What is Consciousness?

A Mystic’s Perspective

Sadhguru Wisdom Article | What is Consciousness?
The only reason why you experience life and aliveness is because you are conscious.

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

Dispelled Myths About Consciousness

Myth Buster #1: Wakefulness Is Not Consciousness

The nature of English language is that it is very good for describing and defining external things, but is very limited when it comes to internal dimensions of many aspects of who we are. To use Yogic terminology, what is generally being referred to as consciousness is jagruti – that means wakefulness. But we do not consider wakefulness as consciousness. Wakefulness is a state of the body, mind and the bio-energies within us, but that is not consciousness.

Myth Buster #2: Self-consciousness Is Not Consciousness

Consciousness does not mean becoming self-conscious. Self-consciousness is sickness; unconsciousness is death. Being conscious just means that you are in touch with the root of who you are. What you call as consciousness is not an act, an idea or even a quality – it is the very basis of creation.

Myth Buster #3: Consciousness Cannot Be “Done”

Consciousness happens not because you are doing something, but simply because you have allowed it. Life is happening to you, but it is not your doing. What we are calling consciousness is the basis of your life and your existence. It is not something that you can do or not do at a particular time. Consciousness is still on whether you are in this body or you are disembodied. The question is only whether it is available to you or not. You are always available to consciousness – you cannot escape that – but is it available to you?

Myth Buster #4: Consciousness Is Not of the Mind

If we say your consciousness has risen, it does not mean that you are more alert than your German Shepherd. Alertness is of the mind. Consciousness is not of the mind, but if consciousness is on, it clears the mind. It forcefully finds its expression through the mind and body, and through every cell of your living being.

Consciousness and Brain – Are they Related?

In the Yogic sciences there is no such thing as brain. Brain is just body. Like there is a heart and liver, there is a brain. I think this overly exaggerated sense of what is brain is coming because our education systems have become purely intellectual. We think intellect is everything. In the Yogic system, we are looking at the human mind as sixteen parts. These sixteen parts are in four categories. The first one is buddhi which means the intellect. Intellect is essentially like a knife. You use a knife to cut things open. This is the nature of the intellect that it will dissect whatever you give it. The entire modern science is coming out of human intellect – so everything is by dissection. What you can know by dissection is only the material aspect of life.

We say, “If you touch your Chita, god will become your slave,” because if your intelligence becomes boundless, everything becomes accessible.

The intellect is a survival instrument. If you did not have a discriminatory intellect, you could not survive on this planet. It is very vital. But intellect cannot function unless there is a certain volume of memory. If you wipe out all your memory, you will suddenly look stupid. Intellect looks smart only when you back it up with information.

Today, there is too much orientation towards intellect and the other dimensions of intelligence are completely uncultivated.

The next dimension of the mind is referred to as Ahankara which we have completely ignored. Ahankara does not mean ego as most people are beginning to think. It means identity. Intellect is an instrument which protects the identity. Identity is that instrument which allows the intellect to function in a certain way. Now if you say, “My identity is my family,” your intellect will do everything to protect that. In the name of race, religion, nation, we have done many things which are utterly idiotic and inhuman, but we do them with great pride because we are identified. If intellect is the knife, the hand that holds it is the identity.

The next dimension of the mind is called manas, which is a silo of memory. There are many states of memory. The Yogic system is focused on how to activate different dimensions of memory because with a limited amount of memory, you are bound to act in immature ways. If your intellect becomes super capable, it is very important that your identity is cosmic or limitless and your memory is so evolved that all dimensions of memory are active.

The fourth dimension of intelligence is referred to as chitta. This is a dimension of intelligence which is unsullied by memory. Memory is the basis of all forms that have happened. It is the memory stored in this body which is deciding the color of our skin, or whether we are male or female, a human being or some other creature. Memory is a tremendous possibility but is also a limitation and a boundary. The boundary between what is you and what is me is just memory.

But chitta has no memory. No memory means no boundary. It is an intelligence beyond bounds. In the Yogic culture there is a mischievous way of expressing this. We say, “If you touch your Chitta, god will become your slave,” because if your intelligence becomes boundless, everything becomes accessible.

Four Dimensions of Conscious States

For wakefulness, we have a word called jagruti. If you are in a state of jagruti, it means you are awake. If ten people fell asleep and they came awake, when they come awake, all of them will not be equally awake. One person may be instantly awake, another person may take two minutes, another person will take an hour to wake up. Another person needs a strong coffee, otherwise they will not wake up. Like this there are different levels of wakefulness, too. This is jagruti. This wakefulness is not consciousness.

…there is an intelligence beyond memory which we call as turya or chitta. This is consciousness.

The next dimension of consciousness is called swapna, which means a dream state. A dream state is far more vivid than the wakeful state for most human beings. It is like going to a cinema. If you go to a cinema, the key factor in the impact the cinema has on you is turning off the lights. If you do not turn off the lights, the cinema will be no good, no matter how well it is made. So a dream state is like a cinema. Turning off the lights in our experience is the eyelids. If you close your eyes, the lights should be off, the world should be closed. This dream state is considered a more powerful state than jagruti. Jagruti or wakefulness is important for performing action in the world but for human consciousness, in terms of profoundness of experience, a dream is always more profound than walking on the street.

The next state is called as sushupti which means a dreamless state, but there are dimensions of consciousness that you are aware of. It is a totally dreamless sleep state, but you are aware. There is no picturization or video running in your mind, there are no people or words, but you are conscious in your sleep. This is a very powerful state if you really want to manifest something in your life. This is something to be explored.

The last state is called turya. This is consciousness, where there is no memory involved of any kind. In the Yogic sciences, we are looking at consciousness essentially as an intelligence beyond memory. Memory is considered a boundary. This is one person and that is another person, simply because this embodies one kind of memory and that embodies another kind of memory. Memory does not mean just what I remember and you remember. There is genetic, evolutionary, elemental, atomic, karmic, inarticulate and articulate memory. These different dimensions of memory are playing on a daily basis. For example, today, if we eat dog food, we will not become dogs. Something within us remembers, no matter what you eat, this has to be transformed only into a human being – the evolutionary memory is absolute.

People think that their thoughts are free. This is a joke because your memory is determining everything. In one word, we call this karma. Karma is the residual impact of all memory that you have. It is impacting your every thought, emotion and action. The very way you sit, stand, breathe, understand and perceive life is determined by this memory. But there is an intelligence beyond memory which we call as turya or chitta. This is consciousness.

Degrees of Consciousness

All of us are conscious, the question is only of degree. Even a rock, a dog and a pig are conscious. The question is only how conscious they are. Even among us, how conscious we are is different from person to person. This degree of consciousness determines everything. To give an analogy, I am sure every one of us blew soap bubbles at some stage in our life. When you blow a soap bubble, the soap part of it is very little, the large part of it is the air that it captures. The kind of soap and how it gathers is your memory. It gives it a form. But when the bubble bursts, there is no such thing as your air and my air. There is something called as your body and my body, your memory and my memory, your intellect and my intellect, but there is nothing called as your consciousness and my consciousness. How much of it did you capture or how big is your bubble will determine the scale and possibilities of your life.

How to Raise Consciousness

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

You do not have to raise your consciousness – you have to raise yourself to find access to it and experience it. Consciousness is there all the time.

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

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

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

Yoga and Consciousness

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

Instead of talking about it and intellectualizing it, we are looking at how to raise your experience from the physical aspect of who you are to a dimension beyond the physical.

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

Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya – A Technology to Raise Consciousness

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

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

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

My life transformed completely since Shambavi Mahamudra Kriya.

I have never lived a more fulfilled life!!!

I can truly say I am living my best life yet!!!