Spirituality and consciousness are two sides of the same coin. Whosoever is on the spiritual path is also trying to elevate their consciousness. The wise spiritual masters say that consciousness is always present, but we are often not available to it. Essentially what we are doing is raising our experience to touch this consciousness. This state of consciousness is not to be confused with the waking state that most of us experience while not sleeping. The waking state can be likened to alertness. This is akin to the biological rhythms where, after a night of sound sleep, our body and mind feel rested and alert.
Psychology defines consciousness as ” the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself, such as thoughts, feelings, memories, or sensations”. This is one way of looking at it. Everything we see, touch, smell or hear creates sensations within us. Our senses help us survive and conduct our life well in the external world. They are instrumental for us to experience external objects, people and the world. However, in deep sleep, even though the mind is somewhat active, we are unaware of the body and all its sensory points. This proves that our senses are not persistent and are determined by the wakefulness of the mind and the body.
Consciousness is an entirely different state of being. There is another dimension of who we are that is neither thought nor body.
That begs the question – what is Consciousness? Those who have experienced it describe an eternally present state of being which does not diminish even in sleep. That is the true essence of Consciousness. It is a subtle state which cannot be adequately put into any sort of fathomable description. Scientific instruments fall short in measuring this as this dimension is outside the boundary of science. Science, until now, has only been able to measure the effect that the senses have on our body and mind. What constitutes Consciousness and its “parameters” are not yet available to science or at least the instruments are not refined enough to measure it.
The ancient Vedic texts and many enlightened beings have described this state as experienced by them with great eloquence. That is what makes it an experiential and subjective reality, which cannot be proven objectively, but we know to be definitely present. To experience this so called Consciousness we have to work with our mind to quieten it down to such a degree that this subtle dimension comes into our experience. It is in this sense that the wise masters refer to the mind as being the biggest barrier as well as the best instrument to transcend the sensory experience. Many tools and methods as that of Yoga and Meditation have been designed and developed just for this purpose – to enable us to experience that great, wondrous, big, indescribable and subtle state all at once.
Ancient vedic texts and the enlightened masters describe the 4 stages of consciousness in this manner
1) Jagriti, or the waking state in which people are aware of the world around them. In this state there is the experience of the solid external world through sense-perception.
(2) Swapna, or the dream state in which we are sleeping but aware of the dreams. Senses do not function. The impressions deposited in the mind are replayed and sometimes these images are quite vivid, like in the waking state.
(3) Susupti, or deep sleep; Nothing is operating in this state. Neither the senses nor the mind function. There is neither self-awareness nor self-understanding, only nothingness.
(4) Turiya, or pure consciousness, underlies and transcends the states of waking, dream and deep sleep. This is the ultimate state in which awareness is still present but in which experiences are not accompanied anymore by the thoughts describing them. This is the complete opposite of deep sleep.
From the above we can conclude that being wakeful and being conscious are two different things. Our journey through Consciousness is to break the barrier of the wakeful and sleep to experience the absoluteness of Turiya or pure Consciousness. We are all capable of it as Consciousness is the very essence of who we are. Are we ready for the journey?
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