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Understanding Consciousness: Exploring the Depths of the Human Mind

The goal of every being is the quest for happiness. Enlightened souls, who have experienced an eternal state of bliss have achieved this by identifying their true self as Consciousness. This blog helps us to get started on the topic of Consciousness. An interested Sadhak can delve deeper into this vast subject.  

 

What is Consciousness? 


We all understand what Unconscious means. You lose awareness, your sense organs are in a suspended state, your mind doesn’t operate, people around you panic. It feels like you are one step from death. 

 

On the other hand, a Conscious person is aware of himself and the world around him. if you consider the process of thinking, you will realize when one thought is gone there is a gap before the next one rises. If this gap is not thought, it must be something else. That ‘something else’ is Consciousness. 

 

Sarvadrk is one of the 1000 names of the Lord in the Vishnu Sahasranamam. It means the seer and knower of everything. The Consciousness that illuminates all motives and intentions – and the manifested activities that spring from them, in each individual at all times.  

Is Consciousness an output from the brain? Most would associate consciousness with the brain. However, an evolved Yogi would beg to defer.  


The human brain is a powerful supercomputer, with the unique power of visualisation (Sankalpa) but it is operated upon by a greater power – this power is Consciousness.  


Consciousness is all pervading. 


Humans and animals have a brain. They are conscious of their surroundings. A plant with no brain reaches out to sunlight and its roots go searching for water. A unicellular organism has intelligence. It responds to stimuli. Each cell in our body is intelligent and operates to a pattern. Our brain is dependent on the neural cells – not vice versa. Even in an inanimate object (Padartha) there is a pattern by which the electrons and protons operate. There is a rudimentary form of Consciousness even in the smallest sub atomic particle.  


This all-pervading Consciousness is like the Supreme Master of the universe. It is the glue, the essence that connects everything. Nobody has been able to define this. The rishis in deep mediation have experienced this state of ONE Consciousness where there is no plurality. They have tried to explain it in the Upanishads. There are different names given to it – Samadhi, Nirvana, Kaivalya etc.  


Chaitanya, the Sanskrit term for Consciousness, is the central theme of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings. He repeatedly emphasized that the ‘awakening of higher Consciousness’ is the one Supreme Goal of human life and existence. Sri Ramakrishna’s blessings on the humankind, as articulated by him a few months before he took Maha Samadhi, shines as a luminous inspiring mantra: Tomader Chaitanya hok“May your Consciousness be awakened!”  


Following the Upanishadic rishis who exhorted: Uttishthata, Jagrata, “Arise, Awake” Swami Vivekananda preached the same doctrine of the awakening of the inner power of the Atman or the Divine Self in all beings.  


Consciousness –  in the Bhagavad Gita  


In Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita, Consciousness also refers to Atman or soul. In the Bhagavad Gita 2.17 Lord Krishna says 


avināśi tu tad viddhi 

yena sarvam idaṁ tatam 

vināśam avyayasyāsya 

na kaścit kartum arhati 


That which pervades the entire body, you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. 


This is consciousness, which pervades the entire body. It is further said in Bhagavad Gita that this Consciousness is immutable, immovable, un-burnt, un-cut, un-wet and always existing (eternal) but we don’t see such traits anywhere in the physical realm.  


This is an experience that is beyond our current experience of physical space and time. Consciousness is a divine experience 


 

How can we experience this state of Consciousness?


You cannot find Consciousness. It isn’t a thing. It is the knower of a thing. It can only be experienced.  


The great being Patanjali has defined yoga as "Chitta Vritti Nirodha", which means that if you can silence all the distractions and activity of the mind, you are in a pure state. In this pure state you can experience a state of pure bliss, Sat Chit Ananda 


The moment I go deep into my consciousness, my capacity to break the bonds with the past expands. I learn to break the fetters one by one, when I go deeper and deeper into the core of my consciousness. I begin to understand I am not just a conditioned human being with a physical body but perhaps a little more than that – Sri M 

Interest in the topic of Consciousness is growing  

We are now living in a time of unprecedented interest in Consciousness. Study on this subject is one of oldest areas of human investigation. The ancient rishis studied Consciousness intensively five thousand or more years ago and their discoveries are found in the Upanishads.  

In the Mandukya Upanishad, we find an investigation in the nature of self and consciousness through a contemplation of the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. A recent scholarly work which recognizes the significance of the Upanishads in modern consciousness studies is “Waking, Dreaming, Being” by Prof. Evan Thompson of the University of British Columbia (pub. Columbia University Press, New York, 2015). In this work, which is itself organized on the structure of the Mandukya Upanishad, Prof. Thompson explores how the insights of the Upanishads can help advance the neuroscience of consciousness. Regarding the importance of the Upanishads, he goes so far as to hold that global history should be divided into before Upanishads and after Upanishads – BU and AU, rather than BC and AD!  


How can I start the journey to explore my Consciousness?

There are many darshanas or paths that the enlightened rishis have talked about in our ancient scriptures. Yoga is one of the paths. Yoga is a structured scientific approach that will appeal to the rationale mind.

  

Bharat Yogavidya Kendra (BYK) is an institution dedicated to promoting the ancient wisdom of yoga. The institution seeks to spread the knowledge of yoga throughout the world and focuses on the holistic well-being of individuals. Founded by Sri M, BYK has become a platform for yoga enthusiasts and seekers of spiritual growth. 


 

 

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Hari Iyer
Hari Iyer
Mar 20

Enlightening read.

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