Did You Know – What is Consciousness
Consciousness is the root of Life
Consciousness is fundamental and the catalyst of life. It enters the human body at the time of birth and leaves at the time of death. There is no life without it. Consciousness is all there is. What water is to the ocean or the sap is to a flower consciousness is to humans. There is no existence without it.
Though the concept of Consciousness was well understood and explained in the Vedas and in many other ancient civilizations, it remains one of the most mysterious phenomena in the era of modern science.
Science by its nature is objective, whereas, Consciousness by its nature is subjective. The totality of everything is composed of three aspects viz,
- Objective aspects that relate to an object of interest aka Objective
- The subjectivity of the observer on account of his knowledge about the object and
- Subjectivity on account of the consciousness of the observer.
Objective aspects form a tiny fraction of totality. While subjective aspects consisting of knowledge of the observer and his consciousness forms the 99.99% or even more of totality. More on this topic is explained in the chapter ‘Vedic Science’.
In Maharishi Vedic Science, Consciousness is explained as a universal field of intelligence, giving rise to both individual intelligence and all aspects of the physical world, an understanding compatible with that of modern physics. It is composed of both seen and unseen, manifest and unmanifest, parts and whole; it is unity and diversity — not one, not the other.
Reality perceived by an individual is a point within continuous spectrum blending opposites like silence and dynamism, light and dark, activity and inactivity, etc. The word for dynamism in Sanskrit is “Prakriti”, and the word for silence is “Purusha”.
Consciousness is the basis of all walks of life. Maharishi advised humanity “Water the root (unseen Consciousness) to enjoy the fruit (of Life)”. Consciousness is all there to know. Consciousness is a holographic field of many fields all-pervasive, omnipresent, all potent, and all intelligence.
Space around us is mistaken for emptiness. As per the Vedic paradigm, it is an invisible field of consciousness akin to the modern-day internet. Space around us contains all the knowledge, memory, and intelligence that ever existed or will ever exist in the universe.
The internet is omnipresent, everywhere at the same time. Anyone or everyone can access it at the time of their choosing. What one needs is the required infrastructure of hardware and software along with a required set of login credentials. The process until this step is common. But the style of usage and derived value from the internet is completely personal. The response that one gets from an internet search is based on the search string, what and how the question is framed. Look, feel and presentation is dependent on the infra deployed while the contents of the response are mixed up with other potential contexts. Sometimes completely useless and sometimes surprisingly better than expected. The same is the case with Consciousness.
Imagine a scenario when the internet further evolves and starts working with human thoughts without any additional hardware or software. Consciousness is already there, highly advanced and way ahead to the internet. It needs no separate hardware or software, it is just different expressions and manifestations of one’s own Consciousnesses.
Consciousness is a field having every bit of information and knowledge that ever existed. One needs to know the process to access it, along with the required login credentials and properly framed index to that knowledge. In Vedic language, this process is known as the evolution of one’s Consciousnesses; login credentials are trust and conviction in oneself and Vedas.
Consciousness among its various facets includes universal intelligence, holographic memory, and is full of energy. It operates at the universal, group, and individual levels.
Consciousness expresses itself as manifest and unmanifest. Manifest is what can be seen and touched and is commonly known as physical aspects, or matter. Unmanifest, as the term suggests, is non-physical, and unseen and is also known as metaphysical. Consciousness also manifests in forms of part and whole.
Consider an iceberg floating in the sea, the visible surface is the gross, physical aspects while the layers hidden underneath constitute the subtle ambiguity. These layers below the surface incrementally grow in the juice of life, and their potency level. An evolved Consciousness is the knowledge to understand the deeper and finer levels of thought closer to silence. There exists a structure within that silence which is referred to as pure Consciousness in Vedic science, which shapes the knowledge of an individual.
Knowledge is Structured in Consciousness:
Knowledge is the coming together of three elements of Consciousness viz. the observer, the process of observing or knowing, and the object of observation; subject, object and a gap separating the two. At each step in the process, the parts remain connected to the whole.
Seeing a lively flower, different people react differently. Some enjoy the smell; some see the beauty; some see the colors while the others take note of the diversity within the flower. This variation is based on the quality of their Consciousness as the knowledge is structured in Consciousness.
Structure of Consciousness:
Consciousness has its own structure, qualities, and dynamics and is structured in Consciousness itself and hence, the quality of being self-referral. Wholeness is a quality of pure Consciousness. The state of least excitation of Consciousness is the silent basis of all thought and action.
Range of Expression of Consciousness
Expression of Consciousness is a spectrum that ranges from one extreme of matter to another extreme of human Consciousness, from very low intelligence to high intelligence, from being inert to be lively.
The two key factors that differentiate the three components comprising wholeness of reality are the source that is external or internal and the inherent level of intelligence. The object being external and least intelligent of the three and thus, depends on the intelligence of the subject to manage it.
Difference between Vedic science and modern science:
Through its objective approach, modern science reveals that which is perceived, the object and its objective attributes. The subject, the perceiver, remains separate from it. Modern science investigates the field of the known but remains oblivious to the field of the observer. The field of the knower is what differentiates individual understanding and interpretation. It is Vedic science that explores the subject and its subjective attributes. Objective and subjective aspects together make the knowledge complete.
While Vedic science ranges from the science of nothing (vacuum) to science of everything (wholeness), from infinity (nothing, vacuum) to zero (everything) to the infinite variety of things with various sizes, shapes, and composition and back to infinity. Modern science to date is largely limited to the physical, and material world.
Expressions of Consciousness
Maharishi explains that Consciousness simultaneously expresses itself into pairs of seen and unseen, manifest and unmanifest as well as parts and wholeness. The manifest and unmanifest operates at the level of senses and mind, whereas expression of wholeness and parts operates at the level of human intellect.
Manifest and Unmanifest
Manifest aspects are physical attributes that are comprehensible to the human senses and mind. Manifest may be visible or invisible depending on the relative position of the observer and the object. Whereas, unmanifest aspects are those which are beyond the realm of human senses. For example, in the game of cricket, the role of technology to predict the probable path of the ball is like uncovering the unmanifest. Similarly, in many sports, technology is deployed to enlarge the image of the ball when the ball touches the ground. Further, whenever we choose one option among many, the options ignored remain unmanifest to our consciousness and we keep wondering for life, as to what could have happened in those scenarios?
Every manifest phenomenon has an unmanifest noumenon inside it. The unmanifest vacuum, space or gaps are ignorantly considered as empty or nothing. But as per Veda, the unmanifest is absolute, formless, free from change, and the unmoved mover of the relative world. It also necessarily cannot be explained or comprehended in terms of any manifest reality. For example, what appliances like Radio, TV, and wireless internet connection can do in a vacuum space, the human senses can’t. These aspects can only be felt, experienced directly by the heart. The human mind is generally unable to comprehend and remains out of it.
A flower is only a manifest form of something inside it, its essence, which is the unmanifest sap. The science is unlikely to find beauty in a flower because beauty belongs to the unmanifest form. Manifest is the act of making something obvious or proving something. Happiness sometimes manifests itself as a smile; sadness sometimes manifests as tears, good health manifests itself as mental and physical stamina; bad health manifests as cranky behavior. Symptoms of illness may manifest itself right away or in the long term; stress manifests into various forms of problems in life.
Unmanifest gradually turns manifest with the addition of more and more physical and familiar aspects of information. For example, the idea of “table” is unmanifest to the senses. However, as this idea is enhanced with more details to create the “kitchen table”, followed by the addition of properties such as ‘color’, ‘size’, ‘seating capacity’, etc. the idea becomes “manifest” to the senses. To manifest a “table” to the senses, therefore, we need to add information to it, and this addition is performed by an observer.
Lego bricks, one of the most popular and successful toys for decades and is an excellent example of exploiting unmanifest aspects of nature’s working. Refer to the diagram below-showing top and bottom of a Lego brick as seen physically on the left half and an orthogonal view on the right.
The orthogonal view showing 8 studs protruding only on the top as well as 3 circles in the center protruding only on the bottom of the brick. The inner diameter of 3 bottom circles is exactly the same as the external diameter of the top 8 studs enabling a strong fit that acts as a holding force. The top 8 are invisible from the bottom and similarly, bottom three are invisible at the top. There exist 8 more half circles that are invisible both at the top and the bottom. Only an evolved Consciousness can sense the existence of these. The exact dimensions of each Lego brick make them interchangeable parts enabling creative minds to produce wholeness in their designs.
Take another simple example of balancing while riding a bicycle. When a bike leans, the gyroscopic effect tends to steer the handlebars in the direction of the lean, bringing the wheels back under the bicycle and helping to keep it upright. This “trail” gives the force of the ground on the front wheel, a lever arm to cause steering in a way that can help restore balance. The forces working in the background are invisible but are an integral part of the transformation process and thus the whole experience. Balancing on a bicycle seems a magical balancing act only until one understands the present but invisible forces that are acting in the background.
Wholeness and parts
Wholeness is the unmanifest totality of experience, different from its parts, a complete and harmonious whole; unity. It exists everywhere and inhabits everything. Wholeness can be viewed in terms of unity in diversity. Wholeness is an experience and a perception of human Consciousness that unites its diverse parts producing wholeness, a oneness of manifest and unmanifest. For example, a house may be seen as a collection of household stuff or a place for family living.
Wholeness is everything that makes it nothing (read “No-Thing”). Big picture, a term commonly used in modern management though not exact, comes close to it.
The difference between wholeness and the sum of its parts is a life that breathes in wholeness, fortunately, a free-bee. The power of wholeness lies in a synergetic symbiotic relationship. A synergetic relationship yields free energy simply by arranging things and parts in a manner that positively enhances the value of each other. Take, for example, a flock of geese flying, together they create a wholeness that enables the flock to fly at a much higher altitude as well as much longer distance than what individually each member could. Wholeness adds power in the form of lift produced enabling ease of flying.
Wholeness can be appreciated only by those who can experience a communion, in which the part merges into the whole and the whole into the part — part and whole become one. It is an unforgettable wow experience an aha moment. For example, creative masterpieces produced using the standard Lego bricks results in wow.
Wholeness, as experienced and explained by Vedic seers, is characterized by the primacy of the whole and its holographic presence in each of its parts. Wholeness is unmanifest and thus invisible to human eyes. It can only be experienced by paying attention and being Conscious of it.
Parts are objects, manifest aspects of wholeness. As the name suggests the part is a small part of the whole. Wholeness is much more than its parts alone. Component constitutes only a partial whole. Each part PART-icipate by performing fully or partially its assigned role and is expected to collaborate with others.
Happiness and Wholeness
Holistic value coupled with happiness is experienced when parts act as an integrated whole. A sense of unhappiness is felt when parts are either not integrated as whole or attention is on parts instead of wholeness.
The natural tendency of the human mind is to seek a field of greater happiness and bliss irrespective of whether living a life of an ascetic or a householder. The worldly people suffer in one way while the spiritual people suffer in another, but both suffer. Suffering comes from the partial truth, disintegrated functioning of the mind. Bliss is the fragrance of the whole. Bliss is associated with life in totality. A life lived in wholeness.
Wholeness is an experience, a value that is highly subjective and thus can’t be defined objectively. It can be described only in terms of its parts, what it includes or what it excludes. For example, light is required to see an object; the object together with light constitutes the whole. In this example, light enables human senses to sense the object and thus, is part of the whole experience.
The modern scientific way of thinking follows a reductionist approach and hence, wholeness is considered an additive process by which a pseudo whole and is achieved through the addition of parts. It is no more than an abstraction used to identify an assemblage of parts missing the critical implication and value addition by the light. Similarly other unmanifest components of Consciousness which constitute the wholeness thereby, remaining largely oblivious of the wholeness.
States of Consciousness
Maharishi Vedic Science lists seven states of Consciousness. The first three are well-known states of waking, sleeping and dreaming. The fourth state is known as transcendental Consciousness referred to as Turiya Chetna in Vedas. The Upanishads describe Turiya as the fourth state of consciousness that is the basis of the first three states of dreaming, sleeping and waking states as well as a gateway to higher states. The mind is completely relaxed, calm, composed and active at the same time. The rate of flow of thoughts flowing through the mind in this state is close to zero, the least excited state of mind. Maharishi equates this with a state of a primed engine that is ready to act, but not yet acting. The Bhagavad Gita equates this state of Consciousness with pulling back of an arrow on a bow and ready to shoot.
The diagram shows the logical existence of the fourth state of Consciousness. The horizontal axis is mapping an absence or presence of self-awareness while the vertical axis is mapping an absence or presence of thoughts. The first box indicating the absence of both self-awareness and thought is a well-known state of deep sleep. While the box indicating the absence of self-awareness, but the presence of thoughts is the dream state. The box reflecting the presence of self-awareness as well as thought is the waking state. The box which signifies the presence of self-awareness, but an absence of thoughts, even though perplexing to many, is what Veda refers to as the fourth state, the Turiya Chetna.
The diagram shows waking, sleeping and dreaming – commonly known states of Consciousness are emerging from underlying transcendental Consciousness.
Higher states of Consciousness is the human ability at the level of mind to experience the unity of manifest with unmanifest aspects. While pure Consciousness is an ability at the level of intellect to experience wholeness over and above its parts. Since wholeness involves integrating two unmanifest dimensions, Consciousness at this level is qualified as pure Consciousness, wherein, the human intellect rises beyond its common trait of classifying ideas and objects with a label of good, bad, right and wrong.
Human Physiology and Evolution of Consciousness
As it evolves to a higher level, the human nervous system and mind learn to maintain two distinct states of Consciousness, which are anti-correlated and complementary with Singularity, Duality, and Multiplicity
As explained in the section explaining what is Vedic-Science, Universal Consciousness simultaneously expresses itself in three different forms. These three aspects are named differently, appropriate to the context. Some of these sets of three are listed here. At higher states, these sets of three merges in two (duality) and at the highest state of Consciousness into one (singularity).
- Observer, object and process of observation
- Subject, Object and the gap (or path) between the two
- Knower, Knowledge, and Known
- Rishi, Devata and Chhandas
- Individual, collective and universal Consciousness
- The goal, source, and path
What holds a society together? What holds religious groups and cults together? What holds a family together? It is an invisible collective Consciousness that informs a sense of belonging, identity, and behaviour which operate as a unifying force within society. It is collective because it is common to all members and reflects a commonality of behaviour and thinking.
Collective consciousness is togetherness, or collectedness, of consciousness of all the individuals in the group. It can be coherent or incoherent, Either way, it influences every aspect of a group at all levels of society.
Collective Consciousness (or conscience) is a fundamental sociological concept, a wholeness that refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a social group or society. A collective consciousness informs a sense of belonging, identity, and results in commonality in thinking and behaviour.
In modern times, Émile Durkheim a sociologist developed the concept of collective Consciousness to explain how unique individuals are bound together into collective units like social groups and societies. Higher coherence is associated with more integrated and effective thinking and behavior, including greater intelligence, creativity, learning ability, emotional stability, ethical and moral reasoning, self-confidence, and reduced anxiety.
As a social phenomenon, collective Consciousness is diffused across society as a whole, with a life of its own, as it is passed down through generations and exists independently of individuals.
Noteworthy is that collective Consciousness is the result of social forces that are external to the individual. Group members internalize these and make the collective Consciousness a reality by doing so.
Collective Consciousness leads to intrinsic motivation driven behaviour aligned to the group doctrine without a need for instructions or any external stimulus. Individual members are self-motivated due to their strong belief in the group doctrine and do not need a payment for their efforts and investment of personal resources.
Members themselves decide the righteous choice of action and hence feel empowered, free and engaged. This combination of thinking yields a fuller outcome. A group of individuals starts behaving like a well-knit team resulting in impossible looking tasks being accomplished with ease.
A unified field of consciousness is all-pervasive, omnipresent, all potent, all intelligence. It is nothingness or emptiness that exists in vacuum and space. It has a holographic field of fields that contains all the knowledge, memory, and intelligence that ever existed or will ever exist in the universe. It includes everything ranging from manifest-material to unmanifest wholeness.
It’s this universal consciousness that connects all humans and nonhumans together and is the root behind the famous Sanskrit phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbhkum” meaning “the world is one family”. In Vedic literature, this universal consciousness is referred to as Brahman.
Consciousness is all there is to know. It is a life force. It expresses in the manifest and unmanifest form, parts and wholeness. Happiness is attention on wholeness that helps in living a life of fulfillment, whereas, attention on parts results in a life of non-fulfillment with stress and strain.