What Are Instinct, Intuition and Wisdom? Here’s A Simple Guide

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If you’re a Buddhist or someone who has explored some religious texts, you have probably heard about these three terms: Instinct, Intuition, Wisdom. These three qualities are highly valued in spirituality, because our sense of right and wrong, and how we go about our daily lives well are governed by our levels of instinct, intuition and wisdom, like it or not.

But what are these three qualities exactly that make them so precious, that in Buddhism, there’s so much emphasis on gaining these qualities to enhance our spiritual cultivation?

Let’s explore the topic further.

Originally, Humans Possess Instinct & Intuition

All humans in this world possess some instinct and intuition but unfortunately, they gradually disappear as time goes by, due to the constantly polluted mind and defiled actions around them. Animals also have animal instinct that is still intact because animals kill their preys in order to maintain their survivals only without other evil intentions.

Humans, on the other hand, tend to kill for animal meats for the sake of pleasures. This is especially true involving wild meat sellers and gourmet eaters who will hunt and eat all kinds of wild animals, from wild boars, tigers, rabbits, snakes and monkeys to dogs and cats which are supposed to belong to the domestic pet category.

That is actually a reflection of human’s greed – people are always insatiable in their wants and needs, willing to harm any living beings to satisfy their sense of taste, or even their fellow humans for the sake of overtaking one’s position and wealth. And not surprisingly, this is the main cause of degeneration in our human’s instinct and intuition.

We originally have some instinct within ourselves but as time goes by, we lose our instinct due to constant exposure to corrupted views and actions. - What are instinct, intuition and wisdom? | Pohernsi's Blog
We originally have some instinct within ourselves but as time goes by, we lose our instinct due to constant exposure to corrupted views and actions.

Natural Instinct & Intuition in Humans vs Animals

Many people do not bat an eye when it comes to comparing our human lifestyle with the animals – most of the time, we consider ourselves as being superior than those in kingdom Animalia (even if we belong to the category scientifically). However, there is much to learn from observing the differences in our way of living and how animals live: Why, it’s as if these animals have effortlessly practiced Buddhism’s way of life for centuries, way better than our so-called Buddhists!

Let’s take a careful look at how animals live:-

  • Simple way of living: All these animals never for one moment ever thought of killing and betraying their own species or other animals except to satisfy their hunger only. Due to these animals simple thoughts and peaceful living attitude, all these animals naturally developed their own animal’s instincts.
  • No materialistic distractions: Animals do not have the need for gadgets and technology, but only seek for basic needs such as shelter, food and water to survive. On the other hand, humans have become too reliant on technology that we cannot live without our mobile phones, computers, TVs and other machines. Because of our endless wants chasing after materialistic gains, we tend to get carried away easily and our minds are hardly calm enough for our natural instinct and intuition to surface.
  • Exercise and be on the move: All animals are always on the move every day – and this is what helps them stay sharp and vigilant of their surroundings. Call it survival mode, but in fact, exercise is what keeps the mind alert and fresh, something we humans lack of these days due to modern convenience. Why walk when you can drive or hire a Grab driver within minutes? And this is the poor mentality our society has that sadly, contributes to the lack of instinct and intuition in ourselves.

It is very unfortunate that humans on this earth slowly pollute their mind with greed, illusionary needs, ill-will and jealousy as well as ignorance in view. Eventually, this leads to lost of concentration and equanimity of the human mind, making our human mind to become wild, vengeful, have insatiable wants, lustful and forever discontented in life.

When people are unrealistic in craving for all kind of food and luxurious living, they tend to possess an unsteady heart with wavering thoughts. Our mind becomes impure easily, thus burying our natural human instinct.

Animals lead a simpler life compared to humans. - What are instinct, intuition and wisdom? | Pohernsi's Blog
Animals lead a simpler life compared to humans.

Instinct vs Intuition vs Wisdom: Are They The Same Thing?

You have noticed we talk about instinct, intuition and wisdom as if they are the same thing but in essence, they are different in qualities.

Think of them as an evolution of a trait. From instinct as the basis, with further spiritual cultivation, one will slowly develop intuition, and later on, wisdom on a more advanced level. In our ancient times, when human beings possess instinct, humans could differentiate the correct ways of doing things naturally and pleasantly to our needs. We do not exceed our daily wants and cater solely for our just daily consumptions. But what happens when we no longer have even the basic instinct in us? That’s where societal degeneration happens, wreaking more havoc in the world with each passing day.

Signs You Have Instinct

When one possesses natural instinct, one live simple and meagre in possessions. Here are some traits of a person who has instinct in place:-

  • You never thought of making more money or acquiring more lands and properties
  • Your mind is always straight forward and naïve, and you work merely to survive and maintain your living.
  • You almost always have a steady mind, a calm heart and an energetic body
  • You could feel the needs to move away from the scene whenever you sense danger
  • You will always support your neighbors and friends or relatives whenever needs arise
  • You just know what to do according to one’s appropriate situations.
  • You tend to easily detect your own shortcomings in life and always avoid unlawful actions and livelihood

Signs You Have Intuition

Whenever any human acquire natural instinct, one will gradually develops intuition upon our initiation of practicing more moral values and virtuous actions over the years. So what is intuition? Intuition is actually a form of sixth sense. Unfortunately, it become an oblivion in today’s world of modern living.

If you have intuition, you will have all the signs of instinct plus these additional signs:

  • You have the ability to perceive incoming phenomena’s or knowing something is going to happen in the near distant future
  • You have a clear perception of identifying what is good from a bad decision

Anyone with intuitive sense could then further advance into more higher level of spiritual development which is wisdom.

Signs You Have Wisdom

Many people often confuse between wisdom and intuition, thinking they refer to the same thing. In fact, there are three levels of wisdom: human level of wisdom, heavenly level of wisdom and lastly, the Bodhisattva level of wisdom.

Human wisdom is commonly developed upon gaining intuition after a number of years in practicing moral values and meritorious deeds.

Heavenly level of wisdom needs further cultivation of our principle in life, responsibility in our attitude and integrity in our character.

The highest and most potent level is the Bodhisattva wisdom. In order for one to gain this highest wisdom, one must cultivate simplicity, moderation in living and humble in our outlook.

How does wisdom come about? Upon gaining jhanas after practicing a number of years, we will have to uplift our mind to a higher stage via these 3 important criteria: (i) to develop a compassionate heart, (ii) loving kindness and (iii) magnanimous heart.

Only upon gaining all these three main requisites of a pure mind, then we will achieve wisdom. Bodhisattva’s wisdom is the highest and the most invaluable achievement on this earth world. Anyone who achieve Bodhisattva wisdom will automatically gain access to pure land realms upon departure from this world.

Bodhisattva's wisdom is the highest and the most invaluable achievement on this earth world. - What are instinct, intuition and wisdom? | Pohernsi's Blog
Bodhisattva’s wisdom is the highest and the most invaluable achievement on this earth world. Source: heartsutrabuddhism.blogspot.com


It is crucial to rediscover our instinct to achieve intuition and then wisdom to lead a better way of life, differentiating between the things we should and shouldn’t do. One of the easiest way to get started is to live simply and reduce our needs and wants along the way.

Tempted to buy more shoes when you have so many of them in the shoe closet? Tell yourself you have more than enough. Want to eat plenty of meat like there’s no tomorrow? Think about your health and consider taking more vegetarian meals instead to reduce the number of killings (which actually helps the world too, in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions thus lowering our global carbon footprint).

Of course, it is undeniable that obstacles to gain Wisdom are immense especially to those people who are involved in sect or cult group of teachings. Anyone who are involved in wrong livelihood of living such as butcher, liquor and cigarette vendors, casino employees, dairy farmers as well as illicit smugglers and drugs distributors will never be able to cultivate wisdom unless they have strong persistence and willpower to do so. Whoever are so attached to this earthly activities and luxurious living will not able to tread the path to wisdom.

Only spiritual teachers, hermits, spiritual masters and strong cultivators who have successfully achieved their liberations from all sufferings in this world will then acquire wisdom. Truly, this divinity of wisdom is the greatest gift to mankind in this world.

You can be one of them too – all you need is to start taking action towards cultivating back your lost instinct and move forward from there.

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