason (resulting in a purely functioning Reasonable Center) and thus provides ‘mental hygiene’ in our daily life. The emotional component – with a pure and powerfully functioning Conscience – purifies Feeling (resulting in a purely functioning Feeling Center) and thus ’emotional hygiene’ in our daily life.
However, when we are in unconsciousness / waking sleep, this instrument does not work (or works completely incorrectly) because it is used by our identified and thus separated personality (what people call the ego these days) that does not perceive ‘hygienically’. Then the clear judgment falls into an impure judgment and increases our feeling of separation and discontent. In fact, we then better speak of the inability to reach Buddhi, and thus the impossibility of allowing wisdom. A metaphor for this is ‘blood moon’.
What we see, feel, and interpret with our Buddhi is ultimately Truth. It’s the instrument guiding us to wisdom through the path of self-knowledge.
Everything we can distinguish is, as it were, gathered by our associative instrument: Manas.
Without Manas, we couldn’t accomplish anything (really nothing!) in life. Because Manas is the active mind in us, the creative and functional thinker. Manas is the instrument that associates and from (or through) Citta ‘receives’ what is relevant, at every moment, to speak and act in our existence. Manas makes it possible to discover and create. Without Manas, we would be worse off than in total dementia.
This instrument, in particular, loses its potency under the unconscious and mechanical operation of Ahamkara. Because Manas is always active and associates based on impulses and circumstances, it will also reinforce and boost erroneous identifications. Manas works perfectly in a silent awake mind that is aware of itself, which is in self-recollection / self-awareness, but becomes an unguided projectile – a mechanically responding instrument – if unrest, movement, and chaos arise in our head and heart due to identifications that can freely exist because they are not perceived: identifications and attachments that create the ego and maintain this (unnatural) state of a sleeping / non-awake mind.
Often, due to the mechanistic state in which Manas finds itself, our thinking is interpreted as something that undesirable (especially within the spiritual world), because when we think in unconsciousness, it keeps our attention out of the Now. Then we find ourselves in ceaseless circling thought patterns, repetitions of reasoning, and other mechanical and peace-driving inner noise. But this disqualification is completely unjustified, especially when we realize that, after all, thinking is the very instrument that makes us human. There are no other beings on earth that think as functionally and creatively as humans do. Functional thinking, with our full attention in self-recollection, is one of our most beautiful spiritual possibilities. But also our language and linguistic ability belong to this. Every innovation, in every field ever done, every poem, and every composition arise in us thanks to Manas. But also the grocery list for the local supermarket.
Our goal is simple: be awake! Then the Observer, Ahamkara, Buddhi, and Manas will align, reinforce each other, work purely, and unveil/reveal immense wisdom within ourselves. Then we become aware of our true spiritual potential.
The subtle senses
We truly receive EVERYTHING through our senses. Of these, we have five in a physical sense and five in a subtle sense. Without physical senses a person can do nothing and would not live a day after birth. As a human manifestation of the Absolute, we are completely dependent on them to exist, learn, act, and experience.
The combination of our senses is divine! The complementing and overlapping of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting, and smelling are incredibly special. Many forms of subtle vibrations and natural (and physical) frequencies are captured by this and are experienced, selected, interpreted, understood, and emotionally-mentally processed by our mind. It’s a magnificent system in our mind unparalleled in the known world.
We also receive a lot of information with our five subtle senses. People often speak of ‘the sixth sense’, but this shortchanges these subtle senses because this ‘sixth sense’ remains vague and undefined as a bulk term and is seen as a kind of ‘source of intuition’. It is true that we intuitively notice, feel, or understand things that go beyond what we can perceive with our regular senses. But the subtle senses can do MORE than just intuitively notice or feel things. Subtle means that perception takes place purely in the spiritual realm, in the ‘spiritual space’, not in the material space and reaches into the causal world.
Each subtle sense brings us its unique information, which can greatly deepen the information received from the ordinary senses. The subtle senses also overlap to some extent, meaning they can collectively have a huge impact on our perception of ourselves and the world around us.
Every human being has access to subtle senses, although the extent to which is not the same for every person. It is determined in our individualized essence how much we can naturally use. So we are born with a certain capacity for subtle perception. If we were to compare this to an ‘antenna’, one gets a ‘whisker’ at birth, another a ‘dish antenna’, and everything in between. And these ‘antennas’ are tuned to certain frequencies, to subtle sound, feeling, image, taste, or smell, and not all to the same extent.
The current science has (un)learned to view high-sensitivity in this way and does not see its value. Just as science denies the soul, but also no scientist can be found who will say of themselves that they are soulless, the majority of Western science denies the five subtle senses, while also no scientist can be found who will say of themselves that they have never foreseen or felt something, for which the ordinary senses could not be responsible. We ‘smell’ danger. We ‘taste’ hesitation, but also medicinal or poisonous properties. We ‘foresee’ things. We ‘feel’ situations very precisely and ‘hear’ important insights. Modern science is almost deaf-mute-and-blind to this fabulous set of subtle senses, which are active in every human being, even if only minimally. Some can detect a disease in someone from a distance or are clairaudient, clairsentient, or clairgustant. Ayurvedic medicine, for example, developed from the latter.
We can start to discover which subtle senses are active in us, whether we have received a ‘whisker’ or ‘dish’, and we can start to discover how to make these subtle senses speak better. That a quiet and purified mind is important for this is evident.