In man, the conscious awakening of intuition expresses itself in five forms, as determined by the effects of the five koshas inherent in his consciousness. They are as follows:
(1) Basic Feeling
The first form of intuition, the crudest form, is the basic feeling that "I exist with a body and a mind." This feeling every human being has. This is called the intuition of the annamaya kosha—the consciousness of existence in the gross or matter plane. When one is limited to sense knowledge or inferential knowledge, he is on this crude plane of intuition. Why is this called intuition at all? Because in every thinking or sensing process, there is the immediate feeling of "my-ness." This feeling is a direct awareness; it cannot be given by any mediary in the world. Every being knows that he exists. It is a feeling that is with him even in sleep and dreams. This knowing comes from the knowledge or intuition of the ever conscious soul.
(2) Immediate Knowledge of the Life Forces
The second form of intuition is of the pranic energy, the vital or life current that courses through every cell of the body. It is the intuition, or immediate knowledge, of the pranamaya kosha, the plane of the life forces that create and sustain the body. In the primary form of this intuition, one hears subtle sounds, sees subtle lights, feels subtle sensations, smells subtle fragrances, and tastes subtle flavors. These are not outward sensations; they have nothing to do with the physical sense organs. In the higher form of this intuition, one feels the pranic force in the subtlest way in every part of the body. Intensified forms of the intuition of prana—for example when the yogi perceives the soul as Cosmic Sound, as noted in this Gita stanza—depend upon the succeeding stages of intuition. When one is in this second form of intuitive knowledge, or prana, he has partially or wholly withdrawn his consciousness from the matter plane of annamaya kosha.
(3) Direct Knowledge of Mind
The third form of intuition is the direct knowledge of manas or mind—its effects and its combinations with other principles of perception and cognition—along with the separate knowledge of the subtle organs of sense. When one has attained this stage of intuition, the attention is not on the matter plane—that is, the body—nor much on the pranic plane; though some action of prana may be involved in the experiences of this state. This is called the intuition of the manomaya kosha, or mind plane. The consciousness in this plane may be worked on by prana, or life energy, and visions are then seen. In this form of intuition, one is not conscious of the outside world at all, or very little, depending on the depth of meditation. In the undeveloped stage of this form of intuition, one may see visions of all sorts, either fitfully generated, or voluntarily willed. For some people, it is not under control and so visions are fitfully generated. For the adept, such phenomena are voluntary and under control of the will. Visions are astral in substance, projections of prana and consciousness as lifetronic images. Visions experienced by those whose intuition is still in undeveloped stages may be little more than entertaining phenomena—glimpses into the subtle astral realms (distractions eschewed by the serious God-seeker). Meaningful visions, having true spiritual value, are engendered by the soul and Spirit through pure intuition working on prana and the God-attuned consciousness of the devotee for the purpose of elevating him to ever higher spiritual states—as for example, beholding the soul as Cosmic Light.
(4) Direct Knowledge of Intellect
The fourth form of intuition is the direct knowledge of the operation of buddhi, or discriminative intellect along with knowledge of the ego. One in this stage does not feel the whirl of mind, the race of prana, or the weight and confinement of the body. He feels existent above them, an existence without any other adjunct or condition; though there may remain a doubt in him whether he is knowing his true Self or not. This is the intuition of the jnanamaya kosha, or intellect plane. When this stage is high, fully developed, it is called cognitive meditation. It begets keen discernment of truth, manifesting as Wisdom.
(5) Direct Knowledge of Bliss
The fifth form of intuition is the direct knowledge of bliss as depending upon no object, mediary, or condition. This is intuition of anandamaya kosha. It bestows all-fulfilling joy, crowning divine experiences with ultimate satisfaction. In this, as in the previous states, the consciousness has been wholly withdrawn from the body plane, or at least nearly so.
Remember that the first form of intuition is possessed by everyone; the other four forms must be developed. These latter four forms of intuition are not wholly separate. As they develop, one form may manifest when others are present also in some measure. In meditation, when the devotee sees subtle light or hears subtle sound, for example, he may have the intuition of bliss mixed with it to some degree. Or when he intuitively feels himself consciously existent without consciousness of the body (as in the intuition of jnanamaya kosha) he may have simultaneously the intuition of unending bliss flowing throughout his being. The highly advanced devotee has this intuitive experience: He feels the soul reflected in the purified, adjunctless intellect and ego; and that ananda, divine bliss, is flowing therefrom. Even during the performance of worldly duties, the higher intuition of that spiritual man remains with him in greater or lesser extent according to his spiritual development.
Pure intuition is soul intuition—knowing the soul by the soul; seeing the soul with the eyes of the soul, so to speak. Here there are no modifications of intuition—as the intuition of intellect, or prana, or mind, or matter. The yogi in this state is above them all—knower, knowing, and known having become one. He is fully conscious of his true Self. This is the real soul-consciousness; and, in fact, it is God-consciousness, for the soul is realized as nothing other than the reflection of Spirit.
Only the highest of spiritual beings—very few in this world—have this pure soul intuition. Some have it at times, as when in deep meditation. Some are often fixed in it for longer periods, even after meditation. The more one is anchored in this consciousness, the more one feels the whole world to be akin. Stars, earth, plants, animals, man—he feels all to be pervaded by the same soul, which he feels to be himself. When soul intuition intensifies, and the yogi remains unbrokenly in that consciousness for a long time, with no desire or effort to hold on to the accoutrements of delusion, then even his body-cage cannot last. He is one with God.
Thus is it declared in this Gita stanza, the wonder of the soul; and that it cannot be known by the ordinary or even keen intellect, but only by those who actually perceive it through intuition. Progressively unfolding by the practice of the right techniques of meditation, intuition makes possible the experience of the various manifestations of the soul, and ultimately the realization of oneself as soul, one with Spirit. (Chapter III, God Talks With Arjuna by Paramahansa Yogananda)