Consciousness

Ram Ramanathan  •  Sep 15, 2019  •  7 min read

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Consciousness

If you are truly conscious, do you know who you really are?

Ram Ramanathan
Founder, Coacharya

What do we mean by brain, mind, intelligence, awareness and consciousness? Don’t look it up the dictionary, not yet. For the vast majority of people all these words mean more or less the same. But are they really the same?

Brain is tangible and a part of our body. Mind, who knows, may be a collection of many things. Intelligence is probably part of the mind, or is it the brain, because I can or I know someone who can measure it. Awareness, of course, I know – it is mindfulness when I can see, smell, taste and feel the raisin. But wait, why can’t I listen to it? Consciousness – who cares, anyway? I function, however badly – that’s what matters to me

If you are one of those who would respond this way, perhaps best if you stop reading now, though you are the one who probably needs to read the rest of it the most. Like you say, who cares?

Let is start with the brain first. Daniel J Siegel’s Hand Model of the brain is very helpful to understand the triune theory model and the brain functions

The best I could get, thanks to Google, was that the human brain has 100 billion cells, and the human body 37.2 (that’s right) trillion cells (that’s right though sometimes it says 100 trillion) – a ratio of 372. I could also get that the mass ratio of brain to body is 40. Neuroscience tells us that body mind intelligence is cellular. This cellular intelligence, be it in the brain, blood, or bones, is similar in quantity though varying in its specific quality of function. We also know thanks to Candace Pert that it is not only the neurons and synapses of the brain that transmit emotions, but as well blood. 

Vedic Hindu psychology does not mention the brain even in passing, when classifying the 4 mind functions of senses, memory, intelligence and ego. Aligning with Siegel’s brain model, senses would lie on the periphery at the back and sides of the skull, memory on the middle as the hippocampus in the limbic brain, intelligence both in the hypothalamus and in the frontal cortex, and ego or identity depending on the quality in all three parts of the triune brain. Vedic system says that these body mind functions are spread through the body mind as matter as well as energy.

Intelligence from modern neuroscience perspective, as well as from the Vedic, is distributed at the body mind cellular level, and not restricted only to the frontal cortex and possibly limbic brain. The only way genetic codes can be transmitted across generations would be if semen and eggs, which are from the body and not the brain, carried the basic genetic intelligence though this may change when humans learn to mate through brain and thoughts. 

Awareness and Consciousness are more complicated to distinguish even for scholars. One school says awareness follows consciousness, and the other vice versa. Science generally tends to avoid this subject, though Dr. David Hawkins has in fact a measurement scale for consciousness. I have experienced the power of the force of books while applying this scale. Spirituality, especially new age buzz, is full of it, most verbose and with little application potential.

Based on personal experience, I would classify consciousness as energy, as Hawkins does, both at the individual and collective level, not necessarily bound by space and time boundaries. Awareness is a local expression of the consciousness, situational, local and time based. Putting it another way, while awareness would depend on how a person responds in a given situation at a given time, consciousness would be universal. Bruce Lipton, one of my favorite authors, deals with consciousness and awareness from a molecular cellular biology perspective.

One could perhaps use the words Potentiality and Actuality to compare Consciousness and Awareness. Consciousness is Potentiality. It pervades all possibilities and has the non-local potential to exist everywhere anytime. Awareness is Actuality of that potential, which is time, space and therefore situation relevant. 

Vedic philosophy in the Upanishads uses the word Isa to connote consciousness as the ultimate Potentiality in the invocation and first verses. The word Isa represented the energy of this formless consciousness that was the Source of all Potentiality. This over time came to represent divinity, and morphed into words such as Jesus. 

The concept of Sea of Potential in Quantum Physics connoting an unbroken wholeness of a truly complete Universe, and the quest for Singularity connect with the Vedic concepts of Isa and Collective Consciousness. 

Unlike Freudian psychology, which defines three states of consciousness, and Jungian psychology, which additionally refers to the collective unconscious, Vedic psychology recognizes only one form of consciousness, which is both universally collective and consciously intelligent. Following this concept on consciousness four states of awareness are described in the Mandukya Upanishad.

The first level of awareness is the mindful and wakeful state in which we think, sense and believe we know who we are. We are awake in body and mind in the state of gross awareness. This is not considered true awareness.

In the second level of awareness, the mind is awake but the body is not. We sense, feel and think, though the body does not respond to these. We are in the Dream state of subtle awareness. This is more powerful from an energy perspective.

In the third state of awareness, a level higher in energy, both mind and body are in deep sleep. Yet, body mind functions in a state of extremely subtle seed level of awareness, which if learn to access can help us create our future. Not surprisingly, Vedic psychology refers to this deep sleep state as the true state of awareness called prajna.

In the fourth and ultimate state of awareness, which Vedic psychology simply calls the Fourth State Turiya, we are beyond the entanglement of thoughts, feelings and identity, though we can think, feel, and possess an identity. It is a witnessing state of detachment called the ‘No Mind’ by Zen, and ‘Mindlessness’ by Coacharya.  

In this ultimate state of disengaged awareness we understand who we are,  what our purpose, and how it is always collective. We move from the ego state to an eco state. This in fact leads to what Quantum Physics refers to non-local entanglement, which is based on energy connect rather than body mind connect. 

The simplest pathway to accessing the space of consciousness is meditation. All 4 states of awareness can be accessed through meditation relevant to each state. In the final Fourth state of Turiya one can go beyond the state of Actuality into the state of the infinite Potentiality of Collective Consciousness by shedding awareness of body mind. This is a state of experiential wisdom that can be learnt, not one of knowledge that can be learnt.

Appendix:

Vedic psychology and physiology, over 5000 years old (probably the oldest studies in these fields), describe the following as elements of construction, function and action of body mind. This list is not exhaustive.

  • 2 sources of creation, active and passive 
  • 14 worlds we live in, lokas
  • 9 influencing planets, grahas
  • 4 states of awareness, avastas
  • 5 nature elements, bhutas 
  • 5 sense organs of knowledge, jnanendriyas
  • 5 sense organs of action, karmendriyas
  • 5 subtle elements, tanmatras
  • 5 energy sheaths, koshas
  • 7 body mind constituent elements, dhaturs
  • 7 energy centers, chakras
  • 5 mind movements, kleshas
  • 3 body mind forces, gunas
  • 6 emotional evils, arishadvargas
  • 3 body mind health states, doshas
  • 4 purposes of life, purusharthas
  • 4 stages of life, asrama
  • 15 codes of conduct, yama and niyama 

Quantum Physics, the cutting edge of science, is founded on the following principles:

  • Duality: Particles are waves as well
  • Probability: Everything is probable; nothing is certain
  • Entanglement: Relationships or entanglements are non local
  • Uncertainty: Position and momentum of particles cannot both be predicted together
  • Observer Effect: Observation by a human or a machine interferes with phenomenon
  • Singularity: The beginning when laws of physics and sciences break down
  • Infinite Potential: The collective consciousness of universal energy 
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Ram Ramanathan

Ram

Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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