What Is Consciousness?

SCIENCE - SPIRITUALITY, 18 Mar 2019

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A Mystic’s Perspective

‘Consciousness’ is a highly abused word, used in many different ways. First of all, let me define what we refer to as consciousness. You are a combination of many things. As a piece of life, as a body, you are a certain amount of earth, water, air, fire, and akash or ether. And there is a fundamental intelligence that puts all these things together in a particular way to make life out of it. The same ingredients that are lying there as mud sit here as life – what an incredible transformation! There is a profound and unimaginable level of intelligence that can make simple things like air into life. If the air stops, life goes.

Whether it is a tree, a bird, an insect, a worm, an elephant, or a human being – just about anything is made up of the same simple material. We call this intelligence that makes life happen ‘consciousness.’ The only reason why you experience life and aliveness is because you are conscious. If you are unconscious, you do not know whether you are alive or dead. If you are in deep sleep, you are alive but you do not know it.

Consciousness Cannot be Raised

You actually can neither raise consciousness, nor can you bring it down. We only use the expression of “raising consciousness” against the following background: if you are strongly identified with your physical body, the boundaries of what is you and what is not you are distinctly clear. In this state, you experience yourself as a separate existence. This means you are in survival mode, which is what every other creature is in too. When you identify yourself as the body, the boundaries of who you are, are 100% fixed.

Then… the boundaries disappear

Even in the physical realm, the more subtle something is, the more the boundaries disappear. We are breathing the same air, which also includes some moisture. As we breathe, we constantly exchange air and water. We have no problems with this exchange between us because we are not identified with the air and the water. But we are identified with our body and consider it as ourselves, so we do not want anyone to transgress the boundaries of our body.

All of us are conscious to some extent. The question is to what degree you are conscious.

Consciousness is Shared by Everyone

What we refer to as consciousness is a much subtler dimension of who you are, and it is commonly shared by everyone. It is the same intelligence that is turning food into flesh in me, in you, in everyone. If we move people from being identified with the boundaries of their physical body to a deeper dimension within themselves, their sense of ‘me’ and ‘you’ decreases – ‘you’ and ‘I’ seem to be the same. This means consciousness has risen on a social level.

Essentially, we do not raise consciousness. We raise your experience so that you become more conscious. All of us are conscious to some extent. The question is to what degree you are conscious. You do not have to raise your consciousness – you have to raise yourself to find access to it and experience it. Consciousness is there all the time. If it was not, you would not be able to convert your breath and your food into life. You are alive – that means you are conscious. But so far, you only have minimal access. As your access improves, your sense of boundary expands.

If you become identified with consciousness, you will experience everyone as yourself. This is what yoga means.

The word ‘yoga’ means union. Human beings are trying to experience this sense of union in so many ways. If it finds a very basic expression, we call it sexuality. If it finds an emotional expression, we call it love. If it finds a mental expression, it gets labeled as greed, ambition, conquest, or simply shopping. If it finds a conscious expression, we call it yoga. But the fundamental process and longing are the same. That is, you want to include something that is not you as a part of yourself. You want to obliterate the distance or the boundaries between you and the other.

Touching a Dimension Beyond

Whether it is sexuality or a love affair, ambition or conquest – all you are trying to do is make what is not you a part of yourself. And so with yoga. Yoga means becoming one with everything, or in other words, obliterating the boundaries of who you are. Instead of talking about it, instead of intellectualizing it, we are looking at how to raise your experience from the physical aspect of who you are to a dimension beyond the physical.

This is what Shambhavi does – taking you to a twilight zone. You are still rooted in the body but you are beginning to touch a dimension beyond, so that your experience of life is not limited to your body – you experience it as a larger phenomenon. This is raising consciousness. It means you experience all the people around you as a part of yourself.

The material that makes the five fingers on your hand was in the earth some time ago.

The material that makes the five fingers on your hand was in the earth some time ago – now it is your five fingers. What was on your plate yesterday as food was not ‘you.’ But you ate it, and today you experience it as a part of yourself. You are capable of experiencing anything as a part of yourself if only you include it into your boundaries. You cannot eat the entire universe. You have to expand your boundaries in different ways.

Expanding the sensory boundaries in such a way that if you sit here, the entire universe is a part of yourself – this is yoga; this is raising consciousness. We are not doing it philosophically or ideologically but experientially, using a technological process that everyone can make use of. Why a technology is – the nature of a technology is such that it will work for whoever is willing to learn to use it. You do not have to believe it; you do not have to worship it; you do not have to carry it on your head. You just have to learn to use it.

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Sadhguru – “This life for me is an endeavor to help people experience and express their divinity. May you know the bliss of the Divine.” More…

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One Response to “What Is Consciousness?”

  1. Ron Krumpos says:

    The essence of mystics’ consciousness is suprarational, beyond reason, logic or images. It cannot be explained by rational thought, although we keep trying to do so. Mystics unite with eternal Reality which is; mysticism speculates on what, how or why it is.

    Consciousness in divine oneness, viewed from various historical, cultural and personal perspectives, have occurred with different frequencies, degrees of realization and durations. This can help to explain the diversity in expressions or reports of that spiritual awareness. The ultimate Reality is the same, but absorption in it may differ. That is true for each mystic, as well as between mystics.

    Spiritual knowing, mystical gnosis, is complete intuitive insight. It combines the very definition of all three words. Complete: “The entirety needed for realization; consummate.” Intuitive: “Knowing something without rational processes; the immediate cognition of it.” Insight: “Discernment of the true nature of a situation; the penetration beyond the reach of the senses.” Complete intuitive insight precedes divine unity and usually follows it. Union with the divine, however, transcends knower, known and knowing; it is to be at one with the divine essence.
    “It is a condition of consciousness in which feelings are fused, ideas melt into one another, boundaries are broken, and ordinary distinctions transcended. Past and present fade away into a sense of timeless being. Consciousness and being are not different from each other. In this fullness of felt life and freedom, the distinction of the knower and known disappears. The privacy of the individual self is broken into and invaded by a universal self which the individual feels as his own. The experience itself is felt to be sufficient and complete. It does not come in fragmentary or truncated form demanding completion by something else. It does not look beyond itself for meaning or validity.” Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan H

    “Satori may be defined as an intuitive looking into the nature of things in contradistinction to the analytical or logical understanding of it. Practically, it means the unfolding of a new world heretofore unperceived in the confusion of a dualistically trained mind. …all its opposites and contradictions are united and harmonized into a consistent organic whole. Satori can thus be had only through our once personally experiencing it.” D.T. Suzuki B

    “It is impossible [to write about it] because all things are interrelated. I can hardly open my mouth to speak without feeling as though the sea burst its dams and overflowed. How then shall I express what my soul has received? How can I set it down in a book?” Isaac Luria (the Ari) J

    “All that the imagination can imagine and the reason conceive and understand in this life is not, and cannot be, a proximate means of union with God.” St. John of the Cross C

    “The end of Sufism is total absorption in God…but in reality that is the beginning of the Sufi life, for those intuitions and other things which precede it are, so to speak, the porch by which they enter.” Al-Ghazali I

    “The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.” Albert Einstein

    The ultimate Reality of the divine One – its essence surpassing conception or perception – is absolute certainty for those absorbed in it. It had infused itself into every part of their being, confirming intuitive insight of, and increasing love for, the unity of all existence. Most mystics then returned to their limited human self, many of them greatly transformed, but a few did continue in this universal consciousness for all the remaining years of their mortal life.

    A little of that eternal life should be integrated into a little of this life. If our spiritual insights are restricted to periods of meditation or contemplation, they might temporarily enlighten us, but they will not transform us. The perpetual mystics, who some call saints, have been completely transformed in every aspect of their being. They live in the divine every moment. Our learning must be incorporated into our being if we are to progress toward eternal oneness.
    Deep meditation can result in the absence of any sense of self and other, which Hindus and Buddhists may call samadhi. Most mystics feel eternal union is assured when you give up ego self during this lifetime. Sufis say, “to die before one dies.” The Christian mystics call it “death to self.” Kabbalists refer to it as bittul ha-yesh, “annihilation of the desiring self.” Whenever there is no observing “self” then, in transpersonal actuality, there is no “other.” In self-less living, all is experienced as unity in essence. The greatest achievement in life is maintaining that realization.

    Almost every person feels that their life is lacking in some way, although they are seldom able to define it. There always seems to be something missing. True mystics feel wholeness often. It is not a temporary absorption in divine union. Rather, it is identifying the divine essence as the ground of being itself. Living, for them, usually expands beyond their own immediate sentiments, thoughts and sensing.

    “My me is God, nor do I know my selfhood save in Him. My Being is God, not by simple participation, but by true transformation of my Being.” St. Catherine of Genoa C

    “The individual works in the cosmic process no longer as an obscure and limited ego, but as the centre of the divine or universal consciousness embracing and transforming into harmony all individual manifestations. It is to live in the world with one’s inward being profoundly modified. The soul takes possession of itself and cannot be shaken from its tranquility by the attractions and attacks of the world.” Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan H

    “Your deep soul hides itself from consciousness. So you need to increase…elevation of thinking, penetration of thought, liberation of mind – until finally your soul reveals itself to you. Then you find bliss…by attaining equanimity, by becoming one with everything that happens, by reducing yourself so extremely that you nullify your individual, imaginary form.” Abraham Isaac Kook J

    “…the annihilation of the ego-conception, freedom from subjectivity, insight into the essence of Suchness, the recognition of the oneness of existence.” Ashvaghosha B

    ”He who knows Reality, to whom Unicity is revealed, sees at first gaze the Light of Being. He perceives by illumination that pure light. He sees God first in everything he sees.” Shabestari I

    Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life. Mystics’ worldview surpass individual differences. Their higher regard is for the commonality, community and communion amongst all.