states of consciousness

New dimensions and time: States of consciousness

Seeking for the permanent changeless state of the Self comes about only when you have first realised that everything else changes, explains Sri M.

So now I know that change is constant, everything is changing. How will knowing this help me?

There are many ways this will help you. One is that you no longer grieve or no longer get stuck to something that has moved and passed off. We know that when there is birth, there is death and, therefore, when one does know that it’s inevitably going to happen, that what is here today is going to be not there tomorrow, you’re completely established in this understanding. Then we are no longer worried about it.

When it is there, enjoy it. When it is gone, you say fine, this was inevitable. So, let it go. So, you’re free on one side from clinging to the past and moving forward. Looking at the present and psychological dimension; this is a very useful thing to remember, especially for the young who have to live a long life. They should not get discouraged with the results of what has happened. Work hard with the objective in mind and if the objective is not fulfilled, often we waste a lot of time and hours worrying about it, fretting over it, getting depressed about it. But, if we are completely convinced that everything will change and what is here is bound to go, then we just let it go. Let go and rejoice.

The Upanishad says: “Move forward to what comes next, instead of clinging on to the image, the negative image of what has been lost. That’s on the practical side. The other is, the moment that we know that everything is constantly changing, the enquiring mind will begin to look for something that is not changing; which means the search for something which, if it exists at all, is that which does not change but is forever constant. That search begins when we understand that everything that we know of, everything that the mind knows of, everything that is conveyed to us through our sense organs, is bound to change.”

The moment we are established in this fact, then the question arises—Is there something beyond this? Is there a changeless component to our whole constitution? And the Vedantic answer is—yes! There is. In the deep recesses of our own consciousness, a substance, when I say a substance, it’s not a physical substance, not a padartha; but rather a reality that is not affected by any of these changes, which remains forever, unchanging.

Now, there is an Upanishad called the Mandukya, which discusses the different states of consciousness: “The Jagrat awastha is the waking state that is common to all of us, in which we experience the world. The Swapna awastha is the state of dream, in which we all dream beautiful dreams and ugly nightmares, again common to all human beings. And then, Sushupti or deep sleep is the state in which we forget who we are, where we are and therefore, have no worries.”

If we don’t know where we are or who we are, we don’t even know that we exist, then where is the worry? Nothing affects us. That’s Sushupti—deep sleep. And it’s because of this that human beings live sanely in this world. When he or she sleeps, everything is wiped out for a while, only to be restored when you wake up. So, there are the waking, dream and deep sleep states.

Now, in the dream state, when you are actually dreaming, suppose there is a dragon chasing you and you run for your life. It is so real, so very real, that even when you wake up, you are sweating and your heart is pumping away. Now when you are dreaming, you would not have believed this, if anyone said that it was a dream. But when you woke up, you found that it is a dream.

The Upanishad says, that there is something called Turiya awastha. Now Turiya is that component of consciousness which is a witness to all the states of consciousness.

When you are dreaming, the waking state does not exist. It’s not real and when you are awake, the dream state is not real. But in their respective states, while you are experiencing it, they are real but they are not permanently real. They are relatively real. Not absolutely real and then in deep sleep, of course, the ego is not conscious. So, you don’t see anything.

Now, the Upanishad says, that there is something called Turiya awastha. Now Turiya is that component of consciousness which is a witness to all the states of consciousness. While you are in the waking state or Jagrat awastha, this Turiya was a witness—the sakshi— watching the world, looking at the mind, and seeing everything that’s happening, experiencing everything that’s happening. And, while you are dreaming, again there is a witness that is watching the mind go through the experiences of the dream and in deep sleep, although we think that there is no witness, there is a witness. Why?

When we wake up, we say that was a wonderful sleep. Ah! That was nice. The moment you wake up, actually you still are left with a feeling of peace. So, although at that time, one is not aware, one knows actually deep down, the Turiya knows that one is at rest. Now, Turiya awastha in its complete purity, without any movement whatsoever, is a witness to all the three states of consciousness but is not affected by the changes that take place in these other states of consciousness. So that is the changeless component and that is the true Self, the inner being that the Vedantin seeks. This seeking for the permanent changeless state comes about only when you have first realised that everything else changes.


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