(Interactive session on 09.08.2014)
Keynote address by Asish Kumar Raha

(Other participant speakers: Dr. Debabrata Mukherjee, Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Mr. R.K. Gupta, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Dr. Manisha Mukherjee, Mr. Ashok Sengupta, Dr. Kalyan Chakravarty & Mr. Asim Banerjee)
[Opening song – Ms. Jayanti Dasgupta]


Our three-dimensional phenomenal world of particles and the metaphysical world of consciousness are antithetical or mutually incompatible, prima facie. The former is generally labelled as unconscious, while the latter is governed by consciousness, meaning state of awareness, which is again divided into sub-conscious, conscious and super-conscious. From time immemorial, olden philosophical treatises such as Sankhya, Vedanta, Buddhist, Greek, Abrahamic traditions etc. have sought to resolve the puzzle of the mystical phenomenon called consciousness, sourcing its origin either to Nature (Prakriti) or to God. Recent researches into the same phenomenon by Quantum Physicists and Neurobiologists, though not yet conclusive, have come to preliminary findings that are diametrically opposed to each other and have raised more questions rather than resolving the existing ones. Some fundamental questions that we propose to dwell upon herein are as follows.

The question that confronts us at the very outset is whether consciousness is a natural or a spiritual phenomenon. Secondly, what is the difference between consciousness and super-consciousness? Third, whether there is any synergic or symbiotic relationship between the two worlds, phenomenal and spiritual; and if so, what are the nature, degree and extent of such relationship? Fourth, whether consciousness under dimensional limits is real or illusory, stable or variable? Fifth, whether consciousness is sourced to matter or matter is sourced to consciousness, or both are sourced to some other phenomenon, common or diverse? Lastly, whether our lives and destiny are controlled by a super-conscious entity or nature or by our own consciousness?
Before we dwell upon above posers to find logical answers, let us critically analyse ancient wisdom as also modern scientific researches on the subject.

Sankhya philosophy on consciousness:

“There is no philosophy in the world” says Swami Vivekananda (refer ‘A study of the sankhya philosophy’ in vol.2 of The Complete Works), “that is not indebted to Kapila” (the author of Sankhya philosophy). “Pythagoras came to India and studied this philosophy”, the Swami goes on, “and that was the beginning of the philosophy of the Greeks. Later, it formed the Alexandrian school, and still later, the Gnostic. It became divided into two; one part went to Europe and Alexandria and the other remained in India; and out of this, the system of Vyasa was developed.”

According to Sankhya philosophy, the nature or Prakriti is the cause of everything that exists, including consciousness. To be more precise, Prakriti manifests into Mahat or intelligence which includes not only consciousness but sub-consciousness and super-consciousness as well, among its many other qualities or attributes. From Mahat comes Manas or mind and Aham or universal egoism. What is striking in Sankhya philosophy is that all these so-called qualities such as intelligence, mind and egoism are nothing but matter. From egoism come five sense organs, viz. eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin with their corresponding qualities, as also five Tanmatras, viz. form, fluid, smell, touch and sound and out of the Tanmatras come gross matter viz. earth, water, fire, air and ether.

Prakriti, according to Sankhya, is insentient or Jara. Hence all its derivatives such as intelligence, mind, egoism or even the will, being compounds are also insentient. But when they reflect upon the Chit of the ‘Purusha’, the ‘Purusha’ becomes sentient. The second striking feature of Sankhya philosophy is that the ‘will’ being a compound and, therefore, a derivative of nature or Prakriti cannot be the cause of the creation of that very nature or Prakriti.

The Purusha of Sankhya is not just one but numberless. It is identical with souls, and a simple entity, not a compound and, therefore, immaterial. It is the witness for every work, but unaffected by it, for it is without action and without attributes since all attributes are compounds and the Purusha being outside of nature/Prakriti is not compounds. It is the unity of the Purusha with the Prakriti (the former being the enjoyer) that renders the creation kinetic and dynamic. The Purusha alone is sentient, even though sentiency or consciousness as a compound is a derivative of the nature/Prakriti. Both the Purusha and the Prakriti are omnipresent, without beginning and without end and this co-existence of two infinities without a cause is the third important feature of Sankhya philosophy.
The fourth and the most striking feature of Sankhya philosophy of Kapila is that God is not necessary to create the universe and that nature is self-sufficient to create the universe.

Vedanta as logical corollary to Sankhya:

While Vedanta agrees with Sankhya in its fundamentals that Mahat with all its derivatives including consciousness is a compound or a product of the nature/Prakriti, it differs from Sankhya in that the soul or Atman, called Purusha by Kapila is not infinite in number but just one, being the Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute. In other words, the soul is not just Purusha of but Brahman. Thus while Purusha and Prakriti in Sankhya are two everlasting infinites without a cause, in Vedanta Brahman is the ultimate cause of Purusha and Prakriti.

“According to Vedanta”, to quote Swami Vivekananda, “the three fundamental factors of consciousness are, I exist, I know and I am blessed.” When that supreme awareness gets limited to mortal existence in this phenomenal world, the consciousness becomes a compound or a product of the nature, conditioned by dimensionally limited mind, intelligence and egoism.

Vedanta envisages Universal Purusha or Self, called Ishwara, as the governor of the cosmos as also individual lives and said Ishwara is not subject to the rule of Prakriti. Such being the case, Prakriti cannot be called infinite, in the given proposition that Universal Purusha or Ishwara falls outside its ambit. That Universal Purusha or Self in Advaita (non-dualist) Vedanta is called Brahman in Whom all universes including every particle and every living being are subsumed. In Dvaita (dualist) Vedanta, said Universal Purusha as the governor of the outer cosmos is called Ishwara and as the governor of inner cosmos of living beings is called soul or Atman. In other words, Vedanta postulates that all that exists is Brahman – Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma. Therefore, there is no material difference between soul and matter as the soul pulsates or vibrates in every matter. Therefore, what we find as matter is an illusion, not real, according to Advaita Vedanta.

Consciousness in Greek, Buddhist, Egyptian, Abrahamic and Gnostic traditions
Consciousness in above traditions has been invariably linked to soul and has been generally de-linked from matter. But none of the above traditions has linked human consciousness to God-consciousness like Advaita Vedanta has done.
Greek philosophy owes its parentage to Pythagoras who is also acknowledged as the father of the western scientific tradition. He had spent considerable time in India and Egypt to learn the secret wisdom of the East. He is credited with the teaching of transmigration of soul through successive incarnations and the linking of symbolic properties of mind with the mechanism of the universe. One of his greatest contributions was the notion of the harmony of the spheres that linked inner states of the mind to the celestial spheres. He claimed that he could hear music of the Heaven and visualized the soul in ecstasy. Democritus, another Greek philosopher cum scientist went to the extent of declaring that the soul was composed of the finest atoms and that at death soul molecules detach themselves from the corpse. He attributed all mental activities to the atomic particles, just like Kapila. Socrates who left no writings of his own was reputed to be the greatest Greek philosopher and was also known as an explorer of consciousness who bridged the gap between the spirit and the intellect. He subscribed to the theory of reincarnation. Plato, the well known disciple of Socrates, described this world as the shadow of the reality. Like Pythagoras and Socrates, he subscribed to the theory of reincarnation and out of body consciousness.

In Buddhist philosophy, consciousness is termed as Vinnana or Vijnana in Sanskrit. Vinnana arises from five material sense bases which are eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, while the sixth sense base is mind. Buddhism, therefore, has envisaged six types of consciousness. Vinnana causes craving (tanha) and craving causes suffering. Therefore, one should not be attached to Vinnana. In Cetana Sutta (Awareness Discourse) the Buddha proclaimed as follows: “Bhikkus, what one intends, plans or is inclined toward, becomes a basis for consciousness. When consciousness is established, and grows, it leads to renewed existence, future birth, ageing and death, sorrow, pain, lamentation and despair. Thus the whole mass of suffering takes its root.” In Anguttara Nikaya discourse the Buddha lucidly explained his concept of consciousness as follows:
[Ananda:] “One speaks, Lord, of ‘becoming’. How does becoming take place?”
[Buddha:] “… Ānanda, kamma (action) is the field, consciousness the seed and craving the moisture for consciousness of beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving to become established in. Thus, there is re-becoming in the future.”
It can thus be seen that though Buddhist philosophical background is cast in the mould of Sankhya and Vedanta, by identifying consciousness as the root of suffering, it has drifted from the Vedantic postulate of Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma. Like Sankhya, Buddhist philosophy does not consider God as essential for creation of the universe.

Egyptian concept of consciousness revolves around Ka or the double residing inside the body and Ba, the main soul element. Both, according to Egyptian philosophy, are conscious and capable of independent thought. Both merge after the death through the machination of Akh after the Judgment. Egyptian belief in the likelihood of re-animation of the body (Khat) after death and consequent mummification of the dead body so as to enable its re-animation has made its philosophy rather mundane and worldly.
Abrahamic tradition that generally subscribes to single life existence till resurrection after the Judgment Day has its theory of consciousness centred on the experience of that single life based on which God will evaluate every individual on the Judgment Day. Consciousness, in this tradition is, therefore, necessarily body-centric.

The philosophy of Gnosticism (the word came from the Greek word Gnosis meaning knowledge or insight) came to be widely known in the 1st and 2nd century A.D. It was Platonic in the beginning as it drew its inspiration from Plato’s concept of two conflicting world souls – one rational, doing good only and the other irrational, doing just the opposite. While the cosmic soul is in the state of being and unchanging or the ideal, the irrational soul is represented by the matter and is in a constant state of flux, or becoming. It is for the rational soul to control the irrational soul. Gnostic philosophy, however, holds this material cosmos as an error on the part of the supra-cosmic being called Sophia (Wisdom) in fulfilment of a reckless desire to know the transcendental God, One beyond Being. In the process, Sophia created a semi-divine being called demiurge who in turn created this imperfect world. Thus Gnostics reject this world as a product of error and ignorance, a failed experiment that produces only sufferings and dejection. Later, on the question of possible salvation from the bondage of the irrational soul, they came under the influence of the Christian thought that God had sent His only son to suffer and die for the sins of all mankind so as to make possible the salvation of mankind. One of the well-known Gnostics was Ptolemy (140 C.E) who interpreted the desire of Sophia to know her Father as the desire to dissolve herself inasmuch as after knowing the Father she would no longer exist as a separate entity. This was precisely the reason why the Father rejected her desire. Gnostic philosophy conceived of three classes of human beings: material, animate and spiritual with their levels of consciousness varying widely. The material level of consciousness is non-intellectual centring on material comforts that are perishable, while animate consciousness is ritualistic with limited concept of God. Spiritual consciousness, according to Gnostics, needs no faith, as they know the reality and receive protection from nature.

Quantum physics and consciousness:

Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest living quantum physicist, in chapter two of his book ‘The Grand Design’ has raised serious doubt as to whether man possesses free will. In his words, “It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behaviour is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.” He has based his above observation on recent experiments in neuroscience that have led to the finding that by electrically stimulating the brain, one could create a desire in a patient to move his/her hand, arm or foot or to move the lips and talk. He goes on to say in the last chapter of his book under the same caption viz. ‘The Grand Design’: “We cannot solve exactly the equations for three or more particles interacting with each other”. Hence, we are just not in a position to predict action of a human being, containing a thousand trillion, trillion particles so as to prove that it is actually a robot, having no free will/consciousness. Thus owing to our inability to do the calculations so as to predict actions of a human being, we concede, according to Hawking, that any complex being has free will (though in reality they do not have). It is thus patently clear that quantum physicists like Stephen Hawking are reluctant to accept the phenomenon like consciousness or free will for the simple reason that all these are governed by brain and not independent of it.

Secondly, Hawking is firmly of the view that since there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. The universe in the beginning was as small as the Planck size, a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre from which it expanded by the law of gravity as if “a coin 1 centimetre in diameter suddenly blew up to ten million times the width of the Milky Way”. And this was possible because of the principle that gravity warps space and time. Based on the above phenomenon of quantum physics Hawking concluded that “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

While to Hawkins consciousness is nothing more than an accidental byproduct of laws of physics, to David Bohm, another well-known quantum physicist (refer: The Undivided Universe: An ontological interpretation of quantum theory), consciousness is rooted deep in the implicate order, and is, therefore, present to some degree in all material forms. In his words: “everything material is also mental and everything mental is also material, but there are many more infinitely subtle levels of matter than we are aware of”. “”It could equally well be called idealism, spirit, consciousness. The separation of the two – matter and spirit – is an abstraction. The ground is always one.”

Hawking’s observation that God is not necessary for the creation of universes, is strikingly similar to the essence of the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila. His other findings that man has no free will and his action is governed by laws of nature (Prakriti of Sankhya & Vedanta) agree in substance with the philosophy of Sankhya and are also akin to the revelation of Sri Krishna in verse 27, chapter 3 of the Gita as follows:

“All action is universally engendered by the attributes (Gunas) of primordial nature (Prakriti). A man whose self is deluded by ego thinks, ‘I am the doer’.”

Neurobiological explanation:

Latest neurobiological researchers like Nobel Laureate Sir John Eccles (refer: How the Self Controls its Brain) and Stem Cell researchers like Robert Lanza (refer: Biocentrism) have a scientific explanation for consciousness and super-conscious phenomena. Sir John Eccles and Robert Lanza speak of a mental world in addition to the material world and hold that our mind or consciousness acts on the brain at the quantum level. To them, the mind is not only nonphysical, but non-material and non-substantial, while brain is just the opposite. Life/consciousness, according to them, plays a central role in creating the cosmos instead of the other way round. The perspective of our study of universes, therefore, ought to be switched from physics to biology, with emphasis on consciousness that governs the matter.

There are two physical phenomena that have so far defied known principles of Quantum Physics – viz. wave function of particles and quantum entanglement. Those two physical phenomena, in fact, hold the key to our study of consciousness and super-consciousness.
As for the first phenomenon, experiments have revealed that electrons behave differently when observed by a human. When not so observed, the electron behaves like a wave. When observed, it behaves like a particle. This change in behavioural pattern would suggest that the electron is aware, just like the human, whether it is being observed or not. Neurobiologists have taken the above finding of Quantum Physicists to a different level for explaining out-of-body experience (OBE) and near-death experience (NDE) while the body is in an anaesthetized or inactive state. In that state consciousness remains dis-embodied, and the subject observes events from outside the body. After returning to normal sense, the person can relate what his/her consciousness observed and heard from an out of body location. According to Susan Greenfield, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and Professor of Physics at Gresham College, London, none has yet pointed to a single event that occurs in awake but not in anaesthetized brain. Experiments have also shown, as stated by John Eccles, that consciousness leaves a dying person, floats around observing things and later attach itself to an unborn foetus to start a new existence. Consciousness, therefore, has been classified by neuro-biologists like Eccles as a non-material entity and not a property of brain. It is similar to electron in behaviour. While the electrons in the brain behave as particles, it prevents consciousness from realizing that it is part of a whole. When the electrons behave as a wave, the consciousness becomes aware of its existence outside the mind and body, as a part of the larger whole. When the wave function collapses, consciousness returns to the physical body to become entangled just like the electron. This is known as double slit experiment with electron in quantum physics, which has been applied by neuro-biologists to consciousness. Experiment has further revealed that the dis-embodied consciousness possesses visual, auditory, and olfactory senses and experiences a new perception of reality outside of one’s self, I-ness, or oneness. When the person becomes self-conscious, the wave function collapses and the electron changes from wave to particle preventing the person from being aware of his/her larger self or existence as part of the whole.

This out-of-body consciousness can be achieved by a person through meditation when he/she gets eventually merged like a wave with the larger Whole, transcending the limit of time and space. In that state, his super-conscious mind may become capable of controlling the matter/nature and performing miracle. While in a state of meditation, mind is withdrawn from material world setting the particles into wave motion. In that state, if anybody touches the body of the meditator, he is likely to feel an electric shock, as has been experienced and recounted by a person who touched Swami Vivekananda (then Narendra Nath) while the latter was in deep meditation.

The second phenomenon defying scientific explanation is known as Quantum Entanglement of two particles that interact with each other almost instantaneously and certainly at a speed much faster than light, irrespective of distance. This is known as Nonlocality or ‘super-nonlocality’ as Bohm would describe it, which provides an explanation for telepathy, teleportation and clairvoyance.

We have received corroboration of the existence of dis-embodied consciousness from the book of Dr. Raymond Moody, an American heart surgeon, titled ‘Life after Life’. In his book he has recorded out-of-body experiences of some of his patients during the course of heart surgery. Further corroboration is available from the writings of past life regression therapists like Dr. Brian Weiss, suggesting that human brain does not only contain current life memory but also memory of several past lives.

Jill Bolte Taylor episode – the poser:

Ms. Jill Bolte Taylor (b.1959), an American neuro-anatomist and the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Centre, experienced a stroke on December 10, 1996, and underwent a major brain surgery on December 27, 1996, at Massachusetts General Hospital to remove a golf ball sized clot in the left hemisphere of her brain. She recorded her experience during the stroke and subsequent period of recovery in her sensational best-selling book ‘My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey’, published in 2008.
Her poser to self and humanity based on her experience during the period when left hemisphere of her brain was practically non-functional is as follows:
“We have two magnificent information-processing machines inside our heads. Our right mind focuses on our similarities, the present moment, inflection of voice, and the bigger picture of how we are all connected. Because it focuses on our similarities, in my mind she is compassionate, expansive, open, and supportive of others. Juxtaposed to that, our left brain thinks linearly, creates and understands language, defines the boundaries of where we begin and where we end, judges what is right and wrong and is a master of details, details and more details about those details. Because it focuses on our differences and specializes in critical judgment of those unlike ourselves, our left brain character tends to be our source of bigotry, prejudice, and fear or hate of the unfamiliar.” Her poser to humanity is quite pertinent: “So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here, right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where we are. I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the ‘we’ inside of me. Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when?”
While it is difficult at this point of time to validate her substantive finding about diametrically opposite functions and characters of two hemispheres of human brain, her finding that the human brain contains ‘I’-ness as well as universality is in conformity not only with neurobiological endorsement of disembodied consciousness, but also with the quantum theory of dual character of electrons, one as a particle representing individuality and the other as a wave representing universality.

Explanation of super-consciousness by Sri Aurobindo & Swami Yogananda

It is two great yogis of 20th century, viz. Swami Yogananda and Sri Aurobindo, who have explained super-consciousness most lucidly and also how it can be accessed through yoga.

Shri Aurobindo:

The whole effort of Sri Aurobindo and after his demise by the Mother was focused on the descent of Super-mind (or super-consciousness) into the earth-consciousness. In his magnum opus ‘The Life Divine’ Sri Aurobindo has described spiritual mind at four levels, viz. Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition and Over- Mind, in that order. According to him, our first decisive step in spiritual journey is an ascent into a Higher Mind which brings a large clarity of spirit. Its basic substance is a Unitarian sense of being. “It is a luminous thought-mind, a mind of Spirit-born conceptual knowledge.”

Our next ascent is into Illumined Mind, which in Sri Aurobindo’s words is “a Mind no longer of higher thought, but of spiritual light.” This light, according to him, is not a material creation, but primarily a spiritual manifestation of the Divine Reality, illuminative and creative. “The illumined Mind does not work primarily by thought, but by vision; thought is here only a subordinate movement expressive of sight (ref. The Life Divine, page 944).

The next level of ascent is into Intuition which is “a power of consciousness nearer and more intimate to the original knowledge of identity; for it is always something that leaps out direct from a concealed identity. It is when the consciousness of the subject meets with the consciousness of the object; penetrates it and sees, feels or vibrates with the truth of what it contacts, that the intuition leaps out like a spark or lightening-flash from the shock of the meeting.” “Its rays are not separated but connected or massed together in a play of waves of what might almost be called in the Sanskrit poetic figure a sea or mass of ‘stable lightening’.” (ref. The Life Divine, pp.946-47).

The next ascent of mind is into the Over-mind which is “a power of cosmic consciousness, a principle of global knowledge which carries in it a delegated light from the Supramental Gnosis.” “When the Over-mind descends, the predominance of the centralising ego-sense is entirely subordinated, lost in largeness of being and finally abolished; a wide cosmic perception and feeling of a boundless universal self and movement replaces it.” This sense of cosmic delight, according to him, “is not confined to the person or the body but can be felt at all points in an unlimited consciousness of unity which pervades everywhere.” (ibid, pp 950-51)

The final ascent of mind is to get merged into the Supramental. It goes to the credit of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who thought of and strived for the descent of the supramental into this earth-existence rather than their own ascent. As for the descent of the Supramental, he wrote to a disciple: “But in its nature the Descent (of the Supermind) is not something arbitrary nd miraculous but a rapid evolutionary process compressed into a few years. That cannot be done in the whole world at a time, but it is done like all such processes, first through selected Adharas and then on a wider scale. We have to do it through ourselves (himself and the Mother) first and through the circle of Sadhaks gathered around us in the terrestrial consciousness as typified there. If a few open, that is sufficient for the process to be possible.” (Overman – by Georges Van Vrekhem, pp 117-18).

Swami Yogananda:

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Swami Yogananda has explained the science of Kriya Yoga as follows. One of the fundamental principles of science that no material body whose mass increases with its velocity, can ever attain the velocity of light, viz. 1, 86,300 miles per second. Only a material body with infinite mass could equal, if not exceed the velocity of light. This principle, according to Yogananda (refer Autobiography of a Yogi – Chapter 30: The Law of Miracles) is the cornerstone of miracles. In his words: “Masters who are able to materialize and dematerialize their bodies and other objects, and to move with the velocity of light, and to use the creative light rays in bringing into instant visibility any physical manifestation, have fulfilled the lawful condition; their mass is infinite.” The law of gravitation obviously has no effect on such master who is able to transform his body into weight-less infinite mass with a sense of identity with the Supramental or Pure Consciousness – ‘I am He’ (Sohaham). Free from matter-consciousness of three space dimensions and the fourth dimension of time, the Yogi transfers his body of light with equal ease over or through the light rays of earth, water, fire and air. It is thus that a Yogi can walk on water or through fire, or fly.

“The law of miracles is operable by any man,” says Yogananda, “who has realized that the essence of creation is light….. The actual form of the projection (whatever it be: a tree, a medicine, a human body) is determined by the Yogi’s wish and by his power of will and of visualization” (ibid).

The Yoga, by practising which the Yogi is able to transform his gross body into subtle body of light, or can separate his subtle body from his gross body, is known as the Kriya Yoga. Sri Krishna spoke of this Yoga to Arjuna, several millenniums ago (refer Chapter IV, verse 29, and Chapter V, verses 27-28 of Bhagavad Gita). Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras mentioned Kriya Yoga twice. It is said that one thousand Kriyas practiced in 8.5 hours gives the Yogi in one day the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution, and 3,65,000 years of evolution in one year. “The body of the average man is like a fifty-watt lamp,” writes Yogananda (ibid), “which cannot accommodate the billion watts of power roused by an excessive practice of Kriya.” Through regular practice and gradual increase, by reversing the flow of life energy from the outward world to the inner cosmos, the Yogi’s body and brain cells get re-vitalized by a spiritual elixir. He finally becomes master of his body and mind, fit to express the infinite potentials of cosmic energy, and achieves victory over the last enemy – Death (implying that the soul continues in body as long as the Yogi wills).

The following two anecdotes from Swami Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi are recounted to explain the phenomenon of super-consciousness. The first anecdote is taken from chapter 14 titled ‘An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness’ and the second one from chapter 39 titled ‘Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist’. In the first incident, in his early days of celibacy prior to monkhood when in his Master Sri Yukteswar’s abode young Mukunda (Swami Yogananda’s earlier name) was trying in futility to meditate, his Master understood his restive mind and just struck gently on his chest above the heart. What he experienced thereafter has been recounted in following words: “My body became immovably rooted, breath was drawn out of my lungs as if by some huge magnet. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid piercing light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead, yet in my intense awareness, I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery. The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap…….The creative voice of God I heard resounding as Aum, the vibration of the cosmic motor.”

The second anecdote related to the Swami’s yogic interface with a Catholic mystic of Bavaria, named Therese Neumann, who since 1923 abstained completely from food and drinks and on every Friday since 1926 was believed to have been experiencing in her own body the stigmata or sacred wounds of Christ (from crucifixion). On a Friday in July, 1935, the Swami visited the saint of Bavaria primarily to test whether her stigmata was genuine or self-inflicted. As he entered her cottage, he put himself in a yogic trance in order to attain telepathic and televisional rapport with her. In attunement with her, the Swami could clearly see the scenes of her vision, viz. that she was watching Jesus as carrying the timbers of the Cross amid the jeering multitude. The Swami could also see though her vision that the Lord had fallen under the cruel weight. From the above instance it would transpire that a yogi can extend his consciousness to another person to experience what that person has been going through.


Our studies from philosophical, scientific and yogic perspectives strongly suggest that consciousness as a phenomenon is distinctive from brain inasmuch as brain necessarily co-exists with a living body while dis-embodied consciousness as a phenomenon is now accepted by eminent bio-scientists after intensive researches (refer to our discussion above, under the caption ‘Neuro-biological explanation’). However, several questions as have been briefly stated in the Introduction still need to be answered in our concluding remarks. In this context, readers may refer to the concluding remarks of our earlier post on ‘Spirit World’ (Feb. 7, 2014) wherein anecdotal references have been made to establish that consciousness survives death. For the sake of brevity, we are avoiding reiteration. Let us now address the posers made in the Introduction.

1) Whether consciousness is a natural or spiritual phenomenon?

Consciousness in the sense we understand the term in association with human brain is a natural phenomenon. Whether it is philosophical tradition of Sankhya, Vedanta, Buddhists, the Greeks, or the Gnostics, or the views of quantum physicists, bio-scientists or the great yogis of present time, we find a general agreement on the point that consciousness is caused by a conglomeration of particles that form the two hemispheres of our brain, irrespective of whether constituent particles causing consciousness leave the brain temporarily or permanently (when a person is dead).

2) What is the difference between consciousness and super-consciousness?

Once our conclusion is that consciousness is a natural phenomenon, it logically leads to the inference that nature being the source of consciousness is potentially conscious. Indian philosophical traditions of both Sankhya and Vedanta, however, make a distinction between the terms sentiency (consciousness) and sentient (conscious), or in other words, between ‘potentially conscious’ and ‘actually conscious’. Briefly stated, traditional philosophical view is that though nature is the source of sentiency (consciousness) it is not sentient (conscious) all by itself, till it comes in contact with the Purusha (soul). On the other hand, Purusha (soul) is sentient without possessing sentiency which comes from Prakriti (nature). It will thus be seen that Purusha (the soul) and Prakriti (nature) are inter-dependent and complementary to each other for manifestation of this sentient world of particles, the highest manifestation of which is man. Thus neither the Purusha, nor the Prakriti is self-sufficient for the creation of this sentient universe. This being the case, the Vedanta, unlike Sankhya, says that both Purusha and Prakriti ought to be sourced to an ultimate powerhouse who is Brahman or God, described as Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute (Sat-Chit-Ananda). Super-consciousness conceptually provides the all-important link to sentient souls to reach or perceive Brahman (God). Super-consciousness thus is not an attribute of either the nature (Pakriti) or the soul (Purusha) but flows from Brahman or God to pervade the universe.
As God is not subject of research by scientists, whether quantum physicists or bio-scientists, super-consciousness is looked upon as dis-embodied consciousness only and nothing beyond.

3) Whether any relationship exists between phenomenal & spiritual worlds?

According to yogic tradition prevailing all over the world, there is a link between the phenomenal and spiritual worlds through the medium of consciousness. Current findings of bio-scientists like Sir John Eccles, Robert Lanza etc., heart surgeons like Dr. Raymond Moody and psychotherapists like Dr. Brian Weiss tend to validate the yogic postulates as have been expounded in Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo and in Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Yogananda.

4) Whether 3 dimensional consciousness is real or illusory?

Just as a single or a 2-dimensional creature cannot appreciate or envision the 3-dimensional world, our consciousness bound by our dimensional limits is not expected to lead us to the reality of multi-dimensional universes (according to M-theory, there are 12 dimensions and 10 to the power of 500 universes in all). Thus what we see or experience with our sense organs is in all likelihood fractured or distorted. As Swami Vivekananda observed, if we humans had one more sense organ, the whole world would have looked different.

According to the Advaita (non-dualist) Vedanta, the entire world is a Maya or illusion. There is no existence except Brahman (God). It is God that evolves and involves. When IT evolves, Big Bang like expansion with the primordial sound ‘Aum’ happens. At the time of ITS involution/dissolution, Big Crunch will result and all the creations will shrink back into their ultimate source. This evolution and involution go on cyclically. This, according to Vedantic tradition, is the ultimate reality, and the rest illusory. A logical corollary deduced from the above postulate is that the consciousness that helps in uniting souls is real and the one that divides is unreal. Love unites. Therefore, love helps in perception of the reality. Hatred divides. Therefore, hatred drifts us from the reality.

5) Whether consciousness is caused by nature or super-conscious?

We have answered this poser substantially in response to the very first poser itself. Super-conscious is the ultimate and not the immediate cause of our consciousness. Immediate cause of our consciousness is nature (Prakriti) as our 3-dimensional consciousness, whether embodied or dis-embodied, is made up of particles. As nature itself is caused by super-consciousness, we may term it philosophically as the ultimate cause of the universe, not the proximate one. The yoga is all about finding and uniting individual soul with the super-conscious through austerity and meditation.

6) Whether we are controlled by our consciousness, nature, or the super-conscious?

Do we make our own destiny or it is governed by the super-conscious? It is not easy to find an answer to this. Stephen Hawking would have us believe that we are no better than robot, controlled entirely by laws of nature. Sri Krishna in verse 27, chapter 3 of the Bhagvat Gita had conveyed to us almost the same message:

“All action is universally engendered by the attributes (Gunas) of primordial nature (Prakriti). A man whose self is deluded by ego thinks, ‘I am the doer’.”

Now the question is, to what extent our destiny is pre-determined. According to the Vedanta, Upanishads as also Buddhism, our destiny is substantially pre-determined by our past karma (action). In other words, our life is virtually programmed. The question is, whether our destiny is programmed by laws of nature randomly as proposed by Stephen Hawking, or judgmentally with reference to our past action/deeds by the mandate of the super-conscious. More importantly, whether there is any scope for discretion in our action or whether our action like our destiny is also programmed.

As for random programming of our destiny, it simply does not appeal to our rational mind, even while accepting for argument’s sake that we are no better than robots. Robots are pre-programmed, and there is a rational mind behind every programming. As a matter of fact, every natural phenomenon such as rain, earthquake, drought or volcanic eruption has a causal connection and, therefore, each such phenomenon can be logically explained and is also predictable. There is no reason why the same logic would not apply to the destiny of human beings. It would stand to logic to think, therefore, that whatever happens to an individual has a causal connection to his Karma or past deed. There is no wonder, therefore, that the destiny of a man should also be predictable, subject to our proficiency to know and decode the causal link.

Let us now turn to the last follow-up poser, viz. whether our action is also pre-determined. The answer is an emphatic NO. If our action is pre-determined, surely we cannot suffer its consequence logically. If a man is programmed to rob or steal, obviously he does not deserve punishment for robbery or theft. This would lead us to the inference that our action is not pre-determined though our fate or destiny is. The above inference finds support from the pronouncement of Sri Krishna in verse 47, chapter 2 of the Bhagvat Gita:

“Your right is for the action alone, not for the results.”

A question may arise whether there is any contradiction between the verse 27 of chapter 3 of the Bhagvat Gita, that says “I am the doer” concept is a self-delusion, and verse 47 of chapter 2 ibid that says that we have a right for action. As a matter of fact, the perspectives of the above two statements were entirely different. While verse 27 of chapter 3 was essentially a statement made in the cosmic perspective of the Sankhya philosophy delineating the role of the Purusha and the Prakriti, the verse 47 of chapter 2 was in the worldly perspective explaining the role of destiny vis-a-vis Karma (action). We, therefore, do not see any contradiction between the above two statements.
In sum, therefore, our action determines our destiny by the law of the super-conscious. Hence, our action is not programmed, though it may be influenced by several constraints or compulsions caused by our past action or deeds.

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  1. RKGupta says:

    First of all my deep appreciation for all the speakers and specially Mr. Raha for such a well researched, well comprehended and eloquently presented thoughts on the subject, which is not only very interesting but a complex subject requiring a deep insight to understand and comprehend it.
    By very nature, the topic Consciousness and Super-consciousness involves comparison between consciousness and super-consciousness. But before this comparison is made, it would be important to understand what is meant by consciousness? Once consciousness is understood, super-consciousness could be easily understood, as super-consciousness, in my opinion is only a higher level of consciousness.
    My intention here is to discuss the subject more from the philosophical point of view. Philosophically when we talk of consciousness, there is an element of putting consciousness in juxtaposition to matter or the non-living things. Scientists associate consciousness with intelligence and for them living being possessed intelligence, which the non-living things did not. According to scriptures, however, consciousness is the characteristic quality of the soul. Scriptures consider soul, Supreme Soul or the Creator, by whatever name one may call, as the storehouse of all consciousness and the universe having been created by the Creator by a mere thought. According to scriptures, whether the Bible, the Qur’an or the Hindu scriptures, in the beginning it was only the Creator, from whom the entire creation has manifested. The Holy Bible in Genesis, Chapter1, mentions of the heaven and earth and the various creatures, having been created by the God in six days. Similarly, the Holy Qur’an mentions that the God is the creator of all; He is the Lord of all and that everything will return to Him (36:79-83). Hindu scriptures, of course give vivid description of the process of creation, starting from the ‘Mahtatva’ (‘Chitta’ or the faculty of thought), Prakriti (Nature) and ‘Kaal’ (time) and the periodical creation and dissolution of the universe. It is the Kaal that sets in the process of differentiation, movement, action and ultimately dissolution of everything in its essence.
    According to the scriptural description of the process of creation, it is the soul that expresses itself in the form of consciousness, which in turn manifests in the form of thought. In the living beings the thought first manifests in the form of ego i.e., their individual existence or the feeling of being separate from others. The very fact that something exists implies that it has an individual identity. In other words different beings exist because of the feeling of their individual consciousness or the feeling of being distinct from the others. Thus, the very basis of existence is the individual consciousness, which occupies the highest place in the order of creation. Beyond the consciousness, it is the soul, which is the essence of all essences and according to scriptures inexplicable, being beyond human perception.
    Prakriti (Nature) is the collective name of the three modes of Nature or the threefold energy (Trigunas) i.e., the Preservative energy (the Satvik energy or the Satoguna), the Creative energy (the Rajas energy or the Rajoguna) and the Dissolution energy (the Tamasik energy or the Tamoguna), which originate from the Mahatatva (Chitta or thought) and is the next level of manifestation and finally it is the matter, which manifests last in the process of creation. The process of creation thus starts with soul expressing itself as consciousness, which in turn manifests as thought, thought in turn manifests as energy and energy manifests in the form of matter. In fact, it is condensation of consciousness, which reflects as thought and similarly condensation of thought reflects as energy and condensation of energy as matter. The fact that strength lies in the mind supports the view that energy emanates from thought and the big-bang theory and the God-particle experiments lend support to the fact that all the matter has emanated from energy.
    Consciousness thus pervades everything in the universe, whether living or non-living. From the philosophical point of view, it is not matter or pattern of association of matter that results in consciousness but it is the other way round, consciousness resulting in thought, thought giving rise to energy and energy giving rise to matter. The entire existence possesses all the four dimensions of existence i.e., consciousness, thought, energy and matter. Their levels, however, differ in different beings. In the case of living beings the level of consciousness and the capability to think, which can be expressed as freedom to choose a particular course of action, is much higher than the non-living beings. The man being at the apex of the animal kingdom possesses the highest level of consciousness and freedom of action. In the animals and plants, the level of consciousness and freedom to choose a particular course of action keeps on declining and their capability to act also is restricted. In the case of non-living beings, they also do possess consciousness and thought but the level of consciousness and thought is extremely low. Inert material also has a life, which is proved from the fact that it starts deteriorating and becomes useless in that form after some time, though that time period may be much longer, as compared to the life span of the living creatures. Metal fatigue is an example of material’s capability to react and respond, which is a sign of some sort of intelligence or power to think.
    Energy is expressed as the power to act. Living beings and non-living beings all possess energy. Non-living beings, which are looked upon as matter alone do possess energy; conversion of matter into energy is a day-to-day experience like generating heat by burning coal. The power of inanimate to act or to respond is, however, restricted, manifesting only under certain conditions but they do act and respond, which is what may be called an expression of consciousness. Coal burns on heating and similarly some chemicals react with others under certain conditions. Essentially, therefore, there is no fundamental difference between all that exists in the universe. The prominence of different dimensions of existence makes them to appear differently. The differentiation between living and non-living beings is mainly from our own perspective and is surely not an absolute differentiation.
    Coming to the question of consciousness and super-consciousness, which in my opinion is only a matter of degree, it would be interesting to understand the philosophical aspect of life and consciousness. As mentioned above, soul (Supreme Soul or the Creator, by whatever name one may like to call) is the storehouse of all consciousness. In the process of creation, it was this characteristic attribute of soul, the consciousness, which spread like a boundless ocean and this was the highest state of consciousness.
    Consciousness, as has been mentioned by the learned speakers is ‘awareness’. The question is awareness about what? Philosophically the highest and the most important is the awareness about the self. Man knows the value of everything but not of his own ‘self’. Philosophically, therefore, consciousness is the craving to know the truth of the existence of self or in other words the truth of the consciousness and to whom it belongs? At the highest level of consciousness, it was known that it was an attribute of the soul and that it belonged to the soul but at lower levels, the focus of consciousness shifts to mind and the physical body, forgetting that it is an attribute of the Truth. To understand it better, understanding of the process of creation would be useful.
    The creation required two things to interact in order that a third thing could be created. It may be mentioned here that everything has manifested from a state of ‘non-beingness’. Non-beingness is not to be understood as nothing or void but a state before the manifestation of creation, as we understand it, took place.
    Sant Kabir mentions Nirat, Surat and Shabda as the three primordial States of Being or the three states of the Truth. ‘Nirat’ is a distortion of the word ‘Nritya’, which means dance or movement. In the spiritual context, Nirat is the power of the soul that awakens the ‘Surat’ i.e. the consciousness and leads it to move on to the higher realms. This is the power of the thought, the determination, which awakens the consciousness. ‘Surat’ means consciousness and the power that guides consciousness is referred to as ‘Nirat’. Unless Nirat is activated Surat cannot move ahead.
    An example of a child would be apt to understand the meaning of activating the Nirat. The child has consciousness and he utters some words, which do not carry any meaning. His Nirat has not been activated so far. He is now gradually trained to utter meaningful words such as mother, father, water, milk etc. The child at this stage does not know what these words mean. He is then trained to understand the meaning of these words. This is activation of the Nirat. Once the Nirat is activated, it guides the consciousness to understand the true meaning of these words. It is important to note that the mother uses the words to activate the Nirat of the child. It is thus through the word that Nirat is activated and then the consciousness is guided to understand the word and to reach its objective. In the context of spirituality, it is the Satguru (the true spiritual Master), who activates the Nirat for the seeker in order that he can engage the ‘Surat’ with the ‘Shabda’. The scriptures mention it in no uncertain terms that it is the Satguru who arouses the determination-the thought-lights the lamp in the heart of the disciple and keeps it burning so that the disciple in that light attains his goal. Consider the couplet below:
    ‘Guru Saman Data Nahi, Yachak Shishya Saman,
    Tin Lok Ki Samapda, Pal Main Dinhi Daan’
    (There is no greater benefactor than the Master, who gives away all the treasures of the world to his disciple in a moment. The master gives this treasure in the form of Shabda by transmitting the Shabda from his heart to the heart of the disciple. The Shabda is invaluable, as the entire world has been created from the Shabda.)
    The soul is the treasure house of all consciousness but in the initial stages of manifestation, however, the Nirat, Surat and Shabda all were in a hidden state. Nirat, Surat and Shabda are all the characteristic attributes of the soul.
    In the process of manifestation, the ‘Nirat’, which was so far in a hidden state was activated but still both Surat and Shabda were in hidden state. Nirat in turn first awakened the ‘Shabda’ and then the ‘Surat’.
    The highest state of ‘Shabda’ is ‘Saarshabda’. The ‘Shabda’ was the immediate principle or cause for the creation of Aakash (ether) and all other gross elements. The ‘Saarshabda’ on the other hand is the reflection of the Primordial Determination, the desire of the God, in all that has originated from Him. It is like the genes carrying the memory of the forefathers; the ‘Saarshabda’ exists in the entire creation, gross, subtle or causal, as the reflection of the Truth from which everything has originated. The ‘Saarshabda’ is the essential remembrance of the Highest Truth. Even in our day-to-day experience when we speak any word it leads us to recollect that thing in our memory to which it is associated, be it the name of a person or a thing. The words are immediately related to things. If a person needs help to find something, the first question he is asked is what is it that he is looking for? What is the name of that thing? The name helps in identifying that thing and it can lead one to that thing. Similarly the ‘Saarshabda’ is related to the remembrance of our essence, which is the Essence of the God and it is this remembrance i.e. the ‘Saarshabda’ alone that can lead us back to the Truth. The ‘Nirat’ awakens the ‘Surat’ (consciousness) to this essential remembrance of its Origin ‘Saarshabda’ in order that it can lead back to the Origin. Once the ‘Surat’ gets turned on to the ‘Shabda’ it gradually becomes one with it and effortlessly traces back its Origin, the Truth.
    The entire creation is based on Surat and Shabda. While the capability of expanding and manifesting existed only in Surat, it exhibited its presence in the form of Shabda. Sant Kabir has explained the different states of existence in terms of ‘Surat’ and ‘Shabda’. While ‘Surat’ is the consciousness i.e. the attentive power of the soul, ‘Shabda’ is ‘word’, about which the Bible says: ‘In the beginning there was the word, the word was with the God and the word was the God’. Shabda (vibration), the Tanmatra or the latent principle of which is Aakash-the space, gave rise to the other elements namely, Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jal (water) and Prithvi (the earth) and the entire creation being made of these five elements, the Surat and Shabda are the source of all material creation. The entire creation has thus originated from the interaction between conscience and the matter.
    In the context of the creation of human beings, the entire Cosmos is reflected in the human aggregate in the form of the spiritual Chakras. In the process of descent to the human body, the soul is believed to have first alighted at the Brahmarandhra from where it descended and rested at other spiritual centers, ultimately spreading to all the cells in the body. The Sushumana Nadi (nerve), which originates from the heart, goes up to Brahmarandhra. The tenth chapter of Srimad Bhagwat Mahapuran mentions this path (from heart to Brahmarandhra) as the one “followed by the Seers belonging to the lineage of the Sun (Arun-Vanshi) to realise the Truth. One, who gets an access to this lighted path and moves forward on it, does not then fall in the trap of life and death”.
    Brahmarandhra (the state of soul-Jeevatma at this Chakra) is the state of the merger of the Shabda and Surat into one. Prior to this state the souls (Jeevatma) were full of consciousness and the Shabda and Surat existed separately. The souls above this state being full of consciousness, they were not required to associate with Shabda, as they lacked nothing and hence the Shabda was not required to associate with the Surat. This consciousness of the soul was that of its origin i.e. the Truth. Once this state of full consciousness was lost, it required the Shabda to lead it back to the state of full consciousness. It is the Shabda-more appropriately the Jikr-vibration (the essential remembrance of the Truth-Anahat Nad), which is flowing in the body of every single living creature by the necessity of their breath-even without will-as a sign of obedience, which is part of their creation that leads back the consciousness to its Origin. This Jikr is occurring in every cell of the living creatures and even in all non-living beings. In living beings and more importantly in human beings, who are blessed with evolved spiritual Chakras, this Jikr occurs more profoundly at these Chakras.
    All the spiritual Chakras (or the Lokas) from the Brahmarandhra to the lowest, the Mooladhar Chakra, are located in the human body. It may, however, be mentioned that these spiritual Chakras or centers of spiritual energy cannot be identified as any particular organ in the human body or in their physical form, but they are located in the human body in their subtle form as centers of energy.
    The Shabda and Surat separated at the ‘Third Void’ (one of the spiritual chakras; it is believed there are spiritual chakras in the form of seven voids in between the Brahmarandhra and the Agya Chakra, sahstradalkamal being the first void), which is divided in ‘Mahashunya’ and ‘Shunya’. The spiritual Chakra known, as Mahashunya is the last conscious state of the soul, below which it takes the form of ‘Jeeva’ i.e. the embodied soul (Jeevatma), the one craving for life and who has forgotten the truth of its reality. This is the last state of the association of Surat and Shabda, below which they get separated. The souls, which have not spiritually risen up to this stage, are at much lower states of consciousness depending upon the state of their spiritual progress. The second void is known as Trikuti, which is the center of the origin of Vedas and all scriptures or in other words all knowledge. It is said that all creation below this stage is dissolved at the time of Pralay (deluge) but souls having reached this stage keep on making progress.
    From the above description, it appears that super-consciousness can be related to spiritual progress or the activation and energisation of the spiritual Chakras and those, who have risen to the state of Trikuti or above, could be said to have entered the stage of super-consciousness. They attain a level where they become the storehouse of all knowledge and keep on making spiritual progress.
    The soul enjoys more and more peace and bliss as it moves from the lower to higher Chakras. The ‘Agya Chakra’, located a little above the eyebrows in the middle of the forehead and about an inch inside the skull, is an important Chakra, which is believed to be the normal resting place for the embodied soul (or the consciousness). It is the center that governs human psyche. This is the last point beyond which the Pindi Manas-the psyche, does not accompany the soul. This is the highest place that can be achieved through ‘Hatha Yoga’ (i.e. through insistence; by performing some yogic exercises, Bandhas and Asanas). In yogic terminology this is also known as the place of the third eye, which means that one who has subjugated this Chakra acquires the capability of seeing the inner realities. The way to the Sahstradalkamal from here passes through a very fine nerve, which the yogis call as ‘Mukti Dwar’. Ascent beyond this point leads to liberation of the soul.
    In Sufi terminology, the causal body in the man is reflected in five constituent organs i.e. the five spiritual centers namely the Qulb, Rooh, Sirr, Khafi and Akhafa, which pertain to the World of Order and govern the inner aspects of the man. The subtle body is reflected in the Nafs (the psyche) i.e. the heart or the mind and the gross body is reflected in the physical body comprising of the gross elements. The five spiritual components pertaining to the World of Order are considered to be the principle of and bear a strong relationship with the individual elements pertaining to the World of Creation and directly derived from them. They bear the relationship of the cause and effect.
    The Latifa-e-Qulb (the Hriday Chakra) is closely associated with Nafs and the other four Lataifs (spiritual centers) bear a strong relationship with the individual gross elements directly derived from them. Latifa-e-Rooh is associated with the element air; Latifa-e-Sirr with the element water; Latifa-e-Khafi with the element fire and Latifa-e-Akhafa with the element earth.
    These subtle Chakras need to be activated and awakened in order to reintegrate them with their latent spiritual principles in the form of pure light of different colours in the World of Order. It is believed that the five subtle organs lost their original purity-luminosity due to their association with Nafs (the carnal soul), during their descent into the World of Creation. They, therefore, need to be purified so that they may acquire their original uncontaminated state. This process of purification and attaining their purity leads to the state of super-consciousness.-RKGupta

  2. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, my hearty compliments at the outset for covering philosophical spectrum of the concept of consciousness & super-consciousness with reference to various traditions, such as Hindu, Christian, Islamic & Sufi. Your attempt to synthesize various traditions to cull out a uniform or common approach is no doubt commendable. However, the risk in your approach is that in the process you may have to compromise philosophical content of some well known traditions. The case in point is your interpretation of consciousness as per Hindu philosophy contained essentially in Sankhya and Vedanta.

    You have stated that “From the philosophical point of view, it is not matter or pattern of association of matter that results in consciousness but it is the other way round, consciousness resulting in thought, thought giving rise to energy and energy giving rise to matter.” It no doubt sounds good and prima facie convincing to all those who differentiate matter from mind. But that’s not what Sankhya or Vedanta had to say.

    According to Kapila, the author of the Sankhya, the oldest philosophy in the world, Mahat, the first derivative of the Prakriti (nature) is a state of matter or a compound. The Vedanta also subscribes to this view of Kapila. But Vedanta adds, unlike Sankhya, that the only way to understand Brahman (God) is to go beyond reason or consciousness – “When thou goest beyond the heard and the hearing, the thought and the thinking, then alone will thou come to the Truth.” Sankhya, however, does not recognize God or the Truth spoken of by Vedanta.

    Sankhya and Vedanta agree on the sequence of evolution of the Prakriti which is as follows. The first manifestation of the Prakriti is Mahat which we call Intelligence. Consciousness is only a part of this Intelligence. Mahat is universal which includes sub-consciousness of animals, consciousness of humans and super-consciousness of liberated yogis. From Mahat comes universal egoism and mind. As a matter of fact, neither Kapila nor Vedanta make any distinction between mind and matter both being derivatives of the Prakriti.. Egoism changes into two varieties, viz. five sense organs which are essentially brain centres and nerve centres, and 5 Tanmatras which are fine particles of matter that strike our organs of perception to produce sensation. From the five Tanmatras comes grosser matters such as earth, water, etc., This in short is the cosmic plan, according to Sankhya. which envisages that whatever is in the outer cosmos is also in inner cosmos. In other words, macrocosmic evolution has a parallel in microcosmic evolution which you have extensively covered in your elucidation. However, the point you have missed is that Mahat from which consciousness has emanated is a derivative of Prakriti which has been called Jada or insentient by both Sankhya and Vedanta. Consciousness has not come from soul or Purusha, according to these two oldest schools of philosophy.

    Swami Vivekananda in his article “A Study of the Sankhya Philosophy’ has observed: “So the Purusha is not will.; neither can it be intelligence, because intelligence itself is a compound. There cannot be any intelligence without some sort of matter corresponding to the brain. Wherever there is intelligence, there must be something akin to that matter which we call brain which becomes lumped together into a particular form and serves the purpose of the brain…….What then is the Purusha? It is neither intelligence, nor will, but it is the cause of all these.” “Purusha is not consciousness” he continues, ” because consciousness is a compound.”

    You have mentioned that super-consciousness is only a higher consciousness. Viewed strictly from philosophical perspective, your above remark amounts to over-simplification. According to Vedanta, consciousness is the attribute of humans, sub-consciousness that of animals while super-consciousness the attribute of liberated yogis who are able to acquire God-consciousness through meditation leading to Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Suoer-consciousness emanates from Brahman, and is not an attribute of Purusha or Prakriti. As a matter of fact, Sri Aurobindo in Life Divine has called higher consciousness as the first level of elevation into spirituality, the next levels being, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, and Over Mind. The last level of elevation is absorption into Super Mind or the Divine.

    The above analysis at micro level, however, is not meant to undermine your integral approach to unravel the Truth, and in that context, it may not matter much whether consciousness is a compound or a non-matter. .

  3. RKGupta says:

    Thanks for your comments, sir.
    You have mentioned “The Vedanta also subscribes to this view of Kapila. But Vedanta adds, unlike Sankhya, that the only way to understand Brahman (God) is to go beyond reason or consciousness – “When thou goest beyond the heard and the hearing, the thought and the thinking, then alone will thou come to the Truth.” Sankhya, however, does not recognize God or the Truth spoken of by Vedanta. Sankhya and Vedanta agree on the sequence of evolution of the Prakriti which is as follows. The first manifestation of the Prakriti is Mahat which we call Intelligence. Consciousness is only a part of this Intelligence.”
    Here the only issue is that the actual quote, as you have mentioned is “When thou goest beyond the heard and the hearing, the thought and the thinking, then alone will thou come to the Truth.” There is no argument against this, as I have also mentioned that ‘thought’ emanates from ‘consciousness’ and, therefore, one has to go beyond the level of thought and to the level of consciousness-awareness i.e., the truth of ‘existence’.
    Further, I feel the comment “The first manifestation of the Prakriti is Mahat which we call Intelligence. Consciousness is only a part of this Intelligence” requires a deeper scrutiny. In my understanding, consciousness is not a part of intelligence but intelligence is a derivative of consciousness.
    I also find support from Swami Vivekanand, when you mention “What then is the Purusha? It is neither intelligence, nor will, but it is the cause of all these.” “Purusha is not consciousness” he continues, ” because consciousness is a compound.” Yes “Purusha’ is beyond intelligence and consciousness. Consciousness is an attribute of the ‘Purusha’ and ‘Purusha’ has manifested through consciousness.
    Further, I agree with you when you mention “According to Vedanta, consciousness is the attribute of humans, sub-consciousness that of animals while super-consciousness the attribute of liberated yogis who are able to acquire God-consciousness through meditation leading to Nirvikalpa Samadhi”. But this is to be understood in the sense that animals are body-conscious and that is why perhaps the Vedanta relates sub-consciousness to them. Similarly, consciousness when rises to higher levels (kindly read spiritual Chakras) and moves beyond certain levels it attains the characteristic of super-consciousness, which has been perhaps mentioned, as God-consciousness.
    And then you have rightly mentioned that the real objective is to rise and attain that level by the Grace of the Almighty. May He Bless all of us.

  4. S R Das says:

    I must complement Mr Raha for presenting such a comprehensive picture on super consciousness, consciousness and sub consciousness. Some of the areas covered are really eye opening truth. I have read it and find it a good reading on the subject.
    My little understanding of the subject is as follows:
    Super consciousness comes from within and makes one aware of the presence of God, anywhere any time. Also one gets convinced with the Super consciousness that aim of life is to realize God (Param Bhramha). God gets revealed as Sat-chit-Ananda swarup. Realization is not merely a knowledge based it is more of an experience and feeling based and that state comes when our Jeeb-atman gets diluted into the Param atman, the God.
    Super consciousness is always there with every human being. This comes from the atman within. However for most of us this do not manifest itself and remains suppressed due to strong vibrations of mind with selfish attitudes and thoughts in the physical plane. Mind is governed by our physical senses. This state is some time referred as state of sleeping kundalini energy. When mind gets free from worldly desires and expectations (basana), one turns from selfish to selflessness and the Super consciousness starts surfacing. In other words, when mind’s activity stops, the Super consciousness or the inner voice starts opening up, a state of meditation.
    Human beings have two planes of consciousness: (a) Super consciousness concerning the presence of God in the Atmic level and (b) awareness in the physical level and concerned about its existence. In the physical level, mind plays very important role. Since mind is generally occupied with various worldly affairs, our inner voice or super consciousness gets suppressed. This is called Maya (illusion) as it keeps us away from the eternal feeling of Param Bhramha. For making the mind calm and to evoke the inner voice, various yogas have been practiced like Gyan yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga and their combination there off. It is interesting to know that when we are under the influence of Maya, we are never happy and satisfied. That keeps us dynamic. We keep on looking for more and more in quantity, quality and verity but satisfaction always eludes us. After wondering life after the life this way under the influence of Maya, one start looks towards spiritualism for the eternal bliss. This happens only when the Super consciousness starts opening up.

    S R Das

    • akraha1948 says:

      My compliments to you Mr. Das for depicting the essence of Vedanta in plain words. As a matter of fact, your understanding is in conformity with verses 16-18 of chapter 15 of Bhagvat Gita wherein Sri Krishna states that within each one of us there are two entities (Purusha), the mutable and the immutable, the former consisting of all perishable things, while the latter existing as the Maya or delusion. And then there exists the Lord as the transcendental soul which is beyond the mutable and higher than the immutable. If the world of Maya is compared with the Peepul tree, as is done in the upanishads, the transcendental soul is beyond it. Thus it will be seen that this transcendental soul you have spoken of as being within us is neither the mutable Purusha nor the immutable Purusha but beyond or subtler than both. Verse 5 of chapter 14 ibid says that even immutable Purusha is tied to the body by the three Gunas (attributes) called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and when the immutable Purusha leaves the body it departs with all its attributes of Maya that bind it to the body like wind carries away fragrance from the flowers (verses 7-8, chapter 15 ibid). In order to know the transcendental soul that resides within us, we have to untie the binds of the Maya in the form of the three Gunas, viz. the Sattva, the Rajas and the Tamas.

      • S R Das says:

        Thank you for giving me the reference from Sri Geeta. I must admit that I am very scanty read person.
        As mentioned earlier, we have presence in two distinct planes, one is in spiritual plane (आत्मिक ) and other one is in the materialistic plane (मायिक / भौतिक )
        Our mind is generally occupied in the materialistic plane influenced by physical senses and associated vices (रिपु ) like passion, anger, greed, infatuation, vanity and envy. These makes one Self oriented (a state when Kundalini energy passive in the base – मूलाधार स्थित सुप्त कुण्डलिनी शक्ति), This attitude is reflected as one’s inclination (x personality) (प्रबृति) and we indulge in various activities accordingly. As an outcome our destiny (प्रारब्ध ) is formed.

        The personality in the materialistic plane is sole responsible for creating our identity in the mind, the Ego. In the spiritual plane, at the atmic level we are all part of the same Jeev-Aatman. In this plane, there is no mind, instead there is super consciousness.

        Mind is never satisfied, it always asks for more and we get trapped due to physical limitations and social norms. So some time we get frustrated and tired. This has a good effect that we start thinking in retrospect. If mind is less egoistic, and good sense prevails, (a state of desire for salvation – मुमुक्षा), we start sensing massage from the super consciousness. At this stage contribution of Spiritual person and spiritual Guru helps one to get a proper direction. Only pre-requisite is to realize that God (to be आत्मिक) is the only goal of life and ego/selfishness are the main enemy to this path.
        Some time it is said that materialistic world is nothing but illusion. Question arises that when solid presence is felt (unlike mirage in a desert) in the materialistic world, how can it be illusion?
        It is illusive because it cannot really fulfill our actual expectation. What really we look for is a peaceful life and materialistic life fails to provide that. On the contrary, a spiritual person looks quite contended even he is deprived of so many things and relations. This is the most important aspect of spiritualism. Because spiritual energy flows from Param Bramha who Himself is full of Eternal Bliss (सत चित् आनंद).Super Consciousness guides us to the state of Eternal Bliss.
        I request your valuable comments so that I can correct myself where required.
        S R Das

  5. akraha1948 says:

    Gupaji, thanks for your lucid explanation of the super-conscious with reference to some of my observations. So long as we both agree that super-consciousness is going beyond consciousness, there is no issue at all. As a matter of fact, in the story of King Shikhidhwaj and queen Chudalai in Yoga Vashistha, it is stated that to attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi, one has to kill the mind which is the root of egocentric consciousness. Unless the mind is not completely uprooted, ego will sprout and it’s the ego that stands on the way of reaching the super-conscious. Pertinently, in verse 4, chapter 7 of Bhagvat Gita, Mind, Intellect and ego have been described as derivatives of apara Prakriti or lower nature while in the next verse the soul has been described as the higher nature or Para Prakriti that sustains the life in the world. The consciousness that is derived out of Intellect, mind or ego or are co-existent with all these is a derivative of Prakriti only and is nothing more than a compound that works in the brain. It continues to be a compound even when dis-embodied. Super-conscious is, however, above Prakriti or nature, and is non-matter. In fact, it is the cause of the Prakriti or nature. Herein lies the fundamental difference between conscious and super-conscious, according to the philosophy of Vedanta.

  6. RKGupta says:

    Essentially here is no disagreement or difference of opinion, in all the comments made, including that of Mr. Das. You have rightly mentioned of Para and Apara Prakriti. Viewed from the point of view of some of the scriptures, the only ‘Tattva’ (Element) or the Truth is the SOUL, GOD or ALMIGHTY, by whatever name one may like to call, Whose desire to manifest results in the manifestation of both the Para and Apara Prakriti; mind, ego and intelligence all being their derivatives. And again you are right in saying that it is our ego, which is to be shed and dissolved to realize the Real Self.

  7. akraha1948 says:

    Mr. Das, you have answered all possible doubts. Transformation of consciousness into super-consciousness happens only when ‘I’ is removed from one’s consciousness. According to Swami Vivekananda, when ‘I’ is present in one’s consciousness, an individual thinks: ‘I exist, I know and I am blessed”. That thinking is real and not illusory for the individual in his worldly consciousness. When ‘I’ is removed, same very consciousness becomes super-consciousness or in other words: Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute & Bliss Absolute or Sat-Chit-Ananda. The latter is absolute Truth as it does not change, while the ‘I’ consciousness is transitory or changeable as ‘I’ does not last beyond the material existence. Therefore, ‘I’ consciousness is not Truth, being impermanent. The whole purpose of spirituality is to remove ‘I’ from one’s consciousness. It’s easier said than done.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Raha Saheb, you have nicely written and have expressed very clearly.However feeling here is little different from your study. It was said before that both materialistic consciousness (with “I” element) and the super consciousness ( about the God) simultaneously exists in human being (not in Animals or other species). Since mind is leaning more towards materialistic (with Ego) body, we do not get the signal of super consciousness, not that it is not there. And that is why it is said Kundalini shakti is sleeping and not that Kundalini shakti is absent or non existent or dead.
      If I may say, we are carrying two buckets, within us. Bucket 1 is full with desires (materialistic) and Bucket 2 is empty, so mind is towards the first one. Only what is required to do is to empty Bucket 1 and fill the Bucket 2 with divine longing. Rest super consciousness will take care. THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF super consciousness.

      Om Tat Sat .

      • akraha1948 says:

        Mr. Das, your example of two buckets, one materialistic, and the other spiritual, is quite apt. It squarely agrees with the concept of two hemispheres of brain, one ego-centric and the other universal, as has been experienced and conceptualized by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the Harvard brain anatomist, whose book ‘My Stroke of Insight’ has been discussed in our subject post. What is significant is that the base of our consciousness is matter, viz. the electrons that behave as matter when in materialistic bucket producing body consciousness, and as wave when it flows out of the materialistic bucket into the infinity and produce super-consciousness. That consciousness is matter is also the contention of our philosophies such as Sankhya and Vedanta. The real issue is how to transform the matter-particle into wave-particle, i.e. consciousness into super-consciousness.

  8. Sarada Ranjan Das says:

    Intensity of spiritual urge/longing creates an energy. Transformation happens when this energy is reaching the point of breaking the barrier of attractions of Maya. Having reached to this point one become recipient of God’s attraction power. It is the stage when one gets the blessings of God. No more effort is required then. For acquiring that initial interest towards divinity is due to own effort and Gods blessings in the form of Guru kripa. In this Kali Yuga, one CAN NOT self power to reach divinity. Grace of God is a MUST. That is why wise men of this age always recommends Bhakti yoga.Be depended and, beg for divinity. A beggar do not have scope for keeping Ego. We are .all beggar in spiritual field we we do not agree seeing our possession and position in the materialistic field. This is due to the power of Maha Maya and THIS IS CALLED THE ILLUSION.
    One can not fight with Maha Maya in Kali yugas, so one should again request/beg to her to open the gate..
    कृपा ही केबलम् and तुहि है सोब मैं नहीं

  9. RKGupta says:

    I agree with Mr. Das that it is the spiritual urge that lifts one on the spiritual plane. In Sufi terminology, it is called ‘Talab’, which means inquisitiveness or the desire to seek the Truth. We attain all worldly goals through inquisitiveness and similarly, the spiritual heights are also attained through Talab. When Talab intensifies, it converts into love and love gives the knowledge of Beloved. It then converts into ‘Tauhid’ (unity), which gradually leads to ‘Istigna’ (detachment) and ‘Fana’. After Fana comes the stage of ‘Baqa’, where nothing except the Truth remains. It is, therefore, the desire to seek the Truth, which is the most important. And in my opinion, it is Satsang, which keeps on adding fuel to the fire and strengthens this desire. But then as it is stated in the Ramcharitmanas-‘Bin Satsang Vivek Na Hoi, Ram Kripa Bin Sulabh Na Soi’. So it depends upon the grace of the God but it does not mean that one should not make any effort. Human beings have been given the intelligence and the power to discriminate. They should make conscious decision whether they are utilising the opportunity given to them in the form of human birth or they are wasting it in pursuing worldly desires.
    Again a question may arise that if it is entirely based on the God’s grace, what can one do except waiting for that grace to be showered on him. In my opinion, if one has reached that stage, where he has acquired the firm faith that it depends upon the grace of the God, he has already covered the distance, he has entered the arena of surrender. But then most of us are hypocrites, who may use this only as an excuse to not to take a step in the right direction. This hypocrisy does not help. We should, therefore, keep this fire of seeking the Truth burning in our hearts and I am sure, the grace of God which flows unobstructed all the times, like a mother waiting for her child, would surely take him in its shelter.

  10. akraha1948 says:

    Mr. Das, you have stated: “In this Kali Yuga, one CAN NOT self power to reach divinity. Grace of God is a MUST.” Further: “One can not fight with Maha Maya in Kali yugas, so one should again request/beg to her to open the gate.” Your first proposition that in Kali Yuga man is spiritually degraded and cannot reach divinity on his own merit is not what Swami Vivekananda has posited. On the contrary, he always held it to be blasphemous to think that we are sinners, weak or incapable of rising to divinity which is inherent in us. Gita talks of integral yoga which is a mix of bhakti (devotion), karma (action), gnana (knowledge) and dhyana (meditation). According to Gita, all these paths lead to the same destination.

    The calculation of yuga is by no means well settled. Sri Yukteswaraji, the master of Swami Yogananda and the disciple of Lahiri Mahashaya in his ‘The Holy Science’ by his astronomical calculation has come to the finding that we are passing through the ascending cycle of Dwapara Yuga. In his considered view, a cycle lasts for 12000 years, out of which Satya, Treta, Dwapara & Kali account for 4800, 3600, 2400 & 1200 years respectively. Multiplication of the yuga cycle by 360 years, as we often do has been more or less discarded by Hindu scholars. Be that as it may, the Truth being eternal would remain true in all ages while spiritual paths may differ from man to man, according to one’s inclination. It may not be correct to standardize the path for a particular yuga like what you have proposed, i.e. that in Kali Yuga, grace of God is a must. Inferentially, in other Yugas one can do without such grace. It is difficult to agree with such standardization.

    I, however, do not deny the merits of your observation that Bhakti or devotion is a well-known spiritual path to attain liberation. But then other paths as mentioned above are no less important. This explains why Gita speaks of integral Yoga, viz. Bhakti with Gnana and Karma. This message of Gita is not Yuga-specific, but true for all Yugas.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Understanding Swami Vivekananda is difficult from books. He said different things to different people or gatherings. We can choose a path that suit us. I never compare different paths or Yoga, Bhakti is easier for most of us.All are as important.

      For Guptajee, waiting for God grace is one of the highest type of sadhana. It comes from surrender and faith…Frankly speaking, Sadhana does not lead us to God, it just purify our mind which is important to hold the Divinity (capacity building). God can ONLY be realized with His grace.There is no time frame or formula fixed…
      Silver lining is Sadhana it self gives that bliss which is more addicting than the best spirit.

  11. akraha1948 says:

    Mr. Das, you have very correctly observed that Bhakti (devotion) is easier for most of us. As a matter of fact, Bhakti is of many types, such as Shanta (tranquil) having transparent faith in God in daily chores, Dasya (servant-like surrender) or looking upon God as Master, Sakhya (friendship) or treating God as friend/play mate, Vatsalya or parental affection toward God and Madhura (nectareous courtship) or taking God as the lover. In Narada Bhakti Sutra Bhakti has been defined as the intense love for God. There are many definitions of love. But Narada’s definition of love is worth mention: ‘When all thoughts, all words, and all deeds are given up unto the Lord and slightest forgetfulness of God makes one miserable beyond words, then only true love has begun”. Sans the desire for reciprocity, this is the highest form of love, according to Narada. “When a man gets this love, he sees love everywhere, he hears love everywhere, he talks love everywhere and he thinks love everywhere.” While it may be comparatively easy for us to reach the stage of Shanta and Dasya which imply surrender to God as our Master or Lord, it is not so easy to look upon God as our friend, child or partner. Of the last three, Madhura state is undoubtedly the most difficult one which cannot be acquired by practice or penance. There are very few persons like Radha, the Gopis, Meerabai and Sri Chaitanya who had reached such state of Bhakti in the sense of intense love for God. In fact, such kind of Bhakti, according to Narada Bhakti Sutra, is greater than Karma, Jnana and Yoga, because such Bhakti becomes both the means and the end, all merged together into ONE eventually.

    However, for commoners like us, integral yoga or a mix of Bhakti, Karma & Jnana is the course recommended by the sages and the prophets.

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