What Is Antahkarana?

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Antaḥ (internal) + karaṇa (cause)

Antahkarana Definition

Antahkarana refers to the totality of the mind; a four-tiered instrument of awareness.

Antahkarana deep dive

The Antahkarana is our source of consciousness. In Vedantic thought, it is defined as simply our ‘understanding’. It serves as a bridge, or source of communication, between the higher and the lower manas (the sensory mind).

a graphic of a human head and light

Theosophy & The Seven-Fold Nature of Humans

Before looking at the Antahkarana itself, it will first be useful to explore a concept put forward by theosophy.

In the thought of theosophy, a religion founded in the 19th century primarily through the teachings of Helena Blavatsky, they believe that humans have seven principles. This, alongside the concept of the Antahkarana, is one of their most fundamental teachings.

The basis for the understanding of our seven fold nature is that we are made up of 3 different parts:

1. Body

2. Soul

3. Spirit

Within these three constitutions of the body, they are further broken up into:

1. Body

a) physical body

b) astral body

c) life energy (prana)

2. Soul

a) animal soul (kama)

b) human soul (manas)

b1) split further into lower manas and higher manas

c) spiritual soul (buddhi)

3. Spirit (Atma)

This also correlates to the idea of the three bodies within some yogic philosophy; the physical, astral (or subtle), and causal body.

The Theosophical Society Emblem
The Theosophical Society Emblem”, licensed under CC0 1.0

Antahkarana as the bridge

Draw your attention to the ‘soul’ section, specifically to 2,b1 – this is where the Antahkarana comes into play.

The separation of the higher and lower manas does not mean that there are two minds, but there is one mind that can lean towards either the higher or lower aspect.

The mind will either gravitate toward the animal soul, identifying strongly with the personal ego and the sense of individuality that comes along with it, or lean towards the aspect of the buddhi, the vehicle of spirit, establishing a connection to life beyond this single incarnation.

This is the Antahkarana. It stands in the middle, as an instrument of awareness, bridging the gap between life’s lower, material aspects and the higher realms of spirituality.

Some prefer to refer to it as a path rather than a bridge.

two paths in a forest

4 Aspects of the Antahkarana

There are four parts of the Antahkarana:

1. Ahamkara

Ego. Identifies with the singular ‘I’ and therefore, the true, unchanging self cannot be perceived when we are functioning from the state of ahamkara.

As a result of perceived separateness, the state of rajas guna (activity or agitation) is predominant here and will likely elicit regular feelings of anger, greed, competitiveness, pride, desire, and jealousy.

2. Buddhi

Intellect. Our ability to discern right from wrong, to make decisions, and to understand.

The part of the system that filters through information and makes assessments on what to bring into our consciousness. This is the process that enables the gathering of wisdom to facilitate higher knowledge.

3. Manas

Mind. The rational set of faculties such as thought, imagination, sensation, and will. These properties can govern our physical body and senses by driving our desires.

4. Chitta

Memory or subconscious. Stores memories and experiences.

a woman in prayer with light symbols behind her

Why is this important?

Understanding the four functions of the mind allows us to more easily coordinate, regulate, and integrate them.

You realize you are not these functions of the mind, you are the one who is aware of them.

Having this self-awareness will allow you to see how both the totality of the Antahkarana and the individual roles of the mind itself make up the divine dance of consciousness that is everything we experience.

Antahkarana symbol

This is a multi-dimensional symbol, widely used by reiki healers worldwide, that is made up of the number ‘7’ repeated three times within a circle.

a purple Antahkarana symbol

Some believe this symbol to be from the lost civilization of Lemuria, first revealed to humanity over 100,000 years ago. Although, the whole proposition of Lemuria as a lost continent has since been discredited with the discovery of plate tectonics.

Others say it’s likely this symbol came from China since its pattern is highly symbolic of Chinese culture. It is anticipated that it has been used in Tibet for thousands of years as part of healing and yantra meditation practices.

It is thought to have a powerful effect on the body and mind, as it’s a way to connect our physical experience, or body, to our higher selves and cut through negative thought patterns and cycles.

There are two versions of the symbol:

  • Yin Antahkarana

A gentler energy with thinner and longer arms. Best for emotional healing purposes or for healing karmic traumas.

  • Yang Antahkarana

For bringing balance back to your yin and yang energies. This one has thicker and shorter arms with a better ability to boost your energy, vitality, and microcosmic orbit.

a colourful Antahkarana symbol

Antahkarana in your life

Antahkarana is the path, or bridge, that has always existed and will continue to exist. It shows up in the form of intuition, downloads, premonitions, gut feelings, and likely in your dreams too.

It may reveal itself as only a glimpse, or even as a fierce, profound revelation, but know that it is always there and can be called upon as a conscious and continuous feature of your daily life.

The more we use our buddhi to make decisions that are in alignment with our true self and turn away from the illusion that is the ‘I-am-ness’ of the ahamkara, or ego, we can choose to orient ourselves towards the knowing of the Atma.

This is the work of the Antahkarana.

Until one day, our instrument of awareness is tuned so finely towards self-realization, there will be a permanent merging of the lower and higher manas, reuniting or, more accurately, rediscovering our union that has always existed, with the unchanging consciousness.

If you want to practice yantra with this symbology, you can also print off a version of the symbol that resonates with you the most and use it as part of a meditation or prayer practice.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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More on profound concepts:

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Liz is a Qigong and Yoga teacher based in Gloucestershire with a love for all things movement, nature & community. She strives to create a trauma-informed space in which everyone is empowered to be their authentic selves. www.elizabethburns.co.uk

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